Saturday, November 15, 2014

From The Marxist Archives- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Russian October Revolution- Leon Trotsky On The Lessons Of The Russian Revolution


Workers Vanguard No. 968

5 November 2010

In Honor of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution

For New October Revolutions!

(From the Archives of Marxism)


November 7 (October 25 by the calendar used in Russia at the time) marks the 93rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Led by the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the workers’ seizure of power in Russia gave flesh and blood reality to the Marxist understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Despite the subsequent Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state, culminating in its counterrevolutionary destruction in 1991-92, the October Revolution was and is the international proletariat’s greatest victory; its final undoing, a world-historic defeat. The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) fought to the bitter end in defense of the Soviet Union and the bureaucratically deformed workers states of East Europe, while calling for workers political revolutions to oust the parasitic nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies that ruled these states. This is the same program we uphold today for the remaining workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.

Having been expelled from the USSR in 1929 by Stalin, Trotsky spent the remainder of his life in exile. In November 1932, he gave a speech to a Danish social-democratic student group in Copenhagen. He outlined the political conditions and the social forces that drove the Russian Revolution, stressing the decisive role of the Bolshevik Party. Illuminating the worldwide impact of the Russian Revolution and its place in history, Trotsky underlined the necessity of sweeping away the decaying capitalist order and replacing it with a scientifically planned international socialist economy that will lay the material basis for human freedom.

The ICL fights to forge workers parties modeled on Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks to lead the struggle for new October Revolutions around the globe.

* * *

Revolution means a change of the social order. It transfers the power from the hands of a class which has exhausted itself into those of another class, which is on the rise....

Without the armed insurrection of November 7, 1917, the Soviet state would not be in existence. But the insurrection itself did not drop from Heaven. A series of historical prerequisites was necessary for the October revolution.

1. The rotting away of the old ruling classes—the nobility, the monarchy, the bureaucracy.

2. The political weakness of the bourgeoisie, which had no roots in the masses of the people.

3. The revolutionary character of the peasant question.

4. The revolutionary character of the problem of the oppressed nations.

5. The significant social weight of the proletariat.

To these organic pre-conditions we must add certain conjunctural conditions of the highest importance:

6. The Revolution of 1905 was the great school, or in Lenin’s words, the “dress rehearsal” of the Revolution of 1917. The Soviets, as the irreplaceable organizational form of the proletarian united front in the revolution, were created for the first time in the year 1905.

7. The imperialist war sharpened all the contradictions, tore the backward masses out of their immobility and thereby prepared the grandiose scale of the catastrophe.

But all these conditions, which fully sufficed for the outbreak of the Revolution, were insufficient to assure the victory of the proletariat in the Revolution. For this victory one condition more was needed:

8. The Bolshevik Party....

In the year 1883 there arose among the emigres the first Marxist group. In the year 1898, at a secret meeting, the foundation of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party was proclaimed (we all called ourselves Social-Democrats in those days). In the year 1903 occurred the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. In the year 1912 the Bolshevist fraction finally became an independent Party.

It learned to recognize the class mechanics of society in struggle, in the grandiose events of twelve years (1905-1917). It educated cadres equally capable of initiative and of subordination. The discipline of its revolutionary action was based on the unity of its doctrine, on the tradition of common struggles and on confidence in its tested leadership.

Thus stood the Party in the year 1917. Despised by the official “public opinion” and the paper thunder of the intelligentsia press, it adapted itself to the movement of the masses. Firmly it kept in hand the control of factories and regiments. More and more the peasant masses turned toward it. If we understand by “nation,” not the privileged heads, but the majority of the people, that is, the workers and peasants, then Bolshevism became in the course of the year 1917 a truly national Russian Party.

In September 1917, Lenin, who was compelled to keep in hiding, gave the signal, “The crisis is ripe, the hour of the insurrection has approached.” He was right. The ruling classes had landed in a blind alley before the problems of the war, the land and national liberation. The bourgeoisie finally lost its head. The democratic parties, the Mensheviks and social-revolutionaries, wasted the remains of the confidence of the masses in them by their support of the imperialist war, by their policy of ineffectual compromise and concession to the bourgeois and feudal property-owners. The awakened army no longer wanted to fight for the alien aims of imperialism. Disregarding democratic advice, the peasantry smoked the landowners out of their estates. The oppressed nationalities at the periphery rose up against the bureaucracy of Petrograd. In the most important workers’ and soldiers’ Soviets the Bolsheviki were dominant. The workers and soldiers demanded action. The ulcer was ripe. It needed a cut of the lancet.

Only under these social and political conditions was the insurrection possible. And thus it also became inevitable. But there is no playing around with the insurrection. Woe to the surgeon who is careless in the use of the lancet! Insurrection is an art. It has its laws and its rules.

The Party carried through the October insurrection with cold calculation and with flaming determination. Thanks to this, it conquered almost without victims. Through the victorious Soviets the Bolsheviki placed themselves at the head of a country which occupies one sixth of the surface of the globe....

Let us now in closing attempt to ascertain the place of the October Revolution, not only in the history of Russia but in the history of the world. During the year 1917, in a period of eight months, two historical curves intersect. The February upheaval—that belated echo of the great struggles which had been carried out in past centuries on the territories of Holland, England, France, almost all of Continental Europe—takes its place in the series of bourgeois revolutions. The October Revolution proclaims and opens the domination of the proletariat. It was world capitalism that suffered its first great defeat on the territory of Russia. The chain broke at its weakest link. But it was the chain that broke, and not only the link.

Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential mission, the increase of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot stand still at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, Socialist organization of production and distribution can assure humanity—all humanity—of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. Freedom in two senses—first of all, man will no longer be compelled to devote the greater part of his life to physical labor. Second, he will no longer be dependent on the laws of the market, that is, on the blind and dark forces which have grown up behind his back. He will build up his economy freely, that is, according to a plan, with compass in hand. This time it is a question of subjecting the anatomy of society to the X-ray through and through, of disclosing all its secrets and subjecting all its functions to the reason and the will of collective humanity. In this sense, Socialism must become a new step in the historical advance of mankind. Before our ancestor, who first armed himself with a stone axe, the whole of nature represented a conspiracy of secret and hostile forces. Since then, the natural sciences, hand in hand with practical technology, have illuminated nature down to its most secret depths. By means of electrical energy, the physicist passes judgment on the nucleus of the atom. The hour is not far when science will easily solve the task of the alchemists, and turn manure into gold and gold into manure. Where the demons and furies of nature once raged, now rules ever more courageously the industrial will of man.

But while he wrestled victoriously with nature, man built up his relations to other men blindly, almost like the bee or the ant. Belatedly and most undecidedly he approached the problems of human society. He began with religion, and passed on to politics. The Reformation represented the first victory of bourgeois individualism and rationalism in a domain which had been ruled by dead tradition. From the church, critical thought went on to the state. Born in the struggle with absolutism and the medieval estates, the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people and of the rights of man and the citizen grew stronger. Thus arose the system of parliamentarism. Critical thought penetrated into the domain of government administration. The political rationalism of democracy was the highest achievement of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

But between nature and the state stands economic life. Technology liberated man from the tyranny of the old elements—earth, water, fire and air—only to subject him to its own tyranny. Man ceased to be a slave to nature, to become a slave to the machine, and, still worse, a slave to supply and demand. The present world crisis testifies in especially tragic fashion how man, who dives to the bottom of the ocean, who rises up to the stratosphere, who converses on invisible waves with the Antipodes, how this proud and daring ruler of nature remains a slave to the blind forces of his own economy. The historical task of our epoch consists in replacing the uncontrolled play of the market by reasonable planning, in disciplining the forces of production, compelling them to work together in harmony and obediently serve the needs of mankind. Only on this new social basis will man be able to stretch his weary limbs and—every man and every woman, not only a selected few—become a full citizen in the realm of thought.

—“Leon Trotsky Defends the October Revolution” (Militant, 21 January 1933)


In Defense Of The October Russian Revolution Of 1917- Comrade Markham’s Tale-Take One


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 


Comrade Markham had been born a “red diaper baby.” I will explain what that means in a minute but first to that Comrade Markham moniker. That name is the only name I have known him by ever since I ran into him at an anti-war planning session over in Cambridge a couple of years back, back in the fall of 2012, when we were trying, people like Comrade Markham, the guys from Veterans for Peace, guys and gals from some socialist groups and the usual Quakers, traditional peace activists who always sign on to these efforts, to organize against the latest governmental war cries. Although the previous decade or so had seen anti-war mobilizations, great and small, mainly small, this session was planning a rally to oppose President Obama’s then latest attempt to intervene in the civil war in Syria. Comrade Markham, then eighty-seven years old and still trying to change this wicked old world for the better rather than sitting in some assisted living hellhole wasting away, had introduced himself to the group under that moniker and although I had not seen him around before, had no sense of his history then, others greeted and addressed him by that name without a snicker.


Of course as I found out later that moniker was not his real name but had been the one that he had used in his long-time membership in the old American Communist Party, not the current version which is kind of out in limbo, but the one that we who came of age in the 1960s had cut our teeth on as the great “red menace,” who were taking “Moscow gold,” taking Stalin and his progeny’s gold,  in order to undermine the American way of life and so we had to be ever vigilant in the red scare Cold War night. He had used the name so long that he knew no other to be called and in my associations with him as he told me his story that is what I always called him. Someday I suppose we will find out his real name but his story, an unusual American story, is what matters and what will be forever his memorial.


But back to that “red diaper baby” designation I promised to tell you about. Now I had heard that designation before, back in the late 1960s when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was cutting a big swath through the political landscape, especially among students. That was the time when even some of us who came straight from the working-classes to be the first in our families to go to college believed that students comfortably ensconced in ivory tower “red” universities had replaced the working class and oppressed of the world as the center of progressive action. A fair number of the emerging leaders, again some who also were out of working class neighborhoods in places like Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Oakland, had had parents who belonged to the Communist Party or some other left-wing organization and were not like many of us the first generation of radicals in our families. Thus the “red diaper baby” designation which in some cases gave those who had grown up in that political milieu an unwarranted standing based on some usually long past affiliation by their now bourgeois (or better for working class kids bourgeoisified) parents. What has made  Comrade Markham unique in my experience is that he was a red diaper baby from parents who had helped establish the Communist Party in America back around 1920 (or one of the two that emerged from the old Socialist Party but that story of the hows and whys of the existence of two parties are beyond what I want to tell you about here except in passing).


