Saturday, October 20, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- From The "Ancient Dreams, Dreamed" Sketches-Hard Times In Babylon

One night, one early 2007 night, Peter Paul was in a pensive mood. He had just written, half-tear written for lost youth and fallen youth comrade a personal commentary about a childhood friend, Kenny Callahan, from back in the old neighborhood in North Adamsville where he grew up in the 1950s and who had passed away some time before. He had also at that time been re-reading the then recently deceased investigative journalist David Halberstam’s book, "The Fifties," that covered that same basic period of his teary remembrance. Strangely Halberstam’s take on the trends of the period, in contrast to the reality of his own childhood experiences as a child of the working poor that missed most of the benefits of that ‘golden age,’ rekindled some memories, a few painful.


It was no exaggeration to say that those were hard times in Babylon for the Markin family (or the Breslin family either up in textile mills-dependent Olde Saco, Maine). Not so much for individual lacks like a steady (and reliable) family car in order to break out of the cramped quarters, house on house, where he lived once in a while. Or the inevitable hand-me-down clothes (all the way through high school, almost), or worst the Bargain Center bargains that were no bargains (the local “Wal-Mart” of the day to give you an idea of what he meant). Or even, for that matter, the always house coldness in winter (in order to save on precious fuel even in those cheap-priced heating oil times) and hotness in summer (ditto, to save on electricity so no A/C, or fans).


Those, and other such lacks, he noted, all had their place in the poor man’s pantheon of hurts and lacks, no question. That was not the worst of it though, not by a long shot when he thought back on those red scare cold war times (but what knew he then of such connections). No, what, in the end, make things turn out  badly for him and his kind, was  the sense of defeat that  hung, hung heavily and almost daily over the household, the street, the neighborhood at a time when others, visibly and not so far away, were getting ahead. 


Some sociologist, some academic sociologist, for, sure, would call such a phenomenon the death of “rising expectations.” And for once they would be right, or at least on the right track. Thinking back on those times had also made him reflect on how the hard anti-communist politics of the period, the “red scare” had left people like his parents high and dry, although they were as prone to support those repressive governmental policies, as reflex action if nothing else, as any American Legion denizen. Moreover the defeat and destruction of the left-wing movement then, principally the pro-communist organizations of that period, has continued to leave a mark, and a gaping vacuum, on today’s political landscape, and on him.


There are many myths about the 1950’s to be sure, some media-driven, some simply misty time-driven. However, one cannot deny that the key public myth was that those who had fought World War II and were afterwards enlisted in the anti-Soviet Cold War fight against communism, gladly or kicking and screaming, were entitled to some breaks. The overwhelming desire for personal security and comfort on the part of those who had survived the Great Depression and fought the war (World War II just so there is no question about which in the long line of American wars we are talking about) was not therefore totally irrational. That it came at the expense of other things like a more just and equitable society is a separate matter. Moreover, despite the public myth not everyone benefited from the ‘rising tide.' The experience of Peter Pauls parents is proof of that. Thus this commentary is really about what happened to those, like his parents, who did not make it and were left to their personal fates without a rudder to get them through the rough spots. Yes, his parents (and mine) were of the now much ballyhooed and misnamed ‘greatest generation’ but they were not in it.


Peter Paul did not want to go through all the details of his parents’ childhoods, courtship and marriage for such biographic details of the Great Depression and World War II were (and are) plentiful and theirs fit the pattern. (Moreover, he was uneasily aware that he did not know, know for sure, many of the specific details like where they first met and stuff like that.) One detail is, however, important and that is that his father grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, Hazard, near Harlan County to be exact, coal mining country made famous in song and story and by Michael Harrington in his 1960s book The Other America. This was, and is, hardscrabble country by any definition. Among whites these “hillbillies” were the poorest of the poor. There can be little wonder, he emphasized (and made a little joke about it too, about his father telling him between the Pacific War bloodbath and the mines he took his chances with the former) that when World War II began his father left the mines to join the Marines, did his fair share of fighting in the Pacific, settled in the Boston area and never looked back.


By all rights Peter Paul’s father should have been able to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and have enjoyed home and hearth like the denizens of Levittown (New York and elsewhere) described in Halberstam’s book and shown on such classic 1950s television shows as Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It To Beaver. But life did not go that way, not at all.


Why? He had virtually no formal education. Furthermore he had no marketable skills usable in the Boston labor market. There was (and is) no call for coal-miners there. And moreover he had three young sons born close together in the immediate post-war period. Peter related that his father was a good man. He was a hard-working man; when he was able find work. He was an upright man. But he never drew a break. Unskilled labor, to which he was reduced, is notoriously unstable, and so his work life was one of barely making ends meet. Thus, well before the age when the two-parent working family became the necessary standard to get ahead, his mother had gone to work to supplement the family income. She too was an unskilled laborer. Thus, even with two people working they were always “dirt poor.” I have already run through enough of the litany of lacks to give an idea of what dirt poor meant in those hard times so we need not retrace those steps as they apply to the Markin family...


That little family started life in the Adamsville housing projects, at that time not the notorious hell-holes of crime and deprivation that they later became but still a mark of being low, very low, on the social ladder at a time when others were heading to the Valhalla of the newly emerging suburbs. By clawing and scratching his parents had eventually saved enough money to buy an extremely modest single-family house. Hell, Peter blurted out to me while relating this part, why pussyfoot about it, a shack. The house, moreover, was in a neighborhood that was, and is, one of those old working class neighborhoods where the houses are small, cramped, and seedy, the leavings of those who have moved on to bigger and better things. The neighborhood nevertheless reflected the desire of the working poor in the 1950’s, his parents and others, to own their own homes and not be shunted off into decrepit apartments or dilapidated housing projects, the fate of those just below them on the social ladder.


But suddenly Peter Paul turned to me to said enough of all that. He was finished, or as finished with the details as he was going to be. Where in this story though is there a place for militant left-wing political class-consciousness to break the trap? Not in an understanding of the sense of social inferiority of the poor before the rich (or the merely middle class). Damn, there was plenty of that kind of consciousness in his house (and painfully mine as well). A phrase from the time, and maybe today although I don’t hear it much, said it all “keeping up with the Jones.’” Or else. But where was there an avenue in the 1950’s, when it could have made a difference, for a man like Peter’s father to have his hurts explained and have something done about them?


Nowhere, nada nunca nada. So instead it went internally into the life of the family and it never got resolved. One of his sons, my friend Peter Paul, has had “luxury” of being able to fight essentially exemplary propaganda battles in small left-wing socialist circles and felt he has done good work in his life. His father’s hurts needed much more. The "red scare" aimed mainly against the American Communist Party but affecting wider layers of society decimated any possibility that he could get the kind of redress he needed. That dear reader, in a nutshell, is why Peter Paul made a point, made a big point, as we ended our talk of saying that he proudly bore the name communist today. And the task for him today? To insure that future young workers, unlike his parents in the 1950’s, will have their day of justice. Good luck, Peter Paul.


