Saturday, December 04, 2010

*On Historical Rehabitations- The Case of India's Old Time Cominternist-M.N. Roy (And Myriad Others Incuding Andreas Nin)

Markin comment:

Normally I would not comment on, or post an entry on, such exotic material as an interchange of letters between others over the political rehabilitation of old time Communist International functionaries (read: hack) like M. N. Roy. However not the least effect of the decline in socialist-oriented political consciousness since the demise of the Soviet Union has been an onslaught of, mainly, academic special pleadings for old time communist officials. And a strange lot indeed have been “resurrected.”

This blizzard started, most dramatically, with Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen’s attempts to rehabilitate Moscow Trial victim and Old Bolshevik Nicolas Bukharin in the 1980s. Then the British journal, Revolutionary History, apparently made its reason for existence the rehabilitation of Spanish POUM leader Andreas Nin, 1920s German Communist party leaders Brandler and Thalheimer, and a slew of others who were once out in the political wilderness, including a kind word or three for early German Communist Party leader, Paul Levi. Christ.

What all these figures seemingly have in common is that they were “right” communists; organically linked by numerous ties to European social democracy and its methodologies in the World War I period. In short the perfect candidates for a post-Soviet world in order to show that communists could be reasonable unlike those “crazies” Lenin ad Trotsky. While the apologists all pay lip service to Lenin and Trotsky, as they must, this slippery left (and sometimes not so left) social democratic mismash is what they crave.

Look, Leon Trotsky (and the same is true for Lenin as well but Trotsky serves better here as the example) over a long career made many mistakes, personal and political. But mark this; when the revolutionary clarions calls sounded for his revolutions (1905 and 1917) he was on the right side of the angels. These others, with the partial exception of Bukharin, were clueless, or worst. And these are the exemplars their respective apologists want to impress today’s youth with. I think not. Hell, if you want tot rehabilitate an old revolutionary, pick Gregory Zinoviev. Warts and all he stood way above this tribe. Better yet though read the guys who knew how to make a revolution when the deal went down, not how to blow it or make apologies for not making it, Lenin and Trotsky.
Workers Vanguard No. 969
19 November 2010

An Exchange on M.N. Roy


August 23, 2010

To the editor of Workers Vanguard:

In your article on India, in the July 30th issue of Workers Vanguard [No. 962], you label the pioneer Indian Communist, M.N. Roy, a “pseudo-Marxist adventurer.” That is one-sided, to say the least.

As a young man, Roy joined a group of brave Bengali revolutionaries who were willing to sacrifice their lives to drive the British from India through force of bombs and bullets. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, Roy became a Communist and made his way to Moscow in 1920 for the Second Comintern Congress, where he changed Lenin’s thinking in the debate on the national-colonial question. As his contemporary, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, noted at that time, “Roy had the support of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek.”

Right after the congress, Lenin dispatched his new protege, with two trainloads of weapons, to remote Tashkent, then a dangerous wilderness, to set up a Communist academy to train cadres for future operations inside British India. It was none other than Trotsky, the commander of the Red Army, who had first proposed this “adventure” a year earlier. After his return to Russia, Roy established his credentials as a first-class Marxist theoretician with his book, India in Transition, which Lenin praised as the first Marxist analysis of India.

Having earned the trust and admiration of the top Bolshevik leaders, Roy rose quickly in the Comintern apparatus. He was regarded as a “leftist” in the political spectrum of the Comintern. If you read his writings in the early ’twenties, you’ll be surprised at how “Trotskyist” they sound.

You denounce Roy for advocating the formation of nationalist “Peoples’ Parties” in the colonies in 1926. In fact, Roy first mooted this policy at the Fourth Comintern Congress in 1922. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky objected. Roy developed this thesis jointly with Karl Radek, the secretary of the Comintern who was allied with Trotsky.

As your tendency has pointed out before, there were weaknesses in some of the experimental Comintern policies in the early 1920s. The whole motivation and purpose of the “workers-peasants party” changed qualitatively between 1922 and 1927.

Let me remind you what James P. Cannon, the leader of the American Trotskyist party, once said about flippant denunciations of Grigory Zinoviev, the Soviet leader who led the vicious, self-serving demagogic attack on Leon Trotsky after Lenin’s death: “I have always been outraged by the impudent pretensions of so many little people to deprecate Zinoviev, and I feel that he deserves justification before history. I have no doubt whatever that in all his big actions, including his most terrible errors, he was motivated fundamentally by devotion to the higher interests of the working class of the whole world…In spite of all, Zinoviev deserves restoration as one of the great hero-martyrs of the revolution.”

And so does Manabendra Nath Roy.

Charles Wesley Ervin

WV replies:

M.N. Roy, whom Ervin so rhapsodizes, was briefly a prominent figure in the early Communist movement, having been recruited from the Indian nationalist movement. After falling out of favor in the Stalinized Communist International (CI), he aligned himself with the Right Opposition led by Nikolai Bukharin and was expelled from the CI in 1929. (As Leon Trotsky asserted, the victory of the program of the Right Opposition would have led to capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union in short order.) Roy rapidly reverted to his roots by becoming an increasingly open apologist for bourgeois nationalism, notably as an advocate of class collaboration with the bourgeois Indian National Congress, later the Congress Party. Revolutionary Marxists fight for national liberation of the colonies and neocolonies of imperialism, but we do not support nationalism, a bourgeois ideology which is an obstacle to social revolution.

Charles Wesley Ervin is the author of a recent book on the history of Trotskyism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, Tomorrow Is Ours (2006). Particularly useful from Ervin’s book is the powerful 1942 program of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India. While Ervin has cast himself as an apologist for Roy, the BLPI (like us) had a few choice words concerning Roy’s pernicious role. Ervin’s own text is also informative. He quotes Roy as coming out for “a political party representing the workers and peasants” at the Fourth CI Congress in 1922. Ervin adds: “After the Fourth Congress Roy pursued the People’s Party strategy for India. He wrote article after article, and ultimately a whole book, on how to transform the Congress [Party] into ‘a democratic party of the people with a programme of Revolutionary Nationalism’.” To be accurate, even prior to the Fourth Congress Roy was already arguing that workers and peasants have the same class interests.

Contrary to Ervin’s imputations, Trotsky from the start gave no quarter to the notion of a revolutionary party simultaneously representing the class interests of workers and peasants, as we will see. The peasantry consists of petty-bourgeois layers; the poor peasants can be won to following the lead of the revolutionary proletariat, but such an outcome is by no means the only possibility. As an intermediate social layer, the peasantry can also support outright reactionary forces, or it can serve as a cover for the interests of the big bourgeoisie itself.

A major factor propelling Trotsky to found the International Left Opposition and later the Fourth International, which carried forward the struggle for the authentic internationalist program of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, was the betrayal of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27 by Stalin and his allies in the CI. At the core of Stalin’s policy was looking to the Guomindang, the party of the Chinese bourgeoisie, as the leader of the Chinese national revolutionary struggle, and the complete liquidation of the young Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into the Guomindang. The “workers and peasants party” theory blossomed as the “bloc of four classes,” as the Guomindang was dubbed.

Stalin made use of the opportunism and adventurism of his operatives in China, principally Mikhail Borodin and later M.N. Roy. (This of course does not excuse his making his minions scapegoats after the fact.) Thousands of Communists and pro-Communist workers paid with their lives for Stalin’s criminal opportunism. In April 1927, Guomindang head Chiang Kai-shek, turning on his CP allies, carried out a bloody coup in Shanghai, murdering thousands of Communist cadres and trade unionists; the catastrophe was then repeated in other cities. To conceal the hideous results of his policy of liquidating the CCP into the Guomindang, Stalin launched a series of cynical ultraleft, adventurist uprisings in China that added greatly to the death toll of Communist comrades, pro-Communist workers and revolutionary peasants, completing the beheading of the Chinese proletariat.

History’s verdict on the Chinese debacle was rendered by Trotsky in his 1928 critique, “The Draft Program of the Communist International: A Criticism of Fundamentals” (printed in The Third International After Lenin). In this crucial indictment of the Stalinized CI, Trotsky quoted from Lenin in 1909 concerning the Russian Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs): “The fundamental idea of their program was not at all that ‘an alliance of the forces’ of the proletariat and the peasantry is necessary, but that there is no class abyss between the former and the latter and that there is no need to draw a line of class demarcation between them, and that the social democratic idea of the petty bourgeois nature of the peasantry that distinguishes it from the proletariat is fundamentally false.” Trotsky added:

“In other words, the two-class workers’ and peasants’ party is the central idea of the Russian Narodniks [populists]. Only in the struggle against this idea could the party of the proletarian vanguard in peasant Russia develop. Lenin persistently and untiringly repeated in the epoch of the 1905 revolution that ‘Our attitude towards the peasantry must be distrustful, we must organize separately from it, be ready for a struggle against it, to the extent that the peasantry comes forward as a reactionary or anti-proletarian force’.” [emphasis added by Trotsky]

Trotsky devoted several pages of the section of Third International After Lenin on “Summary and Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution” to the nature of the peasantry. Quoting from Lenin against the anti-Bolshevik idea of workers and peasants parties, he concludes: “This idea reappears in hundreds of Lenin’s major and minor works. In 1908, he explained: ‘The alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry must in no case be interpreted to mean a fusion of the different classes or parties of the proletariat and the peasantry’” (emphasis added by Trotsky).

Trotsky wrote in the same work: “In the West the idea of a workers’ and peasants’ party is simply ridiculous. In the East it is fatal. In China, India, and Japan this idea is mortally hostile not only to the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution but also to the most elementary independence of the proletarian vanguard. The workers’ and peasants’ party can only serve as a base, a screen, and a springboard for the bourgeoisie.”

Summarizing Roy’s role in the Indian communist movement, Trotsky wrote in “Who Is Leading the Comintern Today?” (September 1928):

“It is doubtful if greater harm could be done to the Indian proletariat than was done by Zinoviev, Stalin, and Bukharin through the medium of Roy. In India, as in China, the work has been and is oriented almost totally toward bourgeois nationalism…. Through the medium of Roy, the leadership of the International is holding the stirrup for the future Indian Chiang Kai-sheks.... In India the catastrophe is being prepared just as methodically as it was in China. Roy has taken the Chinese example as a model.”

In an article on “Trotskyism in India” in Revolutionary History (Winter 1988-89), Ervin fantasized, “Had Roy gone over to the Left Opposition, rather than to the Right, the whole story of Indian Trotskyism might have been quite different.” Trotsky offered a rather different judgment on Roy, writing in his September 1928 essay: “It is not necessary to say that this national democrat, poisoned by an adulterated ‘Marxism,’ is an implacable foe of ‘Trotskyism’.”

