Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Courage To Resist –All Honor To The Heroic Israeli Draft Resisters And Soldier Who Have Refused To Take Part In The Bloodbath In Gaza

Frank Jackman comment:

A number of members of Veterans For Peace, an organization of veterans of the American government’s imperial adventures, now made up mostly of Vietnam War veterans as veterans of earlier wars pass on but increasingly veterans of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, learned the hard way, and too late, like myself, that one could refuse to comply with the government draft and military campaign orders. We have come to appreciate the great courage that it takes to buck one’s government, one’s neighbors, one’s friends when the war drums beat out the marching orders and you are expected to join in lockstep. We salute those brothers and sisters in Israel who have either refused induction in the military or have refused to take part in the bloodbath in Gaza. One day when we live in a more peaceful world those sacrifices will find a well-deserved place of honor. Presente!!!   

We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve.

A petition.

Yael Even Or
July 23
Yael Even Or is an Israeli journalist and activist who, during her service, evaluated candidates for the recruitment department of the Israeli army. She currently lives in New York City.
Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves — which are made up of ex-soldiers — there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.
We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies. One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determines much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.
To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means — it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.
This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name. And although combat soldiers are generally the ones prosecuting today’s war, their work would not be possible without the many administrative roles in which most of us served. So if there is a reason to oppose combat operations in Gaza, there is also a reason to oppose the Israeli military apparatus as a whole. That is the message of this petition:
*      *      *
*      *      *
We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.
The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society — who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.
The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

For Love and Liberty

A full color book of paintings by freedom fighter and political prisoner, Tom Manning

Show Your Solidarity and Help Make this Inspiring Book Come Alive!

Tom Manning is a freedom fighter, political prisoner and prolific artist. His paintings are stories that jump off the page, revealing the outlook of people who struggle for liberation around the world. His paintings are about life and his landscapes recall times of importance.
The years of work to produce this beautiful book and important document are nearing their end and we need your help to fund the last phase of production!
  • Preorder YOUR copy of For Love and Liberty today to make this project come alive.
  • Choose from the three options to the right based on the level of support you can give
All proceeds, after production costs, will be donated to the Rosenberg Fund for Children: Twitter: @wwwrfcorg  Facebook:rosenbergfundforchildren

Preorder Your Copy Today!

  • 86 full color reproductions of Tom's Painting
  • Preface by Robby Meeropol
  • Article, “In My Time” by Tom
  • Poem by Assata, “Affirmation”
  • Autobiography of Tom Manning
  • Afterword by Ray Levasseur
  • Notes from photographer Penny Schoner

Tom Manning: Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner

From the Preface by Robby Meerpol:
"Tom’s been incarcerated for 29 years.  But even before he received his current life sentence he was trapped by the limited choices left to an impoverished child surviving in Boston’s infamous Maverick Street Projects. The military during the Vietnam era seemed like a way out, but that too became a hellish form of confinement.
Tom broke free, he revolted.  He became a revolutionary.  He committed the unforgivable sin of confronting today’s great imperial empire, the United States, on its home turf.  For that, I expect the prison industrial complex will do its best to keep him confined for as long as it can."

In The 74th Anniversary Year Of The Assassination Of Great Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky A Tribute- DEFEATED, BUT UNBOWED-THE WRITINGS OF LEON TROTSKY, 1929-1940




THE CHALLENGE OF THE LEFT OPPOSITION (1923-25), LEON TROTSKY, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1975

If you are interested in the history of the International Left or are a militant trying to understand some of the past lessons of our history concerning the communist response to various social and labor questions this book is for you. This book is part of a continuing series of volumes in English of the writings of Leon Trotsky, Russian Bolshevik leader, from the start in 1923 of the Left Opposition in the Russian Communist Party that he led through his various exiles up until his assassination by a Stalinist agent in 1940. These volumes were published by the organization that James P. Cannon, early American Trotskyist leader founded, the Socialist Workers Party, in the 1970’s and 1980’s. (Cannon’s writings in support of Trotsky’s work are reviewed elsewhere in this space) Look in this space for other related reviews of this series of documents on and by this important world communist leader.

Since the volumes in the series cover a long period of time and contain some material that , while of interest, is either historically dated or more fully developed in Trotsky’s other separately published major writings I am going to organize this series of reviews in this way. By way of introduction I will give a brief summary of the events of the time period of each volume. Then I will review what I believe is the central document of each volume. The reader can then decide for him or herself whether my choice was informative or not.

Although there were earlier signs that the Russia revolution was going off course the long illness and death of Lenin in 1924, at the time the only truly authoritative leader the Bolshevik party, set off a power struggle in the leadership of the party. This fight had Trotsky and the ‘pretty boy’ intellectuals of the party on one side and Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev (the so-called triumvirate).backed by the ‘gray boys’ of the emerging bureaucracy on the other. This struggle occurred against the backdrop of the failed revolution in Germany in 1923 and which thereafter heralded the continued isolation, imperialist blockade and economic backwardness of the Soviet Union for the foreseeable future.

