Saturday, June 02, 2012

Bertolt Brecht’s To Those Born After- In Honor Of A Veteran Communist Militant For Forty Years Of Service To The Struggle

Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:

My old friend and political compatriot, Peter Paul Markin, and I have been on many a picket line, joined many a rally, walked many an endless march, and attended, seemingly, countless meetings (emergency meetings, of course) since we first met in the summer of love in the year of our lord, 1967. We have sat on many an ad hoc committee as well. Although Markin has flirted with more than one on-going organization I have studiously avoid that means of political expression preferring the free-lance organization life. Nevertheless in our circumscribed small left-wing circles we have worked with, been friends with, and even had affairs with those who have been committed to the organized left-wing life. Recently Markin came across some information about one such woman, her real name and her organization are not important to publish here, whom I was very close to back in the early 1970s. I had not heard her name nor been in contact with her for well over thirty years. Nor am I in contact with her now. Nevertheless I will honor her here and the reader can read why below.

Dear Roberta,

Way back, back in the 1970s day, when we had our personal and political Boston minute, I sensed, strongly sensed although I, perhaps, never articulated it that way that here was a person who was in the struggle for the long haul. Here was somebody, a woman, out of long misty past European traditions of revolutionary struggle, a Verna Figner, Krupskaya, or beloved Rosa Luxemburg. Maybe it was the careless way you wore your hair then (and your seeming disdain for creature comforts). Maybe it that tone in your voice, the one that said this is not somebody to trifle with politically. Or maybe it was just East Texas po’ girl grit. (Christ, trying to be communist out of Texas in the 1960s required some serious grit.) But here you are now a veteran communist passing on the lessons of our common history to the next communist generation a-borning (actually the next next generation we lost the Reagan generation). And I am sure that they were listening attentively, or else.

I, on the other hand, turned out to be a poor communist. But know this, through all my personal foibles and faults, and they were massive and egregious then, I never lost faith in the communist future. While I do not have forty years of dedicated organized communist service to my credit I am comfortable in the knowledge that I too will finish up as a communist, and that those better instincts of my nature got me through.

Enough of that though. In a righteous world we could sit in some Bay Area ocean spot (or the Charles River) and compare notes in a League of Old Communists. Fate has dealt us a terrible blow and we have no time for such drawn out reflections. The youth will make the revolution and make this wicked old world a far better place to live in. But just in case they falter we had better stay in the fight to the end.

Have courage –Josh Breslin

Poet's Corner- Bertolt Brecht's "To Those Born After"-In Honor of a Veteran Communist (Of course it had to be a German poet to honor this communist)

To Those Born After


To the cities I came in a time of disorder
That was ruled by hunger.
I sheltered with the people in a time of uproar
And then I joined in their rebellion.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

I ate my dinners between the battles,
I lay down to sleep among the murderers,
I didn't care for much for love
And for nature's beauties I had little patience.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

The city streets all led to foul swamps in my time,
My speech betrayed me to the butchers.
I could do only little
But without me those that ruled could not sleep so easily:
That's what I hoped.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

Our forces were slight and small,
Our goal lay in the far distance
Clearly in our sights,
If for me myself beyond my reaching.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.


You who will come to the surface
From the flood that's overwhelmed us and drowned us all
Must think, when you speak of our weakness in times of darkness
That you've not had to face:

Days when we were used to changing countries
More often than shoes,
Through the war of the classes despairing
That there was only injustice and no outrage.

Even so we realised
Hatred of oppression still distorts the features,
Anger at injustice still makes voices raised and ugly.
Oh we, who wished to lay for the foundations for peace and friendliness,
Could never be friendly ourselves.

And in the future when no longer
Do human beings still treat themselves as animals,
Look back on us with indulgence.
To Those Who Come After

History in the conditional is always a funny tricky little thing. You can get wrapped up it in so bad that you begin to deny the hard reality of what really happened, what really bad happened usually. On the other hand you can do as most historians do and just plod along assuming because X, Y, or Z happened that was that. That’s the facts, jack and that’s it. Obviously to resolve this thing, or rather to get a real sense of the possibilities, some combination, some mix and matching needs to be placed in the maelstrom. And it is under that sign that I wish to understand Bertolt Brecht’s great poem, his great big tied-up with ribbons and bows valentine to future generations really, To Those Who Come After, that I have dedicated to a veteran communist who will understand my choice.

Of course it is a matter of generations, no question. And what that generation could have, or could not have, done, and done differently to sway the funny little rhythms of history. For his, Bertolt’s generation, if they only could have held out against the imperialist imperative onslaught of World War I, or at least not gone alone like sheep until almost the very end. More germane, if it could have carried out to completion one of those big-time revolutionary possibilities in Germany it had in the early 1920s. Or ceased, Communists and Social-Democrats alike, their willfully myopic view that the Weimar regime would hold out against the jackboot of Hitler’s storm streets without having to unite for an all-out fight to the death against the Nazi menace.

Moving forward to my parent’s generation, the generation that scarecrow survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and went on to survive, or wait on the survivors, of the D-Day and Pacific bloodbaths of World War II. If only they could have seen clearly enough that that Roosevelt guise was sheer deception to save his class in power (even if he had to fight them, the economic royalists, the one percent of his time, tooth and nail to do it) and create their own party, a workers party, after the tremendous class battles of the mid to late 1930s when they had the bosses on the run, a little anyway. Or hadn’t bought, bought hard into that white picket fence post-war dream and let the red scare dark night wash away whatever big (or little, but I think big) spark got them through the dustbowl miseries and war shellshock.

Once again moving forward to my generation, my disposable income record store soda fountain be-bop high school confidential night with some undiagnosed teen angst mixed with teen alienation generation, the generation of ’68, who didn’t want, well, didn’t start out wanting to anyway, buy into that red scare night white picket fence dream. If we could have just, a big “could have just” I agree, not thrown everything out with the bathwater and read some history we could have realized that it wasn’t just about us. Well, one way or the other, the Vietnamese taught us that lesson, that lesson about perseverance, about a sense of history and about using every tool around to get free. Or, closer to home, if we could have remembered where we had come from, most of us anyway, and dug our working class heels in sooner we could have left some kind of social movement worthy of the name instead of leaving future generations to start almost from scratch.

And moving on to our children’s generation. Oh, well, history records many retrogressions in the uphill struggle.

And now on to the generation that I am really directing this little “history” lesson to, the real subject of my “to those who come after,” those who roughly are students today, and are moreover the heart and soul of the Occupy movement that has suddenly jumped up onto the historic stage giving them a chance to change the course of history- on their terms. And, by the way incidentally giving to me (and others) from the generation of ’68 a second chance to make things right. Each generation I am firmly convinced must (and will) find its own ways to fight the monster. But know this, know this from first-hand experience, there is a monster on the loose out there, and that monster has a name, the American imperial state just now being captained by one Barack Obama. Whoever the captain is though the monster remains and that is where the “to the death” fight is.

And this is where Brother Brecht and I can share the same sentiments about being ill-equipped in our times to face those hard realities, to worry over half-measures, to not stay the course we knew we had to stay. So forgive us for not doing better, not doing a lot better. But forgive, or not, go slay that damn dragon.

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By (Kind Of)-Eddie Cochran"s "Summertime Blues"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Eddie Cochran performing hi s1950s classic. Summertime Blues,

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

Well, I'm gonna raise a fuss
I'm gonna raise a holler
'Bout workin' all summer
Just to try to earn a dollar
Well, I went to the boss man
Tried to get a break
But the boss said 'No dice, son,
You gotta work late'

Sometimes I wonder what am I gonna do
'Cause there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Well, my Mom and Poppa told me
Son, you gotta earn some money
If you want to use the care
To go riding next Sunday
Well, I wouldn't go to work
I told the boss I was sick
He said 'You can't use the car
'Cause you didn't work a lick'

Sometimes I wonder what am I gonna do
'Cause there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Gonna take two weeks
Gonna have a fine vacation
Gonna take my problem
To the United Nations
Well' I went to my congressman
He said 'quote'
'I'd like to help you son,
But you're too young to vote'

Sometimes I wonder what am I gonna do
'Cause there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Bruce Springsteen's "Brothers Under The Bridge"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bruce Springsteen performing Brothers Under The Bridge.

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

Saigon, it was all gone
The same Coke machines
As the streets I grew on
Down in a mesquite canyon
We come walking along the ridge
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Campsite's an hour's walk from the nearest road to town
Up here there's too much brush and canyon
For the CHP choppers to touch down
Ain't lookin' for nothin', just wanna live
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Come the Santa Ana's, man, that dry brush'll light
Billy Devon got burned up in his own campfire one winter night
We buried his body in the white stone high up along the ridge
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Had enough of town and the street life
Over nothing you end up on the wrong end of someone's knife
Now I don't want no trouble
And I ain't got none to give
Me and the brothers under the bridge

I come home in '72
You were just a beautiul light
In your mama's dark eyes of blue
I stood down on the tarmac, I was just a kid
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Come Veterans' Day I sat in the stands in my dress blues
I held your mother's hand
When they passed with the red, white and blue
One minute you're right there ... and something slips...

