Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Latest From The Partisan Defense Committee Website- And A Personal Appeal From The American Left History Blog - Remembering The Class-War Prisoners During The Holiday Appeal     


James P. Cannon (center)-Founding leader of The International Labor Defense- a model for labor defense work in the 1920s and 1930s.

Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.

Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010, updated December 2014.

Markin comment:

I like to think of myself as a long-time fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the international working class. Cases from early on in the 1970s when the organization was founded and the committee defended the Black Panthers who were being targeted by every police agency that had an say in the matter, the almost abandoned by the left Weather Underground (in its various incantations) and Chilean miners in the wake of the Pinochet coup there in 1973 up to more recent times with the Mumia death penalty case, defense of the Occupy movement and the NATO three, and defense of the heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley).

Moreover the PDC is an organization committed, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program through the annual Holiday Appeal drive. Unfortunately having to raise these funds in support of political prisoners for many years now, too many years, as the American and international capitalist class and their hangers-on have declared relentless war, recently a very one-sided war, against those who would cry out against the monster. Attempting to silence voices from zealous lawyers like Lynne Stewart, articulate death-row prisoners like Mumia and the late Tookie Williams, anti-fascist street fighters like the Tingsley Five to black liberation fighters like the Assata Shakur, the Omaha Three and the Angola Three and who ended up on the wrong side of a cop and state vendetta and anti-imperialist fighters like the working-class based Ohio Seven and student-based Weather Underground who took Che Guevara’s admonition to wage battle inside the “belly of the beast” seriously. Others, other militant labor and social liberation fighters as well, too numerous to mention here but remembered.

Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year tough I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson’s present class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers in their better days, the days when the American state really was out to kill or detain every last supporter, and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven,  as represented by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their younger days; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today (also Black Panther-connected); the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. Many, too many for most of that time. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly. I urge others to do the same now at the holidays and throughout the year. The class-war prisoners must not stand alone. 
Free Chelsea Manning - President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston


In honor of Chelsea Manning’s 27th birthday, this December 20th 2014, responding to a call from the Chelsea Manning Support Network and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike long-time supporters of freedom for Chelsea Manning from the Boston Chelsea Manning Support Committee, Veterans For Peace and other activists in Boston will celebrate Chelsea’s birthday. Currently, Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike actions are planned for London, San Francisco, Berlin, and Philadelphia.

Supporters are encouraged to also organize an event in their area, and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike will publicize it.  Write to for more information and to share details of your event.

Boston vigil details:

1:00-2:00 PM Saturday, December 20
Park Street Station Entrance on the Boston Common

Imprisoned in 2010 and held for months under torturous conditions, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013. If this stands, she’ll be out in 2045. We cannot let this happen- – we have to get her out! We will not leave our sister behind. Bring yourself and encourage others to attend and sign the petition for a presidential pardon from Barack Obama in this important show of support to Chelsea Manning  

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning

November 17, 2014 by Chelsea Manning Support Network

On Chelsea Manning’s 27th birthday, this December 17th 2014, the Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike are organizing vigils in her honor. Currently, actions are planned for London, San Francisco, Berlin, and Philadelphia.

Supporters are encouraged to also organize an event in their area, and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike will publicize it.  Write to for more information and to share details of your event.

London vigil details:

2:30-4:00 PM Tuesday, December 17
On the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ Charing Cross

(St. Martin’s request that vigils on the steps are silent)
Details on other locations TBA – Check back for more info.

