Saturday, January 12, 2013

From The Pen OfJoshua Lawrence Breslin – From "The Lonesome Hobo" Series- Down Sonora Way- The Ghost Of Bill Higgins

Frankie Riley was shocked, well maybe not shocked but stunned when he heard the news of Bill Higgins’ murder. Jesus, he had had just seen Bill in Los Angeles a couple of months before when Bill was passing through on his way south and he and Maria, his live-in mex girlfriend (immigration status fuzzy so Maria, okay), her of the sparkling laughing eyes and dark brown skin, had let Bill stay in their apartment for a couple of weeks while he worked on some plan that he had hatched, some vague plan connected with making a pile down in Mexico, down Sonora way that would put he and Clara on easy street.

Bill Higgins and Frankie Riley had known each other from the hunger days in the old 1960s Olde Saco (Maine, okay) neighborhood, the old just barely working- class neighborhood where the chronically unemployed, under-employed and just plain ne’er-do-wells, mainly Irish and hence locally known as Irishtown (although more generically to outsiders, combined with the French-Canadian streets, as the Acre), mainly third or fourth generation Irish and thus firmly planted by the prior toil of forbears lived, where they had met, beyond Olde Saco Junior High corridor nod (the junior high, and come to think of it, high school nod too, a subject worthy of its own sketch but not here, not now when dope, guns, and girls, ah, women, are central to what is what) met, while hugging the walls (literally according to both sources at the time) at the old Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic) Church at the weekly (except Lent, of course, and other odd-ball feast days like the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which even as ignorant, sex ignorant, flat- out sex ignorant, as these boyos were drew a guffaw) “sock hop” held by the senior parish priest, Monsignor Lally.

Held to, well, “keep an eye, maybe more than one, on the younger portion of his flock,” as the good father expressed it each Sunday when making the announcement for the next hop in the line-up. The real reason, of course, whispered among the young, including wall-huggers Higgins and Riley, was to keep said young angel sheep, away from too much heathen devil’s music (read: ersatz Protestant music probably a Baptist or Unitarian conspiracy, the good priest spouted both theories); that rock and roll music that was just then epitomized by that hip-swaying, butt-flaying, making the girls “wet” (wet in the wrong places) praying false god praying Elvis Presley. And by all means to keep them, that unprotected angel flock to a person, but especially those with access to automobiles, from dark seawalls down at Olde Saco Beach listening to fogged-up car radios in the back seat and digging the beat while, well, just while and leave it at that or for those without golden automobile access or who were too young, away from the Strand Theater, the exclusive upstairs balcony section of course, for the young set, the car-less healthy young interested in lightless dark night s-x (you know just in case the old bastard is still around).

Frankie still remembered the first song that they had heard upon meeting at that fateful junior high school time sock hop, Danny and the Juniors’ At The Hop. And the reason he remembered that song so vividly was one sparking blue-eyed, flaming red-haired Clara Murphy, just mentioned Clara, a girl who had given both of them her come hither twelve-year old look that night (and previously at school too) and they had been hooked, hooked as bad as men (okay, boys) could be hooked by a woman (okay, girl). So it was not surprising that they both had rushed over to ask her to dance when that number was being played at that fateful dance. And Clara in her Solomonic wisdom turned them both down. Or maybe not so Solomonic. Clara Murphy couldn’t, just that moment, decide whether she liked Bill or Frankie better, or whether she liked either of them, according to Frankie’s intelligence source, his younger sister Amy who was friends with Clara’s sister Bonnie and so gave in to her budding feminine wiles and had turned them both down.

Naturally that denial after those come hither looks inflamed the boyos. So for the next several weeks Bill and Frankie made every mad school boy mad attempt to win her favors. Both had recklessly, although determinedly, courted legal danger by “clipping” (five finger discount, oh, you know, petty larceny) onyx rings (Frankie’s had a diamond in the center) for her at Sam’s Jewelry Store in downtown Olde Saco (again intelligence, reliable intelligence, Clara sister Bonnie via Amy, had informed them separately that she liked those kinds of rings). She accepted both as tokens of friendship she called it. Ditto 45 RPM Elvis and Jerry Lee records from Chuck’s Record Shop over on Main Street (an easy “clip” for these adventurers, just place under your undershirt and walk out, or better slide into your underpants, no salesperson, no girl salesperson on duty at the time was going there, no way). Accepted, dispassionately accepted. Not ditto though, not ditto“clipped” flowers and candy (especially when Clara heard how the previous goods were “purchased” although she did not go so far as to give them back). They had each worked, really dragged their butts carrying doubles, as caddies as the local golf course to gather the dough necessary for those expenses. And on it went like that for several weeks.

To no avail for Frankie though because, also exhibiting another aspect of her budding wiles, Clara took up with Bill (and had really, according to other reliable intelligence sources, had her eye on him all along. Girls, ah, women, go figure). Reason: stated Clara reason. Bill had a head on his shoulders and, quote, was not so hung up on silly rock and roll that was just a passing thing like Frankie, unquote.

Frankie laughed at the recollection, a bittersweet recollection, since later Clara married Bill right out of high school, right out of the Class of 1964, maybe not the wisest thing to do for either of them in a lifetime sense but with war cries, real war cries on every horizon, out in the killing field of Asia (and who knows where else in that red scare cold war good night) it had a certain logic, a way to keep Bill out of harm’s way with any luck. Although at the time it had much more to do with Bill being crazy for Clara, head on his shoulders or not, and since he had no plans to go to college he figured it was just as well to start family life early. Yes, he was that kind of guy then, and was not alone in that sentiment, not by any means. Clara, for her part, had schemed and plotted to get out of her shanty Irish-drunk father-cold mother house from about age fourteen. Whatever she thought about Bill, and Frankie was a little hesitant to take her undying love sentiments at face value (and miffed about his own Clara plight for a long time, every time he caddied up at that damn golf course), she had always had Clara and lace curtain Irish front and center even then.

Frankie remembered just then too that he had been part of their wedding party, that June wedding over at the Starlight Ballroom where the trio had spent many a Saturday night listening as the music changed from silly Danny and the Juniors to serious Beatles and Stones stuff. The wedding the last big event of his youth before he kicked the dust of Olde Saco off his shoes and headed out on the hitchhike highway and his own dreams. Headed out for what became for many years the wandering road turned into the hobo road, and then back, back a little, but this is Bill and Clara’s story, or Bill’s anyway, so let bygones be bygones. But too he remembered that wedding party night when Clara, out of the blue, while they were dancing the obligatory friend dance, dancing very close, very close her leaning into him, she whispered in his ear that just in case Bill didn’t work out she still had some hot flash thoughts of him. That helped, if he needed any help, getting him out of that one-horse town just as fast as he could. Not for Bill’s sake, or Clara’s, but just because he might have taken her up on the offer.