From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-The Golden Age Of The Automobile, Circa 1954

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Big Joe Turner performing Shake, Rattle and Roll.

CD Review

The Rock and Roll Era: 1954-55, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1988

Joey Parker was several years older than me, maybe ten, but that didn’t stop him from letting me hang around his “garage” and watch him turn some stumble-bum wreck of an automobile that had been scrapped off some back road after some midnight “chicken run” into a vehicle worthy of a king. Worthy that is if what you wanted was speed and chicken runs and were not worried like a lot of older guys about the thing being “girl ready,” especially girl back seat ready. Then you went over to Bill’s Esso and got the thing all dolled up, amped up and perfumed up, I guess. Then all I cared about was Joey turning his wreak into speed.

Now in case you don’t know, and maybe thought I was some juvenile delinquent-in waiting, ready at age ten to plot out robberies and other mayhems in order to get my own fixed up wreak when my time came the reason I was hanging Joey’s garage was that it was located down the end of our family’s street over in the Acre in Olde Saco up in Maine and when thing s got tough at home with Ma mainly then I headed to Joey’s to cool out. Sometimes we would run around town but mainly I just hung out there with a couple of other guys my age who also had the Ma problem.

We did that for a few years until we had to start worrying about girls rather some wreaked cars but the best years were the first couple when Joey would let us watch, maybe let us hand him some tool and also let us listen to the forbidden (Ma forbidden) local radio station, WMEX, that he had on constantly. The local rock and roll radio station (although at first we did not know that term but we sure as hell knew the bounce of the music). Now around the house Ma and Dad were strictly tuned into WJDA and the old fogey World War II stuff like Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee and Frank (yes, that Frank) that drove me up a wall even before I hit on Joey’s WMEX.

I remember the first, maybe the second time Joey let me hang around (it was done mainly, as it was with the other guys, by him not saying to get lost). For some reason he did not have the radio on that morning before he started working on some 1954 Pontiac that had gotten mashed going 110 MPH over on Gorham Road in Scarborough. Once he got going though the radio came on, and not just came on but be-bop max daddy came on. I listened, listened intently swaying to the big sax beat I was crazy for then. I said who was that.

Joey. He said some n----r (it was the ‘50s remember and all hell was breaking loose down South if not in the North then but the “n” word was common enough) named Big Joe Turner and the song was called Shake, Rattle and Roll. He said Elvis had just done a version of the song much better than that. Get this though Joey might have been the Zen master of the universe with some grease in his hands but when I listened to Elvis’ version later I thought no way. To each master his own sway.

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- From The "Ancient Dreams, Dreamed" Sketches-No More Defeats

Desperately clutching his new white flags, his new millennium embossed white flags, linen white, exchanged years ago for bloodied red ones. White flags proudly worn for a while now, he wipes his brow of the sweat accumulated from the fear he has been living with for the past few months. A fear that some old thought truce would not hold, that he would mercilessly be called to account. He, still rubber tire around the middle, he brown turning grey turning to white, he comfortable with an off-hand jabbing session and back room talk about old time exploits and when guys were really tough. And about how he could stand toe to toe with the best of them (forgetting to mention, “for a while”). Talk, all talk. But signs portended some danger, some confrontation, some one more beating, and maybe some real damage this time. To his almighty soul condition if nothing else.

His old time opponent, a few pounds heavily, a few tricks wiser after a fistful of fights, a more checkered record than when they first did battle where that big brawny young flash mopped the floor up with him, without a sweat, in two rounds had dusted off the old moth-eaten contract. The old option contract that called for a rematch at either party’s beck and call. No expiration date given. He could see the wheels working in that now slower opponent’s mind. His manager’s really. Hell, he had done the same thing himself on the way up. Use him for a dust mop and then back to the “bigs.” Damn that option, damn that contract, damn that Sam for making him sign the damn thing even though right after the previous match, brains egg-scrambled, he had yelled out rematch, anytime, anyway.

Nothing to do but get ready, get a little, a very little, of that rubber tire off the middle, and learn to back up to the ropes fast, jack lightning fast. Hell, he chuckled, that was the easy part. The big event came and his ancient arms folded, hard-folded against the rainless night, raining, he carefully turned right, left, careful of every move as the crowd comes forward. He eyed their murderous eyes, money in hand, “smart” money as always on the younger, faster man, more a matter of rounds than victories, but murderous eyes, aflame with an easy victory. Glory days be damned the guy in front of him looked plenty tough still.

After the ritualistic formalities were over the bell rang-go to it, boys. The first round begins. He holds his own, like he had always done in every fight (never knocked out in the first round, ever, a source of pride, drink in hand barroom, pride) a little wobbly, a little rubber tire around the middle wobbly, but moving in and out to avoid the bigger man’s still fearsome blows. Hell, after all these years the guy is not even that winded. A memory from the first match flashes before him. It was like a phalanx of something driving him to the ground, or about six corner boys from his youth, his sullen youth when six guys decided that he was, what? Mush? A fag? Stupid? Those guys didn’t know nothing .Second round he runs into a series of upper-cuts that drive him to the floor. He stagger on his knees and then up on the eight count. But he notices that the blows were not as fearsome as of old and his opponent shows just a hint of fatigue around his eyes. Another barrage. Down. Back up again on nine. Close. The bell rings. He has survived two rounds. Some “smart” money is not going to be happy this night, no way.

Third round. He faces another barrage, rights then lefts. He wobbles, knees akimbo, if that is possible and after this mauling it probably is. He hits the floor. Face down, stay down. You have proved your point, go collect your dough. Once again, as if on call, a distant muted echo hits his brain, his egg- scrambled brain, don’t give up the fight. He is ready this time though, smart, maybe not ring smart but life smart now. Tomorrow is another day. Hell, there are always other days. If not me then some young hungry guy, some barrio guy, some ghetto guy, hell, maybe both. His brain says… Out.

As he lays on the cooling board locker room gurney he remember old Sam, damn, money-fisted old Sam, and what he said before that last fight. Or was it some other guy. Well, some old guy, met, or guys like him, met long ago said going into the damn fight and I quote, he said struggle, struggle. Yah, it was easy for you to say, buddy. You didn’t have to go three rounds with the guy. Jesus he never let up even with those fatigued eyes. Give me those damn white flags, jesus.

