Saturday, April 27, 2013





As readers of this space may know I make no bones about being an admirer of the work of Leon Trotsky (see archives). I have noted elsewhere that I believe that the definitive biography of the man is Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume set. Nevertheless, others have written biographies, or in this a case a memoir and critique (naturally-the memoir alone in this case  would not sustain a book) on Trotsky that are either less balanced than Deutscher’s or come at it from a different angle with a different ax to grind. Mr. Glotzer’s take on Trotsky’s legacy is a classic post World War II social democratic one driven by the effect of the ravages of American imperialism during the Cold War on the right wing of that international political tendency.  The post war period was not kind to those who fell away from the politics that sparked their communist youth, but more on that at another time.

Despite our extreme politic differences Mr.  Glotzer’s reminiscences of how he became a communist are welcome. I am always fascinated by how those who came to political maturity a couple of generations before me and who are the real living links to the Russian Revolution felt about that event. Moreover, Mr. Glotzer is no mere chronicler of Trotsky’s life. During the 1930’s before the political temperature in the American left intellectual milieu got to hot for some  of them Mr. Glotzer was part of the leadership of the American Trotskyist movement and was a key lieutenant, factional operative and personal friend of a central founder- one Max Shachtman. That these two along with another “Young Turk” one Martin Abern spent as much time plotting for organizational control of the movement against the wily ‘bureaucratic’ old timer  and founder James P. Cannon during that time as in constructive political work is a separate issue. Needless to say only a few cryptic references to that experience surface in this work- a very selective memoir, as is usually the case. For more on that political struggle read Cannon’s The Struggle for a Proletarian Party and Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism and make up your own mind. 

As always the critique of Trotsky, or more correctly, Bolshevism is centered on the question of the organizational principles of that party. That is democratic centralism or as the critics would have it bureaucratic centralism-long on the bureaucratic, short on the democratic. Trotsky is seen here to have escaped that bad practice until he linked up with the Bolsheviks in 1917. This is his original sin in the eyes of liberals and social democrats like Glotzer. The reduction of an organizational principle of a political party to the decisive reason for the degeneration of a revolution defies belief. The model for all European social democratic parties, including both the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in Russia, at the turn of the 20th century was the German party. One does  not have to read to far into the history of that party to know that even without state party to buttress its organizational practice that party was as bureaucratically run as any Bolshevik party cell. The real question then is not the principle of democratic centralism but the question of a ‘vanguard party’ versus a ‘party of the whole class’. In the end that was what the dispute in the Russian social democracy turned on. And later on the international movement, as well.  History has demonstrated, if it has demonstrated anything on this question, that a ‘party of the whole class’ with its implication of inclusiveness including backward workers can never take state power, if that was the idea of those who argued for this type of party in the first place. All of the above said, the question of bureaucracy in the process of transforming society from capitalism to socialism is one that has, in the light of the history of Stalinism has to be taken as a real question.  There are no a priori guarantees on the bumpy road to socialism but that is hardly the decisive question for now.

The rest of Glotzer’s critique is a more or less quick gloss on his politics and a rather annoying gloating over what proved to be the incorrectness of some of Trotsky’s predictions. The central argument Glotzer presents here is that capitalism rather than being in its death throes as Trotsky (and before him Lenin) suggested  still had, and has, a life and is not ready to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, those social democrats like Glotzer did more than their fair share of ideological work of behalf of preserving the imperialist status quo. Perhaps he would have been better off if he had ended his memoirs in his Communist youth in the 1930’s when he helped to try to create an international Trotskyist youth movement -that is the Glotzer who interest me. The rest I have heard a million times before. 






I have reviewed the two volume set on the history of the early American Communist Party by Theodore Draper elsewhere in this space. There I noted that as an addition to the historical record of the period from the Russian Revolution of 1917 to the formation and consolidation of the legal, above ground party in 1923 The Roots of American Communism and its companion volume detailing the period from 1923 to 1929-American Communism and Soviet Russia – are the definitive scholarly studies on the early history of the American Communist Party through the Stalinization of the American party.

The present volume by Irving Howe, who had been long time editor of the social democratic journal Dissent, and fellow professor Lewis Coser took that story up to 1957. Although Howe and Coser also covered the early period covered by Draper including the pre-World War I radical milieu, the split of the left wing of the Socialist Party, the creation of two communist parties, the underground period , the eventual reunion of the two parties, the resurfacing and finally the Stalinization of the party since I believe that Draper did an extremely thorough job on the early period I therefore will limit my comments on this book to the period after that from the ‘third period’ Communist policy of about 1929 through the Popular Front, the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and the various makeshift popular front policies of the World War II and post-war period.

That said, I will pose the same question here that I did in the Draper reviews. Why must militants read these works today? After the demise of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe anything positively related to Communist studies is deeply discounted. Nevertheless, for better or worse, the American Communist Party (and its offshoots) needs to be studied as an ultimately flawed example of a party that failed in its mission to create a radical version of society in America when it became merely a tool of Soviet diplomacy. Now is the time for militants to study the mistakes and draw the lessons of that history.

Needless to say the very title of this study gives its perspective-a critical study- and that attitude, sometimes mockingly, sometimes with disgust at Communist strategy and tactics mars this work as one would expect from a political opponent of communism. But we are after all political people (assuming that today’s reader of such material has to be political) and we know how to take those kinds of opponent remarks in stride. The book nevertheless provides a wealth of information about what was going on in the American Communist party, how subservient it was to Moscow at any particular time and the difficulties inherent in a radical approach to American labor politics during that period (and now for that matter).

For my money the most important contribution in this volume is the study of the ‘third period’. For those unfamiliar with the terminology Communist International language, codified in its theses and tactics, had set 1917-1924, the first period, as one of revolutionary opportunities, 1924-28, the second period, of capitalist stabilization and beginning about 1929 the ‘third period’-the collapse of capitalism and the final confrontation between the two main forces in world politics- the bosses and the workers. A good shorthand way to describe this period was the slogan- Class Against Class. Well we all know the results- the most important being the victory of Hitler in Germany without so much as a fight by the working class. I will confess that in my youth I was very drawn to ‘third period’ Comintern politics, that is, until I got hold of a copy of Leon Trotsky’s The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany and realized that the whole Stalinist policy was a house of cards. There were no places of exile for the mass of the German working class who borne the brunt of Hitler’s vengeance as a result oft this strategy. They took it on the chin and never really recovered from that defeat. So much for ultra-radical sloganeering. Although the effects on the American scene were not as traumatic it was nevertheless a period of isolation and some very serious labor defeats in struggles that they led.