Here is the funny part though, Bill and Clara, just like Frankie at the beginning of the wave got caught up with their generation’s new breeze coming through the land, the music, the drugs, the experimenting with everything under the sun, and maybe more, and had after a couple of years of married life drifted west to the coast, formed and unformed a couple of rock and roll bands in the strobe light dreams 1960s with Clara as a Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick –like lead singer and Bill on lead guitar. Yes, playing that no account rock and roll. Frankie, on the coast at the time too, trying to avoid the draft (Bill had turned out to be 4-F, unfit for military duty, due to nearsightedness), had run into to them several times, had stayed at their pad on Fillmore, when they had operated out of Frisco town, for months at a time, had helped console (among others) Clara when Bill ran off for a while with some surfer girl from LaJolla looking for groupie acid rock kicks and she was at wits end. Yes, he had slept with Clara as part of that consolation but by then Frankie’s road addiction had turned him away from any thoughts of Clara lace curtain Irish dreams. As far as he knew Clara never told Bill about the affair, or if she had he never let it interfere with his relationship with Frankie. When Bill got back from his fling with that surfer girl they became closer than at any time since that long ago sock hop night. Then in the late 1960s, he back on the road, out in New Mexico back, they had lost touch. And now in 1973 Bill had been killed, face-down killed, down in some dusty back alley, Sonora, back alley, when that plan, that major drug deal went south on him.

According to the reports, the police reports when he went to check, Mexican police reports, so maybe a little off on the details, but on point on the face-down dead part, Bill and Clara had“muled” many times for one of the budding drug cartels. (Frankie had known this, hell, had taken delivery of some goods himself, and had, once, accompanied Bill and Clara, down there, down there the time he had met Maria, met her down in that Mexicali whorehouse and brought her Norte but that was another story). Bill, while he was working on his plan in L. A. the details of which were unknown to Frankie, had decided to go “independent” trying to take-off with one of his cartel deliveries to be used as seed money for his own operation to Panama (the ideas being to try to get to the Canal Zone and some Estados Unidos protection if things went awry, he obviously never made it) and wound up in a back alley with six slugs in the back for his efforts. End of story, just another number in the broken dreams world, the fast stuff of dreams world.

End of blasĂ© Mexican police report story, as usual, but not quite the end of Bill’s story, some of which Frankie knew a little about other stuff he got when he went full bore to find out what happened (including a low-profile trip, hair cut short, beard shaved, only a mustache left, wearing a light-weight suit down and around, to Sonora, alone). After the 1960s died (when, the date, a million people have written about, with about two millions dates and about three million reasons for their particular date, Frankie had May Day, 1971 as his date when they, he included, tried to shut down D. C. over the Vietnam war and got nothing but eight million busts and a ton of bad hubris for their efforts) Bill and Clara, having ridden the crest, were broke, not just broke but in hock broke to about twenty different guys for various musical, life-style and drug stuff, including a busted flat-out last ill-fated concert in 1972. When the times were good Bill and Clara “walked with the king” but the music scene was changing and so acid rock, the thing that made them a thing, could not sustain a bunch of Airplane-look-a-likes. Familiar story ever since music started. That was when they started “muling.” (Frankie knew the details of the connections but was keeping mum about that).

What Frankie didn’t know, although if he had thought about it for ten seconds he should have known, was that Clara, Clara with her lace curtain turned chandelier Irish dreams, was the driving force behind their new careers, and kept prodding Bill on that plan to step up to the “bigs” and build his own operation. Jesus, girls, ah, women, go figure. See here is what is finally strange though. Clara who had accompanied Bill on that fateful trip (and had been holding that delivery, ten kilos of coke just then becoming the drug of choice for the hipsters, and never cartel recovered) was never heard from again. Just that moment, that reflected moment , Frankie raised his finger to his head and nodded that old schoolboy nod to Bill’ s memory and raised his drink to Clara Murphy, Clara of the sparkling eyes and flaming red hair, and of his youth.

Pardon Bradley Manning

Friday, January 11, 2013

Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-Honor 1930s American Socialist Workers Party Leader Felix Morrow

Markin comment (2008):

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices. This year we pay special honor to1930s American Socialist Workers Party leader Felix Morrow.

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



Felix Morrow was for many years a leading figure figure in American Trotskyism, best known for his classic Revolution and Counter-Revolution In Spain. He joined the Communist League of America in 1933 and after Max Shachtman’s minority split in 1940, served as editor of the Socialist Workers Party’s paper, the Militant, and its theoretical journal, Fourth International. He was one of 18 SWP leaders imprisoned under the Smith Act during the Second World War. In 1943 he formed a faction with Albert Goldman which challenged the SWP’s ‘orthodox’ catastrophic perspective. In one of the most instructive factional struggles in the history of the Trotskyist movement, Morrow and Goldman projected the likelihood of a prolonged period of bourgeois democracy in western Europe and emphasised the need for democratic and transitional demands against the maximalism advocated by the majority. Although he was expelled from the SWP in 1946 for‘unauthorised collaboration’ with Shachtman’s Workers Party, he did not join Shachtman, and drifted out of politics.


Religion—its social roots and role
(Part I)


Source: Fourth International, Vol.5 No.6, June 1944, pp.177-180.
Proofreader: Einde O’Callaghan. Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive ( 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article which appears below was originally delivered in 1932 as a lecture before the League at Professional Groups. It was among the papers that Felix Morrow planned for publication, in particular against the trend of the Kremlin and the Stalinists openly to embrace religion and the Church—and this, in the name of Marxism! The projected publication of this essay was prevented at the time by Morrow’s being railroaded to jail together with the other Trotskyist leaders.
Definitions of religion, like definitions of the state, generally tell us more about the social and political allegiances of the author of a given definition than about the true nature of religion or the state. Loyalties—that is, class interests and class outlook—are transferred into definitions; especially is this true of religion. Typical of such definitions is a theologian’s formula for Christianity as ‘the synthesis of the highest aspirations of man’. The fact that definitions are declarations of class allegiance and class programmes does not at all mean—as empiricists and pragmatists pretend—that all definitions are therefore of equal validity. On the contrary. Just as Marxists, in controverting ‘classless’ and other fraudulent theories of the state can point to historical and contemporary class functions of the state as a class organ used by the dominant class; so, too, Marxists are able to confront all apologetic definitions of religion with the actual social function of religion.
What are the roots of religion? The most favourite trick of the obscurantists and their allies is to pretend that religion is rooted in the mind. That is how the perpetuation of religious prejudices, creeds, etc, is usually explained. Exposing this falsehood Lenin wrote:
Why does religion retain its hold in the backward layers of the urban proletariat, in the broad layers of semi-proletarians and also in the mass peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people—replies a bourgeois progressive, a radical, or a bourgeois materialist ... The Marxist says: Not true! Such a view is superficial; it is narrow bourgeois “culture-spreading”. Such a view does not probe deeply enough into the roots of religion. In modern capitalist countries these roots are primarily social. (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, First Russian Edition, vol.XI, Book 1, pp.253-254.)
It is precisely because of this social role of religion—teaching submissiveness, summoning all to suffer in silence in return for rewards in the ‘hereafter’ etc, and in this way seeking to dampen the class struggle of workers against capitalists, of peasants against landlords—it is precisely for this reason that Marx designated religion as the ‘opium of the people’, and Lenin branded it as ‘a kind of spiritual corn-whisky’.
To lay bare the social roots and social function of religion is to expose it for what it really is. Which is precisely what the apologists of capitalism and all its institutions seek in every way to avoid. It is hardly surprising therefore that one of the most significant gaps in apologetic definitions of religion is the omission of the fact that religion is an institution; the fact that a religion, if it plays any role in a given society, is an organised religion. One scarcely need point out, as against this omission of the fact of institutionalisation, that a religion which remains unorganised would not perpetuate itself.
What would an unorganised religion be? It might be enunciated by some individuals and communicated to others. But if these did not organise together, acquire property and funds, endow churches and subsidiary institutions, carry on extensive propaganda, raise up a professional paid class of ministers and administrators, how would the religion be communicated to great numbers? The blood of the martyrs may be the seed of the church, but that the seed sprouts and is perpetuated is due to union with Rome, to the riches garnered by the church, to its position as the greatest of feudal landholders. This is indeed a commonplace, except that it has been so obscured by the English Dissenting tradition which is the main source of American religious thinking.
This tradition of a lower class, once so suspicious of established church and state, and therefore appealing to the direct inspiration of the Word of God, with a lay ministry and tiny meeting-houses, is still reiterated by the descendants of the Dissenters, who are now the ruling class of America, with powerful, enormously wealthy churches, with a clergy whose administrative duties make them as much businessmen as priests, with the fusion of different sects, and the centralisation of church control growing every day more pronounced. The hypocrisy of John D. Rockefeller’s Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick sermonising that the church is not so important as the pure heart is only too transparent—provided one is not wearing blinkers.
This institutional character of religion, glossed over by religious apologists as somehow irrelevant to the religious core of the church, is highly relevant to any serious description and analysis of the function of religion.
In every epoch of history, the existing institutions are bound up with the social relations of production. As the Catholic church was the bulwark of feudalism, so today all churches are part of the arsenal of capitalism, share in its privileges and fortunes. In the class struggles which arise from the antagonisms implicit in the mode of production, the dominant institutions, including the churches, support the ruling classes.
In the epochs before the triumph of the bourgeoisie, the differences between classes were expressed also in different religions; that is, the new classes struggling against the ruling class have also given birth to new religions which wage parallel struggles with the dominant religion. The struggles against feudalism became struggles also against the then greatest feudal landowner, the Catholic church. The peasant wars against the clergy and nobility, in the 15th and 16th centuries, took the form of the Anabaptist, Albigensian, Hussite, Lollard, heresies: In defence of its domains and privileges, the church demands submission to it as the only channel of grace; the peasants counter by proclaiming the central authority of the gospels.
So, too, the revolt of the middle classes of Germany under Luther, which, as Engels has pointed out, takes the form of a demand for a cheap church similar to the later bourgeois and petty-bourgeois demand for cheap government, is also a religious heresy. In the same way, the revolt of the rising bourgeoisie of England against irresponsible monarchy and feudal landowners takes the form of a Puritan and Sectarian struggle against the established church.