From Payday Men’s Network & Queer Strike on the vigils:
Imprisoned in 2010 and held for months under torturous conditions, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013. If this stands, she’ll be out in 2045. We cannot let this happen
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 in the time of the supposedly big deal Basle Socialist Conference which got reflected in more circles than just workingmen, small shopkeepers and small farmers, or 1913 for that matter when the big deal European powers were waging "proxy" war, making ominous moves, but most importantly working three shifts in the munitions plants, oh hell, even in the beginning of 1914 before the war clouds got a full head of steam that summer they all profusely professed their undying devotion to peace, to wage no war for any reason. Reasons: artists who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society, freaked out at what humankind had produced, was producing to place everybody in an inescapable box and hence their cubic fascinations from which to run, put the pieces to paint; sculptors who put twisted pieces of scrape metal juxtaposed to each other  to get that same effect, an effect which would be replicated on all those foreboding trenched fronts; writers, not all of them socialists either, some were conservatives that saw empire, their particular empire, in grave danger once the blood started flowing  who saw the v   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 for the sweet nothing maidens to spent their waking hours 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 with all their creative brethren would go to the hells, literary Dante's rings, before touching the hair of another human, that come the war drums they all 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, they who could not resist the call, could not resist those maidens now busy all day strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets for their soldier boys, those poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went sheepishly to the trenches with the rest of the flower of European youth to die deathless deaths in their thousands for, well, for ….            



You dare to say with perjured lips,
  "We fight to make the ocean free"?
_You_, whose black trail of butchered ships
  Bestrews the bed of every sea
  Where German submarines have wrought
  Their horrors! Have you never thought,--
What you call freedom, men call piracy!

Unnumbered ghosts that haunt the wave
  Where you have murdered, cry you down;
And seamen whom you would not save,
  Weave now in weed-grown depths a crown
  Of shame for your imperious head,--
  A dark memorial of the dead,--
Women and children whom you left to drown.

Nay, not till thieves are set to guard
  The gold, and corsairs called to keep
O'er peaceful commerce watch and ward,
  And wolves to herd the helpless sheep,
  Shall men and women look to thee--
  Thou ruthless Old Man of the Sea--
To safeguard law and freedom on the deep!

In nobler breeds we put our trust:
  The nations in whose sacred lore
The "Ought" stands out above the "Must,"
  And Honor rules in peace and war.
  With these we hold in soul and heart,
  With these we choose our lot and part,
Till Liberty is safe on sea and shore.

_Henry van Dyke_

_February 11, 1917_


Sometimes I fly at dawn above the sea,
Where, underneath, the restless waters flow--
  Silver, and cold, and slow,
Dim in the east there burns a new-born sun,
Whose rosy gleams along the ripples run,
  Save where the mist droops low,
Hiding the level loneliness from me.

And now appears beneath the milk-white haze
A little fleet of anchored ships, which lie
  In clustered company,
And seem as they are yet fast bound by sleep,
Although the day has long begun to peep,
  With red-inflamèd eye,
Along the still, deserted ocean ways.

The fresh, cold wind of dawn blows on my face
As in the sun's raw heart I swiftly fly,
  And watch the seas glide by.
Scarce human seem I, moving through the skies,
And far removed from warlike enterprise--
  Like some great gull on high
Whose white and gleaming wings beat on through space.

Then do I feel with God quite, quite alone,
High in the virgin morn, so white and still,
  And free from human ill:
My prayers transcend my feeble earth-bound plaints--
As though I sang among the happy Saints
  With many a holy thrill--
As though the glowing sun were God's bright Throne.

My flight is done. I cross the line of foam
That breaks around a town of grey and red,
  Whose streets and squares lie dead
Beneath the silent dawn--then am I proud
That England's peace to guard I am allowed;
  Then bow my humble head,
In thanks to Him Who brings me safely home.

_Paul Bewsher_


["If lost hounds could speak when they cast up next day after an
unchecked night among the wild life of the dark they would talk much as
our destroyers do."--_Rudyard Kipling_.]

They had hot scent across the spumy sea,
  _Gehenna_ and her sister, swift _Shaitan_,
  That in the pack, with _Goblin_, _Eblis_ ran
And many a couple more, full cry, foot-free;
The dog-fox and his brood were fain to flee,
  But bare of fang and dangerous to the van
  That pressed them close. So when the kill began
Some hounds were lamed and some died splendidly.

