Saturday, October 25, 2014

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  


What is the gift we have given thee, Sister?
  What is the trust we have laid in thy hand?
Hearts of our bravest, our best, and our dearest,
  Blood of our blood we have sown in thy land.

What for all time will the harvest be, Sister?
  What will spring up from the seed that is sown?
Freedom and peace and goodwill among Nations,
  Love that will bind us with love all our own.

Bright is the path, that is opening before us,
  Upward and onward it mounts through the night;
Sword shall not sever the bonds that unite us
  Leading the world to the fullness of light.

Sorrow hath made thee more beautiful, Sister,
  Nobler and purer than ever before;
We who are chastened by sorrow and anguish
  Hail thee as sister and queen evermore.

_Frederick George Scott_
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?


On The 155th Anniversary Of The Heroic Captain John Brown-Led Fight For Black Liberation At Harper’s Ferry-Josh Breslin’s Dream    


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman


I remember a few years ago my friend and I, Josh Breslin, from the old working- class neighborhoods of North Adamsville, a town south of Boston, were discussing the historical events that helped form our political understandings back in the early 1960 since we were, and are, both political men driven by historical examples as much as by the minutia of organizing principles. And while we have diverged on many of the influences since then as we have a fair degree of differences on the way to change the world and what agencies can do that (basically working within the current political system or moving over to the base of society and organizing from the ground up within or outside of the system depending on circumstance) we both agreed whole-heartedly that one of our early heroes was old Captain John Brown and his heroic efforts with his small integrated band of men at Harper’s Ferry down in what is now West Virginia but the just Virginia, a slave-holders stronghold. As we discussed the matter more fully we found we were hard pressed to explain what first captured our attention and agreed that then would have not had the political sense then to call Brown’s actions heroic although we both understood that what he did was necessary.


See, coming up in a mainly Irish working-class neighborhood we were always aware, made particularly aware by grandfathers who had kindred over there in those days, of that heroic struggle in Easter 1916 that was the precursor to the long sought national liberation of Ireland from the bloody British. So when we first studied, or heard about John Brown we instinctively saw that same kind of struggle. Both of us also agreed that we had had back then very strong feelings about the wrongness of slavery, a wretched system going back to Pharaoh’s time if not before, although Josh was more ambivalent about the fate of black people after Civil War freedom than I was since there was in his household a stronger current of anti-black feeling around the civil rights work down south in those days than in mine. (Strangely my father, who was nothing but a corn liquor, fast car, ex-coal miner good old boy from down in Kentucky was more sympathetic to that struggle that Josh’s Irish grandfather whom Josh could never get to call black people anything better than “nigras.” At least we got my father to say “Negro.” Jesus.)                


A couple of week after that conversation Josh called me up from California one night where he was attending a professional conference near San Jose and told me that he forgot to tell me about what he called a “dream” he had had as a kid concerning his admiration for John Brown. Of course that “dream” stuff was just Josh’s way of saying that he had sketched out a few thoughts that he wanted to share with me (and which will undoubtedly find their into a commentary  or review or something because very little of Josh’s “dream” stuff fails to go to ink or cyberspace). Some of it is now hazy in my mind since the hour was late here in the East, and some of it probably was really based on stuff we had learned later about the Brown expedition like how Boston Brahmins and high abolitionists like George Stearns secretly funded the operation or Brown’s attempts to get Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman on board (neither name which we would have known very much about then), and some of the stuff was probably a little goofy since it involved Josh in some hero worship. Since he will inevitably write something on his own he can make any corrections to what I put down here himself. Know this though whenever I hear the name John Brown mentioned lately I think about Josh’s telephone call and about how the “old man” has held our esteem for so long. Here is what I jotted down, edited of course, after that conversation:   


From fairly early in my youth I knew the name John Brown and was swept up by the romance surrounding his exploits at Harper’s Ferry. I would say that was in about the sixth grade when I went to the library and read about Abraham Lincoln before he became president and how he didn’t like what John Brown did because he knew that that action was going to drive the South crazy and upset the delicate balance that was holding the Union together. Frank though thinks it was the seventh grade when we were learning about the slavery issues as part of the 100th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War and his name came up as a “wild man” out of some Jehovah Calvinist burning bush dream who was single-handedly trying to abolish slavery with that uprising. Was ready to “light the spark” to put out the terrible scourge of slavery in the land with some spilled blood. That slavery business, if you can believe this really bothered both of us, especially when we went to a museum that showed the treatment of slaves and the implements used to enforce that condition down South. And I remember one time going to the Museum of Fine Arts and saw how old Pharaoh used his slaves to build those damn pyramids to immortalize himself. Yeah, the hell with slavery, any kind.   