If in my youth I was enamored of the ‘third period’ that was not the case of the next period-the period of the popular front. As a reaction to the sterility and foolishness of the ‘third period’ and the isolation internationally of the Soviet Union in the face of the Hitler menace the class against class approach was abandoned to be replaced by one in which the communists were basically undifferentiated from the mass of bourgeois politics- they were just the ‘guys and gals’ next door. Although this was the period of greatest influence for the American Party in the unions, in the universities, in cultural life and in American politics in general it too proved a house of cards when the Moscow line changed during the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939-41. The authors present a very interesting description of how the party maneuvered through ‘front’ groups during this period to gain apparent influence on the cheap. They list a whole catalogue of organizations that the party controlled, a few that I was not aware of, and what happened went the deal went sour in 1939. In short, a lesson that latter radicals, including today’s radicals, should have permanently etched in their brains when one counts how much influence we really have in such things as the current anti-Iraq war movement.

After the Soviet Union was invaded in 1941 the party’s influence grew but for all the wrong reasons- it was the most patriotic and conservative factor in labor politics all obstensibly in the interest of defending the Soviet Union. In the post-war period, however, the party reaped what it had sown as it faced a steep decline of influence in the labor movement due to its own policies and the ‘red scare’ that developed during the Cold War build up. It is during the discussion of this period that the authors show their greatest degree of contempt for the American party mainly arguing that that party was solely an agent for the Soviet Union and therefore not part of the labor movement. While those of us who are anti-Stalinist can quote chapter and verse the crimes of Stalinism as well as Howe and Coser it is a very grave mistake to have assumed that this was not a current of the international labor movement and therefore did not have to be defended. We have paid a steep price for that social democratic view. It was necessary to defeat Stalinism within the labor movement but not by outsourcing that task to American imperialism.

Beat Poet’s Corner-Allen Ginsberg’s“America”

…he spoke truth, truth all oil-splashed, steel and iron carnage twisted truth, twisted up by cold war red scare, “his mommie was a commie” what will he do, turn her in? or rather read kaddish ashes, and angel forgivenesses, mother angel forgivenesses over her grave, although he could not forgive, then anyway, the red scare cold war night, and railed against moloch, and the sons and daughters of moloch, railed against Time magazine and it pointy-headed point of view , railed against General Motors business suits, railed against the bad karma night, railed against the cube that they, and he knew who the “they” were, trying to ram down his throat, railed against, well, you get the picture, railed against squeezed in humanity, and spoke some funny off-hand truth running underground in some ‘Frisco town garage, some makeshift gallery they called it maybe in jest, filled with speechless bow down poets sipping Tokay or something like that, hipsters in all shades and other nomenclatura of new age desolation angel peaks.
Now famous, or, no, infamous, he could speak, Whitman shoulder speak, Whitman queer shoulder speak, Whitman queer shoulder 20th century America rusted leaves of grass prophet speak, speak to make every thinking man wish for just that moment, just that fresh warm breeze 1956 moment blowing over artic worlds, that he too could take up his queer (hell, straight , if that was the hand he was dealt) shoulders against monster moloch (spewing oils, and metals, and atoms , and, well, plastic out into the drive-in diner billboard highway night) , against the dread of the negro streets (not Saturday night 125th street joy, flash suit, flash car, flash spindle dope, flash women , a few white, but Monday morning bus, back of the bus, back of the line negro streets), against the death bombs (mega, kilo what?) against the convenient, very convenient, loony farms (to adjust to Ike’s social reality of course) where they put his, the Whitman prophet’s poor downtrodden queer head.

And that thinking man, if only for a moment, could find some solace, some tea high divine solace in a renegade quasi-Trotskyite girl’s arms , bourgeois to the core, all cashmere sweater and girl next door beautiful, but slumming in the Village, in Soho, in Ann Arbor Quadrangle, in Chi town Chi school Old Town, in Red Fez North Beach jazz night clubs listening for that one high white note drifting toward the bay, walking with her king hell king walking daddy before she goes back to Riverside (read Mill Valley, read Grosse Pointe, read Forest Lawn, read Wellesley) and that handsome johnnie stockbroker after she found out those million, count them, one million Trotskyites turned out to be Irving Howe and the ghost of Max Shachtman and so came up a little short on the prophet number, and a quick call form J. Edgar’s boys clinched it. Jesus.
And that Whitman prophet left just then to shoulder, queer shoulder to high heaven before his om om time, before his robes and incense and sticks and bells and whatever time beloved names, communist, beloved names Trotskyite (even if short 999, 900), beloved names, Sacco and Vanzetti and ban death ban death penalty, beloved names, Abraham Lincoln Brigade and premature anti-fascist Spanish red blood soil fights, beloved names, beleaguered old labor fighter Tom Mooney abandoned, beloved names, on and on hoping, hoping against that red scare cold war night, all dark and foreboding, that he, that thinking man wishing he could have put some bruised shoulder to some wheel too…

…hence Allen Ginsberg

Boston's International Workers Day 2013

BMDC International Workers Day Rally
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at Boston City Hall
Gather at 2PM - Rally at 2:30PM
(Court St. & Cambridge St.)
T stops Government Center (Blue line, Green line)

To download flyer click here. (Please print double-sided)

Other May Day events:

Revere - @ City Hall - gather at 3:pmbegin marching at 3:30 (to Chelsea)
Everett - @ City Hall - gather at 3:pm begin marching at 3:30 (to Chelsea)
Chelsea - @ City Hall - rally a 3:pm (wait for above feeder marches to arrive) will begin marching at 4:30 (to East Boston)
East Boston - @ Central Square - (welcome marchers) Rally at 5:pm

BMDC will join the rally in East Boston immediately following Boston City Hall rally

Supporters: ANSWER Coalition, Boston Anti Authoritarian Movement, Boston Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee, Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition, Harvard No-Layoffs Campaign, Industrial Workers of the World, Latinos for Social Change, Mass Global Action, Sacco & Vanzetti Commemoration Society, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Party of Boston, Socialist Workers Party, Student Labor Action Movement, USW Local 8751 - Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Worcester Immigrant Coalition, National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Democracy Center - Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridge/Somerville/Arlington United for Justice with Peace, International Socialist Organization, Community Church of Boston



In the year 2007 it is quite easy to dismiss the American Republican Party of one George Bush and his cabal out of hand as a gang of yahoos and incompetents. And one, frankly, would be right in those characterizations. But the book under review tells a tale of a different Republican Party, a party forged among other things in the crucible of the battle against slavery in the immediate pre-Civil War period. That party of Lincoln (although he was ultimately merely the most famous of an outstanding group of men who forged that party) was one that modern leftists can proudly claim as our own. Karl Marx was not wrong in his appreciation of Lincolnand of the Republican Party in its struggle against slavery and for the unification of the country. Eric Foner tells the story of how all of the forces finally coalesced in 1956 to create that party and of its success in 1860.

