Saturday, January 17, 2015

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

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914, the first few months anyway, before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed their unmitigated horror at the thought of war, thought of the old way of doing business in the world. Yes the artists of every school but the Cubist/Fauvists/Futurists and  Surrealists or those who would come to speak for those movements, those 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 saw that building a mighty machine from which you had to run created many problems; writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy and the diplomats and high and mighty would put the brakes on in time, not realizing that they were all squabbling cousins; writers of serious and 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, too much sex to harness to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and by having half-virgin, neat trick, maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets; musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, not the stress and strife of the tattoos of war marches with their tinny conceits; 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. They all professed loudly (and those few who did not profess, could not profess because they were happily getting their blood rising, kept their own consul until the summer), that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist worlds and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels. They would stay the course.  

And then the war drums intensified, the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts 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, well, for humankind, of course, their always fate  ….            

Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath

By Thomas Putnam
Researchers come to the Hemingway archives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library primarily to examine Ernest Hemingway's original manuscripts and his correspondence with family, friends, and fellow writers. But upon entering, it is hard not to notice the artifacts that ornament the Hemingway Room—including a mounted antelope head from a 1933 safari, an authentic lion-skin rug, and original artwork that Hemingway owned.
Though not as conspicuous, one object on display is far more consequential: a piece of shrapnel from the battlefield where Hemingway was wounded during World War I. Had the enemy mortar attack been more successful that fateful night, the world may never have known one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Conversely, had Hemingway not been injured in that attack, he not may have fallen in love with his Red Cross nurse, a romance that served as the genesis of A Farewell to Arms, one of the century's most read war novels.
Hemingway kept the piece of shrapnel, along with a small handful of other "charms" including a ring set with a bullet fragment, in a small leather change purse. Similarly he held his war experience close to his heart and demonstrated throughout his life a keen interest in war and its effects on those who live through it.
No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works.
Scholars, including Seán Hemingway, the author's grandson and editor of the recent anthology, Hemingway on War, continue to use documents and photographs in the Hemingway Collection to educate others about Hemingway and his writings on war. The topic of war has also been central to Hemingway forums and conferences organized by the Kennedy Library, including a recent session entitled "Writers on War." And at the Hemingway centennial, held at the library in 1999, many speakers referenced Hemingway's experience in war and his observations on its aftermath as an abiding element of his literary legacy.

Hemingway and World War I

During the First World War, Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve in Italy as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross. In June 1918, while running a mobile canteen dispensing chocolate and cigarettes for soldiers, he was wounded by Austrian mortar fire. "Then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red," he recalled in a letter home.
Despite his injuries, Hemingway carried a wounded Italian soldier to safety and was injured again by machine-gun fire. For his bravery, he received the Silver Medal of Valor from the Italian government—one of the first Americans so honored.
Hemingway posed for this 1918 portrait in Milan, Italy. (Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, Kennedy Library)
Commenting on this experience years later in Men at War, Hemingway wrote: "When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it."
Recuperating for six months in a Milan hospital, Hemingway fell in love with Agnes von Kurowsky, an American Red Cross nurse. At war's end, he returned to his home in Oak Park, Illinois, a different man. His experience of travel, combat, and love had broadened his outlook. Yet while his war experience had changed him dramatically, the town he returned to remained very much the same.
Two short stories (written years later) offer insights into his homecoming and his understanding of the dilemmas of the returned war veteran. In "Soldier's Home," Howard Krebs returns home from Europe later than many of his peers. Having missed the victory parades, he is unable to reconnect with those he left behind—especially his mother, who cannot understand how her son has been changed by the war.
"Hemingway's great war work deals with aftermath," stated author Tobias Wolff at the Hemingway centennial celebration. "It deals with what happens to the soul in war and how people deal with that afterward. The problem that Hemingway set for himself in stories like 'Soldier's Home' is the difficulty of telling the truth about what one has been through. He knew about his own difficulty in doing that."
After living for months with his parents, during which time he learned from Agnes that she had fallen in love with another man, he decamped with two friends to his family's Michigan summer cottage, where he had learned to hunt and fish as a young boy. The trip would be the genesis of Big Two-Hearted River—a story that follows one of Hemingway's best known fictional characters, Nick Adams, recently returned from war, on a fishing trip in northern Michigan.
Ernest Hemingway at home in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1919. (Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, Kennedy Library)
In the story, Hemingway never actually mentions the war and the injuries Nick has sustained in it—they simply loom below the surface. In this and other stories in his first major collection, In Our Time, Hemingway does more than advance a narrative; he also debuts a new style of writing fiction.
"The way we write about war or even think about war was affected fundamentally by Hemingway," stated Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., another speaker at the Hemingway centennial. In the early 1920s, in reaction to their experience of world war, Hemingway and other modernists lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization. One of those institutions was literature itself. Nineteenth-century novelists were prone to a florid and elaborate style of writing. Hemingway, using a distinctly American vernacular, created a new style of fiction "in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly."
"Hemingway was at the crest of a wave of modernists," noted fellow centennial panelist and book critic Gail Caldwell, "that were rebelling against the excesses and hypocrisy of Victorian prose. The First World War is the watershed event that changes world literature as well as how Hemingway responded to it."