That thread of history intrigued me, his whole story intrigued me as I pieced it together in bits and pieces, and so after a couple of those planning sessions I asked him to sit down with me wherever he liked and tell me his story. We did so in several sessions most of them held in the Boston Public Library where he liked go and check out books, magazines and newspapers about the old days, about the time of his activist political prime. What I did not expect to get was an almost chemically pure defense of the Soviet Union, of the Soviet experience, through thick and thin until the end in 1990 or so. And of a longing for the days when such questions mattered to a candid world. I admit I shared some of his nostalgia, some of his sense that while this wicked old world needs a new way of social relations to the means of production we are a bit wistful in our dreams right now. That is why his story appears here as a running personal commentary on this 97th anniversary year of the Russian October Revolution of 1917.


It is probably hard today at least three generations removed from the time of the great Russian October Revolution of 1917 to understand, to understand in depth. the strong pro-revolutionary feeling that that event brought forth in the world- the first fitful workers’ state, a state for the international working-class to call its own, to defend against all the international reaction. Of course that strong pro-revolutionary response also has its opposite effect on the international bourgeoisie which was ready to move might and main to break the back of the revolution and did so, did actively attempt, one way or another, supporting one native anti-revolutionary faction or another, or intervening directly. (The international bourgeoisie had as its allies as well some of the reformist leaderships and better off segments of the Western working class who were as fearful of revolution as any bourgeois). This was the heady atmosphere in which Comrade Markham’s parents, known in the party as Comrade Curtis and Comrade Rosa (after the late martyred Polish revolutionary liked after the failed Spartacist uprising in Germany in late 1918, Rosa Luxemburg, the rose of the revolution), moved in the early days of the party formed here in America.        


See Curtis and Rosa had a long socialist past, had grown up respectively in a Kansas farm belt (him) and a Chicago steel belt (her), had worked individually to build the pre-World War I Socialist Party in their respective places of birth and had met in Chicago when Curtis moved there to work on the 1912 presidential campaign for the revered Eugene V. Debs (who amassed over one million votes that years, a watershed year for socialist votes, gathered in large part by activists like Curtis and Rosa who worked overtime for his election). They had been aligned with the left-wing of the party in most of its internal debates and votes, especially as President Woodrow Wilson and his administration started beating the war drums to go to the aid of the Allies in the utterly stalemated World War I. A war where the flower of the European youth had laid down their heads for no apparent reason and Wilson was preparing the same fate for American youth. Segments of the party wanted to support those efforts or to “duck” the issue. So they were strongly for him and his supporters when Debs decided to outright oppose the war entry publicly in 1917. Naturally they were rounded up and went to jail for a time (at this time they also had also gotten married in order to be able to visit whichever one was in jail at any given time) and became more closely associated with the left-wing that was forming to defiantly oppose American entry into the war but also a myriad of policies that the right-wing leadership (socialist right-wing not generic right-wing) had imposed on the party.  


The pre-war Socialist Party in America like a lot of socialist parties around the world then had been based on the working class but had also been reliant on other classes like farmers and urban professionals, especially during electoral periods. So the American organization was a loose organization. Loose until faction fight time, or when the leadership felt some threat and pulled the hammer down on party discipline usually gunning for elements to their left but sometimes just any opposition that might vie for party power which encompassed many divergent elements. Elements that were not always on the same page. Comrades Curtis and Rosa had to laugh when the old time Socialist Party leadership used as its calling-card its looseness as against the Bolshevik iron vice. They knew first-hand that leadership did not play second fiddle to anyone where bureaucratic abuse occurred.


The biggest organizations, better to say federations, were the Midwestern farmers, those sturdy wheat and corn farmers from Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma who had moved over from the defunct Populist and Greenback parties who could not keep up with the times, the foreign language federations which included both American citizens and recent immigrants who were merely transferring their socialist loyalties from their native parties to the American one , and a smaller grouping of what I would call “natives” who had been around America for a few generations and who were city dwellers or worked in city professions like lawyering, journalism, medicine and the like. These three rather heterogeneous groups and what happened to them later are important to Comrade Markham’s parents’ story since they were both native born and his father had been a law clerk (after he left the farm and got some clerkship for a lawyer in Kansas City) and his mother a school teacher (her steelworker father working overtime to put her through Chicago Normal School as the first of her family to go to college).


A fair number of the foreign language federations were opposed to American entry into the war, as were farmers and the professionals and as noted a fair number were rounded up and went to jail (or like with the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, Wobblies, anarchist workers were deported quickly if their immigration status was shaky). What started the big fights inside the party, what got Comrades Curtis and Rosa up in arms, was what attitude to take toward the Russian revolution. Not so much the February 1917 revolution which overthrew the useless Czar but the Bolshevik-led October revolution which its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, proclaimed as the first victory in the international battle to make socialism the new way to produce and distribute the world’s goods. The party split into several factions over this issue but what is important is that Curtis and Rosa found themselves working with other “natives,” guys like Jim Cannon, John Reed, Earl Browder, Jack Johnstone, some of the New York union leaders, and many party writers who saw the Russian October as the new wave for humankind and were ready to move might and main to defend that revolution against all comers. That is the baptism of fire that the as yet unborn Comrade Markham had in his genes.  


Some say that the events around the left-wing’s expulsion from the Socialist Party, or rather what those leftist did, or did not do, to get themselves expelled, did not bode well for those who would go on to form the American Communist parties (yes, plural as two separate parties, one based roughly on the foreign language federations, especially the Russian, Finnish, and Slavic, and the other around the “natives,” the faction Curtis and Rosa worked with as noted above). There is always a tension when great events occur and there is an impassable division of the house over the issues and so whether the split/expulsion was premature or necessary was not under the control of the ousted faction. Sure, staying in would have produced a better, clearer explanation for why a split was necessary in the post-October world. But the Russians were setting up a Communist International in which they recognized, taking their own experiences in Russian socialist politics as a guide, that in the age of imperialism, that the “party of the whole class,” the socialist “big tent” where everybody who called themselves socialists found a home was no longer adequate as a revolutionary instrument to seize state power and begin the socialist agenda. Comrades Curtis and Rosa had done yeoman’s work in Chicago and New York to round up all the supporters of the Russian revolution they could before the hammer came down. Although they were not in the first rank of left-wing leaders they were just below that and had a certain authority having served jail time for their anti-war views. Some of the few “natives” who faced that choice.