A number of commentators, including this writer, have over the years argued that a political realignment and separation of the various political tendencies in this country is long, too long overdue. What others mean by that realignment I will leave to them. For myself, I make no bones that we need a workers party to directly represent the political interests of the working masses and their allies. On the other side some argue that America has always been, more or less, well served by the two-party system. And that is really my point. In the period from about 1840 to that decisive 1860 election there was the kind of turmoil that created the necessary realignment of that two- party system. The old two- party system just could not hold the forces that were splitting the country. In the end the formerly powerful Whig Party and vital parts of the Northern Democratic Party went down with barely a whimper. The Republican Party gathered together all those forces that were interested in ending slavery and creating a unified, efficient capitalist system. That in the end it all turned to dross in a fairly short time after the Civil War does not take away from the grandeur of the effort and its necessity.

I would point out to readers that Professor Foner does a very credible job of showing the numerous and sometimes counterposed strategies that the various anti-slavery forces from the Garrisonians to the Free Soil Party supporters put forth. He also pays attention to the various forces, including the little studied Libertyand Free Soil parties, the Barnburner Democrats, Conscience Whigs and others who coalesced in the Republican Party. He also details the strategies of the conservative elements that would latter dominate the post-war Republican party as well as the strain of nativism (exemplified by the explosive, if short-lived, development of the Know-Nothing party) that one can still see in that party today on the immigration question. In all, this is a well-researched and footnoted academic work that can serve a as jumping off point for making our arguments today for that desperately needed realignment of American politics.

***When Did The 1960s End?- Doctor Hunter S. Thompson's Take (Doctor Gonzo)- From "Fear and And Loathing In Las Vegas-" High-Water Mark"

The late Hunter Thompson's take on the headline question:


STRANGE MEMORIES ON this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the tollgate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: no doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

The whole concept of decades is wrong. That is why people have trouble with it. A decade is ten years, which some people will tell you is about as long as a dime. The only people who still talk in terms of decades are Australians and possibly some New Zealanders, but the Aussies will tell you that the New Zealanders think more in terms of twenty years, like us. In politics, a "generation" is twenty years: ten is not enough. Time flies when you do most of your real work after midnight—five months can go by and it feels like one sleepless night.

Las Vegas, 1976

...and Markin's

Wednesday, July 04, 2007, American Left History:

*WHEN DID THE 1960'S END?-The Anti-Vietnam War Events Of May Day 1971

Markin comment:

I have recently been reviewing books and documentaries about radical developments in the 1960’s. They included reviews of the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the memoirs of Bill Ayers, a central figure in that movement. Throughout this material one thing that I noticed was that the various interviewees had different takes on when that period ended. Although in the end the periodization of history is a convenient journalistic or academic convention in the case of the 1960’s it may produce a useful political guide line.

It is almost universally the case that there is agreement on when the 1960’s started. That is with the inauguration of Democratic President John F. Kennedy and his call to social activism. While there is no agreement on what that course of action might entail political figures as diverse as liberals Bill Clinton and John Kerry on to radicals like Mark Rudd, Bill Ayers and this writer agree that this event and its immediate aftermath figured in their politicization.

What is not clear is when it ended. For those committed to parliamentary action it seems to have been the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the events around the Democratic Convention in 1968 that led to the election of one Richard Milhous Nixon as President of the United States. For mainstream black activists it seems to have been the assassination of Martin Luther King that same year ending the dream that pacifist resistance could eradicate racial injustice. For mainstream SDSers apparently it was the split up of that student organization in 1969. For the Black Panthers, the deaths of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark proving for all to see who wanted to see that the American government was really out to get militant blacks off the streets. For those who thought that the counterculture might be the revolution the bloody Rolling Stone’s concert at Altamont in California in 1969 seems to have signaled the end. For the Weather Underground the 1970 New York townhouse explosion and death of their comrades was the signpost. Since everyone, everybody who tried to struggle through and make sense of the decade, can play this game here is my take.

I can name the day and event exactly when my 1960’s ended. The day- May Day 1971 in Washington D.C. The event- a massive attempt by thousands, including myself, to shut down the government over the Vietnam War. We proceeded under the slogan- IF THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT SHUT DOWN THE WAR-WE WILL SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT. At that time I was a radical but hardly a communist. However, the endless mass marches of the period and small local individual acts of resistance seemed to me to be leading to a dead end. But the war nevertheless continued on its savagely endless way. We needed to up the ante. That day we formed up in collectives with appropriate gear to take over the streets of Washington and try to get to various government buildings. While none of us believed that this would be an easy task we definitely believed that it was doable. Needless to say the Nixon government and its agents were infinitely better prepared and determined to sweep us from the streets-by any means necessary. The long and short of it was that we were swept off the streets in fairly short order, taking many, many arrests. We had taken a terrible physical and psychological beating that day from which the movement never really recovered. To borrow for Hunter Thompson above we had seen the high water mark washed away right before our eyes.

I walked away from that event with my eyes finally opened about what it would take to made fundamental societal changes. On reflection, on that day we were somewhat like those naïve marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia that were bloodily suppressed by the Czarist forces at the start of the revolution there in January 1905. Nevertheless, in my case, from that point on I vowed that a lot more than a few thousand convinced radicals and revolutionaries working in an ad hoc manner were going to have to come together if we were to succeed against a determined and ruthless enemy. Not a pretty thought but hard reality nevertheless. Enough said.