Return to Postwar Europe

Hemingway returned to Europe after marrying his first wife, Hadley Richardson. His 1923 passport contains a photograph of him as a young, though serious, man. Initially working as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, while living in Paris he grew into a novelist with the encouragement of such Left Bank notables as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer described Hemingway's motivation to return to Europe as an expatriate this way. After the war, "Hemingway never really came home again." Yet unlike other expatriate writers who were forced to leave their native lands in the face of political persecution, he left the United States of his own volition fueled, in Gordimer's words, by "the beginnings of a broader human consciousness beyond nationalistic operatives, good or bad. And he made his choice of one of the causes in particular—of justice that was threatened in the cultural Mecca of Europe."
As a correspondent, Hemingway chronicled the outbreak of wars from Macedonia to Madrid and the spread of fascism throughout Europe. Although best known for his fiction, his war reporting was also revolutionary. Hemingway was committed above all else to telling the truth in his writing. To do so, he liked being part of the action, and the power of his writing stemmed, in part, from his commitment to witness combat firsthand.
According to Seán Hemingway, his grandfather's war dispatches "were written in a new style of reporting that told the public about every facet of the war, especially, and most important, its effects on the common man, woman, and child." This narrative style brought to life the stories of individual lives in warfare and earned a wide readership. Before the advent of television and cable news, Hemingway brought world conflicts to life for his North American audience.
In 1922, for example, Hemingway covered the war between Greece and Turkey and witnessed the plight of thousands of Greek refugees. In a sight that has become common to our time, Hemingway documented one of the hidden costs of war—the postwar displacement of whole peoples from their native lands. His vivid dispatches brought this and other stories to the attention of the English-speaking world.
Hemingway often used scenes that he had witnessed as well as his own personal experience to inform his fiction. Explaining his technique 20 years later, he wrote, "the writer's standard of fidelity to the truth should be so high that his invention, out of his experience, should produce a truer account than anything factual can be. For facts can be observed badly; but when a good writer is creating something, he has time and scope to make of it an absolute truth."
In Our Time was published in 1925. It was followed by Hemingway's first major novels, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, which chronicle, in reverse order, Hemingway's experiences in war and postwar Europe.
The Sun Also Rises features Jake Barnes, an American World War I veteran whose mysterious combat wounds have caused him to be impotent. Unlike Nick Adams and Howard Krebs, who return stateside after the war, Barnes remains in Europe, joining his compatriots in revels through Paris and Spain. Many regard the novel as Hemingway's portrait of a generation that has lost its way, restlessly seeking meaning in a postwar world. The Hemingway Collection contains almost a dozen drafts of the novel, including four different openings—examples of a burgeoning, hardworking, and exceptionally talented young novelist.
His second novel, A Farewell to Arms, is written as a retrospective of the war experience of Frederic Henry, a wounded American soldier, and his doomed love affair with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley.
Hemingway rewrote the conclusion to A Farewell to Arms many times. Among the gems of the Hemingway Collection are the 44 pages of manuscript containing a score of different endings—which are often used today by visiting English teachers to provide their students with a glimpse of Hemingway the writer at work.
At a recent Kennedy Library forum, author Justin Kaplan noted the number of delicate changes Hemingway made to the novel's last paragraphs. When asked once why he did so, Kaplan recounted, Hemingway responded "I was trying to find the right words."
After reading an early draft, F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested Hemingway end the book with one of its most memorable passages: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." Scrawled at the bottom of Fitzgerald's 10-page letter in Hemingway's hand is his three-word reaction—"Kiss my ass"—leaving no doubt of his dismissal of Fitzgerald's suggestions.
Though World War I is more backdrop than cause to this tragedy—Catherine's death in the end is brought about through childbirth not warfare—the novel contains, as seen in the following passage, a stark critique of war and those who laud it:
I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice. . . . We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.
Much of the literature decrying World War I came from British poets, many of whom perished in battle. In A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway added his voice to the chorus, expanding the message to an American audience whose citizenry had not suffered nearly the level of war losses as its European allies. To appreciate the stance that Hemingway took, according to Gail Caldwell, one has to understand how revolutionary it was in light of the Victorian understanding of patriotism and courage. "If you look at Hemingway's prose and the writing he did about war, it was as radical in its time as anything we have seen since."
Commenting on the days and months he spent writing the novel, Hemingway wrote his editor, Max Perkins, that during this time much had occurred in his own life, including the birth of his second son, Patrick, by Caesarian section and the suicide of his father.
"I remember all these things happening and all the places we lived in and the fine times and the bad times we had in that year," Hemingway wrote in a 1948 introduction to A Farewell to Arms. "But much more vividly I remember living in the book and making up what happened in it every day. Making the country and the people and the things that happened I was happier than I had ever been. . . . The fact that the book was a tragic one did not make me unhappy since I believed that life is tragedy and knew it could only have one end. But finding you were able to make something up; to create truly enough so that it made you happy to read it; and to do this every day you worked was something that gave a greater pleasure than any I had ever known. Beside it nothing else mattered."