Funny though he noticed as he was carried out to the locker room that white flags, or not, the crowd, not a crowd, no, a horde, a beastly horde, was sullen, not like the old days when they would sent up a Bronx cheer. This was no time to stick out with white flags (or bloodied red ones, for that matter).

Later, dressed, white flags placed in back pockets, he jumped out of the way of the hordes passing through the doors after the feature fight, the horde passing brushing him lightly, not aware, not apparently aware of the white flags. Good. What did that other guy, that old guy say, say, oh yes, struggle.

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-From The "Ancient Dreams, Dreamed" Sketches-No More Retreats?

Who knows when the ebb starts, that start to the be-bop king hell king slide down, the question of when the struggle for the top, for being top dog, for being top dog among you and yours, turns from kid (well young man anyway) great blue-pink cloud puff nights to sober star-filled wonders about immorality, your place in the sun, whether it will happen and whether you have enough wherewithal to stand the gaff, the grift, or just the drift toward the infinite. More importantly when the “this and that” of life, the ordinary muck, always present, always damn present from the cradle, takes over.

Let’s put it like this, okay. That minute when you call an armed truce (no, a thousand times no don’t say surrender, please, be like Bob Marley, stand up, stand up, stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight), to that thing that in 1960 got you running the streets, got you running into Park Street and massive scorn, or some hard stir time courtesy of Uncle Sam, or crushed beneath the May Day red tide. (Ya, Bob had it right, don’t give up the fight.) When you didn’t retire exactly but just kind of ran out of opponents who were ready to beat you down on their way up and of sparring partners, rubber tube around the middle just like you, who decided to take up gardening or whatever third-rate guys do when they move on, move uptown as you always said. But one last call calls. And this…

White truce flags neatly placed in right pocket. Well placed in that right hand pocket in order, right-handed man, pocket ready to call a, uh, strategic retreat from this day’s errands at the drop of that handkerchief, an orderly retreat but a retreat, one of many, nevertheless. Then folded aging arms showing the first signs of wear-down, unfolded. One more time, one more war-weary dastardly fight against the feckless oil-driven times.

This time a mismatch, a mismatch based a little on that rubber tire around the middle, a little greyness in the hair , a little white in the beard, a little ache here and a pain there, once brushed off , and forward in day but now, weeks ache, and months pains. The bigger opponent, mighty muscled, sleek, stealthy, lots of money backing him, the “smart” money, no question. But he had contracted for this one fight, take whatever comes and then, and then the joys of retreat and taking out those white flags again and normalcy.

The first round begins. He holds his own, a little wobbly, a little rubber tire around the middle wobbly, but moving in and out to avoid the bigger man’s fearsome blows. Hell the guy is not even winded. Damn it’s like a phalanx of something driving him to the ground, or about six corner boys from his youth, his sullen youth when six guys decided that he was, what? Mush? A fag? Stupid? Second round he runs into a series of upper-cuts that drive him to the floor. He stagger on his knees and then up on the eight count. Another barrage. Back up again on nine. Close. Then another. He wobbles, knees akimbo, if that is possible and after this mauling it probably is. Face down, stay down. A distant muted echo hits his brain, his egg- scrambled brain, don’t give up the fight. Nah, tomorrow is another day. Hell, there are always other days. If not me then some young hungry guy, some barrio guy, some ghetto guy, hell, maybe both. His brain says… Out. He ran right out of time, Christ.

Awake later, seven minutes, hours, eons later he takes out the proud white flags now red with his own blood. He clutches them in his weary hands. His handler, his woebegone handler, some ancient guy picked up on the cheap, a guy who looked pretty weather-beaten but what are you going to do when you make a match with no up-front dough, no real dough, and just a few fans who remember you from the old glory days, the days when, no kidding, you could have been a contender. This old guy, met, or guys like him, met long ago said going into the damn fight and I quote, he said struggle, struggle. Yah, it’s easy for you to say, buddy. You didn’t have to go two rounds with the guy. Jesus he never worked up a sweat. Give me those damn white flags, jesus. And I want my option rematch just like the contract says. Jesus.

Join The Smedley Butler Brigade-Veterans For Peace, Their Friends & Allies On Veterans/Armistice Day Sunday November 11th In Boston For An Anti-War March And Program

Join The Smedley Butler Brigade-Veterans For Peace, Their Friends & Allies On Veterans/Armistice Day Sunday November 11th In Boston For An Anti-War March And Program

Join The Smedley Butler Brigade-Veterans For Peace, Their Friends & Allies On Veterans/Armistice Day Sunday November 11th In Boston For An Anti-War March And Program

rom The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- From The "Ancient Dreams, Dreamed" Sketches-The Snow Is Falling

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Rolling Stones performing Sister Morphine.

Rolling Stones Sister Morphine Lyrics

Translation in progress. Please wait...


(m. jagger/k. richards/m. faithfull)

Here I lie in my hospital bed
Tell me, sister morphine, when are you coming round again?
Oh, I don't think I can wait that long
Oh, you see that I’m not that strong

The scream of the ambulance is sounding in my ears
Tell me, sister morphine, how long have I been lying here?
What am I doing in this place?
Why does the doctor have no face?

Oh, I can't crawl across the floor
Ah, can't you see, sister morphine, I’m trying to score

Well it just goes to show
Things are not what they seem
Please, sister morphine, turn my nightmares into dreams
Oh, can't you see I’m fading fast?
And that this shot will be my last

Sweet cousin cocaine, lay your cool cool hand on my head
Ah, come on, sister morphine, you better make up my bed
Cause you know and I know in the morning I'll be dead
Yeah, and you can sit around, yeah and you can watch all the
Clean white sheets stained red.

Snow was falling; at least it was falling snow in his head. A childhood scene of cold New England winter heavy flakes swirling to the ground, some evaporating on contact others accumulating under the relentless driving swirls creating some classic Christmas card, some Currier& Ives sleigh in the snow scene. All of this fevered brain seen from safe inside a frosted front window, child’s nose pressed against the pane creating his own flakes in the always, always under-heated “projects” apartment where he grew up. That ramshackle old place of brothers gone to foreign parts, foreign then meaning a few miles away to schools, of parents frittering away their lives just keeping things together in their little hovel.

But it was the outside snow, or the fever-breaking thought of it just then, that kept him from going over the edge. To the place where he had been before, and a couple of times had almost not made it back. The falling off the edge right then being holed up, brain fevered, against a hot “bracero” tio taco room barely cooler than the one hundred plus degree outside in sunny summer El Paso on the Estados Unidos side of the Tex-Mex border. The falling off the edge part being holed up, as well, waiting for Dora to come back with the goods from down sunny Mexico way, down Sonora way. The falling off the edge being that he needed “something for his head” bad, bad as it had been for a while. And where the hell was Dora. It had been three days.