Bourgeois anti-clericalism

It is interesting to note that, as the meaning of the bourgeois revolutions grows clearer to the plebeian revolutionists, the fight against the church grows less and less a fight of one religion against another. Thus, the French Revolution and the revolutions of 1848 no longer obscure their tasks with religious ideology; the class fighting its way upward has no need of seeing its struggle as a religious one. The mists of religion, obscuring the real contending forces, become a hindrance to the class fighting an uphill fight. If this is true of the later bourgeois revolutions, revolutions which serve only to transfer power from one minority ruling class to another, how much more true must this be of the proletarian revolution, which is to do away with all classes, and whose success, whose very programme of action, is based on the scientific analysis of the nature of social life free of all fetishisms.
Since the Puritan revolt there has been no important example of a class struggle also taking the form of religion. All later religious movements have been reactionary in character. The religious movements among the lower classes, such as the evangelistic sects, like the Baptists and Methodists, were a substitute for secular protest, combining with their wails of anguish explicit submission to the powers that be. The other religious substitute for secular protest, the religious communist colonies, belongs to the history of utopian socialism and comes at a time when the role of utopian socialism has become a reactionary one.
What happened to bourgeois anti-clericalism? Once the bourgeoisie triumph, they, too, find like the ruling class which preceded them that religion is useful to the state, and freethinking and atheism become in their eyes identified with ‘immorality’ etc, i.e., hatred of the established order. The realistic rationalism of the epoch of bourgeois revolution passes; no American politician who announced the beliefs of Jefferson and Patrick Henry, or even the indifferent churchgoing of Washington, would be run nowadays for office.
Tom Paine, the propagandist of the American revolution, became, for Theodore Roosevelt, ‘that filthy little atheist’. In France, its classic home, anti-clericalism remained longest, owing to the political usefulness of the traditions of the Revolution, and continual conflicts over property with the Catholic church. But despite any manifest unfriendliness, the church of Rome laboured to find favour in the eyes of French capital, and at long last, it has not laboured in vain. When a flare-up between the church and the Chamber of Deputies occurred in 1924, the Journal des Debats, organ of the most important French imperialists, sharply warned the government against breaking with the Holy See, ‘because of the large number of French Catholic institutions abroad’. ‘French influence,’ the journal said, ‘in Asia Minor and North Africa is largely maintained through these [Catholic] institutions.’ The rush of the formerly anti-clerical bourgeoisie into the arms of the church became so precipitous and for such obvious reasons that the church itself felt embarrassed. Here is how AbbĂ© Ernest Dimnet commented on this sudden influx of converts:
Today it is remarkable that the French upper middle classes are the main support of religion and go to great expense in order to support the schools in which their children are educated in a religious atmosphere totally different from that in which the previous generations grew up. The majority in the French Chamber may still be Masonic... French governments in consequence cannot but feel the influence of the lodges and might be expected to be anti-clerical. Yet they are not. Monks and nuns have returned to their schools and teach in their costumes. The Archbishop of Paris is on the best terms with the Prime Minister and a recent legal case has shown that the government regards the Papal Nuncio as a valuable ally.
‘What does this mean?’ asks the reverend father. It is true, he sadly goes on, ‘that the bourgeoisie and the politicians representing it have opened their eyes to the social utility of religion. A mean notion of religion, this utilitarianism in the land of Saint Louis and Joan of Arc! ... But in France as in the rest of the world there is, working for a return to religion, something higher than opportunism’. And so forth and so on.

