Saturday, March 14, 2015

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.


***In Honor Of Women’s History Month -Out In The Be-Bop Be-Bop 1960s Night- Save The Last Dance For Me-With The Drifters’ Song Of The Same Name In Mind.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

Scene: Brought to mind by one of the songs in this compilation, The Drifters classic end of the night high school dance number, Save The Last Dance For Me. (And the reason for the kudos to Women’s History Month in a little off-beat way as well.)

Recently, when I was reviewing a CD AM Gold: 1962, I mentioned, in detailing some of the events surrounding the North Adamsville Class of 1962-sponsored version of the traditional late September Falling Leaves Dance that one of the perks that year was getting to hear the vocals of local singer and classmate, Diana Nelson, backed up by local rock band favorite, The Rockin’ Ramrods. I also mentioned that her selection had been the result of a singing competition held by the town fathers and that I would relate some of the details of that competition at a later date. That time has come. Additionally, I related that I had had a “crush” on Miss (Ms.) Nelson since I started staring, permanently staring, at her ass when she sat a few seats in front of me in ninth grade. At the time of the above-mentioned dance she was “going steady” with some college joe, and had not given me the time of day, flirting or encouraging-wise, since about tenth grade, although we always talked about stuff, music and political stuff, two of my passions, and hers too. Here’s the “skinny.”

No question that about 1960, maybe into 1961, girl vocalists were the cat’s meow. (Okay, young women, but we didn’t call them that then, no way. Also “no way” as well is what we called them, called them among we corner boys at Salducci’s Pizza Parlor in the harsh summer night, especially when we got “no action.” I don’t have to draw you a diagram on what that meant, right?). You can, if you were around then, reel off the names just as well as I can, Connie Francis, Carla Thomas, Patsy Cline, and the sparkplug Brenda Lee. I won’t even mention wanna-bes like Connie Stevens and Sandra Dee, Christ. See, serious classic rock by guys like Elvis (who was either dead or might as well have been doing foolish films like Blue Hawaii), Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry (and his Mister’s woman habits) and Jerry Lee Lewis (and his kissing cousins habit) was, well, passé, in that musical counter-revolution night when guys like Fabian and Bobby Vee ruled the girl heart throb universe 

But music, like lots of other things abhors a vacuum and while guys were still singing, I guess, the girl singers (read young women, okay, and we will leave it at that) “spoke” to us more. Especially to record- buying girls who wanted to hear about teen romance, teen alienation, lost love, unstoppable hurts, betrayal (usually by the girl’s best friend and her boyfriend, although not always), lonely Friday nights, and other stuff that teenagers, boys and girls equally, have been mulling over, well, since they invented teenagers a long time ago.  

So it was natural for the musically-talented girls around North Adamsville, and maybe around the country for all I know, to test themselves against the big name talents and see what they had. See if they could make teen heaven- a record contract with all that entailed. In North Adamsville that was actually made easier by the town fathers (and they were all men, mostly old men in those days so fathers is right), if you can believe that. Why? Because for a couple of years in the early 1960s, maybe longer, they had been sponsoring a singing contest, a female vocalist, singing- contest. I heard later, and maybe it was true, that what drove them was that, unlike those mid-1950s evil male rockers mentioned above, the women vocalist models had a “calming effect” on the hard-bitten be-bop teen night. And calm was what the town fathers cared about most of all. That, and making sure that everything was in preparedness for any Soviet missile strike, complete with periodic air raid drills, christ again.      

In 1962 this contest, as it was in previous years, was held in the spring in the town hall auditorium. And among the contestants, obviously, was that already "spoken for" Diana Nelson who was by even the casual music listener the odds-on favorite. She had prepped a few of us with her unique rendition of Brenda Lee’s I’m Sorry so I knew she was a shoo-in. And she was. What was interesting about the competition was not her victory as much as the assorted talents, so-called, that entered this thing. If I recall there were perhaps fifteen vocalists in all. The way the thing got resolved was a kind of sing-off. A process of elimination sing-off. 

Half a dozen, naturally, were some variation of off-key and dismissible out of hand. These girls fought the worst when they got the hook. Especially one girl, Elena G., if anyone remembers her who did one of the worst versions  of Connie Francis’ Who’s Sorry Now I had (and have) ever heard. The more talented girls took their lost with more grace, probably realizing as Diana got into high gear that they were doomed. But here is the funny part. One of the final four girls was not a girl at all. Jimmy C. from right down the end of my street dressed himself up as girl (and not badly either although none of us knew much about “drag queen” culture then) and sang a great version of Mary Wells’ Two Lovers. Like I said we knew from nothing about different sexual preferences and thought he just did it as a goof. (I heard a few years later that he had finally settled in Provincetown and that fact alone “hipped” me, after I got hip to the ways of the world a little better, to what he was about, sexually.) 

I probably told you before that one part of winning was a one thousand dollar scholarship. That was important, but Diana, when she talked to me about it a couple of days later just before class, said she really wanted to win so she could be featured at the Falling Leaves Dance. Now, like I said, I had a big crush on her, no question, so I was amazed that she also said that she wanted me to be sure to be at the dance that next late September. Well, if you have been paying attention at all then you know I was there. I went alone, because just then I didn’t have a girlfriend, a girlfriend strong enough for me to want to go to the dance with anyway. But I was having a pretty good time. I even danced with Chrissie McNamara, a genuine fox, who every guy had the “hots” for since she, just the night before, had busted up with Johnny Callahan, the football player. And Diana sang great, especially on Brenda Lee’s I Want To Be Wanted. She reached somewhere deep for that one. 


Toward the end of the evening, while the Rockin’ Ramrods were doing some heavy rock covers, Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen I think, and she was taking a break, Diana came over to me and said, I swear she said it exactly like this- “save the last dance for me.” I asked her to repeat herself. She said Bobby (her college joe) was not here that evening for some reason I do not remember and that she wanted to dance the last dance with someone she liked. Well, what’s a guy to do when someone like Diana gives her imperial command? I checked my dance card and said “sure.” Now this last dance thing has been going on ever since they have had dances and ever since they have had teenagers at such events so no big deal, really. Oh, except this, as we were dancing that last dance to the Ramrod’s cover of The Dubs Could This Be Magic Diana, out of the blue, said this. “You know if you had done more than just stared at my ass in class (and in the corridors too, she added) in ninth grade maybe I wouldn’t have latched onto Bobby when he came around me in tenth grade.” No, a thousand times no, no, no, no…   

Note: After reading the above heart-rending story I believe that we can safely put aside those accusations by my Salducci’s corner boys, especially my chieftain, one Frankie Riley, that I was totally skirt-addled. That I would chase anything in a skirt, anytime. Needless to say that also puts to rest that vicious rumor that I “hit” on Chrissie McNamara that night of the dance after she gave Johnny Callahan the big kiss-off.    