While the disputes in the Russian party eventually had international ramifications in the Communist International, they were at this time fought out almost solely with the Russian Party. Trotsky was slow, very slow to take up the battle for power that had become obvious to many elements in the party. He made many mistakes and granted too many concessions to the trio. But he did fight. Although later (in 1935) Trotsky recognized that the 1923 fight represented a fight against the Russian Thermidor (from an analogy with the period of the French Revolution where the radical regime of Robespierre and Saint Just was overthrown by more moderate Jacobins) and thus a decisive turning point for the revolution that was not clear to him (or anyone else on either side) then. Whatever the appropriate analogy might have been Leon Trotsky was in fact fighting a last ditch effort to retard the further degeneration of the revolution. After that defeat, the way the Soviet Union was ruled, who ruled and for what purposes all changed. And not for the better.

The most important document in this volume is clearly and definitely Trotsky’s Lessons of October. Although there are a couple of other documents of interest- The New Course, his program to try to bring the agrarian and the industrial crisis into focus-and The Problems of Civil War- Trotsky’s contribution to the so-called “literary discussion” in the party far outdistances those documents in importance. When this document hit the press there was definitely gnashing of teeth by the ruling trio in the Kremlin- Why? Lessons of October is essentially a polemic against fainted-hearted, opportunist failure to appreciate both the rarity of a revolutionary moment and the necessity to have a sharp combat- tested organization to take advantage of that situation. Moreover, this polemic was a direct attack on Zinoviev and Kamenev for their position against insurrection at the time of revolution and on Stalin’s March, 1917 call for political support to the bourgeois Provisional Government.

George Bernard Shaw once called Trotsky the “Prince of Pamphleteers” and he certainly earns that title in Lessons of October. Alas, those who write the best polemics do not necessarily win the power. Those 200,000 plus politically immature or careerist new party members beholding to the increasingly Stalinist bureaucracy drafted under the “Lenin Levy” saw the writing on the wall differently. That was decisive. Nevertheless, Lessons of October is not just any political document- it is an essential document for the education of today’s militants. It bears reading, re-reading, and reading again. I know I always get something new out of it each time I read it.

In Honor Of Leon Trotsky On The 74th Anniversary Of His Death- For Those Born After-Ivan Smirnov’s Journey

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Ivan Smirnov came out of old Odessa town, came out of the Ukraine (not just plain Ukraine like now but “the” then), the good black earth breadbasket of the Russian Empire, well before the turn of the 20th century (having started life on some Mister’s farm begotten by illiterate but worthy and hard-working peasant parents who were not sure whether it was 1880 or 1881 and Mister did not keep very good records up in the manor house) although he was strictly a 20th century man by habits and inclinations. Fashioned himself a man of the times, as he knew it, by developing habits favored by those who liked to consider themselves modern. Those habits included a love of reading, a love of and for the hard-pressed peoples facing the jack-boot (like his struggling never- get-ahead parents) under the Czar’s vicious rule, an abiding hatred for that same Czar, a hunger to see the world or to see something more than wheat fields, and a love of politics, what little expression that love could take even for a modern man stuck in a backward semi-feudal country driven by the ruthless cops and General Staff bayonets. 

Of course Ivan Smirnov, a giant of a man, well over six feet, more like six, two, well-build, solid, fairly muscular, with the Russian dark eyes and hair to match, when he came of age also loved good food when he had the money for such luxuries, loved to drink shots of straight vodka in competition with his pals, and loved women, and women loved him. It is those appetites in need of whetting that consumed his young manhood, his time in Odessa before he signed on to the Czar’s navy to see the world, or at least  brush the dust of farmland Ukraine and provincial Odessa off his shoes as the old saying went. Those loves trumped for a time his people love (except helping out his parents with his wages), his love of liberty but as we follow Ivan on his travels we will come to see that those personal loves collided more and more with those larger loves. 

So as we pick up the heart, the coming of age, coming of political age, Ivan Smirnov story, he was no kid, had been around the block a few times. Had taken his knocks on the land of his parents (really Mister’s land once the taxes, rents, and dues were taken out) when he tried to organize, well, not really organize but just put a petition of grievances, including the elimination of rack-rents to Mister which was rejected out of hand and which subsequently when Mister took his revenge forced him off the land. Forced him off under threat to his life. The rack none too good for him heard in some quarters by Mister’s lackeys and henchmen. He never forgot that slight, never. Never forgot that it was Mister and his kind, his class and its hangers-on that took him away from home, split his family up, pushed the rack-rent higher and finally killed off his benighted father at an very early age in an age when early age was the norm. So off he went to the city, and from there to the Black Sea Fleet and adventure, or rather tedium mixed with adventure and plenty of time to read, read novels, big Tolstoy-sided novels, novels for long sea-ward trips, when he could and clandestinely radical political tracts.

Ivan also learned up close, made it his business to learn up close, the why and wherefores of modern warfare, modern naval warfare. Knew too that between the stifling old-fashioned naval bureaucracy and the shoddily built ships (many with badly welded seams) some minor confrontation the Czar’s navy was cooked.  As things worked out Ivan had been in the Russian fleet that got its ass kicked by the Japanese in 1904. He never called them “Nips” like lots of his crewmates did not after that beating they took that did not have to happen if the damn Czar’s naval officers had been anything but lackeys and anything but overconfident that they could beat the Johnny-come-lately Japanese in the naval war game. And so Ivan came of war age and political age all at once. And the Russian navy was in shambles.