Sanctifying wealth

Thus passed the last stronghold of anti-clericalism. The Catholic church has adjusted itself to its capitalistic successors, and serves them as loyally as she once served feudalism. Once she completes the process of adjusting herself, with some necessary losses of estates, to the new capitalist regime of Spain, the Catholic church will have finally completed her transition from feudalism to capitalism. Her losses will be little enough in the process, if she can help herself. On the same day that the Pope by radio condemned ‘men for fixing their eyes on earthly goods’, he demanded cash reparations of thirty million dollars from the Spanish government for church property destroyed by the revolution.
In America, once the Civil War decided that capitalism was to be master of the continent, the churches proceeded to become capitalist with a brazenness which no established church has ever outdone. The example of the Baptist church is a good one, since it had always been known as a poor man’s church. As I have said, these evangelical movements were once substitutes for social protest; however, as they prospered, they ceased to be substitutes for social protest and became glorifiers of the social order. Baptist ministers indignantly repudiated the idea that the Baptist churches are composed of the poor of the world. A prominent Baptist divine has declared:
God has so blessed [us], temporally, as well as spiritually, that we could demonstrate that the aggregate of wealth among [us] is far greater than of some ecclesiastical fraternities whose members not infrequently put on lordly airs and affect to despise the Baptists for their poverty.
The concept of the sanctification of wealth became a creed of the churches. Dollars and godliness were pronounced to go together. Capitalists were ‘God’s stewards’. Baptist conventions passed resolutions saying that they ‘thankfully recognised the rich blessing of the Great Head of the Church, in the recent gift of Brother John D. Rockefeller’ (or other millionaire Brothers Vassar, Bishop, Colgate, Deane, etc, etc). The Christian Standard urged businessmen to take over the administration of church affairs, for who, it asked, was ‘so qualified to do business as a businessman, and who to spend God’s money as his legitimate stewards?’
It ought to be noted that the developing control of the churches by capitalism was more than an obviously direct control. While the Protestant churches have been directly controlled by the businessmen—who generally control property, funds and ministers—this kind of control is not at all indispensable to the general support of capitalism by the churches. As a matter of fact, the most effective supporters of capitalism are not the obvious hirelings but the apparent volunteers. The short-sighted businessmen who directly control the Protestant churches may prevent at crucial moments a flexibility which is much more valuable to capitalism. In this, the Catholic church has proved superior to Protestant. In Spain the ally of the feudal nobles, in Italy of Fascism, in Germany of the Social Democracy, all at the same time. Thus, the Catholic church has been the saviour of capitalism in ways impossible for the less flexible Protestants. Her union with German socialists helped bring forth the Weimar constitution, saving capitalism, while the Protestant churches, in the hands of Junkers and industrialists, were unable to manoeuvre. The Catholic church knows how to yield the husk to save the kernel. Today [This was written in 1932—Ed.] she is unwilling, in America, officially to recognise the principle of trade unionism (though she exercises considerable influence in the AFL.) Tomorrow, if it is necessary to hold the masses from rushing forward, the Catholic church will organise trade unions. This flexibility, plus the fact that so far as the working masses in large numbers go to church, they are Catholics, bids fair to give the Catholic church an increasingly important role in American capitalist struggle against the workers.
In general, when the underdog struggles, it is high time for the top dog to call down to him in the name of brotherhood. In particular, this has been the role of the Social Gospel. To bring the worker into the church or at least to persuade him that the church is not his enemy; offering either religious techniques for solving the social problems or paper programmes, which mean nothing and which, even on paper, go no further than the mildest of liberalisms. This, and an occasional gesture. The high water mark of the Social Gospel in this country was the Interchurch World Movement’s report on the steel strike after it failed; the result was the collapse of the Interchurch organisation. I once asked a secretary of the Federated Council of Churches why his organisation did not do things like the steel strike report. He looked hurt. Why, he said, ‘that steel strike report put us in a fix which we have just about dragged ourselves out of now. Do you want to ruin us?’
The measure of direct control of the churches, therefore, is not a sufficient index to their capitalist loyalty. Nor is their relation to the state. The political privileges of the churches, their freedom from taxation, their right to conduct religious schools or teach religion in the public schools, blasphemy and Sunday laws, religious propaganda in the armed forces and legislatures, etc, are also not the most significant revelations of the capitalist role of the churches. The fact is that formal separation of church and state, like the formal appearance of impartiality assumed by capitalist ‘democracy’, is the most efficient form under which the churches can function in the interests of capitalism. An established church is suspect even by scarcely class-conscious workers. Under the slogan of freedom from state domination, the church performs its best work for capitalism.

The mechanics of deception

The ministers and administrators of the churches are by income or social status part of the capitalist class, move in it and have their being in it. They simply express the capitalist ideology of their class. The principles of capitalism become, as by a process of osmosis, the principles of religion under capitalism. When the pillar of the Baptist church, John D. Rockefeller, declared, as he fought the Ludlow strikers, that the great principle at stake was that American workmen should not be deprived of their ‘right’ to work for whom they please, the Baptist pulpits echoed him. The clergy howled for the blood of the Haymarket martyrs, as did the capitalists. When Theodore Roosevelt pronounced Debs an ‘undesirable citizen’ he was but repeating the gist of thousands of sermons. The history of the development of the American working class is mirrored in the capitalist propaganda of the churches, their calling the workers to submission, their outright strikebreaking, their regimentation of the workers for the capitalist parties, etc, etc.
As a matter of fact, the churches, in their inculcation of the standards which are also inculcated by school, press, radio and state, have an immeasurable advantage over other institutions. What the others teach to be correct as a matter of expediency, advisability or judiciousness, the church teaches as the word of God or connects with religious significance or translates into archaic, sonorous language far more effective than the language of school and press and state. The world war of 1914-1918 proved this to the hilt. They turned the war of capitalism into a holy war, and God’s habitations became the most effective recruiting stations. In this capacity of the churches to make religious principles out of practical politics lies their greatest service to capitalism.
Bourgeois thinkers occasionally blurt out this fact. I quote, as an example, the following unguarded soliloquy of James Bryce. That philistine becomes thoughtful as, in his survey of the American Commonwealth, he is struck by the important role of the churches:
No one is so thoughtless as not sometimes to ask himself what would befall mankind if the solid fabric of [religious] belief on which their morality has hitherto rested, or at least been deemed by them to rest, were suddenly to break up and vanish... Morality with religion for its sanction has hitherto been the basis of social polity, except under military despotisms... So sometimes, standing in the midst of a great American city, and watching the throngs of eager figures streaming hither and thither, marking the sharp contrasts of poverty and wealth, an increasing mass of wretchedness and an increasing display of luxury... one is startled by the thought of what might befall this huge yet delicate fabric of laws and commerce and social institutions were the foundation it has rested on to crumble away... History cannot answer this question. The most she can tell us is that hitherto civilised society has rested on religion, and that free government has prospered best among religious people.
No wonder, then, that no Commencement address in schools and universities is complete without a tribute to religion; and no Chamber of Commerce banquet ended without someone sounding the religious note. No wonder that in dedicating a statue of Francis Asbury, that Methodist pioneer, Coolidge should have declared:
Our government rests upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty, and for the rights of mankind.
In the midst of the imperialist war of 1914-1918, Lenin wrote:
Feuerbach was right when in reply to those who defended religion on the ground that it consoles the people, he pointed out the reactionary meaning of consolation: ‘Whoever consoles the slave instead of arousing him to revolt against slavery, aids the slaveholder.’ All oppressing classes of every description need two social functions to safeguard their domination: the function of a hangman, and the function of a priest. The hangman is to quell the protest and rebellion of the oppressed, the priest is to paint before them a perspective of mitigated sufferings and sacrifice under the same class rule (which it is particularly easy to do without guaranteeing the ‘possibility of their realisation’...). Thereby he reconciles them to class domination, weans them away from revolutionary actions, undermines their revolutionary spirit, destroys their revolutionary determination. (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, English Edition, vol.XVIII, pp.295-296.)
Whoever grasps and assimilates this Leninist-Marxist analysis of religion has learned the truth about the social function of religion. He who denies it, in the words of Feuerbach—aids the slaveholder.