I think I am right thought about when I first heard about the “old man” because I know I loved Lincoln, loved to read about him, loved that back then we celebrated his birthday, February 12th, and we got the day off from school. Loved that Lincoln was basically forced at the governmental level to implement Brown’s program to root out slavery once the deal went down and he was merciless about its extermination once he got “religion” on the matter. Of course neither I nor Frank would have articulated our thoughts that way then but we knew “Massa Lincoln” was on the right side of the angels in his work as much as he hated to burn down the South in the process. But there was no other way to get the damn issue resolved and I think that is what he learned from the Captain whether he gave credit to the man or not. By the way this I do know that while we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday in the North as the great emancipator and Union-saver Frank once told me a story about one of his cousins down south and how when he mentioned that he had Lincoln’s birthday off that cousin said “we don’t celebrate that man’s birthday down here,’’ in such a way that Frank began to understand that maybe the Civil War was not over. That some people had not gotten the word)   

I knew other stuff back then too which added to my feel for the Brown legend. For example, I knew that the great anthem of the Civil War -The Battle Hymn of the Republic- had a prior existence as John Brown’s Body, a tribute to John Brown and that Union soldiers marched to that song as they bravely headed south. Funny but back then I was totally unaware of the role of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first black regiment raised although with white officers when Father Abraham gave the word, whose survivors and replacements marched into Charleston, South Carolina, the heart and soul of the Confederacy, after the bloody Civil War to the tune of John Brown’s Body. That must have been a righteous day. Not so righteous though and reflecting a very narrow view of history that we were taught back then kind of fudging the very serious differences back in Civil War times even in high abolitionist Boston was not knowing thing number one about Augustus Saint-Gauden’s commemorative frieze honoring the men of the 54th right across from the State House which I passed frequently when I went on to Boston Common.

I was then, however, other than aware of the general narrative of Brown’s exploits and a couple of songs and poems neither familiar with the import of his exploits for the black liberation struggle nor knew much about the specifics of the politics of the various tendencies in the ante bellum struggle against slavery of which he represented the extreme activist left-wing. I certainly knew nothing then of Brown’s (and his sons) prior military exploits in the Kansas ‘proxy’ wars against the expansion of slavery. Later study filled in some of those gaps and has only strengthened my strong bond with his memory. Know this, as I reach the age at which John Brown was executed I still retain my youthful admiration for him. In the context of the turmoil of the times he was the most courageous and audacious revolutionary in the struggle for the abolition of slavery in America. Some 150 years after his death I am proud to stand in the tradition of John Brown. [And I am too, brother!-Frank]

If one understands the ongoing nature, from his early youth, of John Brown’s commitment to the active struggle against slavery, the scourge of the American Republic in the first half of the 19th century, one can only conclude that he was indeed a man on a mission. As various biographies point out Brown took every opportunity to fight against slavery including early service as an agent of the Underground Railroad spiriting escaped slaves northward, participation as an extreme radical in all the key anti-slavery propaganda battles of the time as well as challenging other anti-slavery elements to be more militant and in the 1850’s, arms in hand, fighting in the ‘proxy’ wars in Kansas and, of course, the culmination of his life- the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Those exploits alone render absurd a very convenient myth by those who supported slavery or turned a blind eye to it and their latter-day apologists for the institution about his so-called ‘madness’. This is a political man and to these eyes a very worthy one.

For those who like their political heroes ‘pure’, frankly, it is better to look elsewhere than the life of John Brown. Like them without warts and with a discernible thrust from early adulthood that leads to some heroic action. His personal and family life as a failed rural capitalist would hardly lead one to think that this man was to become a key historical figure in any struggle, much less the great struggle against slavery. Some of his actions in Kansas (concerning allegations of the murder of some pro-slavery elements under his direction) have also clouded his image. However if one looks at Kansas as the start of the Civil War then all the horrible possibilities under the heat of battle mitigate some of that incident although not excusing it anymore that we would today with American soldiers in places like Afghanistan and Iraq busting down doors and shooting first. However, when the deal went down in the late 1850’s and it was apparent for all to see that there was no other way to end slavery than a fight to the death-John Brown rose to the occasion. And did not cry about it. And did not expect others to cry about it. Call him a ‘monomaniac’ if you like but even a slight acquaintance with great historical figures shows that they all have this ‘disease’- that is why they make the history books. No, the ‘madness’ argument will not do.