More importantly after that debacle he applied for, and was eventually granted a transfer into in the Baltic fleet, the Czar’s jewel and defender of citadel Saint Petersburg, headquartered at later famous Kronstadt, and so he was in the swirl when the revolution of 1905 came thundering over their heads and each man, each sailor, each officer had to choice sides. Most seaman had gone over the rebels or stood on the sidelines, the officers mainly played possum with the Czar. He had gone wholehearted with rebels and while he did not face the fate of his comrades on the Potemkin his naval career was over. That was where his love of reading from an early age came in, came and made him aware of the boiling kettle of political groupings trying to save Russia or to save what some class or part of a class had an interest in saving Russia for their own purposes. He knew, knew from his dismal experience on the land, that Mister fully intended to keep what was his come hell or high water. He also knew that Mister’s people, the peasantry like his family would have a very hard time, a very hard time indeed bucking Mister’s interests and proclaiming their own right to the land all by themselves. Hadn’t he also been burned, been hunted down like a cur over a simple petition.

So Ivan from the first dismissed the Social Revolutionary factions and gave some thought to joining the Social Democrats. Of course being Russians who would argue over anything from how many angels could fit on the head of a needle to theories of capitalist surplus value that party organization had split into two factions (maybe more when the dust settled). When word came back from Europe he had sided with the Mensheviks and their more realistic approach to what was possible for Russia in the early 20th century. That basic idea of a bourgeois democratic republic was the central notion that Ivan Smirnov held for a while, a long while, and which he took in with him once things got hot in Saint Petersburg in January of 1905.       

That January after the Czar’s troops, his elite bloody Cossack troops in the lead, fired on (and sabre-slashed) an unarmed procession led by a priest, damn a Russian Orthodox priest, a people’s priest who led the icon-filled procession to petition the Czar to resolve grievances, great and small, Ivan Smirnov, stationed out in the Baltic Fleet then after the reorganization of the navy in the wake of the defeat by the Japanese the year before had an intellectual crisis. He knew that great things were going to unfold in Russia as it moved into the modern age. He could see the modern age tied to the ancient agrarian age every time he had leave and headed for Saint Petersburg with its sailors’ delights, the taverns, music halls, and whorehouses of which Ivan usually took his full measure. (Being sea-bound he was a proverbially “girl in every port guy” although he had had one short serious affair with a girl student from the university, a left-Social Revolutionary who had never been outside the city in her life) He could see in the city within a city, the Vyborg district, the growing working-class district made up of fresh recruits from the farms looking for higher wages, some excitement and a future.

That was why he had discarded the Social Revolutionaries so quickly when in an earlier generation he might very well have been a member of People’s Will or some such organization. He had that kind of heart, the heart of a warrior –avenger with the cool calculation of the average ward-healer. No, his intellectual crisis did not come from that quarter but rather that split in the workers’ party which had happened in 1903 far from Russia among the √©migr√© intellectuals around the question of what kind and how much activity qualified an activists as a party member. He had sided with the “softs,” the Mensheviks, mainly because he liked their leader, Julius Martov, better than Lenin. Lenin and his faction seemed more intent on gaining organizational control, had more hair-splitters which he hated, and were more [CL1] wary of the peasants even though both factions swore faith in the democratic republic for Russia and to the international social democracy. He had sided with the “softs” although he saw a certain toughness in the Bolshevik cadre that he admired. But that year, that 1905 year, had started him on a very long search for revolutionary direction.           

The year 1905 moreover had started filled with promise after that first blast from the Czarist reaction. The masses were able to gather in a Duma that was at least half responsible to the people, or to the people’s representatives. At least that is what those people’s representatives claimed. More importantly in the working class districts, and among his fellow sailors who more likely than not, unlike himself, were from some strata of the working class had decided to set up their own representative organs, the workers’ councils, or in the Russian parlance which has come down in the  history books, the soviets. These in 1905, unlike in 1917, were seen as supplementary to other political organizations. A pressure group not a central contender for power.  As the arc of the year curved though there were signs that the Czarist reaction was gathering steam. Ivan had then had trouble organizing his fellow sailors to action. The officers of his ship, The Falcon, were challenging more decisions by the sailors’ committee. The Potemkin affair brought things to a head in the fleets. Finally, after the successes of the Saint Petersburg Soviet under the flaming revolutionary Leon Trotsky that organ was suppressed and the reaction set in that would last until many years later, many tough years for political oppositionists of all stripes. Needless to say that while Ivan was spared the bulk of the reprisals once the Czarist forces regained control his career in the navy was effectively finished and when his enlistment was up he left the service.       