But from the dusk along the Skagerack,
  Until dawn loomed upon the Reef of Horn
    And the last fox had slunk back to his earth,
They kept the great traditions of the pack,
  Staunch-hearted through the hunt, as they were born,
    These hounds that England suckled at the birth.

_Reginald McIntosh Cleveland_


Oh, down by Millwall Basin as I went the other day,
I met a skipper that I knew, and to him I did say:
"Now what's the cargo, Captain, that brings you up this way?"

"Oh, I've been up and down (said he) and round about also....
From Sydney to the Skagerack, and Kiel to Callao....
With a leaking steam-pipe all the way to Californ-i-o....

"With pots and pans and ivory fans and every kind of thing,
Rails and nails and cotton bales, and sewer pipes and string....
But now I'm through with cargoes, and I'm here to serve the King!

"And if it's sweeping mines (to which my fancy somewhat leans)
Or hanging out with booby-traps for the skulking submarines,
I'm here to do my blooming best and give the beggars beans!

"A rough job and a tough job is the best job for me,
And what or where I don't much care, I'll take what it may be,
For a tight place is the right place when it's foul weather at sea!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There's not a port he doesn't know from Melbourne to New York;
He's as hard as a lump of harness beef, and as salt as pickled pork....
And he'll stand by a wreck in a murdering gale and count it part of his

He's the terror of the fo'c's'le when he heals its various ills
With turpentine and mustard leaves, and poultices and pills....
But he knows the sea like the palm of his hand, as a shepherd knows the

He'll spin you yarns from dawn to dark--and half of 'em are true!
He swears in a score of languages, and maybe talks in two!
And ... he'll lower a boat in a hurricane to save a drowning crew.

A rough job or a tough job--he's handled two or three--
And what or where he won't much care, nor ask what the risk may be....
For a tight place is the right place when it's wild weather at sea!

_C. Fox Smith_


Courage came to you with your boyhood's grace
    Of ardent life and limb.
Each day new dangers steeled you to the test,
    To ride, to climb, to swim.
Your hot blood taught you carelessness of death
        With every breath.

So when you went to play another game
    You could not but be brave:
An Empire's team, a rougher football field,
    The end--perhaps your grave.
What matter? On the winning of a goal
        You staked your soul.

Yes, you wore courage as you wore your youth
    With carelessness and joy.
But in what Spartan school of discipline
    Did you get patience, boy?
How did you learn to bear this long-drawn pain
        And not complain?

Restless with throbbing hopes, with thwarted aims,
    Impulsive as a colt,
How do you lie here month by weary month
    Helpless, and not revolt?
What joy can these monotonous days afford
        Here in a ward?

Yet you are merry as the birds in spring,
    Or feign the gaiety,
Lest those who dress and tend your wound each day
    Should guess the agony.
Lest they should suffer--this the only fear
        You let draw near.

Greybeard philosophy has sought in books
    And argument this truth,
That man is greater than his pain, but you
    Have learnt it in your youth.
You know the wisdom taught by Calvary
        At twenty-three.

Death would have found you brave, but braver still
    You face each lagging day,
A merry Stoic, patient, chivalrous,
    Divinely kind and gay.
You bear your knowledge lightly, graduate
        Of unkind Fate.

Careless philosopher, the first to laugh,
    The latest to complain.
Unmindful that you teach, you taught me this
    In your long fight with pain:
Since God made man so good--here stands my creed--
        God's good indeed.

_Winifred M. Letts_

President Obama, Pardon Pvt. Manning

Because the public deserves the truth and whistle-blowers deserve protection.

We are military veterans, journalists, educators, homemakers, lawyers, students, and citizens.
We ask you to consider the facts and free US Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

As an Intelligence Analyst stationed in Iraq, Pvt. Manning had access to some of America’s dirtiest secrets—crimes such as torture, illegal surveillance, and corruption—often committed in our name.