And hence this quirky contribution to Women’s History Month.
A View From The Left-Join the Spartacus Youth Clubs!-What We Fight For-(Young Spartacus pages)

Workers Vanguard No. 1063

6 March 2015
Join the Spartacus Youth Clubs!-What We Fight For-(Young Spartacus pages)
The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter.
1 Mobilize students behind the social power of the multiracial working class! Picket lines mean don’t cross! For union-run minority job recruitment and training programs! For union hiring halls! Down with union-busting “workfare” schemes! Jobs for all at union wages! Organize the unorganized! Unionize the South! Down with multi-tier wages, which pit younger and older workers against each other! Cops, prison guards, security guards out of the unions! Keep the bosses’ government and courts out of the unions!
2 Black oppression is the bedrock of racist American capitalism. Finish the Civil War! For black liberation through socialist revolution! For mass labor/black mobilizations to stop the fascists and race-terrorists! No to gun control! For the right of armed self-defense! No reliance on the capitalist courts or politicians! Fascist terror is not a question of “free speech.” Stop the Nazis! Stop the KKK!
3 For free, quality, integrated public education for all! Nationalize the private universities! Down with the racist purge of higher education—defend affirmative action, no to tuition hikes! No to budget cuts! For an end to tracking! For open admissions, no tuition and a state-paid living stipend for all students! Abolish the administration—the universities should be run by those who work and study there! Down with police occupation of public schools! Cops off campus!
4 For women’s liberation through socialist revolution! For mass, labor-backed mobilizations to defend abortion clinics! Down with parental consent laws and “squeal rules”! For free abortion on demand! For free, quality 24-hour childcare! For free, quality health care for all! Equal pay for equal work! Down with anti-gay laws! Down with reactionary age of consent laws! Full democratic rights for homosexuals! Government out of the bedroom! Down with the anti-sex witchhunt! Down with all laws against consensual activities, called “crimes without victims,” like pornography, gambling, drug use, prostitution and “statutory rape”!
5 Down with racist anti-immigrant laws! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! Organize foreign-born workers into the unions! No deportations! No to racist “English only” laws! Down with anti-Hispanic, anti-Arab, anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and all racist bigotry!
6 Down with the “war on terror,” which is a war aimed at immigrants, labor, the left and minorities! Free all the detainees! Abolish the racist death penalty! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free all class-war prisoners! There is no justice in the capitalist courts! Defend victims of racist cop terror and police frame-up! No illusions in civilian review boards or “community control” of the police! For labor mobilizations against racist cop terror! Down with the “war on drugs,” a racist war by the ruling class against black and Hispanic youth! The capitalist state—at its core consisting of the cops, courts, prisons—is the executive committee of the ruling class, an instrument of organized violence by the capitalists against the workers and the oppressed. It must be smashed through workers revolution!
7 Defend separation of church and state! Defend science against superstition and mysticism! Keep religion out of the schools! No prayer in the schools! Down with the teaching of creationism! For the teaching of evolution! No government funding for religious, private or “charter” schools!
8 Defeat U.S. imperialism through workers revolution! U.S. and allied forces out of Iraq, Afghanistan now! Down with the neocolonial occupations! For class struggle against U.S. capitalist rulers at home! No illusions in the UN—a den of imperialist thieves, their victims and their lackeys! All U.S./UN/NATO troops out of the Balkans, Haiti! For the right of independence for Puerto Rico! U.S. troops out of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean! U.S. imperialist butchers: hands off the world! No to the draft! Not one man, not one penny for the imperialist military! Drive ROTC, CIA and police recruiters off the campuses!
9 For international working-class solidarity! Down with the chauvinist poison of protectionism! Workers of the world, unite! For unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states of Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos against capitalist counterrevolution and imperialist attack! For workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats and establish regimes of workers democracy, based on the power of workers councils, and revolutionary internationalism!
10 Break with the racist, warmongering Democratic and Republican parties of capitalism! No support to any capitalist parties, including Greens! For a revolutionary, multiracial workers party that fights for socialist revolution! Look to the example of the heroic, Bolshevik-led workers of 1917 Russia! For new October Revolutions! For the international rule of the working class!
15 May 2011
The Spartacus Youth Clubs are the youth groups of the revolutionary Marxist Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
A View From The Left-Capitalist Syriza Government: No Friend of Workers-Imperialists Squeeze Greece

Workers Vanguard No. 1062
20 February 2015
Capitalist Syriza Government: No Friend of Workers-Imperialists Squeeze Greece