Friday, April 26, 2013

All The Way To Easy Street

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
As he sat alone in his tee-shirt in his crummy one room overlooking the inner airshaft of the run down, seen better days, rooming house complex that he lived in on Beacon Hill in Boston Billy Riley had to laugh. Not the belly laugh that comes from something genuinely funny though. No, his laugh was a hearse horse snicker laugh about the condition that he had just then found himself, found himself in on the way to easy street. Or as he endlessly told whoever would listen found himself in “all the way to easy street.” See Billy was a gambler, well, not really a gambler in the Las Vegas sense (he knew nothing of cards and their attractions to those types and certainly was not some arm-weary slot machine player, oh no) or in the high-roller rack track among the swells sense but still a gambler.

Billy being a democratic sort spent his time in the bleachers among the real touts, the open collar working stiffs, the drifters, grifters and midnight sifters, those smoking endless cigarettes and cigars, swilling their beers on the concrete floor and complaining, endlessly complaining, about the price of that commodity. (And damning the concessionaire for charging so much because it cut into their betting kitties.) Or on sunny days along the rails, mingling with those pale faces almost afraid to face the sun looking to see if some luck would come their way by being closer to the turf, closer to smell and sweat of the horses, closer in order to look into the eyes of those damn jockeys who couldn’t ride if their lives depended on it. Those along the rails were a motley crew but mainly were brethren who had been on cheap street so long a big win would hardly faze them and their line of patter. But Billy considered himself a cut above that milieu, although he was at pains to savor their track talk like some latter day Damon Runyon. Still he considered himself different. See they didn’t, didn’t have like Billy, a system, because Billy was a guy who had a system, a fool-proof system that was going to get him to that El Dorado easy street.
As he sat there he thought any day, day the percentages would turn and he would flee, flee like a bat out of hell, this lousy sagging bed, broken-nob bureau, Salvation Army reject table and wobbly chair room with that window looking across the air shaft to other one room windows filled with guys, mainly guys, as far as he could tell since he had arrived in this exact spot a few weeks back when his luck had turned sour and his system had run into a momentary glitch, who had landed here under their own easy street addictive powers.

See Billy Riley thought because he had grown up rough and tough with as his grandmother would say “not a pot to piss in” down in the Adamsville housing projects filled in its way with the rejects and losers of society that that same society owned him a living, owed him easy street. Sure he had worked, worked hard, worked like a bastard, when he worked, as a house painter until his knees gave out, as a gravestone setter (actually an interesting job, and quiet, very quiet), as dishwasher when things were tough between jobs, stuff like that, edge of society work. But he had dreamed, dream big as a kid that he was going to wipe the dust of all that poverty and toil that his father faced, faced and just took it, and live like a real person, maybe a king even. And at some point he tired of the painter, gravestone setter, dishwasher world, and decided that he needed to make his own breaks a little, use his smarts to get out from under, and if necessary use other people’s smarts or money, or both to do so.
Billy had tried this and that before, had sold some drugs for a while but that was a hassle, the cops were pressing down, and the street stuff was getting dangerous. Moreover gone were the heydays of that late 1960s when everything was kind of loose before the cartels started to tighten their grip on the market and made everybody jump to their tune, or else. That “or else” being found face down in some ditch or floating off some river, also face down un-mourned and unknown like his old companion, Sammy Snyder, who ran afoul of the Mexican cartel. He thereafter had connected with a gang of small time hoods, aging corner boys really, guys still living at home where mother darned their socks and had dinner ready on demand, who were into midnight heists, then fencing the stuff on the cheap. After a while he figured that was dead-end and high risk for a guy who thought society owed him a living. Jail was not what he had in mind on that score. Then one day one of those corner boys asked him if he wanted to go to the racetrack, the one over in Revere, Suffolk Downs. He said sure why not. And from there he was off to the races, figuratively and literally.

See that first day, that first spring day, he had scored big, had been hot all day and wound up several hundred dollars ahead. Nice, he thought, nice and easy, and with no hassles, no income tax to pay either if you knew how to hide the dough. And that day, or really that night, he started plotting his future his race track tout future. What drove him, what he noticed, was that he had won when he played the number one horse in the race. So he devised a system. He would play off and on the number one horse in every race. Otherwise he would sit the race out. The next day he “played” his system. Although he didn’t win as much he still came out a couple of hundred dollars ahead, and had guys buying him a couple of beers when he spotted them a winner just for kicks. Just a bad day he thought, and a lot of the number one horses were dogs anyway. He had his system though and the key was to stick with it. The reason people couldn’t beat the horses he thought was they didn’t have a system, maybe just played a horse because it looked nice coming out of the paddock, or maybe had nice colors, or liked the jockey, or the name of the horse, anything, anyway. No wonder the suckers lost.
For a while his system worked pretty well, maybe for about a week, ten days, he was ahead a few thousand dollars. And didn’t have to work at all, just enjoy the sun, the crowds, and the sport of kings. Yes, just sit in the sun, sit on the bleachers, maybe go out on the rail and mingle, and figure his figures. Nice stuff. He even bought his girlfriend, Joyce, a nice ring worth a few hundred bucks and she responded with some very nice under the sheets stuff, some stuff she hadn’t done for him before even when he asked. That fact drove him even harder in his figures once he knew what was what with her. Then the other shoe fell, fell a little, then fell a lot as his system started to unravel and he started losing money, first the track’s then his.

What happened was that he started pressing a little too much on that number one horse, placing bets on some dogs figuring that the one was due. He spent many nights, many Joyce-less endlessly refining the system, seeing where he could make a big score, make a big score all the way to easy street. Nothing worked. He had gone dry, gone dry and pressed his luck too hard. The details of what brought him to that crummy room need not detain us long, actually on second thought let’s run through a couple of points. Naturally he started making bigger bets, figuring that a big bet win would get him well, would put him back on pace. Number Ones seemed to be in the doldrums at least when he placed a bet though. He quickly ran through his“winnings,” then started to dig into his own savings, blew those to kingdom come in a few weeks and then started begging, borrowing and stealing (literally in all three cases). First from Joyce (although he never, never asked her to hock that nice ring) until she finally gave him the air, the big brush-off and went looking for some other fool who was looking for easy street, or had already found it. Then borrowed from every friend whom he had ever lent a quarter giving a truly worthy hard-luck story that would bring tears to anyone’s eyes. Then he borrowed, soberly borrowed, from the hard boys, the high interest boys (whom he was trying to avoid in his lonely crummy room). Nothing.
Hell he even joined the stoopers and benders at the track trying to get well. You don’t know the stoopers? You know the guys, maybe women too, but mostly guys, every broker at every track in the world who lived not to place a bet, for they have long ago run out of money for more than some show bet on the favorite, but who scavenged for dropped tickets after each race hoping, hoping against hope, that someone had for about one of seven million reasons thought they had lost and just threw the damn tickets on the ground or in a trash barrel. Enough “scores”have been made this way that a human horde has learned to live for just that day. Yes, times were tough, desperately tough. No more romance of the turf with the weird assortment of losers, has-beens, never-wases, that he previously chatted with. He wore sunglasses to avoid some of those guys with their foolish ideas.

