Saturday, February 22, 2014

In Honor Of Women’s History Month- “Big Bill” Haywood’s Nevada Jane    

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Nevada Jane-Utah Phillips

Are the linens turned down in folds of glowing white?
Are you lying there alone again tonight?
He’s marching with the men through the cold November rain,
But you know he’ll come back home, Nevada Jane.

Have you seen the way he holds her as thought she was a bride,
Children riding on shoulders strong & wide?
She never thought to scold him or even to com-plain,
& Big Bill always loved Nevada Jane.

And when he stumbles in with blood upon his shirt,
Washing up alone, just to hide the hurt,
He will lie down by your side and wake you with your name,
You’ll hold him in your arms, Nevada Jane. (Chorus)

Nevada Jane went riding, her pony took a fall,
The doctor said she never would walk again at all;
But Big Bill could lift her lightly, the big hands rough and plain
Would gently carry home Nevada Jane.

The storms of Colorado rained for ten long years,
The mines of old Montana were filled with blood and tears,
Utah, Arizona, California hear the name
Of the man who always loved Nevada Jane. (Chorus)

Although the ranks are scattered like leaves upon the breeze,
And with them go the memory of harder times than these,
Some things never change, but always stay the same,
Just like the way Bill loved Nevada Jane. (Chorus)


Nevada Jane

I've been told that I'm wrong about this song. I don't know whether I am or not, since Bill Haywood, who was with the Western Federation of Miners and was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Industrial Workers of the World, never mentioned his wife in his autobiography except very briefly, so I can't tell whether he really loved his wife or not.

I do have stories from old-timers who tell me about when Bill Haywood was working in a mine camp, basically doing a job of de-horning. His wife, Nevada Jane, had been crippled by a fall from her pony, so she couldn't walk. Bill had a house on the edge of town, and he would carry his wife down to the railroad station every morning. She would sit there and talk to the women of the town about what they could do to help organize the town, while Bill was brawling at the bars. He'd come back at the end of the day, pick Nevada Jane up, hang one of their kids off of each shoulder, and every night you'd see him carrying the wife and kids up to the house.

Most of the songs about labor struggles are full of loud shouting and arm-waving and thunder and rhetoric. It's good for me, every now and then, to try to take a look at the human side of it, right or wrong.

The tune is by one of my favorite songwriters, Stephen Foster. I first heard "Gentle Annie" from Kate McGarrigle of Canada. The tune has too many wide-apart changes in it for me to sing the way Stephen Foster wrote it, so I changed it some –Utah Phillips

… and I will follow Utah’s lead

She knew she wanted him, knew she wanted “Big Bill” Haywood (nobody ever called him just Bill, not even his drinking companions, and certainly not his legion of lady friends who had a different take of that Big Bill notion, so Big Bill it was)  from the first time she set eyes on him. First set eyes on him in front of those Virginia City miners all hungry, sweaty, and dirty from the thankless work-a-day toil, listening intently at that meeting where he boomed out his message-his message that working men had to stick together against the damn (he used less elegant language but that conveyed the idea) bosses and their agents in and out of the government, that all working men were brothers  and that a better system, a system where the working man had a say in what the hell (again he used more salty language) was going on and how to keep from starving for starters to boot. He had more to say, spent the better part of an hour saying it with all those sweaty bodies filled with haggard eyes still following him, but she, Nevada Jane (although just Jane then, he gave her the Nevada part later, later after he had “conquered” her or that was the way he told the story) was more, uh, interested in the look of him, that big rugged man look, that take no prisoners look, that man of the West look, that had her entranced from that first moment. She had to have him, have him come hell or high water.

And she did, she did snare that man of the West by being a woman of the West, and just aiming straight for him. Oh, she used her feminine wiles for part of it, no question, but what Big Bill found interesting in her was that pioneer stock woman who asked for no more than he could give, and gave no less than she could give. Now everybody heard, hell, everybody knew, that Big Bill liked the ladies, had to have them, but even before her accident, her damn accident on that favored mare which crippled her up, she knew that when the deal went down he would always come back to her if he could. And after the accident he did, did more often than not come back, pleased to be with her back, back to his Nevada Jane.

But see Big Bill was a man of action and she knew, knew deep in her pioneer stock womanhood, that he had to do what he had to do. And so along with the joy at his sight when he showed up she had days and nights of anguish. Days and nights when he was on a miners’ organizing drive in some hellhole place like Bisbee, out in Arizona copper country, or over in the rapidly vanishing Nevada silver mines or up in Butte, up in Big Sky country where the mines stretched out over the high prairies  and hills. All places where the bosses’ had a bounty out on Big Bill’s hide.  Days and nights of worry about his health, especially that big heart that might break at any time, or that dead eye that might flare up and cause some hell. Days and nights of worry that he might drink that river of liquor, hard liquor, hard old whiskey, that he kept saying he needed to keep him fit for the work (except when he wanted to call a meeting and would literally close down every bar in some town, forcibly if he had to, to insure a proper attendance).

