Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Honor Of May Day 2014-From The American Left History Blog Archives -From The May Day Organizing 2012 Organizing Archives –May Day 2013 Needs The Same Efforts


All Out On May Day 2012: A Day Of International Working Class Solidarity Actions- An Open Letter To The Working People Of Boston From A Fellow Worker



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


Why Working People Need To Show Their Power On May Day 2012


Wage cuts, long work hours, steep consumer price rises, unemployment, small or no pensions, little or no paid vacation time, plenty of poor and inadequate housing, homelessness, and wide-spread sicknesses as a result of a poor medical system or no health insurance. I will stop there although I could go on and on. Sounds familiar though, sounds like your situation or that of someone you know, right?


Words, or words like them, are taken daily from today’s global headlines.

But these were also similar to the conditions our forebears faced in America back in the 1880s when this same vicious ruling class was called, and rightly so, “the robber barons,” and threatened, as one of their kind, Jay Gould, stated in a fit of candor, “to hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,” so that they could maintain their luxury in peace. That too has not changed.


What did change then is that our forebears fought back, fought back long and hard, starting with the fight connected with the heroic Haymarket Martyrs in 1886 for the eight-hour day symbolized each year by a May Day celebration of working class power. We need to reassert that claim. This May Day let us revive that tradition as we individually act around our separate grievances and strike, strike like the furies, collectively against the robber barons of the 21st century.


No question over the past several years (really decades but now it is just more public and right in our face) American working people have taken it on the chin, taken it on the chin in every possible way. Start off with massive job losses, heavy job losses in the service and manufacturing sectors (and jobs that are not coming back except as “race to the bottom” low wage, two-tier jobs dividing younger workers from older workers like at General Electric or the auto plants). Move on to paying for the seemingly never-ending bail–out of banks, other financial institutions and corporations “too big to fail,” home foreclosures and those “under water,” effective tax increases (since the rich refuse to pay, in some cases literally paying nothing, we pay). And finish up with mountains of consumer debt for everything from modern necessities to just daily get-bys, and college student loan debt as a life-time deadweight around the neck of the kids there is little to glow about in the harsh light of the “American Dream.”


Add to that the double (and triple) troubles facing immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and many women and the grievances voiced long ago in the Declaration of Independence seem like just so much whining. In short, it is not secret that working people have faced, are facing and, apparently, will continue to face an erosion of their material well-being for the foreseeable future something not seen by most people since the 1930s Great Depression, the time of our grandparents (or, for some of us, great-grandparents).


That is this condition will continue unless we take some lessons from those same 1930s and struggle, struggle like hell, against the ruling class that seems to have all the card decks stacked against us. Struggle like they did in places like Minneapolis, San Francisco, Toledo, Flint, and Detroit. Those labor-centered struggles demonstrated the social power of working people to hit the “economic royalists” (the name coined for the ruling class of that day by their front-man Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR) to shut the bosses down where it hurts- in their pocketbooks and property.


The bosses will let us rant all day, will gladly take (and throw away) all our petitions, will let us use their “free-speech” parks (up to a point as we have found out via the Occupy movement), and curse them to eternity as long as we don’t touch their production, “perks,” and profits. Moreover an inspired fight like the actions proposed for this May Day 2012 can help new generations of working people, organized, unorganized, unemployed, homeless, houseless, and just plain desperate, help themselves to get out from under. All Out On May Day 2012.


I have listed some of the problems we face now to some of our demand that should be raised every day, not just May Day. See if you agree and if you do take to the streets on May Day with us. We demand:


*Hands Off Our Public Worker Unions! No More Wisconsins! Hands Off All Our Unions!


* Give the unemployed work! Billions for public works projects to fix America’s broken infrastructure (bridges, roads, sewer and water systems, etc.)!

*End the endless wars- Troops And Mercenaries Out Of Afghanistan (and Iraq)!-U.S Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!


* Full citizenship rights for all those who made it here no matter how they got here!


* A drastic increase in the minimum wage and big wage increases for all workers!


* A moratorium on home foreclosures! No evictions!


* A moratorium on student loan debt! Free, quality higher education for all! Create 100, 200, many publicly-supported Harvards!


*No increases in public transportation fares! No transportation worker lay-offs! For free quality public transportation!


To order to flex our collective bottom up power on May 1, 2012 we will be organizing a wide-ranging series of mass collective participatory actions:


*We will be organizing within our unions- or informal workplace organizations where there is no union - a one-day strike around some, or all, of the above-mentioned demands.


*We will be organizing at workplaces where a strike is not possible for workers to call in sick, or take a personal day, as part of a coordinated “sick-out”.


*We will be organizing students from kindergarten to graduate school and the off-hand left-wing think tank to walk-out of their schools (or not show up in the first place), set up campus picket lines, and to rally at a central location.


*We will be calling in our communities for a mass consumer boycott, and with local business support where possible, refuse to make purchases on that day.


All out on May Day 2012.
The Class Struggle Continues...In Boston  

*** Of This And That In The Old 1960s North Adamsville Neighborhood-The Fallen Of The Vietnam War

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

In recent times I have spent not a little time touting the virtues of the Internet in allowing me and the members of the North Adamsville, Massachusetts Class of 1964, or what is left of it, the remnant that has survived and is findable with the new technologies (some will never be found by choice or by being excluded from the “information superhighway” that they have not been able to navigate), to communicate with each other some fifty years and many miles later. I noted in one sketch done previously about a guy who photos of my old childhood neighborhood drew praised comment praised from me that I had to marvel at some of the communications technology that makes our work a lot easier than back in the day. The Internet was only maybe a dream, a mad monk scientist far-fetched science fiction dream then as we struggle with three by five cards and archaic Dewey Decimal systems.

I admit that for most of those fifty years since graduation I had studiously avoided returning to the old town for any past class reunions but this one, the reasons which not need detain us here, I had wanted to attend. Or rather wanted to attend once the reunion committee was able to track me down and invite me to attend. Or a better “rather” to join a website run by a wizard webmaster, Donna, who was also our class Vice-President to keep up to date on progress for that reunion. Now it was not a hard task for the committee to find me on the Internet these days since I belong to a professional organization where information on my whereabouts is public knowledge. What is impressive though is how simple that task proved since it would have taken much work, and probably fruitless work at that, to track me down for let’s say the 20th, 25th or 40th reunions when they took place. 

Part of the reason I did join the class site was to keep informed about upcoming events but also as is my wont to make commentary about various aspects of the old hometown, the the high school then, and any other tidbit that my esteemed fellow classmates might want to ponder after all these years. All this made simple as pie by the act of joining. Once logged in one is provided with a personal profile page complete with space for private e-mails, story-telling, various vital statistics like kids and grandkids, and space for the billion photos of the that progeny, mostly it seems for those darling grandkids that seem to pop up everywhere.  Additionally, and sadly, there is a section, an “In Memory” section, on the website dedicated to those who have passed on from our class as well as a section, a “For Those Who Served” section, dedicated to those in our class, mainly guys reflecting the nature of military service back then, who had done military service. That combination is what drives this sketch.