Billy though could not give up that dream that easy street dream. He knew that if he just stayed at it long enough the percentages would come back to him. And maybe Joyce would too, and he would buy her diamonds with his winnings, just for laughs, and not hearse horse snicker laughs either. So as he began to dress himself, put on his slightly frayed shirt, his threadbare pants and his round heel shoes for the day he thought this might be the day the day his luck changed, the day he went all the way to easy street. With that thought in mind like a lemming to the sea he went to Snookie’s newsstand over on Tremont Street to get a copy of the Daily Racing Form.

***Poet's Corner- Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"

Markin comment:

I am not a big fan of Robert Frost's poetry (although his public readings were very interesting) but this one every once in a while "speaks" to me when there are two (or more) choices to make in life.

Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

1. The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20





I have reviewed some of the master Communist playwright Bertolt Brecht’s later more consciously political and didactic plays elsewhere in this space. The play under review is an earlier work, before he fully committed himself to communism, and is an adaptation of John Gay’s 18th century Beggar’s Opera to the modern theater. The subject at hand is a look at the way those in the lower depths of society survive under emergent capitalist conditions, especially the main character, one MacHealth a.k.a. Mac the Knife. As such Brecht’s adaptation has given no end of problems for those critics who want to claim it for the communist cause. It is far too universal in it sentiment about human nature in the capitalist era and therefore properly is a transitional to his later more consciously partisan works like The Measures Taken and The Mother. Thus one should take it for is own worth as a look at survival in a seemingly Hobbesian world.

The plot line is rather simply-MacHealth, a former British imperial soldier, has struck out on his own in dog-eat dog London and has created a name for himself as a master criminal and seducer of the ladies. Other forces including the constabulary, a small disreputable but conniving businessman and, let us be politically correct here; some sexual workers combine in an attempt to deprive Mac of life and limb. However luck and a royal coronation combine to thwart those best laid plans. All of this is performed in a light operatic format that allows Brecht to wax poetic at humanity’s plight through a series of sharply-etched songs in which he collaborated with the legendary Kurt Weill.

Above I referred to some controversy about Brecht’s intention in this work. That the roguish, incipient capitalist MacHealth is saved in the end through royal intervention has caused some commentators to argue for the organic connection between the rising capitalist class and the monarchy in England. Others have noted the similarities in appetite between the lumpenproletariat element as represented by MacHealth and his criminal crew and the developing capitalism of the time. I think that both views overdraw what one can take out of Gay’s story or Brecht’s adaptation. This story line is much more conducive to a generalized treatment on the nature of survival in a world that has broken from its agrarian past and has not yet stabilized it bourgeois norms of propriety. Some of these same characteristics were played out in the development of American capitalism, especially in the Wild West. But as presented here this is only a rudimentary outline of where things could go. I stand by my comment in the first paragraph about the unmediated nature of Brecht’s take on Gay’s little work. He most definitely got more focused on the nature of the human plight under capitalism latter as he developed as a Marxist.





As I recently noted in this space while reviewing The Presidential Papers and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (hereafter Miami) at one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that Norman Mailer wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Ernest as the preeminent male American prose writer. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels like The Deer Park in his time I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon. With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1972 political campaign St. George and the Godfather-the one that pitted the hapless George McGovern against the nefarious President Richard M. Nixon.  This work while not as insightful as Miami or as existentially philosophical (except a short screed on the abortion question) or as cosmic as his approach in the Presidential Papers nevertheless only confirms what I mentioned above as his proper place in the literary scheme of things.

As mentioned in those previous reviews Theodore White may have won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960 and his later incarnations on that theme but Mailer in his pithy manner has given us a useful overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America in these campaigns. I would also note here that his work on the 1972 campaign represents the efforts of a man deeply immersed in the working of bourgeois politics from the inside. The 1972 campaign also marks the beginning of new kid on the block ‘gonzo’ journalist Doctor Hunter Thompson’s take on that same process from the outside with Fear and Loathing on the 1972 Campaign Trial. In a shootout Thompson wins this one hands down. Poor Teddy White is over in a corner somewhere, muttering. In Mailer’s defense, as he acknowledged, there was not much to work with in 1972 inside the process and so the only real way to do it was from the outside.

That last statement is kind of an epiphany for my take on these three journalistic works by Mailer. The campaigns of 1960, 1968 and 1972 not only  bear commenting on as part of the breakdown of the bourgeois consensus in the last third of the 20th century but represent a parallel personal politic story about my own political trajectory in that period. One clear point that I made in Miami was my undiminished commitment to the defeat of one Richard M.  Nixon in the year 1968. As a result I found myself going from critical support for Lyndon Johnson, uncritical adoration for Robert Kennedy and pounding on doors for Hubert Humphrey. The details of that sorry saga have been commented on in this space last year in Confessions of an Old Militant-A Cautionary Tale. (See archives, October 2006). My main point for reviewing the 1972 campaign is that by then, although Richard Nixon had not taken himself off my most wanted list and George McGovern was clearly superior to the likes of Hubert Humphrey as an honest bourgeois presidential candidate, I had decisively broken from ‘lesser evil’ politics. Between 1968 and 1972 I had had a socialist ‘conversion’ experience and for me the Democratic Party had become an empty shell. If one takes the time to compare Mailer’s work on the 1968 and 1972 elections one can draw that same contrast without necessarily drawing the same political conclusion. In a couple of hundred pages he basically has to make up a story out of whole clothe because the drama on the Democratic side came  after the convention with the vice-presidential choice debacle and on the Republican side the convention was so scripted that one could have read the transcripts instead. Again the real action, the real face of the born-again Richard Milhous Nixon came after the convention in the throes of the Watergate explosion.    