Mostly though she worried about the women, about some young thing, maybe a pioneer woman who was not crippled up, or maybe one if those New York society women who were all agog over him when he went East to raise money and support for the miners and for the IWW (Wobblies, Industrial Workers Of The World), but she worried. She worried and she kept his home clean and nice, pioneer simple but clean and neat, for his return. And he did return for as long as he could…

And hence this Women’s History Month contribution   
Out In The Black Liberation Night- The 1960s Black Panthers And The Struggle For The Ten-Point Program-The Complete Stories

Eight –No More Jail Cells

Jesus, how did he, let’s leave him nameless at his request but his story is legion, legion in black ghetto America and brown Latino barrio America too ever since Mister, Senor and their damn cop justice system decided to go after drugs, small change drugs really, get caught up in the dragnet this time, just as he was starting to get things in his life under control, a little. His teenage years had been one hell after another once his father left, left rolling stone left with some woman not his mother and was down south somewhere according to his paternal grandmother and his mother had taken up, undivided attention taken up, with some Johnny Blade (not a bad guy really but not his father, no way).
First thing was that first “clip” bust at thirteen (laughable when he thought about it now, some damn onyx ring, snagged under his shirt so cool from over at Mister Earl’s junk jewelry two bit joint, a two bit joint though with a big old monitor cruising the premises, that he just had to have for Shana’ s Valentine present, long gone and now forgotten Shana), then a couple more small robbery, burglary things (stealthy midnight creeps through back alleys and shimmied windows in the neighborhood apartments, close to home stealing ), then dropping out of school (that too to spent time with some Shana, although that was not her name, name now not remembered), then a “go to jail or go to the army, or else” thing from that old white-bread judge who thought he was doing him a favor when he and two other confederates (nice, huh) did one too many midnight creeps. The favor being that he had two little purple hearts from two- tour Iraq courtesy of Saddam Hussein’s boys, or somebody nasty in Baghdad. Then back to the streets the down streets of Boston, really Roxbury, you know around Washington Street and Geneva his old home turf and its change from just a neighborhood, the ‘hood of child remembrance to something else, a free-fire zone of a different kind.

And you know too that a guy, a black guy, even a purple heart black guy, without any real education, without some serviceable skill (nothing but a damn 11-Bravo to tout, nothing), and without some luck, real luck was up against it, up against it when the cops were always looking you up and down for just walking (he had been eye-balled and stopped twice right after he got back from Iraq and hell he was in uniform one time and they could see the damn purple hearts) since he got back. So, you know, he took up “the life” again, the life this time meaning no small time Mr. Earl cheap jack jewel clips and midnight creep robberies (kid’s stuff) but working his way up the chain in the burgeoning local drug scene.

And he was doing okay for a while until one night they, and you know who the "they" was, came smashing down the door at the safe house over on Norfolk (somebody had snitched, somebody not alive right now) and he was taken in. He did a year at South Bay for that one. It was there that he got “religion.” No, not some damn Black Moslem thing, or god holy roller thing, jesus, no, but, you know, wise to the hard fact that if he was going to make thirty (a milestone for a young black man according to some stuff he read from some report some foundation did while he was in) his life flow was going against that prospect. And so he changed, changed a little, got a job through the VA, not much of a job, but steady, a short order cook and was moving along. Then this night of all nights he decided that he wanted to see a friend, not being exactly sure why but maybe a little wobbly on that straight and narrow, from the old neighborhood, yes, bad move, a guy related to the drug trade and he was present when they came storming in. Thirty ain’t looking so good tonight…

Ten Point Program[edit]

The original "Ten Point Program" from October, 1966 was as follows:[43][44]
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.
We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
2. We want full employment for our people.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black Community.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50 million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
We believe that black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.
We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the black community.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
***The Wedding Crashers Crash Out- Vince Vaughn’s The Internship-A Film Review

DVD Review
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

The Internship, starring Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, 20th Century-Fox, 2013

See there were these two guys who had an agenda, a clever line of spiel, a back and forth repartee and patter with the women, and could sell whatever there was to sell, in selling themselves. And successfully jumping into various and sundry beds as a result. Oh, no that was the Wedding Crashers not the film under review, The Internship. Well, wait a minute, maybe that synopsis is not so far off as this pair, Vince Vaughn (who co-wrote this one) and Owen Wilson (the pair playing modern day Mutt and Jeff, Abbott and Costello, etc. etc.) once again team up to give a funny pair of performances which kept the thinness and commonality of the plot-line from causing us all to go into a stupor.  These guys can apparently save anything with their antic hay humor.     

Okay, let’s try again. See there are two guys, two guys who can sell anything while selling themselves, who become unemployed by virtue of their company going under. What to do. Well why not go from just your average low- tech middle-aged joes to try out life in the land of high- tech. And the culture of high- tech chosen (and on display) is none other than at Google out in sunny California. Except you just don’t walk in and grab some job on your resume there (at least in this film) but must run the gauntlet by serving an internship filled with all kinds of funny tasks, including team-building, for the few available jobs. Well you know our two boys are nothing but low-tech guys so they would fail themselves and their motley of teammates if it was only techie stuff but they bring their version of shoulder-to-the-wheel-think-out-of-the-box in to save the day. And mercifully save this film with their flat-out slap-stick hi-jinx that made even this low-tech guy laugh a few times. No, many times.            