Let me explain. A while back I went on to the class website to check out a new addition to the list of those who have joined the site recently. We can use our personal settings to be informed of that kind of information on a more or less frequent basis. The guy who had just joined was a guy I did not know but I had seen around the school (you would have seen almost everybody in the four years you were there with one thing or another even though the class had baby-boomer times over 500 students) and so I was ready to click off the site when I noticed that someone had placed a comment in the “In Memory” section about Jim Slater a guy I knew somewhat who had fallen in our class’s war, the Vietnam War. That notice got me looking over the whole “In Memory” section to see how many more of our classmates fell during that heinous war. It turned out that while our working-class town, high school, and class had provided its fair share of those who had served during the war only one other classmate, David Martin, had fallen in Vietnam. So we had lost far fewer that such other working-class areas nearby like the Dorchester, South Boston, and Roxbury sections of Boston that each have their own memorials to those who fell in those sections, or farther afield, Harlem, East Los Angeles, Steubenville, Ohio, Ottumwa, Iowa, El Paso, Texas, Topeka, Kansas and the like. Nevertheless given my own spotty military service, although honorably done in my eyes and the eyes of others, I felt some shyly kindred need to make a comment about my, our, fallen brothers.         

Although my military story might not reflect the average story about what went down in those tough 1960s times when every guy had to face, one way or another, the draft and what to do about it let me run my story and then maybe you can understand why I am shy about commenting on our class fallen and why I also need to speak of kindred now that the aches of that war have dissipated somewhat. My story about getting “religion” on what the American state was all about, about fighting the good fight against war when the deal went down.


Until my military service I had been an official member in good-standing of the working-class, of the Irish working-class, a heavy drinker, whisky mainly, with a beer chaser when I was frisky, water chaser when I was broke. I had a dream though, a child dream, a dream to escape the damn world that I was born into and hadn’t any say in creating, or being asked about. I would talk about my dream just like that, in that certain Jehovah righteous tone which may explain why I would be a prime candidate for some foreboding army stockade or the bastinado when the deal went down, although my decision to confront the Army head-on was a closer thing than one might think.  That “had not being asked about stuff in the way the world was run” had bothered me since about age ten or eleven. I was in a constant civil war about almost everything with my mother from as early as I could remember. My poor, hard-working-when-he-could-find-work father, with no breaks in the world, straight from the hard scrabble world of coal mine Appalachia via the World War II Marines, was a shadow figure somewhere in the background. The main bouts were with “Ma,” over money, over going, or not going here or there, of breathing, breathing too much to hear her tell it. Kids’ stuff but big on some kid horizon. So that “around ten or eleven” time I started dreaming, had first started dreaming about escaping from my tumble- down working poor boy fate, had started dreaming about the big jail breakout from the old ways.

Where I lived growing up in North Adamsville was near the water, near the Neptune River. I could see across to Castle Island on a good day and so I could see the tankers and other ships coming into the bay to leave off their product or pick up stuff. That is where I got the idea of building a raft to go out to join a ship moored in the channel and flee to the big wide world parts unknown. In the end it didn’t work out since my reach exceeded my grasp, I could not, not being very good mechanically even then, even with brother help get a sea-worthy, a channel-worthy raft together. But that escape idea, that idea of seeing the great big world, of seeing in person the places and persons that I had heard about, from teachers and others heard about, read about, big sassy book poured over and thumbed over until I was exhausted read about, and seen too on that old black and white television screen we all were glued to which had crowded my brain.

That failed raft experiment, in any case, was not the end of my strivings although it ended my attempted physical break-out for a while. I remember though one night sneaking out the back of the family house (better to call it a shack and when I took a special girlfriend there on one ill-advised meeting with my mother she had to agree with me although I sensed she was always hesitant to say anything bad about the place) on midnight runs to Harvard Square at sixteen. Of walking a couple of miles to catch a local all-night bus to then catch the subway at Fields Corner in Dorchester and to rumble, tumble, amble my way over to Cambridge to the all-night open Hayes-Bickford Cafeteria. Being there just to feel the air of the place when things were beginning to happen in 1962, to just be around the new thing, the jailbreak out thing that I sensed was coming. And then rumble, tumble, amble back on that subway before dawn to avoid mother worries, mother hassles and mother penalties. Thereafter though one thing led to another and I put the dream on hold, put it on hold through college, through hard whisky and women nights, through some personal political dream etched out in Kennedy days splendor, in short  “to get mine” while helping others to get theirs. And so my horizon narrowed, my fervent desire to see, hear, read, be with everything, everybody, to see how things ticked faded, childhood, young manhood faded.

And then came the Army. I don’t like to talk about it, talk about it all that much, especially when early on one post-military service girlfriend (and later wife), Josie, would go on and on about what the experience was like in order to get a feel for who she was getting tied up with, about what happened while I was in the military, the Army. I would cut her short with this- “I did what I had to do, did it, and I was not sorry, nor sorry for a minute, that I did what I did.” I would add to take the sting out of my remarks, chuckling, the worst of it was when they threw me in solitary for a while and wouldn’t let me smoke cigarettes in those days when I was a fairly heavy smoker (although the system worked out among solitary prisoners allowed me to cadge a few puffs while in the rest room, oh no what did they call it, oh yeah, the latrine). I had begun to smoke more after I was inducted when there was so much dead time that we trainees would just stand around smoking one cigarette after another to kill time until some jackass sergeant sadistically decided he wanted his charges to double- time with full backpack somewhere for some reason known only to that self-same sergeant, for some odd national or personal security reason.

Mainly after I got out though I would privately go back and forth in my mind about whether before I went into the service I should have decided differently and not allowed myself to be inducted. The back and forth really centered on that faded dream, that faded break out dream that I let fall on the back burner at a time when having it front and center would have counted . See, as you know, I came from working-class people, no, working poor, a notch below that, my poor be-draggled father, from down in Podunk Kentucky, down in white hillbilly Appalachia, down among the poor white trash of literature. The just plain poor that I knew needed help from when I read Michael Harrington’s The Other America for a sociology class that I took as an under-graduate where Harrington described the white folks left behind in the go-go America of the 1950s.

I had turned red one time when Josie mentioned that book and that she knew, book knew, of what my father, and his people were all about, “the wretched of the earth” in America. I related a story to her, a school story about a project that some classmates might remember, about how North Adamsville High was going to reach out to the victims in Appalachia by sending food, clothing and money down there, down to Hazard, Kentucky. Jesus, I said when the headmaster announced the project over the loudspeaker, that was where my father was born (I had shown her that fact listed on my birth certificate one day). In any case my father was always out of work, out of luck, and out of my frame of reference especially when I got older and started drifting away from the family and started to develop my own political perspective and my own jailbreak way out of the scene I grew up with.

But that was exactly the problem, that from hunger bringing up, that hand-me-down-where-is-the-rent-money-coming-from-keep-your-eyes-to-the-ground-shame and sorry combined with three thousand pounds of plain ordinary vanilla 1950s all ships rising teen angst and teen alienation, that came between me and all my decisions in those days. Along with some very standard American idiotic patriotic my-country-right-or-wrong local neighborhood mores and the drilled in customary Roman Catholic subservience to authority, Rome or D.C. (in this life, all was to be milk and honey socialism in the next) in that Irish neighborhood that I grew up in. That and my very real appetite for going for the main chance in politics. That was what I had been aiming for, a career, a regular career in politics, “helping my people while helping myself,” is the way I put it to Josie one time.