As I write this commentary it has been 35 years since those conventions and much has politically gone on in that time, mainly for the worst from the perspective of leftist politics. One would think that it is finally time for a shift back to the left. I believe that the right wing has had its time and that indeed the shift will take place, if slowly. If one seeks to find the genesis for the bad politics of the last period then Norman Mailer’s take on these events, nodal points in the conventional political process, if you will, bear close examination. As I noted in the Miami review, and it bears repeating here, we had better make very good use of any shift to the left and not let the other side off the hook this time. Enough said.






As I recently noted in this space while reviewing Norman Mailer’s The Presidential Papers at one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that he wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Hemingway as the preeminent male American prose writer. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels in his time like the Deer Park I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon. With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1968 political campaign Miami and the Siege of Chicago -the one that pitted Lyndon Johnson, oops, Hubert Humphrey against Richard M. Nixon.  This work is exponentially better than his scattershot approach in the Presidential Papers and only confirms what I mentioned above as his proper place in the literary scheme of things. Theodore White may have won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960 and his later incarnations on that theme but Mailer in his pithy manner gives an overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America in that hell bent election. I would note that for Mailer as for many of us, not always correctly as in my own case, this 1968 presidential campaign season and those conventions evolved in a year that saw a breakdown of the bourgeois electoral political process that had not been seen in this country since the 1850’s just prior to the Civil War.

The pure number of unsettling events of that year was a portent that this would be a watershed year for good or evil. Out of the heat, killing and destruction in Vietnam came the North Vietnamese/National Liberation Front Tet offensive that broke the back of the lying reports that American/South Vietnamese success was just around the corner. Today’s Iraq War supporters might well take note. In the aftermath of that decisive event insurgent anti-war Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy’s seemingly quixotic campaign against a sitting president jumped off the ground. In the end that offensive also forced Lyndon Johnson from office. And drove Robert Kennedy to enter the fray. The seemingly forgotten LBJ spear carrier Hubert Humphrey also got a new lease on life.  I will have more to say about this below. Then, seemingly on a dime, in a tick we seemed to be losing ground. The assasination of Martin Luther King and the burning down of the ghettoes of major cities in its aftermath and later of Robert Kennedy at a moment of victory placed everything on hold. That spring also witnessed turmoil on the campuses of the United States exemplified by the Columbia University shut down and internationally by the student –ignited French General Strike. These and other events held both promise and defeat that year but when I reflect on 1968 almost forty years later I am struck by  the fact that in the end one political retread, Richard Milhous Nixon, was on top and the front  of an almost forty year bourgeois political counter revolution had began. Not a pretty picture but certainly a cautionary tale of sorts. The ‘of sorts’ of the tale is that if you are going to try to make fundamental changes in this society you better not play around with it and better not let the enemy off the hook when you have him cornered. That seems like the beginning of wisdom.

I have written elsewhere (see archives, Confessions of An Old Militant- A Cautionary Tale, October 2006) that while all hell was breaking loose in American society in 1968 my essentially left liberal parliamentary cretinist response was to play ‘lesser evil’ bourgeois electoral politics. My main concern, a not unworthy but nevertheless far from adequate one, was the defeat of one Richard Nixon who was making some very depressing gains toward both the Republican nomination and the presidency. As noted in the above mentioned commentary I was willing to go half the way with LBJ in 1968 and ultimately all the way with HHH in order to cut Nixon off at the knees. I have spent a good part of the last forty years etching the lessons of that mistake in my brain and that of others. But as I pointed out in that commentary I was much more equivocal at the time, as Mailer was, about the effect of Robert Kennedy the candidate of my heart and my real candidate in 1968. I have mentioned before and will do so again here that if one bourgeois candidate could have held me in democratic parliamentary politics it would have been Robert Kennedy. Not John, although as pointed out in my review of The Presidential Papers in my early youth I was fired up by his rhetoric but there was something about Robert that was different. Maybe our very similar deep Irish sense of  fatalism, maybe our shared sense of the tragic in life or  maybe in the end it was our ability to rub shoulders with the ‘wicked’ of this world to get a little bit of human progress.  But enough of nostalgia.  If you want to look seriously inside the political conventions of 1968 and what they meant in the scheme of American politics from a reasonably objective progressive partisan then Mailer is your guide here. This is the model, not Theodore White’s more mechanical model of coverage, that Hunter Thompson tapped into in his ‘gonzo’ journalistic approach in latter conventions- an insightful witness to the hypocrisy and balderdash of those processes.     





At one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that Norman Mailer wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Ernest as the preeminent male American prose writer. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels like The Deer Park in his time I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon. With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1960 political campaign-the one that pitted John F. Kennedy against Richard M. Nixon- that is the center of the book under review. There are other essays in this work, some of merely passing topical value, but what remains of interest today is a very perceptive analysis of the forces at work in that pivotal election.  Theodore White won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960. Mailer in a few pithy articles gave the overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America of that time.

Needless to say the Kennedy victory of that year has interest today mainly for the forces that it unleashed in the base of society, especially, but not exclusively, among the youth. His rather conventional bourgeois Cold War foreign policy and haphazard domestic politics never transcended those of the New and Fair Deals of Roosevelt and Truman but his style, his youth and his élan seemingly gave the go ahead to all sorts of projects in order to ‘‘seek a newer world”. And we took him up on this.  This writer counted himself among those youth who saw the potential to change the world. We also knew that if the main villain of the age , one Richard Milhous Nixon, had been successful in 1960 as he graphically demonstrated when he later became president we would not be seeing any new world but the same old, same old.

I had been eclectically interested in politics from an early age. Names like the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, Khrushchev and organizations like Americans for Democratic Action and the like were familiar to me if not fully understood. I came of political age with the 1960 presidential campaign. Mailer addresses the malaise of American political life during the stodgy Eisenhower years that created the opening for change-and Kennedy and his superb organization rushed in. These chances, as a cursory perusal of the last 40 odd years of bourgeois presidential politics makes painfully clear, do not come often. The funny thing is that during most  of 1960 I was actually ‘Madly for Adlai’, that is I preferred Adlai Stevenson the twice defeated previous Democratic candidate, but when the deal went down at the advanced age of 14 I walked door to door talking up Kennedy. Of course, in Massachusetts that was not a big deal but I still recall today that I had a very strong sense I did not want to be left out of the new age ‘aborning’. That, my friends, in a small way is the start of that slippery road to the ‘lesser evil’ practice that dominates American politics and that took me a fairly long time to break with.