FEBRUARY 16—Negotiations in Brussels broke off today when representatives of the Greek government, led by the bourgeois Syriza party, rejected demands by European Union (EU) finance ministers that Greece hew to the austerity conditions of its 240 billion euro ($272 billion) bailout, which is due to expire at the end of this month. Wracked by a prolonged economic depression, masses of Greek workers and sections of the petty bourgeoisie have been thrown into destitution as the EU bankers make them pay for the massive national debt, now almost twice the country’s gross domestic product. As detailed below in a February 10 report by the Trotskyist Group of Greece, Syriza, while offering anti-austerity rhetoric, has made clear its intention to maintain Greece’s use of the euro currency and membership in the EU, an imperialist trade bloc.
In a statement for the January 25 elections, our Greek comrades explained that “the EU’s purpose is to enable the imperialist powers of Europe, led by Germany, to subordinate weaker capitalist countries like Greece and impose savage austerity on working people throughout Europe, including in Germany” (see “Greece: European Union Austerity Elections,” WV No. 1060, 23 January). In contrast to the bulk of ostensible socialists, the TGG opposed voting for Syriza, “not only because it is committed to keeping Greece in the EU, which is a pledge for more hunger and joblessness, but also because it does not in any way represent the interests of the working class.” The TGG called for votes to the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which stood in opposition both to the EU and to Syriza, while sharply criticizing the KKE’s nationalist populism, an obstacle to revolutionary working-class consciousness.
With the EU masters demanding blood, Syriza has been able to rally mass support on the basis of national unity, something that the two previous bourgeois governments could not do. Huge demonstrations have taken place in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities in support of the government. The main call for a protest in Athens last week made clear that the purpose of the rallies was to provide Syriza with “the best bargaining chip” for the Brussels talks.
As internationalist communists, the TGG comrades have uniquely put forward a revolutionary perspective for combating the attacks on workers and the oppressed, writing in a statement on the elections:
“A Greek exit from the EU as a result of militant workers struggle would be an important step forward, but not a solution in itself. The crisis in Greece is part of a world economic crisis of the imperialist system, which cannot be resolved within the borders of any single country, particularly within small, dependent Greece with its low level of industry and resources. The only way forward is a series of socialist revolutions that will expropriate the bourgeoisies, including in the imperialist centers, and establish an internationally collectivized, planned economy under workers rule. For a Socialist United States of Europe!”
*   *   *
Syriza achieved an overwhelming victory in the January 25 elections with 36 percent of the vote. Despite the fact that Syriza spent the last couple of years, and especially the weeks before the election, furiously backpedaling on just about every piece of leftist window-dressing in its program, there are real illusions in Syriza among layers of the workers and the oppressed. The fact that a party other than PASOK [bourgeois Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement] or [the right-wing] New Democracy won an election after 40 years is seen as a blow to the Greek “oligarchs” and their system of patronage and corruption. It is also seen as a source of national pride that Greece stood up to the imperialists, especially Germany, and voted in a party that the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF) didn’t want in power.
At the same time that Greece supposedly shifted hard to the left, it is significant and very ominous that the fascist Golden Dawn took third place in the election despite the fact that its leadership is in prison and they couldn’t mount much of a campaign. It is also significant that the KKE slightly increased its percentage of the vote compared to the June 2012 national elections, indicating that it has a solid base of electoral support among those on the left who oppose the EU.
Since 2012, Syriza has gone from supposedly rejecting the Troika’s austerity memorandum to wanting to erase only a portion of Greece’s debt to now proposing a mere debt swap scheme. Thus, Syriza’s promises to bring an end to austerity and reassert Greece’s national sovereignty are in practice increasingly hollow.
However, Syriza’s continued anti-austerity rhetoric and the popular perception that it is standing up to those who have treated Greece like a colony of Germany has much more sway with the population right now than the imperialist propaganda trying to scare Greeks into submitting to continued austerity for fear of a “Grexit” [exit from the eurozone]. Approval ratings for the government were at over 70 percent earlier this week. And Syriza truly has become a bourgeois party in government, with a section of the bourgeoisie now voicing open support for it as reflected in the shift in editorial position of major bourgeois newspapers. In fact, it is hard to find any bourgeois press that is not pro-government right now, which makes it difficult for us to find out what is really going on behind all the propaganda. Whether such bourgeois support will survive what lies ahead in the negotiations with the imperialists over Greece’s debt remains to be seen.
We cannot predict how long Syriza will manage to walk the tightrope between promising relief to the devastated masses and doing what the imperialists demand in order to stay in the EU. Nor can we predict whether the imperialists will actually allow Syriza some slack in order to ease up a bit on austerity or continue to hardline it—both voices are being heard from different quarters internationally. Some predict that D-Day will be sometime this week, and the British government is one among several governments and banks whose contingency planning for a Greek exit from the eurozone has been publicized. But it is hard to tell how much this is a propaganda exercise to scare the Greek government into submission, and how much the European imperialists actually might believe that the time has come for Greece to be kicked out of the EU and that the ensuing “contagion” will be minimal. The European Central Bank certainly yanked on the leash attached to the choke collar last week with its refusal to keep accepting Greek bonds as collateral, thereby forcing the insolvent Greek banks to borrow emergency funds at a much higher interest rate.
Imperialists United for Austerity
All the imperialists are united in demanding Greece continue its “structural reforms,” which mean decimating the wages and conditions of the working class in order to increase capitalist profitability. Without some crumbs to throw at the workers and poor, Syriza will have a hard time doing its job of keeping Greek capitalism safe by containing class and social struggle. That’s really what all their pleas to the imperialists for some “humanitarianism” amount to.
With no such crumbs in hand, Syriza has played up its nationalist populism domestically as an ideological prop for its capitalist government of “social salvation.” Having fallen two seats short of a parliamentary majority, Syriza predictably proceeded to form a government coalition with the virulently anti-immigrant and nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL), who are only a step removed from Golden Dawn on the Greek political spectrum.
This was the culmination of more than a year of repeated collaboration in parliament between Syriza and ANEL. Their collaboration began with a joint front over the 2013 economic crisis in Cyprus and included populist campaigns, for example in opposition to the proposed privatization of the public power company DEI. Among the concessions Syriza made to the bourgeoisie and the likes of ANEL before the election was to renounce its opposition to NATO, make overtures to the reactionary Orthodox church, come out against adoption by gay parents and assure the fascist-infested police that they would get more resources if Syriza were elected. Even a notorious pro-Golden Dawn Orthodox archbishop has now come out in support of Syriza.