M.N. Roy’s most lasting contribution to “Communism” was his attempt to reconcile it with bourgeois nationalism. His “non-doctrinaire” approach to communist theory, so admired by many academic pseudo-Marxists today, consisted in pushing proletarian subordination to the bourgeoisie in the colonial world. As noted above, this was anything but a new approach, owing much to the Narodniks and SRs. Its results in China in 1925-27 were horrific and counterrevolutionary. And we also note, with the benefit of more hindsight than Lenin and Trotsky had, that the results of bourgeois nationalism in power in the former colonies in the last half of the 20th century and today have similarly been horrific and counterrevolutionary.

Throughout the Indian subcontinent, from Kashmir to Jaffna, the imperialist-dependent capitalist rulers have built upon the fratricidal divisions inherited from imperialism, promoting social backwardness of every kind and practicing state-sponsored communalist slaughter of minority peoples. Real national and social liberation of the working class and oppressed Third World masses cannot be accomplished under the rule of the neocolonial bourgeoisie, as Trotsky explained in putting forward the program of permanent revolution. The first condition for the proletariat being able to carry out its revolutionary role is the scrupulous safeguarding of its class independence from the bourgeoisie.

**Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- A Tale To Sit Around The Soda Fountain By-Frankie Goes Wild

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Angels performing Cry Baby Cry.
**Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- A Tale To Sit Around The Soda Fountain By-Frankie Goes Wild
Markin comment:

Recently I did, as part of a rock 'n' roll be-bop night record review, a little vignette about soda fountain life in the early 1960s, featuring my boyhood best friend, Frankie, Frankie from our down at the heels and not going to get better as America deindustrialized no more shipyard busy working class neighborhood. Frankie of one thousand stories, Frankie of one thousand treacheries, about twenty-three of them directed toward me, and Frankie of a one thousand kindnesses, including about ninety-eight directed toward me and hence the longevity of our friendship. Somehow it did not seem right to leave Frankie hanging around that old review soda fountain and rather than leave him to that fate I have decided to rewrite the story with the commercial review tag removed, although lots of the old story will filter through here anyway:

See, it really is a truism by now, by 2010 teen-age now, that every “teenage nation” generation since they started to place teenage-hood as a distinct phase of life between childhood and young adulthood over a century, maybe two centuries, ago has developed it own tribal rituals and institutions. Today’s teens seem to have cornered food courts at the mall, video arcades and the ubiquitous Internet screen connections through various look-at techno-gadgets although, frankly, I am not fully current on all their mores, customs and tribal language. And moreover would trend very lightly, very lightly indeed, on that sacred ground.

What I am familiar with, very familiar with, is the teen institutions of my generation, the generation of ’68, that came of teen age in the early 1960s. Our places of rendezvous were the corners in front of mom and pop variety stores in the days before franchise 7/11 conveniece stores came to dominate the quick stop one item shopping market, if we could squeeze room around the drifters, grifters and midnight sifters who frequented those holy sites and worried about "turf" and our being within ten miles of it; the ever present heaven-sent smell pizza parlor (hold the onions on that slice, please, always hold the onions in case I get lucky with that certain she) with its jump jukebox where coin was king and we deposited more than a few nickels, dimes and quarters to hear our favorites of the day or minute; for some of the dweebs, or if you wanted to get away with a “cheap” date, or thought you were doing somebody a favor to take his sister out, but only as a last resort, the bowling alley; the open air drive-in restaurants complete with "hot" car hops who filled the night air with their cold sex, their faraway cold tip-driven sex, for more “expensive” dates (meaning take your eyes off the damn car hops, or else); and, for serious business, meaning serious girl and boy watching, the soda fountain, especially in car-less teen times. And not, in my case, just any soda fountain but the soda fountain at the local individually owned and operated drug store (Doc’s Drug Store, for real) that used the fountain to draw people (read, kids: what would we need prescription drugs for, those were for old people, we were invincible) into the store.

As part of that record review mentioned earlier I noted that the cover of the CD had an almost Edward Hooper Nighthawks-like illustration of just such a classic soda fountain, complete with three whimsical teen-age frills (read girls, if you are not from my old working class neighborhood, beaten down or not) all sipping their straws out of one, can you believe it, one cone-shaped paper cup while a faux Fabian-type looks on. Ah, be still my heart. Needless to say this scene could have been from any town USA then, complete with its own jukebox setup (although not every drug store had them, ours didn’t although the local rock radio station was blasting away as we tapped out the beat at all hours), the booths with the vinyl-covered summer sweat-inducing seats and Formica top tables (dolled up with paper place settings, condiments, etc., just like home right), the soda fountain granite (maybe faux granite) counter, complete with swivel around stools that gave the odd boy or two (read: me and my boys) a better vantage point to watch the traffic come in the store (read: girls), and a Drink Coca-Cola-inscribed full length mirror just in case you missed a beat. Said counter also complete with glassed-encased pie (or donut) cases; the various utensils for making frappes (that's a New England thing, look it up), milkshakes, banana splits, ice cream floats, and cherry-flavored Cokes; a small grille for hamburgers, hot dogs and fries (or the odd boy grilled cheese sandwich with bacon); and, well, of course, a soda jerk (usually a guy) to whip up the orders. Oh, did I say anything about girl and boy watching. Ya, I did. What do you think we were all there for? The ice cream and soda? Come on. Does it really take an hour, an hour and a half, or even two hours to drink a Pepsi even in teen-land?

But enough said about the d├ęcor because the mere mention of the term “soda jerk” brings to mind a Frankie, Frankie from the old neighborhood story, Frankie of a thousand stories and Frankie who was the king hill skirt-chaser (read: girl), and my best friend in middle school (a.k.a. junior high) and high school. I already "hipped" you to the his treacheries and kindnesses. Ya, that Frankie, or rather this time Frankie’s sister, although now that I think of it she is really the "stooge" in this thing.

Now when we were juniors in high school in the early 1960s, Frankie (as king of the hill) and I (as his lord chamberlain) , mainly held court at the local pizza parlor, a pizza parlor which was in the pecking order of town teen social life way above the soda fountain rookie camp teen life scene. That soda foundation stuff was for kids and dweebs, unless, of course, things were tough at the pizza joint (meaning girl-free) and we meandered up the street to Doc’s drug store soda fountain to check out the action there.

Of course, before we graduated to the “bigs” pizza parlor, which I will tell you about some other time because it plays no part in this heart-rendering tale, the old soda fountain side of that drug store (the other side had aisles of over-the-counter drugs and sundries, a couple of permanently in use enclosed telephone booths for those (read: teens) who had not telephone at home(like me much of the time) or didn’t want their business exposed on the “two-party” home line, and your regulation pharmacy area for the good legal doctor's note drug stuff) was just fine. And it did no harm, no harm at all, in those days to strike up friendships , or at least stay on the good side of the soda jerks so you could get an extra scoop of ice cream or a free refill on your Coke. Whatever. See, the soda jerk was usually the guy (and like I said before it was always guys, girls would probably be too distracted by every high energy teen guy, including dweeb-types, trying to be “cool”) who connected the dots about who was who and what was what in the local scene (I do not have to tell you at this point the focal point of that scene, right?). Moreover, later, after we found out about life a bit more (read: sex) the soda jerk acted as a “shill” for Doc for those teens looking for their first liquor (for medical purposes, of course) or, keep this quiet, okay, condoms. But the thing was, younger or older, that the soda jerk also had some cache with the girls, I guess it must have been the uniform. Wow! Personally I wouldn’t have been caught dead wit that flap cap they wore.

So one night we are dried up (read: no girls) at the pizza parlor and decided, as usual, to meander up the street to Doc’s. We had heard earlier in the day that Doc had a new jerk on and we wanted to check him out anyway. As we entered who do we see but Frankie’s sister, Lorrie, Frankie’s fourteen year old sister, Lorrie, talking up a storm, all dewy-eyed, over this new jerk, who must have been about eighteen. And more than that this “cradle-robber” had his arm around, or kind of around, Lorrie. Old Frankie saw red, no double red, if not more, hell and back red.

I can hear the yawns already, especially from every guy who had a goofy, off-hand younger sister just starting to feel her oats (or for that matter every gal who had such a younger brother, or any other such combinations). See, though, and maybe it’s hard to explain if you didn’t live in those misbegotten times, Frankie was a guy who had more girls lined up that he could ever meet and be able to keep himself in one piece, although he had only one serious frail (read: girl again okay) that kept his interest over time (Joanne that I told you about before when I did a thing on Roy "The Boy" Orbison). So Frankie was no stranger to the old male boy (and adult too, as we found out later) double standard of the age about boys being able to do whatever they wanted to but girls had to be true-blue or whatever color it was, but no messing around, especially in regard to his sister. But there you have it, and he was seeing that old red that meant no good, for somebody.

Now this sister, Lorrie, when I first meant her back in the days when I first met Frankie in middle school was nothing but a...sister, a Frankie, king of the hill, sister but still just a sister. Meaning I really never paid much attention to her. But this night I could see, dewy-eyed or not, that she has turned into not a bad looker, especially with that form-filling cashmere sweater all the girls were wearing those days and that I swear they were wearing so that guys would notice that form-filling part. And I could see that, while she took away from her "cool" in my eyes by the ubiquitous chewing of gum that made her seem about ten years old, that guys could go for her, eighteen or not, soda jerks or not. As to the soda jerk, Steve was his name as I found out later, who was not a bad looking guy and old Lorrie didn't need glasses to see that. He seemed like a lot a guys, a lot of Frankie and me guys, ready to chat up any skirt that would listen to him for two minutes, maybe less.

And see, as well, it is not like Frankie really had some old-fashioned medieval sense of honor, or some Catholic, which we and half the freaking town were then or were trying to get away from then, hang-up about sex, teen-age or otherwise. So it was not that he was really protective of her as much as he was insulted (so he told me later) by some new “jerk” trying to make moves to become "king of the hill" by “courting: Frankie’s, Francis X. Riley’s sister. See that's the way that he operated, and for all I know maybe had to operate, to stay king. Maybe he read about it someplace, like in Machiavelli’s The Prince (Frankie and I were crazy for that kind of book in those days, Christ we even read Marx’s Communist Manifesto just to be “cool”), and figured he had to do thinngs that way.

And Frankie, old wiry, slender, quick-fisted, not bad–looking but no Steve McQueen, wrapping the girls up with his pseudo-beat patter Frankie was tough. Tougher than he looked (with his black chinos, flannel shirt, work boot and midnight sunglass regulation faux beat look). So naturally new boy “jerk” takes umbrage (nice word, right?) when Frankie starts to move “sis” away from him. Well the long and short of it was that Frankie and “jerk” started to beef a little but it is all over quickly and here is why. Frankie took an ice cream cone, a triple scoop, triple-flavored ice cream cone no less, that was sitting on the counter in a cup in front of a girl customer (a cute girl who I wound up checking out seriously later) and bops, no be-bops, no be-bop bops one soda jerk, new or not, with it. Now if you have ever seen an eighteen year old guy, in uniform, I don’t care if it is only a soda jerk’s uniform, wearing about three kinds of ice cream (no, not what you think, some harlequin strawberry, vanilla, chocolate combo but frozen pudding, cherry vanilla, and mocha almond, hey, I really will have to check that girl out) on that uniform you know, you have to know that this guy’s persona non grata with the girls and “cool” guys in town forevermore.