The Spanish Civil War

Hemingway had an enduring love affair with Spain and the Spanish people. He had seen his first bullfight in the early 1920s, and his experience of the festivals in Pamplona informed his writing of The Sun Also Rises. The Hemingway Collection contains the author's personal collection of bullfighting material, including ticket stubs, programs, and his research material for his 1931 treatise on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon. So it is not surprising that as fascism spread throughout Europe, Hemingway took special interest when civil war broke out in Spain.
Hemingway (left) poses at a corrida (bullfighting stadium) in Ronda, Spain, in summer 1923. (Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, Kennedy Library)
Hemingway first encountered fascism in the 1920s when he interviewed Benito Mussolini, a man he described as "the biggest bluff in Europe." Although others initially credited Mussolini for bringing order to Italy, Hemingway had seen him for the brutal dictator he was to become. In fact, Hemingway dated his own antifascism to 1924 and the murder of Giacoma Matteotti, an Italian Socialist who was killed by Mussolini's Fasciti after speaking out against him.
In Spain, Francisco Franco, with support from Germany and Italy, used his Nationalist forces to spearhead a revolt against the government and those loyal to the Republic. When civil war broke out, Hemingway returned to Spain as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance, serving, at times, with fellow journalist Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife.
While in Spain, Hemingway collaborated with famed war photographer Robert Capa. Capa's photographs of Hemingway during this period are now part of the Hemingway Collection's extensive audiovisual archives of more than 10,000 photographs.
Hemingway's coverage of the war has been criticized for being slanted against Franco and the Nationalists. In a 1951 letter to Carlos Baker, Hemingway explained it this way. "There were at least five parties in the Spanish Civil War on the Republic side. I tried to understand and evaluate all five (very difficult) and belonged to none . . . . I had no party but a deep interest in and love for the Republic. . . . In Spain I had, and have, many friends on the other side. I tried to write truly about them, too. Politically, I was always on the side of the Republic from the day it was declared and for a long time before."
"It is the duty of a war correspondent to present both sides in his writing," contends Seán Hemingway, and in this instance, Hemingway "failed to do so siding as he did so strongly with the Republic against the Nationalists." Yet his dispatches provide a vivid accuracy of how the war was fought—and his experience would later inform his writing of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Despite his sympathies for the Loyalist cause, he is credited for documenting in this novel the horrors that occurred on both sides of that struggle.
The novel's protagonist, Robert Jordan, an American teacher turned demolitions expert, joins an anti-fascist Spanish guerrilla brigade with orders from a resident Russian general to blow up a bridge.
For author Gordimer, what is remarkable about the novel (which she describes as a cult book for her generation) is that Jordan takes up arms in another country's civil war for personal, not ideological, reasons. In the novel, Hemingway suggests that Jordan has no politics. Instead, his dedication to the Republic is fueled, in Gordimer's words, by a "kind of conservative individualism that collides in self-satisfaction with the claims of the wider concern for humanity." Jordan dedicates himself to a cause and is willing to risk his own life for it.
The bridge gets destroyed, his compatriots flee, and Jordan is left behind, injured, to face certain death at the hands of the approaching fascist troops. It is perhaps because of his commitment to action that Jordan became such a cult figure for his times. In his own words from the novel: "Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It's been that way all this year. It's been that way so many times. All of war is that way."

World War II and Its Aftermath

In 1942 Hemingway agreed to edit Men at War, an anthology of the best war stories of all time. With the United States now at war, Hemingway remarked in the introduction: "The Germans are not successful because they are supermen. They are simply practical professionals in war who have abandoned all the old theories . . . and who have developed the best practical use of weapons and tactics. . . . It is at that point that we can take over if no dead hand of last-war thinking lies on the high command."
Not one to sit about or practice the "dead hand of last-war thinking," Hemingway, living in Cuba when the war broke out, took it upon himself to patrol the Caribbean for German U-boats. The Hemingway Collection contains many entries in the day log of his boat Pilar and his typewritten reports to local military commanders indicating how carefully he recorded his sightings and passed them on to American intelligence officials.
In 1944 he returned to Europe to witness key moments in World War II, including the D-day landings. He was 44 at the time and, comparing his photograph on his Certificate of Identity of Noncombatant to the portrait of the young 19-year-old who volunteered in World War I, one notices how distinguished the internationally renowned author had become in those 25 years.
Hemingway accompanied American troops as they stormed to shore on Omaha Beach—though as a civilian correspondent he was not allowed to land himself. Weeks later he returned to Normandy, attaching himself to the 22nd Regiment commanded by Col. Charles "Buck" Lanham as it drove toward Paris (whose liberation he would later witness and write about). Before doing so, Hemingway led a controversial effort to gather military intelligence in the village of Rambouillet and, with military authorization, took up arms himself with his small band of irregulars.
According to World War II historian Paul Fussell, "Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well."
On June 23, 1951, Hemingway wrote to C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times with his own explanation: "Certain allegations of fighting and commanding irregular troops were made but I was cleared of these by the Inspector General of the Third Army. . . . For your information, I had an assignment to write only one article a month for Colliers and I wished to make myself useful between those monthly pieces. I had a certain amount of knowledge about guerilla warfare and irregular tactics as well as a grounding in more formal war and I was willing and happy to work for or be of use to anybody who would give me anything to do within my capabilities."
In 1944 Hemingway returned to Europe as a correspondent, traveling with the 22nd Regiment to Paris. At the Hotel de la Mere Poularde, Mont-St.-Michel, in August 1944 are pictured (left to right) Bill Walton, Mme. Chevalier, Ernets Hemingway, an unidentified Signal Corps photographer, M. Chevalier, and Robert Capa. (Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, Kennedy Library)
Hemingway remained in Europe for 10 months traveling with the Allied infantry into the Hürtgenwald forest as they "cracked" the Siegfried Line. At war's end, Hemingway was back in Cuba. In light of American use of the atomic bomb, he reminded his fellow countrymen that "For the moment we are the strongest power in the world. It is important that we do not become the most hated." To avoid such a fate, he said, "we need to study and understand certain basic problems of our world as they were before Hiroshima to be able to continue, intelligently, to discover how some of them have changed and how they can be settled justly now that a new weapon has become the property of the world. We must study them more carefully than ever now and remember that no weapon has ever settled a moral problem. It can impose a solution but it cannot guarantee it to be a just one."
In a small ceremony in June 1947 at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for his service as a war correspondent for having circulated "freely under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions. Through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat."
Hemingway wrote one novel with World War II as its backdrop. Across the River and Into the Trees is set in Venice at the close of the war and tells the story of an aging American colonel who falls in love with a young Italian countess. The book was not as well received as his earlier novels—not meeting the expectation that it might capture the essence of World War II the way A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls had done for World War I and the Spanish Civil War.
Nor did his short stories published in this period capture the public's imagination concerning the most recent world war. One story that has garnered attention in recent anthologies, Black Ass at the Cross Roads, was never published in Hemingway's lifetime (the original manuscript remaining instead as part of the papers of the Hemingway Collection). According to Fussell, this "masterpiece," which tells the story of an ambush of German soldiers by an American infantryman who suffers great remorse for what he has done, "is so realistic and so inexplicable in any other way than to believe that Hemingway was there and that perhaps it was never published because it was too incriminating."
In 1952 Hemingway redeemed his reputation as one of the century's great writers with the publication of The Old Man and the Sea, which also helped earn him the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. When Fidel Castro swept into power in 1959, Ernest and Mary Hemingway left their home in Cuba, moving to the outskirts of Ketchum, Idaho. During the next few years, Hemingway experienced serious health problems and committed suicide on July 2, 1961.