As mentioned above some of the organizations which had been affiliated with the Socialist Party were not on the same page. That fact was equally true of the groupings who would try to form an American Communist Party. This is the place where the differences between the foreign language federations and the “natives” came to the fore (again these are rough divisions of the social basis of the antagonistic groupings as there was some overlap as usual). So for a few years there were two parties, both underground at the beginning given the heat from the American bourgeoisie who were apoplectic about the revolution in Russia (including armed intervention there) and unleased the Palmer Raids to round up every red under every bed and kill them through vigilante action, deport them or jail them (named after the Attorney-General of the time). Mostly Curtis and Rosa kept a low profile, worked clandestinely (having already seen American jails they were leery of going back and one could not blame them, especially Rosa who had a hard time having been placed with the common criminal women for lack of other facilities and who had to fend off one woman who wanted to make Rosa her “girl”), tried to keep the press published and distributed, and tried to fight against all the various “theories” that basically ignorant American comrades had about the “virtues” of an underground party which the foreign language federations were in favor of. The issue of the legal/underground party finally after a few years of controversy had to be resolved by the Russians, by the Communist International, hell, by Trotsky himself. So for a time Comrades Curtis and Rosa had a very high opinion of that Russian leader, that victorious leader of the Red Army, especially after Jim Cannon came back with the favorably verdict and how it was arrived at. If anything, according to Comrade Markham’s  recollections of what his parents told him about the founding days of the party they became even more fervent about defense of the Russian revolution and spent a great deal of time during the early years propagandizing for American governmental recognition of the Soviet Union.    


The early 1920s say up to about 1924 were hectic for the American Communist Party, hectic until the Communist International straightened out that dispute between the “legal” party and “underground” party factions noting that the changed political climate allowed the party to act more openly (the frenzy of the red scare Palmer raid days abated in the “lost generation,” “Jazz Age ”days but where the “dog days” of political struggle of the 1920s in the labor movement were then also descending on the American landscape). The hard “under-grounders” had departed leaving those who wanted to increase the public face of the party able to do so without rancor (of course other disputes would rise up to enflame the factions but that is another story). Still the party in many ways was rudderless, had not kept pace with what was going on in the Communist International. Nowhere was this problem more apparent than the whole question of supporting a farmer-labor party in the 1924 presidential elections, in short, to support that old progressive Republican, Robert Lafollette, in his independent campaign.


The impulse was to make a big public splash on the national scene with the advantages that the exposure of a national campaign would bring. Both Comrades Curtis and Rosa having been public activists and strong supporters of the idea pushed Jim Cannon and his co-thinker, Bill Dunne, toward support for the idea. Cannon and Dunne a little more knowledgeable about American bourgeois organizations were lukewarm after the Chicago labor leaders balked and began a red-baiting campaign. Curtis and Rosa saw that campaign as a way to publicize the campaign for American recognition of the Soviet Union. The problem with support for a farmer-labor party, a two-class party is that the thing is a bourgeois formation, an early version of what in the 1930s would become the “popular front” policy. The name and reputation of Lafollette should have been the tip-off. So most of the year 1924 was spent in trying to iron out the problem of whether to support a farmer-labor party or just a labor party. The internal politics of this dispute are important. No less an authority on the early party than Cannon said later that a wrong decision (to support Lafollette or some version of that idea) would have destroyed the party right then. The CI stepped in and changed the policy not without controversy. Comrades Curtis and Rosa were not happy, certainly not happy with Cannon then but deferred to the factional leadership’s judgment. They spent most of that year doing trade union support work for William Z. Foster’s Trade Union Education League drawing closer to that leader as a result although still aligned with the Cannon faction. 


Comrade Markham was a “love” baby. (He had his parents word on this when he asked some child’s question about it later when he was first learning about sex.)  A “love baby” in the days when most ideas of contraception, even among knowledgeable revolutionaries connected with the Village and other places where such things might be discussed, was some variation of the old Catholic “rhythm” method dealing with a woman’s cycle (both Curtis and Rosa had been brought up as Catholics). After the hectic times around the farmer-labor question the pair decided to bring a child into the world, into their world and so Rosa stopped counting the days in her cycle. And in the fall of 1925 Markham was born, born and nurtured by two happy parents.


Part of Comrade Curtis and Rosa’s decision to have a child was determined by the low level of class struggle in America at the time (and world-wide especially after the aborted German revolution of 1923 which while they were not familiar with the details had sensed that something big had been missed). Labor strikes were few and far between, the party message was not getting much of a hearing outside the New York area, and the Coolidge administration was adamant about not recognizing “red” Russia. Moreover after the death of Lenin and the struggle for power in the Soviet party between Stalin and Trotsky (and in the Communist International where Zinoviev was in a bloc with Stalin against Trotsky) some of the wind went out of the sails for Comrade Curtis and Rosa, a not unknown phenomenon in the “dog days” of any movement. So while they remained good party members, paid their dues and sold the paper on Saturdays, remained loyal to the defense of Soviet Russia they were less active in those years when they were raising Markham over in Brooklyn after moving from Chicago looking for work where Curtis had found a job as a law clerk and started taking stenographic courses to bring some income into the household rather than depending on parents and the party dole.    