[ Lyrics from: ]

Out In The Be-Bop Rock Night- Present At The Creation -The Birth Of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bill Haley and The Comets performing the classic rock anthem, Rock Around The Clock.

DVD Review

One For The Money: The Birth Of Rock, various artists, 2005

The birth of the “beat” movement or, at least the public awareness of its break-out, occurred in the late 1950s. (Although road mad warriors like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady were revving up the ground underneath plain vanilla America in the late 1940s, but that was sideshow and strictly for aficionados.) It even reached down to “the projects” kids like me with my dark sun-glassed, flannel shirted, black chino pants look, and a mandatory pinch of teen angst if not of any real understanding of what that break-out meant. The seminal cultural moment for us kids, us clueless 1950s kids, was when the clean, free, breathe of fresh air that we call rock ‘n’ roll crashed onto the scene that also broke out in the be-bop 1950s.

Although the “beat” movement, especially its literary end, was driven, and driven hard by the cool, clear, high white note jazz performed by the likes of Charley Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and in no way frontally drove rock the two easily mingle in memory of that be-bop 1950s night. Especially for those of us who really were too young to be washed over by the beats and got our “beatitude” in a more second-hand way but who were dead center when that wild jungle night, “devil's music,” “what was that sound, and where can we hear more of it?” drum beat hit our virgin ears about 1955 or so. Call us the stepchildren of one movement, and the children, mad, crash-out, runaway children of the other.

That is the premise behind this one hour documentary as it tries to tap into what the roots of rock were, how it exploded onto the central 1950s teenage stage, and how it was tamed beyond redemption, teenage redemption anyway within a few short years. One only needs to say the names Bill Haley and The Comets, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, and Eddie Cochran, and then say Fabian, Rick Nelson, Conway Twitty, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton and Paul Anka to know that the music had died on some good housekeeping seal of approval parent altar. And, jesus, it wasn’t coming back, at least not in its innocent, hungry teen angst, teen alienated form, just as our youth never did either.

For an hour documentary this one covers a lot of territory. Much time is spent on the roots of rock, who pushed it along and also on the space that what we now call, sadly, classic rock, filled at just that moment in the 1950s when we, meaning teenage America, were desperate to have our own music, our own not-our parents-seal of approval music. If you think about the roots, it is almost a "no-brainer" that black-centered rhythm and blues would be an important factor as a source for rock. Especially as R&B came all rambly and scrambly out of the Mississippi Delta and got electrified in the immediate post-World War II period as it followed the black migration north to the Southern river cities and then the Midwest industrial cities. And as it got more sophisticated as its mainly black listeners and a few white “hipsters” settled in.

Just listen to early Bill Haley “jump” with that bass line and saxophone on classics like Rock Around The Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll (even though Big Joe Turner’s version on the latter is about ten times better and sexier). Also a no-brainer, since it seems that every poor white boy child of the Great Depression who could strum three chords or pluck a few ivories was putting R&B together with that old-time Appalachian mountain twang music, hillbilly music is the influence of rockabilly.. No question that this rock is purely American songbook-worthy music.

As for those who pushed the music first place, rightly I think, goes to Alan Freed (and last place to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, although I like every other breathing, hell non-comatose, 1950s kid frenetically raced home to watch the thing in the afternoon, every afternoon okay). Freed gets his just desserts here, especially in his attempts to bring to the fore the black groups who originally recorded many of the songs that would be covered by white groups and who would gain much wider recognition for those efforts. Also deserving of mention is Sam Phillips and his Sun Record operation that was the first stop north for those who wanted to reach those teens waiting, waiting patiently, waiting out until hell froze over in the red scare cold war night just to hear the likes Of Ike Turner, Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jerry Lee.

Well I’ve covered the roots, I covered the movers and shakers, and I should mention the ”talking head” music historians who give their take, half a century later, on what it all meant. But that is not the real reason to watch this thing. The real reason is to see Bill Haley’s sax and bass men hold forth like high heaven’s own angels; to see Elvis shake , rattle and roll like some demon sex fiend making all the girls sweat and all the boys practice their moves in dank cellars or before merciless mirrors; to hear Little Richard go wild, male/female wild, high pitched wild at the piano; to see Jerry Lee reach down in some primitive place and drive those ivories to bloody hell; to see Chuck Berry duck walk his stuff; and to see between segues all that jitter-buggery, that shear, happy energy as the kids danced their hearts out. That, my friends, my nostalgic friends, was what it was like in that be-bop night of 1950s classic rock when women and men played the music for keeps.
Rock Around The Clock Song Lyrics from Bill Haley

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock,
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock,
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.

Put your glad rags on and join me, hon,
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes two, three and four,
If the band slows down we'll yell for more,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the chimes ring five, six and seven,
We'll be right in seventh heaven.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When it's eight, nine, ten, eleven too,
I'll be goin' strong and so will you.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes twelve, we'll cool off then,
Start a rockin' round the clock again.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

Out In The Be-Bop Late 1960s Night- A First Misstep In The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night

The scene below stands(or falls)as a moment in support of that eternal search mentioned in the title and in previous scenes.

Let me tell this story, okay, this story about a couple of guys that I picked up hitch-hiking out on the 1960s highway. I’ll get to what highway it was later because it could have been any highway, any American or European, or maybe even African or Asian highway, if those locales had such highways, at least highways for cars back in those days. Anyway it’s their story, these two guys, really, and maybe around the edges my story, and if you are of a certain age, your story, just a little anyway.

Some of it though just doesn’t sound right now, or read right, at least the way they told it to me but we will let that pass ‘cause it has been a while and memories, mine in this case, sometimes seize up even among the best of us. Ya, but this part I do remember so let’s just subtitle this one a segment on that search for the blue-pink great American West night and that makes this thing a lot of people’s story. Let’s get to it right now by picking up where they and I intersect on the great American 1960s road:

Two young men were standing pretty close together, talking, up ahead at the side of a brisk, chilly, early spring morning 1969 road, a highway really, a white-lined, four-laned, high-speed highway if you want to know, thumbs out, as I came driving down the line alone in my Volkswagen Beetle (or bug, hey, that’s what they were called in those days, you still see some old restored or well-preserved ones around, especially out on the left coast), see them, and begin to slow down to pick them up. I would no more think not to pick them up than not to breathe. A few years earlier and I would have perhaps been afraid to pick up such an unlikely pair, a few years later and they would not have been on that road. But the thumbs out linked them, and not them alone on this day or in this time, with the old time hitchhike road, the vagabond road that your mother, if she was wise or nervous, told you never ever, ever to take (and it was always Ma who told you this, your father was either held in reserve for the big want-to-do battles, or else was bemused by sonny boy wanting to spread his wings, or better yet, was secretly passing along his own long ago laid aside blue-pink highway dreams).

This pair in any case, as you shall see, were clearly brothers, no, not brothers in the biological sense, although that sometimes was the case, but brothers on that restless, tireless, endless, hitchhike road. My hitchhike road yesterday, and maybe tomorrow, but today I have wheels and they don’t and that was that. No further explanation needed. I stopped. From the first close-up look at them these guys were young, although not too young, not high school or college young but more mid-twenties maybe graduate student young. I’ll describe in more detail how they looked in a minute but for those who desperately need to know where I picked them up, the exact locale that is, let me put your anxieties to rest and tell you that it was heading south on the Connecticut side of the Massachusetts-Connecticut border of U.S. Interstate 84, one of the main roads to New York City from Boston. Are you happy now? Not as sexy as some of those old-time Kerouac-Cassady late 1940s “beat” roads, but I believe their ghosts were nevertheless hovering in the environs. Hell, now that I think about it, would it have mattered if I said it was Route 6, or Route 66, or Route 666 where I picked them up. I picked them up, that was the way it was done in those halcyon days, and that’s the facts, man, nothing but the facts.

Hey, by the way, while we are talking about facts, just the hard-headed fact of this pair standing on the side of a highway road should have been enough to alert the reader that this is no current episode but rather a tale out of the mist of another American time. Who in their right mind today would be standing on such a road, thumb out, or not, expecting some faded Dennis Hopper-like flower child, or Ken Kesey-like Merry Prankster hold-out to stop. No this was the time of their time, the 1960s (or at the latest, the very latest, about 1973). You have all seen the bell-bottomed jeans, the fringed-deerskin jackets, the long hair and beards and all other manner of baubles in those exotic pre-digital photos so that one really need not bother to describe their appearances. But I will, if only to tempt the fates, or the imaginations of the young.

One, the slightly older one, wispy-bearded, like this was maybe his first attempt at growing the then de rigueur youth nation-demanded male beard to set one apart from the them (and from the eternal Gillette, Bic, Shick razor cuts, rubbing alcohol at the ready, splash of English Leather, spanking clean date night routine, ah, ah, farewell to all that). Attired: Levi blue-jean’d with flared-out bottoms, not exactly bell-bottoms but denims that not self-respecting cowboy, or cowboy wanna-be would, or could, wear out in the grey-black , star-studded great plains night; plaid flannel shirt that one would find out there in that bronco-busting night (or in backwoodsman-heavy Maine and Oregon in the time of the old Wobblies or Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion); skimpily-sneakered, Chuck Taylor blacks, from the look of them, hardly the wear for tackling the great American foot-sore hitchhike road which makes me think that these are guys have started on something like their maiden voyage on that old road; and over one shoulder the ubiquitous string-tied bedroll that speaks already of ravine sleep, apartment floor pick your space sleep, and other such vagabond sleep certainly not of Holiday Inn or even flea-bag motel sleeps; and over the other shoulder the also ubiquitous life’s gatherings in a knapsack (socks, a few utensils, maybe underwear, and the again maybe not, change of shirt, a few toilet articles, not much more but more than the kings (and queens) of the roads, 1930s ancestor forbears carried, for sure , ask any old Wobblie, or bum-hobo-tramp hierarch- take your pick-who took that hard-scrabble, living out of your emptied pocket road).

