Saturday, September 22, 2012

“Workers of The World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains”-The Struggle For Trotsky's Fourth (Communist) International -E.R. Frank-The European Revolution-Its Prospects and Tasks (1944)

Markin comment:

Below this general introduction is another addition to the work of creating a new international working class organization-a revolutionary one fit of the the slogan in the headline.

Markin comment (repost from September 2010):

Recently, when the question of an international, a new workers international, a fifth international, was broached by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), faintly echoing the call by Venezuelan caudillo, Hugo Chavez, I got to thinking a little bit more on the subject. Moreover, it must be something in the air (maybe caused by these global climatic changes) because I have also seen recent commentary on the need to go back to something that looks very much like Karl Marx’s one-size-fits-all First International. Of course, just what the doctor by all means, be my guest, but only if the shades of Proudhon and Bakunin can join. Boys and girls that First International was disbanded in the wake of the demise of the Paris Commune for a reason, okay. Mixing political banners (Marxism and fifty-seven varieties of anarchism) is appropriate to a united front, not a hell-bent revolutionary International fighting, and fighting hard, for our communist future. Forward

The Second International, for those six, no seven, people who might care, is still alive and well (at least for periodic international conferences) as a mail-drop for homeless social democrats who want to maintain a fig leaf of internationalism without having to do much about it. Needless to say, one Joseph Stalin and his cohorts liquidated the Communist (Third) International in 1943, long after it turned from a revolutionary headquarters into an outpost of Soviet foreign policy. By then no revolutionary missed its demise, nor shed a tear goodbye. And of course there are always a million commentaries by groups, cults, leagues, tendencies, etc. claiming to stand in the tradition (although, rarely, the program) of the Leon Trotsky-inspired Fourth International that, logically and programmatically, is the starting point of any discussion of the modern struggle for a new communist international.

With that caveat in mind this month, the September American Labor Day month, but more importantly the month in 1938 that the ill-fated Fourth International was founded I am posting some documents around the history of that formation, and its program, the program known by the shorthand, Transitional Program. If you want to call for a fifth, sixth, seventh, what have you, revolutionary international, and you are serious about it beyond the "mail-drop" potential, then you have to look seriously into that organization's origins, and the world-class Bolshevik revolutionary who inspired it. Forward.
E.R. Frank-The European Revolution-Its Prospects and Tasks (1944)

Speech Delivered in the Name of the National Committee of the SWP,
at New York Membership Meeting,
October 4, 1944


From Fourth International, Vol.5 No.12, December 1944, pp.377-382.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


In opening this discussion on the political resolutions now before the party, the resolution passed by the November 1943 Plenum of the National Committee and the draft resolution of the National Committee to be presented to the coming convention, I am inviting the comrades to study, to consider, to view the question of the European revolution in its entirety, to proceed to a Marxist, and therefore to a many-sided analysis of this crucial problem.

Nothing is so futile in revolutionary politics as to begin a discussion of this character by getting lost on some incidental question, or to attempt to answer or solve this or that immediate problem of the day by divorcing it from your fundamental analysis, from your whole perspective. Before a Marxist can answer an immediate question of the day, he must be clear on his perspective, on his line. And that is precisely what the resolutions attempt to provide. These resolutions are not a new program. As a matter of fact, they are not even a full restatement of our old program. They are simply timely documents; they are documents that, on the basis of our program, analyze more concretely the new events, show the underlying forces at play, delineate the underlying tendencies and more sharply point to the tasks that lie ahead.

To understand the European revolution, its tasks and its perspectives, let us begin by a rough analysis of Europe, its economy and the forces at work on the continent. Capitalism began its absolute decline hi Europe some 30 years ago at the time of the first World War. Capitalism in Europe was no longer expanding, but contracting. In addition to the internal decline, the capitalist states in Europe were further suffocating because of the Balkanization of the continent, because the national boundaries had become fetters on the economy. Each national state was choking to death behind its tariff walls and the Gargantuan militarisms were eating up the substance of Europe’s wealth. The first World War, with its unparalleled destruction smashed Europe’s pre-eminence and further accelerated its decay. Economic hegemony was shifted to American imperialism.

Two revolutionary waves swept over Europe like a terrible paroxysm. One, started by the October revolution, shook Europe to its very foundations and wrenched the territories of the USSR out of the grip of capitalism. The second wave of incipient revolutions during the 30’s in Spain and France was betrayed by the Stalinist and Social-Democratic traitors. With the revolutions aborted and defeated, the path was cleared for the plunging of the European peoples into the second world slaughter.

European capitalism, I said, lost its economic pre-eminence to the United States after the first World War. As a result of the destruction wrought by the second World War, capitalism in Europe is shattered, is finished as a world power. Europe today is ruined and prostrate, and its peoples are starving and dying.

Now as Marxists, we know that the political superstructure is determined in the last analysis by the committee foundation. We are historical materialists; we know that bourgeois democracy is a specific political form, which arose and flowered during the rise and growth of capitalism. Bourgeois democracy was made possible as the form of capitalist rule in the more advanced and wealthy capitalist countries because of the advances of capitalism, because of the increasing wealth of the nation, by the ability of capitalism to buy off, to corrupt the middle classes and the labor aristocracy, and thus to moderate and attenuate the class struggle. Bourgeois democracy has certain definable and easily recognizable features: parliamentarism, more or less free elections, accompanied by the traditional bourgeois rights: freedom of press, speech, assembly, etc.

The Fate of Bourgeois Democracy

With the economic decline of Europe after the last war, bourgeois democracy likewise declined. It was virtually wiped out throughout eastern Europe. As for western Europe, the class struggle came to a breaking point in Italy immediately after the war and the question was sharply posed: either fascism or socialism. With the inability of the working class parties to lead the revolutionary struggle forward to the conquest of power, the successive bourgeois-democratic governments quickly gave way to the fascist dictatorship of Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy was ground to dust between the forces of the sharpening class struggle. Ten years later the same process took place in Germany.

And even France, the victor of Versailles, possessor of a great colonial empire, even victorious France reached a blind alley. The class struggle between the two fundamental classes grew so acute that even before the disastrous plunge into the maelstrom of the second World War, bourgeois democracy gave way to one semi-Bonapartist regime after another followed in the end by the imposition of the Bonapartist dictatorship of a Petain propped up by the Nazi bayonets. Bourgeois democracy was not simply destroyed in France by military intervention from without. It was decaying and falling apart because of the unsolvable crisis of French capitalism and the sharpening class struggles from within.

Such was the course of bourgeois democracy, between the two world wars. Today the European masses, who have gone through five years of devastation and slaughter, are in a furiously revolutionary mood. Throughout Europe! The masses are entering the political arena as an independent force. Capitalism in Europe is so shaken, so weak, decrepit and compromised, so bankrupt, that with its own forces it is unable to preserve its rule, to rehabilitate its power. For five years capitalism in Europe has been propped up by the bayonets of Nazi imperialism. Today, if European capitalism is to preserve its rule, it must be propped up by the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism.

The masses in Italy and now in France, and so it will be throughout Europe, quickly brushed aside the capitalist and liberal parties and gave their support to the traditional parties of the working class. The masses support the Social-Democrats and Stalinists not because the Social-Democrats and Stalinists are betrayers, but because the masses mistakenly believe that these parties will lead them forward in the struggle for socialism, for communism. Just the other day we had a firsthand report from Italy. We were informed that everybody must talk for socialism in Italy today if they wish to get a hearing from the workers. We can put it down as a definite fact: the workers of Europe want a decisive revolutionary change. But the workers are not alone. Fascism, which for a while attracted and hypnotized the middle classes, exposed itself after a brief period as simply the bloody tool of decaying monopoly capitalism. Fascism, the last bulwark of capitalism, has pauperized and disillusioned one section of the population after the other. Today the peasantry and great sections of the urban petty-bourgeoisie follow the lead of the working class in seeking a revolutionary road out of the madhouse of capitalist war, starvation and death.

I have read and heard it bruited about that there is going to be a tremendous revival of democratic illusions among the masses because the younger generation has not gone through the school of parliamentarism, that it must first go through this “body of experience” until it is able to shed democratic illusions. What inability to understand the meaning of events and to sense the mood, the aspirations, the feelings of the masses! The Russian masses, as we all know, had far fewer democratic illusions in 1917 than did the German masses who had a rich parliamentary tradition. Yet the Russian workers didn’t go through any extensive parliamentary school. The political consciousness of the Russian masses was conditioned by their experiences, by the blind alley in which the Russian autocracy thrust the country, by the fact that the bourgeoisie and the landlords had disgraced themselves by their support of the bloody Czarist dictatorship. The Russian masses were forced, because of the intolerable situation, to seek for bold and revolutionary solutions and to support the boldest and most intransigeant, the most extreme of the left-wing parties. A similar process is taking place in Europe today. The capitalists have disgraced themselves by collaborating with Hitler and will today further disgrace themselves by their collaboration with the Anglo-American imperialists. The European masses are finding the situation intolerable. The very conditions of their existence are forcing them to seek for bold revolutionary solutions to extricate them from the death crisis of European capitalism.

It is interesting in this connection to recall the profound analysis of the consciousness of the European masses made by Trotsky in his 1940 Manifesto.

“Today almost nothing remains of the democratic and pacifist illusions. The peoples are suffering the present war without any longer believing in it, without expecting any more from it than new chains. This applies also to the totalitarian states. The older generation of the workers who bore on their backs the burden of the first imperialist war and who have not forgotten its lessons are still far from eliminated from the arena. In the ears of the next to the oldest generation which went to school during wartime the false slogans of patriotism and pacifism are still ringing. The inestimable experience of these strata who are now crushed by the weight of the war machine will reveal itself in full force when the war compels the toiling masses to come out openly against the governments.”