Comrades Curtis and Rosa had in the first few years of Comrade Markham’s life, the late 1920s, not been as attentive to what was going on in Russia as previously. Were unaware of the details of the internal struggle started after the death of Lenin in 1924 between Stalin and Trotsky at first and then eventually the whole of the old Bolshevik Party, those who had actually made the revolution rather that those who were emerging as Stalin’s allies, those who had sat on the sidelines (or on the other side) or who were Johnny-come-latelies and had no sense of party history. Although they had adhered to various factional line-ups lashed together by the Cannon-Dunne section of the party leadership they had not been as attuned during the mid to late 1920s of the way that the changes in the political situation in Moscow was reflected in the changes in the American party. It was almost as if once they had genuflected before their duty to the defense of the Soviet Union the rest of the situation there receded into vague rumors and esoteric theory.


Although early on they had been admirers of the Red Army leader, Leon Trotsky, once he became anathema in party circles in Russia they took their cues from the newly installed Lovestone leadership in the American party (and the Cannon faction as well) and were as adamant in their ritualistic denunciations of the person of Trotsky and of the Trotskyite menace as anyone. His criticism of the Stalin regime seemed like sour grapes to them and his rantings about the failure of leadership in the British trade union crisis and second Chinese revolution did not resonate with them being in a country like America where the possibilities of revolution for the foreseeable future seemed extremely remote and therefore it was impolitic for others to speak about such matters in other countries. They would pass on these same pieces of wisdom to Comrade Markham when he came of age.


They were thus shocked, shocked but not moved, when it was discovered that one of the main leaders of their faction, Jim Cannon, who had been sent to Moscow for the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in1928 came back and proved to be, or have been all along, a closet Trotskyite “wreaker.”  Here too they made their ritualistic denunciations of the counter-revolutionary Cannon and would spent the rest of their political lives denouncing him and whatever political formations he helped organize to spread Trotsky’s words. This hatred too they passed on to their son.                                                                                                 


The late 1920s and early 1930s, the time of the great world-wide economic Depression were hard times for Comrades Curtis, Rosa and their son although not because of the direct effects of that sore (everybody needs law clerks and teachers) but because it portended a change in party doctrine as mandated by the Communist International. They had always been public activists and thus ran into other left-wing groupings in their work, especially the still influential Socialist Party (mainly with the urban labor bureaucracy and the beset farmers out in the prairies). Got along with such groups, excepting of course the now banished counter-revolutionary Trotskyites who were to be beaten down if possible and an occasional Wobblie who still hadn’t gotten over the demise of that organization.


The new policy, which came down in Communist International history as the “third period” (the first being the immediate revolutionary period after World War I and the second, the mid-1920s stabilization of world capitalism), dictated that the world-wide Depression signaled the “final conflict” with capitalism and therefore any truck with non-communist forces now deemed to be “social-fascists” was forbidden. Moreover communist trade union cadre were told to create out of whole cloth “revolutionary unions.” Since party influence except in a few cities and a few unions, mainly in New York City, was minimal those policies only added to that isolation and with the exception of some stellar labor defense work and black defense work (the Scottsboro boys) done in spite of the party dictates this was an unfruitful period.  The only other bright spot was in 1933 when the newly-elected Roosevelt (himself earlier a “social-fascist” as well) formally recognized the Soviet Union.    


These were trying and mainly isolated times for the party, for the comrades and, frankly, for the gullible like Comrade Curtis and Rosa who would nightly talk about the nearness of their socialist dreams. Well, no question the period was bleak but the hard reality was that those Communist International doctrines (dictated by the now all-powerful Stalin and his cronies) led in their own way to the victory of the Nazis in Germany which would within the decade cause many tough nights worrying about the fate of the Soviet Union. Here is where the gullible part came in. Instead of blaming Stalin (or Earl Browder who took charge of the party as a well-known hack ready to do anything to advance himself although in his youth he had been an ardent militant and fervent anti-war supporter) Comrades Curtis and Rosa did somersaults to blame everybody and everything on socialists, Trotskyites, anybody. They never said word one about what happened in Germany and whose policies let Hitler in. Comrade Markham heard that kind of talk around the house as he grew up, as he became a Young Pioneer when he came of age.    


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

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914 before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed, artists who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other, writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy, writers of not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and the maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets, musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man, that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist, world and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels.

And then the war drums intensified and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for….            

Beneath fair Magdalen's storied towers
I wander in a dream,
And hear the mellow chimes float out
O'er Cherwell's ice-bound stream.

Throstle and blackbird stiff with cold
Hop on the frozen grass;
Among the aged, upright oaks
The dun deer slowly pass.

The chapel organ rolls and swells,
And voices still praise God;
But ah! the thought of youthful friends
Who lie beneath the sod.

Now wounded men with gallant eyes
Go hobbling down the street,
And nurses from the hospitals
Speed by with tireless feet.

The town is full of uniforms,
And through the stormy sky,
Frightening the rooks from the tallest trees,
The aeroplanes roar by.

The older faces still are here,
More grave and true and kind,
Ennobled by the steadfast toil
Of patient heart and mind.

And old-time friends are dearer grown
To fill a double place:
Unshaken faith makes glorious
Each forward-looking face.