Mailer has some very cutting, but true, remarks about the kind of people who populate the political milieu down at the base of bourgeois politics, those who make it to the political conventions. Except that today they are better dressed and more media savvy nothing has changed. Why? Bourgeois politics, not being based on any fidelity to program except as a throwaway, is all about winning (and fighting to keep on winning). This does not bring out the better angels of our nature. For those old enough to remember that little spark of youth that urged us on to seek that newer world and for those too young to have acquired knowledge of anything but the myth Mailer’s little book makes for interesting and well written reading.
From The American Left History Blog Archives (2006) - On American Political Discourse  

Markin comment:

In the period 2006-2009 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers party that fights for a workers government . More than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then does not a bad feel to it. Read on.




This writer entered the blogosphere in February 2006 so this is the second Labor Day scorecard giving his take on the condition of American labor as we approach Labor Day. And it is not pretty. That, my brothers and sisters, says it all. There was little strike action this year. The only notable action was among the grossly overworked and underpaid naval shipbuilders down in anti-union bastion Mississippi in the spring and that hard fought fight was a draw, at best. Once again there is little to report in the way of unionization to organize labor’s potential strength. American workers continue to have a real decline in their paychecks. The difference between survival and not for most working families is the two job (or more) household. In short, the average family is working more hours to make ends meet. Real inflation in energy and food costs has put many up against the wall. Moreover the bust in the housing market has wrecked havoc on working people as the most important asset in many a household has taken a beating. Once again forget the Federal Reserve Bank’s definition of inflation- one fill up at the pump confounds that noise. One does not have to be a Marxist economist to know that something is desperately wrong when at the beginning of the 21st century with all the technological advances and productivity increases of the past period working people need to work more just to try to stay even. Even the more far-sighted bourgeois thinkers have trouble with that one. In any case, here are some comments on the labor year.

*The key as it was last year, although certainly not the only action necessary, to a turn-around for American labor is the unionization of Wal-Mart and the South. The necessary class struggle politics that would make such drives successful would act as a huge impetus for other areas of the labor movement. This writer further argues that such struggles against such vicious enemies as Wal-Mart can be the catalyst for the organization of a workers party.  Okay, okay let the writer dream a little, won’t you? What has happened this year on this issue is that more organizations have taken up the call for a boycott of Wal-Mart. That is all to the good and must be supported by militant leftists but it is only a very small beginning shot in the campaign (See archives, dated June 10, 2006). National and local unions have taken monies from their coffers not for such a worthy effort but to support one or another bourgeois candidate. Some things never change.       

*The issue of immigration has surfaced strongly again this year, especially in presidential politics. Every militant leftist was supportive of the past May Day actions of the vast immigrant communities to not be pushed around, although one can also note that they were not nearly as extensive as in 2006. Immigration is a labor issue and key to the struggle against the race to the bottom. While May Day and other events were big moments unless there are links to the greater labor movement this very promising movement could fizzle. A central problem is the role of the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church in the organizing effort.  I will deal with this question at a latter time but for now know this- these organizations are an obstruction to real progress on the immigration issue. (See archives, dated May 1, 2006)    

*If one needed one more example of why the American labor movement is in the condition it is finds itself then yet another article this summer by John Sweeney, punitive President of the AFL-CIO, and therefore one of the titular heads of the organized labor brings that point home in gory detail. The gist of the article is that the governmental agencies, like the National Labor Relations Board, have over the years (and here he means in reality the Bush years) bent over backwards to help the employers in their fight against unionization. Well, John, surprise, surprise. Needless to say this year his so-called friends in Congress were not able to pass simple legislation to formally, at least, protect the right to unionization, the so-called employees’ bill of rights. That was a non-starter from the get-go.   No militant leftist, no forget that, no militant trade unionist has believed in the impartiality of governmental boards, agencies, courts, etc. since about 1936. Yes, that is right, since Roosevelt. Wake up. Again this brings up the question of the leadership of the labor movement. And I do not mean to turn it over to Andy Stein and his Change to Win Coalition.  We may be, as some theorists imagine, a post-industrial society, but the conditions of labor seem more like the classic age of rapacious capitalist accumulation.  We need a labor leadership based on a program of labor independence and struggle for worker rights- and we need it damn soon.
***From The May Day 2012 Organizing Archives –May Day 2013 Needs The Same Efforts

Boston's International Workers Day 2013

BMDC International Workers Day Rally
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at Boston City Hall
Gather at 2PM - Rally at 2:30PM
(Court St. & Cambridge St.)
T stops Government Center (Blue line, Green line)

To download flyer click here. (Please print double-sided)

Other May Day events:

Revere - @ City Hall - gather at 3:pmbegin marching at 3:30 (to Chelsea)
Everett - @ City Hall - gather at 3:pm begin marching at 3:30 (to Chelsea)
Chelsea - @ City Hall - rally a 3:pm (wait for above feeder marches to arrive) will begin marching at 4:30 (to East Boston)
East Boston - @ Central Square - (welcome marchers) Rally at 5:pm

BMDC will join the rally in East Boston immediately following Boston City Hall rally

Supporters: ANSWER Coalition, Boston Anti Authoritarian Movement, Boston Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee, Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition, Harvard No-Layoffs Campaign, Industrial Workers of the World, Latinos for Social Change, Mass Global Action, Sacco & Vanzetti Commemoration Society, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Party of Boston, Socialist Workers Party, Student Labor Action Movement, USW Local 8751 - Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Worcester Immigrant Coalition, National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Democracy Center - Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridge/Somerville/Arlington United for Justice with Peace, International Socialist Organization, Community Church of Boston

All Out On May Day 2012: A Day Of International Working Class Solidarity Actions- A Call To Action In Boston (And Everywhere)

Click on the headline to link to the <i>Boston May Day Coalition</i> website.

All Out For May 1st-International Workers Day 2012!