Main Illusions of the Masses

And even more decisive than this analysis, than this prediction, if you will, are the events themselves which are now taking place before our very eyes. Even the least perspicacious of the bourgeois commentators have understood and informed us that the European masses are in a revolutionary mood. The masses have many illusions, to be sure. They do not yet support the parties of the Fourth International. But their illusions, if correctly analyzed, concretized and properly broken down, are found to be not at all those pictured by Morrow. The masses have few illusions about the bourgeoisie. They do not have too many illusions that they can solve their problems within the confines of the capitalist system. Even the illusions concerning the Allies are a more or less transient affair and will quickly give way before the realities of the situation. We saw that in Italy. A year ago the Italian masses of the South undoubtedly greeted the Allies with great enthusiasm and hope. In the course of a few months this enthusiasm was converted to hatred and deadly opposition. So it will be in France on the morrow. So it will be throughout Europe.

The greatest and most dangerous illusions of the masses, if this question is properly analyzed, is found to be their belief, their trust, in the Social-Democratic and Stalinist leaders, especially the latter. They do not yet understand the counterrevolutionary role of these scoundrels. A great dynamic process is taking place in the revolutionary education of the masses, and in this first period it is probably strengthening Stalinist influence. While small sections of the most advanced workers may be recoiling before the treachery of these misleaders, millions of people, first entering the political arena, seeking a way out of the death crisis of capitalism, naturally throw their support behind the parties which in their minds have stood traditionally for socialism, for communism. That is why the struggle to help the masses overcome their illusions is, in one of its most important aspects, the struggle to expose Stalinism and destroy its influence.

There is no question at all that Europe today is a red-hot cauldron of revolution. Everyone admits it. Into this seething cauldron is now entering the new imperialist overlord—American imperialism. This unbridled imperialist power, which aims to make Wall Street the center of world tribute, which seeks to establish its hegemony over all the continents and all the seas, must now strangle the European revolution and prop up decaying capitalism if it is to realize its imperial program. I see in this connection that Morrow objects to our characterizing American imperialism as equally predatory as Nazi imperialism. The objection is not well taken.

German imperialism, which emerged so late on the world scene, which was starved for resources and colonies, attempted to unite all of Europe around highly organized German industry. But the unification of Europe is a task which capitalism is unable to accomplish. Hitler, despite his military might, could only bring havoc to the continent, could only further ruin its economy, enslave its masses and turn the continent into a prison house. American imperialism, which is not a European power, and whose empire lies outside of Europe, aims not to unify the continent, but to dismember it and to keep it dismembered. Wall Street wants not the rebuilding of European economy, but to render impossible its revival as a competitor. Wall Street’s program of dismemberment, despoliation and plunder can only deepen Europe’s ruin. Allied rule over Europe spells thus not the mitigation, but the aggravation of Europe’s catastrophic crisis. The least you can say about American imperialism, whether on a long-term or a short-term basis, is that it is as predatory as Nazi imperialism.

Program of American Imperialism

The study of the role, the motive forces, the aims and the program of American imperialism shows you why the political program of Wall Street calls and must call for military occupation, for policing of Europe for ten, twenty, or as the late unlamented Secretary of the Navy Knox proposed, for one hundred years. This study makes clear why American imperialism must seek to refurbish the decrepit monarchies, why they must seek to build up the prestige and power of the Vatican, why they must elevate a lot of royalist and fascist generals to the seats of power, why they must prop up police-military dictatorships. This political program is not something accidental or arbitrary. It is the necessary program for American imperialism, the only program to realize its economic, its imperialist aims; the only method by which they can put over their predatory, their savage program to keep Europe prostrate, helpless and subservient to American imperialism.

On the basis of a rounded analysis, not only of the general historic decline and decay of European capitalism, but of the specific stage in this process of decay, we affirm: bourgeois democracy is outlived in Europe today. Bourgeois democracy is incompatible with the continued existence of capitalism in Europe. If; it was possible for American imperialism to stabilize European capitalism after the last war by loans on the basis of a bourgeois-democratic regime in Germany, then today American imperialism sees as its only program the dismemberment and destruction of Germany as an economic power and the preservation of capitalism with its own bayonets propping up dictatorial regimes.

Naturally we Marxists understand that economics do not automatically determine politics. The bourgeoisie, the Anglo-American imperialists, will practice all kinds of trickery, of deception, to sidetrack the revolutionary anger of the masses, to strangle the revolution, to save their rule. Our resolutions call specific attention to the fact that when the sweep of the revolution threatens their rule, the imperialists and their native accomplices will push forward the Social-Democratic and Stalinist agents and, if necessary, will even set up bourgeois-democratic regimes for the purpose of disarming and strangling the workers’ revolution. But we also point out that these regimes, by their very nature, can only be interim regimes—transition regimes, very unstable, very short-lived. Society cannot exist very long on the basis of a fierce class struggle, of an uncompleted revolution, of a split. A new equilibrium must be established. These interim regimes must either give way to the dictatorship of the proletariat or to the savage military dictatorship of the capitalist counter-revolution. There is no third road.

Now what is Morrow’s objection to this perspective, which is the logical, the necessary link in the perspective on Europe held by our movement from its first days. What is Morrow’s position? The final conclusion you must arrive at is that Morrow anticipates the revival of bourgeois-democracy in Europe for a period of time. Reminding himself that for this extraordinary thesis he must provide proof, he must provide a foundation, Morrow proceeds to give us an appreciation of the difference of program between American and Nazi imperialism, how American imperialism is not as predatory as the German variety.

I am reading this right out of Morrow’s article:

“The short-term perspective is that American imperialism will provide food and economic aid, to Europe and will thus for a time appear before the European masses in a very different guise than German imperialism ... Unlike Nazi occupation American occupation will be followed by an improvement in food supplies and in the economic situation generally.” Morrow, then warming up to his theme, tells us: “Where the Nazis removed factory machinery and transportation equipment, the Americans will bring them in. These economic contrasts, which of course flow entirely from the contrast between the limited resources of German capitalism and the far more ample resources still possessed by American capitalism, cannot fail for a time to have political consequences.”

Morrow’s Theory—and Reality

Thus we have a more or less rounded thesis for the revival, from however short-term a point of view, of European capitalism and for the improvement, however temporary, of the standard of living. If that were true, there would exist, of course, some solid justification for the idea that illusions would revive among the European masses concerning the role of American imperialism and that on some basis, however low, bourgeois-democracy could be revived for a time. But this perspective has nothing in common with cruel reality. It is quite clear that Morrow is himself the victim of illusions about American imperialism, its supposed unlimited powers, its role, its purposes, its program. We called specific attention in our resolution to the statistics of the results of one year of Allied rule in Italy. It is unnecessary to go over all this data again. It adds up to growing starvation, disease, unemployment, a monstrous rising of the death rate, the worsening of the crisis. And Allied treatment of Italy will appear as beneficent compared to their rule of Germany. Yet it is on this flimsy economic foundation, and only on this foundation, that the theory of the revival of bourgeois democracy in devastated and ruined Europe, rests. Without it, it falls to the ground.

Now some comrades have informed us that the proof of Morrow’s theory of bourgeois democracy can be found in the Bonomi and de Gaulle regimes, that we already have bourgeois democracy in Europe today, or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

I described before the historical origins of bourgeois democracy and what a bourgeois-democratic regime is. I told you that a number of its features included free elections, government by elected parliament, various bourgeois-democratic rights, etc., etc. What is the first thing that hits you in the eye when you analyze the Bonomi and de Gaulle regimes? They haven’t the first pre-requisite of a bourgeois-democratic regime or any other kind of independent regime—sovereignty. Power rests in the hands of the foreign conqueror. The very first democratic right is lacking—the right of the Italian and French people to determine their own fate. Secondly, the cabinets are hand-picked. There is no parliament and there are no elections. These governments “rule” by decree. Is it necessary to argue that governments which “rule” by authority of the military forces of the foreign conqueror, whose troops are stationed in the country; governments which are hand-picked, governments which “rule” by decree, with no parliament and no elections, is it necessary to argue that these are facades of a military dictatorship?

We are told that some democratic rights exist both in France and Italy. To be sure. These rights have been grabbed up by the masses in the course of the struggle, they attest to the rising class struggle in Italy and France but do not prove the democratic character of the Bonomi or de Gaulle regimes. Even under blood-thirsty Czarism, the Bolsheviks were able to publish for a time a legal daily newspaper. There existed, for a time, a consultative parliament with elected deputies. Up until the world war the Bolsheviks, as well as the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, sent their deputies to this assembly. The argument that de Gaulle’s democracy is revealed by the fact that he rests on the left-wing organizations is equally unimpressive. Every Bonapartist regime attempts to balance itself between the two conflicting forces of society.

Isn’t de Gaulle, however, evolving in the direction of a bourgeois-democratic regime? The whole manner in which this is posed is false. It is not our business to indulge in idle speculation. We know that de Gaulle, that the European capitalists, that the American imperialists, will grudgingly grant this or that democratic right or even, if necessary, set up a full-blown democratic regime if the sweep of the revolution rises to great heights and they fear for their existence. How de Gaulle, or how Bonomi, or how any other regimes will “evolve” depends on the course of the struggle and on nothing else. It is, I repeat, not our business to indulge in idle speculation. It is our business to expose the treacherous maneuvers of de Gaulle. It is our business to teach the masses that every concession de Gaulle or the Allies are forced to grant has the sole purpose of sidetracking the struggle, lulling their revolutionary vigilance in order to gain time to organize the forces of the counterrevolution for a definitive settlement with the working class. It is not our business to lose our sense of proportion and falsely paint up de Gaulle’s regime as democratic because of every episodic concession won as a by-product of the revolutionary struggle, but to utilize all concessions to penetrate more deeply into the worker-mass, to further heighten their class consciousness, to expose the fact that all concessions are transitory, that all promises of improvement are lies, that outside of the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of the Soviet power, there is no salvation for Europe and its peoples.