Old Oxford walls are grey and worn:
She knows the truth of tears,
But to-day she stands in her ancient pride
Crowned with eternal years.

Gone are her sons: yet her heart is glad
In the glory of their youth,
For she brought them forth to live or die
By freedom, justice, truth.

Cold moonlight falls on silent towers;
The young ghosts walk with the old;
But Oxford dreams of the dawn of May
And her heart is free and bold.

_Tertius van Dyke_

_Magdalen College_,

_January, 1917_

***Damn It- Free Leonard Peltier Now-He Must Not Die In Jail!


Click below to link to Leonard Peltier Defense Committee site.

Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier was framed up for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents marauding in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 69-year-old Peltier is not scheduled to be reconsidered for parole for another eleven years! Peltier suffers from multiple serious medical conditions and is incarcerated far from his people and family.


This entry is passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee. I need add little except to say that this man, a natural leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), should never have spent a day in jail. Free him now.

"We, along with millions of others, do not believe that Leonard Peltier should have been incarcerated at all. We demand his unconditional release from prison."



Leonard Peltier
  • Leonard Peltier is an imprisoned Native American considered by Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among many others, to be a political prisoner who should be immediately released.
  • Leonard Peltier was convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents who died during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Mr. Peltier has been in prison for over 29 years.
  • The Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 marked the beginning of a three-year period of political violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The tribal chairman hired vigilantes, self titled as “GOONS,” to rid the reservation of American Indian Movement (AIM) activity and sentiment. More than 60 traditional tribal members and AIM members were murdered and scores more were assaulted. Evidence indicated GOON responsibility in the majority of crimes but despite a large FBI presence, nothing was done to stop the violence. The FBI supplied the GOONS with intelligence on AIM members and looked away as GOONS committed crimes. One former GOON member reported that the FBI supplied him with armor piercing ammunition.
  • Leonard Peltier was an AIM leader and was asked by traditional people at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to support and protect the traditional people being targeted for violence. Mr. Peltier and a small group of young AIM members set up camp on a ranch owned by the traditional Jumping Bull family.
  • On June 26, 1975 two FBI agents in unmarked cars followed a pick-up truck onto the Jumping Bull ranch. The families immediately became alarmed and feared an attack. Shots were heard and a shoot-out erupted. More than 150 agents, GOONS, and law enforcement surrounded the ranch.
  • When the shoot-out ended the two FBI agents and one Native American lay dead. The agents were injured in the shoot-out and were then shot at close range. The Native American, Joseph Stuntz, was shot in the head by a sniper’s bullet. Mr. Stuntz’s death has never been investigated, nor has anyone ever been charged in connection with his death.
  • According to FBI documents, more than 40 Native Americans participated in the gunfight, but only AIM members Bob Robideau, Darrell Butler, and Leonard Peltier were brought to trial.
  • Mr. Robideau and Mr. Butler were arrested first and went to trial. A federal jury in Iowa acquitted them on grounds of self-defense, finding that their participation in the shoot-out was justified given the climate of fear that existed on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Further, they could not be tied to the close-range shootings.
  • Leonard Peltier was arrested in Canada on February 6, 1976, along with Frank Blackhorse, a.k.a. Frank Deluca. The United States presented the Canadian court with affidavits signed by Myrtle Poor Bear who said she was Mr. Peltier’s girlfriend and allegedly saw him shoot the agents. In fact, Ms. Poor Bear had never met Mr. Peltier and was not present during the shoot-out. Soon after, Ms. Poor Bear recanted her statements and said the FBI threatened her and coerced her into signing the affidavits.
  • Mr. Peltier was extradited to the United States where he was tried in 1977. The trial was held in North Dakota before United States District Judge Paul Benson, a conservative jurist appointed to the federal bench by Richard M. Nixon. Key witnesses like Myrtle Poor Bear were not allowed to testify and unlike the Robideau/Butler trial in Iowa, evidence regarding violence on Pine Ridge was severely restricted.
  • An FBI agent who had previously testified that the agents followed a pick-up truck onto the scene, a vehicle that could not be tied to Mr. Peltier, changed his account, stating that the agents had followed a red and white van onto the scene, a vehicle which Mr. Peltier drove occasionally.
  • Three teenaged Native witnesses testified against Mr. Peltier, they all later admitted that the FBI forced them to testify. Still, not one witness identified Mr. Peltier as the shooter.
  • The U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case claimed that the government had provided the defense with all FBI documents concerning the case. To the contrary, more than 140,000 pages had been withheld in their entirety.
  • An FBI ballistics expert testified that a casing found near the agents’ bodies matched the gun tied to Mr. Peltier. However, a ballistic test proving that the casing did not come from the gun tied to Mr. Peltier was intentionally concealed.
  • The jury, unaware of the aforementioned facts, found Mr. Peltier guilty. Judge Benson, in turn, sentenced Mr. Peltier to two consecutive life terms.
  • Following the discovery of new evidence obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Mr. Peltier sought a new trial. The Eighth Circuit ruled, “There is a possibility that the jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier had the records and data improperly withheld from the defense been available to him in order to better exploit and reinforce the inconsistencies casting strong doubts upon the government's case." Yet, the court denied Mr. Peltier a new trial.
  • During oral argument, the government attorney conceded that the government does not know who shot the agents, stating that Mr. Peltier is equally guilty whether he shot the agents at point-blank range, or participated in the shoot-out from a distance. Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants participated in the shoot-out from a distance, but were acquitted.
  • Judge Heaney, who authored the decision denying a new trial, has since voiced firm support for Mr. Peltier’s release, stating that the FBI used improper tactics to convict Mr. Peltier, the FBI was equally responsible for the shoot-out, and that Mr. Peltier's release would promote healing with Native Americans.
  • Mr. Peltier has served over 29 years in prison and is long overdue for parole. He has received several human rights awards for his good deeds from behind bars which include annual gift drives for the children of Pine Ridge, fund raisers for battered women’s shelters, and donations of his paintings to Native American recovery programs.
  • Mr. Peltier suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and a heart condition. Time for justice is short.
  • Currently, Mr. Peltier’s attorneys have filed a new round of Freedom of Information Act requests with FBI Headquarters and all FBI field offices in an attempt to secure the release of all files relating to Mr. Peltier and the RESMURS investigation. To date, the FBI has engaged in a number of dilatory tactics in order to avoid the processing of these requests.