Manning acted on conscience alone, with selfless courage and conviction, and gave these secrets to us, the public.

“I believed that if the general public had access to the information contained within the[Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy,”

Manning explained to the military court. “I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”

Journalists used these documents to uncover many startling truths. We learned:

Donald Rumsfeld and General Petraeus helped support torture in Iraq.
Deliberate civilian killings by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan went unpunished.
Thousands of civilian casualties were never acknowledged publicly.
Most Guantanamo detainees were innocent.

For service on behalf of an informed democracy, Manning was sentenced by military judge Colonel Denise Lind to a devastating 35 years in prison.

Government secrecy has grown exponentially during the past decade, but more secrecy does not make us safer when it fosters unaccountability.

Pvt. Manning was convicted of Espionage Act charges for providing WikiLeaks with this information, but  the prosecutors noted that they would have done the same had the information been given to The New York Times. Prosecutors did not show that enemies used this information against the US, or that the releases resulted in any casualties.

Pvt. Manning has already been punished, even in violation of military law.

She has been:

Held in confinement since May 29, 2010.

• Subjected to illegal punishment amounting to torture for nearly nine months at Quantico Marine Base, Virginia, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 13—facts confirmed by both the United Nation’s lead investigator on torture and military judge Col. Lind.

• Denied a speedy trial in violation of UCMJ, Article 10, having been imprisoned for over three years before trial.

• Denied anything resembling a fair trial when prosecutors were allowed to change the charge sheet to match evidence presented, and enter new evidence, after closing arguments.

Pvt. Manning believed you, Mr. President, when you came into office promising the most transparent administration in history, and that you would protect whistle-blowers. We urge you to start upholding those promises, beginning with this American prisoner of conscience.

We urge you to grant Pvt. Manning’s petition for a Presidential Pardon.

FIRST& LAST NAME _____________________________________________________________

STREET ADDRESS _____________________________________________________________

CITY, STATE & ZIP _____________________________________________________________
EMAIL& PHONE _____________________________________________________________
Please return to: For more information:
Private Manning Support Network, c/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610

Markin comments:   

There is no question that now that her trial, if one can called what took place down in Fort Meade a trial in the summer of 2013 rather than a travesty, that a year after her conviction on twenty plus counts and having received an outrageous thirty-five year sentence essentially for telling us the truth about American atrocities and  nefarious actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the American government can stick its nose that Chelsea Manning's case has dropped from view. Although she occasionally gets an Op/Ed opportunity and has several legal moves going from action to get the  necessary hormonal treatments reflecting her real sexual identity to now preparing the first appeal of her conviction to another military tribunal the popular uproar against her imprisonment has become a hush. While the appeals process may produce some results, perhaps a reduction in sentence, the short way home for her is a presidential pardon right now. I urge everybody to sign on to the Amnesty International petition above to put the pressure on President Barack Obama for clemency.                   


I attended some of the sessions of Chelsea Manning’s court-martial in the summer of 2013 and am often asked about what she could expect from the various procedures going forward to try to “spring” her from the clutches of the American government, or as I say whenever I get the chance to not leave “our buddy behind” in the time-honored military parlance. I have usually answered depending on what stage her post-conviction case is in that her sentence was draconian by all standards for someone who did not, although they tried to pin this on her, “aid the enemy.” Certainly Judge Lind though she was being lenient with thirty-five years when the government wanted sixty (and originally more before some of the counts were consolidated). The next step was to appeal, really now that I think about it, a pro forma appeal to the commanding general of the Washington, D.C. military district where the trial was held. There were plenty of grounds to reduce the sentence but General Buchanan backed up his trial judge in the winter of 2014. Leaving Chelsea supporters right now with only the prospect of a presidential pardon to fight for as the court appeals are put together which will take some time.