Just as well Ivan that things worked out as they did he had thought many times since then because he was then able to come ashore and get work on the docks through some connections, and think. Think and go about the business of everyday life like marriage to a woman, non-political but a comfort, whom he met through one of his fellow workers on the Neva quay and who would share his home and life although not always understanding that part of his life or him and his determination to break Russia from the past. In those days after 1905, the dogs days as everybody agreed, when the Czar’s Okhrana was everywhere and ready to snatch anyone with any oppositional signs Ivan mostly thought and read, kept a low profile, did as was found out later after the revolution in 1917, a lot of low-level underground organizing among the dockworkers and factory workers of the Vyborg district. In other words developing himself and those around him as cadre for what these few expected would be the great awakening. But until the break-out Lena River gold-workers strike in 1912 those were indeed dog days.     



And almost as quickly as the dog days of the struggle were breaking up the war clouds over Europe were increasing. Every civilized nation was impatiently arming to the teeth to defend its civilization against the advancing hordes pitched at the door. Ivan could sense in his still sturdy peasant-bred bones that that unfinished task from 1905, that fight for the land and the republic, hell maybe the eight-hour day too, was going to come to a head. He knew enough too about the state of the navy, and more importantly, now the army through his organizing contacts to know that without some quick decisive military action the monarchy was finished and good riddance. The hard part, the extremely hard part, was to get those future peasant conscripts who would provide cannon fodder for the Czar’s ill-thought out land –grabbing adventures to listen up for a minute rather than go unknowingly head-long into the Czar’s arm (the father’s arms for many of them). So there was plenty of work to do. Ivan just that moment was glad that he was not a kid.  Glad he had learned enough to earn a hearing, to spread the word. To get people moving when the time for action came.     

As the war clouds came to a head after the killing of the archduke in bloody damn Sarajevo in early summer 1914 Ivan Smirnov knew in his bones that the peasant soldier cannon fodder as always would come flocking to the Czar like lemmings to the sea the minute war was declared. Any way the deal was cut the likely line-up of the Czar with the “democracies” of the West, Britain and France and less likely the United States would immediately give the Czar cover against the villainies of the Huns, of the Germans who just the other day were propping up the Czar’s treasury. It could not end well. All Ivan hoped for was that his party, the real Social-Democrats, locally known as the Mensheviks from the great split in 1903 with the Bolsheviks and who had definitely separated from that organization for good in 1912, would not get war fever just because the damn Czar was lined up with the very democracies that the party wished to emulate in Russia.

He knew too that the talk among the leadership of the Bolsheviks (almost all of them in exile and thus far from knowing what was happening down in the base of society at home) about opposing the Czar to the bitter end, about fighting in the streets again some said to keep the young workers and the peasants drifting into the urban areas from the dead-ass farms from becoming cannon-fodder for a lost cause was crazy, was irresponsible. Fortunately some of the local Bolshevik committeemen in Russia and among their Duma delegation had cooler heads. Yes this was not time to be a kid, with kid’s tunnel vision, with great events working in the world. 

Jesus, thought Ivan once the Czar declared his allegiance to the Entente, once he had gotten the Duma to rubber-stamp his war budget (except for a remnant of the Bolsheviks who were subsequently relieved of immunity and readied for Siberian exile), he could not believe that Plekhanov, the great Plekhanov, the father of the Marxist movement in Russia and mentor to the likes of Lenin, Martov, Dan, hell even flea-bitten free-lancer Trotsky, had declared for the Czar for the duration and half of Ivan’s own bloody Menshevik party had capitulated (the other half, the leadership half had been in exile anyway, or out of the country for some reason) this was going to be hell.

There would be no short war here, no quick victory over the land hungry Huns, nothing but the stench of death filling the air overcoming all those mobilization parades and the thrown flowers, the kissed girls, the shots of vodka to fortify the boys for the run to the front. The Czar’s house, double eagles and all, was a house of cards or rather of sawdust like those villages old rascal Potemkin put up to fool Catherine in her time. Most of the peasant boys marching to the front these days would never see Mother Russia again, never get to smell the good Russian earth. But if he had anything to say about it those who survived, those who would have to listen if not now then sometime, would have their own piece of good Russian earth unlike their fathers who toiled on the land for Mister’s benefit for nothing. And went to early graves like his father.

And so in the summer of 1914 as if led by blinders Europe, along with solid phalanxes of its farm boys and factory workers, went to bloody stalemated war.

Went without Ivan just that minute declared too old to fight and relegated to the home guard. There would come a day, a day not too long in the future when the “recruiting sergeants” would be gobbling up the “too old to fights,” like Ivan, the lame and the halt, any man breathing to fill the depleted trenches on the Eastern front. By then though Ivan would have already clamored to get into the ranks, get in to spread the new wave message about the meaningless of the fight for the workingman and the peasant and that the fight was at home not out in the trenches. But that was for the future, the music of the future. Ironically Ivan’s unit wound up guarding the Peter and Paul Fortress for the Czar.  The same place that would see plenty of action when the time for action came.

The home guard was a loose operation, especially in Saint Petersburg, which entailed not much more than showing up for guard duty when the rotation called your turn and an occasion drill or assembly. The rest of the time, or most of it, Ivan spent reading, reading clandestinely the sporadic anti-war materials that were being smuggled in from various point in Europe by whatever still free exiles groups had enough gall and funds to put together those first crude sheets proclaiming the new dispensation. Ivan had time to think too during those first eighteen months or so of war. Thought about how right he had been that this “glorious little war” would not be over soon, would devour the flower of the European youth and if enough lived long enough change the face of half-monarchial Europe. Thought about how, when, and where street organizers like him (he admitted long ago that he was not a “theory man) would get a chance to change the awful slaughter and the daily casualty lists.