How he, let’s call him Peter Paul Markin to keep everybody on board, but his name was legion in those days along the Tex-Mex border and not always on the Tex side either. After he, Peter Paul, told his story about how he came to be in a sweat box tio taco bracero rooming house in dusty Mex-town in sunny El Paso in the year of our lord 1983 legion was just about right, I had heard it all before, just the particular circumstances changed with the stories, and even that not by much. His was a bad low- note tale. But he wanted to tell it, tell it all, just in case he didn’t “make it ”out of Mex-town alive. And he wanted to talk, sweat pouring off of him that no handkerchief could absorb fast enough from drinking that rotgut tequila (he never knew there were, like whiskey and scotch, gradations of tequila but when he got to Mex-Town and was waiting, snowless waiting, he learned quickly). I was there when it all got balled up for him and he had to get out of that room for a while, get away from thinking about that snow and childhood dreams. Hell, he wanted a father-confessor or something like that although god and I were not on speaking terms. If you want to listen here it is, sweat, a couple of shakes, some frayed nerves, and all.
He had been nicked up, nicked up a little, in ‘Nam, ‘Nam around 1970, 1971 he wasn’t sure exactly on dates except that he was nicked up, and had the purple heart to show for it. It wasn’t a life or death nick, or it didn’t start out that way any way. Medevac got him (and a couple of buddies) out but on the helicopter to keep him from screaming his brains out the medic gave him a hit of morphine (he kept calling it sister morphine, every other word calling it sister morphine, saying look it up on some Rolling Stones rock lyrics like he had) maybe a couple before he got to the base hospital at Pleiku. Maybe a couple more hits there before they took the fragment out, maybe a couple more later when he was feeling some after effects.

A few weeks later, after some hospital time light duty, he went back on the line, not in bad shape, not enough for that precious discharge that most guys in those days were itching for as their ticket home to the “real world”except every once in a while he would get a pain for a couple of hours. He would go on morning sick call when it stayed for too long , they gave him some prescription stuff (some kind of zombie tranquilizer from the way he phonetically described the name of the drug used and after I looked it later). No go. The occasional pain persisted. He asked, innocently enough, for some morphine but they, the doctors on his case, looked at him like he was crazy. Hey that stuff is strictly for guys coming in off the line wounded, badly wounded. Bad stuff to mess around with.

Bad stuff was right. But this was Vietnam, golden triangle mystery dreams Vietnam, this was a busted up 1970s American army that had no will to fight, fight for anything except survival, buddies, and home, otherwise practically each guy for himself, and his own woes. He made a connection, a G.I. connection (he got foggy on that, on the network, conveniently foggy), an easily done deal, who made a connection with an ARVN (South Vietnamese Army soldier) and he got his “fix.” And got what he needed for the rest for his tour, cheap and no problem.

Toward the end of 1971 he was headed back stateside. He got nervous, no connections with that kind of stuff (hell, he was strictly a whiskey and beer chaser guy, drinking rotgut mainly except when he was in the chips, he from maybe a joint or two to be “hip,” back in the “real world”), and no way of making any stateside connection. Or so he thought then. After the discharge from the Army process was over he went straight to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles (he was from North Adamsville in Massachusetts but had meet a girl, a Mexican girl, a girl from Sonora, on the Cambridge Common, back shortly before he was drafted whom he had kept in touch with and who was coming up from Sonora to meet him there). He told one of the medical staff there his story and he was put (after plenty of snafus that he didn’t want to talk about because it only got him mad) in a“de-tox” unit. [Later in checking the details of Peter Paul’s story I found out that he omitted some stuff and had been shaky, very shaky on the timeline of events but basically he story checked out.] He dried out. And for a few years he was fine.

That fine included going back to school nights at UCLA, getting married to that Mexican girl, Dora Del Rios, and making small things happen in the world, his small world. Then about 1978 the pains started coming back. He knew right away the cause, and also knew that he was not going to get relief from what the V.A. (or civilians) was going to give him, those tranquilizer/pain-killer things that were worthless for his pains. He wasn’t going to live with the pain though. No way.

Here he backed up a little to tell about how he had met Dora. When he announced that intention I said it better be quick, and relevant. It was. See Dora, while a student, an exchange student for the summer at Harvard, exchanged from Sonora University down in Mexico, was on Cambridge Common the day he met her selling weed, righteous weed, for coffee and cakes (his expression for walking around money). That is how they met, strangely enough. What he didn’t know, and she didn’t tell him then, was that she had “muled” two kilos of weed on the trip up from Sonora for her brother. Her brother then being some“street” dealer looking to make the move up in that world. Those facts are germane because this Dora connection with her brother was what got him back on Jump Street (his name for “high, sister morphine high.” Dora begged him not to make her go to her brother, but after a few days of on the floor pain she relented. She made the brother connection, no problem.

At first, like in ‘Nam it was just a little something to take the pain away. Something to get him through the work day (he was a whiz at fixing computers up with software and stuff like that, tech stuff then just getting off the ground) and home to Dora and collapse. He then increased the dosage as a couple of hits weren’t enough. As he said you know the rest of the story, hooked bad, real bad. He couldn’t work (or wouldn’t, he got vague on this when he went through the timeline of his dosage increases), Dora was laid off from her job (and had to increasingly spend her time “feeding” him). She also had some vague immigration problems that he was also vague in detailing.

Then the brother “came through,” came through in two ways. One he offered to give the morphine “free.” [Of such small kindnesses civilizations decline, decline big time.] Two, the brother, Diego, wanted he/she/ they to do a little “muling” of snow, you know, cocaine (cousin cocaine he, Peter Paul, called it copycatting from the Stones lyrics) in return for his largesse. At first they balked, no way, no way in hell, but a week, maybe ten days, without sister, without another connection, and without dough, walking around dough, and they took the ride. That was few years ago and that explains why one Peter Paul Markin, shaky like a leaf, gray, sweating tequila sweat was sitting in a stinking tio taco room in El Paso waiting for Dora to come back from down Sonora way to make him “well.”

After he told his story, leaving all gray and shaky still, tequila bottle in hand, he went back to his room. A few hours later, no sign of Dora, somebody heard a persistent low moan from room, and then no sound. [Dora, I found out later, had been held up in Sonora by the Federales who were investigating the murder of her brother by a split-off rival drug gang over some mal deal] A little later that somebody who heard moans and then no sounds, knocked on his door, found it unlocked, entered and found him on the floor face down, face down. Had he been thinking of falling snow?




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.