I told Josie that I had spent most of 1968 working that main chance idea as I was getting ready to graduate from college and had some time to “build my resume.” I started out that fateful year holding my nose and committed to backing Lyndon Johnson for re-election until Eugene McCarthy (Irish Gene, a poet and a dreamer and thus worthy of support) pushed the envelope and Johnson backed out. I went wild for Robert Kennedy, my idea of a beau political animal then, ruthless to political enemies, young or old, and not forgetful about old wounds either, and this beautiful patrician vision of “seeking a newer world.” When Bobby was assassinated I went over to Hubert Humphrey and would up there under the principal that Richard Noxious, uh, Nixon was the main enemy of the people of the world (and of my political advancement). So not then the profile of a guy who was going to chance charging windmills, or crush childhood dreams of bourgeois break-outs, no way.

So I went, sullenly went when drafted. After about three days I realized that I had made a mistake, a serious mistake and that I should have chanced draft- dodger jail instead. But see, it was hard for a guy hard-wired for a political career like me to shift gears like that so I fumbled and bumbled with the problem for a while. I had always been anti-war in kind of an abstract way; kind of an “all men are brothers” way. I told Josie that I had first expressed that opinion on the Boston Common back in the fall of 1960 when I attended a small demonstration at the Park Street Station with a bunch of little old angel ladies in tennis sneakers and stern-faced Jehovah-etched Quakers who were calling for nuclear disarmament. I also told her as if to express the Janus nature of the times, of myself, that the next week I was working the streets of North Adamsville passing out Jack Kennedy presidential literature. Jack who was crying out loud about the “missile gap,” arguing for more nuclear missiles. Still I tumbled and mumbled fitfully through the problem.

Of course if you were part of the military down in some boondock southern town, a town like Augusta, Georgia where I took basic training at Fort Gordon and later in Anniston, Alabama where I took AIT (Advanced Infantry Training so you already know which way the die was cast) at Fort McClellan out in nowhere far from northern gentility, even rough-edged northern working- class gentility, you knew you were up the creek without a paddle. And, as well, if you were also surrounded by guys, maybe sullen, maybe gung-ho, but mainly who like you were kind of committed to their fate (and afraid, afraid like hell of that constant threat, Fort Leavenworth, the main Army penal threat) then stumbling and mumbling is what you did, and did it for a while. But the military fates were not kind, not wartime kind, not 1969 wartime kind, when the Vietnam war was eating up men and material at prestigious rates, while the world clamored for shut-down and so my fate was to be a grunt, a foot soldier, and the only place that foot soldiers were being gainfully employed in those days was in sweaty, sullen Southeast Asia. In the normal course of events after training was completed I was so ordered there via the Fort Lewis, Washington transfer station after a short leave of absence to go home.

Before that though I still mumbled, stumbled, and tumbled on other fronts. I, political animal I, tried, frantically tried using many up many coins on one of the base public telephones at Fort McClellan in doing some, to work around it administratively, pulling some chips dues in with my erstwhile political cronies, no go. I tried to do an end- around by claiming conscientious objector status which held up my orders to Fort Lewis for a while as that process unfolded, although I was uneasy about doing so since I believed that there were some just wars and that position was not grounds for discharge at that moment, no go. Then one night, one night, a Sunday night, a hot and sweaty Sunday night, sitting in the base PX after the library had closed I decided to take a stand, decided that some form of resistance was the only way out. Personal resistance since I saw no other kindred.

I went out in the sultry night and started walking and planning, and half-hesitating. I would not do any action in the south where I know I would be swallowed up without a trace. That was not mere speculation either.  A few of us, mainly Yankee boys and a couple of Midwestern guys, had vaguely threatened to balk at firing machines guns at the range in protest and some stoolie must have told the command because we were threatened with the bastinado and having the keys thrown away, forever. That stopped us from any action then. Once I got home on leave to North Adamsville I went over to Cambridge over to see the Quakers, or rather their American Friends Service Committee organization that was offering advice to G.I.s, and G.I. resisters. As a result of the information options presented I determined that I would make a public display, a very public of my anti-war opposition so that I would not be left in some unnamed hell-hole and forgotten. The Friends and others were delighted. First though I would go AWOL (absent without leave, okay) and then make a splash at some public civilian anti-war rally.

That AWOL, absent without leave part, was important for me, and interestingly later Josie, since I had stayed away just long enough from the Replacement Center at Fort Lewis in Washington to be  “dropped for the rolls,” meaning that I could turn himself in at Fort Devens about forty miles from Boston and stay there pending punishment and new orders. The importance of that decision for Josie was, unknowingly, or half knowingly, that she had been one of the demonstrators clamoring for my release in a rally in front of the fort after I was incarcerated for taking part in a Quaker-led anti-war rally in front of the fort while in uniform and while on duty. I was to meet her later after I got of the military at an anti-war event in Cambridge. Other soldiers I had heard had done such actions prodded on by those same Jehovah Quakers who had formed the backdrop of my political coming of age in Boston Common as a boy. I had finally said a defiant no. That particular violation brought on my first trip to the stockade (with a stay in solidarity for a while but I was always in some form of isolation since the Army though I was contagious or something, and they were right since I was haranguing whoever was around once I got “religion.”) Because of a fair amount of publicity generated by the Quakers and some alternative newspapers looking for an off-beat story I received only a special court-martial (maximum six month sentence) rather than a general court-martial which could have given me an indeterminate sentence. I served five months on that one. As my resolve firmed up, first to do the first action and then to take the hard time, and as I got courage, got some well-spring of Appalachia hunker- down father genes- bought courage I thought later when I had plenty of time to think, I decided that I would make a showing in front of my fellow soldiers once I got out of my first tour of the stockade.

So one Monday morning in the late spring of 1970, having been assigned to Headquarters Company after being sprung from the stockade pending orders, as the base gathered for its weekly gathering of troops on the parade ground for inspection (and to see who was missing, if anybody) I walked out, walked out of my nearby barracks in civilian clothes, carrying a simple homemade sign “Bring The Troops Home.” I was immediately seized and man-handled by some what I would call ‘lifer’ sergeants (who, when I thought about it later probably didn’t know if I was a soldier or just a damn hippie protester trespasser and I therefore should have been in uniform with my sign).
The rest of the story after that was mainly legal military trial  proceedings (another special court-martial with six month sentence), parallel civilian court actions by my lawyer, and doing the hard time, doing the rest of almost a year in the base stockade. This the way the military part of the story ends. The outside civilian parallel legal proceedings on my behalf involved my civilian lawyer going to the Federal District Court in Boston to gain a writ of habeas corpus based the Army’s arbitrary denial of my conscientious objector application. The Army could not sent me to Fort Leavenworth without violating the civilian judge’s temporary restraining order pending disposition of my case. Strangely I finally was granted an honorable discharge through the civilian judge’s favorable granting of my writ. Like I said, I don’t like to talk about that time all that much, except I had plenty of time to think, think those ancient break-out thoughts that had had me in their thrall as a kid.

