Saturday, October 11, 2014

Important  Mumia Abu Jamal Update-Free Mumia


Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.


The legendary social commentator and stand up comic Lenny Bruce, no stranger to the American ‘justice’ system himself, once reportedly said that in the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls. The truth of that statement came home on Thursday March 27, 2008 as a panel of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals voted two to one to uphold Mumia’s conviction.

The only question left is that of resentencing- the death penalty or, perhaps worst, life in prison without parole. I have not yet read the decision but we are now a long way away from the possibility of a retrial-the narrow legal basis for even appealing in the legal system in the first place. Know this- in the end it will be in the streets and factories through the efforts of the international labor movement and other progressive forces that Mumia will be freed. That is the only way, have no illusions otherwise, whatever the next legal steps might be.
Some facts about the case from the PDC (2006):

Mumia Is an Innocent Man
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Abolish the Racist Death Penalty
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for nearly 24 years, falsely convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and mountains of evidence show this, including the confession of another man, Arnold Beverly, to the murder. All the elements of the capitalist “justice” system colluded in framing up this former Black Panther and MOVE supporter because he is an eloquent and defiant spokesman for the oppressed. The fight to free Mumia has now reached a critical juncture. Last December, the federal appeals court put Mumia’s case on a “fast track” for decision, marking the last stages of the legal proceedings. Both Mumia and prosecutors are appealing decisions made in 2001 by U.S. District Court judge William Yohn, who overturned the death sentence but upheld every aspect of Mumia’s frame-up conviction. The state is as determined as ever to execute Mumia and has appealed. He has been barred by the courts from presenting evidence that he is innocent. But the district attorney filed legal papers in the federal appeals court in April, opening its case with a venomous, lying statement to portray Mumia as a cop-killer who must be executed. In a short time, even as soon as six months, the court could decide what is next for Mumia: death, life in prison or more legal proceedings.

Mumia was locked up on death row in 1982 based on lying testimony extorted by the cops without a shred of physical evidence. The judge at his trial, Albert Sabo—known as the “King of Death Row”—was overheard by a court stenographer saying, “I’m going to help ’em fry the n----r.” Rigging the jury to exclude black people, the prosecution incited jurors with the grotesque lie that Mumia’s membership in the Panthers as a teenager proved he was committed to kill a cop “all the way back then.” The 1982 conviction was secured with arguments that the jury could disregard any doubts about Mumia’s guilt because he would have “appeal after appeal.” In nearly two decades of appeals, each and every court has rejected the reams of documented evidence of the blatant frame-up of Mumia. For over four years, Pennsylvania state as well as federal courts have refused to even consider the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner.

The execution of Stanley Tookie Williams by the state of California in December casts an ominous shadow. The legal lynching of Williams, which provoked an outcry nationally and internationally, signaled the determination of the U.S. capitalist rulers to fortify their machinery of death in the face of growing reticence in the population over how the death penalty is applied. Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s foremost political prisoner, is the executioners’ number one target. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made this clear when, in denying clemency for Williams, he cited the fact that Williams’ 1998 book, Life in Prison, was dedicated to—among others—Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia’s case demonstrates what the racist death penalty is all about. It is the lynch rope made legal, the ultimate weapon in the government’s arsenal of repression aimed at the working class and oppressed. A legacy of chattel slavery, the death penalty is maintained in a society where the segregation of the majority of the black population is used as a wedge to divide the laboring masses and perpetuate the rapacious rule of capital. The murderous brutality of the racist capitalist system was displayed for all to see when thousands of people, overwhelmingly black and poor, were left to die in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Mumia’s appeal takes place in the context of the government’s assertion of its “right” to disappear, torture or even assassinate its perceived opponents, and to wiretap and spy on anyone and everyone. In the name of the “war on terror,” rights won through tumultuous class and social battles are being put through the shredder by the Bush administration with the support of the Democratic Party. The purpose is to terrorize and silence any who would stand in the way of the capitalist rulers’ relentless drive for profits and their imperialist adventures, like the colonial occupation of Iraq.

As Mumia’s case moves through the final stages of legal
proceedings, the fight for his freedom is urgently posed. The Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League/U.S.—stands for pursuing every legal avenue in Mumia’s behalf while putting no faith in the “justice” of the capitalist courts. Through publicity and action, we have struggled to mobilize the broadest social forces, centered on the labor movement, to demand Mumia’s freedom and the abolition of the racist death penalty. As Mumia faced execution in August 1995, a mass outpouring of protest nationally and internationally—from civil liberties organizations and such heads of state as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela to trade unions representing millions of workers—succeeded in staying the executioner’s hand.

Today we face greater odds. But if undertaken through a mobilization based on the social power of the working class, the fight for Mumia’s freedom would be a giant step forward in the defense of all of us against the increasingly depraved and vicious rulers of this country.
Anatomy of a Frame-Up

In the eyes of the capitalist state, from the time Mumia was a 15-year-old spokesman for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia in 1969, he was a dead man on leave. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover pronounced: “The Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.” This policy was carried out under both the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson and his Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, and the Republican Nixon administration. Under the FBI’s “counter-intelligence” program known as COINTELPRO, 38 Panthers were murdered and hundreds of others framed up and railroaded to prison.

The 900 pages of FBI files the PDC was able to obtain on Mumia’s behalf, even though highly expurgated, make clear that the FBI and cops used any “dirty trick” in their mission to get him. His every move was tracked and his name put on the FBI’s Security Index, the 1960s version of a “terrorist” hit list. Even with the demise of the Panthers, the state did not call off its vendetta against Mumia. As a journalist known as the “voice of the voiceless,” Mumia’s impassioned defense of black rights continued to enrage them. The Philly cops particularly seethed over his sympathetic coverage of the MOVE organization, which was subjected to an onslaught of state terror.

Mumia was targeted for death because of his political beliefs, because of what he wrote, because of what he said. And in the early morning hours of 9 December 1981 at the corner of 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia, the cops finally saw their chance. Mumia was driving a cab through the area that night. He heard gunshots. He saw people running, saw his own brother and got out of his cab to help him. Moments later, Mumia was critically wounded by a bullet through the chest. Nearby lay a wounded police officer, Daniel Faulkner. The cops found their long-awaited opportunity and seized on it to frame up Mumia as a “cop killer.”

The prosecution’s case rested on three legs, all based on lies: the testimony of “eyewitnesses” coerced through favors and terror; a “confession” purportedly made by Mumia the night of the shooting that was such a blatant hoax that it didn’t surface until months later; and nonexistent ballistics “evidence.” In 2001, this frame-up was completely blown to pieces with Arnold Beverly’s confession that he was the man who shot Faulkner. In a sworn affidavit printed in the PDC pamphlet Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man!, Beverly stated:
“I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.
“Faulkner was shot in the back and then in the face before Jamal came on the scene. Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting.”

Beverly stated that the second shooter also fled the scene. This is supported by a sworn affidavit by Mumia’s brother, Billy Cook, who testified that his friend Kenneth Freeman was a passenger in Cook’s VW at 13th and Locust that night. Freeman later admitted to Cook that he was part of the plan to kill Faulkner and had participated in the shooting and then fled the scene. This is further corroborated by the testimony of a witness at the scene, William Singletary, who said he saw a passenger get out of Cook’s VW, shoot Faulkner and then flee the scene.

At least half a dozen witnesses who were on the scene the night of the shooting saw, from several different vantage points, one or more black men flee. Police radio “flashes” right after the shooting reported that the shooters had fled the scene with Faulkner’s gun. Five witnesses, including two cops, describe someone at the scene wearing a green army jacket, which both Beverly and Freeman were wearing that night. Neither Mumia nor Cook wore a green army jacket: Mumia wore a red ski jacket with wide vertical blue stripes and Cook had a blue jacket with brass buttons.

Beverly said that Mumia was shot by a cop at the scene. This is confirmed by no less an authority than the state Medical Examiner’s office, whose record written the same morning as the shooting quotes a homicide officer saying that Mumia was shot by “arriving police reinforcements,” not by Faulkner. Other witnesses have corroborated Beverly’s testimony that undercover and uniformed police were in the vicinity at the time of the shooting, which Beverly assumed meant that they were in on the plan to kill Faulkner. One witness, Marcus Cannon, saw two undercover cops on the street across from the shooting. William Singletary also saw “white shirts” (police supervisors) at the scene right after the shots were fired.

The prosecution dismisses the idea that the cops would kill one of their own as an outlandish invention. Leaving aside that Beverly passed two lie detector tests, his account fits with the fact that at the time of Faulkner’s killing in 1981, there were at least three ongoing federal investigations into police corruption in Philadelphia, including police connections with the mob. Police working as FBI informants were victims of hits in the early 1980s. A former federal prosecutor acknowledged that the Feds had a police informant whose brother was a cop, just as Faulkner had a brother who was a cop.