No question since her trial, conviction, and draconian sentence of thirty-five years imposed by a vindictive American government heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning’s has fallen off the radar. The incessant news cycle which has a short life cycle covered her case sporadically, covered the verdict, covered the sentencing and with some snickers cover her announcement directly after the sentencing that she wanted to live as her true self, a woman. (A fact that her supporters were aware of prior to the announcement but agreed that the issue of her sexual identity should not get mixed up with her heroic actions.) Since then despite occasional public rallies and actions her case had tended, as most political prisoner cases do, to get caught up in the appeals process and that keeps it out of the limelight.            

On Sunday October 12th Chelsea Manning was honored and remembered by the Veterans For Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade with a banner calling for her freedom as they marched in the annual Honk parade which goes through Somerville, Ma into Harvard Square for the Octoberfest. The banner drew applause and return shouts of “Free Chelsea.” The Smedley Butler Brigade continues to stand behind our sister. We will not leave her behind. We also urge everybody to sign the Amnesty International on-line petition calling on President Obama to use his constitutional authority to pardon Chelsea Manning  

I got my start in working with anti-war GIs back in the early 1970s after my own military service was over. After my own service I felt a compelling need to fight the monster from the outside after basically fruitless and difficult efforts inside. That work included helping create a couple of GI coffeehouses near Fort Devens in Massachusetts and down at Fort Dix in New Jersey in order for GIs to have a “friendly” space in which to think through what they wanted to do in relationship to the military.

Some wanted help to apply for the then tough to get discharge for conscientious objection. Tough because once inside the military, at least this was the way things went, the military argued against the depth of the applying soldier’s convictions and tended to dismiss such applications out of hand. Only after a few civil court cases opened up the application process later when the courts ruled that the military was acting arbitrarily and capriciously in rejecting such applications out of hand did things open up a little in that channel. Others wanted to know their rights against what they were told by their officers and NCOs. But most, the great majority, wanted a place, a non-military place, a non-GI club, where they could get away from the smell, taste and macho talk of war.

Although there are still a few places where the remnants of coffeehouses exist like the classic Oleo Strut down at Fort Hood in Texas the wars of the past decade or so had produced no great GI resistance. There are many reasons for this, mainly the kind of volunteer the military accepts but probably a greater factor is that back then was the dominance of the citizen-soldier, the draftee, in stirring things up, stirring things up inside as a reflection of what was going on out on the streets and on the campuses. I still believe that in the final analysis you have to get to the “cannon fodder,” the grunts, the private soldier if you want to stop the incessant war machine. Check out what happened, for example, on Russian the front when the desperate soldiers left the trenches during 1917 after they got fed up with the Czar and the whole mess.

Everyone who has the least bit of sympathy for the anti-war struggles of the past decade should admire what Chelsea Manning has done by her actions releasing that treasure trove of information about American atrocities in Iraq and elsewhere. She has certainly paid the price for her convictions with a draconian sentence. It is hard to judge how history will record any particular heroic action like hers but if the last real case with which her action can be compared with is a guide, Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, she should find an honored spot. Moreover Chelsea did that action while in the military which has its own peculiar justice system. Her action, unlike back in Vietnam War times, when the Army was half in mutiny was one of precious few this time out. Now that I think about she does not have to worry about her honored place in history. It is already assured. But just to be on the safe side let’s fight like hell for her freedom. We will not leave our sister Chelsea behind.              


Note that this image is PVT Manning's preferred photo.

Note that this image is PVT Manning’s preferred photo.