So now you can understand why I might be a bit shy about commenting on guys, on fellow classmates, who fell doing their duty the way they saw it, a way different far different than mine, in those bloody times. But listen, maybe Jim Slater and David Martin had the same kid dreams, the same trying to get ahead in the world dreams too. Over the years I have come to see that those fallen brothers are kindred like I hope a lot of people from our generation, the generation of ’68, that raised hell, or tried to against the monsters, against those who would hard-heartedly  sent young men, our fellow classmates now fallen, off on worthless adventures that proved nothing, do. I fervently hoped so when I put my comments on their “In Memory” pages. Here are Jim’s and except for personally knowing him and therefore able to make some specific comments I used part of the remarks David’s too. Here’s Jim’s:   

“I have held off from making a comment about Jim Slater assuming that somebody who knew him better than I would do so. Someone from his old neighborhood, from among his old corner boys, or maybe an old flame since a class yearbook photograph of him shows a guy who would have no trouble getting women to want to be around him. I knew Jim slightly in school and around North Adamsville. You know, maybe we played some pick-up game, maybe basketball down at the old Parker courts where his guys would take on my guys in three or five man ball or maybe slo-pitch softball in hot dusty summer at the local “dust bowl” and then adjourn for sodas (and later beers, illegal smile beers cadged from some father’s stash). Or we hung around together for a minute at some corner before that all got separated out in about ninth grade when he went with his corner boys holding up the wall in front of Doc’s Drugstore “up the Downs” and I, tied by a thousand strings to Frankie Riley, the king hell king of the corner boy night holding up the wall at Salducci’s Pizza Parlor. Better yet let’s put it this way we gave each other the guy “nod” in the corridors at school, or maybe in the cafeteria. That nod, that eternal nod recognizing a guy’s guy-ness, recognizing a righteous guy, a straight-shooting guy without being a fellow corner boy. You know the nod, know it if you are a guy of a certain age.”

"So here goes for Jim- I agree with Professor Garfield (a fellow classmate who is a professor of education up at the University of New Hampshire and who knew David Martin, had been something like his girlfriend in high school, and had written something about the terrible cost of war on David’s “In Memory” page)  that my brothers, and they were mostly brothers then before everybody got a chance to go to war, who did not make it back from 'Nam (or name your war), or came back broken and hurt, or who could not adjust to the "real world " and took to drugs, alcohol, the road (and I don't mean the storybook road of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" but the Sally shelters, the railroad hobo jungle camps, the ravines, and under the bridges of this country) deserve respect and honor. As a result of my own military experiences, perhaps very much different from those of Jim’s, I am now an active member of Veterans for Peace whose goal is to make sure that our sons and daughters, our grandsons and granddaughters, Jesus, our great-grandsons and granddaughters in some cases from a glance at some of the profile pages on this site, are not used as cannon fodder for some ill-conceived military adventure. Whatever differences we have on the questions of war and peace it was guys like Jim [and David], guys from old working-class towns like ours, from the ghettos, from the barrios, and from the wheat fields of Kansas, who did their duty as they saw it, maybe kicking and screaming, maybe gladly, whose names are now honorably etched for all eternity on that black marble down in Washington and on the Adamsville Vietnam Veterans Memorial over at Marina Bay."     

I have posted a YouTube link to Bruce Springsteen's Brothers Under The Bridge that brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it in honor of our fallen.
From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-Mutinies in Eastern Europe

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. 