A sworn affidavit by Donald Hersing, a former informant in an FBI investigation into police corruption, confirms that at the time of Faulkner’s shooting the word was out that the Feds had an informant in the police force. The commanding officer of the Central Police Division, where the murder of Faulkner took place, the chief of the police Homicide Division and the ranking officer at the scene of Faulkner’s killing, Alfonzo Giordano, were all under investigation at the time on federal corruption charges. These cops were literally the chain of command in the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Giordano had been the right-hand man for Philadelphia’s notoriously racist police chief and later mayor, Frank Rizzo. From 1966 to 1970, Giordano was in charge of the cop “Stakeout” squad, which led the police raid on the Black Panthers’ headquarters in 1970. He was also the supervisor of the 15-month police siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village house in 1977-78, which resulted in nine MOVE members being sent to prison on frame-up charges of killing a cop. Giordano knew exactly who Mumia was. The senior officer on the scene, he had both motive and opportunity to frame up Mumia for the killing of Faulkner.

Giordano originated the claim that Mumia’s gun—the putative murder weapon—was lying beside him on the street. But according to police radio records, the cops were still looking for the gun some 14 minutes after hordes of police had arrived on the scene. Giordano arranged the identification of Mumia by cab driver Robert Chobert, who became a witness for the prosecution. Giordano was the central witness for the prosecution at Mumia’s pretrial hearing. But he was never called as a witness at Mumia’s trial. Shortly before the trial, he was assigned to a desk job. One working day after Mumia was convicted, Giordano resigned from the force. In 1986, Giordano copped a plea on federal charges based on his receiving tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payoffs from 1979 to 1980. He didn’t spend a day in jail.
Prosecution’s Web of Lies

The prosecution’s story is that two people were on the corner of 13th and Locust where Faulkner was shot: Mumia’s brother Billy Cook and Faulkner. They claim that Mumia ran across the street when he saw his brother being beaten by Faulkner. According to police and prosecutors, Mumia shot the cop in the back, the cop shot back at Mumia and then Mumia stood over the fallen cop and shot him “execution style” several times in the head. Even a close examination of the cops’ and prosecution’s own evidence gives the lie to this scenario. A look at the “three legs” of the prosecution’s case provides not only stark confirmation of Mumia’s innocence but clear corroboration of Beverly’s testimony.

The Prosecution’s Witnesses: Even with police and prosecution threats and favors at the time of the 1982 trial, no witness testified to seeing Mumia actually shoot Faulkner. Only one, Cynthia White, the prosecution’s star witness, testified that she thought she saw a gun in Mumia’s hand when he crossed the street. A prostitute working in the area, White claimed to have witnessed the events from the southeast corner of 13th and Locust. Yet the other two prosecution witnesses, as well as two defense witnesses who knew White, all denied she was at the scene during the shooting! Other prostitutes testified in subsequent court hearings that White alternately got police favors or was threatened by police in order to extract her testimony.
As for Robert Chobert, at first he told police that the shooter “ran away.” After further interrogation, he changed his story, claiming that Mumia stood over Faulkner while the shots were fired and that no one ran away. A cab driver using a suspended license while on probation for felony arson, Chobert was given favors by the prosecution in exchange for his testimony. He later admitted that he never saw the shooting. The third state witness was Michael Scanlan. He initially identified Mumia as the VW driver but then claimed that the shooter ran across Locust Street, which Beverly admits that he did. He also admitted that he did not know if Mumia was the man he saw.

Ballistics and Forensics: The prosecution claimed that ballistics evidence was “consistent” with Mumia’s gun being the murder weapon even while admitting that the “consistency” applied to millions of handguns. There is no evidence that Mumia’s gun was even fired that night. There was every opportunity to test Mumia’s hands, or the gun, for evidence that it had been recently fired. But according to police no such tests, which are standard operating procedure, were ever done! The Stakeout officer who claimed he picked up Mumia’s gun did not turn it over for more than two hours, providing more than ample time to have it tampered with.
The Medical Examiner’s report states that Faulkner was shot with a .44 calibre bullet, yet Mumia’s gun was a .38 calibre. Although the crime lab claimed that the main bullet fragment removed from Faulkner’s head was too damaged to test, the defense team’s ballistics expert denied this. A second bullet fragment removed from the head wound simply disappeared without a trace.

Evidence at the scene—bullet fragments, blood stains, the absence of divots in the sidewalk—refutes the prosecution claim that Faulkner was shot repeatedly while lying on the ground. The bullet patterns are far more consistent with multiple shooters, as Beverly testifies. A copper bullet jacket found at the scene was inconsistent with either Faulkner’s or Mumia’s guns, suggesting that a different gun was fired. Similarly, type O blood was found at the scene, but Faulkner, Mumia and Cook were all type A, suggesting that another person was present and injured. The angle of Mumia’s own wounds is impossible if he was shot while standing over Faulkner as the prosecution claimed. However, Mumia’s wounds are consistent with Beverly’s testimony that Mumia was shot by a cop at the scene.

The “Confession”: The frame-up’s final leg was the claim that Mumia, lying in a pool of blood at the hospital where he was taken for treatment, shouted out that he had shot the cop. Yet the police officer assigned to guard Mumia there reported that same day that Mumia “made no comments.” In reality, he was so badly wounded, with a bullet hole through one lung, and had been so badly beaten by police on the street and at the hospital, that he could not have “shouted” anything. The “confession” was manufactured by the prosecution at a roundtable meeting with cops two months after the shooting.

Priscilla Durham, a security guard, was the only hospital employee who backed up the cops’ “confession” lie. In 2003 Durham’s stepbrother Kenneth Pate swore that Durham said she was pressured by the cops to say Mumia confessed. Pate also said Durham heard Mumia say, “Get off me, get off me, they’re trying to kill me.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal has always categorically maintained his innocence. As he declared in a 2001 affidavit: “I did not shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. I had nothing to do with the killing of Officer Faulkner. I am innocent…. I never confessed to anything because I had nothing to confess to.”
Mobilize Now to Free Mumia!

The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is an object lesson in the class nature of the capitalist state. Its justice system is class- and race-biased to the core. The cops and courts who framed up this innocent man, the living tomb of the prison system in which he is jailed, the executioner who stands ready to kill—all are instruments of organized violence used to preserve the rule of the capitalist class through the forcible suppression of the working class and oppressed. Smashing this racist frame-up machine will require a socialist revolution that overturns the capitalist system. Demands for a “new trial” which have been raised by liberals, self-proclaimed socialist organizations, black nationalists and others have fed illusions that there can be justice in the capitalist courts. Those illusions demobilized a movement of millions around the world in Mumia’s defense.

The time is now to rekindle mass protest—nationally and internationally—on behalf of Mumia. Mumia’s freedom will not be won through reliance on the rigged “justice” system or on capitalist politicians, whether Democrat, Republican or Green. The power that can turn the tide is the power of millions—working people, anti-racist youth, death penalty abolitionists—united in struggle to demand the freedom of this innocent man. Crucial to this perspective is the mobilization of the labor movement, whose social power derives from its ability to shut down production. As we have stated since we first took up Mumia’s defense in the mid 1980s, what’s necessary are labor-centered united-front actions, generating effective protest across a spectrum of political beliefs while assuring all the right to have their own say.

The time is now to make Mumia’s case a rallying cry against the racist death penalty, against black oppression, against government repression. Raise your voice and organize now in your union, on your campus, in your community to demand: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the racist death penalty!

—Partisan Defense Committee, 27 May 2006
Desperately Seeking Revolutionary Intellectuals-Then, And Now

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Several years ago, I guess about three years now, in the aftermath of the demise of the Occupy movement with the shutting down of its campsites across the country (and the world) I wrote a short piece centered on the need for revolutionary intellectuals to take their rightful place on the left, on the people’s side, and to stop sitting on the academic sidelines (or wherever they were hiding out). One of the reasons for that piece was that in the aftermath of the demise of the Occupy movement a certain stock-taking was in order. A stock-taking at first centered on those young radical and revolutionaries that I ran into in the various campsites and on the flash mob marches who were disoriented and discouraged when their utopian dreams went up in smoke without a murmur of regret from the masses. Now a few years later it is apparent that they have, mostly, moved back to the traditional political ways of operating or have not quite finished licking their wounds.

Although I initially addressed my remarks to the activists still busy I also had in mind those intellectuals who had a radical streak but who then hovered on the sidelines and were not sure what to make of the whole experiment although some things seemed very positive like the initial camp comradery. In short, those who would come by on Sunday and take a lot of photographs and write a couple of lines but held back. Now in 2014 it is clear as day that the old economic order (capitalism if you were not quite sure what to name it) that we were fitfully protesting against (especially the banks who led the way downhill) has survived another threat to its dominance. The old political order, the way of doing political business now clearly being defended by one Barack Obama with might and main is still intact. The needs of working people although now widely discussed (the increasing gap between the rich, really the very rich, and the poor, endlessly lamented and then forgotten, the student debt death trap, and the lingering sense that most of us will never get very far ahead in this wicked old world especially compared to previous generations) have not been ameliorated. All of this calls for intellectuals with any activist spark to come forth and help analyze and plan how the masses are to survive, how a new social order can be brought forth. Nobody said, or says, that it will be easy but this is the plea. I have reposted the original piece with some editing to bring it up to date.          