Markin comment:

In late December 2011 the General Assembly (GA) of Occupy Los Angeles, in the aftermath of the stirring and mostly successful November 2nd Oakland General Strike and December 12th West Coast Port Shutdown, issued a call for a national and international general strike centered on immigrant rights, environmental sustainability, a moratorium on foreclosures, an end to the wars, and jobs for all. These and other political issues such as supporting union organizing, building rank and file committees in the unions, and defending union rights around hours, wages and working conditions that have long been associated with the labor movement internationally are to be featured in the actions set for May Day 2012. 

May Day is the historic international working class holiday that has been celebrated each year in many parts of the world since the time of the heroic Haymarket Martyrs in Chicago in 1886 and the struggle for the eight-hour work day. More recently it has been a day when the hard-pressed immigrant communities here in America join together in the fight against deportations and other discriminatory aspects of governmental immigration policy. Given May Day’s origins it  is high time that the hard-pressed American working class begin to link up with its historic past and make this day its day.

Political activists here in Boston, some connected with Occupy Boston (OB) and others who are independent or organizationally affiliated radicals, decided just after the new year to support that general strike call and formed the General Strike Occupy Boston working group (GSOB). The working group has met, more or less weekly, since then to plan local May Day actions. The first step in that process was to bring a resolution incorporating the Occupy Los Angeles issues before the GA of Occupy Boston for approval. That resolution was approved by GA OB on January 7, 2012.   

OB Endorses Call for General Strike

January 8th, 2012 • mhacker •

The following proposal was passed by the General Assembly on Jan 7, 2012:

Occupy Boston supports the call for an international General Strike on May 1, 2012, for immigrant rights, environmental sustainability, a moratorium on foreclosures, an end to the wars, and jobs for all. We recognize housing, education, health care, LGBT rights and racial equality as human rights; and thus call for the building of a broad coalition that will ensure and promote a democratic standard of living for all peoples.
Early discussions within the working group centered on drawing the lessons of the West Coast actions last fall. Above all what is and what isn’t a general strike. Traditionally a general strike, as witness the recent actions in Greece and other countries, is called by workers’ organizations and/or parties for a specified period of time in order to shut down substantial parts of the capitalist economy over some set of immediate demands. A close analysis of the West Coast actions showed a slightly different model: one based on community pickets of specified industrial targets, downtown mass street actions, and scattered individual and collective acts of solidarity like student support strikes and sick-outs. Additionally, small businesses and other allies were asked to close and did close down in solidarity.

That latter model seemed more appropriate to the tasks at hand in Boston given its   less than militant recent labor history and that it is a regional financial, technological and educational hub rather than an industrial center. Thus successful actions in Boston on May Day 2012 will not necessarily exactly follow the long established radical and labor traditions of the West Coast. Group discussions have since then reflected that understanding. The focus will be on actions and activities that respond to and reflect the Boston political situation as attempts are made to create, re-create really, an on-going May Day tradition beyond the observance of the day by labor radicals and the immigrant communities. 

Over the past several years, starting with the nation-wide actions in 2006, the Latin and other immigrant communities in and around Boston have been celebrating May Day as a day of action on the very pressing problem of immigration status as well as the traditional working-class solidarity holiday. It was no accident that Los Angeles, scene of massive pro-immigration rallies in the past and currently one of the areas facing the brunt of the deportation drives by the Obama administration, would be in the lead to call for national and international actions this year. One of the first necessary steps for the working group therefore was to try to reach out to the already existing Boston May Day Coalition (BMDC), which has spearheaded the annual marches and rallies in the immigrant communities, in order to learn of their experiences and to coordinate actions. This was done as well in order to better coordinate this year’s more extensive over-all May Day actions.    

Taking a cue from the developing May Day action movement in this country, especially the broader and more inclusive messages coming out of some of the more vocal Occupy working groups a consensus has formed around the theme of “May 1st- A Day Without The Working Class And Its Allies” in order to highlight the fact that in the capitalist system labor, of one kind or another, has created all the wealth but has not shared in the accumulated profits.  Highlighting the increasing economic gap between rich and poor, the endemic massive political voiceless-ness of the vast majority, and social issues related to race, class, sexual inequality, gender and the myriad other oppressions the vast majority face under capitalism is in keeping with the efforts initiated long ago by those who fought for the eight-hour day in the late 1800s and later with the rise of the anarchist, socialist and communist and organized trade union movements.

On May Day working people and their allies are called to strike, skip work, walk out of school, and refrain from shopping, banking and business in order to implement the general slogan. Working people are encouraged to request the day off, or to call in sick. Small businesses are encouraged to close for the day and join the rest of the working class and its allies in the streets.

For students at all levels the call is for a walk-out of classes. Further college students are urged to occupy the universities. With a huge student population of over 250,000 in the Boston area no-one-size-fits- all strategy seems appropriate. Each kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, graduate school and wayward left-wing think tank should plan its own strike actions and, at some point in the day all meet at a central location in downtown Boston.

Tentatively planned, as of this writing,  for the early hours on May 1st is for working people, students, oppressed minorities and their supporters to converge on the Boston Financial District for a day of direct action to demand an end to corporate rule and a shift of power to the people. The Financial District Block Party is scheduled to start at 7:00 AM on the corner of Federal Street & Franklin Street in downtown Boston. Banks and corporations are strongly encouraged to close down for the day.

At noon there will be a city permit-approved May Day rally to be addressed by a number of speakers from different groups at Boston City Hall Plaza. Following the rally participants are encouraged to head to East Boston for solidarity marches centered on the immigrant communities that will start at approximately 2:00 PM and move from East Boston, Chelsea, and Revere to Everett for  a rally at 4:00 PM. Other activities that afternoon for those who chose not to go to East Boston will be scheduled in and around the downtown area.

That evening, for those who cannot for whatever reasons participate in the daytime actions and for any others who wish to do so, there will be a “Funeral March” for the banks forming at 7:00 PM at Copley Square that steps off at 8:00 PM and will march throughout the downtown area.

Pick up the spirit of the general slogans for May 1st now- No work. No school. No chores. No shopping. No banking. Let’s show the rulers that we have the power. Let’s show the world what a day without working people and their allies producing goods and services really means. And let’s return to the old traditions of May Day as a day of international solidarity with our working and oppressed sisters and brothers around the world. All Out For May Day 2012 in Boston!