Felix Morrow

Religion—its social roots and role
(Part II)


Source: Fourth International, Vol.5 No.7, July 1944, pp.213-217.
Proofreader: Einde O’Callaghan. Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive ( 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

In the June Issue of Fourth International we published the first of Felix Morrow’s essays on religion which were originally delivered in lecture form before the League of Professional Groups in 1932. This is a second essay in the same series.—Ed.
Why are people religious? The glaring fault of bourgeois atheism is that its analysis of religion gives no hint as a rule of the social roots and function of modern religion. Abstract analyses of religion, even from an atheistic standpoint, thus in effect embellish religion—through omission. One might even say therefore that most bourgeois atheistic writing on religion creates an even greater mystery.
If bourgeois atheists cannot give us insight into why people are religious, still less will we receive our answer from religious people, particularly the professional peddlers of religion, the minister, preacher, priest, or rabbi whose task it is to embellish religion in every conceivable way. In a letter to Gorki, written in December 1913, Lenin pointed out that those who embellish, under any pretext, the idea of God or religion are thereby:
embellishing the chains which shackle the benighted workers and moujiks... God is (historically and in day-to-day life) first of all a complex of ideas arising from the torpid condition of man under the oppression of external nature and class domination; ideas which reinforce this oppression, ideas which lull the class struggle. (Leninski Sbornik, vol.I, pp.157-158.)
In a document, On the attitude of a workers’ party to religion, written in 1909, Lenin expounded the Marxist viewpoint as follows:
The social oppression of the toiling masses, their seemingly complete impotence in the face of the blind forces of capitalism, which afflicts the rank-and-file toiling people daily and hourly with far more terrible sufferings and far more savage tortures than such uncommon events as wars, earthquakes and so on—this is where the most profound, modern root of religion is to be found. ‘Fear created the Gods.’ Fear before the blind force of capitalism—a blind force because it cannot be foreseen by the masses of the people—a force which at every step in the life of a proletarian and a petty proprietor threatens to bring and does bring him ‘sudden’, unexpected’, ‘accidental’ bankruptcy, ruination, transformation into a pauper or into a prostitute, or leads to hungry death—there is the root of modern religion. (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, First Russian Edition, vol.XI, book 1, pp.253-254.)
Let us now analyse some of the favourite ‘techniques’—or tricks—of the religionists in order to lay bare what they seek to paint up.
The place of God in religion is emphasised and re-emphasised. Yet no really religious person is religious because, on occasion, he or she can offer ‘arguments’ proving the existence of God. For the common run of believers, which is to say, the overwhelming majority of religious people, God is simply ‘there’. Professional spokesmen of religion have good and sufficient reasons for putting undue emphasis on God.

Theologians and ‘God’

The theologian who must reduce to some order the vague feelings and behaviour of believers finds the most palatable solution in making God the organising principle; the minister, embarrassed by any scrutiny of the efficacy of prayer or the magical elements in ritual, draws attention away from these by emphasising God. In this way the actual relation of means and ends in religion is obscured and dislocated. We are told God is the goal of religion rather than God’s being one of the religious means. In consonance with this tendency, the newer prayer books list fewer and fewer prayers for specific needs and occasions; the Catholic church does not publicise the long roll of specialised saints who cater to specific needs. (Such as Breton saints of healing: St Lubin for all afflictions, Mamert for intestinal disorders, Meen for insanity, Hubert for dog bites, Livertin for headaches and Houarniaule to dispel fear, and so on.) The professional spokesmen for religion would have us ignore the occasion for prayer, the need or desire expressed, and throw the emphasis on the fact that the religionist prays to God.
Any acquaintance with religious people, however, soon teaches one that God is not the object as distinguished from the apparatus of religion, but that God is just as much part of the apparatus of religion as is church, prayer or ritual. The religionist does not pray to God merely in order to pray for God, no more than he prays merely in order to pray. The occasion for prayer need not, of course, be specific: religion is employed not only for specific needs or anxieties, but for the general reinforcement of the believer’s peace of mind, assurance and security. But whether religion is employed for specific or general purposes, in either case, God is part of the religious ‘technique’, not the purpose for which it is employed.
We may grant that there are some men for whom God is apparently not a religious ‘technique’ for expressing or securing needs. God, the religionist claims, is at least for some men not a technique, but an object of contemplation. God is such an object in Spinoza’s intellectual love of God; he is such an object to some mystics and theologians. Even in this type of religious situation, however, the significant factor is not the contemplation of God but the motivation of such contemplation. As Dewey has illustrated in his Quest for Certainty, God is sought, even in Spinoza’s case, because he is changeless and certain, as contrasted with our daily life of uncertainty. In other words, the intellectual love of God is only a sophisticated form of the so-called religious technique to ward off the confusion and peril of everyday life.
For the great masses of believers, this sophisticated form of religious ‘technique’ is unsatisfactory. They do not separate God from the rest of the complex of religious ‘techniques’ and institutions which constitute a church. The few for whom God is an object of contemplation might perhaps view with equanimity the role of the church as a bulwark of capitalism and take for granted the illusory efficacy of religion; but it is certain the masses do not take such a view. The main road to atheism for the masses is the discovery of the reactionary role of the churches and the social inefficacy of religion. A God who is believed to exist and cannot help them is not a God the masses continue to worship. The church may have been founded by Christ himself, but once the masses discover the role of the church, they break with it. The most effective propaganda against religion, as the Soviet Union demonstrates, is to reinforce the arguments against religion from science, proving that God does not exist, by the exposure of the church’s reactionary functions, the venality of the clergy, the fraudulence of relics, etc. Unlike a bourgeois atheist, the Marxist does not confine his systematic attack on religion merely to its ‘truth value’, but probes into its social roots. For the great masses of believers, with whom we are concerned, it is the exposure of the social function of religion that is conclusive.

Ethics and religion

In the same way that religious apologists emphasise the place of God in religion, so they also exaggerate the place of honorific ideals and values. Religion as the defender or conservator of ideals and values is also the position adopted by those so-called humanists who agree that God does not exist but who nevertheless wish to save religion. So the humanistic theologians of the University of Chicago define religion variously as ‘the conservation of human values’ (Ames), ‘a quest for the good life’ (Haydon) or the like. In the same way, but with a franker recognition of the actual role that religion has played, Harry F. Ward appeals to the ethics of Jesus as the true essence of religion. The arguments against any such attempted identifications of religion with ethics are conclusive.
Any ideal or value proposed as religious contains nothing in it which is per se religious. Security, harmony, happiness, the good life, love, peace—what is religious about these? They are the goals of all human effort. They can only be called religious if we falsely define life as a whole as religious. Some humanists do not shrink from this reductio ad absurdum. Professor Haydon, for instance, who defines religion as ‘a quest for the good life’, then goes on to speak indiscriminately of every quest as religious. Such attempts to save religion by relinquishing its identity must, however, be set down as the latest and most cynical defence of a vested interest. The identity of religion will not be found in ethics, though, of course, any ethical ideal may be spuriously expressed or sought for in religion. How efficacious is religion for the realisation of any such ideal? As we have seen, no ideals inimical to capitalism are furthered by religion. The realisation of ideals involves a belief in a kind of supernatural efficacy to which even the Catholic church does not assent publicly too often. I may add that when she does assert her belief in such a degree of supernatural efficacy, the Catholic church does so in support of the capitalist ideals which she furthers as an institution. An example is the Pope ordering prayers for Russia, prayers which, declared the Catholic Commonweal:
may affect the future much more profoundly than the success or failure of the Soviet government’s Five-Year Plan.
The best commentary on the relation of ethics to religion is the way in which the equalitarian doctrines of Jesus and his immediate followers is employed. These have their uses. ‘Christianity a capitalist religion?’ cries the preacher, ‘Why Jesus himself was a poor man!’ Or the rise of the church from its humble beginnings makes a Horatio Alger story edifying to the bourgeoisie and reinforcing the democratic illusions of the churchgoing masses. From Jesus’s cry for charity for the poor the medieval church drew the comforting and highly sophistical conclusion that if charity is a religious duty, we must always have the poor to give it to. The symbolical tendency of religious ritual serves to turn equalitarianism into a ceremonial which only serves to show the masses how good their rulers are. An example is Maundy Thursday. I quote a New York Times story of the last time King Alfonso of Spain was able to perform this pleasant ceremony:
Madrid, April 2 [1932], King Alfonso today got down on his knees in the royal palace to wash the feet of twelve poor men. Queen Victoria, in a gold and white court dress, with a white lace mantilla and elaborate jewels, washed the feet of twelve poor women, and the monarchs afterward served food to the group with their own hands.
Nobles, high church dignitaries, including the Papal Nuncio, resplendent Generals and members of the royal family in magnificent court regalia watched their Catholic Majesties observe the age-old custom of Maundy Thursday in thus administering to the poor in rags and tatters.
No, one cannot find the identity of religion in ethics.