C_Manning_Finish (1)

Friday, December 12, 2014

***Some Guys Get The Tough Breaks- George Raft’s Invisible Stripes

DVD Review

From The Pen of Frank Jackman 

Back in his corner boy days in the early 1960s, that corner being located in front of Jack Slack’s bowling alleys on Thornton Street in North Adamsville Frankie Riley, the acknowledged schoolboy king of that corner, used to regal the rest of us with his sad sack stories about guys he (and we) knew from the neighborhoods who bought the ticket, took the big step-off to the state pen, to Walpole, Concord, or Norfolk depending on what they had for space, and how bad the guy have screwed up, and how many times. One guy, Spike Wallace, a big tough guy whose name was well known to the assembled gathering had already been in Concord for a nickel for an armed robbery he carried out single-handedly (two years off for good time, first serious offense, although he had an arm’s length list of juvenile and petty adult offenses, money offenses like purse snatching, larceny, auto thief, a few con games with some rubes in Gloversville). Despite that good time prison hardened Spike on the inside, made him more determined than ever in his career path figuring that if he had been smarter he would have shot the gas station attendant whom he robbed and who identified him at trial and be done with it. Not that he was afraid to use a gun, had been a shoot ‘em up guy on a couple of occasions that he never got caught on. But here is where Spike kind of ran out of luck when the deal went down because no sooner had he gotten out of stir than he was picked up for his part in the South Shore National Bank heist, the heist where an overeager bank guard was wounded and in no time they traced the bullet to a gun Spike was known to use (he was crazy for this old Colt .45 and refused to ditch it and thus the ease of the pick-up). So Spike will be doing the next ten to twenty washing floors for the state.
Another guy, Slippery Samson, a good guy just a couple of years older than us who I knew in junior high, hung around with for a while and did a couple of small goofy capers with, you know, clipping stuff from stores, stealing milk money from younger kids, and then kind of lost track of, was beginning his career for the state, or getting ready to if the judge and jury in the matter had any say about the question for a short dough stick up of the Esso gas station over on Wayland Street. The funny thing about Slippery was that he could have, should have gotten away clean, should have been sitting over on Carson Beach in Southie drinking his beer from a brown-bagged can but somebody, some guy from the corner boy crowd at Harry’s Variety (one of Red Crowley’s rough crew boys whom we kept clear of under all conditions and kept clear of Harry’s too just in case Red didn’t like our faces one day and wanted to do something about it), dimed on him after Slippery had taken the guy’s girl from him one heavy-drinking night and he was sore enough to break the code. That guy was dog meat once things settled, not from Slippery who was kind of a lone wolf and didn’t have guys to back him up, but Red who probably chain whipped his ass just for breaking the code, his corner boy or not.
Some nights Frankie would have no new guy from the neighborhoods to talk about, no new guy who didn’t get a break, or who should have beaten some rap except this, that or the other thing happened to block his path and keep him off the streets. On those nights, some of them anyway, some night when some frail hadn’t busted one of us up, we weren’t talking about lack of dough and maybe how to get some quick, or daydreaming about some grandiose caper, Frankie would fill up the time giving us his take on some movie he had seen up at the Strand Theater in Adamsville Square. Now the reason I mention the Strand is because they were then strictly a re-run operation and what they re-ran to keep expenses down was black and white movies that with everything in color nobody but solemn, serious, what did Frankie call them, call himself, oh yeah, an aficionado, wanted to watch black and white films. But see Frankie was crazy for them not so much that they were not in color as that some of the greatest gangster movies ever made were done in black and white. You know Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney and plenty of rough looking guys who had supporting roles. So one night, one Saturday night if I recall, Frankie was telling us about this film he had taken his sweetie, Joanne, to on the previous Friday night at the Strand, Invisible Stripes, starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. (By the way Joanne hated the Strand, hated the stink of the place from winos and junkies who stayed there all day since they didn’t mind seeing the same film about six times as long as they could come out off the street and nobody bothered them there, hated black and white films, said they depressed her, hated old time gangster movies worst with the random violence and piled up bodies, but she loved Frankie against all reason, had since sixth grade, and so there you have it.)                     