And the other young man, a vision of heaven’s own high 1960s counter-cultural style: long-haired, not quite a pony tail if tied back and maybe not Easy Rider long but surely no advertisement for Gentleman’s Quarterly even in their earnest days of keeping up with the new tastes to corner the more couth segments of the hippie market; cowboy-hatted, no, not a Stetson, howdy, Tex, kind of thing but some Army-Navy store-bought broad brimmed, sun-bashing, working cowboy hat that spoke of hard-riding, branding, cattle night lowing, whiskey and women Saturday town bust-ups, just right for a soft-handed, soft-skinned city boy fearful of unlit places, or places that are not lit up like a Christmas tree; caped, long swirling cape, like someone’s idea of old-time film Zorro stepping out with the senoritas; guitar, an old Martin from the look of it, slung over one shoulder, not protective cased against the winds, rains, snows, or just the bang-ups of living, but protective in other ways when night falls and down in the hills and hollows, or maybe by a creek, heaven’s own strum comes forth. Woody Guthrie’s own child, or stepchild, or some damn relative. I swear.

Welcome brothers, as I open up the passenger side door. “Where are you guys heading?” This line is more meaningful than you might think for those who know, as I know, and as these lads will know, as well, if they spent any time on the hitchhike road. Sometimes it was better, even on a high-speed highway, to not take any old ride that came along if, say, some kind–hearted local spirit was only going a few miles, or the place where a driver would let you out on the highway was a tough stop. Not to worry though these guys, Jack and Mattie, were hitchhiking to California. California really, I swear, although they are stopping off at a crisscross of places on their way. A pretty familiar routine by then, playing hopscotch, thumbs out, across the continent.

These guys were, moreover, indeed brothers, because you see once we started comparing biographical notes, although they never put it that way, or really never could just because of the way they thought about things as I got to know them better on the ride, were out there searching, and searching hard, for my blue-pink night. Christ, there were heaven’s own blessed armies, brigades anyway, of us doing it, although like I said about Jack and Mattie most of the brothers and sisters did not get caught up in the colors of that night, like I did, and just “dug” the search. Jack and Mattie are in luck, in any case, because on this day I’m heading to Washington, D.C. and they have friends near there in Silver Springs, Maryland. The tides of the times are riding with us.

And why, by the way, although it is not germane to the story or at least this part of it, am I heading to D.C.? Well, the cover story is to do some anti-war organizing but, for your eyes only, I had just broken up, for the umpteenth time, with a women who drove me to distraction, sometimes pleasantly but on that occasion fitfully, who I could not, and did not, so I thought, want to get out of my system, but had to put a little distance away from. You know that story, boys and girls, in your own lives so I do not have to spend much time on the details here, although that theme might turn up again. Besides, if you really want to read that kind of story the romance novels section of any library or the DVD film section, for that matter, can tell the story with more heart-throbbing panache that you will find here.

I’ve got a kind of weird story to tell you about why Jack and Mattie were on this desolate border stretch of the highway in a minute but let me tell a little about what they were trying to do out on that road, that west road. First, I was right, mostly, about their ages, but Jack and Mattie were no graduate students on a spring lark before grinding away at some master’s thesis on the meaning of meaning deconstuct’d (although this reference is really an anachronism since such literary theories were not then fashionably on display on the world’s campuses, but you get the drift) or some such worthy subject in desperate need of research in a time when this old world was falling apart and the bombs were (are) raining (literally) on many parts of the world.

In one sense they were graduates though, graduates of the university of hard knocks, hard life, and hard war. They had just a few months before been discharged, a little early as the war, or the American ground troops part of it, was winding down, from the U.S. Army after a couple of tours of duty in ‘Nam (their usage, another of their privileged usages was “in-country”). I swear I didn’t believe them at first, no way, they looked like the poster boys for the San Francisco Summer of Love in 1967. Something, something big was going on here and my mind was trying to digest the sight of these two guys, “good, solid citizens” before the “man” turned them around in that overseas Vietnam quagmire who looked in attire, demeanor, and style just like the guy (me) who picked them up.

Ya, but that is only part of it and not even the most important part, really, because this California thing was also no lark. This is their break-out, bust-out moment and they are going for it. As we rode along that old super highway they related stories about how they came back from “in-county”, were going to settle down, maybe get married (or move in with a girlfriend or seven), and look forward to social security when that distant time came. But something snapped inside of them, and this is where every old Jack London hobo, every old Wobblie, every old bummer on the 1930s rail highway, hell even every old beat denizen of some Greenwich Village walk-up was a kindred spirit. Like I said, and I am sitting right in the car listening to them with a little smirk on my face, the boys are searching that same search that I am searching for and that probably old Walt Whitman really should take the blame for, okay. I’ll tell you more, or rather; I’ll let them tell you more some other time but let me finish up here with that weird little story about why they were at that god forsaken point on the highway.

Look, everybody knows, or should know, or at least knew back then that hitchhiking, especially hitchhiking on the big roads was illegal, and probably always was even when every tramp and tramp-ette in America had his or her thumb out in the 1930s. But usually the cops or upstanding citizenry either ignored it or, especially in small towns, got you on some vagrancy rap. Hey, if you had spent any time on the hitchhike road you had to have been stopped at least once if for no other reason than to harass you. Still some places were more notorious than others in hitchhike grapevine lore in those days, particularly noteworthy were Connecticut and Arizona (both places where I had more than my own fair share of “vagrancy” problems).

So I was not too far off when I figured out that Jack and Mattie were on their maiden voyage. Thumbs out and talking, the pair missed the then ever-present Connecticut state police cruiser coming from nowhere, or it seemed like nowhere, as it came to a stop sharply about five feet away from them. The pair gulped and prepared for the worst; being taken to some state police barracks and harassed and then let go at some backwater locale as the road lore had it. Or getting “vagged”. Or worst, a nice little nasty trick in those days, have “illegal” drugs conveniently, very conveniently, found on their person.

But get this, after a superficial search and the usual questions about destination, resources, and the law the pair instead were directed to walk the few hundred yards back across the border line to Massachusetts. Oh, I forgot this part; the state cop who stopped them was a Vietnam veteran himself. He had been an MP in ‘Nam. Go figure, right. So starts, the inauspicious start if you think about it, in one of the searches for the blue-pink great American West night. Nobody said it was going to be easy and, you know, they were right. Still every time I drive pass that spot (now close to an official Connecticut Welcomes You rest stop, whee!), especially on any moonless, starless, restless, hitchhiker-less road night I smile and give a little tip of the hat to those youthful, sanctified blue-pink dreams that almost got wrecked before they got started.

On The 41st Anniversary Of Attica- From San Quentin To Attica To Pelican Bay Never Forget!-With George Jackson, Hugo Pinell And The Soledad Brothers In Mind -A Repost For Class-War Prisoner Month

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the Attica (New York) prisoner uprising of September 1971.

June is Class-War Prisoner Month- Free All Class-War Prisoners Now!

Markin comment:

Attica-Never forget! Honor the memory of George Jackson- Free his comrade, Hugo Pinell, now.

June Is Class-War Prisoners Month-Via Boston IndyMedia-From Brookline To Auburn Prison: U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert Remembers-Free David Gilbert Now! Free All The Class-War Prisoners!

From Brookline To Auburn Prison: U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert Remembers

by bob feldman
(No verified email address)

29 Apr 2012

A review of "LOVE AND STRUGGLE: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond"

My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond
by David Gilbert
Oakland : PM Press 2012

“Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground and Beyond” is a well-written, intellectually and politically exciting, and emotionally moving autobiography. Published by the alternative non-commercial collective PM Press, it presents a more balanced picture of Gilbert than has been portrayed in the U.S. mass media since his arrest in 1981. Most people have previously had the chance to hear Gilbert speak for himself only in Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s 2003 Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “The Weather Underground.”

“Love and Struggle” provides its readers with a sweeping history of the growth and development of the Movement of the 1960s that reflects the historical perspective of politically radical anti-racist and anti-imperialist activist/organizers of the 1960s. Gilbert explains how he—the son of a toy company production manager and scoutmaster who grew up in upper middle-class Brookline, Massachusetts in the 1950s, “went on to become an Eagle Scout and also to win the highest religious medal for Jewish scouts” and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from Columbia University in 1966—ended up, at the age of 37, “handcuffed and getting worked over in the back of a police car” on the night of October 20, 1981; before being, subsequently, indicted, tried and convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 75 years-to-life in prison. Like Dave Dellinger’s autobiography, “From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter,” Gilbert’s “Love and Struggle” documents the sweeping life changes experienced by many radicals of the time.