No, this is not a Personals section ad, although it qualifies as a Help Wanted ad in a sense. On a number of occasions over past several years, in reviewing books especially those by James P. Cannon, a founding member of the American Communist Party and the founder of the Socialist Workers Party in America, I have mentioned that building off of the work of the classical Marxists, including that of Marx and Engels themselves, and later that of Lenin and Trotsky the critical problem before the international working class in the early part of the 20th century was the question of creating a revolutionary leadership to lead imminent uprisings. Armed with Lenin’s work on the theory of the imperialist nature of the epoch and the party question and Trotsky’s on the questions of permanent revolution and revolutionary timing the tasks for revolutionaries were more than adequately defined. A century later with some tweaking, unfortunately, those same theories and the same need for organization are still on the agenda although, as Trotsky once said, the conditions are overripe for the overthrow of capitalism as it has long ago outlived its progressive character in leading humankind forward.   

The conclusion that I originally drew from that observation was that the revolutionary socialist movement was not as desperately in need of theoreticians and intellectuals as previously (although having them, and plenty of them, especially those who can write, is always a good thing). It needed leaders steeped in those theories and with a capacity to lead revolutions. We needed a few good day-to-day practical leaders, guys like Cannon, like Debs from the old Socialist Party, like Ruthenberg from the early Communist Party, to lead the fight for state power.

In that regard I have always held up, for the early part of the 20th century, the name Karl Liebknecht the martyred German Communist co-leader (along with Rosa Luxemburg) of the aborted Spartacist uprising of 1919 as such an example. He led the anti-war movement in Germany by refusing to vote for the Kaiser’s war budgets, found himself in jail as a result, but also had tremendous authority among the left-wing German workers when that mattered. In contrast the subsequent leadership of the German Communists in the 1920’s Paul Levi, Henrich Brandler and Ernest Thaelmann did not meet those qualifications. For later periods I have, as mentioned previously, held up the name James P. Cannon, founder of the American Socialist Workers Party (to name only the organization that he was most closely associated with), as a model. Not so Communist Party leaders like William Z. Foster and Earl Browder (to speak nothing of Gus Hall from our generation) or Max Shachtman in his later years after he broke with Cannon and the SWP. That basically carries us to somewhere around the middle of the 20th century. Since I have spent a fair amount of time lately going back to try to draw the lessons of our movement I have also had occasion to think, or rather to rethink my original argument on the need for revolutionary intellectuals. I find that position stands in need of some amendment now.

Let’s be clear here about our needs. The traditional Marxist idea that in order to break the logjam impeding humankind’s development the international working class must rule is still on the historic agenda. The Leninist notions that, since the early part of the 20th century, we have been in the imperialist era and that a ‘hard’ cadre revolutionary party is necessary to lead the struggle to take state power are also in play. Moreover, the Trotskyist understanding that in countries of belated development the working class is the only agency objectively capable of leading those societies to the tasks traditionally associated with the bourgeois revolution continues to hold true. That said, rather than some tweaking, we are seriously in need of revolutionary intellectuals who can bring these understandings into the 21st century.

It is almost a political truism that each generation will find its own ways to cope with the political tasks that confront it. The international working class movement is no exception in that regard. Moreover, although the general outlines of Marxist theory mentioned above hold true such tasks as the updating of the theory of imperialism to take into account the qualitative leap in its globalization is necessary (as is, as an adjunct to that, the significance of the gigantic increases in the size of the ‘third world’ proletariat). Also in need of freshening up is work on the contours of revolutionary political organization in the age of high speed communications, the increased weight that non-working class specific questions play in world politics (the national question which if anything has had a dramatic uptick since the demise of the Soviet Union), religion (the almost universal trend for the extremes of religious expression to rear their ugly heads which needs to be combated), special racial and gender oppressions, and various other tasks that earlier generations had taken for granted or had not needed to consider. All this moreover has to be done in a political environment that sees Marxism, communism, even garden variety reform socialism as failed experiments. To address all the foregoing issues is where my call for a new crop of revolutionary intellectuals comes from.

Since the mid- 20th century we have had no lack of practical revolutionary leaders of one sort or another - one thinks of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and even Mao in his less rabid moments. We have witnessed any number of national liberation struggles, a few attempts at political revolution against Stalinism, a few military victories against imperialism, notably the Vietnamese struggle. But mainly this has been an epoch of defeats for the international working class. Moreover, we have not even come close to developing theoretical leaders of the statue of Lenin or Trotsky.

As a case in point, recently I made some commentary about the theory of student power in the 1960’s and its eventual refutation by the May 1968 General Strike lead by the working class in France. One of the leading lights for the idea that students were the “new” working class or a “new” vanguard was one Ernest Mandel. Mandel held himself out to be an orthodox Marxist (and Trotskyist, to boot) but that did not stop him from, periodically, perhaps daily, changing the focus of his work away from the idea of the centrality of the working class in social struggle an idea that goes back to the days of Marx himself.

And Mandel, a brilliant well-spoken erudite scholar probably was not the worst of the lot. The problem is that he was the problem with his impressionistic theories based on, frankly, opportunistic impulses. Another example, from that same period, was the idea of Professor Regis Debray (in the service of Fidel at the time ) that guerrilla foci out in the hills were the way forward ( a codification of the experience of the Cuban Revolution for which many subjective revolutionary paid dearly with their lives). Or the anti-Marxist Maoist notion that the countryside would defeat the cities that flamed the imagination of many Western radicals in the late 1960s. I could go on with more examples but they only lead to one conclusion- we are, among other things, in a theoretical trough. The late Mandel’s students from the 1960s have long gone on to academia and the professions (and not an inconsiderable few in governmental harness-how the righteous have fallen). Debray’s guerilla foci have long ago buried their dead and gone back to the cities. The “cities” of the world now including to a great extent China had broken the third world countryside. This, my friends, is why today I have my Help Wanted sign out. Any takers?


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

Often I think of you, Jimmy Doane,--
You who, light-heartedly, came to my house
Three autumns, to shoot and to eat a grouse!

As I sat apart in this quiet room,
My mind was full of the horror of war
And not with the hope of a visitor.

I had dined on food that had lost its taste;
My soul was cold and I wished you were here,--
When, all in a moment, I knew you were near.

Placing that chair where you used to sit,
I looked at my book:--Three years to-day
Since you laughed in that seat and I heard you say--

"My country is with you, whatever befall:
America--Britain--these two are akin
In courage and honour; they underpin

"The rights of Mankind!" Then you grasped my hand
With a brotherly grip, and you made me feel
Something that Time would surely reveal.

You were comely and tall; you had corded arms,
And sympathy's grace with your strength was blent;
You were generous, clever, and confident.

There was that in your hopes which uncountable lives
Have perished to make; your heart was fulfilled
With the breath of God that can never be stilled.

A living symbol of power, you talked
Of the work to do in the world to make
Life beautiful: yes, and my heartstrings ache

To think how you, at the stroke of War,
Chose that your steadfast soul should fly
With the eagles of France as their proud ally.

You were America's self, dear lad--
The first swift son of your bright, free land
To heed the call of the Inner Command--

To image its spirit in such rare deeds
As braced the valour of France, who knows
That the heart of America thrills with her woes.

For a little leaven leavens the whole!
Mostly we find, when we trouble to seek
The soul of a people, that some unique,

Brave man is its flower and symbol, who
Makes bold to utter the words that choke
The throats of feebler, timider folk.

You flew for the western eagle--and fell
Doing great things for your country's pride:
For the beauty and peace of life you died.

Britain and France have shrined in their souls
Your memory; yes, and for ever you share
Their love with their perished lords of the air.

Invisible now, in that empty seat,
You sit, who came through the clouds to me,
Swift as a message from over the sea.

My house is always open to you:
Dear spirit, come often and you will find
Welcome, where mind can foregather with mind!

And may we sit together one day
Quietly here, when a word is said
To bring new gladness unto our dead,

Knowing your dream is a dream no more;
And seeing on some momentous pact
Your vision upbuilt as a deathless fact.

_Rowland Thirlmere_

Poets’ Corner- The 15th Century Mad Hatter Francois Villon

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Once a long time ago an old communist I do not remember which version of the creed he adhered to, although he had had some impressive documented revolutionary credentials in Germany before Hitler pulled the hammer down in 1933 and he just barely got out into American exile by a very long and circuitous route, told me that as far as culture affairs, you know art, novels, music and what I want to talk about here, poetry, is basically subject to whatever personal whims a person may have on these matters. The caveat to all this is that both creators and admirers should be left to their own devises except if they are actively engaged with counter-revolutionary activity. Now that I think about it he probably got the idea from Leon Trotsky himself who wrote about such matters in the 1920s in books like  Literature and Revolution although I am sure that he did not consider himself a follower of that great exiled revolutionary.