From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-My First Steps Towards the Permanent Revolution
Book Review

Year One of the Russian Revolution-Victor Serge
I have read several books on subjects related to the Russian Revolution by Victor Serge and find that he is a well-informed insider on this subject although the novel rather than history writing is his stronger form of expressing his views. This book can be profitably read in conjunction with other better written left-wing interpretations of this period. Sukhanov's Notes on the Russian Revolution (for the February period), Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution and John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World come to mind.

The task Serge sets himself here is to look at the dramatic and eventually fateful events of first year of the Russian Revolution. Those included the Bolshevik seizure of power, the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly and the struggle by the Bolsheviks against other left-wing tendencies in defining Soviet state policy, the fight to end Russian participation in World War I culminating in the humiliating Brest-Litovsk treaty with Germany and, most importantly, the beginnings of Civil War against the Whites. In short, he investigates all the issues that will ultimately undermine and cause the degeneration of what was the first successful socialist seizure of state power in history.

Serge's history is partisan history in the best sense of the word. It is rather silly at this late date to argue that historians must be detached from the subject of their investigations. All one asks is that a historian gets the facts for his or her analysis straight. And try to stay out of the way. Serge passes this test. Serge worked under the assumption that the strategic theory of the Bolshevik leaders Lenin and Trotsky was valid. That premise stated Russia as the weakest link in the capitalist system could act as the catalyst for revolution in the West and therefore shorten its road to socialism. The failure of that Western revolution, the subsequent hostile encirclement by the Western powers and the inevitable degeneration implicit in a revolution in an economically undeveloped country left to its own resources underlies the structure of his argument.

The Russian revolution of October 1917 was the defining event for the international labor movement during most of the 20th century. Serious militants and left -wing organizations took their stand based on their position on the so-called Russian Question. At that time the level of political class-consciousness in the international labor movement was quite high. Such consciousness does not exist today where the socialist program is seen as Utopian. However, notwithstanding the demise of the Soviet state in 1991-92 and the essential elimination of the specific Russian Question as a factor in world politics anyone who wants learn some lessons from the heroic period of the Russian Revolution will find this book an informative place to start.

Click below to link to the Revolutionary History Journal index.

Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s leftist militants to “discover” the work of our forebears, particularly the bewildering myriad of tendencies which have historically flown under the flag of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International, whether one agrees with their programs or not. But also other laborite, semi-anarchist, ant-Stalinist and just plain garden-variety old school social democrat groupings and individual pro-socialist proponents.

Some, maybe most of the material presented here, cast as weak-kneed programs for struggle in many cases tend to be anti-Leninist as screened through the Stalinist monstrosities and/or support groups and individuals who have no intention of making a revolution. Or in the case of examining past revolutionary efforts either declare that no revolutionary possibilities existed (most notably Germany in 1923) or alibi, there is no other word for it, those who failed to make a revolution when it was possible.

The Spanish Civil War can serve as something of litmus test for this latter proposition, most infamously around attitudes toward the Party Of Marxist Unification's (POUM) role in not keeping step with revolutionary developments there, especially the Barcelona days in 1937 and by acting as political lawyers for every non-revolutionary impulse of those forebears. While we all honor the memory of the POUM militants, according to even Trotsky the most honest band of militants in Spain then, and decry the murder of their leader, Andreas Nin, by the bloody Stalinists they were rudderless in the storm of revolution. But those present political disagreements do not negate the value of researching the POUM’s (and others) work, work moreover done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

Finally, I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries from the Revolutionary History journal in which they have post hoc attempted to rehabilitate some pretty hoary politics and politicians, most notably August Thalheimer and Paul Levy of the early post Liebknecht-Luxemburg German Communist Party. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read, learn, and try to figure out the
wheat from the chaff. 