He recalls how the impact of Martin Luther King and the late 1950s/early 1960s Civil Rights Movement led him to approach religious leaders in Greater Boston’s white community about allowing the local NAACP chapter to set up anti-racist education programs for white people. A friend’s acquaintance with a Vietnamese exchange student inspired him to write an article in his school’s student newspaper in 1961 “saying America was in danger of getting drawn into a major civil war in South Vietnam, and on the wrong side at that,” while still a liberal anti-communist high school senior.

“Love and Struggle” then revisits Gilbert’s political, academic and personal life and the history of the New Left Movement of the Sixties after his arrival on Columbia University’s campus in the Morningside Heights/West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan . In one section, “The 1960s and The Making Of A Revolutionary,” Gilbert explains why he and other New Left anti-war and anti-racist activists, along with Black Liberation Movement activists, became more politically radicalized, anti-imperialist and militant in their political thinking and street actions during the decade; and he also describes how he went about organizing students into SDS chapters at Columbia, Barnard and the New School for Social Research prior to the historic Columbia Student Revolt that shut-down Columbia University in 1968. He recalls, for example, how, in the spring of 1965, anti-war student activists at Columbia “set-up literature tables on the main plaza on campus, and we’d be there all day discussing and debating with those who stopped by.” He incisively observes:

“…I don’t want to give the wrong impression that our great arguments immediately turned people around. It is rare indeed that someone will give up on presuppositions in the course of a discussion. Ideas don’t change that quickly, and ego makes it hard for most of us to readily admit we are wrong. Organizers who expect instant conversions will become overbearing. Instead, our educational work, planted seeds and helped people see there were alternative interpretations and sources of information, so that once events developed to create more stress—the war intensified and the military draft expanded—people had a way to see that something was wrong, instead of just becoming more fervent about escalations to `win.’”

Given the decisions of university administrations at Columbia, Harvard and Stanford in 2011 to bring ROTC back to U.S. elite university campuses that had terminated their campus programs in response to late 1960s anti-ROTC campaigns of campus SDS chapters, Gilbert’s timely reference to his participation in a May 1965 anti-ROTC protest on Columbia’s campus may also be of special interest to 21st-century anti-war student activists:

“…We carried out a valuable early example of civil disobedience against university complicity with the war machine. This action was initiated by the civil rights group CORE, which planned to repeat an action done the preceding year, when a few of them sat-in to disrupt a Naval ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) ceremony…The administration moved the ceremony inside and when we marched to the door we were locked out, so people jammed up in the doorway and refused to disperse. The university called in the police, who started to pull people away, one by one…The cops twisted the tie around my neck, choking me, until, fortunately, it broke. They dragged me away and threw me down, ripping my jacket almost in half…

“Afterward, Columbia threatened to suspend the `ringleaders,’ but we were able to rally a lot of support…Some liberals wanted to reduce all organizing to defense of the right to dissent; but we maintained a balance, building a coalition on those terms while continuing to speak out against having the military on campus. And there was a tendency for students to get pumped up about how they had been subject to `police brutality.’…But I knew from my civil rights work that our bruises were minor compared to what was done routinely in Harlem…”

In the following section, “The Most Sane/Insane of Times,” Gilbert looks back in a self-critical way at the 1969/1970 period of New Left Movement history. During this period, the Weatherman faction attempted to mobilize anti-war youth to “bring the war home” to Chicago in the October 1969 “Days of Rage” protests; the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial began; Black Panther Party organizers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated; and Gilbert’s best friend, former Columbia SDS Vice-Chairman Ted Gold, and two other members of the Weatherman faction were accidentally killed in a West Village townhouse explosion, while building bombs to target a military base, possibly including civilians. Living in a Weatherman collective in Denver at the time, Gilbert provides readers with an interesting sense of how members and leaders of the Weatherman faction reacted on a political and emotional level to the shock of hearing the news about the deaths of their three comrades.

“Love and Struggle”’s next section, “Underground,” provides an exciting and vivid recollection by Gilbert of what it was like to be a member of the Weather Underground Organization [WUO] whose members were being hunted by the FBI. He also discusses the internal political differences and divisive debates that contributed to the demise of the WUO by the late 1970s.

The last four sections of Gilbert’s autobiography tell of his life in the nearly 35 years since the collapse of the WUO. He recalls his aboveground life as a furniture mover and Men Against Sexism activist in Denver in the late 1970s; some of the political, emotional and psychological reasons that he chose to resume his underground lifestyle in 1979; his return East and involvement in underground activity in support of the Black Liberation Army [BLA]. Stating that “I deeply regret the loss of lives and the pain for those families caused by our actions on October 20, 1981,” Gilbert also engages in self-criticism and self-analysis about the political appropriateness of his decision in 1979 to begin working in a clandestine way as an ally of a BLA unit “on such a high-risk tactical level with so little knowledge of the political context.” He cites “my corruption of ego” as possibly influencing the political choices he made after the collapse of the WUO, when he “was anxious to reestablish myself as a `revolutionary on the highest level,’ and `as the most anti-racist white activist.’”

Gilbert also describes, in an emotionally open way, how he reunited underground with fellow WUO member Kathy Boudin and their decision to become parents while underground. His account of how they prepared for the birth of their son in August 1980, how he felt at the time of his son’s birth and during the first year of his life and the sadness of his separation from both after his and Boudin’s arrests (she was released in 2003 after serving 22 years) are some of his most moving passages.

Some readers who were politically active in the Movement of the 1960s and 1970s may have a different political view of U.S. white working-class people’s historical revolutionary potential or the primacy of internal national liberation struggles within the US than what Gilbert presents in “Love and Struggle.” But there’s so much great political and psychological analysis of both U.S. society and the inter-personal dynamics within the U.S. left movement in this fascinating book—which also resembles an exciting mystery novel in some parts—that “Love and Struggle” should be required reading for everyone interested in 1960s and 1970s U.S. Movement history and how this history relates to current struggles.

Since David Gilbert has already been a political prisoner for more than 30 years he (as well as over 60 other U.S. political prisoners) should finally be released by U.S. state and federal government officials in 2012. In the North of Ireland, Italy and Germany, most of the political activists of the 1970s and 1980s who were involved in armed actions similar in nature to the one Gilbert was involved in were generally released from prison by the early 21st century. So why shouldn’t “Love and Struggle” author Gilbert and the BLA members who are also still imprisoned now also be released by the government authorities in the United States? For as Gilbert concludes in “Love and Struggle”’s “Afterward” section: “The book ends here; the struggle of course continues…with love and for the unity of humankind.”

Friday, June 01, 2012

Books To While Away The Class Struggle By-From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-"My Life"

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

Book Review

MY LIFE by Leon Trotsky, 1930

Today we expect political memoir writers to take part in a game of show and tell about the most intimate details of their private personal lives on their road to celebrity. Refreshingly, you will find no such tantalizing details in Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky's memoir written in 1930 just after Stalin had exiled him to Turkey. Instead you will find a thoughtful political self-examination by a man trying to draw the lessons of his fall from power in order to set his future political agenda. This task is in accord with his stated conception of his role as an individual agent at service in the historical struggle toward a socialist future.

Thus, underlying the selection of events highlighted in the memoir such as the rise of the revolutionary wave in Russia in 1905 and 1917, the devastation to the socialist program of World War I and the degeneration of the Russian Revolution especially after Lenin’s death and the failure of the German Revolution of 1923 is a sense of urgency about the need for continued struggle for a socialist future. It also provides a platform as well for polemics against those foes and former supporters who have either abandoned or betrayed that struggle.

At the beginning of the 21st century when socialist political programs are in decline it is hard to imagine the spirit that drove Trotsky to dedicate his whole life to the fight for a socialist society. However, at the beginning of the 20th century he represented only the most consistent and audacious of a revolutionary generation of Eastern Europeans and Russians who set out to change the history of the 20th century. It was as if the best and brightest of that generation were afraid, for better or worse, not to take part in the political struggles that would shape the modern world.

As Trotsky notes this element was lacking, with the exceptions of Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and precious few others, in the Western labor movement. Trotsky using his own experiences tells the story of the creation of this revolutionary cadre with care and generally proper proportions.
Many of the events such as the disputes within the Russian revolutionary movement, the attempts by the Western Powers to overthrow the Bolsheviks in the Civil War after their seizure of power and the struggle of the various tendencies inside the Russian Communist Party and in the Communist International discussed in the book may not be familiar to today's audience. Nevertheless one can still learn something from the strength of Trotsky's commitment to his cause and the fight to preserve his personal and political integrity against overwhelming odds. As the organizer of the October Revolution, creator of the Red Army in the Civil War, orator, writer and fighter Trotsky he was one of the most feared men of the early 20th century to friend and foe alike.

Nevertheless, I do not believe that he took his personal fall from power as a world historic tragedy. Moreover, he does not gloss over his political mistakes. Nor does he generally do personal injustice to his various political opponents although I would not want to have been subject to his rapier wit and pen. Politicians, revolutionary or otherwise, in our times should take note.