‘Religious experience’

To the apologist’s attempt to cover up the fact that religion, including God, is a class institution employing a class technique, and the similar attempt to identify religion with ethics, one may add the attempt, for equally apologetic reasons, to discover and single out a unique experience to be called the religious experience. This is a game which was very popular with psychologists a few years ago, and a perennial source of employment for bourgeois philosophers. To controvert this hunt for the ‘numinous’, one has but to think of the innumerable range of human experiences which have been the occasion for prayer. As Professor Schneider once put it wittily:
‘Any good mystic can get more varieties of religious experience than a “numinous” psychologist can talk about.’

How modern ‘technique’ arose

I now reformulate the question with which I began, why are people religious? in this form: under what conditions are modern religious ‘techniques’ employed?
Let us return to the example of the French Revolution. Through the thought of the plebeian ideologues of the French Revolution streams the clear bright light of a new dawn in which humanity, bursting at last the fetters of feudal church and state, seems free to work out its own destiny. Confidence in humanity, assurance in the full capacity of men to evolve purely secular ways of fulfilling their potentialities, is the motif of all their writings. The theory of progress, progress without peril, is the dominant philosophy of the bourgeoisie itself on the eve of the Revolution. Hatred of the Catholic church as the bulwark of feudalism is united with hatred of religion because it attributes impotence to man. Destroy the existing forms of oppression and man will be free to pursue a glorious destiny.
But then comes the French Revolution and victory for the bourgeoisie. And behind them looms the menacing proletariat. Fear of the proletariat drives the bourgeoisie into a union with the remnants of feudalism, into relinquishing their power to Bonapartism; the inevitable contradictions of capitalist economy appear: individual failures, economic crises, war. The bright new dawn of the plebeian revolutionary ideologues is followed by the cold light of a day of new forms of oppression, bloodshed, suffering, anxiety. Few are able to understand how these must necessarily follow from the antagonistic mode of production of feudalism. Man’s omnipotence seems an illusory dream. Perhaps man is doomed to defeat? It is precisely the most sensitive sons of the new bourgeoisie who in the cold light of day start a Catholic revival. The economic rehabilitation of the Church, its role in keeping the masses in subjection, combine with the loss of self-confidence by the bourgeoisie; anti-clericalism shows signs of old age and finally disappears.

Source of fetishism

What we see so clearly in comparing the dawn and day of bourgeois revolution is a dominant characteristic of the everyday life of all classes in the capitalist era. The basic process was analysed by Marx who laid bare the fetishism of commodities.
The process of production is not mastered by man but is his master; man’s labours appear to him as elemental natural forces beyond his control. Forces so independent of his own control appear to him inevitably as non-social forces. Failure, crises, war appear as though by the inexorable hand of fate. Neither will, nor foresight, nor effort are in any case commensurate with results: the worker toils and yet starves, and is thrown out of work to suffer still more, by forces which cannot but seem mysterious and evil to him; the bourgeois is equally in the hands of fate; there is no relation between his efforts and rewards; he is superstitious when he plays a hunch on the stock-market and wins, equally superstitious when business prospers or fails. Commodities, the products of man’s own efforts, rear up like monsters to overwhelm their makers; the social relations, which should be merely the way in which men are organised to produce the necessities of life, these social relations of employer-employee, state-people, appear to be the mysterious and eternal dictates of inexorable law. Men are frustrated at every turn by their own social relations. They desire security, but whatever they may have, this they cannot have. They desire peace and prosperity and work for it, only to find themselves fighting devastating wars which bring in their wake economic catastrophes. The potentialities of most men are never realised. Their intellectual, aesthetic, social faculties are warped at every turn, no matter what class they belong to. There is a basic dualism between social ethics and practical activity. Attempts to satisfy human needs or potentialities fail or are frustrated under capitalism. It is inevitable under these circumstances that so many fall victims to the religious ‘techniques’.
It is precisely for the sake of what they hold dearest that the believers go down on their knees. For life and love, for food and shelter, for the innumerable needs and desires and hopes and dreams. Often they pray for no specific reason, but it is precisely then that they are praying for all their reasons, for the whole complex of hurt and pain and anxiety left by their crushed social status as Lenin so correctly pointed out.

‘The quest for certainty’

One of the most familiar religious techniques—i.e., fraudulent embellishments—is to contrast the hazards of change with the sureties of the changeless. In the religious revivals that have accompanied every business depression, the churches have pointed out the ‘lesson’. As the Christian Times once phrased it: ‘the sad experience of the uncertainty of worldly riches... disposed the hearts of many to sigh for the durable riches’. Another Baptist paper, a few weeks after the panic of 1873 declared that ‘the suffering incident to the present state of affairs’ would ‘lead thousands to turn from the fleeting things of time to the realities of eternity’. Essentially, this is what John Dewey has sought to generalise as ‘the religious character of the philosopher’s quest for certainty’.
The religiosity accompanying depressions is a very clear illustration of the fetishism induced by the capitalist mode of production. The fleetingness of the things of time and the uncertainty of worldly riches are put down, quite automatically, as proof of the impotence of man and the necessity of fortifying himself—by religious ‘techniques’. As suspicions of the real causes of depressions have permeated society, especially today when the crass contradiction of starvation and overproduction lies bare, there is a growing tendency to say little about the rise in religiosity during crises, which has been so regular that it is called the evangelistic index; the obvious causes of the evangelistic index must seem to churchmen an embarrassing commentary on the functions of religion at all times.
The fetishism of commodities, resulting from the contradictions of capitalism, this phenomenon of men’s own labours overwhelming them, stultifying them and frustrating their best potentialities, causing them to fall prey to superstitions, rituals and the entire mumbo-jumbo of religion, this cannot be done away with by those in power, the bourgeoisie, without destroying themselves as a class. Faced by the contradictions of capitalism, the bourgeoisie, as in the case of the Catholic revival of the French bourgeoisie, can only turn to religion to help them survive the necessary evils of their own economy. At the same time, however, from the proletariat ranks there arises the beginnings of a scientific economic system—socialism. Here the bourgeoisie and the workers confront each other, as irreconcilable enemies.
For the proletariat the socialist way out is irreconcilable with the religious way out. To take the religious way out, the road of consolation and reconciliation, is possible only as long as the proletariat shares with the bourgeoisie the illusions bred by capitalism in its ascendancy. Once, however, the proletarian vanguard has cut to the source of these illusions, has learned that the contradictions of capitalism are not given by fate, are not necessary evils, the main basis of religion becomes impossible for the proletarian movement—and for society as a whole.