The point today is that if a left-wing political activist like myself, say, were very interested in the poetry of Emily Dickerson or Wallace Stevens or Thomas Mann or Edna Saint Vincent Millay then what of it. Except those kinds of poets do not “speak” to me. Poets like Allan Ginsberg burning the pages with his negro streets, his clamoring against the industrial complex, his chanting against the fate of the best minds of his generation, the gangster-poet Gregory Corso blazing the hot streets with his words, old Rimbaud with his mad ravings, Verlaine too, Genet with his black soul they “speak” to me. The troubadours, the “bad boys and girls,” the waifs, the gangsters, the drifters, grifters and midnight sifter and those who act as muses are what makes me sit up and listen.                  

 And that brings us to Francois Villon, the “max daddy” of bad boy poets (and brigands) from the 15th century. Strangely while I have picked up on most of my favorite poets from some academic setting I learned of Villon from two maybe unusual sources. First from the 1930s film The Petrified Forest where the Bette Davis character, Gabby, was crazy for the Villon book of poems sent from her mother in France. More importantly the poet and what he stood for was brought up in the film in conversation with Leslie Howard’s character Alan who was a Villon-like misplaced out of sorts wanderer out in the Arizona desert. The other source was a poem by Villon used as a front-piece of an article by Hunter S. Thompson who used the sentiment expressed by Villon where he considered himself a stranger in his own country (as did Thompson back in Nixon times in America). Yes, wanderers, waifs, strangers in a strange land, those are the poets I want to read and listen to. And what of it.         

L’Epitaphe Villon: Ballade Des Pendus


My brothers who live after us,

Don’t harden you hearts against us too,
If you have mercy now on us,
God may have mercy upon you.
Five, six, you see us, hung out to view.
When the flesh that nourished us well
Is eaten piecemeal, ah, see it swell,
And we, the bones, are dust and gall,
Let no one make fun of our ill,
But pray that God absolves us all.
No need, if we cry out to you, brothers,
To show disdain, if we’re in suspense
For justice’s sake. How few of the others,
Are men equipped with common sense.
Pray for us, now beyond violence,
To the Son of the Virgin Mary,
So of grace to us she’s not chary,
Shields us from Hell’s lightning fall.
We’re dead: the souls let no man harry,
But pray that God absolves us all.
The rain has soaked us, washed us: skies
Of hot suns blacken us, scorch us: crows
And magpies have gouged out our eyes,
Plucked at our beards, and our eyebrows.
There’s never a moment’s rest allowed:
Now here, now there, the changing breeze
Swings us, as it wishes, ceaselessly,
Beaks pricking us more than a cobbler’s awl.
So don’t you join our fraternity,
But pray that God absolves us all.

Prince Jesus, who has all sovereignty,
Preserve us from Hell’s mastery.
We’ve no business down there at all.
Men, you’ve no time for mockery.
But pray to God to absolve us all.
***Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- A Good Old Boy Tries To Keep It Together- For Prescott Breslin Wherever He Is


A YouTube film clip of Hank Williams performing You Win Again to set the mood for this piece.

Josh Breslin had been since he retired a couple of years ago as a journalist writing for half the alternative and special interest newspapers and journals in the country, make that half the unread, mostly, newspapers and journals in those categories in something of a reflective mood. Not every day, certainly not on golf days with his golfing associates over at Dunegrass, when reflection over some missed chip or putt on the previous hole spelled the kiss of death for the round. Much better to keep an empty mind on those days and just hope enough muscle memory kicks in to survive the round. But enough of golf, enough of unread journals, hell, enough of retirement except as the cushion that Josh’s thoughts fell on one day when passing through his  old home town of Olde Saco, a town farther north in Maine than the one where he now lived, on some family business. While there he passed by his old growing up house, as was almost always the case since it was located near a main town road which he would have to cross to get on to the main highway and not always in some fit in nostalgia.  Or rather he passed the plot of land where the old home was situated, an old house that had been little better than a shack, a cabin maybe then, maybe especially when his three sisters came of age and hogged the single bathroom and stuff like that. A place which left little room for a single growing boy to attend to his own toilet, his own sense of space, to any sense at all. The house may have been a shack, no, he thought better say a cabin but it had been  located on about two acres of land and in the intervening years, years well after his parents had passed on and his sisters like him had left the dust of Olde Saco behind the land had become valuable and now had been developed into an eight-unit condominium complex. Not that his parents, not that his father Prescott Breslin derived any real financial benefit from that development since the house had been sold when he needed to go into a nursing home after his wife, Delores, passed away. Had been sold well before there was a resurgence in the Olde Saco economy which had taken a beating when the MacAdams Textile Mills shut down and moved south to North Carolina in the early 1950s and had only recovered with some “high tech” start-ups using the old factory space well after Prescott passed on. The sale of that old house had broken his father’s heart despite its shanty condition at the end. The damn thing in any case had not brought enough money. Not enough to cover all Prescott’s increasing medical expenses which Josh and his sisters wound up subsiding.

And so the passing of that lot got Josh to thinking about how Prescott Breslin never drew a blessed break in his hard-scrabble life. No drew a break although he was a hard-working man of the old school-a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wages-when he had work. Got Josh to thinking about the early 1950s when he was coming of age, when he started even if unconsciously, or maybe semi-consciously to feel that some new breeze was coming, some new breeze that was going to break through and unfreeze that red scare Cold War time. And while Josh’s horizons in those days centered on the emerging rock and roll, coming from some “new” Memphis hillbilly sources, some black as night rhythm and blues sources, some down and out urban blues sources, again black as night, that was leading the jail-break out then his father’s fate was being sealed in another way. See Prescott Breslin was an employee, a machine tender and mechanic at the MacAdams Textile factory that was heading south and he had no other resources to fall back on. That last thought was pure Josh though, pure Josh remembering back to those hard days. Prescott Breslin, as he would be the first to say, and probably had said it a thousand times, with a wife and four children had no time to worry about whether he had resources to fall back or not. Josh chuckled to himself over that one, yeah, that was pure Dad.

As he travelled further along Main Street (really Route One but everybody called it Main Street since they had no real such street in the town) he passed by what in the old days was Millie’s Diner, now re-opened as Mildred’s, the one right across the street from the old textile plant where guys would go before their shift and grab a coffee and crullers, maybe grab a quick dinner if they were single, or maybe meet some sweetheart and talk before going off to work   (he did not know this from personal experience but his father had once told him that right after World War II the plant was working three shifts and guys, and gals, were catching as much overtime as they wanted).

Millie’s did not long survived the shutdown of the mill and had been abandoned for a number of years (like a lot of other businesses in that section of the town that were dependent on the mill-workers) but had re-opened about a decade ago with the same “feel” as Millie’s including a jukebox which played current stuff but also stuff from back then, stuff that hard-working guys and gals would put their nickels, dimes and quarters in to listen to whatever was “hot” in those days. Josh knew all of this because a couple of years before he had been contacted by an old high school classmate, Melinda, Melinda Dubois (the place was crawling with French-Canadians including his mother), who had read some old article of his and got in touch to invite his up for a class reunion. During that previous time in town Melinda had taken him around town and showed him what had changed and told him the story of Millie’s resurrection as Mildred’s.               

Something that day, probably the sight of the old homestead, maybe just the thought of Millie’s where sometimes when his father had been making good money he would take the family for an out of house dinner and where Josh on occasion had stopped in to play the jukebox and have a Coke while looking furtively around for any stray girls, prompted him to stop and go into Mildred’s for a coffee and maybe a piece of pie (that pie an iffy thing what with him and his new weight problem but he thought why go into a diner if you are not going to have something that is “bad “ for you). As a single he sat at the Formica-top counter complete with red vinyl-cushioned swivel stool to sit on and a paper placemat and utensils in front of him waiting for the smiling waitress to take his order (a career waitress as is usual in diners, middle-aged, her white uniform a little tight trying to look younger, pencil in her hair for ease of taking orders, chewing gum but friendly until you placed your order and then either still smiling or a frown if you only order coffee and, not the young college girls and guys you find in better restaurants marking time with a job to help defray college expenses or for walking around money). He placed his frowning order, coffee, black, and a piece of apple crumb pie with, yes, with ice cream (bad, indeed).