What Joyell Found Out About Herself-Elizabeth Cotten Is In The House –A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Elizabeth Cotten performing her famous road song blues, Freight Train.

Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes, Elizabeth Cotten, Smithstonian Folkways, 1989

Freight train, freight train going so fast,
Freight train, freight train going so fast,
Please don’t say what train I’m on,
So they won’t know where I’ve gone.

-Chorus from ancient folk blues artist Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train.

As this story unfolds the song, in an upbeat Peter, Paul and Mary-style version, is being covered just now near the well-stocked, well-stoked fireplace of the great room in a rural New Hampshire hard winter snow former religious order assembly hall by some upstart urban folkie a long way from his home and a long way from that 1960s folk revival minute that had had even jaded aficionados from the generation of ’68 clamoring for more.

And in the front hall entrance adjacent to that great room where that old-time folkie and his old-time tune are being heard by a small early-bird arrival gathering crowd who never tire of the song, and who this night certainly do not tire of being close by the huge well stocked, well-stoked fireplace where the old brother, hell, let’s give him a name, Eric, Eric from Vermont, okay, is holding forth. The place, for the curious: the Shaker Farm Peace Pavilion (formerly just plain vanilla Shaker Farms but the trust fund babies who bought and donated the site, ah, insisted in their, of course, anonymous way on the added signature) the scene of umpteen peace conferences, anti-war parlays, alternative world vision seminars, non-violent role-playing skits, personal witness actions worked out, hospice for worn-out ideas, ditto frustrations, and an off-hand small victory or two.

That last part, that desperate last part, is what keeps the place afloat, afloat in this oddball of a hellish anti-war year 1971 when even hardened and steeled old-time peace activists against the Vietnam War are starting to believe they will be entitled to Social Security for their efforts before this bloody war is over. Hence this particular great room fireplace warm, complete with booked in folkie singer, umpteenth conference. But onward brothers and sisters and let us listen in to the following conversation overheard in the front hall just to the left of the great room:

“Hi, Joyell, glad you could make it to the conference. Are you by yourself or did you bring Steve with you?” asked Jim Sweeney, one of the big honchos, one of the big organizational honchos and that is what mattered these dog days when all hope appears to have been abandoned, these now fading days of the antiwar movement trying yet again to conference jump start the opposition to Nixon’s bloody escalations and stealthy tricky maneuvers.

“Good to see you too, Jim,” answered Joyell, who said it in such a singsong way that she and Jim Sweeney, obviously, had in some mystic time, maybe some summer of love time before everything and everybody needed twelve coats of armor, emotional armor, just to move from point A to point B, been more than fellows at one of those umpteen peace things. Joyell knew, knew from some serious reflection last summer, that she had put on a few coats herself and she was just a self-confessed rank and filer. And then their “thing” just faded for lack of energy, lack of high “ism” politics on Joyell’s part unlike frenetic Jim, and for the cold, hard fact that Jim at the time wanted to devote himself totally to the “movement” and could not “commit” to a personal relationship.

Jesus, can’t any guy commit to anything for more than ten minutes Joyell thought to herself. From the weathered look on his face Jim was still in high thrall to “saving the earth” although rumor had it that Marge Goodwin, ya, that Marge Goodwin, the “mother” of organizers every since she almost single-handedly called out the national student strike in 1970, almost had her hooks into him, into him bad from all reports.

“No, Steve and I are not together anymore since he split to “find himself” on some freight train heading west, heading west fast away from me, I think. But you don’t want to hear that story, and besides we have to push on against this damn war, Steve or no Steve and his goddamn freight smoke-trailing dreams.” What Joyell didn’t say was that she was half-glad, no quarter-glad, Steve had split since they last couple of months had been hell. A fight a day it seemed, two a day at the end.

Reason: Steve too was not ready to “commit” to a personal relationship what with the whole going to hell in hand basket (his expression). Besides they all had plenty of time, a life-time to get “serious” and, forbidden words, “settle down.” And here is where the quarter-glad part comes in. Steve was getting in kind of heavy with some Weathermen-types and while that did not cause an argument a day between them it didn’t help. Joyell half expected to hear that Steve, Steve the meek pacifist, a freaking meek Catholic Worker guy, just a couple years before blew up something, or got blown up. Jesus, she thought, was I that hard to take, hard to get along with.

“I’m sorry to hear that Joyell. Maybe when we get a break later we can talk.” Of course, and maybe for the same Steve smoke-trailing-freight-dream-escape-seeking-the-great-American be-bop night reason, or maybe a heroic end traced out since boyhood redemptions reason, Jim and Joyell never would meet later, as Jim would be tied up, well, tied up in whatever organizational thing he was honcho of these days. Their time too had irrevocably passed. And now, and from here on in, this is Joyell’s time, her story, her voice as she enters the spacious but cold, distant from the well-stoked fireplace cold, conference room to the left of the great room with its rickety elongated table weighted down with timeless banging against ten thousand flickered night dreams, scarecrow chairs that caused more than one modern arched back to falter helplessly, and unhealthy air, air make rank from too many spent speeches, and spent dreams.
“Who is that guy over in the corner, that green corner coach, the guy with the kind of wispy just starting to fill out brown beard, and those piercing blue eyes, that I just passed I’ve not seen him around before,” Joyell asked herself and then Marge Goodwin, expecting Marge the crackerjack organizer of everything from antiwar marches to save the, and you can fill in the blank, to know all the players. Moreover Marge and Joyell got along well enough for Joyell to ask such a question, “girl talk,” they called it between themselves although to the “men” this was a book sealed with seven seals since the “correct” thing was to put such girlish things back in prehistoric times, four or five years ago okay. Joyell also sensed that since Marge’s “thing” with Jim hadn’t worked out they had something in common, although nothing was ever said. Nor would it be.

“Oh, that’s Frank Jackman, the anti-war GI who just got out of the stockade over at Fort Shaw last week and he is ready to do some work with us,” volunteered Marge, who Joyell later that evening heard had gotten, or had tried to get, very familiar with the ex-army soldier resister. Marge had a thing for “heroic” guys. Heroic guys being guys like Jim, Joan Baez’s hubby, David Harris, who had refused draft induction, the Berrigan Brothers who were getting ready to do time (although she couldn’t get that damn Catholic trick part that drove their actions) and now this Frank Jackman who had done a year, a tough soldier non-soldier year, some of it in solidarity, in the stockade for refusing go to Vietnam (and refusing to wear the military uniform at one point). Joyell also heard from another source that evening that it was no dice between Marge and Frank. The source though it was that Marge always getting what Marge wanted when it came to “movement men” thought this guy would just cave in and take the ride. Not this guy, no way, not after taking on the “big boys.” No dice, huh. That’s a point in his favor.

“Oh, that’s why his beard is so wispy and he is wearing those high top still polished black boots and that size too big Army jacket with those bell-bottomed jeans. He certainly has the idea of what it takes to fit in here. ” Joyell figured out, figured out loud. Marge just nodded, nodded kind of dismissively that she was right. And then left to do some organization business setting up the evening’s work.

And then suddenly, she, Joyell David, freshly-damaged in love’s unequal battles but apparently not ready to throw in the towel, got very quiet, very quiet like she always did when some guy caught her eye, well, more than her eye tonight, now that Steve was so much train smoke out in the cornfields somewhere. Maybe it was the armor New York City brashness, hell Manhattan grow-up hard and necessary brashness required in a too many people universe, and learned from her very opinionated father, that her quietness tried to rein in at times like this so guys, guys like this Frank, wouldn’t be thrown off. But whatever it was that drove her quietness she was taking her peeks, her quiet half- peeks really, at this guy. With Steve, and a few other guys, it was mostly full steam ahead and let the devil take the hinter post. This time her clock said take it easy, jesus, take it easy.

And as she found herself catching herself taking more and more of those telltale peeks she noticed, noticed almost by instinct, almost by some mystical sense that he was “checking” her out, although their dueling eyes had not met. All of a sudden, after Jim had finished giving the opening address about what the conferees were trying to do, this Frank Jackman stood up quickly without introduction and started talking, in a firm voice, about the need to up the ante, to create havoc in the streets, and in the army camps. And do it now, and with some sense of urgency. But he said it all in such way that everybody in the room, all forty or fifty of them, knew, or should have known, that this was not some ragtag wispy–bearded fresh “days of rage” kid spirit, freshly bell-bottom pants minted, but some kind of revolutionary, some kind of radical anyway, who had thought about things a lot and wasn’t just a flame-thrower like she had seen too many of lately, including Steve, before he went to find himself.

When Frank was done he looked, half-looked really, quickly in her direction like he was seeking her, and just her, approval. And like he needed to know and know right this minute that she approved. She blushed, and hoped it did not show. And hoped that she had read his look in her direction correctly. But before that blush could subside she blushed again when out of no where this Frank gave her a another look, a serious checking out look if she knew her “movement” men, not a leer like some drunken barroom guy, or “come on honey,” like a schoolboy but a let’s talk high “ism” talk later, and see what happens later, later. Maybe this umpteenth conference would work out after all.