The perniciousness of this theory of the renascence (with whatever qualifications are attached) of bourgeois democracy is dearly revealed in the two questions I have just discussed.

This theory has so disorientated and confused its proponents that in the first instance they proceeded to paint up American imperialism and even altered the facts to suit the exigencies of their false perspective. In the second instance, they proceeded to paint up the thinly veiled military dictatorships imposed on the people of Italy and France as bourgeois-democratic governments or something very close to it. The imperialists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. By covering up their military dictatorship with a little—and very little — democratic veneer, they succeeded in fooling even a few Trotskyists. The job of the Trotskyists is not to accept for good coin the fraudulent democratic facades that cover the military dictatorships. The job of the Trotskyists is to expose this facade and show how behind it stands the military force of the conqueror who denies to the people their right to select governments of their choosing, to show that the shadow regimes are subservient to the conqueror, propped up by Anglo-American imperialism which aims not to liberate but to oppress.

This false perspective of Morrow has a further implication if it is really drawn to its logical end. If American imperialism has such inexhaustible powers, that it can, as he thinks, improve the standard of living in Europe, then of course there exists a certain basis, on however low a foundation, for the establishment of bourgeois-democracy in the immediate period ahead. From that we must assume the softening of class conflicts for a period, that the class struggle will be very largely refracted through the parliamentary struggle, that for a time the parliamentary arena will dominate the stage. If that were true, we would have to revise our conception of American imperialism. And of course the Trotskyist movement would have to attune its work to these new conditions—conditions for a while of slow painful growth, propaganda, election campaigns, etc., etc.

The Question of Democratic Demands

Morrow apparently draws back and cannot get himself to enunciate this perspective in clear-cut fashion ... except to give exaggerated emphasis to democratic demands ...

While I am on the subject of democratic demands, let me ask this: Why all this agitation suddenly on democratic demands? Why this insistence upon involving our party in this totally artificial debate? We accused Morrow at the Plenum of wanting a blueprint, of trying to draw up a concrete program of action and set of demands for the European proletariat. Here is Morrow’s answer to our accusation, as given in his speech to the Plenum:

“By a blueprint is meant an unwarranted attempt to anticipate what concrete situations our European comrades will be faced with, which democratic demands our European comrades should raise at various conjunctures and in what sequence they should raise them ... Frank said for the Subcommittee that they don’t want a blueprint. Neither do I. Their objection is not well taken. Frank said, what is true enough, that the sequence and formulation of democratic demands are things which will have to be left to our European comrades to work out in the heat of battle as they sense the mood of the masses. True enough, but irrelevant to my points on democratic demands. For my points do not at all attempt to anticipate which democratic demands and in what sequence they should raise them, but I simply indicate why the METHOD of democratic and transitional demands will have to be employed under the general conditions which are likely to prevail in Europe in the next immediate period.”

If that is what Morrow wanted—an affirmation of the method of fighting for democratic as well as transitional demands, in order to mobilize the masses—he has got it. This is incorporated in the Plenum resolution, and we have included a section on it in the convention resolution. The clamor for and around and about democratic demands, however, has not ceased.

Today Logan comes forward, speaking presumably for the Morrow position, and presents us with a demand not only for the “method” of democratic and transitional demands (a strange “demand” to be put to our party in 1944) but with a full-fledged program of action, a veritable blueprint,—with slogans and all—just how the French, Italian, German and other Trotskyists can win over the masses and make the revolution. Of course, every experienced comrade will simply laugh such blueprints out of court. The attempt is ludicrous. Slogans, especially if we are speaking of democratic, episodic slogans, depend by their nature on the consciousness, the mood of the masses, the flow and tempo of the class struggle, the relationship of forces. That is what determines which slogan is put forward as against another one. That is what determines exactly how the slogan is advanced. Sometimes events alter sharply overnight and the slogan of yesterday must be withdrawn and a new one substituted in its place. What particular slogans to push, to agitate for at a given time, what slogans take precedence—these are all questions which can be determined fully only by the people involved in the struggle who have the necessary information, can gauge the sentiment of the masses and understand the relationship of the forces that obtain. This question of slogans and demands and immediate programs of action cannot be decided by the American party, much less incorporated by us in resolution form, because we do not have adequate information.

Moreover, we are writing a resolution on the European revolution. If we would attempt to sloganeer and write blueprints, we would have to write separate programs of action for a half dozen or a dozen different countries, because we know that revolutionary developments do not proceed uniformly, that the conditions, tempo of development, mood of the masses, vary from country to country ...

On the Danger of Ultra-Leftism

The attempt to create a thoroughly artificial and uncalled-for debate over democratic slogans, the attempt in a thoroughly unwarranted manner to magnify their proper importance in our full program and constantly push them to the forefront as a kind of panacea designed to solve every problem and overcome every difficulty, stems from the completely one-sided, tendentious, arbitrary and therefore false theory that ultra-leftism represents the main danger in the Fourth International today. Morrow tells us: “The main danger within the Fourth International appears to me to lie in the direction of ultra-leftism.” And of course, as everyone knows, ultra-leftists are opposed to fighting for democratic demands. That is why “it is necessary,” according to Morrow, “to emphasize and underline the role of democratic demands.”

What is the proof for this amazing theory that in the period of revolutionary upsurge the main danger is ultra-leftism? It is laughable to even talk about it. Proof number one is historical. According to Morrow, “the rich lessons of the first years after the last war” reveal the fact that “the young parties of the Comintern suffered primarily not from opportunism but from ultra-leftism.” And we are told that “the same phenomenon is far more likely to confront the Fourth International at the end of this war.”

History does not confirm this theory. As a general proposition it is far more correct to say that in the period of revolutionary rise the main danger comes from the opportunist direction. Consider Lenin’s own party. In 1917, before Lenin’s arrival, virtually the whole Central Committee of the Bolshevik party approved the policy of conciliationism with Menshevism, and only by Lenin’s own timely and energetic intervention was the crisis solved and the helm turned toward a correct revolutionary course. A few months later Trotsky was defeated in the Bolshevik fraction on his and Lenin’s policy of boycotting the Pre-Parliament, which caused another minor crisis in the Bolshevik ranks. And then, on the very eve of the revolution, the Bolshevik party was thrown into a new terrible crisis by the crackup of Zinoviev and Kamenev under the pressure of bourgeois public opinion. The 1919 revolution in Hungary was defeated in part because of Bela Kun’s policy of conciliation with the Social-Democrats. The young Italian party was unprepared for the critical events of 1920 because the Serrati leadership refused to break with and purge the party of its incorrigible opportunist wing. We can, as a matter of fact, sum up the first years of the Comintern by stating that this period was devoted to a fight for the 21 demands, the fight to purge the parties of opportunist elements and destroy the opportunist tendencies. It was only at the Third Congress of the Comintern, after the first wave of the revolutionary tide had already passed, that the struggle was first launched against the ultra-leftist danger.

Proof number two consists of a consideration of the situation inside the Fourth International today. And here again we are treated to a one-sided analysis with the facts arbitrarily selected to fit a preconceived theory. We are informed of “the consistently ultra-leftist course of our official British section and its consequent deterioration.” And from this evidence the sweeping conclusion is drawn: “Thus the present evidence is that within the International the danger of ultra-leftism is far more likely than the danger of opportunism.” How is it, in discussing England, that less than one-half of the situation is described? Why is there no attempt, if England is to be discussed, to discuss the whole English problem as far as the British Trotskyist movement is concerned? As a matter of fact, the more important half of the information has been left out—the fact that the old WIL leadership, for a number of years manifested, in our opinion, traits of national exclusiveness. Today the ultra-leftists represent a truly insignificant tendency inside the fused party. The main problems of the British Trotskyist movement lie in an entirely different direction.

We are further aware that a group of German comrades submitted to the Fourth International and still support the Three Theses (published in the December 1942 FI), a thoroughly opportunist, revisionist as well as liquidationist document. Our Cuban section has just recently been guilty of what is, in our Judgment, an opportunist error when it supported, even though critically, Grau San Martin in the recent presidential elections in that country, etc., etc.

To make any definite judgments today on the varying tendencies within the Fourth International is distinctly premature. And in any case it should never be made in the one-sided manner attempted by Morrow.

We have always been taught that as a general rule the main danger comes from the opportunist direction in the period of revolutionary rise. Trotsky established in his Lessons of October that in every revolutionary crisis, bourgeois public opinion beats down upon the proletarian party and creates a crisis inside the central leadership itself. This, said Trotsky, is an historic law.

The question at hand, however, raised by Morrow, stands on somewhat different ground. When someone proposes that we write a resolution or devote a section of a resolution exorcising a deviationist tendency, then it is not permissible to confine oneself to generalities. One is obliged to tell us where is the danger, what groups or individuals represent it, how have the tendencies manifested themselves. We stand ready at all times to fight real dangers, whether from the left or the right. We will not launch a struggle, however, against dangers that have not yet arisen, but which somebody simply conjures up out of thin air, based on a misreading of the history of the Comintern and a one-sided analysis of the parties of the Fourth International.

We Do Not Change Our Course!

Proceeding from our perspective on the death agony of capitalism in Europe, on the predatory counter-revolutionary and tyrannical role of American imperialism, on the clearly revolutionary mood which pervades the masses of Europe and the fact that the European revolution has begun, we are steering the course toward building Trotskyist parties in the very heat of battle. We understand that the class struggle is not about to be softened, nor primarily refracted through parliamentary prisms. We know the very contrary is true. The class struggle is growing more fierce. And in the period of revolutionary rise, basing ourselves on the lessons of the October Revolution, we stress first and foremost to our European co-thinkers the necessity of unfurling our full banner and stepping forth before the masses as the intransigeant fighters for the socialist revolution, for working class internationalism, for the Socialist United States of Europe. We step forth as the most indefatigable builders of the Soviets and the boldest fighters for the soviet power. Our transitional program is not of a propagandistic character now, but is invested with immediate burning importance in Europe today. Many of the slogans will unquestionably become slogans of the day and will be taken up by the masses. And of course, of course, the Trotskyists, who aim to be not only propagandists or agitators, but leaders of mass action, will issue at every turn of the struggle those necessary sharp fighting slogans of an immediate character dictated by the moods of the masses and the needs of the struggle.