My First Steps Towards the Permanent Revolution

The following account was written by ‘Comrade P’, who was then a militant of the La Lutte group, but who has had no contacts with the Trotskyist movement since the 1940s and now lives in France. Its translation we owe to Comrade Simon Pirani, and the text was given to us for reproduction here by Comrade Ngo Van Xuyet.
It expresses the view of the La Lutte group (as opposed to the ICL to which belonged ‘Lucien’ (Lu Sanh Han) and Ngo Van, and whose basic document is reproduced in Our Position below). The La Lutte group, seeing no other possible policy due to the relationship of forces, gave critical support to the Vietminh Nam-bo Committee (cf. Paolo Conlon, Yet More on the Vietnamese Trotskyists, in Workers Press, 21 March 1987, answered by Simon Pirani, Looking at History with Blinkers On, Workers Press, 25 April 1987). It did not actually join the Vietminh government, as is so often stated, but it did agree to sit upon a commission set up to negotiate with the Allies when they landed in Saigon, which in the event never met. It was, so Comrade Ngo Van commented, “perhaps a bit like the behaviour of Stalin and Kamenev in February 1917” (Conversation with Al Richardson, 1 June 1990).
The La Lutte group criticised the ICL as being ‘sectarian’ (cf. Trotskyism in Vietnam in International Communist, no.7, March 1978, pp.49-51), and when the latter appeared on the great Saigon demonstration (cf. the account of Comrade Ngo Van Xuyet, above) the La Lutte group denounced it as follows:
“The La Lutte group, which has joined the Vietminh front, has made known that in the course of the demonstration of 25 August, a group of persons marching under the banner of the world revolution [a red flag bearing a globe crossed by a lightning flash] had sown confusion by its slogans. They declared that they had no links with these people.” (Journal de Saigon, no.17017, 28 August 1945). The La Lutte group, which later named itself the Socialist Workers Party, was much more numerous than the ICL. Differences widened in the exile in France, where the ICL adopted a state capitalist analysis of the Soviet Union. The exiles in France belonged to both tendencies, but were not divided into two organisations over basic questions as they had been in Vietnam.
I was then 17 years old. Japanese imperialism had undergone a defeat, and the French were despoiled, under guard and concentrated) in various large towns. The old political leaders were returning from deportation and the extermination camps. Saigon, my birthplace, was able to breathe its first breaths of freedom normally for the first time. Such was the political situation in Saigon on the day I joined the Trotskyist La Lutte group.
After an absence of eight years, La Lutte, the organ for the defence of the working class, made its reappearance before the Saigon public. In a few days the number of papers brought out climbed to dizzy heights. Three editions a day were not enough for the workers and the Saigon public. [1] The Stalinist organisations, on the one hand preoccupied with the question of taking power, and having on the other already been defeated by the Trotskyists at the time of the election campaigns of 1936-37, no longer had the time to carry out work among the factory workers and toilers in the towns. Since the first days of political agitation it seemed to me that the October Group wished to carry out extensive work among the workers, and it succeeded overwhelmingly. This work, however, was unfortunately only carried out on the basis of revolutionary instinct; its leading cadre, moreover, severely affected by imperialist repression as well as by the treachery or defection of a certain leading member [2] was unable to regain its sense of direction. It then abandoned this work to resort to an adventurist policy of dual power with the Stalinists.
As for the La Lutte group, its leadership was re-established and the same personnel were once again reunited. [3]
In the midst and at the height of the struggle one fact has tormented me for a good number of years: our leader Ta Thu Thau left us in order to return to the north of Vietnam. The entire defeat was partly the result of his departure from the field of battle. Officially, as far as we rank and file militants were concerned, Ta Thu Thau had left on a mission to the north. However, according to his second in command, he intended to get to Chungking (via Yunnan). [4]
In accordance with the unanimous political orientation at that time, “march separately, strike together”, the remaining Central Committee carried on its work of agitation and propaganda, whilst placing itself under the control of the Vietminh front when it came to action. In addition, the Central Committee obtained permission from the Stalinists to set up a workers’ militia of self-defence (with the proviso that the military command was put under government control). The government, moreover, already under the direction of the Vietminh Front, took charge of material aid, arms and ammunition. Nothing could get through without the permission of the Stalinists. So carried away by their enthusiasm, and by the favourable political situation at the time, our comrades had forgotten all distrust of the Stalinists. From then on our comrades slowed down the work of setting up soviets in the city, of turning the factories into fortresses, and of preparing for a civil war. The militants of the October Group only weakly criticised the La Lutte group. The final days of the existence of the Vietminh Front in Saigon were painful. Everybody, on our side as well as the entire population, felt that something dire was threatening us and lying in wait for us. It was too late for we Trotskyists to do anything in the city of Saigon, no matter what.
23 September 1945. A violent seizure of power by French imperialism, assisted actively by the British army and passively by the Japanese military police. The Vietnamese government immediately gave the order to evacuate Saigon and await further instructions: “Let us keep calm”.
The Central Committee of La Lutte was completely dispersed for several days. Then, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by a comrade who passed on to me instructions appointing me as an aide to a member of the Central Committee [5], along with an order to meet him 150 kilometres south-west of Saigon and conduct him safe and sound to our headquarters, situated 20 kilometres to the north of Saigon. What joy! I can still remember how, half an hour after this news, having kissed my mother goodbye and leaving her in the care of my sister, I left on my bike at one in the morning and pedalled without stopping to carry out my mission. Three days later we were at headquarters.
The ‘General Staff’ of the La Lutte group existed for about 12 days. It must be realised that we were far from really being that. All this existed in name only. The abrupt dispersal of our comrades led us, in fact, to total disaster: we only had 30 soldiers to the right and left of us, along with different organisations in a state of dissolution. As far as the city workers were concerned, they had either obeyed the evacuation order or were following the regular regiments of the government.
Among the Central Committee members present at headquarters were:
  1. Tran Van Thach, a lawyer and former editor of the paper La Lutte.
  2. Phan Van Hum, author and philosopher.
  3. Phan Van Chanh, a university lecturer.
  4. Ung Hoa, the group’s General Secretary.
  5. Nguyen Thi Loi, a schoolteacher.
  6. Nguyen Van So. [6]
  7. Le Van Thu, a journalist.
These were seven out of the 11 members of the Central Committee of La Lutte. We were very well placed from the point of view of military strategy. We enjoyed sympathy and deep respect as regards the civilian population. They looked upon us as serious people and as revolutionaries who were willing to sacrifice themselves to build something better. [7]
In the remaining paragraphs I shall go over the entire meticulous preparations of the Stalinists for the extermination of the Trotskyists. As I see it, it was a conscious undertaking on the part of the Stalinists. For two weeks before the date of 23 September everywhere in every village on the official notice boards could be found articles drawing the attention of the public to the secret preparations of a “certain organisation” to sabotage the peace and the independence of the country. This was a blow aimed at the Trotskyists. So our comrades could easily determine the atmosphere among the public that surrounded us at that time.
I have forgotten to tell you until now that Saigon under the Vietminh government had four military districts: the first was controlled by the Stalinists and the other three by nationalist forces and by forces close to the Trotskyists.
Here is a diagram that will enable you to follow the tactics of the Stalinists in action. Zone 1 was under Stalinist control and was mainly peasant. Zone 2 was half peasant and half working class, and was under the control of the second and third divisions of the Vietnamese army. The majority of the staff in command of the second zone were Trotskyists (former members of the La Lutte group). In addition, a number of principled agreements had been reached between Vu Tranh Anh, the commander of the second division, a former officer in the Japanese army, and the leaders of the La Lutte group.
One further point: the headquarters of the La Lutte group had been set up on the border of the non-Stalinist and Stalinist zones. Zones 3 and 4 had no military divisions, but the apparatus of the GPU was in Zone 3. The administrator of Zone 4 was a neutral intellectual. Every approach to and negotiation with the Vietminh took place through his mediation.
My stay at headquarters was for me an unforgettable and historic memory. United in a common cause, we, who previously had belonged to different social layers, helped each other hand by hand through the fire of our enemies. Day and night, in sun and rain, through vicious jungles and vast rubber plantations, we soldiers of the proletarian general staff tirelessly carried out military manoeuvres by the techniques of guerilla warfare. We were under the command of a former NCO in the French army. We had hardly anything in the way of weapons. Some reliable comrades were assigned the tasks of buying or acquiring arms by our own means on the one hand, or on the other of negotiating with the Vietminh government.
While I am on this subject, as a soldier I did not know anything of the various negotiations between our General Staff and the Vietminh leaders. Nevertheless, on several occasions our comrade Phan Van Chanh was summoned by the Stalinist representatives. And on one occasion, four days before the arrest of our comrades, a Stalinist military and political commission came right into our headquarters, whether to negotiate or to look us over, I don’t know which. As for the surrounding civilian population, they were very impressed by our ideals and actions. Every day they brought us firewood, rice and various foodstuffs free of charge.
Three days before our headquarters was disbanded, we received a number of items of disturbing news:
1. A French cruiser, the Richelieu, had disembarked Leclerc’s troops onto our territory.
2. The second division of the Vietnamese army, on which we had placed all our hopes, had suffered reverses and had had to withdraw. At the front the Allied airborne troops and those of Leclerc (the armoured division in particular) were on the rampage; in the rear, in Zones 3 and 4, the soldiers of the second division had been discharged by the Stalinist forces, who had incited the entire population against this division – a division commanded by a traitor.
3. Our comrade Phan Van Chanh, ask to go with the Vietnamese police, gave himself up and was arrested on the spot. We have had no news of him since then. As far as he is concerned, even his wife who was arrested at the same time and was afterwards released, has not been able find out whether her husband is still alive.
From then onwards we witnessed the complete dispersal and disappearance of our comrades. Our General Staff sent Nguyen Thi Loi on a mission in Zone 1 and then he disappeared.
Our General Staff (I do not know whether it was an order on behalf of the Vietminh government or by its own decision) informed and advised us to get ready to leave for the front in the course of the week. Each of us had to leave our dirty linen in the care of a reliable comrade and we were able to obtain 24 hour leave. As I was still a soldier, I was much intrigued by all of this; it meant leaving the front under arms.
One day before the entire headquarters was arrested, more and more alarming decisions permitted us to foresee certain disaster. And on the basis of all this, I insist that our leaders knew and were aware of the crime that the Stalinists had in store for them.
Comrade Phan Van Hum left the headquarters to go 20 kilometres to the north east to prepare a camp, so that oor soldiers could find refuge there after the ‘final battle’. He left, and then disappeared.
On the final night comrade Tran Van Thach was the only Central Committee member to remain at the headquarters. We soldiers received the order to form a double guard and search everybody who passed in front of our headquarters.
At 5.30a.m. 10 gardes mobiles arrived, under the command of the Stalinist police commissioner of the district, to take away comrade Train Van Thach, to search the entire building and to collect everything together.
Then, for the first time in my life, I heard at first hand the slanders and actions of the Stalinists (both at the same time). Brandishing his revolver, the commissioner gave we soldiers a long lecture.
As for comrade Nguyen Van So, he too was arrested a few days later in equally stormy circumstances (according to accounts on the spot). Then he disappeared.
Of the seven comrades present at the headquarters, five have been murdered, and only two were able to escape.
One of them, Ung Hoa, has, I think, allied with Bao Dai during recent times, since he is related to the royal family.
As for the last of them, Le Van Thu, he still remains in Saigon, sending money to La Verité from time to time.
Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
Do not forget!
Only conscience knows it
And future deeds will respond to it!
‘Comrade P’