So our Joyell was not surprised, not surprised at all, when during the break, the blessed break after two non-stop hours of waiting, Francis Alexander Jackman (that’s what he was called from when he was a kid and it kind of stuck but he preferred simple Frank) came up behind, tapped her gently on the shoulder to get her attention, introduced himself without fanfare or with any heroic poses, and thanked her for her work on his behalf.

“What do you mean, Frank?” she asked, bewildered by the question. “Oh, when your Peace Action committee came up to Fort Shaw and demonstrated for my freedom,” he replied in kind of a whisper voice, very different from his public voice, a voice that had known some tough times recently and maybe long ago too, but that soft whisper what was she needed, needed to hear from a righteous man, just now. The shrill of Steve’s voice, and a couple of other in her string of forgotten luck, still echoed in her brain.

“That was you? I didn’t make the connection. I didn’t know that was you, sorry, that was about a year ago and I have been going non-stop with this antiwar march and that women’s lib things. Were you in the stockade all that time?” she continued.

“Ya,” just a ya came in return, not forlorn or anything like that but just a simple statement of fact, of the fact that he had needed to do what he did and that was that, next question, came that soft reply like this Frank and she were on some same wave-length. She was confused, confused more than a little that he had that strong effect on her after about five minutes of just general conversation.

Just then Marge, super-organizer but, as Joyell had already gathered intelligence on, not above having the last say in her little romances with the newest heroes of the movement, or trying to, called to Frank that Stanley Bloom, the big national anti-war organizer, wanted his input into something. But before he left soft -whispering still, calm still, unlike when he talked, talked peace action talk, he mentioned kind of kid-like, bashful kid-like, maybe they could meet later. Joyell could barely contain herself, and although she usually acted bashfully at these times, kind of a studied bashfulness starting out, even with Steve and some of the movement guys, she just blurted out, “We’d better.” He replied, a little stronger of voice than that previous whisper, “I guess that is a command, right?” And they both laughed, laughed an adventure ahead laugh.

Later came, came, evening session complete, as they were sitting across from each other in the great room, the great fireplace room where Eric was going through his second rendition of Freight Train to get the room revved up for his big stuff. Frank came over and asked, back to whisper asked, if Joyell would like to go outside for a breath of fresh winter air. Or maybe somewhere else, another room inside, if she didn’t like the cold or snow. No second request was necessary, and no coyness on her part either with this guy, as she quickly went to the coat rack and put on her coat, scarf, and boots. And so it went.

They talked, or rather she talked a blue streak, a soft-spoken blue streak like Frank’s manner was contagious and maybe it was, and then he would ask a question, and ask it in such a way that he really wanted to know, know her for her answer and not just to ask, polite ask. As they walked, and walked, and as the snow got deeper she kind of fell, kind of helpless on purpose fell. On purpose fell expecting that he might kiss her. But all he did was pick her up, firmly, held her in his arms just a fraction of a second, but a fraction of a second enough to let her know, and let her feel, that they had not seen the last of each other. And just for that cold, snow-driven February night, as war raged on in some distance land, and as she gathered in her tangled emotions after many romantic stumbles and man disappointments, that thought was enough.

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By (Kind Of)-Until We Meet Again: The Love Songs of World War II

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

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Inkspots performing I’ll Get By.

CD Review

Until We Meet Again: The Love Songs of World War II, various artists, Smithsonian Institute, 1993

Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:

My late mother (Delores, nee LeBlanc) from the French-Canadian sections of Olde Saco up in Maine was an inveterate letter-writer and letter saver. After she passed on I went up into the attic of our old tumble-down working class house on Atlantic Avenue to start the long process of sorting out her “legacy.” What I discovered was that not only did she save her own received letters but those of her family, her brothers and sisters mostly. One written by her sister, Nina, from World War II three-cent stamped and all shook me up for days. Here it is and in it is the essence of what the CD mentioned above is all about.

December 13, 1942

Hi Jimmy,

I hope this letter gets to you okay and that you are in good health and good spirits. We haven’t heard much recently about Guadalcanal so we are taking that as a good sign that things have settled down and you can rest. Even my father, my straight arrow Army World War I father, says you guys are doing a hell of job mopping up the Japs out there. Sorry for the swear but, you know Dad, that’ how he speaks when he talks about stuff like that. I guess that means that you are okay and that he has gotten over the fact that you chose to go into the Marines instead of waiting, like a lot of guys, a lot of guys like Jimmy LaCroix, Delores’ beau, to be inducted into the Army. I am proud of you and hope your every waking thought (and dreams too) are of me. Well, except when you are shooting or doing Marine stuff.

Jimmy, every time I listen to the radio and hear I Don’t Want To Walk Without You I get a little teary and think of that last night we had together before you shipped out. Oh, I am not crying about what we did and why I let you go as far as you did. No that only brings me closer to you. What I am teary about is that you had to go away right away and I didn’t get a chance to tell you it was okay. That I was your girl forever now whatever happens. The same thing happens when I hear your old favorite song We’ll Meet Again. Remember when we fought half the night a couple of week s before you left about whether that song or I’ll Never Smile Again was the cat’s meow. And then I Don’t Want To Walk Without You won in the end. Funny, hah.

Say, I had been feeling a little funny lately, a little sick, not much nothing to worry about but I feel better today because I am writing you. Gee, I wish you were here and we could go somewhere and dance, and do you know what. I wouldn’t let you down. Well, that’s about it for tonight because my pen is running out of ink.

Always your girl- Nina

P.S. The envelope that contained this letter bore the makings- Return To Sender-Deceased stamped across the front. Jimmy Dubois had been killed under a hail of enemy fire while trying to rescue a buddy on hellhole Guadalcanal on December 10, 1942. RIP-Jimmy Dubois-JLB

June Is Class-War Prisoners Month-Let’s Redouble Our Efforts To Save Private Bradley Manning-Make Every Town Square A Bradley Manning Square From Boston To Berkeley-Join Us In Davis Square, Somerville Every Friday-1:00-2:00 PM

Click on the headline to link to a the Private Bradley Manning Petition website page.

Markin comment:

The Private Bradley Manning case is headed toward a fall trial. Those of us who support his cause should redouble our efforts to secure his freedom. For the past several months there has been a weekly vigil in Greater Boston across from the Davis Square Redline MBTA stop (renamed Bradley Manning Square for the vigil’s duration) in Somerville from 1:00-2:00 PM on Fridays. This vigil has, to say the least, been very sparsely attended. We need to build it up with more supporters present. Please join us when you can. Or better yet if you can’t join us start a Support Bradley Manning weekly vigil in some location in your town whether it is in the Boston area or Berkeley. And please sign the petition for his release. I have placed links to the Manning Network and Manning Square website below.

Bradley Manning Support Network

Manning Square website

The following are remarks that I have been focusing on of late to build support for Bradley Manning’s cause.

Veterans for Peace proudly stands in solidarity with, and defense of, Private Bradley Manning.

We of the anti-war movement were not able to do much to affect the Bush- Obama Iraq War timetable but we can save the one hero of that war, Bradley Manning.

I stand in solidarity with the alleged actions of Private Bradley Manning in bringing to light, just a little light, some of the nefarious war-related doings of this government, under Bush and Obama. If he did such acts they are no crime. No crime at all in my eyes or in the eyes of the vast majority of people who know of the case and of its importance as an individual act of resistance to the unjust and barbaric American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I sleep just a shade bit easier these days knowing that Private Manning may have exposed what we all knew, or should have known- the Iraq war and the Afghan war justifications rested on a house of cards. American imperialism’s gun-toting house of cards, but cards nevertheless.

I am standing in solidarity with Private Bradley Manning because I am outraged by the treatment meted out to Private Manning, presumably an innocent man, by a government who alleges itself to be some “beacon” of the civilized world. Bradley Manning had been held in solidarity at Quantico and other locales for over 500 days, and has been held without trial for much longer, as the government and its military try to glue a case together. The military, and its henchmen in the Justice Department, have gotten more devious although not smarter since I was a soldier in their crosshairs over forty years ago.

These are more than sufficient reasons to stand in solidarity with Private Manning and will be until the day he is freed by his jailers. And I will continue to stand in proud solidarity with Private Manning until that great day.

Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan! Hands Off Iran! Free Bradley Manning Now!

"God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms...

I want people to see the truth... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."

—online chat attributed to Army RFC Bradley Manning

Accused Wikileaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning,

a 23-year-old US Army intelligence analyst, is accused of sharing a video of the killing of civilians— including two Reuters journalists—by a US helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq with the Wikileaks website.

He is also charged with blowing the whistle on the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and revealing US diplomatic cables. In short, he's been charged with telling us the truth.

The video and documents have illuminated the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, human rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role that spying and brines play in international diplomacy.

Half of every edition of The New York Times has cited one or more of these documents during the past year. The leaks have caused Amnesty International to hail Wikileaks for catalyzing the democratic middle eastern revolutions and changing journalism forever.

What happens now is up to YOU!

Never before in U.S. history has someone been charged with "Aiding the enemy through indirect means" by making information public.

A massive; popular outpouring of support for Bradley Manning is needed to save his life.

We are at a turning point in our nation's history. Will we as a public demand greater transparency and accountability from pur elected leaders? Will we be governed by fear and secrecy? Will we accept endless war fought with our tax dollars? Or, will we demand the right to know the truth—the real foundation of democracy.