For us it is not a question of speculating whether the process will take months or years. That will be decided only in the struggle and by the struggle. We do not view the European revolution as one gigantic apocalyptic event, which with one smashing blow will finish with capitalism. The European revolution will probably be a more or less long drawn-out process with many initial setbacks, retreats, and possibly even defeats.

We know full well the military might of American imperialism and what treachery its Stalinist and Social-Democratic agents are capable of. We know all their counter-revolutionary designs. We know they aim to drown the German revolution in its own blood and that they are already proceeding to draw a cordon sanitaire around the German nation.

But more decisive than their schemes and plots and grandiose plans is the disintegration of capitalism, tie melting away of its reserves. Once the inexhaustible power of the proletariat is unleashed, once the proletariat creates a Bolshevik leadership, it will prove mightier than all the foul conspiracies, than all the military prowess of the imperialists, and it will emerge triumphant in the end.

Defend Public Education- A Socialist Strategy- Public Forum- September 26, 2012 U/Mass Boston

From The U/Mass Boston Anti-Parking Fee Increase Struggle

In Defense Of Private Bradley Manning- From The Boston Phoenix




In the summer of 2006 I originally wrote the following commentary (used in subsequent election cycles and updated a little for today’s purpose) urging the recruitment of independent labor militants as write-in candidates for the mid-term 2006 congressional elections based on a workers party program. With the hoopla already in full gear for the 2012 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftists to use the 2012 campaign to further our propagandistic fight for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government.

A Modest Proposal-Recruit, Run Independent Labor Militants In The 2012 Elections

All “anti-parliamentarian”, “anti-state”, “non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Barcelona Uprising, that your political ancestors in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois government of a bourgeois state. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you on the barricades with us when the time comes.

As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2012 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Afghanistan (and unfinished business in Iraq and threats to Iran), immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti -same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design.’ And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and the other smaller bourgeois parties have a monopoly on the public square?

I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives, or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives or not compromise themselves in any untoward manner. You, in any case, get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that this crowd. This writer presents a five point program (you knew that was coming, right?) that labor militants can run on. As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.


The quagmire in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Iran) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the “popular front” days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere fight for this position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yes, those 'progressive Democrats') who almost unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. War President Barack Obama desperately needs to be opposed by labor militants. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.


It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less a family can live on the minimum wage (now $7/hr. or so). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s; go a long way to turning the conditions of labor around.


Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with anti-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2012 over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But so be it.


The Donkeys, Elephants and other smaller bourgeois parties have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers’ party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans!


We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Yes, with my tongue in my cheek after all my dental bills, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is however you formulate it you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-The Revolutionary Party In The Revolution- The Bolshevik Experience In The Russian Revolution of 1917

Markin comment:
The following remarks were made at an ad hoc conference put together by some leftist organizations in the Northeast in order to try to draw for today’s labor militants and their allies the lessons of previous revolutionary struggles highlighted by the only successful working class revolution in history-the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The speaker urged his listeners to read Leon Trotsky’s History Of The Russian Revolution to gain a very literate and fast-moving understanding of that revolution from a man who stood outside the Bolshevik organization in early 1917 but who nevertheless when he committed himself to that party defended it against friend and foe the rest of his life. For those who could not wade through the one thousand plus pages of Trotsky’s major work the speaker also commended his Lessons of October written as what turned out to be an early polemic in the hard fought struggle to save the Russian revolution and the Bolshevik Party in 1923-24. The keys points made by Trotsky in that polemic are used here as the jumping off point for discussing the events of 1917.
Apparently after the events of the past couple of years in the Middle East and more recently in Europe we are once again broadly in the age of revolution. This period may well take its place in history along with 1789, 1848, 1871, and 1917 as a watershed period when humankind pushed the envelope once again. While this period of upheaval provides opportunities for revolutionaries after a very long dry spell that began somewhat before the demise of the Soviet Union and its associated states it also means that many of those who wish to seek a revolutionary path, including those who look to the revolutionary socialist left for guidance have very little actual working knowledge about how to bring a revolution about. Moreover although we are witnessing revolutions right before our eyes we are not witnessing yet the kind of revolutions, socialist revolutions, which can lead humankind to create a more productive, co-operative and just world. Our bright shining example is still the Bolshevik-led October Revolution in 1917 and I will try today to highlight some of the lessons from that revolution that we, and other thoughtful labor militants throughout the world, should be thinking about as we ride the wave of the current class struggle upsurge in this wicked old bourgeois-ruled world.

Originally when I thought about this presentation I had intended to give a rough draft of the main events of the Russian Revolution in 1917. But when I thought about it further I realized that I would wind up recreating an oral version of Leon Trotsky’s History Of The Russian Revolution and there is just not enough time for that. So I decided to scale back and concentrate on the role of the party, the Bolshevik party. And that decision makes sense because in the final analysis, as Trotsky continually argued after he got “religion” on the organization question , that has been the decisive difference when the struggle for state power has been up for grabs. We have seen the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the international working class in the advanced capitalist age, the vanguard party question to state the proposition bluntly, confirmed many times, too many times, in the negative in such places and times as early 1920s Germany and Italy up until today in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Greece not to take a careful look at that experience. Even almost one hundred years later, and maybe just because of that time lapse there are great general points to be drawn from Russia in 1917.The Bolsheviks got it right for their times and so while we understand that conditions today will be vastly different from the broken down monarchy sunk in the fourth year of a debilitating war, in a place where the land question cried out for solution, and where oppressed nations sought independence from the oppressive empire, we can learn how they worked their program into a successful conclusion against some very high odds against them. That combination of revolutionary leadership, program and the objective conditions for revolution (basically the ruling class in disarray and the masses fed up with the old order and ready to contest the issue) came together for the Bolsheviks to be able to be in a position to implement their socialist program.

Probably the biggest political lesson for us today with our tiny forces and huge tasks from the Bolshevik experience is kind of a truism of all political work- don’t be afraid to be in the minority. While I have, along with Lenin and Trotsky, no truck with those who are happy to stay mired in the circle spirit in left-wing politics that we have too often found ourselves here in America sometimes an organization if it is true to itself has to stand “against the current” to use an old expression. Especially as the events of 1917 unfolded it was apparent that the Bolsheviks, and those revolutionaries in other organizations or individuals like Trotsky who were drawn in that party’s wake, were the only ones capable of taking advantage of the dual power situation (between the old order Provisional Government and the new order Soviets from February to October) and leading the struggle against imperialist war, for bread (work really), and for land to the tiller.

As Lenin, and later Trotsky when he was hard-pressed to defend the legacy of the party in the mid-1920s, noted the Bolsheviks were not without their own internal problems as far as orientation toward the actual flow of events in 1917 particularly before Lenin arrived from abroad. I will speak in a moment about the decisive nature of the April Theses and the April Bolshevik conference where the new party orientation got its first work-out. But here I would only mention that parties like the Bolsheviks that had essentially healthy revolutionary instincts are always searching for a revolutionary path even if that path was not always linear and set in stone. The Bolsheviks had the experience of having formed early clandestine propaganda groups, fought out through polemics the extreme political differences on the nature of the struggle in Czarist Russia with other left-wing organizations, had done underground political work when necessary and above ground when possible, had worked in the Duma and the Soviets during and after the 1905 revolution, had members exiled, banished, and imprisoned, and a myriad of other experiences of mass struggle (as well as hard times like after 1905 and the first parts of WWI) that gave them some valuable experiences which they were able to apply in 1917.