Whether or not John Brown knew that his military strategy for the Harper’s Ferry raid would, in the short term, be defeated is a matter of dispute. Reams of paper have been spent proving the military foolhardiness of his scheme at Harper’s Ferry. Brown’s plan, however, was essentially a combination of slave revolt modeled after the Maroon experiences in Haiti, Nat Turner’s earlier Virginia slave rebellion and rural guerilla warfare of the ‘third world’ type that we have become more familiar with since that time. 150 years later this strategy does not look so foolhardy in an America of the 1850’s that had no real standing army, fairly weak lines of communications, virtually uninhabited mountains to flee to and the North at their backs. The execution of the plan is another matter. Brown seemingly made about every mistake in the book in that regard. However, this is missing the essential political point that militant action not continuing parliamentary maneuvering advocated by other abolitionists had become necessary. A few more fighting abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, and better propaganda work among freedman with connections to the plantations would not have hurt the chances for success at Harper’s Ferry.

What is not in dispute is that Brown considered himself a true Calvinist “avenging angel” in the struggle against slavery and more importantly acted on that belief. (Strange, or maybe not so strange now, both Frank and I who grew up upright Roman Catholics gravitated toward those photographs of Brown with his long unkempt beard as some latter day Jehovah and I remember Frank had a photo on the wall in his room with just such a photograph from I think a detail of the big mural in the State House in Kansas.) In short Brown   was committed to bring justice to the black masses. This is why his exploits and memory stay alive after over 150 years. It is possible that if Brown did not have this, by 19th century standards as well as our own, old-fashioned Calvinist sense of pre-determination that he would not have been capable of militant action. Certainly other anti-slavery elements never came close to his militancy, including the key Transcendentalist movement led by Emerson and Thoreau and the Concord ‘crowd’ who supported Brown and kept his memory alive in hard times. In their eyes he had the heroic manner of the Old Testament prophet. This old time prophet animating spirit is not one that animates modern revolutionaries and so it is hard to understand today the depths of his religious convictions on his actions but they were understood, if not fully appreciated, by others in those days. It is better today to look at Brown more politically through his hero (and mine, as well) Oliver Cromwell-a combination of Calvinist avenger and militant warrior. Yes, I can get behind that picture of him.

By all accounts Brown and his small integrated band of brothers fought bravely and coolly against great odds. Ten of Brown's men were killed including two of his sons. Five were captured, tried and executed, including Brown.  He prophetic words upon the scaffold about purging the evil of slavery in blood proved too true. But that demeanor in the face of defeat was very appealing to me back then.  I have learned since that these results, the imprisonments or executions are almost inevitable when one takes up a revolutionary struggle against the old order if one is not victorious. One need only think of, for example, the fate of the defenders of the Paris Commune in 1871 when that experience was crushed in blood after heroic resistance. One can fault Brown on this or that tactical maneuver. Nevertheless he and the others bore themselves bravely in defeat. As we are all too painfully familiar with now there are defeats of the oppressed that lead nowhere. One thinks of the defeat of the German Revolution in the 1920’s. There other defeats that galvanize others into action. This is how Brown’s actions should be measured by history.

Militarily defeated at Harpers Ferry, Brown's political mission to destroy slavery by force of arms nevertheless continued to galvanize important elements in the North at the expense of the pacifistic non-resistant Garrisonian political program for struggle against slavery. Many writers on Brown who reduce his actions to that of a ‘madman’ still cannot believe that his road proved more appropriate to end slavery than either non-resistance or gradualism. That alone makes short shrift of such theories. Historians and others have also misinterpreted later events such as the Bolshevik strategy that led to Russian Revolution in October 1917. More recently, we saw this same incomprehension concerning the victory of the Vietnamese against overwhelming American military superiority. Needless to say, all these events continue to be revised by some historians to take the sting out of there proper political implications.