Friday, October 19, 2012

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The Lastest FromThe Partisan Defense Committee

From The Pen Of Vladimir Lenin-Letters From Afar


Letters From Afar


FIRST Letter

The First Stage of the First Revolution


The first revolution engendered by the imperialist world war has broken out. The first revolution but certainly not the last.
Judging by the scanty information available in Switzer land, the first stage of this first revolution, namely, of the Russian revolution of March 1, 1917, has ended. This first stage of our revolution will certainly not be the last.
How could such a “miracle” have happened, that in only eight days—the period indicated by Mr. Milyukov in his boastful telegram to all Russia’s representatives abroad—a monarchy collapsed that had maintained itself for centuries, and that in spite of everything had managed to maintain itself throughout the three years of the tremendous, nation-wide class battles of 1905–07?
There are no miracles in nature or history, but every abrupt turn in history, and this applies to every revolution, presents such a wealth of content, unfolds such unexpected and specific combinations of forms of struggle and alignment of forces of the contestants, that to the lay mind there is much that must appear miraculous.
The combination of a number of factors of world-historic importance was required for the tsarist monarchy to have collapsed in a few days. We shall mention the chief of them.
Without the tremendous class battles and the revolutionary energy displayed by the Russian proletariat during the three years 1905–07, the second revolution could not possibly have been so rapid in the sense that its initial stage was completed in a few days. The first revolution (1905) deeply ploughed the soil, uprooted age-old prejudices, awakened millions of workers and tens of millions of peasants to political life and political struggle and revealed to each other—and to the world—all classes (and all the principal parties) of Russian society in their true character and in the true alignment of their interests, their forces, their modes of action, and their immediate and ultimate aims. This first revolution, and the succeeding period of counter-revolution (1907–14), laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, brought it to the “utmost limit”,exposed all the rottenness and infamy, the cynicism and corruption of the tsar’s clique, dominated by that monster, Rasputin. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family—those pogrom-mongers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers and revolutionaries, thoselandlords, “first among peers”, who own millions of dessiatines of land and are prepared to stoop to any brutality, to any crime, to ruin and strangle any number of citizens in order to preserve the“sacred right of property” for themselves and their class.

Without the Revolution of 1905–07 and the counter-revolution of 1907–14, there could not have been that clear “self determination” of all classes of the Russian people and of the nations inhabiting Russia, that determination of the relation of these classes to each other and to the tsarist monarchy, which manifested itself during the eight days of the February-March Revolution of 1917. This eight-day revolution was“performed”, if we may use a metaphorical expression, as though after a dozen major and minor rehearsals; the “actors” knew each other, their parts, their places and their setting in every detail, through and through, down to every more or less important shade of political trend and mode of action.
For the first great Revolution of 1905, which the Guchkovs and Milyukovs and their hangers-on denounced as a “great rebellion”, led after the lapse of twelve years, to the “brilliant”, the “glorious”Revolution of 1917—the Guchkovs and Milyukovs have proclaimed it“glorious” because it has put them in power (for the time being). But this required a great, mighty and all-powerful “stage manager”, capable, on the one hand, of vastly accelerating the course of world history, and, on the other, of engendering world-wide crises of unparalleled intensity—economic, political, national and international. Apart from an extraordinary acceleration of world history, it was also necessary that history make particularly abrupt turns, in order that at one such turn the filthy and blood-stained cart of the Romanov monarchy should be overturned at one stroke.

This all-powerful “stage manager”, this mighty accelerator was the imperialist world war.
That it is a world war is now indisputable, for the United States and China are already half-involved today, and will be fully involved tomorrow.
That it is an imperialist war on both sides is now likewise indisputable. Only the capitalists and their hangers-on, the social-patriots and social-chauvinists, or—if instead of general critical definitions we use political names familiar in Russia—only the Guchkovs and Lvovs, Milyukovs and Shingaryovs on the one hand, and only the Gvozdyovs, Potresovs, Chkhenkelis, Kerenskys and Chkheidzes on the other, can deny or gloss over this fact. Both the German and the Anglo-French bourgeoisie are waging the war for the plunder of foreign countries and the strangling of small nations, for financial world supremacy and the division and redivision of colonies, and in order to save the tottering capitalist regime by misleading and dividing the workers of the various countries.
The imperialist war was bound, with objective inevitability, immensely to accelerate and intensify to an unprecedented degree the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie; it was bound to turn into a civil war between the hostile classes.
This transformation has been started by the February–March Revolution of 1917, the first stage of which has been marked, firstly, by a joint blow at tsarism struck by two forces: one, the whole of bourgeois and landlord Russia, with all her unconscious hangers-on and all her conscious leaders, the British and French ambassadors and capitalists, and the other,the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which has begun to win over the soldiers’ and peasants’deputies.[2]
These three political camps, these three fundamental political forces—(1) the tsarist monarchy, the head of the feudal landlords, of the old bureaucracy and the military caste; (2) bourgeois and landlord-Octobrist-Cadet Russia, behind which trailed the petty bourgeoisie (of which Kerensky and Chkheidze are the principal representatives); (3) the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which is seeking to make the entire proletariat and the entire mass of the poorest part of the population its allies—these three fundamental political forces fully and clearly revealed themselves even in the eight days of the “first stage”and even to an observer so remote from the scene of events as the present writer, who is obliged to content himself with the meagre foreign press dispatches.

But before dealing with this in greater detail, I must return to the part of my letter devoted to a factor of prime importance, namely, the imperialist world war.
The war shackled the belligerent powers, the belligerent groups of capitalists, the “bosses” of the capitalist system, the slave-owners of the capitalist slave system, to each other with chains of iron. One bloody clot—such is the social and political life of the present moment in history.
The socialists who deserted to the bourgeoisie on the outbreak of the war—all these Davids and Scheidemanns in Germany and the Plekhanovs, Potresovs, Gvozdyovs and Co. in Russia—clamoured loud and long against the “illusions” of the revolutionaries, against the “illusions” of the Basle Manifesto, against the “farcical dream” of turning the imperialist war into a civil war. They sang praises in every key to the strength, tenacity and adaptability allegedly revealed by capitalism—they, who had aided the capitalists to “adapt”, tame, mislead and divide the working classes of the various countries!
But “he who laughs last laughs best”. The bourgeoisie has been unable to delay for long the revolutionary crisis engendered by the war. That crisis is growing with irresistible force in all countries, beginning with Germany, which, according to an observer who recently visited that country, is suffering “brilliantly organised famine”, and ending with England and France, where famine is also looming, but where organisation is far less “brilliant”.
It was natural that the revolutionary crisis should have broken outfirst of all in tsarist Russia, where the disorganisation was most appalling and the proletariat most revolutionary (not by virtue of any special qualities, but because of the living traditions of 1905). This crisis was precipitated by the series of extremely severe defeats sustained by Russia and her allies. They shook up the old machinery of government and the old order and roused the anger ofall classes of the population against them; they embittered the army, wiped out a very large part of the old commanding personnel, composed of die-hard aristocrats and exceptionally corrupt bureaucratic elements, and replaced it by a young, fresh, mainly bourgeois, commoner, petty-bourgeois personnel. Those who, grovelling to the bourgeoisie or simply lacking backbone, howled and wailed about “defeatism”, are now faced by the fact of the historical connection between the defeat of the most backward and barbarous tsarist monarchy and the beginning of the revolutionary conflagration.