Here are some actions you should take now to support Bradley:

» to sign the petition. Then join our photo petition at

» Join our facebook page, savebradley,
to receive campaign updates, and follow SaveBradley on twitter

» and
download our Organizer Toolkit to learn howyou can educate community members, gain media attention, and donate toward Bradley's defense.

The People Have the Right to Know...

Visit to learn howyou can take action!

What did WikiLeaks reveal?
"In no case shall information be classified... in order to: conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency... or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security."

—Executive Order 13526, Sec. 7.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations

"Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is this awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."

—Robert Gates, Unites States Secretary of Defense

PFC Bradley Manning is a US Army intelligence specialist who is accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, an organization that he allegedly understood would release portions of the information to news organizations and ultimately to the public.

Was the information that PFC Manning is accused of leaking classified for our protection and national security, as government officials contend? Or do the revelations provide the American public with information that we should have had access to in the first place? Just

what are these revelations? Below are some key facts that PFC Manning is accused of making public.

There is an official policy to ignore torture in Iraq.

The "Iraq War Logs" published by WikiLeaks revealed that thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces. Medical evidence detailed how prisoners had been whipped with heavy cables across the feet, hung from ceiling hooks, suffered holes being bored into their legs with electric drills, urinated upon, and sexually assaulted. These logs also revealed the existence of "Frago 242,"an order implemented in 2004 not to investigate allegations of abuse against the. Iraqi government This order is a direct violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the United States in 1994. The Convention prohibits the Armed Forces from transferring a detainee to other countries "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." According to the State Department's own reports, the U.S. government was already aware that the Iraqi Security Forces engaged in torture (1).

U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan.

U.S. defense contractors were brought under much tighter supervision after leaked diplomatic cables revealed that they had been complicit in child trafficking activities. DynCorp — a powerful defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from U.S. tax dollars — threw a party for Afghan security recruits featuring boys purchased from child traffickers for entertainment. DynCorp had already faced human trafficking charges before this incident took place. According to the cables, Afghan Interior minister HanifAtmar urged the assistant US ambassadorto"quash"the story.These revelations have been a driving factor behind recent calls for the removal of all U.S. defense contractors from Afghanistan (2).

Guantanamo prison has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives.

The Guantanamo Files describe how detainees were arrested based on what the New York Times referred to as highly subjective evidence. For example, some poor farmers were captured after they were found wearing a common watch or a jacket that was the same as those also worn by Al Queda operatives. How quickly innocent prisoners were released was heavily dependent on their country of origin. Because the evidence collected against Guantanamo prisoners is not permissible in U.S. courts, the U.S. State Department has offered millions of dollars to other countries to take and try our prisoners. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable written on April 17, 2009, the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners requested that the National Court indict six former U.S. officials for creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture against five Spanish prisoners. However,"Senator Mel Martinez... met Acting FM [Foreign Minister] AngelLossada... on April 15. Martinez... -underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the U.S. and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship"(3).

There is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was false. Between 2004 and 2009, the U.S. government counted a total of 109,000 deaths in Iraq, with 66,081 classified as non-combatants. This means that for every Iraqi death that is classified as a combatant, two innocent men, women or children are also killed (4),


(1)Alex Spillius, "Wikileaks: Iraq War Logs show US ignored torture allega-
tions,"Telegraph, October 22,2010.

(2)foreign contractors hired Afghan 'dancing boys; WikiLeaks cable
reveals', December 2,2010,

(3) Scott Shane and Benjamin Weiser.The Guatanamo Files: Judging De­tainees'Risk, Often With Rawed Evidence'New York Times, April 24,2011,;'US embassy cables: Don't pursue Guantanamo criminal case, says Spanish attorney general', December 1,2010,

(4) Iraq War Logs Reveal 15,000 Previously Unlisted Civilian Deaths,', October 22,2010,'d/2010/ oct/22/true-civilian-body-count-iraq

The Latest From The "Leonard Peltier Defense Committee" Website-Free Leonard Peltier Now!-Free All Our Class-War Prisoners!-An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!

Click on the headline to link to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee website for the latest news on our class-war political prisoner brother, Leonard Peltier.

Markin comment:

Long live the tradition of the James P. Cannon-founded International Labor Defense (via the American Communist Party and the Communist International's Red Aid). Free Leonard, Free Mumia, Free Lynne, Free Bradley, Free Hugo, Free Ruchell-Free all our class-war prisoners!

Markin comment (reposted from 2010)

In “surfing” the National Jericho Movement Website recently in order to find out more, if possible, about class- war prisoner and 1960s radical, Marilyn Buck, whom I had read about in a The Rag Blog post I linked to the Jericho list of class war prisoners. I found Marilyn Buck listed there but also others, some of whose cases, like that of the “voice of the voiceless” Pennsylvania death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, are well-known and others who seemingly have languished in obscurity. All of the cases, at least from the information that I could glean from the site, seemed compelling. And all seemed worthy of far more publicity and of a more public fight for their freedom.

That last notion set me to the task at hand. Readers of this space know that I am a long time supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a class struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which supports class war prisoners as part of the process of advancing the international working class’ struggle for socialism. In that spirit I am honoring the class war prisoners on the National Jericho Movement list this June as the start of what I hope will be an on-going attempt by all serious leftist militants to do their duty- fighting for freedom for these brothers and sisters. We will fight out our political differences and disagreements as a separate matter. What matters here and now is the old Wobblie (IWW) slogan - An injury to one is an injury to all.

Note: This list, right now, is composed of class-war prisoners held in American detention. If others are likewise incarcerated that are not listed here feel free to leave information on their cases in the comment section. Likewise any cases, internationally, that come to your attention. I am sure there are many, many such cases out there. Make this June, and every June, a Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month- Free All Class-War Prisoners Now!

The Latest From The Lynne Stewart Defense Committee- Free Lynne Stewart And Her Co-Workers Now!-

Click on the headline to link to the Justice For Lynn Stewart Defense Committee for the latest in her case.

Markin comment:

Free Lynne Stewart and her co-workers! Free Grandma Now!

Make June Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month

Markin comment (reposted from 2010)

In “surfing” the National Jericho Movement Website recently in order to find out more, if possible, about class- war prisoner and 1960s radical, Marilyn Buck, whom I had read about in a The Rag Blog post I linked to the Jericho list of class war prisoners. I found Marilyn Buck listed there but also others, some of whose cases, like that of the “voice of the voiceless” Pennsylvania death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, are well-known and others who seemingly have languished in obscurity. All of the cases, at least from the information that I could glean from the site, seemed compelling. And all seemed worthy of far more publicity and of a more public fight for their freedom.

That last notion set me to the task at hand. Readers of this space know that I am a long time supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a class struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which supports class war prisoners as part of the process of advancing the international working class’ struggle for socialism. In that spirit I am honoring the class war prisoners on the National Jericho Movement list this June as the start of what I hope will be an on-going attempt by all serious leftist militants to do their duty- fighting for freedom for these brothers and sisters. We will fight out our political differences and disagreements as a separate matter. What matters here and now is the old Wobblie (IWW) slogan - An injury to one is an injury to all.

Note: This list, right now, is composed of class-war prisoners held in American detention. If others are likewise incarcerated that are not listed here feel free to leave information on their cases in the comment section. Likewise any cases, internationally, that come to your attention. I am sure there are many, many such cases out there. Make this June, and every June, a Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month- Free All Class-War Prisoners Now!

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Troy Davis Execution: Racist State Murder-Down With The Barbaric Death Penalty!-Free All Class-War Prisoners

Workers Vanguard No. 987
30 September 2011

Troy Davis Execution: Racist State Murder

Troy Davis is dead. At 11:08 p.m. on September 21, Davis, a 42-year-old black man, was murdered by the legal guardians of the capitalist ruling class. For 22 years, Davis fought to prove his innocence of the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, only to spend the last moments of his life strapped to an execution gurney. For its part, the U.S. Supreme Court went through the charade of reviewing his petition for a last-minute stay of execution. As protests took place around the world, hundreds of Davis’s supporters rallied outside the Jackson, Georgia, prison—officially known as the Diagnostic and Classification Prison—while millions followed the story on TVs, radios and cell phones, hoping for a semblance of justice for this black man caught in the American “justice” system.

The killing of Troy Davis was racist legal lynching! In place of hooded KKK nightriders were pin-striped prosecutors and black-robed judges, along with the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which turned down Davis’s bid for clemency the day before the execution. In place of the lynch rope were needles dispensing the life-ending chemical cocktail. The substantial evidence of Davis’s innocence meant nothing. A white uniformed enforcer of capitalist law and order had been killed, and this black life had to be taken in return. Here is a stark demonstration of the workings of the capitalist state—an instrument of organized violence to protect the class rule and profits of the tiny handful of capitalists against the workers and the oppressed. The death penalty is the ultimate sanction of a “justice” system that is not only stacked against workers and the poor but also, in this society founded on slavery and maintained on a bedrock of black oppression, racist to its core.