Thirty years ago, on 6 February 1976, American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Leonard Peltier was seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in western Canada. Peltier had fled there after a massive U.S. government attack the previous June—by FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents, SWAT cops and white vigilantes—on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation during which two FBI agents were killed. After Canadian authorities held Peltier for ten months in solitary confinement in Oakalla Prison, he was extradited to the U.S. on the basis of fabricated FBI testimony. In 1977, Peltier, a member of the Anishinabe and Lakota Nations, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences on frame-up murder charges stemming from the shooting of the two FBI agents.

While Peltier had sought refuge in Canada, two others charged in the agents' killings were acquitted in a federal court in Iowa. Jurors stated that they did not believe the government witnesses and that it seemed "pretty much a clear-cut case of self-defense" against the FBI invasion. In Peltier's trial the prosecution concealed ballistics tests showing that his gun could not have been used in the shooting, while the trial judge ruled out any chance of another acquittal on self-defense grounds by barring any evidence of government terror against the Pine Ridge activists. At a 1985 appeal hearing, a government attorney admitted, "We can't prove who shot those agents."

AIM had been in the Feds' gun sights because of its efforts to fight the enforced poverty of Native Americans and the continued theft of their lands by the government and energy companies, which were intent on grabbing rich uranium deposits under Sioux land in South Dakota. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee stated in 2004: "Virtually every known AIM leader in the United States was incarcerated in either state or federal prisons since (or even before) the organization's formal emergence in 1968, some repeatedly." Between 1973 and 1976, thugs of the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOON), armed and trained by the hated BIA and FBI, carried out more than 300 attacks in and around Pine Ridge, killing at least 69 people.
As we wrote during the fight against Peltier's threatened deportation, "The U.S. case against Peltier is political persecution, part of a broader attempt by the FBI to smash AIM through piling up criminal charges against its leaders, just as was done against the Black Panthers" (PTFNo. 112, 4 June 1976). AIM and Peltier were targeted by the FBI's deadly Counter-intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of disruption, frame-up and murder of the left, black militants and others. Under COINTELPRO, 38 Black Panthers were killed by the FBI and local cops. Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) spent 27 years in prison for a crime the FBI knew he could not have committed before finally winning release in 1997. Mumia Abu-Jamal—also an innocent man— remains on Pennsylvania's death row today.

In November 2003, a federal appeals court ruled, "Much of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed." But the court still refused to open the prison doors for Peltier. Last year, U.S. District Court judge William Skretny turned down Peltier's request for documents suppressed by the government, even while acknowledging that he could have been acquitted had the government not improperly withheld them. Peltier attorney Michael Kuzma stated that the evidence withheld by the government amounts to a staggering 142,579 pages!

On February 24, Skretny again ruled that the FBI can keep part of its records secret in the name of "national security." Peltier noted in a message to the March 18 protests against the Iraq occupation, "Our government uses the words 'national security' and fighting the war on transnational terrorism as a smoke screen to cover up further crimes and misconduct by the FBI." Also this February, defense attorney Barry Bachrach argued in St. Louis federal court that the federal government had no jurisdiction in Peltier's case, since the shootings occurred on a reservation.

Millions of people have signed petitions for Peltier over the years, including by 1986 some 17 million people in the former Soviet Union. His frame-up, like that of Geronimo ji Jaga and Mumia Abu-Jamal, demonstrates that there is no justice in the capitalist courts of America. While supporting all possible legal proceedings on behalf of the class-war prisoners, we place no faith whatever in the "justice" of the courts and rely solely on the power of mass protest centered on the integrated labor movement.

After Peltier's third appeal for a new trial was denied in 1993, thousands of prominent liberals, celebrities and others—ranging from Willie Nelson to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa—called for a presidential pardon. In a recent column titled "Free Leonard Peltier!" (5 February), Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote: "Many Peltier supporters put their trust in a politician named Bill Clinton, who told them that when he got elected he 'wouldn't forget' about the popular Native American leader. Their trust (like that of so many others) was betrayed once Clinton gained his office, and the FBI protested. In the waning days of his presidency, he issued pardons to folks like Marc Rich, and other wealthy campaign contributors. Leonard Peltier was left in his chains!"

Peltier is one of 16 class-war prisoners to whom the Partisan Defense Committee sends monthly stipends. For more information on his case, or to contribute to Peltier's legal defense, write to: Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, 2626 North Mesa #132, El Paso, TX 79902. Free Leonard Peltier and all class-war prisoners!