But while the defeats early in the war were a negative factor that precipitated the upheaval, the connection between Anglo-French finance capital, Anglo-French imperialism, and Russian Octobrist-Cadet capital was a factor that hastened this crisis by the directorganisation of a plot against Nicholas Romanov.
This highly important aspect of the situation is, for obvious reasons, hushed up by the Anglo-French press and maliciously emphasised by the German. We Marxists must soberly face the truth and not allow ourselves to be confused either by the lies, the official sugary diplomatic and ministerial lies, of the first group of imperialist belligerents, or by the sniggering and smirking of their financial and military rivals of the other belligerent group. The whole course of events in the February-March Revolution clearly shows that the British and French embassies, with their agents and “connections”, who had long been making the most desperate efforts to prevent “separate” agreements and a separate peace between Nicholas II (and last, we hope, and we will endeavour to make him that) and Wilhelm II, directly organised a plot in conjunction with the Octobrists and Cadets, in conjunction with a section of the generals and army and St. Petersburg garrison officers, with the express object ofdeposing Nicholas Romanov.
Let us not harbour any illusions. Let us not make the mistake of those who—like certain O.C. supporters or Mensheviks who are oscillating between Gvozdyov-Potresov policy and internationalism and only too often slip into petty-bourgeois pacifism—are now ready to extol “agreement” between the workers’ party and the Cadets, “support”of the latter by the former, etc. In conformity with the old (and by no means Marxist) doctrine that they have learned by rote, they are trying to veil the plot of the Anglo-French imperialists and the Guchkovs and Milyukovs aimed at deposing the “chief warrior”, Nicholas Romanov, and putting more energetic, fresh and more capable warriors in his place.

That the revolution succeeded so quickly and—seemingly, at the first superficial glance—so radically, is only due to the fact that, as a result of an extremely unique historical situation, absolutely dissimilar currents, absolutely heterogeneous class interests,absolutely contrary political and social strivings havemerged, and in a strikingly “harmonious” manner. Namely, the conspiracy of the Anglo-French imperialists, who impelled Milyukov, Guchkov and Co. to seize power for the purpose of continuing the imperialist war, for the purpose of conducting the war still more ferociously and obstinately, for the purpose of slaughtering fresh millions of Russian workers and peasants in order that the Guchkovs might obtain Constantinople, the French capitalists Syria, the British capitalists Mesopotamia, and so on. This on the one hand. On the other, there was a profound proletarian and mass popular movement of a revolutionary character (a movement of the entire poorest section of the population of town and country) for bread, for peace, for real freedom.
It would simply be foolish to speak of the revolutionary proletariat of Russia “supporting” the Cadet-Octobrist imperialism, which has been“patched up” with English money and is as abominable as tsarist imperialism. The revolutionary workers were destroying, have already destroyed to a considerable degree and will destroy to its foundations the infamous tsarist monarchy. They are neither elated nor dismayed by the fact that at certain brief and exceptional historical conjuncturesthey were aided by the struggle of Buchanan, Guchkov, Milyukov and Co. to replace one monarch by another monarch, also preferably a Romanov!
Such, and only such, is the way the situation developed. Such, and only such, is the view that can be taken by a politician who does not fear the truth, who soberly weighs the balance of social forces in the revolution, who appraises every “current situation” not only from the standpoint of all its present, current peculiarities, but also from the standpoint of the more fundamental motivations, the deeper interest-relationship of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, both in Russia and throughout the world.

The workers of Petrograd, like the workers of the whole of Russia, self-sacrificingly fought the tsarist monarchy—fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace, against the imperialist slaughter. To continue and intensify that slaughter, Anglo-French imperialist capital hatched Court intrigues, conspired with the officers of the Guards, incited and encouraged the Guchkovs and Milyukovs, and fixed up a complete new government, which in fact did seize powerimmediately the proletarian struggle had struck the first blows at tsarism.
This new government, in which Lvov and Guchkov of the Octobrists and Peaceful Renovation Party,[3] yesterday’s abettors of Stolypin the Hangman, controlreally important posts, vital posts, decisive posts, the army and the bureaucracy—this government, in which Milyukov and the other Cadets[4] are more than anything decorations, a signboard—they are there to deliver sentimental professorial speeches—and in which the Trudovik[5] Kerensky is a balalaika on which they play to deceive the workers and peasants—this government is not a fortuitous assemblage of persons.
They are representatives of the new class that has risen to political power in Russia, the class of capitalist land lords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically, and which during the Revolution of 1905–07, the counter-revolutionary period of 1907–14, and finally—and with especial rapidity—the war period of 1914–17, was quick to organise itself politically, taking over control of the local government bodies, public education, congresses of various types, the Duma, the war industries committees, etc. This new class was already “almost completely” in power by 1917, and therefore it needed only the first blows to bring tsarism to the ground and clear the way for the bourgeoisie. The imperialist war, which required an incredible exertion of effort, so accelerated the course of backward Russia s development that we have “at one blow” (seemingly at one blow) caught up with Italy, England, and almost with France. We have obtained a “coalition”, a “national” (i.e., adapted for carrying on the imperialist slaughter and for fooling the people)“parliamentary” government.