Communism and religion

Will religion disappear under communism? Speaking of the fetishism of commodities, Marx says:
Such religious reflections of the real world will not disappear until the relations between human beings in their practical everyday life have assumed the aspect of perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations as between man and man, and as between man and nature. The life process of society, this meaning the material process of production, will not lose its veil of mystery until it becomes a process carried on by a free association of producers, under their conscious and purposive control.
But those religionists, like Reinhold Niebuhr, for example, who tacitly recognise that it is the fetishism of the evils, frustrations and perversions of capitalism which are at the root of modern religion, insist, nevertheless, that communism will not do away with religion. There will still be, they say, the problems of our relation to the universe and the personal problems which no social system can solve.
It is least likely that ‘our relation to the universe’ will be a problem for religious solution. This phrase is generally a professional subterfuge of ministers. Moreover, those who point to the influence of nature on the religion of peasants and farmers ignore the conditions under which such religion flourishes. As Marx points out, it was not the direct relation to nature which made agricultural peoples religious. The process by which agricultural peoples produced the material necessities of life was an immature one; their interaction with nature, that is, their tilling of the soil, was immature—in their ignorance of the sciences of fertilising, irrigating, accurate planting, and intensive agriculture, they were at the mercy of the elements. It is for this reason that their relations to nature were correspondingly immature, and led to fetishism of nature. A mature process of agricultural production leads to a mature attitude toward nature. Under capitalism, the farmers’ attitude toward nature is inextricably involved with the fetishism of commodities. The mysteries of nature are to the farmer nothing so puzzling as the mysteries of the market which holds him in subjection. His fear for his crops is a fear driven by need. I have seen a community of farmers come together in a time of drought to pray; they know all about the natural causes of rain, but still they are apparently praying for rain. Actually, however, they are praying not for rain, but to be saved from the consequences which will befall them if their crops fail. Suppose, now, that no serious economic consequences would follow upon the failure of the crops, would the farmers be praying for rain? Under communism, that part of the community which will raise the foodstuffs will feel no terror when faced by crop failures; a purposive and systematic organisation of production will provide for such contingencies; surpluses from other years will always be on hand. Under communism, the individual farmer will not be penalised for drought or plague of crops, as he is under capitalism. Will he then pray for rain? or need to fortify himself by religion under continual anxiety and fear of failure? It scarcely seems likely. As for the rest of us, including the religious masses, our relation to nature is not a religious problem today. Only a Niebuhr could envisage man’s relation to nature becoming a ‘religious problem’ under communism.
So far as the ‘personal problems’ or ‘the personal equation’ is concerned, the trick of connecting these questions with religiosity is quite as threadbare as all the other ‘techniques’. It consists in transferring the individual as he or she exists today—warped, twisted, undeveloped, enslaved—into the free communist future where such ‘egos’ and all their problems, frustrations, fixations, neuroses, etc, etc, might perhaps be for a brief while subjects for nursery rhymes but certainly never topics of serious discussion among adults. To take such problems seriously is to forget the ABC of Marxism which is materialist to the core and which affirms that man’s consciousness is determined by the material environment and not vice versa.
We Trotskyists are firmly convinced that capitalism is the last refuge of religion; and once capitalism is abolished this opium of the people as Marx called it, this ‘kind of spiritual corn-whisky’ as Lenin aptly branded it, will be cast into the garbage heap of history, where it belongs.

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman-Malvina Reynolds’ “On The Rim Of The World”

… she, Clara this week, maybe Clarissa or Claire next week, or after the next bust, thought for a moment, for just a moment, no more, she had no time for much more, what with her name, her birth name, Clementine, Clementine Barrows, place of birth Northbridge, Kentucky down in the hills and hollows of Appalachia, some nineteen years ago, coming up next on the court docket, what was it for this time, solicitation, no, lewd and lascivious behavior, whatever that was, that she was due for a break, a break from having to pay attention to any man who would give her a look, from any guy who thought he could go around the world on the basis of a few cheap scotches (not even good stuff, Haig &Haig maybe, stuff that a lady should expect of gentleman and that she had developed a taste for), some fast talk and some fast hands.

She could hardly believe that it was only a couple of years before that she had headed west, headed for Los Angeles, headed out to be a Hollywood star (everybody back home had said that she had the looks, the Jessica Lange looks , to make it) or at least a starlet, on that Trailways she picked up in Prestonsburg after that incident with her father, his midnight creep up the stairs, and then that big blow-up with Lem when he asked her to marry him. Christ she was only seventeen, only finishing high school, only starting out with her dreams. She would probably have had two kids and one in the oven by now if she had stayed.

Yah, she had no regrets about leaving that scene as hard as things had been once she got out here and found that fistfuls, bushels full, hell, acres full of other young girls from Steubenville, from Astabula, from Moline, from Fargo (all the Dakota cities it seemed like) were looking to be stars, or at least starlets. Once she learned the ropes, knew the score, she got that job as a drive-in waitress, until that night manager (really just a trainee night manager) thought that putting her on the side of the drive-in where all the valley guys sat their cars down on Friday and Saturday night to feast of burgers and fries delivered by a tip-worthy young waitress meant that he could roam his hands all over her, Then that foolish job (as she country girl, country high Baptist girl brought-up before her mother died, blushed an innocent blush) so-called, modeling, well not really modeling but showing herself naked, in the buff, for guys to look over at private parties. She just couldn’t do it, couldn’t have a fistful of strangers, strange men, oogling her and thinking whorish thoughts. Then nothing, no jobs, no money, finally no room, and tough times even keeping herself fed, nothing for a month or so.

Desperate, forget blushes (except private look back country girl properly Christian brought up blushes), forget man stares, forget everything except trying to keep off the streets after she had nearly been molested one night when she slept out on the edges of Venice Beach and a couple of guys had held her down before some guy called them off and they ran. Then a while later she met Trixie on the beach as she was trying to get a little sun to make her look less like some midnight troll, Trixie from Norman, Oklahoma who had taken her own Trailways ride west a couple of years before her and knew the score, and knew that she couldn’t go back to Norman. Trixie was, well she called herself a bar maid but what she was a prostitute working the better bars in Santa Monica, the ones near the pier.

And so she, Clementine Barrows born, now Clara, learned the ropes, learned how to take a man’s money without public blushes. Learned how make a man pay for his around the world pleasures. It had been tough, like now with this soft bust soon to be taken care of by Artie, and some of these guys were a little wacky, wacky in their sexual dreams, but she had gotten herself a room before long, a room of her own, got off those damn streets, and got used to what men had to give, which wasn’t much.

…yah, as her name was called to go before the judge she thought she needed a break, needed it bad.

On the Rim of the World

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1973 Schroder Music Company, renewed 2001.

She inches along on the rim of the world,
Always about to go over,
How she can manage I never will know,
To get from one day to the other.
Scrounging a buck or a bed
Or the share of a roof for her head,
This nobody's child, this precarious girl,
Who lives on the rim of the world.

She looks like a princess in somebody's rags,
She dreams of a world without danger,
Climbing the stairs to a room of her own
With someone who isn't a stranger.
But now she eats what she can,
And accepts what there is for a man,
This nobody's child, this precarious girl,
Who lives on the rim of the world.