An Enduring Legacy

It is often difficult to separate the public Hemingway from his art—and his literary achievements have, at times, been overshadowed by his mythic persona. Much of that myth stems from Hemingway's own hand. For example, in a public flap with writer William Faulkner after Faulkner suggested that Hemingway had not been a courageous writer, Hemingway asked Gen. "Buck" Lanham to respond on his behalf. Lanham did so, outlining Hemingway's feats at his side during World War II and concluded that he was "without exception the most courageous man I have ever known, both in war and peace. He has physical courage, and he has that far rarer commodity, moral courage."
Gordimer suggests that in assessing the legacy of Hemingway and his insights on war that we leave such arguments alone. "I'm not concerned with what Ernest Hemingway did or did not do in his own body, his own person, out of his own courage in wars. . . . Let us leave his life alone. It belongs to him as he lived it. Let us read his books. They are his particular illumination of what our existence has been, his gift to us that belongs to us all."
Professor Gates concluded the centennial celebration similarly—noting that Hemingway was "one of the finest prose stylists in English. He captured in stunning stories and novels the uncomfortable realities of his age and forced into public consciousness a realization of the brutalities of war and their lingering psychological affects. His stories of Nick Adams depict the adolescent agonies of a generation. His best novels record for all time the emotional turmoil of modern warfare and modern life. It is the integrity of his craft, a richness beyond legend, that will forever endure."
Hemingway's legacy is inexorably tied to his books, stories, and dispatches. Those who visit the Hemingway Collection—be they scholars conducting research or students experiencing Hemingway for the first time—are most drawn to the letters and manuscripts written in the author's own hand. To see each word, deletion, and edit is to witness a master craftsman at work.
Hemingway dedicated himself to writing "truly" on all topics including and especially the subject of war and its effect on his times. He dedicated the anthology Men at War to his three sons so that they might have a book "that will contain the truth about war as near we can come by it. . . . It will not replace experience. But it can prepare and supplement experience. It can serve as a corrective after experience." The same can be said of Hemingway's own work. It cannot replicate the experience of those who lived through the war-torn years of the first half of the 20th century, but it offers the truth about those wars as near we can come by it.

Note on Sources
Quotations from Nadine Gordimer, Tobias Wolff, Gail Caldwell, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., were taken from remarks given at the Hemingway centennial celebration at the John F. Kennedy Library on April 10–11, 1999. Audiotapes of those proceedings and other Hemingway forums are available at the Kennedy Library. Inquiries can be made directly to the author.
The quotations from Paul Fussell are taken from remarks at the forum "Writers on War" at the John F. Kennedy Library on March 21, 2004.
The quotation from Justin Kaplan is taken from remarks given at a forum, "Dear Papa; Dear Hotch," at the Kennedy Library on November 28, 2005.
Quotations from Seán Hemingway come from his introduction to Hemingway on War (New York: Scribner, 2003). The quotation from Mussolini, Europe's Prize Bluffer is also from that anthology.
Correspondence such as the letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald and the letter to C. L. Sulzberger are from the Hemingway Collection.
The logbook to the Pilar, Hemingway's fishing boat, and Hemingway's memorandums on his U-boat sightings to U.S. military intelligence officials are from the Hemingway Collection.
Letters between Hemingway and Carlos Baker are from the Hemingway Collection. Background material and references also come from Baker's biographies, Hemingway: Writer as Artist (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952) and Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (New York: Scribner, 1969).
References to Hemingway's published work include: A Farewell to Arms (New York, Scribner, 1929); For Whom the Bell Tolls (New York: Scribner, 1940); In Our Time (New York: Scribner, 1925 ); The Sun Also Rises (New York: Scribner, 1926); introduction, Illustrated Edition of A Farewell to Arms (New York: Scribner, 1948); introduction, Men at War (New York: Crown Publishers, 1942); foreword, Treasury for the Free World, edited by Ben Raeburn (New York: Arco, 1946).
The Hemingway Collection as a whole was discussed in Megan Floyd Desnoyers, "Ernest Hemingway: A Storyteller's Legacy," Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives 24 (Winter 1992): 334–350.