Or so you would think. Frankie went out of town for a few days to do something on family business (not related) after this incident and one night near the edge of town as I was walking with that young girl customer whose ice cream Frankie scooped (I bought her another one that incident night, that same triple combo mentioned above, thank god I had a little cash on me, and that is why I was walking with her then, thank you) when I saw one Lorrie, one very foxy cashmere sweater-wearing Lorrie, sitting, sitting like the Queen of Sheba, in Mr. Soda Jerk’s boss cherry red with full-chrome accessories 1959 Chevy listening to Cry Baby Cry by The Angels as “mood” music on the background car radio that I could faintly hear. Just don’t tell Frankie, okay.

*A December 16th Veterans-Led March In Washington To Stop The Wars In Afghanistan And Iraq -From The "Stop These Wars" Website-All Out In Support Of The Vets

Click on the headline to link to the End These Wars Website.

Markin comment:

On November 11, 2010, Veterans Day, I marched with a contingent of Veterans For Peace in the Boston Veterans Day parade and posted an entry in this space about my take on the event. (See, A Stroll In The Park On Veterans Day- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Iraq and Afghanistan!, dated November 11, 2010). As part of that commentary I noted the following:

“Listen, I have been to many marches and demonstrations for democratic, progressive, socialist and communist causes in my long political life. However, of all those events none, by far, has been more satisfying that to march alongside my fellow ex-soldiers who have “switched” over to the other side and are now part of the struggle against war, the hard, hard struggle against the permanent war machine that this imperial system has embarked upon. From as far back as in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) days I have always felt that ex-soldiers (hell, active soldiers too, if you can get them) have had just a little bit more “street cred” on the war issue than the professors, pacifists and little old ladies in tennis sneakers who have traditionally led the anti-war movements. Maybe those brothers (and in my generation it was mainly only brothers) and now sisters may not quite pose the questions of war and peace the way I do, or the way that I would like them to do, but they are kindred spirits.”

Now comes word (see announcement below) that veterans are leading an action in Washington, D.C. on December 16, 2010 in front of the White House under the rubric of Peace On Earth. There is no question that I, the anti-imperialist committee that I am a member of in Boston, any self-respecting radical or, hell, any self-respecting little old lady in tennis sneakers for that matter, could endorse this thing. If for no other reason that it begs, literally begs, Warmonger-In-Chief Obama (of the double troop escalations in Afghanistan with nobody holding a gun to his head remember) to “do the right thing.”

That said, the sentiment expressed above in that Veterans Day commentary still holds true. So, I , and all I can gather to go with me, will be in Washington on December 16th. too. I will hold my nose in doing so although not my tongue trying to get my fellow vets to change course. In my hand I will hold this slogan-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Iraq and Afghanistan! And I won’t be begging him about it, no way.

WELCOME TO STOP THESE WARS Join Us For Peace on Earth!

Posted on November 19, 2010 by admin

During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King called our government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” True then—and even more so today.

A few years before that, in 1964 Mario Savio made his great speech at Berkeley; at the end he says, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

There are children being orphaned, maimed or killed every day, in our name, with our tax dollars; there are soldiers and civilians dying or being maimed for life, in order to generate profits for the most odious imperialistic corporate war machine ever, again in our name. How long are we going to let this go on? Until it is too late, until this destructive machine destroys all of us and the planet to boot?

Wikileaks has revealed the documented horror of U.S. war-making, beyond what any of us imagined. It’s time veterans and others express our resistance directly and powerfully by putting ourselves on the line, once again—honestly, courageously and without one drop of apology for doing so. It is not we who are the murderers, torturers or pillagers of the earth.

Profit and power-hungry warmongers are destroying everything we hold dear and sacred.

In the early thirties, WW1 vets descended on Washington, D.C., to demand their promised bonuses, it being the depths of the Depression. General Douglas MacArthur and his sidekick Dwight Eisenhower disregarded President Herbert Hoover’s order and burned their encampment down and drove the vets out of town at bayonet point.

We are today’s bonus marchers, and we’re coming to claim our bonus–PEACE.

Join activist veterans marching in solidarity to the White House, refusing to move, demanding the end of U.S. wars, which includes U.S. support—financial and tactical—for the Israeli war machine as well.

If we can gather enough courageous souls, nonviolently refusing to leave the White House, willing to be dragged away and arrested if necessary, we will send a message that will be seen worldwide. “End these wars – now!” We will carry forward a flame of resistance to the war machine that will not diminish as we effectively begin to place ourselves, as Mario Savio said, “upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus.” and we will make it stop.

We believe that the power of courageous, committed people is greater than that of corporate warmongers. But we will only see our power when we use it collectively, when we stand together.

With courage, persistence, boldness and numbers, we can eventually make this monstrous war machine grind to a halt, so that our children and all children everywhere can grow up in a peaceful world.

Join us at the White House on December 16th!

For a world in peace,

Nic Abramson, Veterans For Peace; Elliott Adams, Past President, Veterans For Peace; Laurie Arbeiter, Activist Response Team; Ken Ashe, Veterans For Peace; Ellen Barfield, Veterans For Peace; Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition; Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, CODEPINK for Peace; Frida Berrigan, War Resisters League; Bruce Berry, Veterans For Peace; Leah Bolger, Veterans For Peace; Elaine Brower, Anti-war Military Mom and World Can’t Wait; Scott Camil, Veterans For Peace; Ross Caputi, Justice For Fallujah Project; Kim Carlyle, Veterans For Peace; Armen Chakerian, Coalition to Stop the $30 Billion to Israel; Matthis Chiroux, Iraq War Resister Veteran; Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace; Will Covert, Veterans For Peace; Dave Culver, Veterans For Peace; Matt Daloisio, Witness Against Torture; Ellen Davidson, War Resisters League; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans For Peace; Nate Goldshlag, Veterans For Peace; Clare Hanrahan, War Crimes Times; Mike Hearington, Veterans For Peace; Mark Johnson, Executive Director. Fellowship of Reconciliation; Tarak Kauff begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting, Veterans For Peace; Kathy Kelly, Voices For Creative Nonviolence; Sandy Kelson, Veterans For Peace; Joel Kovel, Veterans For Peace; Erik Lobo, Veterans For Peace; Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Committee; Ken Mayers, Veterans For Peace; Nancy Munger, Co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Fred Nagel, Veterans For Peace; Pat O’Brien, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Bill Perry, Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Vito Piccininno, Veterans For Peace; Mike Prysner, Co-Founder, March Forward; Ward Reilly, Veterans For Peace; Laura Roskos, Co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Cindy Sheehan, Founder, Peace of the Action; David Swanson, author; Debra Sweet, National Director, World Can’t Wait; Mike Tork, Veterans For Peace; Hart Viges, Iraq Veterans Against the War; Father Louie Vitale, SOA Watch; Jay Wenk, Veterans For Peace; Linda Wiener, Veterans For Peace; Diane Wilson, Veterans For Peace; Col. Ann Wright, Veterans For Peace; Doug Zachary, Veterans For Peace

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Endorsers of the December 16 Veteran-Led Civil Resistance against War

Posted on November 19, 2010 by admin

■Veterans For Peace



■Fellowship of Reconciliation

■March Forward

■Peace of the Action

■Peace Action Montgomery

■United National Anti-War Committee

■Voices for Creative Non-Violence

■Voters for Peace

■War Resisters League

■Washington Peace Center

■Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

■World Can’t Wait

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Veterans Speak Out on December 16 Action

Posted on November 13, 2010 by admin

Fred Nagel

“Those who know the full extent of America’s imperial reach have a unique obligation to let their fellow citizens know what is being done in all of our names. But it is more than an obligation for veterans, since many of us have served in America’s invasions and occupations abroad. Perhaps it is also a privilege, another chance to express our love for this country, this time putting their bodies on the line to demand that America once again join the peace loving nations of this world.”—Fred Nagel, radio host and member, Veterans For Peace

Jay Wenk

“I listened today to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech given at New York’s Riverside Church in 1967, “Why I Oppose the Vietnam War.” If any of us don’t know it, make it a point to hear it. His truth is timeless. When I hear it, I feel as deeply as possible, the necessity and the responsibility to be a Veteran For Peace. My conscience, my refusal to let the world change me are in the forefront of my existence. I will be with my brothers and sisters on Dec. 16.”—Jay Wenk, member, Veterans For Peace

Leah Bolger

“I am shamed by the actions of my government and I will do everything in my power to make it stop killing innocent people in my name.”—Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (Ret), 1980-2000; National Vice-President, Veterans For Peace

“‘….to protect and defend the Constitution…’ I took that oath as a sailor, and later as a police officer. I don’t consider that oath to have an expiration date because I believe in accountability, justice and peace. Where I come from, we say: ‘You don’t have to stand tall, but you’ve GOT to stand up.’ Stand up December 16, 2010, at the White House.”—Erik Lobo, member, Veterans For Peace

“War for empire, endless and cruel war, resulting in untold suffering, destruction and death for millions, a war economy here at home that steals from ordinary citizens and makes the few enormously wealthy, these are powerful reasons for us to put our bodies on the wheels, the levers, the apparatus of this vile war-making machine and demand that it stop. Enough is enough. There is no glory, no heroism, no good wars, no justification whatsoever, it is all, all of it, based on lies. I’ll be in Washington on December 16 with other veterans, resisting this war mentality, demanding its end.—Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace

Friday, December 03, 2010

*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-From The Third Congress of the Communist International-The Communist International and the Communist Youth Movement (1921)

Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
Third Congress of the Communist International

The Communist International and the Communist Youth Movement

Source: Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International, translated by Alix Holt and Barbara Holland. Ink Links 1980;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

12 July 1921

1 The young socialist movement came into existence as a result of the steadily increasing capitalist exploitation of young workers and also of the growth of bourgeois militarism. The movement was a reaction against attempts to poison the minds of young workers with bourgeois nationalist ideology and against the tendency of most of the social-democratic parties and the trade unions to neglect the economic, political and cultural demands of young workers.

In most countries the social-democratic parties and the unions, which were growing increasingly opportunist and revisionist, took no part in establishing young socialist organisations, and in certain countries they even opposed the creation of a youth movement. The reformist social-democratic parties and trade unions saw the independent revolutionary socialist youth organisations as a serious threat to their opportunist policies. They sought to introduce a bureaucratic control over the youth organisations and destroy their independence, thus stifling the movement, changing its character and adapting it to social-democratic politics.