Ivan through all of early 1916 thought too that things within his own Menshevik organization needed serious upgrading, needed to be readied if the nation was to turn from semi-feudal monarchy to the modern republic which would provide the jumping off point to agitate for the social republic of the organization’s theory, and of his youthful dreams. Although he was no theory man he was beginning to see that the way the bourgeoisie, native and foreign, lined up it was as likely as not that they would not follow through, would act even worse than in 1905 when they went hat in hand with the Czar for the puny no account Duma and a few reforms that in the end only benefitted them to the exclusion of the masses. He began to see Lenin’s point, if it was Lenin’s and not some Okhrana forgery, that the new parties, the parties that had not counted before, the peasant and worker parties, would have to lead the way. There was no other way. And no, no thank you he was not a Trotsky man, a wild man who believed that things had changed some much in the 20th century that the social republic for Russia was on the agenda right away. No, he could not wrap his head around that idea, not in poor, not in now wounded and fiercely bleeding and benighted Mother Russia. Beside Trotsky was living off his reputation in the 1905 revolution, was known to be mightier with the pen than the sword and a guy whom the main leadership of the Mensheviks thought was a literary dilettante (strange characterization though in an organization with plenty of odd-ball characters who could not find a home with the Bolsheviks and were frightened to death of working with the mass peasant parties being mostly city folk).

He thought too about the noises, and they were only noises just then, exile noises mostly that the Bolsheviks had had a point in opposing the war budget in the Duma, those who had not deserted the party for the Czar in the patriotic build-up, and who had been sent to Siberia for their opposition. He admired such men and knew slightly one of the deportees who had represented one of the Vyborg worker districts in the capital in the Duma. Now word had come back from Europe that a small congress held in some no-name village in the Alps (Zimmerwald in Switzerland as he later found out) had declared for international peace among the workers and oppressed of all nations and that it was time to stop the fighting and bleeding. More ominously Lenin and his henchmen had come out for waging a civil war against one’s own government to stop the damn thing, and to start working on that task now. Worse Lenin was calling for a new international socialist organization to replace the battered Socialist International.  To Ivan’s practical mind this was sheer madness and he told whatever Bolshevik committeemen he could buttonhole (in deepest privacy since the Czarist censorship and his snitches were plentiful).  In Ivan’s mind they were still the wild boys, seemingly on principle, and he vigorously argued with their committeemen to keep their outlandish anti-war positions quiet for now while the pro-war hysteria was still in play. But deep down he was getting to see where maybe the Bolsheviks, maybe Lenin, hell maybe even goof Trotsky were right-this war would be the mother of invention for the next revolutionary phase.

The Czar has abdicated, the Czar has abdicated, the new republic is proclaimed! The whirl of early 1917 dashed through Ivan Smirnov’s head. A simple demonstration and strike by women in the capital after the bloodletting of over two years of war, after the defeats of 1905 and later showed the monarchy, the now laughable double-eagle monarchy that held the masses in thrall for centuries was shown to be a house of cards, no, less, a house of sawdust blown away with the wind. While Ivan had not caught the early drift of the agitation and aggravation out in the worker neighborhoods he had played an honorable part in the early going. And the reason that Ivan had missed some of the early action was for the simple reason that Ivan’s home guard unit, the 27th Regiment, had been mobilized for the Silesian front in early 1917 and had been awaiting orders to move out when all hell broke loose.

This is where the honorable part came in. The 27th Regiment had been fortified to a division with remnants of other front-line divisions whose casualty levels were so high that they were no longer effectively fighting units. As the units meshed and the action in the capital got intense two quick decisions needed to be made by the 27th –would the unit go to the front as ordered by the General Staff and subsequently would the unit still stationed in Saint Petersburg defend the Czarist monarchy then in peril. Now this new unit, this of necessity haphazard and un-centered unit, was made up of the likes of Ivan (although none so political or known to be political) and of disillusioned and bedraggled peasant boys back from the front who just wanted to go home and farm the land of their fathers, for Mister or for themselves it did not matter. And that is where Ivan Smirnov, of peasant parents born, came center stage and made his mark. Ivan when it came time to speak about whether they would go to the front argued that going to the front meant in all probability that if they went that they would farm no land, Mister’s or their own since they would be dead. And some other peasant boy would come along to farm the ancient family lands.

Ivan did not need to evoke the outlandish theories of Lenin and Trotsky about civil war and the social republic but just say that simple statement and the unit voted almost unanimously to stay in the capital (those who did not go along as always in such times kept quiet and did not vote to move out). Of course as always at such times as well Ivan’s good and well-earned reputation among the home guard members for prudent but forceful actions when the time was right helped carry the day. That reputation, borne of many years of street organizing and other work, also came in handy when the 27th was ordered to defend the Czar in the streets. Again Ivan hammered home the point that there would be no land, no end of the bloody war, no end of dying in some forsaken trenches if the Czar stayed. The 27th would not defend the Czar to the death (again the doubters and Czarist agents kept mum).