Obviously not all organizations that had also gone through many of those same experiences in the pre-World War period drew the requisite conclusions, and here I would contrast the Bolsheviks to the Mensheviks. More importantly in international working class history that some of you may be familiar with I would contrast the Bolsheviks with the POUM in Spain during the Spanish revolution in the 1930s. In the end the Mensheviks might have had some revolutionaries in their organization (most of the best, and some not of the best, went over to the Bolsheviks in various periods) but they were not a revolutionary socialist organization for 1917 times. They were caught up in the linear thinking of the traditions of the French Revolutions (1789 and 1848), bourgeois revolutions when the time for those types of revolution in Europe had passed. (A key point that Trotsky drew for Russia after 1905 in formulating his theory of permanent revolution.) That last point is why I like to use the POUM (Party Of Marxist Unification in English) as a better example than the Mensheviks of what I mean. The Menshevik stood for the socialist revolution in the great by and by and their policies reflected that reformist impulse (if not just flat out counter-revolutionary impulses).The POUM, as their name says, formally stood for socialist revolution but their program, their strategy, and their whole line before and during the revolution make it clear that, at best, they were what we call a centrist party- revolutionary in talk, reformist in deed. They had no appetite to stand alone if necessary; they had no appetite to struggle with other leftist organizations to lead the revolution. It is unbelievable, although telling, that there are defenders (in hindsight which makes it worst) of the POUM today who saw basically nothing wrong in their work in the Spanish revolution. Jesus. *******
I mentioned above that we study the Bolshevik revolution because it is our one shining example of working class victory over the last one hundred and fifty years. We study that revolution just like Lenin, Trotsky and the rest studied the Paris Commune , the Revolutions of 1848 and the Great French Revolution in order to draw the lessons of previous precious revolutionary experience (as we should too). The important thing about the October Revolution that I want to discuss for a minute now is how the Bolsheviks were able to, for the most part, gauge the revolutionary temper of the masses. Their cadre down at the base was able to stir up with propaganda and agitation the main grievances of the masses- the famous three whales of Bolshevism -the simple yet profound fight for the eight hour day, worker control of factory production and peasant control of agricultural production and the fight for a democratic republic through the slogan of a fight for a constituent assembly. Out on the streets in 1917 the Bolshevik were able to narrow those slogans down even further for mass consumption –peace, bread and land to the tiller. The other so-called revolutionary organizations due to faulty and untimely senses of where the masses were heading were catch flat-footed when the deal went down and they, one way or another, supported some form of bourgeois regime after the Czar abdicated. Trotsky made a big point in Lessons of October and elsewhere as well that when explaining the tempo of the revolution it is necessary for revolutionaries to KNOW when to strike and when to hold back. In contrast, the two examples I like to use from the early 1920s that are illustrative are Germany in 1921 when the young German Communist party got ahead of the masses for a number of reasons and more importantly 1923 when they were behind the masses. Sometimes, as the Russian Social-Democratic soviet experience in Saint Petersburg and Moscow in 1905 demonstrates, you are forced to go through some experiences whether the situation is ripe or not. The point though is to know when to move one way or the other. In 1917 the Bolsheviks, as will be discussed a little more below, KNEW when to move, and when not to move.
Modern capitalist, especially now in its rather long imperialist stage, has produced many defenses, political, social, economic, and in the final analysis its military and police apparatuses, to defend its rule. Before the Bolshevik revolution there was some wishful thinking, exemplified by the German Social-Democratic Party, that somehow socialism could grow organically out of capitalism without the fuss of revolution. We know, we know painfully, where that has led. That party as became clear when they had their opportunities in 1918 had not revolutionary strategy. But revolutionary struggle since 1917 dictates that revolutionary organizations have a strategic orientation. In that sense the Russian example is extremely important first because the Bolsheviks showed that without a revolutionary strategy we cannot win and secondly with a correct strategic orientation and the ability to shift you can take advantage of weaknesses in the bourgeois power structure. There were three basic strategies at play in 1917 among Russian Social Democrats (other tendencies like the Social-Revolutionaries and Anarchists played off the main themes developed by the social democracy). The most prevalent one prior to 1905 was that Russia was headed for a liberal bourgeois republic like others in Europe and that working class organizations would play the role of loyal opposition to the bourgeois liberals. This was prime Menshevik strategy. The main Leninist theme until 1917 was essentially that this capitalist bourgeois republic would be governed by a worker-peasant coalition. While the Bolsheviks knew that the liberals has move historically to the right it still premised it position on a capitalist state arising at least in the short term. Of course the third strategy, the one Lenin forced, in his own way, on the Bolsheviks kicking and screaming for the most part, was Trotsky’s famous theory of permanent revolution, where the workers “leaning” on the amorphous peasantry would create a workers republic through the soviets. Lenin’s timely understanding of Russian politics which lead him to revamp his strategy is prima facie evidence both of his revolutionary abilities and of the keen understanding of the role of a strategic orientation in order to drive the revolution forward. There was no room in Russia in 1917, as Alexander Kerensky learned to his dismay, for that middle strategy vacated by the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s (and Trotsky’s) prodding.

A look at most revolutionary periods shows that the question of war, including a bloody losing war, is a catalyst that plays a great part in fomenting upheavals. Socialist thinkers from Marx onward have noted that war is the mother of revolution (in Marx’s own time the prime example being the formation of the Paris Commune in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War). War, as Trotsky and others have noted, takes the civilian population out of its ordinary routine, places great stress on society and requires great sacrifices and/or personnel in order to be pursued. The Bolsheviks had already established themselves on the war issue before 1917 by their opposition to the war budgets (and had their Duma deputies exiled to Siberia for their opposition), their role in the fledgling anti-war Zimmerwald movement and their slogans of the “main enemy is at home” and “turn the guns around.” When the Czar abdicated and a form of popular front government took its place many, including elements of the Bolshevik Party leadership in Russia, wanted to turn defensist (for the Entente) under the new circumstances. The Bolsheviks majority in contrast called for continued opposition to the war and played their “peace card” in their propaganda in the barracks by understanding that the peasant soldiers at the front were war-weary and wanted to be alive when the land was distributed. Very powerful incentives to walk away from the stalemated trenches.

The April Theses are probably the most graphic document we have about the Bolshevik party and its ability shift gears in the revolutionary process. In essence Lenin came over to Trotsky’s view of the nature of the revolution in front of him. Without that shift (and at the time before Trotsky got back to Russia), which did not go unopposed, October would not have happened .The question of the orientation toward support of the Provisional Government was the key question of the pre-insurrection period by all the parties. This government was really an example of the popular front as a substitute for revolutionary action as we saw in Chile in the early 1970s. For those unaware of what a popular front is that is a mix of working- class parties and bourgeois parties (although not usually the main ones) that are thrown up in time of crisis (although not always a full-blown social crisis as various French parliamentary examples in the recent past have shown). In Russia the main components for our purposes were the bourgeois liberal Cadets, various Social-Revolutionary tendencies representing various segments of the peasantry and the Mensheviks representing the reformist wing of the working class movement.

The reality of the popular front is twofold-first the program is limited to what is acceptable to the bourgeois bloc partners and secondly- and more importantly for our concerns, it is a strategy put forth by reformist elements in the working class (and other plebeian organizations) to frustrate revolution. The Mensheviks were the past master of this strategy stemming from their bourgeois liberal-dominated conception of the revolution. What set the Bolsheviks apart and was masterful on their part was the various tactics they used toward the popular front. Once Lenin got the Bolshevik Party to buy into the April Theses and to stop giving critical support to the Provisional Government a whole series of tactics came into play. So, for example, in June the Bolsheviks led demonstrations calling for the ouster of the ten capitalist ministers in the Provisional Government rather than a straight “down with the provisional government” a slogan that did not respond to the tempo of the revolution. In short the Bolsheviks called on the Mensheviks and various S-R factions to form a solely socialist ministry and the Bolsheviks promised, pretty please promised, they would not overthrow that government. Of course the reformists rejected this idea but in the process exposed themselves before the masses that were more and more looking to the soviets rather that the increasingly pro-war and anti-land seizure provisional government for political guidance. As the dual power situation (Provisional Government versus Soviets) continued and as the masses became disillusioned with the actions of the government in prolonging the war effort (and not resolving the land question, or much else for that matter) some segments of the Petrograd population (and key units in the army) wanted to overthrow the government in July. That again was premature as they and the Bolsheviks did not have the masses behind them. Rather than leave the ill-advised vanguard to suffer the results alone the Bolsheviks tried to lead an orderly retreat and in the short term took a serious beating (Lenin in hiding, Trotsky arrested, etc.) but one that showed that of all the tendencies the Bolsheviks stood with the demand of the masses.

As the Provisional Government’s grasp on power got shakier and was threatened from the right, essentially the remnants of the monarchical parties, the Bolsheviks organized, in the name of the soviets, the defense of Petrograd during the Kornilov scare. This flowed from the eminently practical position that when the right-wing in clawing at the door it is the duty of revolutionaries to defend even the most tepid democratic institutions a position we still uphold to today. In the Bolsheviks case the military defense of the provisional government by an organization which had been outlawed began the process of bringing the masses over to the soviets and though that organization the Bolsheviks (and incidentally began the serious process of the Mensheviks and S-Rs doing everything possible to defang and liquidate the soviets). During the fall of 1917 the demand for elections for an authoritative Constituent Assembly were being pressed by various petty bourgeois parties and individuals including, as mentioned above, those whose power rested in the soviets. The Bolsheviks had various attitudes toward a couple of formations that were supposed to prepare for the Constituent Assembly-the Democratic Conference and the Pre-Parliament. They participated in the Democratic Conference and once it became clear that it was just a “talk shop” and not the road to the constituent assembly and Trotsky led the boycott walk-out of the Pre-Parliament (much to Lenin’s grateful praise).

In the final analysis the role of the revolutionary party is to make the revolution and so the last point I would like to make about the importance of the Bolshevik experience, and what virtually all other movements since that time have faltered on, is the art of insurrection. As I noted above, for example, the situation in the early 1920s in Germany showed a party, an immature, communist party to be sure, that tried to insurrect too early and without the masses and later, perhaps as a result of that first failure in part, failed to take advantage of an exceptional revolutionary opportunity. The Bolsheviks knew, as they had their cadre on the ground in the city, the barracks, and the soviets, the pulse of the masses, who among the masses and military units would follow them, and most importantly under what conditions they would follow. In this sense Trotsky’s insurrectional organizing strategy of acting on the defensive (of soviet power) while going on the offense was brilliant. Moreover using the soviets as the organizing center rather than the narrower confines of the party worked to legitimize the seizure of power in important segments of the masses. This seizure of power by them in the name of the soviets was no narrow coup, although many bourgeois historians have argued that point to the contrary. Much ink has been spilled on the question of which organization; party, soviets or factory committees is the appropriate vehicle for the seizure of power. The answer: whatever organization (s) is ready to move when the time is ripe for revolution. Thank you

Friday, September 21, 2012

From #Un-Occupied Boston (#Un-Tomemonos Boston)-What Happens When We Do Not Learn The Lessons Of History- The Pre-1848 Socialist Movement-Étienne Cabet 1842-Refutation of the Revue des Deux Mondes

Click on the headline to link to the Occupy Boston General Assembly Minutes website. Occupy Boston started at 6:00 PM, September 30, 2011.