Thomas Putnam is the deputy director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

In The Time Of The Hard Motorcycle Boys- With Marlon Brando’s The Wild One In Mind


"Black Denim Trousers"

He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up 'cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101

Well, he never washed his face and he never combed his hair
He had axle grease embedded underneath his fingernails
On the muscle of his arm was a red tattoo
A picture of a heart saying "Mother, I love you"

He had a pretty girlfriend by the name of Mary Lou
But he treated her just like he treated all the rest
And everybody pitied her 'cause everybody knew
He loved that doggone motorcycle best

He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up 'cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101

[Instrumental Interlude]

Mary Lou, poor girl, she pleaded and she begged him not to leave
She said "I've got a feeling if you ride tonight I'll grieve"
But her tears were shed in vain and her every word was lost
In the rumble of his engine and the smoke from his exhaust

Then he took off like the Devil and there was fire in his eyes
He said "I'll go a thousand miles before the sun can rise"
But he hit a screamin' diesel that was California-bound
And when they cleared the wreckage, all they found

Was his black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
But they couldn't find the 'cycle that took off like a gun
And they never found the terror of Highway 101

Okay here is the book of genesis, the motorcycle book of genesis, or at least my motorcycle book of genesis. But, before I get to that let me make about seventy–six disclaimers. First, the whys and wherefores of the motorcycle culture, except on those occasions when they become subject to governmental investigation or impact some cultural phenomena, is outside the purview of the things I generally discuss. I am much more comfortable with the ins and outs of boy meets girl (or really boy longs to meet girl) in various 1950s growing up teenage settings like at the drugstore soda fountain either sipping sodas or absent-mindedly listening to some selections on Doc’s jukebox, doing the stuff in drive-in theaters or drive-in restaurants or down by the shore getting all moony and spoony watching the “submarine races.”  But for all of their bad press, for all that every mother feared for her daughter’s safety when they were within fifty miles of town, for all a mother’s feat that she would lose her Johnny to the gangs I have been fascinated by motorcycles since my early youth when these were definitely outlaw vehicles.

Frankly there is no political rule, no political line, as a rule, on such activity, for or against, nor should there be. Those exceptions include when motorcyclists, usually under the rubric of “bad actor” motorcycle clubs, like the famous (or infamous) Oakland, California-based Hell’s Angels are generally harassed by the cops and we have to defend their right to be left alone (you know, those "helmet laws", and the never-failing pull-over for "driving while biker") or, like when the Angels were used by the Rolling Stones at Altamont and that ill-advised decision represented a watershed in the 1960s counter-cultural movement. Or, more ominously, from another angle when such lumpen formations form the core hell-raisers of anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-black liberation fascistic demonstrations and we are compelled, and rightly so, to go toe to toe with them. Scary yes, necessary yes, bikes or no bikes.

With that out of the way. Second, in the interest of full disclosure I own no stock, or have any other interest, in Harley-Davidson, or any other motorcycle company. Third, I do not now, or have I ever belonged to a motorcycle club or owned a motorcycle, although I have driven them, or, more often, on back of them on occasion. Fourth, I do not now, knowingly or unknowingly, although I grew up in working-class neighborhoods where bikes and bikers were plentiful, hang with such types. Fifth, the damn things and their riders are too noisy, despite the glamour and “freedom” of the road associated with them. Sixth, and here is the “kicker”, I have been, endlessly, fascinated by bikes and bike culture as least since early high school, if not before, and had several friends who “rode”. Well that is not seventy-six but that is enough for disclaimers.

Okay, as to genesis, motorcycle genesis. Let’s connect the dots. A couple of years ago, and maybe more, as part of a trip down memory lane, the details of which do not need detain us here, I did a series of articles on various world-shaking, earth-shattering subjects like high school romances, high school hi-jinx, high school dances, high school Saturday nights, and most importantly of all, high school how to impress the girls( or boys, for girls, or whatever sexual combinations fit these days, but you can speak for yourselves, I am standing on this ground). In short, high school sub-culture, American-style, early 1960s branch, although the emphasis there, as it will be here, is on that social phenomena as filtered through the lenses of a working class town, a seen better days town at that, my growing up wild-like-the-weeds town.

One of the subjects worked over in that series was the search, the eternal search I might add, for the great working-class love song. Not the Teen Angel, Earth Angel, Johnny Angel generic mush that could play in Levittown, Shaker Heights or La Jolla as well as Youngstown or Moline. No, a song that, without blushing, one could call our own, our working class own, one that the middle and upper classes might like but would not put on their dance cards. As my offering to this high-brow debate I offered a song by written by Englishman Richard Thompson (who folkies, and folk rockers, might know from his Fairport Convention days, very good days, by the way), Vincent Black Lightning, 1952. (See lyrics below.) Without belaboring the point the gist of this song is the biker romance, British version, between outlaw biker James and black-leathered, red-headed Molly. Needless to say such a tenuous lumpen existence as James leads to keep himself “biked" cuts short any long term “little white house with picket fence” ending for the pair. And we do not need such a boring finish. For James, after losing the inevitable running battle with the police, on his death bed bequeaths his bike, his precious “Vincent Black Lightning,” to said Molly. His bike, man. His bike. Is there any greater love story, working class love story, around? No, this makes West Side Story lyrics and a whole bunch of other such songs seem like so much cornball nonsense. His bike, man. Wow! Kudos, Brother Thompson.