And for Ivan’s honorable service, for his honorable past, when it came time to send delegates to the soviet, or the soldiers’ section of the soviet (the other two sections being the workers and the peasants with everybody else who adhered to the soviet concept filling in one of those three sections) Ivan was unanimously elected to represent the 27th Regiment. Now this soviet idea (really just Russian for council, workers councils mainly) was nothing new, had been created in the heat of the 1905 revolution and had been in the end the key governmental form of the opposition then. Now with the Czar gone (and as our story moves on the government is in non-Czarist agents hands) there were two centers of power- the bourgeois ministry (including representatives of some worker and peasant parties) and the soviets acting as watchdogs and pressure groups over the ministry. As Russian spring turned to summer Ivan from his post in the Soviet saw some things that disturbed him, saw that “pretty boy” Trotsky (who had just gotten back from American exile as had Lenin a bit earlier) and now damn Lenin had begun to proclaim the need for the social republic right then. Not in some few years future but then. But he was also disturbed by the vacuous actions of his Mensheviks on the land question and on social legislation. As the summer heat came Ivan began to see that defending the people’s revolution was tough business and that some hard twists and turns were just waiting ahead for him.                                      

 Jesus, Ivan said to himself as summer turned to early Russian fall when is that damn Kerensky going to pull us out of the war after that foolish summer offensive ordered by who knows who collapsed and made Russia look ridiculous to the world, our ragged starving troops are melting away from the trenches, his own 27th had repeatedly been called up to the front and then mysteriously at the last moment held back to defend something. Who knows what the General Staff had planned after Kornilov’s uprising was halted in it tracks (everybody in the private drinking rooms laughed at the fact that Kornilov could not move his troops step one once the Soviet told the trainmen to halt all troop transfers). See here was the deal, the new democratic deal. Now that Russia was a democracy, weak as it was, it was now patriotic no matter what that madman Trotsky said, no matter what the man with the organization Lenin said, the brutal Hun must be defeated by the now harmonious democracies.

Bullshit (or the Russian equivalent) said Ivan when a part of his own party swallowed that line, went along for the ride. Lenin was calling from the rooftops (in his Finnish hideout once old Kerensky put a price on his head, wanted to smoke the old bald-headed bastard out and bring him to trial for treason if he could) for a vote of “no confidence” in the ministry. Both were beginning to call for the soviets to do more than express worker, soldier, and peasant anger and to stop acting as a pressure valve for Kerensky and his band of fools and take the power to change things into its own hands. And that madman Trotsky was proclaiming the same thing from his prison cell at the Peter and Paul where a remnant of the 27th was still doing guard duty (and standing in awe of a real revolutionary giving him unheard of privileges).  Meanwhile Ivan, Ivan Smirnov, the voice of the 27th, the well-respected voice of the peasant soldier, was twisting in the wind. There was no way forward with Kerensky, the mere tool of the British and French imperialists who were holding him on a tight string. But Ivan could not see where poor, bloody, beleaguered and drawn Mother Russia, his earthen Russia could move forward with the radicals who were beginning to clamor for heads, and for peace and land too.

Jesus, cried Ivan the Bolsheviks have this frosty October day proclaimed the social republic, have declared that the war over in the East (or that they were prepared to sue for peace with whomever would meet them at the table and if not then they would go it alone). Ivan had heard that it might be peace at any price in order to get the new order some breathing room. But peace. Necessary peace if Russia was not to lose all its able-bodied men for the next two generations.  The longed for peace that Ivan had spent his underground existence propagandizing for. Ivan already knew as a soldier delegate to the Soviet that the trenches had been and were at that moment being emptied out by land-hungry peasant soldiers, his peasant soldiers who heard that there would be “land to the tiller” and they wanted to till land not be under it. Ivan’s old call was being taken up by the damn Bolsheviks who sent out a land decree as a first order of business once they dumped the Kerensky ministry, once they flushed out the Winter Palace of all the old deadwood. All kinds of things were being proposed (and sometimes accepted even when the human and material wherewithal were non-existent which worried Ivan to perdition).

But here is the funny part. Although Ivan had lined himself up with Martov’s Left Mensheviks (those who wanted peace and some kind of vibrant bourgeois democracy to pressure forward into the social republic) in the Soviet for most of the summer and fall he kept getting incessant news from the 27th that they were ready to mutiny against the Kerensky ministry, they had had enough and wanted to go home. Ivan was twisting in the wind. He saw that the idea of the social republic was being presented too soon, that the resources were not there to give the experiment a chance (who knows what outside force would come to the aid of the Soviets and when). But he also knew that right that moment the old ways could not relieve the impasse. And so he broke ranks with Martov and his group, did not walk out when the voting did not go the way Martov wanted. In fact when the division of the house was called Ivan Smirnov, longtime political foe of the madman Trotsky and scarred opponent of the damn Leninists (he had not heard that Trotsky had quietly joined the Bolsheviks earlier), voted for peace, voted for the land distribution. The new day had come and there would be hell to pay and he would not join the Bolsheviks, no way, but in for a dime in for a dollar and he would defend the Soviet power as best he could.       