From a modern prospective Brown’s strategy for black liberation, even if the abolitionist goal he aspired to was immediately successful reached the outer limits within the confines of capitalism. Brown’s actions were meant to make black people free. Beyond that goal he had no program except the Chatham Charter which seems to have replicated the American constitution but with racial and gender equality as a cornerstone. Unfortunately the Civil War did not provide fundamental economic and political freedom. Moreover, the Civil War, the defeat of Radical Reconstruction, the reign of ‘Jim Crow’ and the subsequent waves of black migration to the cities changed the character of black oppression in the U.S. from Brown’s time. Nevertheless, we can stand proudly in the revolutionary tradition of John Brown, and of his friend Frederick Douglass.

I used to fervently believe that if Douglass had come on board as Brown had urged the chances for success would have been greater, at least more blacks (mostly free blacks and not plantation blacks for obvious reasons) and more radical whites who could have been mobilized as a result of all of the events of the 1850s especially the struggle against the Fugitive Slave Act and the struggle against the imposition of slavery in Kansas. Now I am not so sure that Douglass’ acceptance would have qualitatively changed the outcome. He went on to do yeoman’s work during the Civil War articulating the left black perspective and organizing those black regiments that shifted the outcome of the war at a decisive point. In any case honor the memory of old Captain John Brown and his heroic band at Harper’s Ferry.         

From #Un-Occupied Boston-This Is Class War-We Say No More-Defend Our Unions! - Defend The Working Class! Take The Offensive! - A Five Point Program For Discussion

LeonTrotsky -Lessons Of The Paris Commune-Listen Up

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend The International Working Class Everywhere!

A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, and those who have just plain quit looking for work was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.
The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions, is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was when first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling and equitably divide up current work.
Without the key capitalist necessity of keeping up the rate of profit the social surplus created by that work could be used to redistribute the available work at the same agreed upon rate rather than go into the capitalists’ pockets. The only catch, a big catch one must admit, is that no capitalist, and no capitalist system, is going to do any such thing as to implement “30 for 40” –with the no reduction in pay proviso, although many low –end employers are even now under the “cover” of the flawed Obamacare reducing hours WITH loss of pay-so that to establish this work system as a norm it will, in the end, be necessary to fight for and win a workers government to implement this demand.

Organize the unorganized is a demand that cries out for solution today now that the organized sectors of the labor movement, both public and private, in America are at historic lows, just over ten percent of the workforce. Part of the task is to reorganize some of the old industries like the automobile industry, now mainly unorganized as new plants come on line and others are abandoned, which used to provide a massive amount of decent jobs with decent benefits but which now have fallen to globalization and the “race to the bottom” bad times. The other sector that desperately need to be organized is to ratchet up the efforts to organize the service industries, hospitals, hotels, hi-tech, restaurants and the like, that have become a dominant aspect of the American economy. Support the recent militant efforts, including the old tactic of civil disobedience, by service unions and groups of fast-food workers to increase the minimum socially acceptable wage in their Fight For 15.

Organize the South-this low wage area, this consciously low-wage area, where many industries land before heading off-shore to even lower wage places cries out for organizing, especially among black and Hispanic workers who form the bulk of this industrial workforce. A corollary to organizing the South is obviously to organize internationally to keep the “race to the bottom” from continually occurring short of being resolved in favor of an international commonwealth of workers’ governments. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

Organize Wal-Mart- millions of workers, thousands of company-owned trucks, hundreds of distribution centers. A victory here would be the springboard to a revitalized organized labor movement just as auto and steel lead the industrial union movements of the 1930s. The key here is to organize the truckers and distribution workers the place where the whole thing comes together. We have seen mostly unsuccessful organizing of retail stores. To give an idea of how hard this task might be though someone once argued that it would be easier to organize a workers’ revolution that organize this giant. Well, that’s a thought.

Defend the right of public and private workers to unionize. Simple-No more defeats like in Wisconsin in 2011, no more attacks on collective bargaining the hallmark of a union contract. No reliance on labor boards, arbitration, courts or bourgeois recall elections either. Unions must keep their independent from government interference. Period.

* Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012 labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor.” The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement.

The hard reality is that the labor skates, not used to any form of class struggle or any kind of struggle, know no other way than class-collaboration, arbitration, courts, and every other way to avoid the appearance of strife, strife in defense of the bosses’ profits. The most egregious recent example that I can recall- the return of the Verizon workers to work after two weeks in the summer of 2011 when they had the company on the run and the subsequent announcement by the company of record profits. That sellout strategy may have worked for the bureaucrats, or rather their “fathers” for a time back in the 1950s “golden age” of labor, but now we are in a very hard and open class war. The rank and file must demand an end to using their precious dues payments for bourgeois candidates all of whom have turned out to be sworn enemies of labor from Obama on down.