Needless to say that exploration was not the end, but rather the beginning of thinking through the great American night bike experience. And, of course, for this writer that means going to the books, the films and the memory bank to find every seemingly relevant “biker” experience. Thus, readers of this space were treated to reviews of such classic motorcycle sagas as “gonzo” journalist, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels and other, later Rolling Stone magazine printed “biker” stories and Tom Wolfe’ Hell Angel’s-sketched Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (and other articles about California subset youth culture that drove Wolfe’s work in the old days). And to the hellish Rolling Stones (band) Hell’s Angels “policed” Altamont concert in 1969. And, as fate would have it, with the passing of actor/director Dennis Hooper, the 1960s classic biker/freedom/ seeking the great American night film, Easy Rider. And from Easy Rider to the “max daddy” of them all, tight-jeaned, thick leather-belted, tee-shirted, engineer-booted, leather-jacketed, taxi-driver-capped (hey, that’s what it reminds me of), side-burned, chain-linked wielding, hard-living, alienated, but in the end really just misunderstood, Johnny, aka, Marlon Brando, in The Wild One.

Okay, we will cut to the chase on the plot. Old Johnny and his fellow “outlaw” motorcycle club members are out for some weekend “kicks” after a hard week’s non-work (as far as we can figure out, work was marginal for many reasons, as Hunter Thompson in Hell’s Angels noted, to biker existence, the pursue of jack-rolling, armed robbery or grand theft auto careers probably running a little ahead) out in the sunny California small town hinterlands.(They are still heading out there today, the last time I noticed, in the Southern California high desert, places like Twenty-Nine Palms and Joshua Tree.)

And naturally, when the boys (and they are all boys here, except for couple of “mamas”, one spurned by Johnny, in a break-away club led by jack-in-the-box jokester, Lee Marvin as Chino) hit one small town they, naturally, after sizing up the local law, head for the local café (and bar). And once one mentions cafes in small towns in California (or Larry McMurtry’s West Texas, for that matter), then hard-working, trying to make it through the shift, got to get out of this small town and see the world, dreamy-eyed, naïve (yes, naive) sheriff-daughtered young waitress, Kathy, (yes, and hard-working, it’s tough dealing them off the arm in these kind of joints, or elsewhere) Johnny trap comes into play. Okay, now you know, even alienated, misunderstood, misanthropic, cop-hating (an additional obstacle given said waitress’s kinships) boy Johnny needs, needs cinematically at least, to meet a girl who understands him.

The development of that young hope, although hopeless, boy meets girl romance relationship, hither and yon, drives the plot.  Oh, and along the way the boys, after a few thousand beers, as boys, especially girl-starved biker boys, will, at the drop of a hat start to systematically tear down the town, off-handedly, for fun. Needless to say, staid local burghers (aka “squares”) seeing what amount to them is their worst 1950s “communist” invasion nightmare, complete with murder, mayhem and rapine, (although that “c” word was not used in the film, nor should it have been) are determined to “take back” their little town. A few fights, forages, casualties, fatalities, and forgivenesses later though, still smitten but unquenched and chaste Johnny (and his rowdy crowd) and said waitress part, wistfully. The lesson here, for the kids in the theater audience, is that biker love outside biker-dom is doomed. For the adults, the real audience, the lesson: nip the “terrorists” in the bud (call in the state cops, the national guard, the militia, the 82nd Airborne, The Strategic Air Command, NATO, hell, even the “weren't we buddies in the war” Red Army , but nip it, fast when they come roaming through Amityville, Archer City, or your small town).

After that summary you can see what we are up against. This is pure fantasy Hollywood cautionary tale on a very real 1950s phenomena, “outlaw” biker clubs, mainly in California, but elsewhere as well. Hunter Thompson did yeoman’s work in his Hell’s Angels to “discover” who these guys were and what drove them, beyond drugs, sex, rock and roll (and, yah, murder and mayhem, the California prison system was a “home away from home”). In a sense the “bikers” were the obverse of the boys (again, mainly) whom Tom Wolfe, in many of his early essays, was writing about and who were (a) forming the core of the surfers on the beaches from Malibu to La Jolla and, (b) driving the custom car/hot rod/drive-in restaurant-centered (later mall-centered) cool, teenage girl–impressing, car craze night in the immediate post-World War II great American Western sunny skies and pleasant dream drift (physically and culturally). Except those Wolfe guys were the “winners”. The “bikers” were Nelson Algren’s “losers”, the dead-enders who didn’t hit the gold rush, the Dove Linkhorns (aka the Arkies and Okies who in the 1930s populated John Steinbeck’s Joad saga, The Grapes Of Wrath). Not cool, iconic Marlin-Johnny but hell-bend then-Hell Angels leader, Sonny Barger.