III: Mutinies in Eastern Europe

In order to give some sense of the widespread mutinies and revolts in Europe in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution and the First World War and at the close of the war, we are printing five articles. The first, The Origin of the Potemkin Mutiny, is by Christian Rakovsky, and we are grateful to Ian Birchall for his translation from the French version in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 17, March 1984, pp. 37–47. This article, an edited extract from Odinadtsat’ dnei na Potëmkin, St Petersburg 1907, considers the events aboard the battleship Potemkin in Odessa in 1905.
Classic studies of the mutiny on the armoured cruiser Potemkin include Richard Hough, Potemkin Mutiny, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis 1996 (originally published in 1961); Fritz Slang, Panzerkreuzer Potemkin: Der Matrosenaufstand vor Odessa 1905; nach authentischen Dokumenten, Malik-Bücherei, Königstein 1981.
Many people rely for their knowledge of events on the Potemkin upon the 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein. The Soviet leadership commissioned the film to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Potemkin uprising. Lenin had hailed this uprising as evidence that troops could be won over to join the workers in overthrowing the old order. The film was made with the cooperation of the Russian Navy, and so – in line with Eisenstein’s idea that professional actors are not necessary in an age of democratic workers’ control – real Russian sailors are shown operating the ship’s controls. Eisenstein experimented with montage (length of cuts, types of cuts, the points at which cuts are made) in order to convey efficiently in filmic terms the ways in which social conditions interact with class-consciousness to produce revolutionary action. The film’s pacy rhythmic editing, the details of the storytelling and the symbolism were designed as incitements to revolt. In Eisenstein’s film, the crew members of the battleship, cruising the Black Sea after returning from the war with Japan, are disaffected because their officers are inhuman, and their food rations are maggoty and disgusting. Revolting food incites revolt. Officers throw a tarpaulin over the ‘agitators’ and order them to be shot, but a firebrand named Vakulinchuk cries out, ‘Brothers! Who are you shooting at?’ The firing squad lowers its guns. An officer attempts to enforce command, and mutiny breaks out. News of the uprising makes its way onshore, and the long-suffering people send supplies to the ship. Tsarist troops put down the populace on the Odessa Steps in a fictional scene that is one of the most famous in film history. The Tsarist government ordered the whole Black Sea Fleet to seek and destroy the Potemkin, but the crews refused to follow orders. The film was banned in many countries on its original release because of its theme of mutiny.
Materials relating to Sergei Eisenstein’s films include Jacques Aumont, Montage Eisenstein, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1987; Yon Barna Eisenstein (with a foreword by Jay Leyda), Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1973; David Bordwell, The Cinema of Eisenstein, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1993; S.M. Eisenstein, The Complete Films of Eisenstein, translated by John Hetherington, Dutton, New York 1974; S.M. Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin, translated from the Russian by Gillon R. Aitkin, Lorrimer Publishing, London 1968 (revised edition, Faber and Faber, 1988); S.M. Eisenstein, Film Essays (edited by Jay Leyda, foreword by Grigori Kozintsev), Praeger, New York 1970; S.M. Eisenstein, Film Form; Essays in Film Theory (edited and translated by Jay Leyda), Harcourt Brace, New York 1949; S.M. Eisenstein, The Film Sense (edited and translated by Jay Leyda), Harcourt Brace, New York 1947; S.M. Eisenstein, Immoral Memories: An Autobiography (translated by Herbert Marshall), Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1983; S.M. Eisenstein, Selected Works, Volume 1, Writings, 1922–34, edited and translated by Richard Taylor, BFI, London 1991; Jay Leyda and Zina Voynow, Eisenstein at Work (introduction by Ted Perry), Pantheon Books, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1982; D.J. Wenden, Battleship Potemkin: Film and Reality, in Feature Films as History (edited by K.R.M. Short), Croom Helm, London 1981; Marie Seton, Sergei M. Eisenstein: A Biography, Bodley Head, London 1952; Keith Withall, The Battleship Potemkin, York Film Notes, Longman, Harlow 2000.
The call to dissent from war that had been put out by Karl Radek, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and others was not heard on the front until the war was in its advanced stages. For example, in 1917, soldiers mutinied in France at Etaples, in protest at the harsh conditions in the camp. That same year, Russian soldiers stationed in France staged a mutiny on hearing word of revolutionary changes at home. In this case, mutiny was inspired by external events. We wish to thank Rémi Adam for allowing us to publish two articles that consider the situation of Russian soldiers stationed abroad in the First World War. The first investigates the mutiny by Russian soldiers stationed in France in 1917. It is a condensed rendition of some of the main issues of Rémi Adam’s book, Histoire des soldats russes en France 1915–1920: Les damnés de la guerre, L’Harmattan, Collection Chemins de la Memoire, 1996.
Another book that deals with this event is Jamie H. Cockfield, With Snow on Their Boots: The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France During World War I, St Martin’s Press/Palgrave, 1999. This is a fairly unsympathetic account that tends to empathise with the generals. It patronisingly describes the mutineering Russian soldiers as ‘drunk with freedom’, and compares them to schoolchildren. Cockfield’s book has been reviewed widely, including by Bruce Lincoln, The Journal of Modern History, Volume 71, no. 4, December 1999; John Bushnell, IRURE, Volume 58, no. 1, 1999, pp. 155–6; Roger R. Reese, Russian Review, Volume 58, no. 4, Winter 1999; William Allison, Slavic and East European Journal, Volume 44, no. 3, 2000, p. 496.
Of related interest is Leonard V. Smith Re-Mobilising the Citizen-Soldier Through the French Army Mutinies of 1917, in J. Horne (ed.), State, Society and Mobilisation in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997; Leonard V. Smith, War and Politics: The French Army Mutinies of 1917, War in History, no. 2, 1995, pp. 180–201; César Corte, Armée, révolution, jeunesse, La Vérité, no. 565, January 1975, pp. 30–49 (this is a general survey of the theme of mutiny through French history); Pierre Roy, Nous crions grâce, Editions ouvrières, 1989, 154 letters from French soldiers and their wives to Pierre Brizon in the autumn of 1916; Pierre Roy, Des soldats contre la guerre: Nous crions grâce, Cahiers du mouvement ouvrier, no. 5, March 1999, pp. 57–76; Crosse en l’air: le mouvement ouvrier et l’armée, série classique rouge, Paris 1970, Chapter 4, La révolte du 17é, pp. 27–42, by J.M., Corporal of the Third Company’; Alistair Horne, The French Army and Politics, 1870–1970, Macmillan, 1984, has a section on how Pétain suppressed the French army mutiny in 1917; Henryi Castex, L’Affaire du Chemin des Dames, éditions Mago, reviewed by Gérard Lorigny, L‘Affaire du Chemin des Dames: Les comités sécrets (1917), Informations ouvrières, 11–17 November 1988; François Hélou, S’ils s’obstinent, ces cannibales …, two parts, Informations ouvrières, 10–23 September 1997, the French army mutinies in 1917; L’Ennemi est dans notre pays (l’antimilitarisme révolutionaire après 1918), Cahiers Rouge, ‘série classique’, Paris n.d.; Eugene Varlin, Military Methods in the Colonies, on the French colonial levies, Fourth International, Volume 2, no. 2 (whole no. 9), February 1941, pp. 51–5; John Bushnell, Mutiny Amid Repression: Russian Soldiers in the Revolution of 1905–1906, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1985.
The second article by Rémi Adam gathers together correspondence from soldiers after the Russian Revolution, and reveals how, in conditions of war and repression, the soldiers managed to generate a revolutionary consciousness in response to political events of which they got word. A rapidly developing political consciousness can be gauged by reading the soldiers’ letters home. The soldiers’ opinions, voiced privately to friends and family, are evidence of the strength of the tide of revolt and dissent that swelled after the revolution in Russia. We are grateful to Barbara Rossi for translating both articles.
The next article in this section, La Revolte de Radomir by Tico Jossifort, concentrates on a Bulgarian mutiny in 1918. It is translated by Ted Crawford from the Cahiers du Movement Ouvrier, no. 12, December 2000–January 2001, and originally appeared in Boian Kostelov, From the Front to Vladaia, published by the Agrarian Union, Sofia 1983. We wish to thank Jean Jacques Marie, who brought it to our attention. The Radomir Republic, proclaimed by the soldiers, lasted for four days and was crushed fiercely. Another pertinent article by Tico Jossifort is Le premier group trotskyste bulgare, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 71, September 2000, pp. 43–60.