The notes are those of the author unless otherwise stated.
1. It should be noted that the circulation did not exceed 15,000. Nonetheless, this was a considerable figure for a non-industrial city of 250,000 inhabitants.
2. Ho Huu Tuong (1910-1980) was arrested at the beginning of the war in 1939 and condemned to four years in prison on 16 April 1940. In 1944 he declared that he had abandoned Marxism and went over to Buddhism, and he later became a professor at the Buddhist University in Saigon. He was released, but placed under house arrest. According to his autobiography, 41 nam Lam Bao (41 Years in Journalism), p.130, the emancipation of humanity by the proletariat is the greatest myth of the nineteenth century, and the revolutionary potential of the proletariat in Europe and North America the greatest myth of the twentieth.
He became a nationalist, and as advisor to Bay Vien, the chief of the Binh Xuyen pirates in rebellion against the Diem government, was arrested and on 28 September 1957 was condemned to death and sent to Poulo Condore concentration camp. When Diem fell from power he was released, and in 1970 campaigned for non-alignment and a ‘third force’, for which he was then deported again by the Thieu government. After the southern regime fell he was arrested by the Stalinists and then interned in a. ‘re-education camp’, and died on the day of his release, 26 June 1980. [Information given to us by Comrade Ngo Van Xuyet]
3. If the La Lutte group allowed some important political issues to bypass it, that was the result of the weakness of our movement on the international level at that time, of the lack of contact between the various sections and particularly of contact with the International Secretariat. Our comrades were unable to keep up with international movements during their five years of deportation.
4. Two years afterwards, once I was able to survey the events as a whole, I came to the conclusion that at that time Ta Thu Thau was all too aware that the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the north and that in the south were not acting in concert with each other. The operations conducted by Tran ’don Giau in Cochin China from the start were not dictated by Ho Chi Minh. It was through wanting to meet Ho Chi Minh, in other words the entire action committee, that Ta Thu Thau exposed himself to risk in this way.
5. He was engaged in carrying on a campaign for the formation of a trade union among schoolteachers.
6. I do not know exactly what his profession was. He was a former student at the ecole normale superieur. He did not live at the headquarters, but about 10 kilometres from there.
7. That was a mistake on the part of our leadership. The population accused us of nothing. It could, however, clearly see the formation of a state within a state. On 22 September 1945, one day before the decision to evacuate the city, on the orders of the Stalinist leader Tran Van Giau, the government decreed the disarming of all military divisions, and the issue of a warrant in particular for the arrest of Vu Tran Anh on a charge of embezzling funds. Now it seems to me that he insinuated himself into the ranks of the Japanese army in order to get out of the country, since he had relinquished his command to his aide-de-camp.
***In The Time Of The Hard Motorcycle Boys- “The Wild One”