 “Petrograd must be defended to the last man, everyone to their posts, no Whites must get to the city itself,” cried Political Commisssar Ivan Smirnov now that the Red Army (or rather one of the Red armies since between the internally diverse White Guard forces, their foreign imperialist backers and the vastness of Mother Russia there were several fluid fronts and battles raging at any given time) had its back to the wall and the working-class capital of the worlds’ only workers’ state in existence was threatened by Cossacks and other forces. It had come to this, come to this as Ivan always knew it would, the forces of the past would not let go without a bloody fight (even if the actual seizure of power by the Soviets in October 1917 had been relatively bloodless), would scream bloody murder about the land (the land that he had come off of at the turn of the century), about the factories and about the very fact that the fellahin of the world had decided to take matters into their own hands. Ivan had sworn once the heads had been counted back in that cold October of 1917 that he was in the fight to the finish (in for a dime, in for a dollar as the expression when then), or until he had lain his head down from some stray bullet.

And it had almost come to that at Kazan in that desperate struggle to hold Russia together before the Czech Legions that were marauding their ways back from Siberia took the city and cut Russia into not much more than a small province. Trotsky himself, then risen to War Commissar with extraordinary powers had organized the fight, had put every resource at hand (on that famous train that he rode through most of the civil war) and in the fierce river battles before Kazan some sniper had popped Ivan in the shoulder just above the heart. That seemed like years before as he now helped prepare the defense of the capital. There had even been talk that Trotsky himself was coming through to boost morale (and to die like Ivan and many others defending the city street by street if need be. It was that perilous.). Yes, Ivan had come a long way since those October days when he swore his oath. Of course a military cadre like Ivan was hand-picked to move away from the placid Soviet parliamentary job and into the yawning gap that needed filling of cadre who could fight and give reason to the fight. And so Ivan, grown old in the previous two years, had worked his way up to division commissar in the days when political reliability meant-for or against the revolution, arms in hand. He had not, despite many attempts by the Bolsheviks, joined the party (now called Communist harkening back to Marx’s time). Yet there he was steadying the nerves of the raw recruits from the factories in front of him. No the Whites would not pass, not while the Ivan Smirnovs of the world drew breathe.   





As The 100th Anniversary Of The Beginning of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Starts ... Some Remembrances-Poet’s Corner

Charles Sorley

"When you see millions of the mouthless dead"

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, 'They are dead.' Then add thereto,
'Yet many a better one has died before.'
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

Hands Off The Ferguson, Missouri Protestors-Stop The Police Killings Of Black Youth-Stop The Harassment Of The Press- Free All Protestors Now!  

Frank Jackman comment: 

It has always been easy for the American imperialist capitalist government and their police to treat black youth, especially black males and increasing Latinos like they have treated the peoples of Southeast Asia in the past, and in Iraq and Afghanistan more recently as so much collateral damage when they pulled the hammer down. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and a myriad of others shot down over the years by the police and/or vigilantes cry out for justice in Ferguson, Missouri this day and will not accept another whitewash. 


Some years back, at the height of the Iraq War – perhaps we should call it Iraq War II, as US troops are again returning to that country for the third time -- Dorchester People for Peace was involved in building a community-based coalition to cut military spending and redirect the funds to needs at home.  In the face of constantly trumpeted “security alerts” and the on-going “Global War on Terror” we were concerned to find effective messaging to justify reducing Pentagon spending when people were led to believe that it was meant to “keep them safe.” 

We decided to organize a workshop for coalition members to explore concerns about national security and come up with answers that would make sense in response to the attitudes among the public on the need for a strong military to counter terrorist threats.  It was our intention to develop effective arguments in answer to the expected responses that we needed a strong military to keep us safe.

Reflecting the neighborhood-based make-up of the coalition, the attendees at the workshop were predominantly people of color.  We started with an exercise of going around the room, asking people to answer the question: “What threats make you feel unsafe.”  Perhaps it should not have been a surprise that one after another, the answers were “THE POLICE”. . .




Left: Ferguson. Right: Iraq in Ferguson, Missouri are treating the people they're supposed to serve and protect as the enemy. Armed with weapons and riot gear, the police officers look like they're coming from a war zone. Their equipment did. The Ferguson Police Department received military-grade equipment -- free of charge -- from the Pentagon as part of the 1033 program. And they've been using the weapons and gear against protesters following the police shooting of Mike Brown, and unarmed 18-year-old.