The final piece in this section is part of a study of the Black Sea Revolt of 1919, written in collaboration with three participants, Marcel Monribot, Charles Tillon and Virgile Vuillemin. It originally appeared as Les mutineries de la Mer Noire 1919–1969. We are grateful to Ian Birchall for its translation. Other writings on the Black Sea Revolt include André Marty, The Epic of the Black Sea, London, n.d.; Pour Lire la Revolte de la Mer Noire: André Marty, révolutionaire, supplement to Rouge, Paris 1970. For more general analysis of the mutinies that occurred in Europe during the First World War, see Richard Price, The Hidden History of the First World War, Marxist Review, Volume 1, no. 7, October 1986, pp. 44–8.
As war ground on, mutinies began to afflict the European forces on a wide scale. The German mutinies at the end of the First World War were a crucial part of this history of mutiny at the close of the First World War. When the German High Seas Fleet was ordered to sail to the North Sea for a major battle against the British, sailors in Kiel refused and took up arms. Their mutiny from 29 October to 3 November 1918 opened the way for revolution across Germany, with only the submarine crews remaining loyal to the Kaiser. There were major revolts in Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck (4–5 November). These spread south to Munich (7–8 November), as a consequence of which Bavaria was declared to be a democratic and socialist republic. The Kaiser was forced to abdicate. War ended on 11 November 1918, and a period of sharp class struggle began in Germany. The mutinies in the German fleet have been written about extensively.
Scholarly accounts include Ulrich Kluge, Soldatenräte und Revolution: Studien zur Militärpolitik in Deutschland 1918–19, Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, Göttingen 1975; Daniel Horn, The German Naval Mutinies of World War I, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick 1969; A. Wilman, The End of the Imperial Army, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1979; Len Smith, Between Mutiny and Disobedience, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1994. For an exciting participant account of an important German naval mutiny, see Icarus (Ernst Schneider), The Wilhelmshaven Revolt, Freedom Press, 1944 (and subsequent editions). A participant account is also contained in Daniel Horn (ed.), War, Mutiny and Revolution in the German Navy, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick 1967. This includes the World War I Diary of Richard Stumpf who served on the battleship Helgoland. There is a brief note on the book in International Socialism Journal, no 78, p. 141 n21. See also Richard Stumpf, The Private War of Seaman Stumpf: The Unique Diaries of a Young German in the Great War, edited by Daniel Horn, Leslie Frewin, London 1969.
A German SDS pamphlet from 1968, Die November Revolution 1918 in Kiel, 50 Jahre Konterrevolution sind genug, is an interesting little document put out by the revolutionary students. There is a useful chronicle of events at the beginning. Inside is a collection of short reprints and extracts including the rejection of war credits by Liebknecht, December 1914; an illegal flyer of the Spartakus Group from December 1916; a collection of comments from 1917 on the sailors’ movement; Von Popp, The Sailors’ Revolt of 1917, the January strike in Kiel; Von Popp and Artelt, The Sailors’ Uprising of 1918; the price of food in October 1918; the Kiel students’ resolution for national defence; sailors’ demands; the establishment of the sailors’ council and its resolutions; debates about arming and disarmament of sailors; and the collaboration of SPD leaders with the officers.
Mutinies occurred elsewhere in Europe. To gain some sense of the situation in Austria towards the end of the war, the following extract is taken from Fritz Keller’s pamphlet Die Arbeiter- und Soldatenräte in Österreich 1918–1923; Versuch einer Analyse, Sozialistische LinksPartei, Vienna, 1971/2001, pp. 20–1. Keller is discussing a wave of strikes amongst the Austrian working class in early 1918. These strikes demanded both peace and food.
The unrest amongst the Austrian workers spread to the Imperial and Royal Army. Slovenian troops mutinied in the Steiermark, Hungarian ones in Budapest and Croatian troops in the various garrison towns of Hungary, and in February 1918 the sailors mutinied in the South Dalmatian harbour of Cattaro (Kotor). The sailors’ council of the 40 mutineering war ships – a precursor of the later soldiers’ councils – demanded peace negotiations on the basis of the 14-point programme of the American President Wilson. The revolts were all beaten down … But the dissolution of the army, the eventual military defeat, and with that the disintegration of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, could no longer be prevented. The troops streamed back from the front, and, in order at least to attempt to organise the return, they elected soldiers’ councils. On 30 October 1918, a provisional Soldiers’ Council for the garrison of Vienna was formed, which was legitimised by the elections of 3 November. The president of the Committee of the Solders’ Parliament was Dr Frey, who was also the Chief of the Volkssturm battalions 41 (‘Red Guard’) in the Viennese Stiftskaserne.
These solders’ councils, the workers’ councils and the peasants’ and farmers’ councils in the rural areas, took over the tasks of the collapsing state administration, in particular the provision of foodstuffs.
On 3 November 1918, the Communist Party of Austria was founded in Vienna on the initiative of Elfriede Friedländer (better known under her pen name of Ruth Fischer), and by March 1919 it already had gained about 10,000 members …
Also at the beginning of November 1918, the ‘Red Guard’ attempted to imprison Emperor Karl in the Schönbrunn. Dr Deutsch … the Under Secretary of State for Army Affairs, managed to persuade the battalion not to march to the Schönbrunn but rather to the Imperial and Royal Military Command, which was in tatters. Later Deutsch laughed off ‘the whole affair with the quip that the Red Guard brought a little bit of variety into the revolution’.
On 6 November 1918, Friedrich Adler was released from prison as an act of mercy on the part of the Emperor. When Karl Seitz, later to be the Mayor of Vienna, read out the first sentence of the provisional constitution, on 12 November 1918, on behalf of the Provisional National Assembly (‘Austria is a democratic republic’) members of the Red Guard lunged at the flagpole, ripped down the flag, separated the white stripes and raised the red stripes. The National Deputies and Members of the Council broke off the proclamation. Julius Deutsch attempted to mediate. The Red Guard opened fire on the parliament building, and the police intervened.
After a short exchange of fire – in which people were killed and wounded – the soldiers of the Red Guard withdrew. In the meanwhile, Erwin Kisch had occupied the offices of the Neue Freie Presse with another group of Red Guards, in order to bring out a revolutionary special edition of the newspaper. Once he heard of the failure of the action at the parliament, Kisch and his group retreated.
The Cattaro mutiny is described in David Woodward, Mutiny at Cattaro, 1918, History Today, Volume 26, no. 12, December 1976, pp. 804–10.
In considering mutiny in Europe following war and revolution, it would be an omission not to mention the Kronstadt Mutiny, which took place in the first weeks of March 1921. Much has been written about this mutiny and the rôle of Trotsky and the Bolsheviks in suppressing it. Anarchists and ultra-leftists have based their criticism of the Bolsheviks and Leninism on this event. Major accounts and critical appraisals include Alexander Berkman, The Kronstadt Rebellion (originally published in Der Syndikalist, Berlin 1922, and included in his Russian Tragedy, Cienfuegos Press, Sanday 1976; chapter 38 of Berkman’s The Bolshevik Myth is on events at Kronstadt; Ida Mett, The Kronstadt Commune (1921), Solidarity, London 1967, or The Kronstadt Uprising (can be found online at http://flag.; Voline (V.M. Eichenbaum), The Unknown Revolution, ed. Rudolf Rocker, Free Life Editions, New York 1954, this has a chapter on Kronstadt (and quotes extensively from the Kronstadters’ newspaper Izvestia; a French translation of the Kronstadt Izvestia was issued by Éditions Ressouvenances in 1988); Daniel Guérin, No Gods, No Masters, Volume 2, AK Press, Edinburgh,1997, has a section on the rebellion and includes a long extract from Emma Goldman’s autobiography Living My Life on the events (in French as Ni Dieu ni maitre, anthologie historique du mouvement anarchiste, Editions de Delphes, Paris 1965); Anton Ciliga, Kronstadt Revolt, Freedom Press, 1938; Paul Avrich, Kronstadt, 1921, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1970; Israel Getzler, Kronstadt 1917–1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1983. See also Alisdair McIntyre, Tell Me Where You Stand on Kronstadt, a review of Avrich’s Kronstadt 1921, New York Review of Books, 12 August 1971, pp. 24–5; Emanuel Pollack, The Kronstadt Rebellion: The First Armed Revolt Against the Soviets, Philosophical Library, New York 1959; Chris Harman, Kronstadt and the Defeat of the Russian Revolution, International Socialist Review, 3/24; F.F. Raskolnikov, Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917, translated and annotated by Brian Pearce, New Park Publications, London 1982; Brian Pearce, 1921 and All That, Labour Review, Volume 5, no. 3, October-November 1960, pp. 84–92; Abbie Bakan, A Tragic Necessity, Socialist Worker Review, no. 136, November 1990, pp. 18–21; Gabriel and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative, Deutsch, London 1968 (also Penguin, Harmondsworth 1969). Trotsky’s own reflections on this event can be read in Leon Trotsky, Hue and Cry Over Kronstadt, 15 January 1938.