DVD Review

The Wild One, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, produced by Stanley Kramer, 1954


Okay here is the book of genesis, the motorcycle book of genesis, or at least my motorcycle book of genesis. But, before I get to that let me make about seventy–six disclaimers. First, the whys and wherefores of the motorcycle culture, except on those occasions when they become subject to governmental investigation or impact some cultural phenomena, is outside the purview of the leftist politics that dominate the commentary in this space. There is no Marxoid political line, as a rule, on such activity, nor should there be. Those exceptions include when motorcyclists, usually under the rubric of “bad actor” motorcycle clubs, like the famous (or infamous) Oakland, California-based Hell’s Angels are generally harassed by the cops and we have to defend their right to be left alone (you know, those "helmet laws", and the never-failing pull-over for "driving while biker") or, like when the Angels were used by the Rolling Stones at Altamont and that ill-advised decision represented a watershed in the 1960s counter-cultural movement. Or, more ominously, from another angle when such lumpen formations form the core hell-raisers of anti-immigrant, anti-socialist,   anti-gay, anti-women, anti-black liberation fascistic demonstrations and we are compelled, and rightly so, to go toe to toe with them. Scary yes, necessary yes, bikes or no bikes.

Second, in the interest of full disclosure I own no stock, or have any other interest, in Harley-Davidson, or any other motorcycle company. Third, I do not now, or have I ever belonged to a motorcycle club or owned a motorcycle, although I have driven them, or, more often, on back of them on occasion. Fourth, I do not now, knowingly or unknowingly, although I grew up in working- class neighborhoods where bikes and bikers were plentiful, hang with such types. Fifth, the damn things and their riders are too noisy, despite the glamour and “freedom” of the road associated with them. Sixth, and here is the “kicker”, I have been, endlessly, fascinated by bikes and bike culture as least since early high school, if not before, and had several friends who “rode.” Well that is not seventy-six but that is enough for disclaimers.

