Friday, March 27, 2015

In Honor Of The 144th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-From The American Left History Blog Archives(2007) - On American Political Discourse


Markin comment (Winter 2015):


In the period 2006-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time and my only fear is that now that Obama and his lame duck presidency are in full flower that as the machines are gearing up for the 2016 presidential campaign maw I will seeking another watershed election where there is none will be tempted, sorely tempted to put my foot in the waters of campaign commentary again. If I do so I deserve the fate that befell Theodore White in his endless campaign books every four years starting with the JFK-Nixon fistfight in 1960 which left his a blathering idiot before he was done. Or worse since he was (is) something of a muse for me what happened to the later Hunter Thompson, Doctor Gonzo when he got caught up in the avalanche of presidential campaigns which probably played no little part in his eventual suicide. I am forewarned.    


In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter (literally now as that stunted social network operation replaces Facebook as the place to be). I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government . That is where the link to the Paris Commune comes in which in its time was a beacon for the international working class, a first failed attempt for the fellahin to taek charge of their own lives, govern as they saw fit. So with the Paris Commune and its lessons as heady backdrop we have enough, more than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then as talking points to drown out the coming deluge does not have a bad feel to it. Read on.


A Small Victory

One of the best pieces of political wisdom I have ever received, and that from an old communist, is that a left political militant must make sure to protect the gains of the past political fights after going on to fight new battles. The nature of capitalist politics is such that no hard-fought political gain comes with an automatic guarantee that it is not reversible. Additionally, I was told that if the political tide is running against you and you cannot hold on to those hard fought gains then you must keep up the propaganda fight and not give into the reactionary flow. Enduring a seemingly never-ending stream of political and social reversals in the ‘culture wars’ over the last few decades that advice has kept my head above water.

In my ‘flaming’ at first liberal, then radical youth three issues formed the core of my political beliefs: the fight for black civil right in the South (and later in the North); the fight for nuclear disarmament; and, the fight against the barbaric death penalty. A look at the current political landscape confirms that those struggles are still in dire need of completion. One need only look at the current fight for freedom for the Jena Six down in Louisiana, the overflowing American nuclear arsenal and the fact that 37 states and the federal government still have the death penalty on their books. This last fact is what I am interested in commenting on today.

On Thursday December 14, 2007 the New Jersey Assembly voted, apparently mainly along party lines, to abolish the death penalty in that state. As a result it only awaits the governor’s signature to become law and thus become the first state in forty years to take such action. The governor has indicated that he will sign the legislation. What is more, other states are in various stages of taking the same action. And, of course, there is an unofficial moratorium in place while the United States Supreme Court decides whether lethal injection in the administration of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. So the worm turns, perhaps.

During the past decade there has been more than enough evidence from such sources as DNA testing to the results of the various Innocent Projects to convince any rationale person that the administration of the death penalty and even the idea of that ultimate act as a penalty is ‘arbitrary and capricious’, as the language of the legal decisions would have it. In the New Jersey debate one Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo was quoted by Tom Hester, Jr. of the Associated Press as saying “It’s time New Jersey got out of the execution business. Capital punishment is costly, discriminatory, immoral, and barbaric. We’re a better state that one that puts people to death.” Well put. I would only add that from my leftist perspective we do not want to concede to this government the power over life and death for the guilty or the innocent. Put concretely in today’s political terms we do not want the George W. Bushes of the world to have that power.

Coming from Massachusetts, the state that sent the framed-up and martyred Sacco and Vanzetti to their executions, in my youth I was strongly aware of the injustice of the death penalty. One of my early political acts in high school was to attend the annual memorial meeting here in their honor. Moreover, in my household at least, there were always whispers about the injustice done to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Not out of any political sympathy but from the traditional Catholic antipathy to the death penalty. Those were the days when we had the death penalty advocates somewhat on the run but the spirit of the Sixties barely outlasted the decade as the yahoos went on a rampart for reintroduction. Pardon me then if I see just a little glimmer of light that we may have turned the corner on this issue again. But, as noted above, we better keep fighting like hell just the same.


No comments:

Post a Comment