Markin comment:

I will post any updates from that Occupy Boston site if there are any serious discussions of the way forward for the Occupy movement or, more importantly, any analysis of the now atrophied and dysfunctional General Assembly concept. In the meantime I will continue with the “Lessons From History ’’series started in the fall of 2011 with Karl Marx’s The Civil War In France-1871 (The defense of the Paris Commune). Right now this series is focused on the European socialist movement before the Revolutions of 1848.

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend The Occupy Movement And All Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Occupy Protesters Everywhere!

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-Mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough instead on organizing the unorganized and on other labor-specific causes (good example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio, bad example the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race in June 2012).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! U.S. Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed.

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!

Étienne Cabet 1842-Refutation of the Revue des Deux Mondes


Written: September 25, 1842;
Translated: from the original for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.


Yet another serious writing that combats communism by twisting it.

Already in September 1841 the Revue des Deux Mondes attacked communism and the National of September 2, 1841 repeated these attacks.

We answered the Revue and the Journal in the Populaire of September 5...Here is a new attack, more lively still on the part of the same Revue, but our previous refutations authorize us to respond briefly.

Revue des Deux Mondes – In the issue of July 1842 M. Louis Reybaud examines “Communist Ideas and Sects.” But this examination appears to have nothing serious about it, nothing truly philosophical; for the writer misrepresents true communism, avoids the real question, and does nothing that is necessary to understand and appreciate a doctrine, a system adopted by too many eminent men for it to be permitted to not seriously examine it. A few quotations will suffice to justify what I have just written:

As is common, after having treated communism as a dream the author adds:

“They don’t content themselves with feeding these illusions; they try to impose them by force. They want to make the universe an accomplice in their delirium. It is perhaps on this level that the history of these vertigos is not without interest.”

No. We Icarian communists, as the author calls us, want to impose nothing, and we have said this too often for a critic to be permitted to ignore it.

“It is true that Plato said two thousand years ago, when speaking of his imaginary republic: ‘wherever it is realized or is to be realized it is necessary that wealth be held in common among citizens, and that the greatest care must be taken in cutting the very word ‘property’ off from the business of life. But Plato created an ideal and cast it out beyond the confines of the possible. He abandoned the real world to enter the world of fables.”

But doesn’t the quotation from Plato prove exactly the contrary, since he says:

“Wherever it is realized or is to be realized?”

“Plato opposed to the vices of a civilization existing in time the fiction of the marvels of a chimerical society. He used a plan for a society in order to end in a lesson in morality.”

Well, then! Even if our communism were nothing but a lesson in morality against the unquestionable vices of current civilization, would it not then deserve even more consideration?

“It can’t be said that the Community has never been attempted. It was several times. The Therapeutics and the Essenes left traces in history and imitators over the course of the centuries.”

In all good conscience, is this an argument worthy of a serious writer? Have there not been things vainly attempted a thousand times that were then attempted with success? It would be necessary to renounce representative government, the republic, universal peace, etc., so often and fruitlessly attempted. Today’s community and the present circumstances, are they the same as the community and the circumstances of old? Can our industrial and productive might be ignored? Our machines? Our railroads, etc, etc.?

“It seems to us that the spectacle of aborted efforts should have sufficed to turn contemporary minds, even the sickest ones, away from a pursuit so often recognized as vain. But such is not the case: man willingly plays the role of the insect who eternally burns himself on the same flame.”

So Galileo and Christopher Columbus, and Fulton and so many thousand others were nothing but insects! They eternally burned their wings by persevering in ideas that the world rejected as madness and that the world ended by adopting as benefits!

“Until now this equality, source of all happiness, has hardly ever shown itself except by sacrifices. It disposed of the individual like an automaton, abolished family relations by taking away children, suppressed arts and letters in the interest of the common ignorance.”

But this is precisely the contrary of what is seen in Icaria!

“We remember the incident of a communist trial where the editor-in-chief of an accused paper (l'Humanitaire) declared with naiveté that he didn’t know how to either read or write.”

But this is completely false! The defendant in question was not the editor in chief. And this is how philosophical criticism is done!

After having said that one of the communist sects prohibits the discussion of the principle of Community he gratuitously generalizes this fact and reasons as if all communists prohibit this discussion!

And he reasons, according to this supposition, that the communists want neither labor nor the development of human activity, culture or intelligence. But things are precisely the contrary in Icaria! How can one discuss with a critic who misrepresents all facts and speaks contrary to the truth?

M. Louis Reybaud, forgetting the mass of sects, journals, revues and systems that divide each party, mocks Communism for the diversity of its ideas.

“It would be difficult to say in what consist the nuances that divide the communists. Perhaps one should see there naught but a difference in names. Nevertheless, the Egalitaires, the Fraternitaires, the Humanitaires, the Unitaires, the Communitaires or Icariens, the Communists, the Comunionnistes, the Communautistes, and the Rationalistes are all cited.

But almost all of this is erroneous, imaginary, invented by the critic in an effort to ridicule (which is hardly philosophical). M. Louis Reybaud knows communism less well than M. Bastard de l'Estang who, in his Quenisset Report, divides the communists into two categories, the Icarians who adopt the family, and the editors of l'Humanitaire, who reject the family.

“Among the writings of our day that have presented themselves as the interpreters of Communist principles there are few that merit the honors of a refutation...Among the avowed Communists there figures the author of ‘A Voyage in Icaria'”

M. Louis Reybaud only speaks of this work, without citing any other, while M. Thore only uses others without speaking of it! Thus, M. Louis Reybaud, like M. Bastard de l'Estang consider “The Voyage in Icaria” as the principal interpreter of Communism!

But when M. Reybaud wants to give an idea of Icaria, he twists almost all the facts in order to have a pretext for mockery (as if it meant something that a writer obtained the facile merit of mocking something by twisting it!)

Nevertheless, despite the haughty tone he affects, if M. Louis Reybaud wants to seriously, honestly, and philosophically discuss the Icarian system, we would dare to push our temerity so far as to respond to all his arguments, and we are presumptuous enough to believe that we would answer in such a way as to convince him that he is ignorant of many things, and that in this case he is entirely wrong.

“In absolutely no Communist charter is there room for intellectual labor. Brute production and its physical needs despotically reign. Delicate creations, refined satisfactions only figure there in a subaltern position: they are not formally recognized. At the very best they are tolerated. Is this a situation which writers can recognize without failing their very dignity? Communism excludes letters, yet it finds in letters defenders and apologists.”

But this, too, is an error, a materially false affirmation! There is no system, NONE, which so cultivates and develops intelligence and thought as the Icarian system! And what kind of portrait has the author just drawn of WRITERS, of MEN OF LETTERS? Doesn’t he fear painting them as the very type of egoists and materialists?

He reasons as if the Community constitutes the despotism and enslavement of the individual. But it is precisely the contrary in Icaria, for we there see the sovereignty of the people, the most perfect democracy, universal suffrage for citizens who are completely free and whose existence is assured by their labor, and finally the participation of all in the making of laws, i.e., the most real of freedoms. To suppose the contrary about the community is to create at will a phantom in order to have the pleasure of more easily combating it!

The author says that M. Pierre Leroux is a Communist. All the better! We would be happy to see him at the head of the Communists!

He reproaches him for his denial, and addresses these remarkable words to him:

“In truth, it is difficult to understand why M. Pierre Leroux thus retreats before his own ideas. The theoretical discussion of the Community offers no dangers. The principle can be openly confessed, and every day this is freely done. The conscience is not enchained by this point, and it doesn’t seem that persecution has attached itself to purely speculative doctrines. If this right, maintained in almost all times, were to be seriously threatened, there is not a single independent pen that wouldn’t be ready to defend it.”

We make note of this important avowal on the part of a governmental writer.

September 25, 1842

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin - Out In The North Adamsville Jukebox Saturday Night

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube Film clip of Ben E. King performing Spanish Harlem.

A while back I was on a tear hunting down every old but goodie, 1950s and 1960s versions if you please, rock and roll compilation, set, 45 RPM record (look that up if you don’t know, look it up on Wikipedia if you are in a hurry) that was not nailed down to some musty, dusty attic floor. Reason? Who knows the reason except this: I, seemingly, have endlessly gone back to my early musical roots. Maybe the earliest that I could call my own, be-bop rock and roll (not that Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Kay Starr, Inkspots stuff, jesus no, that got my parents’ generation through the Great Depression [1930s variety] and World War II although that was endlessly heard wafting through the teenage house). While time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes (who, for example, really wants to remember Gene Pitney’s Town Without Pity, that I played endlessly on girl-less Saturday nights) it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-62, really did form the musical jail break-out for my generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune into music.

And we had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that Zeitgeist today might say, our own sub-group cultural expression. I have already talked elsewhere about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered, naturally, “coffin nail” ready, usually Luckies but on occasion Camels) hanging from the lips, Coke, big-sized glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. And about the pizza parlor juke box coin devouring, playing some “hot” song for the nth time that night, hold the onions I might get lucky tonight, dreamy girl might come in the door thing. Of course, the soda fountain, and…ditto, dreamy girl coming through the door thing, merely to share a sundae, please. And, finally, the same for the teen dance club, keep the kids off the streets even if we parents hate their damn rock music, with the now eternal hope dreamy girl coming in the door, save the last dance for me thing.

Whee! That’s maybe enough memory lane stuff for a lifetime, especially for those with weak hearts. But, no, your intrepid messenger feels the need to go back again and take a little different look at that be-bop jukebox Saturday night scene as it unfolded in the early 1960s. Hey, you could have found the old jukebox in lots of places in those days, bowling alleys, drugstores, pizza parlors, drive-in restaurants, and maybe at the daytime beach, if you lived near a beach. I remember on such beach place called, surprise, surprise the Surf Club that catered to summer vacation teens during the day and doubled as a no teens, no goddamn teens allowed, hot spot nightclub for be-bop hipsters (really faux hipster by then), motorcycle daddies with their mamas (or somebody’s mama) on back, and your average just that moment at large hood. But all this jukebox seeking by pimply teen or chain-wielding biker was done while boy or girl watching. So juke heaven was basically any place where kids (and those oldsters just mentioned as well) were hot for some special song and wanted to play it until the cows came home. And had the coins to satisfy their hunger.