She inches along on the rim of the world,
Always about to go over,
How she can manage I never will know,
To get from one day to the other.
Scrounging a buck or a bed
Or the share of a roof for her head,
This nobody's child, this precarious girl,
Who lives on the rim of the world.

Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:---- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook

Malvina Reynolds recording(s) on which this song is performed:
---- Held Over---- Ear to the Ground

Recordings by other artists on which this song is performed:
---- Rosalie Sorrels: Be Careful There's a Baby in the House (Green Linnet Records GLCD 2100, 1991)
---- Rosalie Sorrels: No Closing Chord; The Songs of Malvina Reynolds(Red House Records RHR CD 143, 2000)
---- Jane Voss and Hoyle Osborne: Pullin' Through (Green Linnet SIF 1044, 1983)

* * * * *
This page copyright 2006 by Charles H. Smith and Nancy Schimmel. All rights reserved.

Court martial delayed again, expected to start June 3

This week’s hearing at Fort Meade ended early, but several important motions, arguments, and updates emerged. The court-martial itself has been pushed back at least until June 3. In opposing defense witnesses, the government said it would try Bradley Manning the same way if he had released documents to the New York Times instead of WikiLeaks.
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. January 9, 2013.
Government prosecutor Angel Overgaard and defense lawyer David Coombs. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley, Bradley Manning Support Network.
Government prosecutor Angel Overgaard and defense lawyer David Coombs. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley, Bradley Manning Support Network.
Just one day after Judge Denise Lind awarded PFC Bradley Manning nearly four months credit toward a potential sentence, the court-martial trial start date has been pushed back three months, from March 6 to June 3, 2013. By then, Bradley will have been imprisoned awaiting trial for more than three full years. The defense will conclude its motion to dismiss charges for lack of a speedy trial next week, January 16-17. At that hearing, Judge Lind will also rule on the prosecution’s motions to preclude evidence of Bradley’s motive and of overclassification.
The delay results from classification issues: the defense needs to determine which classified information will come to light in the trial and to interview government agency representatives before presenting that information to the government. The government then needs 60 days to review that information and determine if it will need to redact, summarize, or substitute classified portions of it, or alternatively if it will need to close the court from the press and public for that information to be litigated.
In the remainder of today’s hearing, the defense asked the court to admit witnesses and the government asked the court to take judicial notice of several documents and facts.
Defense lawyer David Coombs wants to call Col. Morris Davis, a former Guantanamo Bay prosecutor who reviewed Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), and he could testify that the government has already released information in the DABs that Bradley is accused of releasing, and therefore Bradley had reason to believe the DABs wouldn’t cause harm to the United States if given to WikiLeaks.
The defense also wants to call Yochai Benkler, who has conducted open-source research of WikiLeaks, to testify that WikiLeaks is a legitimate news organization, which edits and reviews information and isn’t seen as a conduit for Al Qaeda. The government objected to this witness, saying that WikiLeaks’ credibility is irrelevant to Bradley’s intent at the time of the release. Judge Lind shot back asking, if we substituted the New York Times for WikiLeaks, would the government charge Bradley Manning in the same way? Yes, said government prosecutor Angel Overgaard.
The government asked the court to take judicial notice of a news article reporting that Julian Assange was in Iceland in February 2010 and a New Yorker profile of Assange published in June 2010. The government wants to use these to attempt to build a connection between Assange and Bradley before the release. Government prosecutors also asked to submit information declassified from Osama Bin Laden’s compound, claiming they have a letter from Bin Laden to a member of Al Qaeda asking for Department of Defense documents.

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman- Those Old John Garfield Blues Once Again-“Body And Soul”

DVD Review
Body And Soul, starring John Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Assorted Productions, 1947

… he, Charley (played by John Garfield and his blues) he, was from hunger, was from hunger like a lot of guys, guys from East America, working class guys with small town hungers (and small dreams too) from places like North Adamsville, Olde Saco, and Waterville, except his hunger (and dream) was magnified by being near, Lower East Side Jewish tenement cold water flat where- is- the- next- pay- check-coming- from to ante up the rent and feed hungry (food hungry) kids near, the great white lights of New York City high life. Yah, he had the hunger bad, and the dream bad too, the 1930s jewish/hillbilly/polish/irish/downeast swamp yankee /french-canadian, name your ethnic group, dream of jailbreak from close quarters, from family necktie, from corner boy nickel and dime stuff, stuff beyond just getting by and being some soda jerk job serving egg creams, seltzer, two cents plain, and penny candy (milky ways, mary jane ,no, not that mary jane, tootsie rolls, milk duds, the fare of the Saturday matinee), to hurrying no time dream kids. And see, he had it figured, maybe not every way figured but a good part figured and he would ad lib, play by ear, play by luck the rest of it. Why? Well he had the fastest hands around, fastest fighting hands, boxing hands (other fast hands, fast girl hands too, but that’s for later) everybody said so. No jewish shy boy, some Talmudic intellectual, no goof, not yarmulke thrown on the ground by some rough-hewn heathen irish christ-believers victim he. Yah, he could throw a punch, take some too, and he had heart, a big immense sad sack heart.
But there were a million guys with fast hands, who could take a punch, and had plenty of heart in those hungry days so what was needed was a break, a timely break and that is what our boy Charley got, got with some very long strings attached. He became a prize fighter, a practitioner of the manly arts, a pug in front of large crowds. You know though that anything from cockroaches to rabbits to dogs to horses to human flesh that can be bet on comes attached with very long strings. And so Charley sold himself to the devil, or better to the man, to the connected man, the juice man. Grabbed that front dough, grabbed the deal, grabbed the out form hunger deal, with both hands. And because he had those fast hands that turned out to be just a bit faster than a lot of other guys with heart (some with real heart others, like in a lot of things, just looking for a big payday and so could be fast or slow on demand) he prospered, for a while. He got to see those bright white lights of New York City, real New York City, up close, until the other hand dropped and the day came when he too had to decide whether he could be slow or fast on demand. And in the end he was fast but not without about sixteen sweaty moments, and twenty hesitations. Yah, our boy Charley had all the heart in the whole wide world at the end and so guys from Podunk towns in East America (those dreaming hard-scrabble wide open field okies and arkies heading west to pick the crops would not have comprehended what was happening in the closed quarters East America) could cheer him on, cinematically anyway.

Oh yah, I said I would speak of those Charley other fast hands. Hell, a guy can’t go up in front of the bright lights alone, he needs something soft for those long nights in between bouts, sometime to be the toast of the town with. So Peg (played by Lili Palmer), a Village painter (if you need to ask what village just keep moving on) if you could figure such a clever gal going for a pug, no matter how fast his hands and his good looks, volunteered to be his sweetie. But see Peg has scrupled, big scruples about fighting, fixes, and giving friends (and your dear widowed mother as well) the short end of the stick on your way up and so for a very long time she held him at arms’length as he was blinded by the bright lights. Of course a champ, a champ of anything, with dough, with connections, and with a newfound taste for the wild side, and not afraid to pay for those thrills will not have to stand lonely and cold out on Fifth Avenue very long before some twist, Alice (played by Hazel Brooks) some lovely low bar chanteuse femme fatale, second class, drifts by. Frankly I would have played that frail out, that fast-spending Alice, played her out to the end, but that would have destroyed the uplift story line. If she is not doing anything tonight I could show her some fast hands. We’ll just let Charley and Peg fade into some Jersey bungalow with a couple of kids and a dog sunset.