The government coalition between the bourgeois populists of the left and right is thus united not only in its “anti-austerity” rhetoric but in its upholding of reactionary bourgeois nationalism. Indeed, Syriza handed ANEL leader Panos Kammenos the post of defense minister. He then promptly proceeded to fly to the disputed islets of Imia, off the coast of Turkey, on the anniversary of the fatal crash of a Greek Navy helicopter there in 1996. This is an anniversary regularly celebrated by the fascists. More importantly, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras’ first foreign trip as prime minister was not to a West European capital to deal with Greece’s economic crisis but to Cyprus, where he complained about Turkish “provocations” off the southern coast of the island. While there, he would not give a straight answer to a question about whether minorities in Thrace should be given more rights.
Syriza is so far from being any kind of “radical” left party that prior to the election, Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front said she would welcome a Syriza victory as strengthening “eurosceptic” forces. And after the election, Golden Dawn announced that it will support measures by Syriza against privatizations as well as anything Syriza does to oppose sanctions against Russia. In their own way, such expressions of support by fascists to Syriza confirm how correct we were to characterize its class character as bourgeois.
Subordination to Imperialism
While Syriza’s posturing over ending austerity and verbal challenges to the Troika may have caused tremors in the markets and grabbed headlines, it is clear that at bottom Syriza seeks to collaborate with the imperialists to keep Greece in the EU. Syriza’s modus operandi so far seems to be to trumpet some tough-sounding position and then water it down in practice over the following days. For example, its promise to overturn privatizations actually boils down to reviewing the plans for new privatizations while quietly pledging not to touch [Chinese shipping company] Cosco’s privatized part of the port in Piraeus. Syriza gave “Left Platform” leader Panagiotis Lafazanis the ministry in charge of privatizations, and he has gone from calling the proposed privatization of the Greek natural gas company a “national crime” to admitting that its partial privatization is proceeding.
Likewise many of Syriza’s promises have melted away, such as immediately restoring the minimum wage level. However, its promises to provide free health care for the poorest and other measures of social welfare, along with the pledge to increase the minimum wage and pensions by 2016, were enthusiastically received here and are undoubtedly a big source of illusions in the government.
More than 20 billion euros have poured out of Greek banks since November, leaving them insolvent without the European Central Bank’s promise to continue to “infuse liquidity.” More money flowed out of Greek banks in the week before this year’s election than in May 2012, when the imperialists worried about a Greek banking collapse. That no capital controls have been implemented in the face of a veritable bank run is an expression of the Greek government’s expectation of continued financial support from the imperialists.
Apparently, the possible dissolution of the Troika has been discussed for some months now as a measure that would give more “democratic legitimacy” to European institutions. It would certainly be a way to throw Syriza a symbolic bone while making not one bit of difference in Greece’s subordination to the imperialists in practice. The likes of U.S. president Barack Obama, French president François Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi have made comments about how austerity alone isn’t going to get Europe out of its crisis and about the need to negotiate a new deal with Greece, comments that have been played up here as expressions of support for Syriza. Of course, the U.S. “growth strategy” was to bail out the banks—which then threw hundreds of thousands out of their homes—as well as bailing out the auto bosses who slashed wages and conditions with the collusion of the union bureaucracy. But such attacks on the workers and poor go unmentioned in the bourgeois press here while Syriza whips up hopes that Obama and others will pressure Germany to give the Greeks a break.
Measures like hiring back sacked Finance Ministry cleaning ladies and removing busloads of riot cops from downtown Athens have cost the Syriza government almost nothing while doing a lot to bolster its image as friends of the downtrodden. At the same time, the Syriza government continues to send out its cops against immigrants, as described in the New York Times (7 February) article, “Greek Austerity Spawns Fakery: Playing Nurse,” which also gives a sense of the grim state of Greek public health care. These mostly immigrant “illegal” nurses are being targeted both by the fascists and the state. The alliance with ANEL will certainly help Syriza in that it can claim its hands are tied over passing socially progressive legislation on questions such as immigration or gay rights. Already, ANEL has announced that it will vote against pending legislation to give Greek citizenship to the children of immigrants who are born and raised here.
Our political opposition to this capitalist government is not dependent on whether its policies are more or less progressive. That is the criteria of much of the reformist left, who hope that with enough pressure from below Syriza might become a “workers government” somewhere between capitalism and socialism, which would supposedly pave the way to full-blown socialism. Even if Greece were to end up outside the EU in the near future against Syriza’s wishes, the only way back to “growth” under capitalism is the continued exploitation and oppression of the working people of Greece. This is what the reformists inside Syriza conceal. But so does the ostensibly oppositional Antarsya coalition, which is continuing its alliance with ex-Syriza leader Alekos Alavanos and his nationalist Plan B group, who are explicitly for a capitalist Greece outside the EU. The KKE excepted, most of the left has celebrated Syriza’s victory to one degree or another.
The Antarsya coalition announced that with the Syriza victory Greece has turned a page and promises much struggle to “fight so that measures in the interests of the people are imposed, so that the memoranda [austerity terms] are negated, so that the struggles are linked with the program of the anti-capitalist overthrow in the context of a left, labor and popular opposition.” In other words, they will struggle to push Syriza to the left. And as true believers in the possibility of genuine democracy under capitalism, they also pledge to fight in a front to root out Golden Dawn support in the police and the state.
What such a front means was on display at the first demonstration under the Syriza government. The fascists held their yearly anti-Turkey rally on January 31 to honor the three Greeks killed in the helicopter crash on the Imia islets—a rally attended by fascists from Germany, Spain and Italy as well. The left typically holds a counter-rally. This year the left rallied two hours before the fascists, in a different location and with no intention of stopping the Golden Dawn rally. Everyone from the Syriza youth to Antarsya and anarchists were represented. Much was made of the fact that there was a minimal police presence and the cops stood by as protesters sprayed graffiti on police buses. Had this demonstration been intended as a mobilization to stop the fascists, you can be sure that hundreds of armed riot cops would have been dispatched to protect the Golden Dawn rally.  
A View From The Left -Shut Down All the Refineries!-Victory to Oil Workers Strike!-Picket Lines Mean Don’t Cross!