While he waited for his order he thumbed through the panels on the jukebox machine that was placed between him and the next placemat. And as if by some strange osmosis Josh came upon Hank Williams’ You Win Again his father’s favorite song when he was young. (His father been in a pick-up band for a while working a circuit and along the Ohio River.) Josh  put his quarter in to play that one selection (yeah, times have changed even in jukebox land) and as Hank moan’s his lovesick blues that triggered Josh to start thinking about his father and where he had come from, where he would have picked up those country tunes in his DNA. And then he thought of that hard time when his father was so discouraged about his prospects when the mill had closed down temporarily and the final word had come  that it would be closing for good and would play that song repeatedly as if to try and ward off some evil spirits. He could remember his father’s voice like it was yesterday as he sat beside him in Millie’s:                   



 “Jesus, it’s been three months since the mill closed on the first day of our lord, January 1954, as the huge black and red sign in front of the dead-ass silent mill keeps screaming at us. And also telling us not to trespass under penalty of arrest, Christ, after all the sweat we have given the damn MacAdams family. I still haven’t been able to get steady work, steady work anywhere, what with every other guy looking for work too, and I don’t even have a high school diploma, not even close since I only went to eight grade and then to the mines, to do anything but some logging work up North when they need extra crews,” That is what Prescott Breslin had half-muttered to Jack Amber, a fellow out-of-worker sitting on the counter-stool next to his from the same MacAdams Mill that had been in Olde Saco since, well, since forever. This conversation and ones like it in previous weeks between the two, and by many previous parties on those self-same stools, took place, of course, right at Millie’s Diner right across the street from the closed, dead-ass mill the place where every guy (and an occasion wife, or girlfriend waiting to pick up her guy) who worked there went for his coffee and, and whatever else got him through another mill week.

Just then Prescott, hey no Pres, or PB, or any such thing, not if you didn’t  want an argument on one of his few vanities, fell silent, a silence that had been recurring more frequently lately as he thought of the reality of dead-end Maine prospects and rekindled a thought that came creeping through his brain when Jack MacAdams, the owner’s son, first told him the plant was shutting down for good and moving south to North Carolina not far, not far at all, from his eastern Kentucky roots. Then it was just a second of self-doubt but now the thoughts started ringing incessantly in his brain.

Why the hell had he fallen for, and married, a Northern mill-town girl (the sweet, reliable Delores, nee LeBlanc, met at the Starlight Ballroom over in Old Orchard Beach when he had been Marine Corps short-time stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Base down in New Hampshire just before heading back to the Pacific Japan death battles), stayed up North after the war when he knew the mills were only a shade bit better that the mines that he had worked in his youth, faced every kind of insult for being southern from the insular Mainiacs (they actually call themselves that with pride, the hicks, and it wasn’t really because he was from the south although that made him an easy target but because he was not born in Maine and could never be a Mainiac even if he lived there one hundred years), and had had three growing, incredibly fast growing, girls and one boy with Delores. Then he was able to shrug it off but not now.

The only thing that could break the cursed thoughts was some old home music that Millie, good mother Millie, the diner’s owner (and a third generation Millie and Mainiac) made sure the jukebox man inserted for “her” country boys while they had their coffee and. He reached, suddenly, into his pocket, found a stray nickel, put it in the counter-side jukebox, and played Will The Circle Be Unbroken, a song that his late, long-gone mother sang to him on her knee when he was just a tow-headed young boy. That got him to thinking about home, the Harlan hell home of worked-out mines, of labor struggles that were just this side of fighting the Japanese in their intensity and possibilities of getting killed, or worst grievously injured and a burden on some woe-begotten family, of barren land eroded by the deforested hills and hollows that looked, in places, like the face of the moon on a bad night. And of not enough to eat when eight kids, a mostly absence father and a fading, fading mother needed vast quantities of food that were not on table and turnips and watery broth had to do, of not enough heat when cruel winter ran down the ravines and struck at your very bones, and of not enough dough, never enough dough to have anything but hand-me-down, and then again hand-me-downs clothes, sometimes sister girls stuff just to keep from being bare-assed.

Then Prescott thought about the Saturday night barn dances where he cut quite a figure with the girls when he was in his teens and had gleefully graduated to only having to wear hand-me-downs. He was particularly lively (and amorous) after swilling (there is no other way to put it) some of Uncle Eddie’s just-brewed “white lightening.” And he heard, just like now on the jukebox, the long, lonesome fiddle playing behind some fresh-faced country girl in her best dress swaying through Will The Circle Be Unbroken that closed most Saturday barn dances.

As Millie asked him for the third time, “More coffee” he came out of his trance. After saying no to Millie, he said no to himself with that same kind of December resolve. A peep-break Saturday night dance didn’t mean squat against that other stuff. And once again he let out his breathe and said to himself one more time- “Yes, times are tough, times will still be tough, Jesus, but Delores, the four kids, and he would eke it out somehow. There was no going back, no way.”

And as if to put paid to that resolve, as Josh made a funny face, Prescott put a coin into the jukebox and played You Will Again, which he always said brought him good tidings, or at least made him feel better. A few minute after the song was completed and he and his father were ready to leave after saying good-bye to Jack Johnny Dubois came through the door and yelled, “Hey, Prescott, Jack, the Great Northern Lumber Company just called and they want to know if you want two months work clearing some land up North for them. I’m going, that’s for sure.” And, hell, he was going too.

In Honor Of The 65th Anniversary Year Of The Chinese Revolution of 1949- From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-Problems Of The Chinese Revolution (1927) – Comrade Lui’s Problem  


Click on link below to read on-line all of Leon Trotsky's book, Problems Of The Chinese Revolution


Markin comment (repost from 2012 just change the year date as noted in the title above):


On a day when we are honoring the 63rd anniversary of the Chinese revolution of 1949 the articles by Leon Trotsky concerning the fate of the second Chinese revolution in the 1920s posted in this entry and the comment below take on added meaning. In the old days, in the early 1970s to put a time frame on the period I am talking about, in the days when I had broken from many of my previously held left social-democratic political views and had begun to embrace Marxism with a distinct tilt toward Trotskyism, I ran into an old revolutionary in Boston who had been deeply involved (although I did not learn the extend of that involvement until later) in the pre-World War II socialist struggles in Eastern Europe. The details of that involvement will not detain us here long now although I should point out that he, Ludwig, to use his old time party name which he insisted that I call him for memory’s sake (I never did get his real first name although after he died somebody mentioned the name Peter), had started his political career right around World War I in Poland at the time of  great revolutionary ferment in Europe after the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution in the wake of the slaughter in World War I. He was just a kid, had been drafted into something that sounded like the National Guard here, the Polish Home Guard. Did his time when the Armistice finally descended on Europe and then having had a belly-full of the old ways (his words) searched around like a lot of young alienated people then and gravitated toward Marxism.   


In those days before they were murdered by the reaction in Germany where they had been exiled (abetted by the old time German Social-Democratic leadership) in the aftermath of the Spartacist uprising that Polish party was run by Rosa Luxemburg and her paramour (okay, okay political co-thinker) Leo Jogiches. There was an old saying in the Communist movement of the 1920s and 1930s (before Stalin in the late 1930s virtually liquated the whole operation to placate his temporary partner, Hitler, in his/their designs on Poland) that the German party might have been the biggest (after the Soviet Union’s) in the Communist International but the Polish party was the best. So Ludwig came to his credentials with an impressive pedigree. Naturally he was a stalwart Communist rank and filer under the Pilsudski dictatorship from the mid-1920s forward, was torn apart politically by the failure of the German Communist Party to stop Hitler in his tracks when there was still time to do so in the early 1930s, and drifted (after flirting with the exiled Bukarinites, the rights in the Russian party and CI) toward the small but energetic Trotskyist group in the mid-1930s when to do meant to be hounded like a dog by both the Stalinist and Hitler-ite police apparatuses.


So when you ran into a guy like Ludwig, whether you agreed with his politics or not, you knew you were in the presence of a real revolutionary and not some armchair dilettante. (Many times I did not agree with him, especially all that stuff about the Trotskyist version of the theory of Permanent Revolution, having adamantly defended what the Vietnamese Stalinists had done there in their national revolution. Yeah, I learned but it took a while and it took the disaster in Chile and a couple of other places to wise up to “what was what” in 20th century revolutions).


So you (me), young and wet behind the ears with very slim revolutionary credentials if rather more élan, you (me) listened and thought through many of his comments. The one that I think is germane today and which continues to drive me some forty years later was the importance of the defense of revolutionary gains no matter how small has stuck with me until this day. And, moreover, is germane to the subject of these articles from the pen of Leon Trotsky -the defense of the Chinese revolution (in his case that of the second revolution in the mid-1920s) and the later gains of that third revolution (1949) however currently attenuated.


This old comrade, by the circumstances of his life, had barely escaped ahead of Hitler’s police that pre-war scene in fascist-wracked Europe and found himself toward the end of the 1930s in New York working with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party in the period when that organization was going through intense turmoil over the question of defense of the Soviet Union. In the history of American (and international) Trotskyism this is the famous Max Shachtman-James Burnham led opposition that declared, under one capitalist reversion theory or another, that the previously defendable Soviet Union had changed dramatically enough in the course of a few months to be no longer worth defending by revolutionaries.