Side by side with this government—which as regards thepresent war is but the agent of the billion-dollar “firm” “England and France”—there has arisen the chief, unofficial, as yet undeveloped and comparatively weak workers’ government, which expresses the interests of the proletariat and of the entire poor section of the urban and rural population. This is the Soviet of Workers’Deputies in Petrograd, which is seeking connections with the soldiers and peasants, and also with the agricultural workers, with the latter particularly and primarily, of course, more than with the peasants.
Such is the actual political situation, which we must first endeavour to define with the greatest possible objective precision, in order that Marxist tactics may he based upon the only possible solid foundation—the foundation of facts.
The tsarist monarchy has been smashed, but not finally destroyed.
The Octobrist-Cadet bourgeois government, which wants to fight the imperialist war “to a finish”, and which in reality is the agent of the financial firm “England and France”, is obliged to promise the people the maximum of liberties and sops compatible with the maintenance of its power over the people and the possibility of continuing the imperialist slaughter.
The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is an organisation of the workers, the embryo of a workers’ government, the representative of the interests of the entire mass of the poor section of the population, i.e., of nine-tenths of the population, which is striving for peace, breadand freedom.
The conflict of these three forces determines the situation that has now arisen, a situation that is transitional from the first stage of the revolution to the second.
The antagonism between the first and second force is notprofound, it is temporary, the result solely of the present conjuncture of circumstances, of the abrupt turn of events in the imperialist war. The whole of the new government is monarchist, for Kerensky’s verbal republicanism simply cannot be taken seriously, is not worthy of a statesman and,objectively, is political chicanery. The new government, which has not dealt the tsarist monarchy the final blow, has already begun to strike a bargain with the landlord Romanov Dynasty. The bourgeoisie of the Octobrist-Cadet type needs a monarchy to serve as the head of the bureaucracy and the army in order to protect the privileges of capital against the working people.

He who says that the workers must support the new government in the interests of the struggle against tsarist reaction (and apparently this is being said by the Potresovs, Gvozdvovs. Chkhenkelis and also, allevasiveness notwithstanding, by Chkheidze) is a traitor to the workers, a traitor to the cause of the proletariat, to the cause of peace and freedom. For actually, precisely this new government isalready bound hand and foot by imperialist capital, by the imperialist policy of war and plunder, has already begun to strike bargain (without consulting the people!) with the dynasty, is already working to restore the tsarist monarchy, is already soliciting the candidature of Mikhail Romanov as the new kinglet, is already taking measures to prop up the throne, to substitute for the legitimate (lawful, ruling by virtue of the old law) monarchy a Bonapartist, plebiscite monarchy (ruling by virtue of a fraudulent plebiscite).
No, if there is to lie a real struggle against the tsarist monarchy, if freedom is to be guaranteed in fact and not merely in words, in the glib promises of Milyukov and Kerensky, the workers must not support the new government; the government must “support” the workers! For the only guarantee of freedom and of the complete destruction of tsarism lies in arming the proletariat, in strengthening, extending and developing the role, significance and power of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.
All the rest is mere phrase-mongering and lies, self-deception on the part of the politicians of the liberal and radical camp, fraudulent trickery.
Help, or at least do not hinder, the arming of the workers, and freedom in Russia will be invincible, the monarchy irrestorable, the republic secure.
Otherwise the Guchkovs and Milyukovs will restore the monarchy and grant none, absolutely none of the “liberties” they promised. All bourgeois politicians in all bourgeois revolutions “fed” the people and fooled the workers with promises.

Ours is a bourgeois revolution, therefore, the workers must support the bourgeoisie, say the Potresovs, Gvozdyovs and Chkheidzes, as Plekhanov said yesterday.
Ours is a bourgeois revolution, we Marxists say, therefore the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deception practised by the bourgeois politicians, teach them to put no faith in words, to depend entirely on their own strength, their own organisation, their own unity, and their own weapons.
The government of the Octobrists and Cadets, of the Guchkovs and Milyukovs, cannot, even if it sincerely wanted to (only infants can think that Guchkov and Lvov are sincere), cannot give the people either peace, bread, or freedom.
It cannot give peace because it is a war government, a government for the continuation of the imperialist slaughter, a government ofplunder, out to plunder Armenia, Galicia and Turkey, annex Constantinople, reconquer Poland, Courland, Lithuania, etc. It is a government bound hand and foot by Anglo-French imperialist capital. Russian capital is merely a branch of the world-wide “firm” which manipulateshundreds of billions of rubles and is called “England and France”.
It cannot give bread because it is a bourgeois government. At best, it can give the people “brilliantly organised famine”, as Germany has done. But the people will not accept famine. They will learn, and probably very soon, that there is bread and that it can be obtained, but only by methods that do not respect the sanctity of capital and landownership.
It cannot give freedom because it is a landlord and capitalist government which fears the people and has already begun to strike a bargain with the Romanov dynasty.
The tactical problems of our immediate attitude towards this government will be dealt with in another article. In it, we shall explain the peculiarity of the present situation, which is a transition from the first stage of the revolution to the second, and why the slogan, the“task of the day”, at this moment must he: Workers, you hare performed miracles of proletarian heroism, the heroism of the people, in the civil war against tsarism. You must perform miracles of organisation, organisation of the proletariat and of the whole people, to prepare the way for your victory in the second stage of the revolution.

Confining ourselves for the present to an analysis of the class struggle and the alignment of class forces at this stage of the revolution, we have still to put the question: who are the proletariat’sallies in this revolution?
It has two allies: first, the broad mass of the semi-proletarian and partly also of the small-peasant population, who number scores of millions and constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of Russia. For this mass peace, bread, freedom and land areessential It is inevitable that to a certain extent this mass will be under the influence of the bourgeoisie, particularly of the petty bourgeoisie, to which it is most akin in its conditions of life, vacillating between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The cruel lessons of war, and they will be the more cruel the more vigorously the war is prosecuted by Guchkov, Lvov, Milyukov and Co., willinevitably push this mass towards the proletariat, compel it to follow the proletariat. We must now take advantage of the relative freedom of the new order and of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies toenlighten and organise this mass first of all and above all. Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies and Soviets of Agricultural Workers—that is one of our most urgent tasks. In this connection we shall strive not only for the agricultural workers to establish their own separate Soviets, but also for the propertyless and poorest peasants to organise separately from the well-to-do peasants. The special tasks and special forms of organisation urgently needed at the present time will be dealt with in the next letter.
Second, the ally of the Russian proletariat is the proletariat of all the belligerent countries and of all countries in general. At present this ally is to a large degree repressed by the war, and all too often the European social-chauvinists speak in its name—men who, like Plekhanov, Gvozdyov and Potresov in Russia, have deserted to the bourgeoisie. But the liberation of the proletariat from their influence has progressed with every month of the imperialist war, and the Russian revolution willinevitably immensely hasten this process.

With these two allies, the proletariat, utilising the peculiarities of the present transition situation, can and will proceed, first, to the achievement of a democratic republic and complete victory of the peasantry over the landlords, instead of the Guchkov-Milyukov semi-monarchy, and then to socialism, which alone can give the war-weary people peace, bread and freedom.
N. Lenin
Written on March 7 (20), 1917Published according to a typewritten copy verified with the Pravda text
Published in Pravda Nos. 14 and 15, March 21 and 22, 1917



[1]The Pravda editors deleted about one-fifth of the first letter. The cuts concern chiefly Lenin’s characterisation of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary lenders as conciliators and flunkeys of the bourgeoisie, their attempts to hide from the people the fact that representatives of the British and French governments helped the Cadets and Octobrists secure the abdication of Nicholas II, and also Lenin’s exposure of the monarchist and imperialist proclivities of the Provisional Government, which was determined to continue the predatory war.