2 As a result of the imperialist war and the positions taken towards it by social democracy almost everywhere, the contradictions between the social-democratic parties and the international revolutionary organisations inevitably grew and eventually led to open conflict. The living conditions of young workers sharply deteriorated; there was mobilisation and military service on the one hand, and, on the other, the increasing exploitation in the munitions industries and militarisation of civilian life. The most class-conscious young socialists opposed the war and the nationalist propaganda. They dissociated themselves from the social-democratic parties and undertook independent political activity (the International Youth Conferences at Berne in 1915 and Jena in 1916).

In their struggle against the war, the young socialist organisations were supported by the most dedicated revolutionary groups and became an important focus for the revolutionary forces. In most countries no revolutionary parties existed and the youth organisations took over their role; they became independent political organisations and acted as the vanguard in the revolutionary struggle.

3 With the establishment of the Communist International and, in some countries, of Communist Parties, the role of the revolutionary youth organisations changes. Young workers, because of their economic position and because of their psychological make-up, are more easily won to Communist ideas and are quicker to show enthusiasm for revolutionary struggle than adult workers. Nevertheless, the youth movement relinquishes to the Communist Parties its vanguard role of organising independent activity and providing political leadership. The further existence of Young Communist organisations as politically independent and leading organisations would mean that two Communist Parties existed, in competition with one another and differing only in the age of their membership.

4 At the present time the role of the Young Communist movement is to organise the mass of young workers, educate them in the ideas of Communism, and draw them into the struggle for the Communist revolution.

The Communist youth organisations can no longer limit themselves to working in small propaganda circles. They must win the broad masses of workers by conducting a permanent campaign of agitation, using the newest methods. In conjunction with the Communist Parties and the trade unions, they must organise the economic struggle.

The new tasks of the Communist youth organisations require that their educational work be extended and intensified. The members of the youth movement receive their Communist education on the one hand through active participation in all revolutionary struggles and on the other through a study of Marxist theory.

Another important task facing the Young Communist organisations in the immediate future is to break the hold of centrist and social-patriotic ideas on young workers and free the movement from the influences of the social-democratic officials and youth leaders. At the same time, the Young Communist organisations must do everything they can to ‘rejuvenate’ the Communist Parties by parting with their older members, who then join the adult Parties.

The Young Communist organisations participate in the discussion of all political questions, help build the Communist Parties and take part in all revolutionary activity and struggle. This is the main difference between them and the youth sections of the centrist and socialist unions.

5 The relations between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Party are fundamentally different from those between the revolutionary young socialist organisations and the social-democratic parties. In the common struggle to hasten the proletarian revolution, the greatest unity and strictest centralisation are essential. Political leadership at the international level must belong to the Communist International and at the national level to the respective national sections.

It is the duty of the Young Communist organisations to follow this political leadership (its programme, tactics and political directives) and merge with the general revolutionary front. The Communist Parties are at different stages of development and therefore the Executive Committee of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International should apply this principle in accordance with the circumstances obtaining in each particular case.

The Young Communist movement has begun to organise its members according to the principle of strict centralisation and in its relations with the Communist International – the leader and bearer of the proletarian revolution – it will be governed by an iron discipline. All political and tactical questions are discussed in the ranks of the Communist youth organisation, which then takes a position and works in the Communist Party of its country in accordance with the resolutions passed by the Party, in no circumstance working against them.

If the Communist youth organisation has serious differences with the Communist Party, it has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

Loss of political independence in no way implies loss of the organisational independence which is so essential for political education.

Strong centralisation and effective unity are essential for the successful advancement of the revolutionary struggle, and therefore, in those countries where historical development has left the youth dependent upon the Party, the dependence should be preserved; differences between the two bodies are decided by the EC of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International.

6 One of the most immediate and most important tasks of the Young Communist organisations is to fight the belief in political independence inherited from the period when the youth organisations enjoyed absolute autonomy, and which is still subscribed to by some members. The press and organisational apparatus of the Young Communist movement must be used to educate young workers to be responsible and active members of a united Communist Party.

At the present time the Communist youth organisations are beginning to attract increasing numbers of young workers and are developing into mass organisations; it is therefore important that they give the greatest possible time and effort to education.

7 Close co-operation between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Parties in political work must be reflected in close organisational links. It is essential that each organisation should at all times be represented at all levels of the other organisation (from the central Party organs and district, regional and local organisations down to the cells of Communist groups and the trade unions) and particularly at all conferences and congresses. In this way the Communist Parties will be able to exert a permanent influence on the movement and encourage political activity, while the youth organisations, in their turn, can influence the Party.

8 The relations established between the Communist Youth International and the Communist International are even closer than those between the individual Parties and their youth organisations. The Communist Youth International has to provide the Communist youth movement with a centralised leadership, offer moral and material support to individual unions, form Young Communist organisations where none has existed and publicise the Communist youth movement and its programme. The Communist Youth International is a section of the Communist International and, as such, is bound by the decisions of its congresses and its Central Committee. The Communist Youth International conducts its work within the framework of these decisions and thus passes on the political line of the Communist International to all its sections. A well-developed system of reciprocal representation and close and constant co-operation guarantees that the Communist Youth International will make gains in all the spheres of its activity (leadership, agitation, organisation and the work of strengthening and supporting the Communist youth organisations).

The First Stirrings Of The 2012 American Presidential Campaign- Everybody Who Is Smarter Than Sarah Palin Raise Your Hand

Markin comment:

I swear I had a vision, I swear I heard a voice call to me to make a comment on the 2012 American Presidential elections right now, today. I know that we are all materialists, men and women of science, and some of us are historical materialists to boot so the siren call for some comment on my part for these bogus bourgeois elections should be the last thing that I call up as the subject of a vision. Still, remember the Ides of March and all of that. Can I, under the circumstances, afford to defy the portents?

Yes, I know, I supposedly fore swore comment of the bourgeois election cycles forever a couple of years ago once I realized that such activity was a waste of precious cyber-ink for a commentator who wanted to bring that house of cards down. But remember this. Can a man who in his jaded youth, long before the Internet brought instant results (and a bewildering onslaught of instant commentary better left for later reflection), stayed up into the wee hours wondering whether the Democrats would win the 23rd Congressional District in Texas or the 34th in California really ever truly be trusted to break the habit even if he is "recovering?"

And that bring us to the subject of that vision, or rather the subject that brought on this vision. This may seem trivial after all the build-up but here is the story. I recently ran into an old acquaintance out on the street in Boston. I noticed that he had on a Sarah Palin for President in 2012 button. Naturally I had to make comment on that political advertisement. And here is what I said, “Why would you support someone who is not as smart as you are for President?” Now I know, because I know him from way back in the day, that he is very smart so it gave him cause for pause.

Of course, when it comes to bourgeois politicians, being smart is not always relevant either way. (Witness Bush, Junior, Yalie and all, for the dunce proposition, or the other way Obama, Harvard Law and all, for the wizard proposition). So based on my further conversation with him do not be surprised if you see an announcement that unknown smart guy, Michael Mackey, is throwing his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination for President in 2012. In fact everyone smarter than Sarah Palin should consider it their duty to do so. That is my first piece of “wisdom” for the 2012 political season. Meanwhile those of us who are serious about changing the world, for the better, will continue our work to build a workers party that fights for a workers government. So everyone can have a shot at being smart, if nothing else, okay?

Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle- "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
DVD Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2009

Now, normally, I am not a fan of psychological thrillers but this one, this Swedish one, sub-titled in English, had me hooked after the first several minutes. Put together an abused, overwrought young woman (with full dragon tattoo and full psychic scars) who has seen her share of life’s misery but who is also a technie whiz, a middle-aged Indy news journalist who has been set up by forces unknown (although we know it is some nefarious capitalist, Swedish variety) while just doing his usual thorough investigative job and a request to find a long missing (forty years) girl by a good Swedish capitalist “father” figure and we are off. For a land that is suppose to be something of a” paradise” there is more social and psychological pathology here in two hours than one would find in, well, America. This is the first of Larsson’s books (out of the trilogy) to hit the screen. Bring on the next one.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

*From The Partisan Defense Committee- The 25th Holiday Appeal In Support Of Class-War Prisoners

Markin comment:

December 2, 2010

I like to think of myself as a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the working class and, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program. Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year, however, in light of the addition of Attorney Lynne Stewart (yes, I know, she has been disbarred but that does not make her less of a people’s attorney in my eyes) to the stipend program, I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class struggle defense in the late 1960s (although I may have not used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson, present class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers, as represented here by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their better days and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today; the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly.

Workers Vanguard No. 969
19 November 2010

Free the Class-War Prisoners!

25th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

“The mills of capitalist justice grind out victims for the penitentiary....

“In one sense of the word the whole of capitalist society is a prison. For the great mass of people who do the hard, useful work there is no such word as freedom. They come and go at the order of a few. Their lives are regulated according to the needs and wishes of a few. A censorship is put upon their words and deeds. The fruits of their labor are taken from them. And if, by chance, they have the instinct and spirit to rebel, if they take their place in the vanguard of the fight for justice, the prisons are waiting.”

—James P. Cannon, “The Cause that Passes Through a Prison” (Labor Defender, September 1926)

Following in the tradition of Cannon’s International Labor Defense (ILD), the Partisan Defense Committee honors the class-war prisoners—those brave men and women railroaded to prison for standing up to racist capitalist oppression—irrespective of their particular political views or affiliation. Twenty-five years ago, the PDC revived the ILD program of providing monthly stipends to class-war prisoners and additional funds for their birthdays as well as holiday gifts for them and their families. We raise money for this unique and necessary program during the holiday season. Fund-raising efforts will include benefits in Chicago on December 18, New York City on January 21 and Toronto on January 28.

The $25 monthly stipends help ease a little bit the horrors of “life” in capitalist dungeons. More importantly, they are a necessary expression of solidarity with these prisoners—a message that they are not forgotten. In letters to the PDC before last year’s Holiday Appeal, the prisoners gave a glimpse of what the program means to them:

Hugo Pinell: “Your care and solidarity has provided me with extra strength and drive to keep on pushing and evolving and i hope that my company has served you well. I am with you, in life and struggle.”

Janine Africa: “I want to thank everybody for yalls support all of these years. I’m not just talking about the holiday donations, I’m talking about the work yall do for the release of political prisoners from prison.”

Jaan Laaman: “This solidarity and support is important and necessary for us political prisoners, especially as the years and decades of our captivity grind on.... Being in captivity is certainly harsh, and this includes the sufferings of our children and families and friends. But prison walls and sentences do not and can not stop struggle.”

Tom Manning, Laaman’s Ohio 7 comrade: “Just so you know, it [the stipend] goes for bags of mackerel and jars of peanut butter, to supplement my protein needs.”