What struck Ludwig from the start about this dispute was the cavalier attitude of the anti-Soviet opposition, especially among the wet-behind-the-ears youth of that day (so we of the generation of ’68 had forbears whether we acknowledged them or not), on the question of that defense and consequently about the role that workers states, healthy, deformed or degenerated, as we use the terms of art in our movement, as part of the greater revolutionary strategy. Needless to say most of those who abandoned defense of the Soviet Union when there was even a smidgeon of a reason to defend that state then (and when the issue came to life as a political reality shortly thereafter when Hitler marched his troops east) left politics and peddled their wares in academia or business. Or if they remained in politics lovingly embraced the virtues of world imperialism. (The confessional literature of American ex-Stalinists, Trotskyists, and even-left Social Democrats from the 1950s especially is replete with “errand child gone wrong but now wiser” language most of it barely readable for any useful political purpose, or polemic).


That said, the current question of defense of the Chinese Revolution hinges on those same premises that animated that old Socialist Workers Party dispute. And strangely enough (or maybe not so strangely) on the question of whether China is now irrevocably on the capitalist road, or is capitalist already (despite some very un-capitalistic economic developments over the past few years), I find that many of those who oppose the position that China is today still hanging by a thread as a workers’ state (deformed in our language, deformed from its inception since the Chinese working-class decimated and cowered by the reaction in the second revolution in the 1920s played no significant independent role in the third revolution) have that same cavalier attitude the old comrade warned me against back when I was first starting out. There may come a time when we, as we had to with the Soviet Union and other workers states of East Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, say that China is no longer a workers state. But today is not that day.


In the meantime study the issue, read the posted articles, and more importantly, defend the gains of the Chinese Revolution as tenaciously as in his time old Ludwig defended the gains of the Soviet Union in the interests of the world’s working classes and oppressed.


Comrade Liu’s Problem


(Nobody in the Chinese Communist Party, the party that he was finally to come to see represented his political perspectives ever knew him as anybody other than Comrade Lui and so we will stick with that name, although later investigation found that he was the first son of a rich Shang-hai merchant family whose name was Ki Zhou but Comrade Lui will do for our purposes here.)


(I will use the old time Chinese language usages here in the interest of some kind of historical accuracy although everybody by now should be aware that for the past several decades there have been almost universal spelling and phonetic changes when Chinese turns to English.) 


In the fall of 1918, the year Comrade Liu entered Peking University held many portents for the brash young man who refused to discuss his family origins other than that he had come like virtually every young student in the post- revolutionary period (the first revolution of 1911-12 which dispose of the dynasty like some much dirty linen and with about as much effort as throwing such material in the laundry) from some wealth and that he was seriously attracted to the anarchists and bookish intellectuals who held sway there in the wake of World War I.

Like many of the young of most modern generations who  came up in some measure of privilege, came up in Comrade Lui’s case in the stifling atmosphere of old China the breath of fresh air provided by the university was both exhilarating and filled with many doubts about the old ways, about the way that he grew up. And so like more than a few young first generation intellectuals he gravitated to those ideas which were farthest away from his home life, from his strident worker bee youth studying to make university life. That over he breathed in the new ideas, and no ideas hit newly liberated students harder than the ideas of anarchism, at least as understood by those so liberated.

Comrade Liu like many others was first influenced by that old Russian dog, Prince Kropotkin, and his eclectic communal ideas, his idea of oneness of the whole universe which had a certain Zen-like attraction to those born into the stratified old Chinese ways (including, as has been noted, the tremendous efforts to make sure the first son succeeded at the expense of younger brothers. Daughters did not even enter the picture), and his basically moralistic way to transform society. That held many attentions for a while but if anything universal came out the First World War it was that  the younger generations were looking to break-out of the old ways and so they were looking for more activist ways to change society. Comrade Liu with others formed a semi-secret group of like-minded individuals bent on action to make a new anarchist-derived world. They called themselves the Black Flag Front. That is the state of affairs as the May Fourth Movement hit all Chinese students, from anarchists to extreme nationalists, like a storm.  

Comrade Liu and his comrades in the Black Flag Front while then not in the leadership of the student movement having just started to finish their first year’s studies participated fully when that big day came. This was the action they were looking for, the chance to create that more equalitarian society they were discussing in their rooms. Here is a little of what the movement itself was attempting to do which forms the background for most of what Comrade did until that time in the mid-1920s when he moved away from the Black Flag Front and began to toy a little with Communism.   

On the morning of May 4, 1919, student representatives from thirteen different local universities met in Beijing and drafted five resolutions:

1.    to oppose the granting of Shandong to the Japanese under former German concessions.

2.    to draw awareness of China's precarious position to the masses in China.

3.    to recommend a large-scale gathering in Beijing.

4.    to promote the creation of a Beijing student union.

5.    to hold a demonstration that afternoon in protest to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

On the afternoon of May 4 over 3,000 students of Peking University and other schools marched from many points to gather in front of Tiananmen. They shouted such slogans as "Struggle for the sovereignty externally, get rid of the national traitors at home", "Do away with the 'Twenty-One Demands'", and "Don't sign the Versailles Treaty". They voiced their anger at the Allied betrayal of China, denounced the government's spineless inability to protect Chinese interests, and called for a boycott of Japanese products. Demonstrators insisted on the resignation of three Chinese officials they accused of being collaborators with the Japanese. After burning the residence of one of these officials and beating his servants, student protesters were arrested, jailed, and severely beaten.[4]

The next day, students in Beijing as a whole went on strike and in the larger cities across China, students, patriotic merchants, and workers joined protests. The demonstrators skillfully appealed to the newspapers and sent representatives to carry the word across the country. From early June, workers and businessmen in Shanghai also went on strike as the center of the movement shifted from Beijing to Shanghai. Chancellors from thirteen universities arranged for the release of student prisoners, and Peking University's Cai Yuanpei resigned in protest. Newspapers, magazines, citizen societies, and chambers of commerce offered support for the students. Merchants threatened to withhold tax payments if China's government remained obstinate.[5] In Shanghai, a general strike of merchants and workers nearly devastated the entire Chinese economy.[4] Under intense public pressure, the Beiyang government released the arrested students and dismissed Cao Rulin, Zhang Zongxiang and Lu Zongyu. Chinese representatives in Paris refused to sign on the peace treaty: the May Fourth Movement won an initial victory which was primarily symbolic: Japan for the moment retained control of the Shandong Peninsula and the islands in the Pacific. Even the partial success of the movement exhibited the ability of China's social classes across the country to successfully collaborate given proper motivation and leadership.

Certainly the efforts here by the students and the actions of the members of Black Flag did not point directly to a new society but the thrill of political activity, mixing with other groups and programs and also recruiting a small number of the most militant students (especially from those arrested and jailed by the government) gave rise to great expectations of things to come. It was during this period that Comrade Liu decided to devote his life to the struggle, a decision that he held to until the end of his life. 


One of the great mistakes students have made once they have led a movement, a radical or revolutionary movement in the struggle for power is that they fail to see the ebbs and flows of all social movements thinking that there is only one direction once the masses are in motion. The Chinese students and the now Comrade Liu-led Black Flag in particular composed mainly of students (although recruitment had brought a smattering of professionals and young workers from the textile mills in Shanghai just of the farms) fell prey to just that phenomenon. (They will not be alone in that failure as the French students in May 1968 and American students throughout the 1960s attest to.) So some formerly very militant young anarchists ready to man the barricades in a flash dropped away from the Front, got professional careers going , started families and the million and one other things people do when there is an ebb tide. This is the period when Comrade Liu, determined as ever, came to the fore, came to be recognized as the leader (although being anarchists they shied away from any official designation). And this is the period when Comrade Lui learned about the necessity of patience waiting for another opportunity to present itself that everybody knew was coming just as one could see the signs in Russia well before 1917 bring the masses into the struggle, to build those communes and local collectives that would create the new society.


The early years of the 1920s were not a good time to be an anarchist (or for that matter a dissident communist) once the Nationalist reaction under Chiang-kai-shek and the various warlords who effectively ruled vast swaths of China after the central government half-heartedly granted some of the demands of the initially student-led May Fourth Movement and sucked all the political air out any dissenting politics. Those were also the years that the fledgling Chinese Communist Party, under orders from the Communist International then led by the deceased Lenin’s old right-hand man, Zinoviev (and with the emerging leader Joseph Stalin’s blessing) to work within the Chiang operation, the Kuomintang (hereafter KMT). So the political space for some kind of radical commune short of taking power seemed less than fruitful since Comrade Lui, who had gone to school with some of the leading Nationalist cadre who emerged after 1919 and especially with the death of Sun-Yat-sen in leading positions in the national government refused to support that government despite various entreaties by his former schoolmates (always taking into consideration that the national government in many places was non-existent at various times and for many reasons including vast corruption at the center.


At that time the semi-secret Black Flag under a political program worked out by Comrade Liu and his closest associates. As the decade progressed toward the decisive struggles around the second revolution from 1925 on those associates tended to increasingly be first generation departed from the villages turned to factory workers. A few with some education and the few students left who had gone to study in Paris looked to the various strands of syndicalism that made  more sense to them that the old time Kropotkin moral commune. And as the ideas of factory-centered communes took hold of the organization a collective decision (urged on by Comrade Liu and his friend, Lu Chen, was made in late 1923 to move the main Black Flag operation out of Peking to Shanghai where the foreign settlements and their Chinese lackeys were building upon the factories created by the needs at home while the war in Europe had been going on where the imperialists were busy eating up their resources on the bloody battlefield and said the hell with the colonials and other lesser markets.