Russell Brand on Revolution, Fighting Inequality, Addiction, Militarized Policing & Noam Chomsky

[a bit too much for Amy Goodman :-)  Hats off to you, Russell]
But in recent years, Russell Brand has emerged as one of the most prominent voices of the British left. He has taken part in anti-austerity protests, spoken at Occupy Wall Street and marched with the hacker collective Anonymous. A recovering addict himself, Russell Brand has also become a leading critic of Britain’s drug laws.
Last year, he guest-edited the New Statesman, a political and current affairs magazine here in Britain. The issue included cover art by Shepard Fairey and articles by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, among many others.
He then appeared on BBC Newsnight in an interview with the well-known BBC host Jeremy Paxman. The video became a YouTube sensation.
JEREMY PAXMAN: Is it true you don’t even vote?
RUSSELL BRAND: Yeah, no, I don’t vote.
JEREMY PAXMAN: Well, how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?
RUSSELL BRAND: Well, I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. Alternative means alternative political systems.
[it gets better and better]

SATURDAY: Rally: No New U.S. War in Iraq & Syria!

Join us Saturday Nov 15th

On Friday, Nov. 7, President Obama doubled down on the war in Iraq and Syria, ordering 1500 more troops on the ground in Iraq and requesting over $5 billion in funding.

Saturday, Nov 15, 1:00 pm
Park Street Station, Boston

Rally and march to Downtown Crossing with a mock drone and die-in
  • Stop the Bombing in Syria and Iraq

  • Bring the troops home now

  • Stop sending weapons into the region which are leading to so much bloodshed

  • Support humanitarian aid, through neutral institutions, for victims of the conflict

  • Support self-determination and the demilitarization of the area

It appears that Congress is about to give the President authorization to carry out an ever-expanding war in Iraq and Syria.
Our leaders say that these new wars will last for years. But over the past 13 years, this country has already spent one trillion, five hundred billion dollars for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.
These military actions have brought hundreds of thousands of deaths, but neither peace nor security. Meanwhile, these hundreds of billions of dollars could have been used instead to provide for jobs, human needs and renewable energy.
The current campaign to sell this war has nothing to do with protecting us or the people of the area. Instead, it is intended to secure control of the area by repressive governments and sectarian militias allied (for the time being) with Washington.
The current bombing campaign is a violation of the U.N. Charter and the U.S. Constitution. In its sweep through Syria and Iraq, ISIS is using modern U.S. weapons that were previously sent into the region in order to stabilize a corrupt and brutal regime in Baghdad and to overthrow Syria’s government.
Is bombing an answer to these sectarian conflicts? Do these actions reflect the interests of working people in the U.S. or the peoples of the Middle East?
We should not be involved militarily in a sectarian conflict that our war in Iraq set off. Rather, we should support a policy of non-intervention and self-determination. Any real and lasting solution to the problems in the region must come from the peoples of that region themselves, not from the Pentagon. 
Call Congress toll-free at 877-429-0678 and say: 
“I want you to speak out strongly and to vote against against proposals that authorize use of military force and support for armed groups in Syria and Iraq. ”
Save the date for an educational forum on Syria and Iraq featuring Prof. Elaine Hagopian, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 7pm.
For more info or to help organize: United for Justice with Peace, 617-383-4857,

Upcoming Events: 

SATURDAY: Rally: No New U.S. War in Iraq & Syria!

Join us Saturday Nov 15th

On Friday, Nov. 7, President Obama doubled down on the war in Iraq and Syria, ordering 1500 more troops on the ground in Iraq and requesting over $5 billion in funding.

Saturday, Nov 15, 1:00 pm
Park Street Station, Boston

Rally and march to Downtown Crossing with a mock drone and die-in
  • Stop the Bombing in Syria and Iraq

  • Bring the troops home now

  • Stop sending weapons into the region which are leading to so much bloodshed

  • Support humanitarian aid, through neutral institutions, for victims of the conflict

  • Support self-determination and the demilitarization of the area

It appears that Congress is about to give the President authorization to carry out an ever-expanding war in Iraq and Syria.
Our leaders say that these new wars will last for years. But over the past 13 years, this country has already spent one trillion, five hundred billion dollars for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.
These military actions have brought hundreds of thousands of deaths, but neither peace nor security. Meanwhile, these hundreds of billions of dollars could have been used instead to provide for jobs, human needs and renewable energy.
The current campaign to sell this war has nothing to do with protecting us or the people of the area. Instead, it is intended to secure control of the area by repressive governments and sectarian militias allied (for the time being) with Washington.
The current bombing campaign is a violation of the U.N. Charter and the U.S. Constitution. In its sweep through Syria and Iraq, ISIS is using modern U.S. weapons that were previously sent into the region in order to stabilize a corrupt and brutal regime in Baghdad and to overthrow Syria’s government.
Is bombing an answer to these sectarian conflicts? Do these actions reflect the interests of working people in the U.S. or the peoples of the Middle East?
We should not be involved militarily in a sectarian conflict that our war in Iraq set off. Rather, we should support a policy of non-intervention and self-determination. Any real and lasting solution to the problems in the region must come from the peoples of that region themselves, not from the Pentagon. 
Call Congress toll-free at 877-429-0678 and say: 
“I want you to speak out strongly and to vote against against proposals that authorize use of military force and support for armed groups in Syria and Iraq. ”
Save the date for an educational forum on Syria and Iraq featuring Prof. Elaine Hagopian, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 7pm.
For more info or to help organize: United for Justice with Peace, 617-383-4857,