This does not mean not using union dues for political purposes though. On the contrary we need to use them now more than ever in the class battles ahead. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized, organizing the South, organizing Wal-Mart, and other pro-labor causes. Think, for example, of the dough spent on the successful November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio. That type of activity is where labor’s money and other resources should go. And not on recall elections against individual reactionaries, like in Wisconsin, as substitutes for class struggle (and which was overwhelmingly unsuccessful to boot-while the number of unionized public workers has dwindled to a precious few).  

*End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, I argued that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before that fight is over. Not Another War In Iraq! No Intervention In Syria! Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East! Stop The Bombing Campaign! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!  

U.S. Hands Off Iran! Hands Off Syria!- American (and world) imperialists have periodically ratcheted up their propaganda war (right now) and increased economic sanctions that are a prelude to war well before the dust has settled on the now unsettled situation in Iraq and well before they have even sniffed at an Afghan withdrawal of any import. We will hold our noses, as we did with the Saddam leadership in Iraq and on other occasions, and call for the defense of Iran against the American imperial monster. A victory for the Americans (and their junior partner on this issue, Israel) in Iran is not in the interests of the international working class. Especially here in the “belly of the beast” we are duty-bound to call not just for non-intervention but for defense of Iran. We will, believe me we will, deal with the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Islamic fundamentalist in Iran in our own way in our own time.

U.S. Hands Off The World! And Keep Them Off!- With the number of “hot spots” that the American imperialists, or one or another of their junior allies, have their hands on in this wicked old world this generic slogan would seem to fill the bill.

Down With The War Budget! Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars! Honor World War I German Social-Democratic Party MP, Karl Liebknecht, who did just that in 1915 in the heat of war and paid the price unlike other party leaders who were pledged to stop the war budgets by going to prison. The only play for an honest representative of the working class under those conditions. The litmus test for every political candidate must be first opposition to the war budgets (let’s see, right now no new funding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran preparations, China preparations, etc. you get my drift). Then that big leap. The whole damn imperialist military budget. Again, no one said it would be simple. Revolution may be easier that depriving the imperialists of their military money. Well….okay.

*Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All! This would be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The health and welfare of any society’s citizenry is the simple glue that holds that society together. It is no accident that one of the prime concerns of workers states like Cuba, whatever their other political problems, has been to place health care and education front and center and to provide to the best of their capacity for free, quality healthcare and education for all. Even the hide-bound social-democratic-run capitalist governments of Europe have, until recently anyway, placed the “welfare state” protections central to their programs. Be clear Obamacare is not our program and has been shown to be totally inadequate and wasteful however we will defend that program against those who wish to dismantle it and leave millions once again uninsured and denied basic health benefits.  

Free, quality higher education for all! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! One Hundred, Two Hundred, Many Harvards!

This would again be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The struggle to increase the educational level of a society’s citizenry is another part of the simple glue that holds that society together. Today higher education is being placed out of reach for many working-class and minority families. Hell, it is getting tough for the middle-class as well.

Moreover the whole higher educational system is increasing skewed toward those who have better formal preparation and family lives leaving many deserving students from broken homes and minority homes in the wilderness. Take the resources of the private institutions and spread them around, throw in hundreds of billions from the government (take from the military budget and the bank bail-out money if you want to find the money quickly to do the job right), get rid of the top heavy and useless college administration apparatuses, mix it up, and let students, teachers, and campus workers run the thing through councils on a democratic basis.

Forgive student debt! The latest reports indicate that college student debt is something like a trillion dollars, give or take a few billion but who is counting. The price of tuition and expenses has gone up dramatically while low-cost aid has not kept pace. What has happened is that the future highly educated workforce that a modern society, and certainly a socialist society, desperately needs is going to be cast in some form of indentured servitude to the banks or other lending agencies for much of their young working lives. Let the banks take a “hit” for a change!

Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now! Although the worst of the crunch has abated there are still plenty of problems and so this demand is still timely if not desperately timely like in the recent past. Hey, everybody, everywhere in the world not just in America should have a safe, clean roof over their heads. Hell, even a single family home that is part of the “American dream,” if that is what they want. We didn’t make the housing crisis in America (or elsewhere, like in Ireland, where the bubble has also burst). The banks did. Their predatory lending practices and slip-shot application processes were out of control. Let them take the “hit” here as well.

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Karl Marx was right way back in the 19th century on his labor theory of value, the workers do produce the social surplus appropriated by the capitalists. Capitalism tends to beat down, beat down hard in all kinds of ways the mass of society for the benefit of the few. Most importantly capitalism, a system that at one time was historically progressive in the fight against feudalism and other ancient forms of production, has turned into its opposite and now is a fetter on production. The current multiple crises spawned by this system show there is no way forward, except that unless we push them out, push them out fast, they will muddle through, again.

Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Socialism is the only serious answer to the human crisis we face economically, socially, culturally and politically. This socialist system is the only one calculated to take one of the great tragedies of life, the struggle for daily survival in a world that we did not create, and replace it with more co-operative human endeavors.

Build a workers’ party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. None of the nice things mentioned above can be accomplished without as serious struggle for political power. We need to struggle for an independent working-class-centered political party that we can call our own and where our leaders act as “tribunes of the people” not hacks. The creation of that workers party, however, will get us nowhere unless it fights for a workers government to begin the transition to the next level of human progress on a world-wide scale.

As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):

“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.” 

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!

Friday, October 24, 2014

ELECTION DAY, November 4:

One Million Massachusetts Workers Need the Right to Earned Sick Time!


Raise Up Massachusetts, which is leading the campaign, writes:

This weekend will mark 30 days from Election Day and we have a lot of work to do. We’re planning canvasses across the state and we need you to join us. So far, our canvasses have been great successes: volunteers have been able to talk to dozens of voters a shift and have meaningful conversations that have spread the message of our campaign.  But as we get closer to Election Day (again, we’re only 30 days out!), we need to start talking to even more voters every weekend. You can either sign up for an event near you, or if you there’s nothing close, sign up here to set up canvassing in your neighborhood.


Our friends at Massachusetts Peace Action are pitching in:

You can join Massachusetts Peace Action's work on this effort in several ways. 1) Volunteer for shifts at regional call centers in many towns around the state using the state of the art HubDialer system, which guarantees many contacts with voters.  2) Use your own phone and a computer at home to do a shift using HubDialer (after simple web based training in using the system).  3) Call from an old fashioned paper list. 4) Join door to door canvasses to reach likely supporters.  5) Reach out to family, friends, co-workers and in your community to those and ask them to sign a pledge a vote for Yes on 4.

And DORCHESTER PEOPLE FOR PEACE is committed to turning out at the polls for Question 4 on Election Day – and also for our local ballot QUESTION 5 to say “we want to get big money out of our politics!”


Sharon Bilodeau ( / 617-504-1645) writes:

We need your help on Election Day, November 4. Can you cover a morning or evening shift (or both)? Can you work the same shift you worked in September? Would you like a new time and place? Were you busy on Primary Day but can work Election Day?  Please email at or call me at 617-504-1645
Here are the ballot questions:
1. Earned Sick Time. Our ally, New England United for Justice, has been working for the right to earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers for seven years. In November it will be a binding question on the ballot. Many people haven't heard about it but will support it if we let them know.

2. Getting Big Money Out of Politics. Recent Supreme Court decisions have allowed billionaires and corporations to spend unlimited amounts in elections, treating corporations as ‘Persons’ with free speech rights. To show that our elected officials that voters do not agree, Sydney and Hayat led a drive that put a non-binding question on the ballot in Dan Cullinane’s district. The ballot question calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to saying that corporations are not people and money is not a form of speech – it must be regulated in political campaigns.

The polling places are, in priority order with double precincts and heavier-voting precincts first: 
Dorchester Academy (the former Woodrow Wilson School), 18 Croftland St, Codman Hill (Ward 17, Precincts 4 and 11)
Mildred Avenue School, Mildred Ave, Mattapan (Ward 17, Precinct 10 and Ward 18, Precinct 2)
Lower Mills Library, Richmond St (Ward 17, Precincts 13 and 14)
Groveland Community Room, Franklin Field (Ward 18, Precincts 1 and 4)
Chittick School, 154 Ruskindale Road between Cummins Highway and River St (Ward 18, Precincts 6 and 21)
Adams Street Library, near Ashmont St (Ward 16, Precinct 8)
Florian Hall, 55 Hallet St (Ward 16, Precinct 11)
Charles H. Taylor School, 1060 Morton St (Ward 17, Precinct 12)
Mattahunt School, 100 Hebron St (Ward 18, Precinct 3)
Hassan Apartments, 705 River St (Ward 18, Precinct 5)

The shifts are:  7-9 am, 5-8 pm (or 5-7 if you can't stay the whole time)

Please sign up now so we can cover all these polling places. And thanks!  