[2]Lenin here refers to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which emerged in the very early days of the February Revolution. Elections to the Soviet began spontaneously at individual factories and within a few days spread to all the factories in the capital. On February 27 (March 12), before the Soviet had assembled for its first meeting, the Menshevik liquidators K. A. Gvozdyov and B. 0. Bogdanov, and Duma members N. S. Chkheidze, M. I. Skobelev and others proclaimed themselves the Provisional Executive Committee of the Soviet in an attempt to bring it under their complete control. At its first meeting, in the evening of the same day, the Soviet formed a Presidium, composed of Chkheidze, Kerensky and Skobelev who, together with A. G. Shlyapnikov, N. N. Sukhanov and Y. M. Steklov, made up the Executive Committee. Provision was made for inclusion of representatives of the central and Petrograd committees of the socialist parties. The Socialist-Revolutionaries were at first opposed to the organisation of the Soviet, but subsequently delegated their representatives, V. A. Alexandrovich, V. M. Zenzinov and others.
The Soviet proclaimed itself the or an of the workers and soldiers, and up to the first Congress or soviets (June 1917) was factually an all-Russian centre. On March 1 (14) the Executive Committee was extended to include soldiers’ deputies. among them F. F. Linde, A. I. Paderin and A. D. Sadovsky.
The Bureau of the Executive Committee was composed among others, of N. S. Chkheidze, Y. M. Steklov, B. 0. Bogdanov, __PRINTERS_P_407_COMMENT__ 27* P. ?. Stu&chat;ka, P. A. Krasikov, K. A. Gvozdyov, N. S. Chkheidze and A. F. Kerensky were delegated to represent the Soviet on the Duma Committee.
On February 28 (March 13), the Soviet issued its Manifesto to the Population of Petrograd and Russia. It called on the people to rally around the Soviet and take over the administration of local affairs. On March 3 (16), the Soviet appointed several commissions—on food, military affairs, public order and the press. The latter commission provided the first editorial board of Izvestia, composed of N. D. Sokolov, Y. M. Steklov, N. N. Sukhanov and K. S. Grinevich; V. A. Bazarov and B. V. Avilov were added somewhat later.
Meetings of the Executive Committee were attended, in a consultative capacity, by the Social-Democratic members of all the four State Dumas, five representatives of the Soldiers’ Commission, two representatives of the Central Trade Union Bureau, representatives of the district Soviets, the Izvestia editorial board, and other organisations.
The Soviet appointed special delegates to organise district Soviets and began the formation of a militia (100 volunteers for every 1,000 workers).
Though leadership of the Soviet was in the hands of compromising elements, the pressure of the militant workers and soldiers compelled it to take a number of revolutionary measures—the arrest of tsarist officials, release of political prisoners, etc.
On March 1 (14), the Soviet issued its “Order No. 1 to the Petrograd Garrison”. It played a very big part in revolutionising the army. Henceforth all military units were to be guided in their political actions solely by the Soviet, all weapons were to be placed at the disposal and under the control of company and battalion soldiers’ committees, orders issued by the Provisional Committee of the State Duma were to be obeyed only if they did not conflict with the orders of the Soviet, etc.
But at the crucial moment, on the night following March 1 (14), the compromising leaders of the Soviet Executive voluntarily turned over power to the bourgeoisie: they endorsed the Provisional Government composed of representatives of the bourgeoisie and landlords. This was not known abroad, since papers standing to the left of the Cadets were not allowed out of the country. Lenin learned of the surrender of power only when he returned to Russia.

[3]Octobrists—members of the Union of October Seventeen, a counter revolutionary party formed after promulgation of the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17 (30), 1905. It represented and upheld the interests of the big bourgeoisie and of the landlords who ran their estates on capitalist lines. Its leaders were A. I. Guchkov, a big Moscow manufacturer and real estate owner, and M. V. Rodzyanko, a rich land lord. The Octobrists gave their full support to the tsar’s home and foreign policy and in the First World War joined the “Progressist bloc”, a sham opposition group demanding responsible government, in other words, a government that would enjoy the confidence of the bourgeoisie and landlords. The Octobrists became the ruling party after the February Revolution and did everything they could to ward off socialist revolution. Their leader, Guchkov, was War Minister in the first Provisional Government. Following the Great October Socialist Revolution, the party became one of the main forces in the battle against Soviet power.
The party of Peaceful Renovation was a constitutional-monarchist organisation of the big bourgeoisie and landlords. It took final shape in 1906 following the dissolution of the First Duma. It united the “Left” Octobrists and “Right” Cadets and its chief leaders were P. A. Heiden, N. N. Lvov, P. P. Ryabushinsky, M. A. Stakhovich, Y. N. and G. N. Trubetskoi, D. N. Shipov. Like the Octobrists, it sought to safeguard and promote the interests of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie and of the landlords who ran their estates along capitalist lines. In the Third Duma the party joined with the so-called Party of Democratic Reforms to form the Progressist group.

[4]Cadets—the name derives from the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the chief party of the Russian liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. Founded in October 1905, it was composed chiefly of capitalists, Zemstvo leaders, landlords and bourgeois intellectuals. Prominent in the leadership were P. N. Milyukov, S. A. Muromtsev, V. A. Maklakov, A. I. Shingaryov, P. B. Struve and F. I. Rodichev. The Cadets became the party of the imperialist bourgeoisie and in the First World War actively supported the tsarist government’s predatory policies and in the February Revolution tried to save the monarchy. The dominant force in the Provisional Government, they followed a counter-revolutionary policy inimical to the people but advantageous to U.S., British and French imperialism. Implacable enemies of Soviet power, the Cadets had an active part in all the armed counter-revolutionary actions and foreign intervention campaigns. Most of their leaders emigrated after the defeat of the counter-revolutionary forces and continued their anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary work abroad.

[5]Trudovik—member of the Trudovik group in the State Dumas, formed in April 1906 by petty-bourgeois democrats—peasants and intellectuals of the Narodnik persuasion. The group wavered between the Cadets and the revolutionary Social-Democrats, and in the First World War most of its members adopted a social-chauvinist position.
The Trudoviks spoke for the rich peasants, the kulaks, and after the February Revolution actively supported the Provisional Government. One of their representatives, Zarudny, became Minister of Justice following the July events and directed the police campaign against the Bolsheviks. After the October Revolution the Trudoviks sided with the counter-revolutionary forces.