Okay, as to genesis, motorcycle genesis. Let’s connect the dots. A couple of years ago, and maybe more, as part of a trip down memory lane, the details of which do not need detain us here, I did a series of articles on various world-shaking, earth-shattering subjects like high school romances, high school hi-jinks, high school dances, high school Saturday nights, and most importantly of all, high school how to impress the girls( or boys, for girls, or whatever sexual combinations fit these days, but you can speak for yourselves, I am standing on this ground). In short, high school sub-culture, American-style, early 1960s branch, although the emphasis there, as it will be here, is on that social phenomena as filtered through the lenses of a working- class town, a seen better days town at that, my growing up wild-like-the-weeds town.

One of the subjects worked over in that series was the search, the eternal search I might add, for the great working- class love song. Not the Teen Angel, Earth Angel, Johnny Angel generic mush that could play in Levittown, Shaker Heights or La Jolla as well as Youngstown or Moline. No, a song that, without blushing, one could call our own, our working- class own, one that the middle and upper classes might like but would not put on their dance cards. As my offering to this high-brow debate I offered a song by written by Englishman Richard Thompson (who folkies, and folk rockers, might know from his Fairport Convention days, very good days, by the way), Vincent Black Lightning, 1952. (See lyrics below.) Without belaboring the point the gist of this song is the biker romance, British version, between outlaw biker James and black-leathered, red-headed Molly. Needless to say such a tenuous lumpen existence as James leads to keep himself “biked" cuts short any long term “little white house with picket fence” ending for the pair. And we do not need such a boring finish. For James, after losing the inevitable running battle with the police, on his death bed bequeaths his bike, his precious “Vincent Black Lightning”, to said Molly. His bike, man! His bike! Is there any greater love story, working class love story, around? No, this makes West Side Story lyrics and a whole bunch of other such songs seem like so much cornball nonsense. His bike, man. Wow! Kudos, Brother Richard Thompson (the first name needed as another Thompson, Hunter, Doctor Gonzo, of journalistic legend, cut his teeth on the Hell’s Angels)    

Needless to say that exploration was not the end, but rather the beginning of thinking through the great American night bike experience. And, of course, for this writer that means going to the books, the films and the memory bank to find every seemingly relevant “biker” experience. Such classic motorcycle sagas as “gonzo” journalist, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels and other, later Rolling Stone magazine printed “biker” stories and Tom Wolfe’ Hell Angel’s-sketched Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (and other articles about California subset youth culture that drove Wolfe’s work in the old days). And to the hellish Rolling Stones (band) Hell’s Angels “policed” Altamont concert in 1969. And, as fate would have it, with the passing of actor/director Dennis Hooper, the 1960s classic biker/freedom/ seeking the great American night film, Easy Rider. And from Easy Rider to the “max daddy” of them all, tight-jeaned, thick leather-belted, tee-shirted, engineer-booted, leather-jacketed, taxi-driver-capped (hey, that’s what it reminds me of), side-burned, chain-linked wielding, hard-living, alienated, but in the end really just misunderstood, Johnny, aka, Marlon Brando, in The Wild One.

Okay, we will cut to the chase on the plot. Old Johnny and his fellow “outlaw” motorcycle club members are out for some weekend “kicks” after a hard week’s non-work (as far as we can figure out, work was marginal for many reasons, as Hunter Thompson in Hell’s Angels noted, to biker existence, the pursue of jack-rolling, armed robbery or grand theft auto careers probably running a little ahead) out in the sunny California small town hinterlands.(They are still heading out there today, the last time I noticed, in the Southern California high desert, places like Twenty-Nine Palms and Joshua Tree.)

And naturally, when the boys (and they are all boys here, except for a couple of “mamas”, one spurned by Johnny, in a break-away club led by jack-in-the-box jokester, Lee Marvin as Chino) hit one small town they, naturally, after sizing up the local law, head for the local café (and bar). And once one mentions cafes in small towns in California (or Larry McMurtry’s West Texas, for that matter), then hard-working, trying to make it through the shift, got to get out of this small town and see the world, dreamy-eyed, naïve (yes, naive) sheriff-daughtered young waitress, Kathy, (yes, and hard-working, it’s tough dealing them off the arm in these kind of joints, or elsewhere) Johnny trap comes into play. Okay, now you know, even alienated, misunderstood, misanthropic, cop-hating (an additional obstacle given said waitress’s kinships) boy Johnny needs, needs cinematically at least, to meet a girl who understands him.

The development of that young hope, although hopeless, boy meets girl romance relationship, hither and yon, drives the plot. Oh, and along the way the boys, after a few thousand beers, as boys, especially girl-starved biker boys, will, at the drop of a hat start to systematically tear down the town, off-handedly, for fun. Needless to say, staid local burghers (aka “squares”) seeing what amount to them is their worst 1950s “communist” invasion nightmare, complete with murder, mayhem and rapine, (although that “c” word was not used in the film, nor should it have been) are determined to “take back” their little town. A few fights, forages, causalities, fatalities, and forgivenesses later though, still smitten but unquenched and chaste Johnny (and his rowdy crowd) and said waitress part, wistfully. The lesson here, for the kids in the theater audience, is that biker love outside biker-dom is doomed. For the adults, the real audience, the lesson: nip the “terrorists” in the bud (call in the state cops, the national guard, the militia, the 82nd Airborne, The Strategic Air Command, NATO, hell, even the “weren't we buddies in the war” Red Army , but nip it, fast when they come roaming through Amityville, Archer City, or your small town).