The struggle to free all class-war prisoners is critical to educating a new generation of fighters for the oppressed. This is given added meaning as we build for this Holiday Appeal. Persecution of those imprisoned for their political views and actions has not only continued unabated, but Obama and his top cop, Attorney General Eric Holder, are making reservations for many more to join them. The Obama administration has launched an ominous escalation of state repression, accelerating the repressive measures adopted during the Clinton/Bush years that will be wielded against those who propelled him to office—labor, blacks, immigrants and leftist youth.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose case will again be a focus of the Holiday Appeal, is threatened with the reinstitution of the death sentence (see article, page 12). Seventy-one-year-old leftist lawyer Lynne Stewart has been resentenced to ten years in prison for the “crime” of representing her client. The PDC has added Stewart to the stipend recipients. In Chicago and Minneapolis, the FBI recently raided the homes of leftists, antiwar activists and unionists under the rubric of the “war on terrorism.” Among those targeted were members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and others, who have run afoul of Washington for their open support to leftist rebels in Colombia opposed to the U.S. puppet regime, the secular-nationalist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah.

In February, Obama signed into law yet another extension of the USA Patriot Act with its provisions of indefinite detention, expansion of secret FBI searches of homes and offices and elimination of formal restrictions on domestic spying, wiretapping and Internet surveillance. The message to all who would fight against the ravages of the capitalist economic crisis, war and racist repression: This is what’s in store for you if you step out of line.

The PDC initiated the stipend program at the height of the reactionary Reagan years, defining features of which included the destruction of the PATCO air traffic controllers union, the bombing of the Philadelphia MOVE commune and efforts to classify leftists and union militants as terrorists and criminals. It was an important component of fighting efforts to criminalize leftist political dissent—and it remains so today, as the “war on terror” has given the government repressive powers that Reagan could only dream of.

We have provided stipends to over 30 prisoners, including eight union militants, on three continents. Many of these prisoners, largely victims of the racist rulers’ war against militant black activists, have been there from nearly the beginning of our stipends program. The government has repeatedly demonstrated its determination to make sure they die behind bars from old age or medical neglect—or in the case of Mumia, by legal lynching. In fighting for their freedom, we are dedicated to searing the injustice of these cases into the consciousness of the working masses—today and for generations to come. Regular features of the Holiday Appeal are presentations by PDC representatives to union locals in cities across the country. As Cannon noted, “The victory of the class-war prisoners is possible only when they are inseparably united with the living labor movement.” An injury to one is an injury to all!

The 17 class-war prisoners described below receive monthly stipends from the PDC.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” This past January, the U.S. Supreme Court took a big step toward the legal lynching of this innocent man. The Court vacated a March 2008 decision of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld a 2001 decision by federal district court judge William Yohn overturning Mumia’s death sentence. The high court in essence gave marching orders to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the death penalty. A hearing was held in Philadelphia on November 9.

This December marks the 29th anniversary of Mumia’s arrest for a killing that the cops know he did not commit. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Mountains of evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, have been submitted to the courts. But to the racists in black robes, a court of law is no place for evidence of the innocence of this fighter for the oppressed.

While others plead with President Obama and his attorney general to “investigate” violations of Mumia’s “civil rights,” the PDC says that Mumia’s fate cannot be left in the hands of the government of the capitalists. The racist rulers hate Mumia because they see in him the spectre of black revolt. The stakes are high and the situation is grim, but any real fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on a class-struggle opposition to the capitalist rulers, who have entombed this innocent black man for more than half his life.

Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier’s frame-up trial, for the 1975 deaths of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation, shows what capitalist “justice” is all about. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 66-year-old Peltier is still locked away. Last year, the U.S. Parole Commission again turned down Peltier’s parole request and shockingly declared they would not reconsider his case for another 15 years.

Eight MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa—are in their 33rd year of prison. They were sentenced to 30-100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops. This year, again, after more than three decades of unjust incarceration, nearly all of these innocent prisoners had parole hearings, but none were released.

Lynne Stewart is a radical lawyer incarcerated for zealously defending her client, a blind Egyptian cleric imprisoned for an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks in the early 1990s. On July 15 she was resentenced to ten years—more than quadrupling her original sentence—in a loud affirmation by the Obama administration that there will be no let-up in the massive attack on democratic rights under the “war on terror.” Stewart, now 71 years old and suffering from breast cancer, is known for her defense of Black Panthers, radical leftists and others reviled by the capitalist state.

Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. Their children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Feds.

The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals during the Vietnam antiwar movement and by New Leftists who wrote off the possibility of winning the working class to a revolutionary program and saw themselves as an auxiliary of Third World liberation movements. But, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not crimes. They should not have served a day in prison.

Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They were victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now served more than 40 years in jail. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter and Mondo new trials despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a 911 audiotape long-suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.

Hugo Pinell is the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison. He was a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing along with George Jackson, his comrade and mentor, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite numerous letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 28 years, Pinell was again denied parole last year. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California.

Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, was sentenced in 1998 to 151/2 years without parole on bogus firearms possession charges. Hart was targeted for his prominent activism in the campaign to free his father. Although Hart was initially charged under Pennsylvania law, which would have meant a probationary sentence, Clinton’s Justice Department intervened to have Hart thrown into prison under federal law. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down Hart’s habeas corpus petition, and he has faced myriad bureaucratic obstacles and racist targeting throughout his incarceration.

Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeals will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for their opposition to racist capitalism and imperialist depredations. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

*Support The PDC Holiday Appeal-Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter-Spring, 1996, 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.


Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

We print below an edited speech by Deborah Mackson, executive director of the Partisan Defense Committee, prepared for April 7995 regional educationals in New York, Chicago and Oakland as part of a series of meetings and rallies sponsored by the PDC to mobilize support for Mum/a Abu-Jamal and the fight against the racist death penalty.

Mumia Abu-Jamal describes his current conditions of incarceration on death row at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, Pennsylvania as "high-tech hell." When Governor Tom Ridge assaults all of the working people and minorities of this country by initiating the first execution of a political prisoner in America since the Rosenbergs, he must hear a resounding "No!" from coast to coast. Because Jamal is an articulate voice for the oppressed, this racist and rotting capitalist state wants to silence him forever. He is indeed dangerous. He is indeed a symbol. He is, indeed, innocent. Hear his powerful words, and you will begin to understand the hatred and fear which inspires the vendetta against this courageous fighter:

"Over many long years, over mountains of fears, through rivers of repression, from the depths of the valley of the shadow of death, I survive to greet you, in the continuing spirit of rebellion.... As America's ruling classes rush backwards into a new Dark Age, the weight of repression comes easier with each passing hour. But as repression increases, so too must resistance.... Like our forefathers, our fore-mothers, our kith and kin, we must fight for every inch of ground gained. The repressive wave sweeping this country will not stop by good wishes, but only by a counterwave of committed people firm in their focus."

We of the Partisan Defense Committee, the Spartacist League and the Labor Black Leagues are committed to a campaign to free this former Black Panther, award-winning journalist and supporter of the controversial MOVE organization who was framed for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Our aim is to effect an international campaign of protest and publicity like that which ultimately saved the nine Scottsboro Boys, framed for rape in Alabama in 1931, from the electric chair. We must mobilize the working class and all the oppressed in the fight to free this class-war prisoner framed by the government's murderous vendetta.

As Marxists, we are opposed to the death penalty on principle. We say that this state does not have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Capital punishment is part of the vast arsenal of terror at the hands of this state, which exists to defend the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. America's courts are an instrument of the bourgeoisie's war on the working people and the poor; they are neither neutral nor by any stretch of the imagination "color blind."

To us, the defense of America's class-war prisoners— whatever their individual political views may be—is a responsibility of the revolutionary vanguard party which must champion all causes in the interest of the proletariat. The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated by the Spartacist League in 1974 in the tradition of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense, under its founder and first secretary from 1925 to 1928, James P. Cannon. Today, I want to talk to you about how that tradition was built in this country by the best militants of the past 100 years—the leaders of class-struggle organizations like the pre-World War I Industrial Workers of the World, the early Socialist and Communist parties and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party.

The Roots of Black Oppression

To forge a future, one has to understand the past. The modern American death penalty is the barbaric inheritance of a barbaric system of production: chattel slavery. Like the capitalists who hold state power today, the slavocracy used the instruments of their power, special bodies of armed men and the "justice" system— the laws, courts and prisons—to control people for profit. Directly descendant from the slavocracy's tradition of property in black people is the death penalty. A trail through history illustrates this truth. The "slave codes" codified a series of offenses for which slaves could be killed but for which whites would receive a lesser sentence. In Virginia, the death penalty was mandatory for both slaves and free blacks for any crime for which a white could be imprisoned for three years or more. In Georgia, a black man convicted of raping a white woman faced the death penalty; a white man got two years for the same crime, and punishment was "discretionary" if the victim was black. Slaves could not own property, bear arms, assemble or testify against whites in courts of law. Marriage between slaves was not recognized; families were sold apart; it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write. Slaves were not second- or third-class citizens—they were not human, but legally "personal, movable property," chattel.

William Styron in The Confessions of Nat Turner has the fictional character T.R. Gray explain the slaveowners' rationale to Turner:

"The point is that you are animate chattel and animate chattel is capable of craft and connivery and wily stealth. You ain't a wagon, Reverend, but chattel that possesses moral choice and spiritual volition. Remember that well. Because that's how come the law provides that animate chattel like you can be tried for a felony, and that's how come you're goin' to be tried next Sattidy. "He paused, then said softly without emotion: 'And hung by the neck until dead'."

While the slave codes were a Southern institution, legal and extralegal terror were never exclusive to the South. As early as 1793, fugitive slave laws were on the federal books. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in response to the growing abolitionist influence which had inspired several Northern states to pass "personal liberty laws," giving some protection to slaves who had successfully negotiated the Underground Railroad. The 1850 law, seeking to protect the private property of slaveholders, put the burden of proof on captured blacks, but gave them no legal power to prove their freedom—no right to habeas corpus, no right to a jury trial, no right even to testify on their own behalf.

Many blacks were caught in the clutches of this infamous law, which had no bounds. For example, a man in southern Indiana was arrested and returned to an owner’ who claimed he had run away 79 years before. The law knew no pretense. A magistrate's fee doubled if he judged an unfortunate black before the bench a runaway slave instead of a tree man. And fugitives were pursued with vigor. In Battle Cry of Freedom, historian James McPherson recounts the story of Anthony Burns, a slave who stowed away from Virginia to Boston in 1854. The feds spent the equivalent of $2.3 million in current dollars to return him to his "owner." That is approximately equal to what an average death penalty case costs today.