Shanghai with its vast factories and up-from-hunger working class treated like their coolie forbears before them by foreign nationals and home-grown capitalists alike was a prime recruiting ground for the Black Flag with its newfound syndicalist orientation (the Communist Party was also gaining recruits and supporters as well among that same population). Shanghai was also the place where Comrade Lui learned his trade as a revolutionary cadre leader in integrating the raw recruits into the organization. It was his idea to set up reading circles where literary was taught and the classics of anarchism explained in simple terms. It was also his idea to set up some underground operations since he could read the signs that the big struggle ahead would require such an operation just like in Russia before 1917.This was also the time when Comrade Lui would start to mix it up politically with his arch political opponents, the Communists, who were gaining strength in the factories and it appeared in the government as well. (They, Comrade Lui and his associates, would laugh among themselves that the level of influence that the Communist Party had on Sun Yat-sen and after his death Chiang was directly proportional to the arms and other aid coming into KMT headquarters. Later when those guns were turned around the matter was no longer laughable and required a different appreciation of the situation).


On a personal note this period is also where Comrade Lui met his future wife, Li San, Li San who would stick by him through the rest of his life. They had met at a reading circle after Li had heard rumors about the Black Flag having moved its main operation to Shanghai. As noted previously this reading circle was the main way to organize young recruits under the increasingly hard conditions of the Nationalist government. The circle that Li would eventually join however was not a workers’ circle since she was a daughter of a Shanghai merchant family although not known to Comrade Liu previously and had been educated in Paris. The decision was made in order to not intimidate the raw young workers and to give them space to be heard and work toward leadership to keep the worker circles separate from the young professionals and academics until the training period was over. Li had been somewhat “liberated” for the times (she wore Western clothing, spoke English and French well, lived a half-Bohemian existence with a few other such women and men in a large house just outside the settlement area) and so she was intrigued by what the reading circle provided after she had dismissed out of hand the Communists (feeling as she confided to Comrade Lui that having come from a merchant family that the Communists would do like that had done to such families in Russia in the aftermath of the revolution. Her family, or what was left of it, fled to Taiwan in 1949.) 


After a formal old time courtship (to appease her family, his he had lost track of when he went underground although the family name was still on placard of the rice company doing business at the family’s old location according to a source that he sent to find out about the matter.  And so this is what the personal and political situation of Comrade Liu looked like when the great Shanghai uprising blew the final bit of old China away (although that process would take another twenty plus years).


The second revolution began in in 1925 and so we should take note of what that meant for Comrade Liu and his Black Flag comrades because although the revolutionary possibilities would find their greatest expression in Shanghai before the KMT machine guns started blazing away the initial impetus came from Canton:


“The Revolution Begins-the event that really sparked off the enormous movement of the working class was the shooting down of a demonstration of students and workers by British and French machine gunners on June 23, 1925. This provocation triggered off an explosion that had been gathering in the previous period. The workers of Canton and Hong Kong came out in a huge strike which lasted for about 16 months, and a paralyzed imperialism throughout the whole of China. This movement – a strike and the boycott of French goods, and of British goods in particular – was so complete that 100,000 Chinese workers moved from Hong Kong to Canton, where the workers were the real power. They cleared out the opium dens, closed down gambling joints, and improvised an embryonic soviet in Canton. (As things were fluid in the first days of the uprising the few Black Flag adherents in Canton were advised to enter the soviet and spread the anarchist word while doing the practical work noted just above. The won over many textile workers including an important trade union cadre who would later in Shanghai lead important textile mill strikes.) 

The anarchist movement had never been strong in China seeminly too esoteric for a tradition-bound society bound together at the family, kinship and village level (nor, for that matter the ideas of the post-World War I Social Democracy either as that tendency acted as accomplices of their national colonial enterprises). So unique opportunities really existed for the Communist Party. The independent movement of the working class began to change the relationship of forces in China in favor of the working class. But, the Communist Party deliberately subordinated themselves to the Kuomintang (KMT) and to Chiang Kai-shek. The counterrevolution over time gained ground using the gangsters of Canton and Hong Kong as well as shock troops to crush the labor movement. At this stage the slogan of the Communist Party in China, and of the Communist International under the direction of Stalin and Bukharin was ‘full support to the revolutionary Kuomintang’. The KMT was accepted as a sympathetic section of the Communist International in 1926.

The Shanghai working class was also looking expectantly towards the movement in Canton. Tragically, that did not happen, because the Chinese Communist Party subordinated itself to the Kuomintang while Chiang Kai-shek gathered the reins of power in his hands. After 1923, the Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, opposed the entry of the Communist Party into the Kuomintang. He stood for the complete independence of the Communist Party from the Kuomintang. While tactically working on anti-imperialist actions that came up. This position would become important later when Comrade Liu was analyzing what had gone wrong in the second revolution. Trotsky was not opposed to a limited bloc on specific anti-imperialist action. But, Trotsky argued, the Communist Party should not have subordinated itself politically to the KMT and losing its anchor among the working class militants who were following its directives.


One of the most important developments in the Chinese revolution was undoubtedly the heroic movement of the proletariat in Shanghai in 1927. Chiang’s Northern Expedition reached the gates of that city by January or February. When the first detachments of the Kuomintang were 25 miles from Shanghai, the trade unions there, particularly the General Labor Union, called for the workers to come out in a general strike. (Black Flag trade union militants, especially in the Delwar Textile Mills, were central to bring out the workers in the whole industry.) 

On February 19 approximately 350,000 workers answered the call for a general strike. Then, however, the detachments of the northern warlords went out into the city, joined by the imperialists from the foreign concessions of Shanghai, and shot down demonstrating workers. A worker found reading a leaflet was immediately beheaded and his head put on a stake and paraded through the city in order to terrorize the Shanghai working class. A reign of terror ensued in the following week. Yet the Kuomintang armies refused to go into the city. Instead they waited for the Chinese capitalists to crush the workers. There was a pause, then on March 21 at least 500 workers were executed.

The Shanghai working class rose again on March 21, 1927, when about 800,000 workers came out onto the streets. They improvised an army of 5,000 workers. Armed with a few pistols, mostly with bare hands, they marched against the barracks and against the troops of the northern warlords and smashed them. The First Division of the Kuomintang – seasoned troops largely influenced by the Communist Party – decided that they would delay no longer and marched into Shanghai in defiance of Chiang Kai-shek’s orders. The leader of the First Division was a general who looked towards the Communist Party. The whole of Shanghai was in the hands of the working class within two or three days. Secretly, on the outskirts of Shanghai, Chiang Kai-shek met with gangsters and representatives of the imperialist powers. Together they discussed a program of repression to crush the workers’ movement in the city.

Despite the experience of Canton 12 months before, the Communist Party again reinforced the illusions of the Shanghai workers in the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek, with calls of ‘Long live the heroic general! Long live the Kuomintang army!’ Had the Communist Party based itself on an independent movement of the working class, it could have taken power. The police had been smashed, and the policing of Shanghai was under workers’ control. The trade unions in effect controlled Shanghai and the working class was in the majority, yet the trade unions and Communist Party formed a coalition with the capitalist party – the Kuomintang. Of the 19 representatives in the government, the Communist Party had only 5.

The blow was struck on April 12, 1927. The Kuomintang troops used all the dirty tricks of the capitalists. When they attacked one workers’ headquarters in Shanghai, these Green gangsters dressed up in workers’ blue denim overalls. Kuomintang troops came along to ‘mediate’. Once inside the headquarters, the troops lined up the workers against the wall and shot them, including Comrades Wong and Chan two well-known leaders in the Delwar Textile Mills. The workers were politically disarmed because they had been told that the Kuomintang troops were on their side.

In the days preceding the coup of April 12, the General Labor Union had actually warned that a coup was being prepared and that a general strike should be organized. Never once was the fountainhead of the counterrevolution – Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang leaders – mentioned by the Communist Party or the workers’ leaders of Shanghai.

The Shanghai working class was crushed in blood. An estimated 35,000 workers, many of them Communist Party members, were killed in Shanghai alone between April 12 and the end of 1927.

The defeat of the Shanghai working class in 1927 meant the crushing of the Chinese working class for a whole historical era, but it was not the end of the matter. There were the beginnings of movements in Hunan and Hupei, the other two important provinces of China where the peasantry, and the working class, had begun to move into action.


Naturally the Black Flag was in the thick of things in a small way in Canton where they had some supporters and the influence of the Communists was not as strong as in Shanghai. When things were tense there Comrade Ming and Chou (their organizational names since nobody knew them as anything else) before they were executed and dumped into a mass grave by the government troops when the reaction triggered by the demands of British and French concessionaries went to work did excellent and well-regarded work.  They were even were well thought of by the rank and file Communists in the days before the hard lines between Communists, Left-Communists (Trotskyists), and the various anarchists’ collectives set in. Comrades Ming and Chou were central figures in the commune set up at the Trafalgar Textile Works and they were fingered by company spies, Chinese company spies paid for by as it turned out Chinese capitalists doing lackey work for the foreign nationals, for their leadership roles. 