After that summary you can see what we are up against. This is pure fantasy Hollywood cautionary tale on a very real 1950s phenomena, “outlaw” biker clubs, mainly in California, but elsewhere as well. Hunter Thompson did yeoman’s work in his Hell’s Angels to “discover” who these guys were and what drove them, beyond drugs, sex, rock and roll (and, yah, murder and mayhem, the California prison system was a “home away from home”). In a sense the “bikers” were the obverse of the boys (again, mainly) whom Tom Wolfe, in many of his early essays, was writing about and who were (a) forming the core of the surfers on the beaches from Malibu to La Jolla and, (b) driving the custom car/hot rod/drive-in centered (later mall-centered) cool, teenage girl–impressing, car craze night in the immediate post-World War II great American Western sunny skies and pleasant dream drift (physically and culturally). Except those Wolfe guys were the “winners”. The “bikers” were Nelson Algren’s “losers”, the dead-enders who didn’t hit the gold rush, the Dove Linkhorns (aka the Arkies and Okies who in the 1930s populated John Steinbeck’s Joad saga, The Grapes Of Wrath). Not cool, iconic Marlin-Johnny but hell-bend then-Hell Angels leader, Sonny Barger.

And that is why in the end, as beautifully sullen and misunderstood the alienated Johnny was, and as wholesomely rowdy as his gang was before demon rum took over, this was not the real “biker: scene, West or East.

Now I lived, as a teenager, in a working- class, really marginally working- poor, neighborhood that I have previously mentioned was the leavings of those who were moving up in post-war society. That neighborhood was no more than a mile from the central headquarters of Boston's local Hell’s Angels (although they were not called that, I think it was Deathheads, or something like that). I got to see these guys up close as they rallied at various spots on our local beach or “ran” through our neighborhood on their way to some crazed action. The leader had all of the charisma of Marlon Brando’s thick leather belt. His face, as did most of the faces, spoke of small-minded cruelties (and old prison pallors) not of misunderstood youth. And their collective prison records (as Hunter Thompson also noted about the Angels) spoke of “high” lumpenism. And that takes us back to the beginning about who, and what, forms one of the core cohorts for a fascist movement in this country, the sons of Sonny Barger. Then we will need to rely on our socialist politics, and other such weapons.


ARTIST: Richard Thompson

TITLE: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Lyrics and Chords


Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike

A girl could feel special on any such like

Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you

It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952

And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems

Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme

And he pulled her on behind

And down to Box Hill they did ride


/ A - - - D - / - - - - A - / : / E - D A /

/ E - D A - / Bm - D - / - - - - A - - - /


Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand

But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man

I've fought with the law since I was seventeen

I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine

Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22

And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you

And if fate should break my stride

Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride


Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae

For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery

Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside

Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside

When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left

He was running out of road, he was running out of breath

But he smiled to see her cry

And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride


Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world

Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl

Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do

They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52

He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys

He said I've got no further use for these

I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome

Swooping down from heaven to carry me home

And he gave her one last kiss and died

And he gave her his Vincent to ride

On Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Memorial To Colonel Robert Gould Shaw And The Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment (Volunteers)-Take One 


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

…he had walked pass that blessed muddied- unattended frieze across from the State House on Beacon Street in Boston it seemed half his life. Anytime he cadged a hooky day from high school back in the early 1960s in order to head into downtown Boston and check out the day life on the Common, grab an off-beat movie at the many big house theaters on lower Washington Street, or just hang out he would circle around Beacon Street after emerging from the Park Street subway station. Walked head down right by the marble. Later, mid-1960s later, when he went to school in that same downtown Boston and had to work trucks to make his daily meat he would pass the memorial on his way to school. Still later when he lived on the hill (Beacon Hill) in splendor or rut the same thing.

Passed it like it was just another in a long line of historic ornaments in a town filled with memorials to its ancient arrival long continental history. Bloody battle number one here, bloody battle number two there, statute of some fire-breathing Puritan divine here or some furious bearded abolitionist there, some-battle-hardened general there, some corruption-filled over-fed civic leader here. The town was a tribute to all that went down in the cold American East when west, real west, was someplace around the Hudson River and dreams were of making it along the Eastern seaboard and not having to trek inland to face the unknown, natural or man-make.   

Had too passed blinkered that monument to some pretty important history going on right before his eyes down in bloody Birmingham/Selma/Greensboro/Philadelphia (MS that is)/Montgomery/Oxford (MS again) and one thousand other later to be   storied locales after the dust cleared (and the fight reined in). Yet with all that civil rights let-them-vote-sent-books-to Alabama-ride-the-freedom-bus was clueless to that aspect of his history, those places Fort Wagner above all, where his people, his black proud Massachusetts 54th (and later 55th) had made righteous stand for freedom, had filled the ranks, had arms in hand confirmed the worst planter’s nightmare, had bled rivers of blood, and had not waited on some benevolent white man to do the work of freedom…