The story of Troy Davis’s frame-up is a familiar one for black people in this country. In 1991, he was sentenced to death after a frame-up conviction based on questionable “eyewitness” identifications, dubious accounts that he confessed and testimony coerced by the cops. Not a shred of physical evidence linked him to the killing. Seven of the prosecution’s nine witnesses have since recanted. The only holdouts were a man who may be the actual killer and another who first denied being able to identify the shooter, only to finger Davis at trial two years later.

What sets Davis’s case apart were the worldwide calls to stop his execution, ultimately including even former FBI director William Sessions and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr—both staunch proponents of capital punishment—as well as the Pope and ex-president Jimmy Carter. Protests were held in cities internationally following the signing of his death warrant on September 6. In the last days of his life over 600,000 people signed petitions on Davis’s behalf. Just as a federal court judge last year dismissed evidence of Davis’s innocence as “smoke and mirrors,” the state authorities answered these calls for mercy with contempt.

Almost a century ago, Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs powerfully condemned the barbarism of the death penalty, writing in a May 1913 letter: “The taking of human life through criminal impulse or in an hour of passion by an individual is not to be compared to the immeasurably greater crime committed by the State when it deliberately puts to death the individual charged with such crime. Society may not consistently condemn murder as long as it is itself red-handed with that crime.”

As Marxists, we oppose the death penalty on principle and everywhere—from the capitalist U.S., Japan, Iran and Russia to the Chinese deformed workers state. This principle applies for the guilty as well as the innocent. We do not accord the state the right to decide who shall live and who shall die. Abolish the racist death penalty!

Legacy of Slavery

Other than the U.S. and Japan, every advanced capitalist country has eliminated capital punishment as part of its criminal code. The European bourgeoisies are brutally repressive. But the continued use of the death penalty in the U.S. speaks to the particular depravity of this country’s capitalist rulers. More fundamentally, capital punishment in the U.S. is rooted in the origins of its capitalist system, which was built on the backs of black slaves. Under the Slave Codes, blacks were killed with impunity for “crimes” ranging from insolence toward whites to rebellion against the slave masters.

This legacy can be seen today in the dungeons of death row. Of the more than 3,200 men and women there, over 40 percent are black, and another 12 percent are Latino. Among the 36 states that maintain the death penalty, California has the largest death row population. But capital punishment remains a largely Southern institution. Over 70 percent of executions since the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976 have taken place in the states of the former Confederacy—and more than half of those in Texas and Virginia. In Davis’s Georgia, black males make up 15 percent of the population but constitute nearly half of those on death row.

Among those speaking out against the racist death penalty is the family of James Anderson, a black auto worker who was brutally murdered by white-supremacists in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 26 (see “Lynch Mob Murder of Black Worker,” WV No. 985, 2 September). In a letter to the Hinds County district attorney, Anderson’s sister Barbara Anderson Young asked that he “not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” noting the family’s religious opposition to capital punishment. She added, “We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites.”

The cheapness of black life to the American ruling class is evident not just in who is sent to death row, but also in whose loss of life constitutes a capital offense. Although blacks and whites are murder victims in roughly the same numbers, 80 percent of those executed have been convicted of killing a white person. Just hours before Troy Davis was put to death, the state of Texas executed Lawrence Brewer, one of three racist thugs convicted for the gruesome 1998 killing of James Byrd, a black man who was decapitated as he was dragged to death from the back of a pickup truck. While Texas has carried out over 470 executions since 1976, Brewer became only the second white person ever executed in the state for the murder of a black person.

The discriminatory application of the death penalty was sanctified by the U.S. Supreme Court 24 years ago in the case of Warren McCleskey, a black prisoner who was executed in Georgia in 1991. McCleskey’s attorneys presented the Court with an authoritative study detailing that black people in Georgia convicted of killing whites were sentenced to death 22 times more frequently than those convicted of killing blacks. In rejecting McCleskey’s appeal, the Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged that to accept this premise would throw “into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system.” In its callous pronouncement, the court expressed a basic truth. McCleskey was a victim of the racism that pervades the criminal justice system—who the cops stop on the street, who the prosecutors choose to indict, what charges and sentences are sought, who sits on juries, who gets paroled and who gets executed.

The buildup to Troy Davis’s execution sparked something of a public discussion on capital punishment in the bourgeois press, especially as it intersected the ascendance of Texas governor Rick Perry as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Earlier this month, Texas authorities had planned to execute four prisoners in the space of a week. Among those was Duane Buck, whose September 15 execution was stayed by the Supreme Court at the last minute. Convicted of killing his former girlfriend and a friend of hers in 1995, Buck was one of seven black men sentenced to death based on the “expert” testimony of a Texas prison psychologist that because they were black they should be expected to engage in violent behavior in the future!

Death Penalty: Bipartisan Policy

At the September 7 Republican candidates’ debate, Perry received a wild ovation for having overseen 234 executions. He further burnished his credentials by assuring moderator Brian Williams that this body count never cost him a wink of sleep. In an editorial titled “Cheering on the Death Machine,” the New York Times (11 September) declared that Perry’s “attitude about death may make sense in the hard-edged Republican primaries, but other voters should have serious doubts about a man who seems to have none.”

There is no question that the sinister Christian fundamentalist Perry is an outright reactionary, one of several in the Republican contest. But the Democrats—the other party of racist capitalist rule—are themselves no slouches in administering the rulers’ assembly line of death. Barack Obama, a supporter of the death penalty, refused to intervene as time ran out for Davis, with press secretary Jay Carney declaring: “It is not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution.”

Obama was not so shy about “weighing in” on the case of death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther spokesman and a MOVE supporter who was framed up and sentenced to death on false charges of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. State and federal courts have repeatedly refused to hear the massive evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including another man’s confession to the killing. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Michael Smerconish, a right-wing Philadelphia journalist leading the calls for Mumia’s head, asked Obama about Mumia’s case. According to Smerconish, Obama replied by denying knowing much about the case while assuring him nevertheless that anyone convicted of killing a cop should be executed or imprisoned for life.

What to expect of the Democrats can be seen in the case of Shaka Sankofa, who was executed in June 2000 at the height of the presidential campaign in the face of international opposition similar to that which sought to stop Davis’s execution. As then-governor of Texas George W. Bush and his advisers weighed the political risks of stopping the execution—or not—his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, not only reaffirmed his commitment to the death penalty but gave the go-ahead to execute a likely innocent man, declaring that “mistakes are inevitable.” Eight years earlier, Bill Clinton interrupted his first presidential campaign by flying back to Arkansas, where he was governor, to oversee the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a brain-damaged black man.

The liberals at the New York Times may be appalled that Rick Perry and the Republican right openly revel in state murder and indifference to the likelihood of killing innocent people. But Perry & Co. are only giving voice to what has been ruling-class policy—implemented by Democrats and Republicans alike—to massively bolster the repressive forces of the capitalist state. It was Clinton’s 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act that cut off the possibilities of presenting new evidence of innocence by eviscerating the right of federal habeas corpus to overturn state death sentences. By 2010, the prison population had reached 2.3 million people, over half of whom were black and Latino, the majority convicted on nonviolent drug charges. In the calculations of the American bourgeoisie, the urban ghettos, which used to provide a reservoir of unskilled labor for the auto plants and steel mills, are simply written off as an expendable population, revealing the racist rulers’ impulse to genocide.

While a widely cited poll shows that nearly two-thirds of the population continues to support the death penalty, there has been a drop in public support over the past several years. The fact that more than 130 people on death row have been proven innocent since 1973, including through DNA testing in recent years, has given sections of the ruling class some pause in the accelerated rush to execution, and juries have become a little more reluctant to issue death sentences. On March 9, Illinois became the fifth state since 2004 to eliminate the death penalty.

In their attempts to fine-tune the system of capitalist repression, liberals often promote the living death of “life without parole” as an alternative to state execution. A New York Times (12 September) editorial upholds life without parole as “a sound option” in capital cases even though it complains that this sentence is otherwise often misused. The Times pointed out that blacks make up 56.4 percent of those serving life without parole in the U.S. but only 37.5 percent of the country’s prison population. This statistic further underscores that there can be no fair or “humane” system of “justice” for minorities or for the working class as a whole in a society based on the exploitation of labor and maintained through the special oppression of black people.

While the face of death row is now primarily black and Latino, fighters for labor’s cause have also been targeted for death by the capitalist state: the Haymarket anarchists, labor organizers who fought for the eight-hour day and were put to death in 1877; IWW organizer Joe Hill, executed in 1915; anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti, who died in the electric chair in 1927. This ruling-class venom toward those perceived as challenging their oppressive rule is seen today in the death sentence hanging over the head of Mumia, a prize-winning journalist renowned as a powerful voice for the oppressed.

Following the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, James P. Cannon, founder and secretary of the International Labor Defense, wrote: “It is the vengeful, cruel and murderous class which the workers must fight and conquer before the regime of imprisonment, torture and murder can be ended. This is the message from the chair of death. This is the lesson of the Sacco-Vanzetti case” (“A Living Monument to Sacco and Vanzetti,” Labor Defender, October 1927). This too must be the lesson of the case of Troy Davis, whose murder at the hands of the state will be avenged when a workers party leads all the exploited and oppressed in a socialist revolution that sweeps away the entire barbaric apparatus of capitalist repression.