Workers Vanguard No. 1062
20 February 2015
Shut Down All the Refineries!-Victory to Oil Workers Strike!-Picket Lines Mean Don’t Cross!
Some 5,200 oil refinery workers represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) are now on strike, chiefly over health and safety issues as well as the contracting out of maintenance jobs. Inadequate staffing forces workers to endure 12-hour shifts for as many as 16 days in a row, leaving them completely exhausted. Such grueling schedules are a major safety issue in this inherently dangerous industry made deadlier by corporate profit-gouging.
Even according to the bosses’ own reports, a fire or explosion occurs at a refinery almost every week. In 2005, a vapor leak at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, ignited when a contractor attempted to start his pickup; the resulting explosion killed 15 workers and injured more than 170. A fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, in August 2012 nearly incinerated 19 employees and forced 15,000 nearby residents to seek medical treatment for respiratory and other ailments. There must be union control of safety, including the right to stop work over dangerous conditions.
Organized labor has taken one hit after another in the bosses’ decades-long war on the unions. A real fight by the refinery workers—for many years organized in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) before ending up through mergers in the USW—could breathe some life into the union movement. USW members produce 64 percent of the fuel in the U.S., meaning that they have tremendous potential social power. Shutting down refinery production altogether would not only cut off the flow of profits to Big Oil but also quickly cause the gears of industry to grind to a halt, threatening the bottom line of a broad section of the U.S. capitalist class.
However, the USW bureaucracy has the union engaging in battle with both hands tied behind its back. When the national contract covering 65 oil refineries expired on February 1, the USW initially struck only nine of those facilities, in California, Texas, Kentucky and Washington state. One week later, the strike was extended to BP refineries in Whiting, Indiana, and Toledo, Ohio. The bulk of the 30,000 USW refinery workers continue to work under rolling 24-hour contract extensions, a move by the union tops that has not sat well with those on the picket lines.
Meanwhile, management and other scabs have kept struck facilities running. In this heavily automated, capital-intensive industry, only a relatively small number of scabs are needed for this strikebreaking activity. As one striker at the Tesoro refinery in Carson, California, told Workers Vanguard, the scabs, who lack sufficient training, are “sitting on a ticking time bomb.” The bosses have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to risk a refinery disaster, this time in order to inflict a defeat on the union.
The USW tops, who have acceded to small picket lines restricted to select entrances, seem to want striking workers to wait it out until equipment breaks down or the plants otherwise become inoperable. This strategy is a loser. It avoids hitting the bosses in the pocketbook, where it truly hurts, and drags out the strike. In the last national oil strike, in 1980, the OCAW union tops put up similarly symbolic picket lines (even while striking all unionized refineries); scabs operated the facilities for three months before a settlement was reached.
Further undermining the current strike, building trades workers are overwhelmingly crossing the picket lines to perform maintenance and other jobs. During normal operations, many plants have a mix of union and non-union contract workers in addition to the USW workforce. Reports have emerged of bad blood between the USW and the craft unions, including mutual recriminations over job-stealing claims. Wherever the truth lies in these jurisdictional disputes, there is no excuse for scabbing. If the oil giants are able to have their way with the USW, the craft unions will find themselves in a weaker position when the bosses turn their sights on them. A common front of the USW and the craft unions in struggle against the oil companies would be to the advantage of all refinery workers.
To win decisively, this strike must be extended and all refineries shut down tight with mass picket lines, at every entrance, that no one dares cross. The guiding principle should be one out, all out. In the course of this battle, it is incumbent upon the USW to reach out to the non-union contract workers—who are temporarily hired to maintain plant equipment, then discarded—by striving to bring them into the union with full wages and benefits. A militant strike could also chart a way forward for organizing the non-union refineries and more widely in the oil industry.
Anti-Union Laws and the Capitalist State
Mass pickets would almost certainly be met with government injunctions. Indeed, in most places there are already laws limiting the size and location of picket lines so that scabs have an easy time of it. Unions that honor the picket lines are threatened with fines under the Taft-Hartley Act, which bans secondary boycotts and sympathy strikes. After a week of not crossing the USW pickets at the Marathon refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, building trades workers were instructed by their union tops to scab in order to avoid “detrimental legal proceedings.” The bosses prohibit such union solidarity in action precisely because it is one of labor’s most effective weapons.
A striker at the BP refinery in Whiting opined to a WV reporter that there hasn’t been a pro-labor law in the past 30 years. In fact, the capitalist government’s “labor law” is designed to hold the unions captive to the class enemy. And the forces of the capitalist state, including the courts and cops, are there to be deployed against striking workers to enforce those laws. Criminally, the USW bureaucracy has welcomed into the union the bosses’ scab-herding security guards, who are cop auxiliaries.
To counter the bosses and their anti-labor arsenal, the unions must make use of their own weapons: their numbers, organization and collective strength. In the early 1980s, a spate of killings of strikers, among them OCAW member Gregory Goobic, who was run over by a scab driving a truck through a picket line at a California refinery, made clear the burning need to build solid mass picket lines. As we observed in “Labor’s Gotta Play Hardball to Win” (WV No. 349, 2 March 1984):
“‘But that’s illegal,’ the bureaucrats whine. So maybe some labor leaders go to jail six months after they surround the terminals with thousands of pickets and call a solidarity strike and the battle is won....
“No decisive gain of labor was ever won in a courtroom or by an act of Congress. Everything the workers movement has won of value has been achieved by mobilizing the ranks of labor in hard-fought struggle, on the picket lines, in plant occupations. What counts is power.”
Picket lines are the battle lines of the class war, where strikes are won or lost based on the balance of forces between the workers and their exploiters.
The USW bureaucrats, like the rest of the AFL-CIO officialdom, hide behind the anti-labor laws as an excuse to avoid sharp class struggle. At the refinery in Martinez, California, picketers who tried to prevent tanker trucks from crossing the lines were told by their own picket captains to stop. With the USW tops playing by the bosses’ rules, it is no wonder that even workers who reminisce about the militant tactics of past labor struggles see little prospect of reviving those traditions. If the unions are to be revitalized, a new class-struggle leadership, imbued with the understanding that the interests of labor and capital are irreconcilably counterposed, must be forged.
The weakened state of labor today does not foreclose the possibility of mounting a real fight in this strike. The USW itself has a total of 850,000 members, not just in steel and refining but other key industries like mining and rubber. Many workers who bring oil and gas to and from the refineries are also in unions, from Teamster truckers and rail engineers to tugboat operators in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). If the full force of the USW was mobilized, and support garnered from these strategic unions, the strike would be vastly more effective, making the bosses think twice about trying to enforce any injunctions.
There have been isolated incidents pointing to the potential for labor solidarity. Members of other unions, including nurses, teachers and auto workers, have joined the picket lines. In Whiting, USW members from nearby steel plants have marched with the pickets. These mostly black steelworkers were warmly welcomed by the largely white refinery workers. One steelworker, from U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, told WV that he came out to show solidarity in the expectation that it would be reciprocated when the steel contract expires in August. Notably, Teamsters and Ironworkers are not crossing the Whiting picket lines.
In the 1980 oil strike, there was a significant, though brief, show of labor solidarity when the ILWU shut down the Los Angeles port for one day in support of the striking refinery workers (see WV No. 251, 7 March 1980). Today, the longshore workers in the ILWU (and the International Longshoremen’s Association on the East and Gulf Coast) remain key potential allies of the refinery strikers. The ILWU has been working without a contract since July and the shipping bosses have recently imposed a partial lockout (see page 12). A victory by one or both of these powerful unions would redound to the benefit of the entire working class.
A number of capitalist Democratic Party politicians, and even a few Republicans, have expressed support for the strike, with the USW bureaucracy touting a visit by one Democrat, Congressman Gene Green, to a Texas picket line. Striking workers must be clear: bourgeois politicians are no “friends of labor.” In the event the union actually flexes some muscle, they will undoubtedly scatter to the winds. And Democratic president Barack Obama is no better. When 400 Philadelphia transit workers went on strike last June, he ordered them back to work.
The pro-capitalist union officials’ embrace of the Democrats is part and parcel of the lie that there is a partnership between labor and the filthy rich capitalists who run the country. USW International president Leo Gerard, who expresses a special affinity for the current administration, has been tapped repeatedly to sit on White House bodies. In 2010, Gerard was appointed by Obama to his Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations along with various business magnates, including the then-CEO of U.S. Steel. That committee advocates for the economic interests of U.S. imperialism in dominating dependent countries and competing with its rivals overseas, at the expense of working people everywhere.
Openly boasting of his exploits in filing trade complaints against foreign corporations and countries, Gerard is a strong pusher of protectionist poison under the pretext of helping “preserve and grow jobs” in steel and other industries. In fact, this practice gives aid to the profiteering of the U.S. capitalists, while making enemies of workers abroad rather than of the greedy American bosses who exploit USW members. The capitalists always seek to maximize their profits and drive down labor costs (that is, slash wages and worsen work conditions), including by moving production wherever it suits them. During the 1980s and early ’90s, OCAW lost nearly half its membership, largely because U.S. oil companies moved refinery production offshore. With the shale oil boom, domestic refineries have expanded their operations of late.
The protectionism of the USW leadership has given a boost to Big Oil, not least with a 5,000-page suit the union prepared to curtail China’s burgeoning green energy sector. That suit was taken up by the Obama administration with the World Trade Organization. Gerard is notorious for his virulent bashing of China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state where capitalism has been overthrown. In so doing, he eggs on the U.S. imperialists in their counterrevolutionary crusade to reopen that country to untrammeled capitalist exploitation. If successful, Washington’s moves against China would embolden the imperialists in further putting the squeeze on working people around the globe. Just as class-conscious workers defend the USW and other unions against the bosses despite their sellout leaders, workers must defend China against imperialist-backed capitalist counterrevolution despite the misrule of the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy.
For New Leadership of the Working Class
Some striking refinery workers hark back to the late OCAW International secretary-treasurer Tony Mazzocchi. In the 1990s, Mazzocchi and other OCAW officials were involved with the Labor Party Advocates (LPA). This lash-up of left-talking union bureaucrats eventually founded their so-called Labor Party in 1996 after years of discussions. However, the LPA, far from a genuine workers party, was never intended to be anything other than a shill for the Democrats and soon faded away. Its aim was to rope workers back into the Democratic Party fold at a time of growing disaffection with both the Republicans and Democrats. Its newsletter Labor Party Advocate (August 1991) explicitly stated: “Organizing Labor Party Advocates is not going to retard the re-birth of the Democrats. On the contrary, it will encourage it.” The working class needs its own party, one standing completely independent from the capitalists and their political representatives.
The chronic fatigue and overwork of USW members is all too familiar to workers across the country. While many people are compelled to work excessive hours just to make ends meet, millions more are unemployed. Over a century ago, massive class battles won the eight-hour workday, a historic gain for labor now substantially eroded. Workers today need to fight for a shorter workweek with no loss in pay, linking the fight for decent working conditions to the struggle for jobs for all. A 30-hour workweek at 40 hours’ pay, with the available work divided among everyone, would go a long way toward addressing both unemployment and the serious safety problems resulting from fatigue and understaffing.
The capitalists will, of course, reply that such demands are not practical (at least not if they are to maintain their obscene wealth). Indeed, the felt needs of the working class run right up against the inability of the capitalist system to satisfy them. What we must strive for is a wholly different type of society, a workers America where the productive wealth has been ripped out of the hands of the tiny capitalist elite and put at the disposal of the vast majority. Such a society can be achieved only when the working class, led by a genuine workers party, overthrows capitalist class rule through a socialist revolution and establishes a workers government.