Any hope that "blind justice" could be sought from the U.S. Supreme Court was dashed with the 1856 Dred Scott decision. Chief Justice Taney wrote that at the time the Constitution was adopted, Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

While slavery itself was overthrown in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the needs of the American capitalists for compulsory agricultural labor in the South remained. A new, semi-capitalistic mode of agriculture developed, in which the semi-slave condition of the freed blacks was made permanent by the re-establishment of the social relations of slavery: color discrimination buttressed by segregation and race prejudice.

After the Civil War the slave codes became the "black codes," a separate set of rules defining crime and punishment for blacks and limiting their civil rights. They were enforced by the extralegal terror of the Ku Klux Klan; in the last two decades of the 19th century, lynching vastly outnumbered legal executions. As W.E.B. Du Bois said of lynching:

"It is not simply the Klu Klux Klan; it is not simply weak officials; it is not simply inadequate, unenforced law. It is deeper, far deeper than all this: it is the in-grained spirit of mob and murder, the despising of women and the capitalization of children born of 400 years of Negro slavery and 4,000 years of government for private profit."

The promise of Radical Reconstruction, equality, could only be fulfilled by attacking the problem at its very root: private property in the means of production. Neither Northern capitalists nor Southern planters could abide that revolution, so they made a deal, the Compromise of 1877, in their common interest. That's why we call on American workers, black and white, to finish the Civil War—to complete, through socialist revolution, the unfinished tasks of the Second American Revolution!

In the wake of the Compromise of 1877, the U.S. Supreme Court began to dismantle the Civil Rights Acts of the Reconstruction period. One landmark decision was Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, which permitted "separate but equal" treatment of black and white in public facilities. But separate is never equal. This was simply the legal cover for the transformation of the "black codes" into "Jim Crow"—the "grandfather clause," poll tax, literacy test, all designed to deny blacks the vote, and the institution of separate facilities from schools to cemeteries. This legal and practical segregation, instituted in the South and transported North, was a tool to divide and rule.

America's Racist Death Penalty

The death penalty was applied at will until 1972. From 1930 to 1967 the U.S. averaged 100 or more executions per year. In 1972, following a decade of civil rights protests, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment" because of its arbitrary and capricious application. But the hiatus lasted only four years.

In 1976-the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and has been expanding it ever since. In 1986 the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane, but gave no criteria for defining insanity; in 1988 it approved the execution of 16-year-olds; in 1989 it ruled for the execution of retarded persons. Since 1976, 276 people have been executed in this country. Between January and April of 1995, 17 were killed. And innocence is no barrier, as the Supreme Court recently decreed in the case of Jesse Dewayne Jacobs, executed in Texas in January 1995 after the prosecution submitted that he had not committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The Supreme Court said it didn't matter, he'd had a "fair trial." What an abomination!
Perhaps the most telling case in recent history was the 1987 McCleskey decision. The evidence submitted to the courts illustrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism ruled the application of the death penalty. Overall, a black person convicted of killing a white person is 22 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim is black. When the McCleskey case went to court, liberals across the country hoped for a Brown v. Board of Education decision in regard to the death penalty. The evidence of racial bias was clear and overwhelming. But while the Supreme Court accepted the accuracy of the evidence, it said it doesn't matter. The court showed the real intention of the death penalty when it stated that McCleskey's claim "throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system" and "the validity of capital punishment in our multi-racial society." Or as a Southern planter wrote in defense of the slave codes, "We have to rely more and more on the power of fear.... We are determined to continue masters" (quoted in Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution).

Let's take a look for a moment at "our multi-racial society." The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world: 344 per 100,000. It is one of the two "advanced" industrial countries left in the world which employs capital punishment. As of January 1995, 2,976 men, women and children occupied America's death rows; 48 are women, 37 are juveniles. According to the latest census, blacks make up 12 percent of the population, yet 51 percent of the people awaiting execution are minorities and 40 percent are black.

Eighty-four percent of all capital cases involve white victims even though 50 percent of murder victims in America are black. Of a total of 75 people executed for interracial murders, three involved a black victim and a white defendant, 72 involved a white victim and a black defendant. The death penalty is truly an impulse to genocide against the black population for whom the ruling class no longer sees any need in its profit-grabbing calculations.

Understanding this and understanding the broader importance of the black question in America, we take up Jamal's case as a concrete task in our struggle for black freedom and for proletarian revolution in the interests of the liberation of all of humanity.

Early History of Class-Struggle Defense

From the beginning of the communist movement, a commitment to those persecuted by the ruling classes, whether "on the inside" or out, has been recognized as an integral part of the class struggle. Marx and Engels spent years defending and supporting the refugees of-the Paris Commune.

As Trotskyists, we feel this responsibility keenly because we inherited some of the finest principles for class-struggle defense from James R Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism. The traditions which inspired the International Labor Defense (ILD) were forged in hard class struggle, dating back to the rise of the labor movement after the Civil War. One of the first acts of the Republican government following the Compromise of 1877 was to pull its troops from the South and send them to quell the railway strikes that had broken out throughout the Northern states. The federal strikebreakers tipped the scales in the hard-fought battles of the time, many of which escalated into general strikes, and the workers were driven back in defeat. But united struggle against the bosses had been launched, and less than a decade later the workers movement had taken up the fight for an eight-hour day.

In the course of this struggle, workers in Chicago amassed at Haymarket Square in early May of 1886. The protest was just winding down when a bomb went off, likely planted by a provocateur. The cops opened fire on the workers, killing one and wounding many. The government’s response was to frame up eight workers, who were sympathetic to anarchist views, on charges of murder. They were tried and convicted, not for the bombing but for their agitation against the employers. Four were hanged, one committed suicide, three were finally pardoned in 1891.

The period from the turn of the century to America's entry into World War I was one of intense social struggle; militant strikes were more numerous than at any time since. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW—the Wobblies) led union organizing drives, anti-lynching campaigns and a free speech movement. The level of struggle meant more frequent arrests, which gave rise to the need for defense of the class and individuals. The left and most labor currents and organizations rallied to the defense of victims of the class war. Non-sectarian defense was the rule of the day. The Wobbly slogan, "an injury to one is an injury to all," was taken to heart by the vast majority of the workers.

This was Cannon's training ground. One of his heroes was Big Bill Haywood, who conceived the ILD with Cannon in Moscow in 1925. As Cannon said, the history of the ILD is "the story of the projection of Bill Haywood's influence—through me and my associates—into the movement from which he was exiled, an influence for simple honesty and good will and genuine non-partisan solidarity toward all the prisoners of the class war in America."

Big Bill Haywood came from the Western Federation of Miners, one of the most combative unions this country has ever produced. The preamble to their constitution was a series of six points, beginning, "We hold that there is a class struggle in society and that this struggle is caused by economic conditions." It goes on to note, "We hold that the class struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as the sole master of his product," and it asserts that the working class and it alone can and must achieve its own emancipation. It ends, "we, the wage slaves...have associated in the Western Federation of Miners."

Not all labor organizations of the time had this class-struggle perspective. Contrast the tract of Samuel Rompers' American Federation of Labor (AFL), "Labor's Bill of Grievances," which he sent to the president and Congress in 1908:

"We present these grievances to your attention because we have long, patiently and in vain waited for redress.

There is not any matter of which we have complained but for which we nave in an honorable and lawful manner submitted remedies. The remedies for these grievances proposed by labor are in line with fundamental law, and with progress and development made necessary by changed industrial conditions."

The IWW, whose constitution began, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common," was founded in 1905. Haywood was an initiator and one of its most aggressive and influential organizers. As a result of that and his open socialist beliefs, in 1906 he, along with George Pettibone and Charles Moyer, were arrested for the bombing murder of ex-governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho (the nemesis of the combative Coeur d'Alene miners). The three were kidnapped from Colorado, put on a military train and taken to Idaho.

The Western Federation of Miners and the IWW launched a tremendous defense movement for the three during the 18 months they were waiting to be tried for their lives. Everyone from the anarchists to the AFL participated. Demonstrations of 50,000 and more were organized all across the country. It was this case that brought James Cannon to political consciousness.

The case was important internationally, too. While they were in jail, Maxim Gorky came to New York and sent a telegram to the three with greetings from the Russian workers. Haywood wired back that their imprisonment was an expression of the class struggle which was the same in America as in Russia and in all other capitalist countries.

On a less friendly note, Teddy Roosevelt, then president of America, publicly declared the three "undesirable citizens." Haywood responded that the laws of the country held they were innocent until proven guilty and that a man in Roosevelt's position should be the last to judge them until the case was decided in court.

The Socialist Party (founded in 1901) also rallied to the defense. While in jail, Haywood was nominated as the party's candidate for governor of Colorado and got 16,000 votes. The leader of the SP, Eugene Debs, wrote his famous "Arouse, Ye Slaves" for the SP's Appeal to Reason:

"If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.... Let them dare to execute their devilish plot and every state in this Union will resound with the tramp of revolution....
"Get ready, comrades, for action!... A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat...would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising."

Haywood's trial began in May of 1907. It was Clarence Darrow for the defense and the infamous Senator William E. Borah for the frame-up (prosecution). That this was a political trial was clear to everybody. The prosecution, for example, introduced into evidence issues of the anarchist journal Alarm from 1886, when Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons was its editor. Haywood thought that Dar-row's summary to the jury in his case was the best effort Darrow ever made in the courtroom. But Haywood also got a bit exasperated with his lawyer. In his autobiography, he tells the story of Darrow coming to jail depressed and worried. The defendants would always try to get him to lighten up. Finally Pettibone got tired of this and told Darrow they knew it would be really hard on him to lose this great case with all its national and international attention, but, hey! he said, "You know it's us fellows that have to be hanged!"

Every day of the trial the defense committee packed the courtroom with what Haywood called "a labor jury of Socialists and union men." This is a practice we proudly follow today. On the stand, Haywood told the story of the Western Federation of Miners and its battles against the bosses, putting them on trial. He refused to be intimidated by Senator Borah. When Borah asked whether Haywood had said that Governor Steunenberg should be exterminated, Haywood replied that to the best of his remembrance, he said he should be "eliminated."

On June 28 Haywood was acquitted. Soon thereafter, so were his comrades. At a Chicago rally organized to greet him upon his release, he told the crowd of 200,000, "We owe our lives to your solidarity." Haywood knew that innocence was not enough. It is that kind of solidarity we are seeking to mobilize today for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Labor Movement and World War I

Haywood was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in 1908, during its most left-wing period. In 1910, he was one of the party's delegates to the Socialist Congress of the Second International in Copenhagen. Shortly after, the SP moved to the right, and in 1912 (the year Debs polled nearly a million votes in his campaign for president) a number of leftists, including the young Jim Cannon, left the Socialist Party. A year later, when Haywood was purged from the executive board, there was another mass exodus.