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  

AUGUST 14, 1914

[Since the bombardment of Strasburg, August 14, 1870, her statue in
Paris, representing Alsace, has been draped in mourning by the French

Near where the royal victims fell
In days gone by, caught in the swell
Of a ruthless tide
Of human passion, deep and wide:
There where we two
A Nation's later sorrow knew--
To-day, O friend! I stood
Amid a self-ruled multitude
That by nor sound nor word
Betrayed how mightily its heart was stirred,

A memory Time never could efface--
A memory of Grief--
Like a great Silence brooded o'er the place;
And men breathed hard, as seeking for relief
From an emotion strong
That would not cry, though held in check too long.

One felt that joy drew near--
A joy intense that seemed itself to fear--
Brightening in eyes that had been dull,
As all with feeling gazed
Upon the Strasburg figure, raised
Above us--mourning, beautiful!

Then one stood at the statue's base, and spoke--
Men needed not to ask what word;
Each in his breast the message heard,
Writ for him by Despair,
That evermore in moving phrase
Breathes from the Invalides and Père Lachaise--
Vainly it seemed, alas!
But now, France looking on the image there,
Hope gave her back the lost Alsace.

A deeper hush fell on the crowd:
A sound--the lightest--seemed too loud
(Would, friend, you had been there!)
As to that form the speaker rose,
Took from her, fold on fold,
The mournful crape, gray-worn and old,
Her, proudly, to disclose,
And with the touch of tender care
That fond emotion speaks,
'Mid tears that none could quite command,
Placed the Tricolor in her hand,
And kissed her on both cheeks!

_Florence Earle Coates_
Thu, Oct 02, 2014 11:36 AM

Help Massachusetts Peace Action support the Yes on 4 -- Raise Up Massachusetts campaign, because...

One Million Massachusetts Workers Need the Right to Earned Sick Time!

On November 4, Massachusetts voters can vote Yes on 4 to allow workers to take sick time without losing their jobs.

With our help, RaiseUp Massachusetts won an $11/hr minimum wage in the legislature. Now is the time to win the right to earned sick days on the November ballot. This is a basic part of a social justice agenda. Join the Massachusetts Peace Action team supporting Raise Up Massachusetts in the last month before the November 4 election!

The business interests who prevented the earned paid sick days bills from passing the legislature are poised to spend millions in ad campaigns designed to confuse the issue. Raise Up Massachusetts plans to contact tens of thousands of less frequent voters who are likely to directly benefit, to expand the electorate and clarify any confusion.
You can join Massachusetts Peace Action's work on this effort in several ways. 1) Volunteer for shifts at regional call centers in many towns around the state using the state of the art HubDialer system, which guarantees many contacts with voters.  2) Use your own phone and a computer at home to do a shift using HubDialer (after simple web based training in using the system).  3) Call from an old fashioned paper list. 4) Join door to door canvasses to reach likely supporters.  5) Reach out to family, friends, co-workers and in your community to those and ask them to sign a pledge a vote for Yes on 4.
Raise up logoPlease click here to join in the Raise Up Campaign by volunteering for a shift making calls or reaching out to your friends, neighbors, and family in support of YES on 4-- the ballot question establishing earned paid sick days.
Raise Up Massachusetts is fighting to ensure earned sick time for workers across the state.  For nearly 1 million workers in Massachusetts, staying home to care for themselves or a sick child could mean losing their job. The ability for workers to care and provide for themselves and family members should be a right, not a privilege, and now is the time to make it a reality for working families. Click here to volunteer for one or more shifts contacting voters or to get YES on 4 committments in your part of our Peace Action team.
Read more about our Yes on 4 campaign here!
John Ratliff In solidarity,
John Ratliff
Massachusetts Peace Action
Economic Justice Coordinator

Join Massachusetts Peace Action - or renew your membership in advance for 2015!  
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