Reflections On Boston’s Cancelled VFP-Led Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade Day 2015 -


From The Pen Of Bart Webber


Frank Jackman would not be marching this year on Saint Patrick’s Day, not at all. And he was mad as hell about the matter, mad enough to call his old time high school friend from Carver, Sam Lowell, and spill his guts about it, to try to make some sense of the situation since toward the end, only a few days before he thought he would march, when things had happened quickly that forced him not to march. I knew Frank only slightly back in Carver during high school, enough to each give the other a passing nod, the “nod” signifying in that schoolboy goodnight that while the parties did not hang together everything between them was “cool” (remind me to tell you the intricacies of the “nod” sometime but today we are concern with Frank’s anguish not his coolness). I was closer to Sam back then since he had lived at the end of my street, we had hung around together during junior high before he got into the corner boy life in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner up on Main Street near the Commons and had kept in touch since he had set up his law practice was in the old town and I had worked on the Carver Democrat for a while after college before moving on to Boston and elsewhere. He is the one who gave me the “skinny” on what the recent events Frank had spoken to him about.

The pair had gotten back in touch with each other after Frank had moved back east after many years on the West Coast and after Sam’s older son Brad had been killed in Iraq on his second tour of duty in 2005 and he had taken an interest what Frank, an active member of an anti-war veterans group, Veterans For Peace (VFP), and his comrades were up to. Sam had attended some of their activities and had previously marched in their contingent at various parades. He had again planned to do so this year before Frank called with his story. For those who failed to scan the title of this piece what Frank Jackman was not marching in and what he was mad about at the same time was that the fifth annual Veterans For Peace (VFP)-led Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade in South Boston. He had, in accordance with the publicity surrounding the event put out by VFP, expected to step off at noon on Sunday March 15th an hour before the official “private” Saint Patrick’s Parade sponsored by the Southie-centered Allied War Council (AWC) stepped off at one o’clock. A last minute decision by a federal judge though forced the peace parade to be cancelled by the VFP leadership.