The IWW, in which Haywood and Cannon remained active, expanded the scope of its activities. This was the period of the free speech movement and anti-lynching ' campaigns. One Wobbly pamphlet, "Justice for the Negro: How He Can Get It," discusses the question of integrated struggle and how to stop lynchings:

"The workers of every race and nationality must join in one common group against their one common enemy—the employers—so as to be "able to defend themselves and one another. Protection for the working class lies in complete solidarity of the workers, without regard to race, creed, sex or color. 'One Enemy—One Union!' must be their watchword."

They almost got it right: as syndicalists, they didn't understand the need for a vanguard party to fight for a revolutionary program.

With the beginning of World War I and preparations for U.S. involvement, the government declared political war on the IWW and the left. Thousands of Wobblies were imprisoned under "criminal syndicalism" laws—100 in San Quentin and Folsom alone. In response, the IWW adopted the slogan, "Fill the jails." It was a misguided tactic, but unlike many so-called socialists today, the Wobbliest had a principled position where it counted: they'd go to jail before they'd cross a picket line.

1917 was the year of the Russian Revolution. A month after that world-historic event, Haywood was back on trial in Chicago with some 18 other Wobblies. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in Leaven worth prison. In 1919 he was released on bail pending appeal and devoted his time to the IWW's General Defense Committee, launching a campaign to raise bail money for those in prison. When the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids began, Haywood learned that he was a primary target. So, as his appeal went to the Supreme Court, he sailed for the Soviet Union. A student of history, he had no illusions in "blind justice."

Cannon was also heavily influenced by the case of California labor leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings. In 1916, as America was preparing to go to war, Mooney and Billings were framed up for a bombing at a Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco. The Preparedness Movement was a bourgeois movement of "open shop" chamber of commerce, right-wing vigilante groups, who were very serious about getting the U.S. into World War I. They went into Mexico to fight Pancho Villa as practice. The Preparedness Movement was opposed by labor, and in fact two days before the bombing there had been a 5,000-strong labor demonstration in San Francisco.

Mooney and Billings were convicted. Mooney was sentenced to hang, Billings got a life sentence. At first, their case was taken up only by the anarchists. The official AFL labor movement took a hands-off position. But when it became clear that they had been framed with perjured testimony, a "Mooney movement" swept the country.

The Mooney case had a big impact on Russian immigrant workers, among others. Thus the Mooney case was carried back to Russia, and in April of 1917 the Russian anarchists led a Mooney defense demonstration in Petrograd at the American consulate. Worried about Russia pulling out of World War I at that point, Woodrow Wilson personally interceded on behalf of Mooney and Billings. It didn't get them out of jail, but the effect of international pressure was not lost on Cannon.

In the U.S., the cops broke up Mooney defense meetings and arrested those present. The class-struggle nature of the defense movement, involving such actions as one-day strikes, was a felt threat to the ruling class, especially in the face of a war. In a conscious effort to dissipate this movement, the state commuted Mooney's death sentence to life in prison. In combination with the domestic repression following the war, this took the life out of the Mooney movement. Mooney and Billings stayed in prison for 22 years. They were released in 1939, and Mooney spent two and a half of the next three years in the hospital and then-died.

In his eulogy "Good-by Tom Mooney!" Cannon wrote:

"They imprisoned Mooney—as they imprisoned Debs and Haywood and hundreds of others—in order to clear the road of militant labor opposition to the First World War, and they kept him in prison for revenge and for a warning to others."

As World War II began, Cannon would find himself in the same position.

The Tradition of International Labor Defense

The parties of the Second International backed their own ruling classes in World War I, and the Bolsheviks fought for a new international party committed to the Marxist movement's call, "Workers of the World Unite!" In 1919, the leaders of the Russian Revolution founded the Third International, the Comintern, to build revolutionary parties which could take up the struggle against capitalist rule. 1919 was also a year of massive strike activity in the U.S. This wave of class struggle swelled the ranks of the Socialist Party, which then split in September. The most left-wing workers regrouped, giving birth to the American Communist movement, and Cannon was among them.

America in the 1920s was not a nice place to be. Warren Harding was elected in a landslide victory on the slogan of "Return to Normalcy." And "normal" was racist and repressive. His attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, launched a war on the left inspired by fear of the Russian Revolution, which resulted in massive deportations of leftists and jailing of American radicals. The young Communist Party went underground. 1920 saw more lynchings and anti-black pogroms than any time in recent memory. The Klan grew like wildfire, and the government passed anti-immigration legislation that would give Newt Gingrich and Pete Wilson wet dreams.

When it was clear that the IWW was for all practical purposes broken, many of its jailed members, including Eugene Debs, were pardoned. The Communists, however, remained in jail. The union movement took it on the chops as well, and by the end of the 1920s only 13 percent of the workforce of this country was unionized.

The 1921 Third Congress of the Comintern was held under the watchword "To the Masses." In the U.S., the newly formed party had been underground and could hardly make a turn to the masses. At the Comintern's urging, the Workers (Communist) Party emerged in December of 1921 with Cannon as its first chairman and main public spokesman.

By the time of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, the tactic of the united front had been defined; the Fourth Congress detailed its application. The need for the united front grew out of the post-World War I ebbing of the revolutionary tide following the Russian Revolution. The offensive by the capitalists against the proletariat and its parties was forcing even the reformist-led organizations into partial and defensive struggles to save their very lives.

The slogan "march separately, strike together" encapsulated the two aims of the united-front tactic: class unity and the political fight for a communist program. The Comintern sought both to achieve the maximum unity of the working masses in their defensive struggles and to expose in action the hesitancy of the leadership of the reformist organizations of the Second International to act in the interests of the proletariat and the inability of its program to win against the ruling class.

The united front is a tactic we use today. Our call for labor/black mobilizations to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty has brought together many different organizations and individuals to save Jamal's life. At these rallies and demonstrations, we

have insisted on the right to argue for our program to put an end to racist injustice and capitalist exploitation through socialist revolution.

In line with the policies hashed out at the Third and Fourth Congresses, the Communist International founded an international defense organization, the International Red Aid. These events had a substantial effect on the young American party, and one of the direct results was the foundation in 1925 of the International Labor Defense (ILD).

Cannon's goal was to make the ILD the defense arm of the labor movement. Cannon wrote to Debs on the occasion of his endorsement of the ILD:

"The main problem as I see it is to construct the ILD on the broadest possible basis. To conduct the work in a non-partisan and non-sectarian manner and finally establish the impression by our deeds that the ILD is the defender of every worker persecuted for his activities in the class struggle, without any exceptions and without regard to his affiliations."

From 1925 to 1928, the ILD was pretty successful in achieving that goal. It established principles to which we adhere today:

• United-front defense: The ILD campaigns were organized to allow for the broadest possible participation.

• Class-struggle defense: The ILD sought to mobilize the working class in protest on a national and international scale, relying on the class movement of the workers and
placing no faith in the justice of the capitalist courts, while using every legal avenue open to them.

• Non-sectarian defense: When it was founded, the ILD immediately adopted 106 prisoners, instituting the practice of financially assisting these prisoners and their
families. Many had been jailed as a result of the "criminal syndicalism" laws; some were Wobblies, some were anarchists, some were strike leaders. Not one was a member of the Communist Party. The ILD launched the first Holiday Appeal. Of course, the ILD also vigorously defended its own, understanding the vital importance of the legal rights of the Communist Party to exist and organize.

Social Defense and Union Struggle

The ILD's most well-known case was the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The frame-up for murder and robbery of these two immigrant anarchist workers, who were sent to their deaths by the state of Massachusetts in 1927, grew directly out of the "red scare" of the early '20s. The ILD applied with alacrity the main lines of its program: unity of all working-class forces and reliance on the class movement of the workers. Thousands of workers rallied to their cause, and unions around the country contributed to a defense fund set up by Italian workers in the Boston area. But the level of class struggle is key to the outcome of defense cases, and the ILD's exemplary campaign proved insufficient to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti.

As the case drew to a close, one of the feints used by the state was to start rumors that Sacco and Vanzetti's death penalty sentence would be commuted to life without parole. This was designed to dissipate the Sacco and Vanzetti movement and prepare their execution. Cannon rang the alarm bells from the pages of the Labor Defender, rallying ILD supporters to mass demonstrations and warning them of the devious and two-faced nature of the bourgeoisie. Cannon had not forgotten the demobilization of the Mooney movement after his sentence had been commuted nor the living death that Mooney and Billings were enduring in their 22 years of internment.

This has significance for us today as we fight against the threatened execution of Jamal. Life in prison is hell. Think about the "life" of Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), another former Panther, jailed for a quarter of a century for a crime the state knows he did not commit. While some call upon Pennsylvania governor Ridge to convert Jamal's sentence to life without parole, we demand the freedom of both these innocent men.

The ILD also worked in defense of the class as a whole. In 1926, about 16,000 textile workers hit the bricks in Passaic, New Jersey. Their strike was eventually defeated, but it drew sharp lessons on the role of the state and demonstrated for Cannon the absolute necessity for a permanent, organized and always ready non-partisan labor defense organization. Cannon wrote in the Labor Defender:

"Our I.L.D. is on the job at Passaic. Not a single striker went into court without our lawyer to defend him. There was not a single conviction that was not appealed. Nobody had to remain in jail more than a few days for lack of bail.... A great wave of protest spread thru the labor movement and even the most conservative labor leaders were compelled to give expression to it."

In 1928, the Trotskyist Left Opposition (including Cannon) was expelled from the Communist Party. The ILD remained under the control of the Communist Party and thus became subject to the zigzags of Stalinist policies throughout the 1930s, including the perversion of the united front from a tactic for class unity into an instrument for class collaboration and counterrevolution.

In 1929, Stalin declared the "Third Period," an ultraleft shift, the main tactic of which was to smash the Social Democratic and other leftist parties by creating what the Stalinists called "united fronts from below." The Comintern charged the reformists with "social fascism"; the real fascists were to be dealt with secondarily. In Germany, this policy contributed to Adolph Hitler's seizure of power— there was no united fight against fascism by the workers in the mass Communist and Social Democratic parties. This policy had an effect on the U.S. party and its defense work.

Legal Lynching in the American South

One result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression was that 200,000people made the rails their home as they moved from place to place looking for work. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths, ranging in age from 13 to 20, were riding the Memphis to Chattanooga freight train. Two young white women, fearful of being jailed for hoboing when the train was stopped after reports that there had been a fight with some white boys, accused the blacks of rape. Among the nine were Olen Montgomery—blind in one eye and with 10 percent vision in the other—headed for Memphis hoping to earn enough money to buy a pair of glasses; Willie Roberson, debilitated by years-long untreated syphilis and gonorrhea—which is important if you're going to be talking about a rape case; and Eugene Williams and Roy Wright, both 13 years old.