Christian Rakovsky, The Origins of the Potemkin Mutiny (1905)

Rémi Adam, 1917: The Revolt of the Russian Soldiers in France

Rémi Adam, The Bolshevik Revolution As Seen Through the Eyes
of the Soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Corps in France

Tico Jossifort, The Revolt at Radomir

The Black Sea Revolt


Friday, May 16, 2014

***Will The Real Philip Marlowe Stand Up-Dick Powell’s Murder, My Sweet

DVD Review
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Murder, My Sweet, starring Dick Powell, Clare Trevor, directed by Edward Dmytryk, based on the crime novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, 1944
Although there is a fairly straight line that joins the seven Philip Marlowe crime novels written by Raymond over a span of about twenty years from his grisly windmill-chaser youth to his tired out world weary and wary private detective in the 1950s that is not true of the various Marlowes in the film adaptations of Chandler’s works. Of course when one thinks of the classic Philip Marlowe then the name of the tough as nails, no nonsense, grabbing rough justice wherever he can no matter the price Humphrey Bogart in the film The Big Sleep automatically comes to mind and old Eddie Mars paid the price for not nothing that bit of wisdom.     
Other have been suave like Robert Young in 1940s The Lady in the Lake, gritty like James Garner in 1960s Little Sister and Eliot Gould as ultra-cool and cynical in the 1970s The Long Goodbye. So there are many Marlowes to choose from.
In the film under review, Murder, My Sweet, based a little loosely, maybe too loosely on the dialogue and plot, on Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely old song and dance man Dick Powell plays the role somewhere between the pretty boy next door and the stand- up guy ready to take the fall for the client, if only the client, or clients, will level with him just once. Powell’s Marlowe here is set out to do two tasks before he is done-find ex-con Moose’s Velma and find big shot Grayles’ damn expensive jade that had allegedly been stolen from the elderly Mayfair swell, or rather his young evil femme fatale wife (played by Clare Trevor). So during the almost two hours of the film old good guy Dick gets sapped, drugged, waylaid, lied to, propositioned, seduced, sent on wild goose chases, and plenty else before he “finds” Velma and that damn jade. But see that is where all Marlowes are equal-they don’t give up the ghost until there is a little rough justice in this wicked old world. Even if as here the bullets fly fast and furious at the end with no obvious winners. And old Dick grabs the girl next door to boot.      
*** Of This And That In The Old North Adamsville Neighborhood-The Bard Of The North Adamsville High School Class Of 1964?- “Say What?”

A YouTube film clip to set the mood for this sketch.
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

You know sometimes one has to, I have to, marvel at some of the communications technology that makes our work a lot easier. Take the Internet which was only maybe a dream, afar-fetched science fiction dream, back about fifty years when I graduated from high school, North Adamsville High in Massachusetts, in 1964. Now that fifty years is important, personally important, because that number means that my 50th anniversary class reunion is coming up scheduled for the fall. Now I admit that for the previous fifty years I have studiously avoided returning to the old town for any previous class reunions but this one, the detailed reasons of which not need detain us here, I had wanted to attend. Or rather wanted to attend once the reunion committee was able to track me down and invite me to attend. Or a better “rather” to join a website run by a wizard webmaster, Donna, who was also class Vice-President back then to keep up to date on progress for that reunion. Now it was not a hard task for the committee to find me on the Internet these days since I belong to a professional organization where information on my whereabouts is public knowledge. What is impressive though is the “elephant in the room” since it would have taken much work, and probably fruitless work at that, track me down for let’s say the 20th, 25th or 40th reunions that took place.  

All this by way of introducing the following sketch which could not possibly have been done at those previous reunions (except perhaps the 40th if anybody was savvy enough to test the more complicated waters then ). You see I did join the class site in order to keep informed about upcoming events but also as is my wont to make commentary about various aspects of the old hometown the, the high then, and any other tidbit that my esteemed fellow classmates might want to ponder. All this made simple as pie by the act of joining. Once logged in you are provided with a personal profile page complete with space for private e-mails, story-telling, various vital statistics like kids and grandkids, and space for the billion photos of the progeny. Additionally, and critically for this sketch, there is a common “Message Forum” page when one, I, could hold forth and discuss those comments about the old days mentioned above.       

A while back I went on to the class website to check out a new addition to the list of those who have joined the site. We can use our personal setting to be informed of that kind of information on a frequent basis. The guy who had just joined a guy I did not know but who I had seen around the school (you would have seen almost everybody in the four years you were there with one thing or another even though the class had baby-boomer times over 500 students) and so I was ready to click off the site when I noticed that I had a private e-mail waiting from a woman classmate whom I remembered vaguely from some math class. I also vaguely remember that I might have “hit” on her back then in that class but that was hardly unusual for me since I was nothing but a forlorn skirt-chaser and fantasy daydreaming about half the girls in the school at any given time. But all that is neither here nor there today. What is here though is her e-mail question (and my reply ) which is what drives this thing.  

Linda, whose last name shall be omitted not out of consideration for her sensibilities but rather to avoid the long litigation which I am sure would ensue if I mentioned her last name and others clamored on and on about why their names were not included, wrote an e-mail, a friendly e-mail I assume, asking me if I, with this never-ending (my word, she just said “a lot”) stream of stories about the old days at early 1960s North Adamsville High, was trying to be THE bard (her words, not mine including the capitalized “the”) of the Class of 1964. I rapidly replied with this short answer- “What, are you kidding?”(Although I wish I had said the faux- hip, “say what?,” used in the headline to this sketch). Later though, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that I did (and do) mean to be ONE of the latter-day voices of our class. Why? I have, with all due modesty, the perfect resume for the job. Here it is:

I belonged to no in-school clubs. I couldn’t (can’t) sing so the glee club was out. Although I was tempted to join, low-voice, whisper-voice join, white shirt, string tie, black chinos and all. I had join the church, Roman Catholic Church choir, and therefore filled with deep sacrificial and sober music in sixth grade for no other reason than a certain “stick” (in those days a term describing girls who had not gotten their figures yet) named Teresa Green was a member and I was, ah, smitten by her. And while that situation never worked out I might have done again in high so because a certain Rosemary I had eyes for sang a very sweet alto, or whatever they call that sing-song voice that made me think of flowered-fields, and fresh food picnic baskets in Edenic gardens. That as well never worked out because the “intelligence,” the around school intelligence that had Facebook beaten six way to Sunday had it that she had some college joe boyfriend. So I will just say I was smitten, lonely smitten but not smitten enough to tangle with that guy. Again let me leave it at Rosemary, no last names, again since I am still wary of that litigation from certain Susans, Lindas, and Anns who might still feel hurt not to see their names in lights here. Even though if I had approached them in those days I would have received the deep-freeze, a big time deep-freeze, and been dismissed out of hand.

The same was true for the school newspaper, the unlamented North Star, although in that case it was a Carol whom I would have joined the organization for in order to cub report next to (ditto, on leaving out the last name, okay). Except in her case she had a big bruiser of a boyfriend who just happened to play right tackle for the championship Red Raiders school football team. And he (I will use no first or last name for that monster even now and not because I fear litigation, no because I fear for my life, and rightly so) made it very clear one time when I actually talked to her for more than about a minute that unless I had an interest in doormats I had better take my ragamuffin, low- rent act elsewhere. Moreover, I doubt, very seriously doubt, that after about two days I could have kept a straight face while performing my duties as a cub reporter reporting on such hot spot topics as the latest cause bake sale, the latest words of wisdom from Miss (Ms.) Sonos, the newspaper’s faculty advisor, about whatever was on her dippy mind, or “shilling” to drum up an audience for the next big school play. Not “the world is my beat” Frank Jackman. No way.