And that is why in the end, as beautifully sullen and misunderstood the alienated Johnny was, and as wholesomely rowdy as his gang was before demon rum took over, this was not the real “biker: scene, West or East. Now I lived, as a teenager in a working-class, really marginally working poor, neighborhood that I have previously mentioned was the leavings of those who were moving up in post-war society. That neighborhood was no more than a mile from the central headquarters of Boston's local Hell’s Angels (although they were not called that, I think it was Deathheads, or something like that). I got to see these guys up close as they rallied at various spots on our local beach or “ran” through our neighborhood on their way to some crazed action. The leader had all of the charisma of Marlon Brando’s thick leather belt. His face, as did most of the faces, spoke of small-minded cruelties (and old prison pallors) not of misunderstood youth. And their collective prison records (as Hunter Thompson also noted about the Angels) spoke of “high” lumpenism. And that takes us back to the beginning about who, and what, forms one of the core cohorts for a fascist movement in this country, the sons of Sonny Barger. Then we will need to rely on our street politics, our fists, and other such weapons.

Vincent Black Lightning 1952

Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike
A girl could feel special on any such like
Said James to Red Molly, my hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Boxhill they did ride

Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae
For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside
Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52
He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
He said I've got no further use for these
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride
HONOR THE THREE L’S-LENIN, LUXEMBURG, LIEBKNECHT-Honor The Historic Leader Of The Bolshevik Revolution-Vladimir Lenin  


Every January leftists honor three revolutionaries who died in that month, V.I. Lenin of Russia in 1924, Karl Liebknecht of Germany and Rosa Luxemburg of Poland in 1919 murdered after leading the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin. I will make my political points about the heroic Karl Liebknecht and his parliamentary fight against the German war budget in World War I in this space tomorrow  (see also review in American Left History April 2006 archives). I have made some special points here yesterday about the life of Rosa Luxemburg (see review in American Left History January 2006 archives). In this 100th anniversary period of World War I it is appropriate, at a time when the young needs to find a few good heroes, to highlight the early struggles of Vladimir Lenin, the third L, to define himself politically. Probably the best way to do that is to look at Lenin’s experiences through the prism of his fellow revolutionary, early political opponent and eventual co-leader of the Bolshevik Revolution Leon Trotsky.

A Look At The Young Lenin By A Fellow Revolutionary

The Young Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Doubleday and Co., New York, 1972

The now slightly receding figure of the 20th century Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin founder and leader of the Bolshevik Party and guiding light of the October 1917 Russian Revolution and the first attempt at creating a socialist society has been the subject to many biographies. Some of those efforts undertaken during the time of the former Soviet government dismantled in 1991-92, especially under the Stalin regime, bordered on or were merely the hagiographic. Others, reflecting the ups and downs of the post- World War II Cold War, painted an obscene diabolical picture, excluding Lenin’s horns, and in some cases not even attempting to exclude those. In virtually all cases these efforts centered on Lenin’s life from the period of the rise of the Bolshevik Social Democratic faction in 1903 until his early death in 1924. In short, the early formative period of his life in the backwaters of provincial Russia rate a gloss over. Lenin’s fellow revolutionary Leon Trotsky, although some ten years younger than him, tries to trace that early stage of his life in order to draw certain lessons. It is in that context that Trotsky’s work contains some important insights about the development of revolutionary figures and their beginnings.

Although Trotsky’s little work, originally intended to be part of a full biography of Lenin, never served its purpose of educating the youth during his lifetime and the story of it discovery is rather interesting one should note that this is neither a scholarly work in the traditional sense nor is it completely free from certain fawning over Lenin by Trotsky. Part of this was determined by the vicissitudes of the furious Trotsky-Stalin fights in the 1920s and 1930s for the soul of the Russian Revolution as Trotsky tried to uncover the layers of misinformation about Lenin’s early life. Part of it resulted from Trotsky’s status of junior partner to Lenin and also to his late coming over to Bolshevism. And part of it is, frankly, to indirectly contrast Lenin’s and his own road to Marxism.

That said, this partial biography stands up very well as an analysis of the times that the young Lenin lived in, the events that affected his development and the idiosyncrasies of his own personality that drove him toward revolutionary conclusions. In short, Trotsky’s work is a case study in the proposition that revolutionaries are made not born.

To a greater extent than would be true today in a celebrity-conscious world many parts of Lenin’s early life are just not verifiable. Partially that is due to the nature of record keeping in the Russia of the 19th century. Partially it is because of the necessity to rely on not always reliable police records. Another part is that the average youth, and here Lenin was in some ways no exception, really have a limited noteworthy record to present for public inspection. That despite the best efforts of Soviet hagiography to make it otherwise. Nevertheless Trotsky does an admirable job of detailing the high and low lights of agrarian Russian society and the vagaries of the land question in the second half of the 19thcentury. One should note that Trotsky grew up on a Ukrainian farm and therefore is no stranger to many of the same kind of problems that Lenin had to work through concerning the solution to the agrarian crisis, the peasant question. Most notably, is that the fight for the Russian revolution that everyone knew was coming could only be worked out through the fight for influence over the small industrial working class and socialism.

I would note that for the modern young reader that two things Trotsky analyzes are relevant. The first is the relationship between Lenin and his older brother Alexander who, when he became politicized, joined a remnant of the populist People’s Will terrorist organization and attempted to assassinate the Tsar. For his efforts he and his co-conspirators were hanged. I have always been intrigued by the effect that this event had on Lenin’s development. On the one hand, as a budding young intellectual, would Lenin have attempted to avenge his brother’s fate with his same revolutionary intellectual political program? Or would Lenin go another way to intersect the coming revolutionary either through its agrarian component or the budding Marxist Social Democratic element? We know the answer but Trotsky provides a nicely reasoned analysis of the various influences that were at work in the young Lenin. That alone is worth the price of admission here.