(The time lag between the two events is important since by local court decree reflecting a decision on the type of parade AWC was sponsoring the two parades to be separated by one mile so as the AWC desired no one would think the two parades were in any way together. The reasons given for the peace parade cancellation for 2015, to be described in more detail below, centered on legal advice not to do so in support of a civic court action being pressed by VFP in federal court and that due to “the late in the day” timing of the results of the legal wrangling a proper parade could not be put together.)        

Frank, of course, had not been mad about not being able to march like he had been when he and Sam as kids were Boy Scouts from Troop Twelve in Carver and they were thrilled with the idea that they would go up to Boston some thirty miles away to strut their stuff. In those days back in the 1960s the parade, then sponsored in toto by the City would take place on March 17th no matter the day. (under an Evacuation Day cover, you know, commemorating the day when the American revolutionaries kick butt on the occupying British forces something every Irish person could cheer as well as the “wink, wink” real purpose of the thing which is to celebrate Irish freedom from those same Brits and also to acknowledge some tale about the wicked old saint Pat kicking snakes out of the old sod when he got his dander up). The year Troop Twelve had been invited to march since it was their turn in the rotation of troops for Boy Scout Council Six wouldn’t you know that snow postponed the event for a week and due to some unforeseen circumstances that he never fully understood Troop Ten from Plymouth went instead. He had been furious since he had cousins that he would have been strutting his stuff in front of. The next year he having found himself a girlfriend or rather she found him he had dropped out of the Scouts and that was that.               

Frank had spent the many, many years since that time going about the business of his life, some good some bad, not worrying or thinking much one way or the other about the parade, although he was always ready to sport the green come Saint Patrick’s Day wherever he was and whoever he was with and to lift a glass to the memory of the boys of Easter 1916 reciting William Butler Yeats poem of the same name to allwho would listen. One of the “some bad” parts of his life had been his service in the military during his generation’s war, the war in Vietnam, which had torn the country asunder, including in the military where those “cannon fodder” like him who were supposed to fight for who knows  what reason were half in mutiny.     

Frank always liked to make sure that everybody, including Sam with whom he had many arguments about the question and who had been 4-F (unfit for military duty) during that war due to a much operated on left arm that was about ninety percent useless, knew that while he had had some reservations about military service he had gone in with both eyes open when he received his draft notice. He also made sure everybody knew that while he was not by any means the best soldier in Vietnam he was not the worse. A few guys in his unit had even paid him the compliment that they would have not gotten out of a few messes alive in fire-fights with Charley if it had not been for his coolness under fire. So during his time of service in order to keep himself together he did not think about right or wrong on the war, on the war policy or on anything but keeping low and keeping the damn bugs and sweat off. 

After Frank had been discharged in 1971 that was a different story. Even after a few days at home in Carver hanging around with Sam and the guys was too much after all he had been through and so he pushed on up to Cambridge where he wound up meeting a young Quaker woman whom he met at an anti-war rally who helped him sort things out, helped him get over the horror of what he had seen and done in Vietnam. A little. Just then lots of other veterans were also getting “religion” about the damn war and were doing something about it, organizing themselves into Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). For the next couple of years between that fetching Quaker woman and his ex-military ant-war comrades in VVAW he felt he had washed himself clean.

As the war petered out and as anti-war activity declined in the mid-1970s Frank drifted away from the organization and from that Quaker woman and headed west. Drifted west winding up in San Francisco, stayed in the west for many years, got married a few times, got divorced as many, had a few kids who all turned out pretty well considering, and did a lot of ad hoc anti-war and social concerns political work along the way. But Frank, as if those Vietnam days or maybe earlier his growing up poor childhood have never really receded to far from the horizon, also got caught up in some “wanting habits” (his term) addictions like drugs and con artistry along the way. I don’t know a lot of the details but some involved drug dealing connected with Mexico, some flim-flam insurance scams and a couple of swindles from what Sam who also was hazy on the same details told me Frank told him. After his last divorce in the mid-1990s he headed back East figuring a change of scenery would help.

In the fall, October Sam thinks, of 2002 Frank had been in Boston on some unrelated business on a Saturday afternoon when he heard a band playing I Ain’t Going To Study War No More, the music coming from the Boston Common. This, as it turned out, would be the first serious anti-war demonstration of a few hundred people before the war drums of the 2003 Iraq war overtook all reason (and despite all reason is still on the front-burner until this day). What drew Frank’s attention though was a cluster of about forty flags, white flags embossed with the words “Veterans For Peace” in black and a dove of peace also outlined in black on each, being carried by older guys, guys from the look of it who had served in Vietnam times, or earlier. As the march stepped off the Common to walk up Tremont Street toward the Federal Building further up the street he joined in their contingent. That was the real beginning of his story to Sam. 

Frank did not join VFP until several years later since the anti-war efforts against the Iraq war in late 2002 and early 3003 while intense before the war fell apart after the “shock and awe” campaign began in March of that year. He did however whenever he was around attend and march with the VFP. In November 2009 not having been doing much for a couple of years he received a notification by an e-mail that the VFP was attempting to march in the “official’ Veterans Day parade on the Common and he decided to join in. That day was an eye-opener, a shock in a way, since the “officials” were by might and main, mostly by having the police intercede and arrest anti-war veterans who refused to “stand-down” refused to let fellow veterans with a different message march in their precious parade. Frank and a number of others were arrested that day for disorderly conduct, were fined, and released. So maybe that, despite what Frank regarded as his start with VFP and their struggles for recognition in 2002, was really the beginning. VFP would continue without success to be part of the official Veterans Day Parade (a day by the way which they called, correctly, by its right name Armistice Day a name from the end of World War I).  

For the next year or so Frank worked closely with VFP on various projects (in the meantime he had retired and therefore had some time to spent on such work), especially in 2011 when VFP got seriously involved with the potentially exciting but short-lived Occupy movement. He had also spent a great deal of his time, still does, after he first heard about the case in September of 2010, in supporting the defense and calls for freedom for heroic Wikileaks whistle-blower Chelsea (then Bradley, having subsequently revealed that she considered herself a woman a fact that the Army has now acknowledged) Manning who the Army was keeping in solitary down at the Quantico Marine Base outside of Washington, D.C.  (In August of 2013 Manning was convicted of about twenty of the charges against her and received an outrageous thirty-five sentence now being served at Fort Leavenworth pending the appeals process). The Manning case sparked something in him since here was a soldier, a soldier in Iraq to boot, who despite all the hell that was being rained down on her from top to bottom including torture had the courage to release important information about war atrocities and  other nefarious acts of the American government in the Middle East and elsewhere. Having not done his bit when he had the chance, his chance, Frank was just trying to put paid to his own lack of courage through Chelsea.  