Funny, a lot of hanging around the jukes was to kill time waiting for this or that, although the basic reason was that these were all places where you could show off your stuff, and maybe, strike up a conversation with someone who attracted your attention after you had sized them up as they came in the door. I remember one time at this all the kids in town after school afternoon hang-out diner waiting for Cokes and burgers this dreamy girl waiting for her platters (records, okay, again check Wikipedia if you are lost) to work their way up the mechanism that took them from the stack and laid them out on the player. And this tee-shirted sullen guy, me (could have been you though, right?), just hanging around the machine waiting for just such a well-shaped brunette (or blond, but I favored brunettes in those days) to show up, maybe chatting idly for what might be worth at least a date (or, more often, a telephone number to call). Okay, I got the number that time but get this. Don’t call after nine at night though or before eight because those were times when she was talking to her boyfriend. Scratch that one. Lucky guy he, maybe.

But here is where the real jukes skill came in, and where that white-tee-shirted guy just mentioned seemed to be in his element, although a million guys have stories about how they worked this one. You started out just hanging casually around the old box, especially on a no, or low, dough day waiting on a twist (slang for girl in our old working- class neighborhood) to come by and put her quarter in (giving three or five selections depending what kind of place the jukebox was located in) talking, usually to girlfriends, as she made those selections. Usually the first couple were easy, some old boyfriend memory, or some wistful tryst remembrance, but then she got contemplative, or fidgety, over what to pick next.

Then you made your move-“Have you heard Spanish Harlem?. NO! Well, you just have to hear that thing and it will cheer you right up. Or some such line. Of course, you wanted to hear the damn thing. But see, a song like that (as opposed to Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Rock and Roller, let’s say) showed you were a sensitive guy, and maybe worth talking to... for just a minute, I got to get back to my girlfriends, etc., etc. Oh, jukebox you baby. And guess what. Sometimes it actually worked. Beautiful.

Now that I am at a great remove from jukes I can give you my basic spiel playlist well worked out during those periods when things were slow and I really was killing time. Here’s the list and there are some stick outs that might work today and others, well remember the fate of Gene Pitney and his damn town without pity because you know it’s tough out there on those mean streets.

I have added a few that worked some of that “magic” just mentioned above on tough nights too: 1) My Boyfriend's Back - The Angels (in honor of the shapely brunette above with the boyfriend with the telephone ear); 2) Nadine (Is It You?) (only use if the “target” looks like a little rock and roller and if you have a strong enough heart to stand the rejection when she turns you over in a week or so for the next best thing) - Chuck Berry; 3)Spanish Harlem - Ben E. King (only if you can do the “sensitive” guy thing otherwise save this one for the last dance for that girl you have been getting sore eyes over all night) ; 4)Come & Get These Memories (strictly for known Motown heads) - Martha & the Vandellas; 5)Perfidia (for smart girls who might even know what this word means) - The Ventures; 6)Lover's Island (figure this one out yourselves but think beach and starlight nights)- The Blue Jays; 7)Playboy (not for the “girl next door” types, please) - The Marvelettes; 8)Little Latin Lupe Lu (strictly for be-bop girls, girls with many quarters) - The Righteous Brothers; 9)It's Gonna Work Out Fine (backseat Saturday night, okay) - Ike & Tina Turner; 10)When We Get Married ( for dreamy girls-without boyfriends)- The Dreamlovers; 11)The One Who Really Loves You ( ditto the “sensitive guy” thing)- Mary Wells; 12)Little Diane ( for the “girl next door”) - Dion; 13)Dear Lady Twist ( strictly friends, except…)- Gary "U.S." Bonds; 14); Heartaches (“recovering” girls) - The Marcels; 15)Feel So Fine (Feel So Good)( back to Mr. Sensitive, you had better learn that approach)- Johnny Preston; 16) If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody (please, please, James Brown, please) - James Ray; 17)All in My Mind (for girly girls)- Maxine Brown; 18)Maybe I Know ( strictly for telephone number givers)- Lesley Gore; 19)Heart & Soul (you have it, Mr. Sensitive, don you see a pattern here) - The Cleftones; 20)Peanut Butter (goofy tough night girls)- The Marathons; 21)I Count the Tears (Mr. Sen…need I say more) - The Drifters; 22)Everybody Loves a Lover (for the girls with telephone boyfriends)- The Shirelles. There it is all laid out for you- Good luck.

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Johnny Shea’s Femme Fatale Moment

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the classic femme fatale film Out Of The Past to set the scene below.

Jim Sweeney was a great fan of 1940s and 1950s film noir, especially those that featured enticing femme fatales who knew, without lifting a finger sometimes, how to twist a guy in knots and make him like it without working up a hard breathe. He had been crazy for noir since he was kid growing up in 1950s Nashua, New Hampshire where he would go to the old Strand Theater (long since torn down) on Main Street every Saturday afternoon, sometimes with his boys, sometimes alone, although then he didn’t know femme fatale or film noir words from a hole in the wall. What he did know, and maybe only sub-consciously as he thought about it later when he discussed the issue with those same boys, was that dames, those femmes on the screen anyway, were poison, but what was a guy going to do when he drew that ticket. Take the ride, see what happened, and hope you drew a good femme.

Yes, Jim was a dreamer, a weaver of dreams, a sunny side of life guy, and that was why Billy Riley was surprised when he told him this story about Johnny Shea a few years ago, a guy Jim said put him in the shade for being crazy about femme fatales, and a guy who did not by any stretch of the imagination draw a good femme. Funny, Jim said, that back in the neighborhood corner boy young days, the days of hanging out in front of Joyce’s Variety Store over on Third Street in the Irishtown section of town down by the Merrimac River, Johnny would walk away when anybody spoke of what he called those mushy noir films. His thing was the sci-fi thrillers that scared everybody out of their wits thinking the commies or some awful thing from outer space, or both, was headed straight for Nashua, and would leave no survivors. It was only later, sometime in the 1980s when Johnny was down on his luck a little and happened to spend a spare afternoon on 42nd Street in New York City in the Bijou Theater where they played revival films, that he got “religion.” The film: Humphrey Bogart played his Sam Spade heart out to nefarious Mary Astor’s Bridget O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon and the rest was history.

Billy got to thinking about Jim’s story again recently as he had periodically whenever the subject of noir came to the surface. He was watching a film noir, Impact, a strictly B-noir as far as the story line went, but with a femme worthy of the greats like sultry Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or coolly calculating Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shang-hai. This Irene (played by Helen Walker) was nothing but a young gold-digger, strictly from cheap street, but she had a plan to murder her rich husband, some San Francisco swell, and run off with her boyfriend after he did dear hubby in. A scheme just like many dames have cooked up ever since Adam and Eve, maybe before.

Well things didn’t work out as planned, boyfriend (who acted like a hopped up junkie while he was on screen and may explain why things went awry) didn’t finish the job so hubby didn’t die but was just left in some sierra gully to croak, boyfriend carelessly got himself killed in an accident trying to flee the scene, hubby put two and two together finally when he woke up in that ditch and instead of heading back to ‘Frisco then tried to start a new anonymous life. Meanwhile sweet poison Irene was being held for his murder. She was all set to take the fall, to take the big stretch when, prodded by so “good” woman out in Podunk who had entered hubby’s new life, he decided to come clean. Our Irene then in a reverse twist framed, framed hubby big time, for the murder of her boyfriend. Beautiful.

That is why Billy always said that he would listen to a femme tale any time one passed his way. He only asked that the teller make it interesting and not too goofy. See goofy in Billy’s book was just like a million guys get with any dame under any circumstances. He only wanted to hear about guys; hard-nosed guys like Johnny Shea who had been around the block with a frail and lived to tell about it, and who got all tied up in knots about it and were ready to ask for more. Here is how Billy remembered Jim telling him his Johnny Shea story, maybe a little off after passing though double hearsay as they say in the courts but certainly with the ring of truth around it :

“He, Johnny Shea, Johnny Jukes, from the old neighborhood up in Nashua, was on record, maybe not a swear on the bible take it to court under oath type record but on record, as being very much enthralled by the bad femme fatales of film noir [of course now from a safe cinematic distance ]. Funny as a kid Johnny would go off the deep end when I mentioned some such film and walk away while I was telling the “lesson” I learned about women and life from a show I had seen at the Saturday matinee. But back in the 1980s when he would show up in the old town every now and then and gather the old corner boys around him he would go on and on about how, let’s say, Jane Greer in Out Of The Past off-handedly shot her kept man, Kirk Douglas (or did he keep her, a matter very much in dispute), then put a bullet or six in some snooping sleuth who crowded her just a little and for lunch, just for kicks, turned the tables on a guy, Robert Mitchum, a stray slightly off-center guy built to handle rough stuff if necessary who thought maybe he could help her out of a jam after he got a look at her and a whiff of that gardenia perfume or whatever she was wearing that made him crazy. Johnny would especially go into detail about how hefty Mitchum would sit around drinking in some dusty desolate cantina down in Mexico, maybe, Tampico, maybe Cuernavaca, he forgot, and who was putty in dear Jane’s hands when she walked through the cantina door. Yes, she was a stone-cold killer, blood simple they call it in some quarters, and Johnny couldn’t get enough of her.