POLICE TERROR IN FERGUSON: 'This is a War and We are Soldiers on the Frontline'

The raw fury in this northern suburb of St Louis over the killing of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old apparently walking back from a convenience store, may slowly fade in the coming weeks and months. But the underlying, bitter resentment among many in the local African-American community about their treatment at the hands of an almost unanimously white police force and local authorities, will likely continue to simmer.  More


Enough is enough in Ferguson

Anyone familiar with the history of race and policing in the United States had to suspect from the beginning that the shooting of Michael Brown was not just a tragedy, but a crime. Yet presumption of innocence prevails and sober minds know both the need to wait for an investigation and the reality that we may never really know what happened that fateful Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. But watching events unfold Wednesday night in the St. Louis suburb, there can be no doubt that what happened on August 13 was an outrage.  The local authorities clearly have no idea what they're doing, and higher powers from the state or federal government need to intervene before things get even worse… Police officers, for some unfathomable reason, were pointing guns at unarmed civilians at twilight.  More


One Nation Under SWAT

Think of it as a different kind of blowback.  Even when you fight wars in countries thousands of miles distant, they still have an eerie way of making the long trip home… When police departments look to muscle up their arms and tactics, the Pentagon isn’t the only game in town. Civilian agencies are in on it, too. During a 2011 investigation, reporters Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz discovered that, since 9/11, police departments watching over some of the safest places in America have used $34 billion in grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to militarize in the name of counterterrorism… Report by report, evidence is mounting that America’s militarized police are a threat to public safety. But in a country where the cops increasingly look upon themselves as soldiers doing battle day in, day out, there’s no need for public accountability or even an apology when things go grievously wrong. More


GREENWALD: The Militarization of U.S. Police

The dangers of domestic militarization are both numerous and manifest. To begin with, as the nation is seeing in Ferguson, it degrades the mentality of police forces in virtually every negative way and subjects their targeted communities to rampant brutality and unaccountable abuse… Police militarization also poses grave and direct dangers to basic political liberties, including rights of free speech, press and assembly… Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests — and more — are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the U.S. has seen over the last three years (and will continue to see for the foreseeable future).  More


A nation of Fergusons: Why America's police forces look like invading armies

Although shocking, what is happening in Ferguson is merely a particularly severe example of a much broader and long-running phenomenon: the militarization of police weaponry and tactics in the US. In part thanks to federal programs that provide military equipment to local police (though not military training), and encourage its use as part of ordinary law enforcement, police are increasingly using SWAT-style tactics in routine policing. However, experts say, this phenomenon is extremely dangerous, and can make otherwise peaceful situations dangerous — as police appear to have done in Ferguson.  More


Pentagon fueled Ferguson confrontation

The Pentagon might not have boots on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police on Saturday, but it does have wheels on the street. Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, confirms that the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033 that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the United States. The materials range from small items, such as pistols and automatic rifles, to heavy armored vehicles such as the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. "In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement," the agency's website states.

According to McCaskill, the most recent transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to small Ferguson was in November and included two vehicles as well as a trailer and a generator. Details on the vehicles and their intended uses have not been released by the Pentagon. Information on any prior transfers is also unavailable.  More


Rep. Hank Johnson to introduce bill to stop providing military equipment to local police forces

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia's 4th Congressional District will introduce a bill to end the federal government's program of providing billions of dollars worth of military equipment free to local police… “Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s,” Johnson wrote. “Unfortunately, due to a Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus DOD equipment to state and local law enforcement, our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces.”  More


Congress Isn't Ending the Pentagon-to-Police Weapons Program Anytime Soon

High-profile lawmakers are criticizing a federal program that puts military equipment in the hands of local law enforcement, a reaction to the chaos and police crackdown in Ferguson, Mo. But that doesn't mean Congress is going to do anything about it… The response from congressional Republican leadership, however, has been measured or nonexistent, suggesting the issue is unlikely to make the agenda when Congress returns from recess in September. And even if it does, the program that connects police forces to military equipment has well-placed defenders in Congress. At issue is the "1033 program," a Defense Department   Support Office, or LESO. "This program protects taxpayers, and it protects our nation's law enforcement men and women as they do a dangerous job," said John Noonan, a spokesman for the Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the program.   More


Tear gas is a chemical weapon banned in war. But Ferguson police shoot it at protesters.

Despite its ubiquity across the globe and in United States, tear gas is a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which set forth agreements signed by nearly every nation in the world — including the United States. The catch, however, is that while it’s illegal in war, it’s legal in domestic riot control… Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson has defended the use of tear gas. “There are complaints about the response from some people,” he said, “but to me, nobody got hurt seriously, and I’m happy about that.”  While that appears to have held true as of Thursday morning, some scientists and international observers contend the tactic of spraying people with tear gas, which commonly uses the chemical agent 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS), can pose serious dangers. “Tear gas under the Geneva Convention is characterized as a chemical warfare agent, and so it is precluded for use in warfare, but it is used very frequently against civilians,”  More


View image on TwitterPalestinians share tear gas advice with Ferguson protesters

Local authorities in Ferguson have begun responding to nightly protests with tear gas and rubber bullets. Palestinians on Twitter could relate, and shared words and images of support with the US protesters… After images of Ferguson police using tear gas were disseminated on Twitter, Palestinians Rajai abuKhalil and Mariam Barghouti drew on their own experiences to express support with protesters in Missouri.

Solidarity with #Ferguson. Remember to not touch your face when teargassed or put water on it. Instead use milk or coke!

Dear #Ferguson. The Tear Gas used against you was probably tested on us first by Israel. No worries, Stay Strong. Love, #Palestine


Israel-trained police "occupy" Missouri after killing of black youth

Since the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers, prompting residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.  And who can blame them? The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank. And it’s no coincidence. 

At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.   More