Frankie said it was funny how he didn’t like the guy George Raft played from the start, Clift, since the opening scenes had him and the guy Humphrey Bogart played, Chuck, getting ready to leave the big house at Sing Sing after doing their time. In the inevitable last meeting with the warden Clift spent his time fawning all over him saying that he would follow the straight and narrow now, that he had seen the error of his ways, that he had learned his lesson about staying on the right side of the law and all that blather that would sicken even the most naïve corner boy. Jack Slack corner boys were by no means the toughest, far from it, since Red Crowley’s corner boys were real menaces to society but we still imbibed all the old corner boy attitudes, especially the ban against sucking up to authority figures, unless you were conning them for the greater good.
Chuck, in contrast, knew the score, knew that it was every man for himself in this wicked old world, and knew that he was on borrowed time anyway, knew he was a dead man walking so he told the warden to save all the pretty speeches, to spare him all the goodie bullshit, and save the good words for the Sunday school boys. So Frankie’s money was flat-out on Chuck to go out blazing, especially in the 1930s when the streets were mean at best, meaner than usual what with everybody scraping for dough, and the prison system was set up as just a warehouse for “dead men walking.” So the tale was set early on, the good con-bad con duel that would drive most of the movie.  
Here is another funny thing though Frankie said as the plot moved along that he got to liking Clift better (although Clift did have his sappy moments around his mother, but a lot of guys are like that, keeping the lid on as Frankie told everybody he had to do with his own steely-eyed Irish “don’t air your dirty linen in public” mother). Frankie still though Clift was foolish to think he could become a regular citizen but he really did take a beating from society once he got on the outside. First off he lost his fickle girlfriend who didn’t want to hang around with an ex-con, saw no future in staying knee-deep in the tenements which appeared to be Clift’s fate. Truth, Frankie said, she probably had some other Johnny on the hook, probably was going between the sheets with some other guy the first day Clift hit the big house, although she swore she hadn’t, had been true blue but Clift could not have been that trusting no matter how bad he wanted to have those white picket fence dreams. The dame thing as Frankie said he knew from the Frankie-Joanne battles could really throw a guy off since half of what guys did things for, illegal things, was to keep some frail in clover so he felt Clift really did catch a tough break there. Then he lost a succession of lower and lower skilled jobs due to his status as an ex-con even though a condition of parole was to be employed, or else. Then when he did look like he was going to survive in the employed world even if on cheap street he got picked up and falsely accused of being the finger man for a robbery at the place where he worked. On top of that his younger brother, played by William Holden, was getting ready to chuck the nine to five life, started to see some value in Clift’s old lifestyle, started to see he had to take what he needed from wherever he could get it, and from whoever he could get it from so he and his girl could get off the dime on cheap street. Clift freaked out when that issue came to a head, when younger brother made more sense that Clift’s taking the guff from society. So Clift went looking for his old pal, Chuck.
Of course Chuck, having no illusions about society’s attitudes toward ex-cons and itchy for dough had gone back to robbing banks and other such places where dough is, or stealing stuff you can get dough for. Chuck had legendary bank robber Willie Sutton’s attitude. Sutton a personal hero of Frankie’s as he made clear almost every time he talked gangster movies since he famously said when he asked by the coppers why he robbed banks he said that was because that was where the dough was. Smart boy, and Chuck was smart to follow that advice. And so Clift bought into the operations with him, and wound up doing pretty good at it for a guy who wanted to go on the straight and narrow. But he started to buckle under when he had enough dough to put younger brother right.
Frankie said even though it bothered him naturally no film, black and white or color, could let guys do robberies, shoot up a few places, nick a few coppers, public or private, and not pay any price, no, just can’t be done. So naturally, after the younger brother had been falsely implicated in a robbery after Clift had called the robbery business quits, there has to be a final confrontation between the cops and the bad guys, bad guys losing, losing fatally including Clift. Frankie said when the deal went down, when the die was cast, Clift went out kind of righteous, went out better than that sniveling stuff with the warden at the beginning of the film. And maybe thinking about Slippery, and maybe about us too, Frankie said guys like Clift never drew a blessed break in this wicked old world. Amen, brother.