On an off day, or when Johnny got tired of telling, and we got tired of listening, about some newly discovered move Jane put on after watching that film for the fifteenth time, he would go on and on about glamorous, 1940s glamorous (although maybe eternal glamorous when you look at her pin-up pictures even today) Rita Hayworth as she framed, framed big time, one Orson Welles in The Lady From Shang-hai just because his was a little smitten with her after smelling that come hither fragrance. She wanted the dough, all of it, from a rich crabby lawyer hubby and she wanted old Orson to work his shoot-out magic for her. Hubby dead and they off to spend the dough in some foreign port, maybe in Asia. Orson bought into the scheme, bought into scheme right up to his neck, and all the time she was setting him up for the gallows, soaping the rope as she went along. Old Orson just saved his neck in time, as happens sometimes in these things, but it was a close thing, and he would always wonder, wonder if he had played things a little differently that maybe they could have found some island some place. Yes, old Orson had it bad, bad as a man can have it for a woman. Damn that damn scent.

On other days Johnny might switch up and talk about good femmes, with kind of soft whisper, a soft forlorn whisper, like when his eyes would light up when he spoke of Lauren Bacall and about how she, rich girl she, with a doped-up, wayward, sex addled sister, tried to work both sides of the street in The Big Sleep. She soldiered for bad guy Eddie Miles for a while but when the deal went down she hungered for old Bogie (playing the classic noir detective Philip Marlowe) and switched up on old Eddie, switched him up bad which tells you even good femmes bear watching your back on. I could go on and on but you get the drift. Johnny was living something out in those films. But here is the clincher, Johnny’s wisdom about the bad femmes, which he never failed to bring up at the end of his spiel. He would say-“Yah, but see these guys had it coming because they went in with their eyes open, took their chances and took the fall, took the fall big time. And maybe in some deep recess of their minds, maybe like John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice, they smiled, and would have done it the same way if they that never to be had second chance to do it over.” Pure sweet Johnny Jukes wisdom.

Like I said Johnny, whatever femme film plot line he was thinking of, always came back to that question in the end, the question of questions, the part about a guy taking a beating, taking it hard, and then coming back for more when the femme purred in his ear, or swayed some flash dress into the room or he smelled even a whiff, hell, a half whiff of that damn perfume which let him know she was coming. That part, that doing it again part, always got to Johnny. And this was no academic question, no noir theory, and no clever plotline about the vagaries of human experience, about how low you can go and still breathe. See Johnny had been there, had seen it all, and done it all and so he was haunted forever after about whether if she came through the door again, passed him on some haunted street again, drove by in some flash car again, he would also do it exactly like it was done before. Hell, enough of beating around the bush, let Johnny tell it the way he finally spilled one night up in Nashua after we had had a few, he was feeling a little low, and had his old time corner boys around him, and then you decide.

“I not saying Rosa, Rosa Lebron, was as hot as Jane Greer or Rita Hayworth, no way but she had her moments, her moments with me when she might as well have been one of those dames. I am not going to say exactly where we meet, or exactly under what circumstances, but it all came together down in sunny Mexico, down Sonora way back in the late 1970s when I was doing a little of this and a little of that in the drug trade. That will give you the idea why I want to be vague about my meeting up with Rosa, okay. This, by the way, was before it got real crazy down there a few years back with a murder a minute, some of it gang-related, some just pure batos locos craziness from the drugs and the dough. All hell craziness when some busted gabacho deal winds up exploding some whole dusty, dirty little bracero town, although even back then it was always a tight thing when you dealt with the Mexicans, and when you dealt with dope. Period. Sometime when I don’t want to talk about femmes I will tell you some back road, dusty trail stuff that will curl the hairs on the back of your neck and that was when things were “cooled out.” But back to Rosa.

See Rosa ‘s older brother, hey, let’s call him Pedro alright just to be on the safe side and just because it doesn’t matter what his name was as long as you remember this is about Rosa and her ways, was a primo “distributor” down Sonora way, mainly marijuana (or herb, ice, ganga, rope, hemp, or whatever you call it in your neighborhood) but as time went on cocaine (ditto on what you call it in your town, snow, little sister, girl), but a guy on his way up in the cartel, no question. That was when a little smarts, street smarts like a lot of Mexican kids had, and a little English which most didn’t, got you pretty far when the vast bulk of the trade was heading norte. So Pedro was no stinking little bracero always staring at you, staring through you really, looking like he would cut your throat for a dollar and change. I met Pedro through mutual business contacts in a New York City bar one night and that got us started on our business, our “nuestra cosa .”

One time Rosa came up with him and at first I thought she was his girlfriend because they seemed very close. Now Pedro wasn’t a bad looking guy but I didn’t figure he could have such a fox for a girlfriend, you know all dark skin, nice shape, black as night hair, dancing black eyes AND some scent some mystic Aztec, mestizo, conquistador, ten thousand year scent that distracted me from the minute she clasped my hand. (I found out later from her that it was made from some Mexican cactus flowers, I forget the name but I will never forget that scent, that first time, never). Let me put it this way and maybe you can look it up and get a photo to see what I mean she looked like that Mexican artist everybody talks about, that Frida Kahlo, the one that was married to the painter Diego Riviera, the dish with the one eyebrow, except Rosa had two. When you see that picture and think what that dame did to big time guys like Riviera and Leon Trotsky, the big Bolshevik revolutionary who went daffy over her, then you get an idea what Rosa was like. So when Pablo introduced me to Rosa as his sister I was relieved. Especially after she threw (there is no other word for it) those laughing Spanish eyes at me. She had me, had me bad from that moment.

I didn’t see her for a while, maybe a couple of months, although Pedro and I were doing a regular series of business transactions. Then, maybe it was late 1979 or so, I got a call from him to come down to Sonora for what he called a big deal. I showed up at the designated cantina, La Noche, on the main strip, a dusty old place then, maybe now too for all I know. And there was Rosa, all Rosa-like, dark, Spanish, those eyes, the fragrance, and dressed very elegantly in a very fashionable dress (so she told me later). She was the bait. And I bite. Pedro never showed that night, and it didn’t matter as Rosa and I drank high- shelf tequila (my first time, and like scotch and other whiskies there are gradations of tequila too), danced (even with my two left feet it didn’t seem to matter), and wound up at her casa (room). The rest of the night you can figure out on your own. What matters is the next morning, early; after I took a shower and was lying on her bed she asked me if I couldn’t do Pedro a favor. The favor: go to Columbia and bring back a load (twenty kilos, forty pounds) of little sister. In those days Pedro’s cartel was testing the route and having a friendly Norte Americano do the run, which at the time would have been unusual and would have faked out the cops, was seen as the best way to iron out the wrinkles. And, well, Rosa would go along too. Sold.

The first trip, and several after, was actually uneventful. Back and forth, sometimes with Rosa sometimes with another female “mule.” After a few months, maybe six, Rosa came up to my hotel room in Sonora one night crying, crying like crazy. She told me that she was being harassed and beaten by Pedro because he had started to “use” some of the product and would get all crazy and lash out at whoever was around. She also said he wasn’t all that crazy now about have a goddam gringo around now that things were already set up and that maybe it was time to terminate my contract. The clincher though was when she said right then and there she said she had to get out, get out before she was maybe killed by Pedro, or one of his thugs on his orders.

Maybe it was the tears, maybe it was that scent that always threw me off or maybe now that I knew the score it was flat- out fear that I would be found face down in some Sonora back alley waiting for some consulate officer to ship my remains back home but I listened to what Rosa proposed. The next shipment was our salvation; the forty of fifty pound of girl would get us a long way from Mexico and far enough away from Pedro that we could start our own lives. It sounded good, real good. The idea was to go to Columbia but instead of heading back to Mexico head to Panama, unload the dope in a new market, then catch a freighter to, to wherever, some island maybe. I was in, in all the way.

And it worked, worked beautifully. For Rosa. See here is how the deal really went down. We got the dope in Columbia okay, no problema as usual. And we did head to Panama and made the transaction there. Again no problema. Something like a quarter million in cash in the proverbial suitcase. Easy street. We were to catch a freighter, some Liberian-registered tanker, headed for Africa the next morning. That night Rosa insisted that we celebrate our “liberation” with some high-shelf tequila in honor of our success and remembrance of our first night together. We drank and made love like it was our last night on earth. And that was the last I saw of Rosa Lebron. The last of her but not quite of the story. After being drunk as a skunk and worn to a frazzle by our love-making (maybe drugged too, I don’t know) I was practically unconscious. The next morning when I awoke Rosa was gone. I frantically looked for her, checking every place including the tanker that we were supposed to take through the Canal. They had no reservations (under our aliases) for any gringo or senorita. No reservations for passengers at all. That’s when I started to panic (and to put two and two together). I couldn’t go back to (a) Columbia or (b) Mexico so I headed back to New York City on the sly. After a while I finally put the pieces together (or rather they got put together for me).

First Rosa was not Pedro’s sister but just part of his organization, his brother Pablo’s ex-girlfriend. It was Pedro who had put Rosa up to setting me up on that last transaction because he was feeling constrained by the cartel he was linked to and wanted to go out on his own. The quarter million (minus Rosa’s cut) would set him up just fine. The problem was that she ran out on Pedro too. It was Pedro (and you can read about it in the Mexican newspaper of the time when such incidents were fairly rare, unlike now) who wound up face down in that Sonora back alley for his lack of cartel spirit, twelve bullet holes in him. And Rosa? Nowhere to be found. Except here is the funny part, although I am not laughing, Pablo, Pedro’s brother and Rosa’s supposed ex-boyfriend was last seen in Sonora the day Rosa and I left for Columbia on that last easy street transaction. Yah, I was a chump but if you see her, her and her dancing eyes and that damn cactus flower fragrance, tell her I said hello. And tell her to remember that night she danced the dance of the seven veils for me because I sure do.”

[Jesus, this is a no-brainer. Of course our boy Johnny would do it over again. Just like that. Take it easy on the tequila next time though that stuff will kill you Johnny. Christ after hearing that story I might take a run at Rosa and that fragrance myself and I only like to watch femmes from the comfort of my living room or local theater-JLB]