The group were nearly lynched on the spot. The trial began in Scottsboro, Alabama on April 6. Four days later, despite medical evidence that no rape had occurred—not to mention gross violations of due process—eight were sentenced to death and one of the 13-year-olds to life in prison. The Communist Party issued a statement condemning the trial as a "legal" lynching. That night, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys began.

Freedom was a long time coming. A series of trials and appeals all went badly for the defendants. In 1933, one of the alleged victims, Ruby Bates, recanted her testimony, but it wasn't until 1937 that four of the defendants were freed. Three more were paroled in the 1940s, and in 1948 Haywood Patterson escaped from Angola prison to Michigan, where the governor refused to extradite him. The last, Andy Wright, who had had his 1944 parole revoked, was finally released in 1950. The nine had spent 104 years in jail for a "crime" that never happened.

The ILD made the word "Scottsboro" synonymous, nationally and internationally, with Southern racism, repression and injustice. Their campaign was responsible for saving the Scottsboro Boys from the electric chair. As Haywood Patterson's father wrote in a letter to his son, "You will burn sure if you don't let them preachers alone and trust in the International Labor Defense to handle the case."

The CP's publicity was massive and moving. They organized demonstrations in Harlem and across the country, appealing to the masses to put no confidence in the capitalist courts and to see the struggle for the freedom of these youths as part of the larger class struggle. Young Communists in Dresden, Germany marched on the American consulate, and, when officials refused to accept their petition, hurled bottles through windows. Inside each was the note: "Down with American murder and Imperialism. For the brotherhood of black and white young proletarians. An end to the bloody lynching of our Negro co-workers."

In the South, the defense effort faced not only the racist system but the homegrown fascists of the Ku Klux Klan as well, which launched a campaign under the slogan "The Klan Rides Again to Stamp Out Communism."

The ILD's success in rallying the masses to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys happened despite their sectarian "Third Period" tactics. The ILD denounced the NAACP, the ACLU and most of the trade-union movement as "social fascists" and threw the "Trotskyite" likes of Jim Cannon out of Scottsboro defense meetings. But fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, seeking now to make as many allies as he could, in 1935 Stalin' declared the "Third Period" at an end. A Comintern resolution urged the Communist parties to form "popular fronts" with any and all for progressive ends. In the U.S. this meant supporting Roosevelt and abandoning the struggle to link the defense of black people with the fight against the capitalist system. You can imagine the surprise of the NAACP, who were now greeted warmly by the ILD as "comrades"! This comradeship did not extend to the Trotskyists. The Scottsboro Defense Committee was formed, and a lot of the life went out of the movement as the case dragged on.

Cannon and his party, the Communist League of America, supported the efforts of the ILD to free the Scottsboro Boys. The Trotskyists insisted on the importance of an integrated movement to fight in their defense. Cannon pointed out that it was wrong to view the Scottsboro case solely as a "Negro issue" and agitated in the pages of the Militant for the organization of white workers around the case.
When Clarence Darrow refused to work on the case unless the ILD withdrew because he didn't like its agitation methods, Cannon wrote:

"The ILD was absolutely right in rejecting the presumptuous demands of Darrow and Hays, and the Scottsboro prisoners showed wisdom in supporting the stand of their defense organization. Any other course would have signified an end to the fight to organize the protest of the masses against the legal lynching; and with that would have ended any real hope to save the boys and restore their freedom."

Darrow's big argument was: "You can't mix politics with a law case." Cannon replied:

"That is a reactionary lie. It is father to the poisonous doctrine that a labor case is a purely legal relation between the lawyer and client and the court.... It was the influence of this idea over the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee which paralyzed the protest mass movement at every step and thereby contributed to the final tragic outcome. Not to the courts alone, and not primarily there, but to the masses must the appeal of the persecuted of class and race be taken. There is the power and there is the justice."

Communists on Trial
During the time that the Scottsboro Boys were languishing in their Southern jails, World War II began in Europe. The American workers had gone through the experience of one of the biggest union organizing drives in the history of the country, resulting in the formation of the CIO, and many of the new industrial unions had won significant victories. Communists, including the Trotskyists, Jim Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party, had participated in and led many of these struggles. War is great for capitalist economies—the destruction creates constant demand, and if you win, you get new markets to exploit. But to go to war, you have to regiment the population at home, and that begins with the suspension of civil liberties.

On the eve of America's entry into World War II, Congress passed the Smith Act, requiring the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United States and making it a crime to advocate or teach the "violent overthrow of the United States government" or to belong to a group advocating or teaching it.

For public consumption, this act was billed as an antifascist measure, but the Socialist Workers Party (successor to the Communist League of America) and Minneapolis Teamsters were the first victims of the Smith Act prosecutions. Why did the head of the Teamsters Union, Daniel J. Tobin, the U.S. attorney general, Francis Biddle, and the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, conspire to take away the First Amendment rights of a small Trotskyist party, a party with maybe a couple thousand members and influence in one local of one union?

Part of the answer is that the SWP was effective. The party had led some hard class struggle; it was their comrades who had provided the leadership for the Minneapolis strike of 1934 which led to the formation of Teamsters Local 544. Another part of the answer is politics: the SWP was forthright in its opposition to the coming war. This was a calculated government attack designed to cripple the SWP where it had the most influence in the proletariat as America girded for imperialist war.

In the courtroom, the SWP's goal was to put the capitalist system on trial, a tradition we carry forward in our own cases. On the stand, Cannon pedagogically explained the positions of the SWP on the questions of the day and Marxism in general. But the Minneapolis defendants went to jail for 16 months—sentenced on the same day that Congress voted to enter the war. The ruling class hoped that the party would be leaderless and pass from the stage. But at that time the SWP was still a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program and a collective leadership—so that hope was, in the main, dashed.

A number of CIO unions issued statements in defense of the Minneapolis defendants, as did numerous black organizations. The American Communist Party, however, issued the following statement: "The Communist Party has always exposed, fought against and today joins the fight to exterminate the Trotskyite fifth column from the life of our nation." In line with their support for Roosevelt and the war, the CP aided the government in the Smith Act prosecution of the SWP and aided the FBI in their persecution of the Trotskyists in the trade unions. The CP's disgusting collaboration did not prevent them from being prosecuted under the very same Smith Act, beginning in 1948. The Trotskyists, of course, defended the CP unequivocally against the government prosecution while criticizing the CP's Stalinist politics.

Years later the attorney general, Francis Biddle, apologized for prosecuting the Trotskyists. The bourgeoisie sometimes apologizes when its crisis is safely over. Fifty years after the end of World War II, the U.S. government "apologized" for the wartime roundup and internment of Japanese Americans, offering a token compensation to those whose homes were seized and livelihoods ruined. They say whatever outrageous trampling of civil liberties occurred was an "excess" or "wrong" and of course it will "never happen again." But the Reagan government drew up plans to intern Arab Americans in concentration camps in Louisiana after the bombing of Libya. Those camps are ready and waiting for the next time the bourgeoisie feels its rule is substantially threatened.

Class-Struggle Defense Work

The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated in 1974 by the Spartacist League with the goal of re-establishing in the workers movement united-front, non-sectarian defense principles in the tradition of Cannon's ILD.

This was not anticipated to be, nor has it been, an easy task. Unlike the ILD, which inherited the rich and principled defense traditions of the IWW and the personal authority of mass leaders like Cannon and Haywood, we were the immediate inheritors of a tradition of Stalinist perversion of defense work. In addition, the ILD was founded as a transitional organization, seeking to organize the masses for class-struggle defense work under the leadership of the party. By its second conference, the ILD had 20,000 individual members, a collective, affiliated membership of 75,000, and 156 branches across the country. The PDC attempts to conduct its work in a way that will make the transformation to such an organization possible.

The PDC program of raising money for monthly stipends for class-war prisoners is an example of an ILD practice to which we adhere. We currently send stipends to 17 prisoners, including Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga and other former supporters of the Black Panther Party, victims of the FBI's murderous COINTELPRO frame-ups; Jerry Dale Lowe, a miner condemned to eleven years in prison for defending his picket line; and members of the MOVE organization locked up because they survived the racist cop assaults on their homes and murder of their family. We also follow the ILD's policy of strict accounting of finances and have modeled our journal, Class-Struggle Defense Notes, on the ILD's Labor Defender.

We take to heart Cannon's point:

"The problem of organization is a very significant one for labor defense as a school for the class struggle. We must not get the idea that we are merely 'defense workers' collecting money for lawyers. That is only a part of what we are doing. We are organizing workers on issues which are directly related to the class struggle. The workers who take part in the work of the ILD are drawn, step by step into the main stream of the class struggle. The workers participating begin to learn the ABC of the labor struggle."
Class-struggle defense is a broad category. We are a small organization and must pick and choose our cases carefully, with an eye to their exemplary nature. The case of Mario Munoz a Chilean miners' leader condemned to death in 1976 by the Argentine military junta, is a good example. This was the PDC's first major defense effort. Co-sponsored with the Committee to Defend Workers and Sailor Prisoners in Chile, the international campaign of protest by unions and civil libertarians won asylum for Munoz and his family in France.

Some of our work has been in defense of the revolutionary party. The Spartacist League takes its legality— the right to exist and organize—very seriously, and has been quick to challenge every libel and legal attack. The party successfully challenged the FBI's slanderous description of the SL as "terrorists" who covertly advocate the violent’ Overthrow of the government. A 1984 settlement forced them to describe the SL as a "Marxist political organization."

The PDC takes up not only the cases but the causes of the whole of the working people. We have initiated labor/black mobilizations against the Klan from San Francisco to Atlanta to Philadelphia to Springfield, Illinois, and mobilized sections of the integrated labor movement to join these efforts to stop the fascists from spewing their race hate.

In 1989, we broadened our thinking about how the PDC could champion causes of the international proletariat and offered to organize an international brigade to Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of the left-nationalist Kabul regime against the imperialist-backed, anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists on the occasion of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. When our offer of a brigade was declined, we launched a successful campaign to raise money for the victims of the mullah-led assault on Jalalabad. To reflect this, we expanded the definition of the PDC to one of a legal and social defense organization. To carry out this campaign, it was necessary to expand the PDC internationally. Sections of the International Communist League initiated fraternal organizations in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Currently we focus our efforts on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the fight to abolish the racist death penalty. Our actions in the Jamal case embody many of the principles of our defense work and the integral relationship of that work to the Marxist program of the Spartacist League, in this case particularly in regard to the fight for black liberation, which is key to the American revolution. This is a political death penalty case which illustrates the racism endemic in this country in its crudest, most vicious form and lays bare the essence of the state.

Throughout the very difficult period ahead, we will put all our faith in the mobilization of the working class and none in the capitalist courts. We embark now on exhausting every legal avenue open to Jamal, but we know the result hinges on the class struggle.

We hope you will join us in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, to abolish the racist death penalty and finish the Civil War. Forward to the third American revolution! •