The other point I have already alluded to above. Revolutionaries are made not born, although particular life circumstances may create certain more favorable conditions. Soviet historians in their voluntarist hay day tried to make of Lenin a superhuman phenomenon- a fully formed Marxist intellectual from his early youth. Trotsky once again distills the essence of Lenin’s struggle to make sense of the world, the Russian world in the first instance, as he tries to find a way out the Russian political impasse. Trotsky’s work only goes up to 1892-93, the Samara period, the period before Lenin took off for Petersburg and greener pastures. He left Samara a fully committed Marxist but it would be many years, with many polemics and by using many political techniques before he himself became a Bolshevik, as we know it. And that, young friends, is a cautionary tale that can be taken into the 21st century. Read on.
Free All Our Class-War Brother And Sister Political Prisoners Now-The Cause That Passes Through The Prisons  

The Latest From The Partisan Defense Committee Website-


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 The Last of the Ohio Seven-They Must Not Die In Jail



Free the last of the Seven. Below is a commentary written in 2006 arguing for their freedom.

The Ohio Seven, like many other subjective revolutionaries, coming out of the turbulent anti-Vietnam War and anti-imperialist movements, were committed to social change. The different is that this organization included mainly working class militants, some of whose political consciousness was formed by participation as soldiers in the Vietnam War itself. Various members were convicted for carrying out robberies, apparently to raise money for their struggles, and bombings of imperialist targets. Without going into their particular personal and political biographies I note that these were the kind of subjective revolutionaries that must be recruited to a working class vanguard party if there ever is to be a chance of bringing off a socialist revolution. In the absence of a viable revolutionary labor party in the 1970’s and 1980’s the politics of the Ohio Seven, like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, were borne of despair at the immensity of the task and also by desperation to do something concrete in aid of the Vietnamese Revolution and other Third World struggles . Their actions in trying to open up a second front militarily in the United States in aid of Third World struggles without a mass base proved to be mistaken but, as the Partisan Defense Committee which I support has noted, their actions were no crime in the eyes of the international working class.

The lack of a revolutionary vanguard to attract such working class elements away from adventurism is rendered even more tragic in the case of the Ohio Seven. Leon Trotsky, a leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917, noted in a political obituary for his fallen comrade and fellow Left Oppositionist Kote Tsintadze that the West has not produced such fighters as Kote. Kote, who went through all the phases of struggle for the Russian Revolution, including imprisonment and exile under both the Czar and Stalin benefited from solidarity in a mass revolutionary vanguard party to sustain him through the hard times. What a revolutionary party could have done with the evident capacity and continuing commitment of subjective revolutionaries like the Ohio Seven poses that question point blank. This is the central problem and task of cadre development in the West in resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership.

Finally, I would like to note that except for the Partisan Defense Committee and their own defense organizations – the Ohio 7 Defense Committee and the Jaan Laaman Defense Fund- the Ohio Seven have long ago been abandoned by those New Left elements and others, who as noted, at one time had very similar politics. At least part of this can be attributed to the rightward drift to liberal pacifist politics by many of them, but some must be attributed to class. Although the Ohio Seven were not our people- they are our people. All honor to them. As James P Cannon, a founding leader of the International Labor Defense, forerunner of the Partisan Defense Committee, pointed out long ago –Solidarity with class war prisoners is not charity- it is a duty. Their fight is our fight! LET US DO OUR DUTY HERE. RAISE THE CALL FOR THE FREEDOM OF LAAMAN AND MANNING. MAKE MOTIONS OF SOLIDARITY IN YOUR POLITICAL ORGANIZATION, SCHOOL OR UNION.


When Johnny Blew That High White Note

Jazz was, is, a late addition to my musical corral. Late not because I did not appreciate jazz as great American art form, something that speaks both to the freedom and slavery mix that has dominated our cultural outlook until this very day. Late not because I was so caught up in the beat of rhythm and blues, blues straight up, and rockabilly that drove the music of my coming of age, rock and roll. Late not because I caught that last breathe of the “beat”  beat and the importance of the jazz high and did not appreciate that effort it was after all the last breathe and not key to my coming of age back in the edgy early 1960s. No, late because I came late to my appreciation of the high white note, the high white in music anyway although I think I had the concept down  for other things like books, films, politic and stuff like that. The holy grail search for the sublime.     

Then one day I was listening to some talk show, some brow talk show where they were “celebrating” the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington birthday and I caught the show somewhere in the middle of a piece of Duke’s music where some guy, some guy I did not know Johnny Hodge’s name at the time, blowing a big sexy sax, blowing like something out of homeland mother Africa all breathe and pause, breathe and pause improvising like crazy you could tell, building off the last riff.  That was just the come-on though, come-on for me because after that piece ended I went about my business while I was listening to the rest of the show, intrigued but not hooked by any means. They did some talking about Duke’s place in the pantheon, the jazz and American songbook, about his mood pieces and then, who knows what version they were using, how would I have known then, Johnny blew the high white note, scaled the wall, on Jeep’s Blues. I thought he was going to come and back it up on that one but he didn’t, or at least not on that version. I have been searching for the jazz high white notes ever since whenever I can