Before the end they had been able to set up working committees to oversee materials, transport, repair, and the commissary that effectively ran the factory and provided goods to the local population at good prices, (Whether they would be able to sustain that work as an individual enterprise over the long haul was problematic and in any case that situation never developed although we know from Spain, particularly Catatonia, that such workers’ collectives were able to survive for almost a year so outside the long term question of state power and who has it the prospects were far from impossible.) The situation in Canton by the end where armed resistance, general strikes were met by the overweening desire of the foreigners to impose the greatest butchery on the workers (and their peasant supporters who were beginning to awaken once the news from their former farm boys came through talking about the classic peasant question- “land to the tiller”) had worked their courses things began to be questioned within the Black Flag about its role in the revolution.  That huge defeat in Canton and the aftermath made the Black Flag comrades think things through a bit more critically as Shanghai became the center of the struggle in 1927.


Nobody thought things through in Shanghai more than Comrade Liu. He was still adamantly opposed to any support to the Kuomintang having an almost visceral distrust of those whom he had known at school and in the early days of the May Fourth Movement as well as his well-thought out political opposition to working with bourgeois forces except in tactical situations where a temporary common front was required to confront a situation, usually a military situation. After examining what went right and wrong in Canton (based on reports sent back by comrades and supporters there as great peril) Comrade Liu knew great events were going to be decided in Shanghai, a final show-down among the various contenders for power was already in the making before Chiang made his various moves to take individual power. More importantly he that the Communists were much stronger than the Black Flag forces, although that situation was somewhat fluid at the rank and file level since many militant but uneducated workers were flooding into the party. He also knew that if the Black Flag was to have any influence on the Shanghai workers who were being organized into trade unions, workers committees and street collectives as a very quick pace he, they, needed to get to the still unformed Communist rank and file (the leadership too was open to greater prospects of influence than later after Stalin in Russia and then via the Communist International internationally including the Chinese party hardened those left up). Moreover Comrade Liu on the basis of the Canton commune experience was beginning to see that as important as factory committees, as that syndicalism that had animated the work of the Black Flag for the previous few years was that the Russian soviet idea, particularly its role in the struggle for state power, was the only way to get rid of the foreigners, their military operations and their damn Chinese lackeys.

And so not without some trepidation, and not without some fear that the Black Flag comrades would be devoured by the Communists a decision was made to enter the Chinese Communist Party and work there for the ideas that had made them revolutionaries. Comrade Liu in the bargain worked out with the local Communist leadership was placed in charge of the political commissars in the factories since he was well-known in those locations and trusted by many of the factory workers. (By the way the local Communist leadership, some who had known Comrade Liu since the May Fourth Movement days, unlike later was happy to see a small experienced factory cadre come to their organization even though they still were personally a little wary of Comrade Liu on his adamant opposition to working in the KMT) 


And once Comrade Liu entered the Communist Party there was no better communist, just like there had been no better anarchist/syndicalist in the independent Black Flag operation. A number of comrades would speculate later, after the second revolution ground to a halt, and once the reaction took its bloody revenge, that such comrades like Liu were hard to come by and that it would take maybe a few generations to produce masses of such cadre. But back to the moment. Comrade Liu began immediately to set up readers’ circles in the factories (aided now in this work by Comrade Li who had developed a very patience and winning style that made her ideal for such work especially among woman workers and housewives who had become politicized of necessity by the situation).


Those who know the least bit about the history of the second Chinese revolution and its aftermath know that that revolution was drowned in blood by the barbarous former “allies” Chiang and his KMT troops. While we do not know all the specifics since Chiang put a veil of secrecy over most of his bloody actions once he was victorious we do know that the mass of rank and file communist workers in Shanghai were executed on his orders, and know that in the first rank, since there was then no reason to eliminate the heroic city past by the Communists, who fought Chiang were rank and file members of the Black Flag who were especially effective against the criminal gangs employed by Chiang to aid in his dirty work. That remnant was decimated in the fight and Comrade Liu (and Li) who had gone underground before the Nationalists entered Shanghai was one of the few that survived. But survive he did, survived to take part in the discussion about what the hell went wrong, what policies were followed that precluded victory.


No question that the number one question when the survivors were looking for “scapegoats” was the policy of entry into the KMT, the unending, uncritical carte blanche entry complete with Communist International/Soviet Army guns and military expertise which was turned against the party and its supporters by Chiang. At this point Comrade Liu, who had personally buried himself in work to avoid having to deal with the question while the party was under the gun, spoke up strongly although without rancor about the false policy of depending on the good offices of the KMT to the end. Worse to still exhibit naïve about the way the KMT used the Chinese party. To be naïve at a personal level about Chiang and his cohorts. Initially Comrade Liu’s analysis centered strictly on the perfidy of the KMT, the bourgeois nature of the organization and less on what role in the wake of the Russian revolution the bourgeoisie as represented in China by the KMT (and the warlords in the outer regions) would play in colonial and undeveloped nations’ revolutions. Always a thoughtful man Comrade Liu began to question exactly what type of revolution China needed and what process would lead to the revolution. As a syndicalist that question, really as always the question of state power, of whose interests will be taken care of in the revolution, was secondary to creating those organizations at the base of society that would somehow carry themselves to the top and the question of state power would wither away of its own uselessness.


The flow of the second revolution put a huge crimp in Comrade Liu’s thinking on the matter. He knew instinctively that the rotten Chinese bourgeoisie (and remember he came from that strata so he had some experience at how rotten they really were) so very connected with the European imperialists were not going to make a great social revolution for the coolies and peasants who they lorded it over. And so he belatedly came to see that the social revolution was now on the agenda just like in Russia in 1917 although he was then unfamiliar with Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and so he was not quite sure how this would work out in China with its mass of peasantry not quite ready to do much more than fight for the land.


Needless to say there would be recriminations over the failed policies that derailed the promising Chinese revolution. The national leadership, the Chen leadership, took it on the neck even though Chen had personally argued for a political break with the KMT fairly early on but was overruled by the agents of the Communist International who had flooded into China along with the military aid to the KMT. Comrade Liu, too low then to be on the CI radar, was left alone (he also had protectors in the party who vouched for him and his work something that could be done, done for the last time then before the lines hardened) and so he continued his low level underground work as the leadership fights boiled over.

Of course the leadership struggle centered on what the hell to do about insuring the survival of the party and what forces to try to organize now that defeat stared the party in the face for who knew how long. Without going into great detail here the argument would be between those like Mao, who eventually had his way, wanted to move out of the clamped down cities and depend on the volatile peasantry to drive the social revolution and those like Comrade Liu who argued that a working-class revolution had to be based on the workers and the workers were in the cities. Comrade Liu and those like him would lose that argument but he would remain in Shanghai all through the dispute and all through the various extermination campaigns that Chiang was endlessly trying to carry out that would ultimately lead Mao and his party remnant on the long march to Yenan.


Little is known of the work of Comrade Liu during this period except that people remember that there were always reading circles popping up around Shanghai associated with his name (and Li’s) and that he secretly recruited many to the underground party. What is known, known now through the exile literature of the time was that Comrade Liu had received literature from the Trotsky-led Left Opposition in Russia over the debates on the China question in the late 1920s and had formed a very secret circle in Shanghai supporting that position although he was never bothered by the party about it as he most certainly would have been in Russia. Probably, according to later speculation, the main forces with Mao were too busy trying to survive themselves to worry excessively about political deviations at the time.

What is known is how Comrade Liu ended. Once Mao had established himself in Yenan and communications back to the cities were set up he put out the call for those like Comrade Liu with experience in readers’ circles to go out there to educate the masses of peasants who were coming to the party in throngs. Comrade Li was not invited. Although there is still some uncertainty about who did the deed as Comrade Liu was travelling to the now familiar if still difficult path to Yenan he was killed either by KMT soldiers who had been warned that he was travelling to Yenan or that agents of the Green Tea Gang who had had it in for Comrade Liu since the Shanghai days and his efforts to eliminate these treacherous criminal gangs got to him. He died a good communist. Li San would stay in Shanghai underground and do work in the women’s section of the party, a job that would turn into a government job once the party came to power in 1949. Her date of death in uncertain since she was rounded up in the aftermath of the Hundred Flowers experiment and not heard from again.

As for Comrade Liu’s problem, the problem that animated this piece, the problem of how to overthrow the old order and what kind of more equitable society to form in the wake of the overthrow of the capitalist class, although he was not around to see it, and the state created probably was far from what he had envisioned when he started on the political road with the May Fourth Movement, he probably would have been proud that old Chiang got beaten out in the end and that the forgotten of China would be better off than they had ever been in history. Not a bad epitaph.