I, moreover, belonged to no after-school organizations like the chess club, science club, bird-watchers or any of those other odd-ball activities that couldn’t rate enough to get the school-day imprimatur. I was enough of an oddball (read: filled with teen angst and alienation) to not be tarred with that designation by straining my eyes like the chess club guys who got off on double check-mating or whatever they call it their haggard opponents, the science guys blowing up or threatening to blow up the school with their cutting edge chemical experiments, or watching colorful and exotic birds early in the morning somewhere in the marshes adjoining Adamsville Beach.  

See too, after school was “Frankie’s time,” the time Frankie Riley held forth inside, in front of, and sometimes behind, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor “up the Downs” (remember that term?) and I was none other than one of Frankie’s corner boys. For those who do not remember the various clots of corner boys or what corner boys were they were the guys, and it was always guys at our corner, who held up brick and mortar building during the evening planning, well planning and let’s leave it at that since the statute of limitations may not have run out. Not only that but I was from about the ninth grade Frankie  “shill,” his scribe, busy promoting every scheme, every idea, every half-idea, and every screwy notion that made its way into his ill-formed brain. So who would have had time for in school activities like a “scoop” on the amount raised at some bake sale, what that nutty Sonos had to say on astrophysics or U.F.O’s, or the virtues of some ill-conceived, poorly-acted school play. Needless to say those after school are not even worthy of mention.

I freely admit, freely admit now, after a lifetime of turmoil, of struggle over ten thousand ideas, the fire of a thousand half-ideas, and a few thousand thought-provoking books that had I known about the Great Books Club held after school I might have been drawn to that. Spent time thrashing out what Marx had to say about capitalism, John Stuart Mill had to say about democracy, Plato had to say about the caves, F. Scott Fitzgerald about the wooly Jazz Age, Ernest Hemingway about the lost generation, his lost generation a couple of generations before our, and lots of stuff like that. I spent much time later in life struggling with ideas that could just as easily have been thrashed out then. And, of course, the other problem was that if I had known about the club and could have joined (I found out later it was somewhat exclusive) the only girl that I remember that might have been a member of the club and that I might have wanted to talk to was Sarah (remember we are not using last names in case you forgot), and she was, well, just a stick even at sixteen although I liked to talk to her in class. A lot.

I did not belong to church-affiliated clubs, CYO, good boys and girls Christian Doctrine classes, christ no. I was on that long doubting Thomas road away from churchly concerns. Oh, except for one Minnie, yah, sweet Irish rose Minnie, whom I used to sit a few rows behind at 8:00 AM Mass at Sacred Heart and stare at her ass on Sunday. But I could have done that anywhere, and did according to her best friend, Jean, who sat behind me in class and has stated for the record in public as recently as a couple of years ago that I did it every time I could in the corridor and that Minnie knew about it, and kind of liked the idea although a lot of good that knowledge does me now. Moreover Phil Larkin (it’s okay to use his last name because I have already talked about “Foul-Mouth” Phil before, plenty, and he is in no position, no position this side of a four by six cell, to even spell the word litigation in my presence), yah, Phil Larkin moved in on her way before I got up the nerve to do more than watch her sway.

Ditto organizations like the YMCA, Eagle Scouts, or any of those service things. Corner boy life declared such things as strictly corn- ball. Not that I had anything, per se, against joining organizations. What I was though, and this was the attraction of rough-edged, snarly corner boy-ness for me, was alienated from anything that smacked of straight up, of normal, of, well square. And everything mentioned above, except for the girl part. And in that girl part maybe not including a stick like Sarah although I really did like to talk to her in class. She had some great big ideas, and knew how to articulate them. I hope she still does. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Instead of watching Minnie sway 24/7 I could have been cheek to cheek with Sarah, discussing stuff and... Don’t you think I haven’t thought about that, christ?

I also played no major sport that drove a lot of the social networking of the time. I am being polite using that term here: this is a family-friendly site after all. Isn’t it? If it isn’t then upon notice I will be more than happy to “spill the beans” about what was said, how it was said, and by whom about who "did" what every school day Monday morning before school in the boys’ “lav,” or the girls’ “lav” for that matter. And, again I will not worry in the least about litigation. Hey, the truth is a powerful defense. The sports that did drive me throughout my high school career, track and cross-country, were then very marginal sports for “nerds,” low-rent fake athletes, and other assorted odd-balls, and I was, moreover, overwhelmingly underwhelming at them, to boot. I have recently moved to have my times in various track events declared classified information under a national security blanket just so certain prying eyes like ace-runner Bill Bailey and, naturally, that old nemesis Frankie Riley do no gain access to that information for their own nefarious purposes.

I did not hang around with the class intellectuals, although I was as obsessed and driven by books, ideas and theories as anyone else at the time, maybe more so. I was, to be polite again, painfully shy around girls, as my furtive desire for Minnie mentioned above attests to, and therefore somewhat socially backward, although I was privately enthralled by more than one of them. Girls, that is. And to top it all off, to use a term that I think truly describes me then, I was something of a ragamuffin from the town's wrong side of the track, the notorious Black Street section over by the bridge to Boston. Oh, did I mentioned that I was also so alienated from the old high school environment that I either threw, or threatened to throw, my yearbook in the nearest river right after graduation; in any case I no longer have it.

Perfect, right? No. Not a complete enough resume? Well how about this. My family, on my mother’s side, had been in the old town since about the time of the “famine ships” from Ireland in the 1840s. I have not gone in depth on the family genealogy but way back when someone in the family was a servant of some sort, to one of the branches of the presidential Adams family. Most of my relatives distance and far, went through the old high school. The streets of the old town were filled with the remnants of the clan. My friends, deny it or not and I sometimes did, the diaspora "old sod" shanty Irish aura of North Adamsville was in the blood.

How else then can one explain, after a fifty year hiatus, this overweening desire of mine to write about the “Dust Bowl” that served as a training track during my running days. (The field situated just across the street from North Adamsville Middle School, of unblessed memory. Does anyone really want to go back in early teen life? No way.) Or write on the oddness of separate boys’ and girls’ bowling teams during our high school years, as if mixed social contact in that endeavor would lead to s-x, or whatever. Or my taking a “cheap” pot shot at that mysterious “Tri-Hi-Y” (a harmless social organization for women students that I have skewered for its virginal aspirations, its three purities; thoughts, acts, and deeds, or something like that). Or the million other things that pop into my head these days.

Oh yah, I can write, a little. Not unimportant for a bard, right? The soul of a poet, if somewhat deaf to the sweetness of the language. Time and technology has given us an exceptional opportunity to tell our collective story and seek immortality and I want in on that. Old Walt Whitman could sing of America highways and byways, I will sing of the old town, gladly.

Well, do I get a job? Hey, you can always “fire” me. Just “click” DELETE and move on.