In the spring of 2011 the leadership of the Boston VFP decided to apply to the AWC that had been running the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for the previous twenty or so years. That request was summarily rejected and a member of that organization was quoted at some point in the process saying that he did not want the word “veteran” and the word “peace” put together in the parade. (This AWC having solely taken over the city parade had gone all the way up to the United States Supreme Court in order to have their parade declared a private event and therefore they could invite or not invite whoever they wanted. They had started out discriminating against the GLBTQ community and had now extended it to the peace community as well.) As a result of that exclusion the VFP put out a call for all the area peace, GLBTQ groups, and social justice activists to march with them after the official parade. And those five hundred or so who heeded the call marched through South Boston that day to generally good effect.  

VFP over the next three years continued to attempt to enter the official parade, were summarily rebuffed or ignored, and each year organized the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade that increased in size and began to look like any regular parade in Boston with floats, band, a trolley and the ubiquitous duck boat, all in the service of peace and justice. As the organization prepared for the 2015 event they took a different tack, decided not to waste any effort applying to the official parade officials, but also decided that the late afternoon in March (usually starting to march well after 3 o’clock) well after the crowds for the official parade had left and therefore were walking down sullen streets interfered with their right of effective free expression and applied to the City of Boston for a noon start time. 

That request was denied by the city and VFP thereafter filed a law suit in federal district court charging discrimination under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and asked for injunctive relief requiring the city to grant the noon start time. A week before the parade date the federal judge turned down the request (although the legal civil case continues on). In response, as collectively agreed by the membership before the start of litigation, the failure to get the noon start time triggered the cancelling of the Peace Parade for 2015 (a stance which also dovetailed with the lawyers’ concerns about the court case adding fuel to their arguments about discrimination by the city).

A couple of days before the official parade was to start the AWC granted a gay rights organization’s application (Boston Pride) to march having previously granted the request of a group of gay veterans, OutVets to march. VFP and other peace groups were thus the only ones to have their parade rained on. Yeah, so Frank Jackman who over the previous four years had spent much time helping organize each parade, raising money, and a million other small tasks was not marching, and mad as hell about it. Do you blame him.  
All Out For The Fifth Annual Saint Patrick’s Day Peace Parade In South Boston Sunday March 15, 2015

Frank Jackman comment:
I am always happy to publicize the Veterans For Peace-led Saint Patrick’s Day Peace Parade to be held this year on March 15th. This year will mark the fifth time that organized peace activists, anti-militarists, anti-imperialist, pro-LGBTQ and other socially conscious groups, have been excluded from the main “private” parade sponsored by the Allied War Council (that name goes a long way toward explaining the exclusions of the above-mentioned groups although pro-war LGBTQ veterans from an organization called OutVets has allegedly received permission to march openly). This year will mark the fourth time I will proudly march with my fellow veterans. (I was down in front of the gates at the Marine base at Quantico in Virginia standing for freedom for heroic Wikileaks whistle -blower Chelsea Manning and so could not attend the first effort.) This event is a highlight of the ant-war calendar each year and has become something of rallying point for all those, even some pro-military types who disagree with the politics of the peace parade, to express outrage that veterans have been excluded.  
Helping me to keep focused on publicizing this event is a statement attributed to one of the Allied War Council organizers a couple of years ago:             
 “We don’t want the word peace connected with the word veteran in our parade”
Of course that remark had me seeing red and I recall that I replied- “Oh yeah, well watch this, watch what we organize that day”- Don’t make a liar out of me this year. Plan to attend this important event.
All Out For The Smedley Butler Brigade Veterans For Peace-Initiated Saint Patrick’s PEACE Parade on Sunday March 15th in South Boston


Boston Pride
Breaking NewsIrish and #WickedProud
Boston Pride Will March in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 15th
March 13, 2015 (Boston, MA) – Boston Pride, which will commemorate its 45th anniversary as an organization celebrating the LGBT community in June, has been accepted by the South Boston Allied War Veteran’s Council to march in the 114th annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade will take place on Sunday, March 15th.

“We are looking forward to celebrating Boston’s diversity, our veterans and the Irish heritage of so many members of our community by marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” said Sylvain Bruni, president of Boston Pride. “While we recognize there is still much work to be done to protect the rights of the LGBT community both here and around the world, and to ensure everyone’s rights to express themselves and to celebrate, we are aware of how symbolically important it is for members of our community to be proudly out among their friends and neighbors as a part of this historic parade.”

"I'm thrilled that the St. Patrick's Day parade is inclusive this year, and the addition of Boston Pride to the list of participants reflects the values of the South Boston neighborhood," said Mayor Walsh. "With this year's parade, Boston is putting years of controversy behind us."

In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a constitutional right to exclude LGBT organizations and individuals from participating in the annual parade. Twenty years later, Boston Pride and the LGBT community will be marching proudly in the parade, alongside OUTVETS, a group that formed last year and represents openly gay veterans.

“We are eager to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the same respectful manner we ask participants to observe at the Pride Parade every year. As importantly, we are looking forward to showing our pride in an established Boston tradition and in our community by marching on Sunday, and we invite all LGBT and ally individuals to march with us,” said Bruni.

About Boston Pride

Boston Pride produces events and activities to achieve inclusivity, equality, respect, and awareness in Greater Boston and beyond. Fostering diversity, unity, visibility and dignity, we educate, communicate and advocate by building and strengthening community connections.

Kicking off June 5 through June 14, Boston Pride will host ten days of events and activities that bring people together from all walks of life to celebrate diversity. Opening with the Annual Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall, 2015 Pride Week will also include, the first annual Gala, Pride Day at Faneuil Hall, Black Pride Cruise, AIDS Walk, Pride Diplomatic Reception, Pride Lights, Human Rights Forum, Queeraoke, Pride Night at Fenway Park, Boston Pride Festival and Parade, Pride Youth Dance, Back Bay Block Party, and JP Block Party. The theme of this year’s Pride Parade and Festival is "45th Anniversary - #WickedProud."
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