Saturday, May 02, 2015

In Honor Of International Workers’ Day- May Day 2016 -Ancient dreams, dreamed-The Risen People?-Frank Jackman’s War-Take One 


From The American Left History Blog Archives –May Day 1971


Endless, dusty, truck heavy, asphalt steaming hitchhike roads travelled, Route 6, 66, maybe 666 and perdition for all I know, every back road, every Connecticut highway avoiding back road from Massachusetts south to the capital for one last winner-take-all, no prisoners taken show-down to end all show-downs. And maybe, just maybe, finally some peace and a new world a-borning, a world we had been talking about for at least a decade (clueless, as all youth nations are clueless, that that road was well-travelled, very well- travelled, before us). No Jack Kerouac dharma bum easy road (although there were dharma bums, or at least faux dharma bums, aplenty on those 1971 roads south, and west too) let- her-rip cosmic brakeman Neal Cassady at the wheel flying through some Iowa/Kansas wheat field night fantasy this trip.

No this trip was not about securing some cultural enclave in post-war America (post-World War II so as not to confuse the reader) in break-out factory town Lowell or cold water tenement Greenwich Village/Soho New Jack City or Shangri-La West out in the Bay area, east or west, but about mucking up the works, the whole freaking governmental/societal/economic/cultural/personal/godhead world (that last one, the godhead one, not thrown in just for show, no way) and maybe, just maybe sneaking away with the prize. But a total absolute, absolutist, big karma sky fight out, no question. And we, I, am ready. On that dusty road ready.

More. See all roads head south as we, my girlfriend of the day, maybe more, maybe more than a day, Joyell, but along this time more for ease of travelling for those blessed truck driver eye rides, than lust or dream wish and my sainted wise-guy amigo (and shades of Gregory Corso, sainted, okay), Matty, who had more than a passing love or dream wish in her and if you had seen her you would not have wondered why. Not have wondered why if your “type” was Botticelli painted and thoughts of butterfly swirls just then or were all-type sleepy-eyed benny-addled teamster half-visioned out of some forlorn rear view mirror.

Yah, head south, in ones, twos, and threes (no more, too menacing even for hefty ex-crack back truckers to stop for) travelling down to D.C. for what many of us figure will be the last, finally, push back against the war, the Vietnam War, for those who have forgotten, or stopped watching television and the news, but THEY, and you knew (know) who they were (are), had their antennae out too, they KNEW we were coming, even high-ball fixed (or whiskey neat she had the face for them) looking out from lonely balconies Martha Mitchell knew that much. They were, especially in mad max robot-cop Connecticut, out to pick off the stray or seven who got into their mitts as a contribution to law and order, law and order one Richard Milhous Nixon-style (and in front of him, leading some off-key, off-human key chorus some banshee guy from Maryland, another watch out hitchhike trail spot, although not as bad as Ct, nothing except Arizona is). And thus those dusty, steamy, truck heavy (remind me to tell you about hitchhiking stuff, and the good guy truckers you wanted, desperately wanted, to ride with in those days, if I ever get a chance sometime).

The idea behind this hitchhiked road, or maybe, better, the why. Simple, too simple when you, I, thought about it later in lonely celled night but those were hard trying times, desperate times really, and just free, free from another set of steel-barred rooms this jailbird was ready to bring down heaven, hell, hell if it came down to it to stop that furious war (Vietnam, for the later reader) and start creating something recognizable for humans to live in. So youth nation, then somewhat long in the tooth, and long on bad karma-driven bloody defeats too, decided to risk all with the throw of the dice and bring a massive presence to D.C. on May Day 1971.

And not just any massed presence like the then familiar seasonal peace crawl that nobody paid attention too anymore except the organizers, although the May Day action was wrapped around that year’s spring peace crawl, (wrapped up, cozily wrapped up, in their utopian reformist dream that more and more passive masses, more and more suburban housewives from New Jersey, okay, okay not just Jersey, more and more high school freshman, more and more barbers, more and more truck driver stop waitresses, for that matter, would bring the b-o-u-r-g-e-o-i-s-i-e (just in case there are sensitive souls in the room) to their knees. No, we were going to stop the government, flat. Big scheme, big scheme no question and if anybody, any “real” youth nation refugee, excepting, of course, always infernal always, those cozy peace crawl organizers, tried to interject that perhaps there were wiser courses nobody mentioned them out loud in my presence and I was at every meeting, high or low. Moreover I had my ears closed, flapped shut closed, to any lesser argument. I, rightly or wrongly, silly me thought “cop.”

So onward anti-war soldiers from late night too little sleep Sunday night before Monday May Day dawn in some vagrant student apartment around DuPont Circle (I think) but it may have been further up off 14th Street, Christ after eight million marches for seven million causes who can remember that much. No question though on the student ghetto apartment locale; bed helter-skelter on the floor, telephone wire spool for a table, orange crates for book shelves, unmistakably, and the clincher, seventeen posters, mainly Che, Mao, Ho, Malcolm etc., the first name only necessary for identification pantheon just then, a smattering of Lenin and Trotsky but they were old guys from old revolutions and so, well, discounted to early rise (or early stay up cigarette chain-smoking and coffee slurping to keep the juices flowing). Out into the streets, out into the small collectives coming out of other vagrant apartments streets (filled with other posters of Huey Newton , George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, etc. from the two names needed pantheon) joining up to make a cohorted mass (nice way to put it, right?). And then dawn darkness surrounded, coffee spilled out, cigarette bogarted, AND out of nowhere, or everywhere, bang, bang, bang of governmental steel, of baton, of chemical dust, of whatever latest technology they had come up with they came at us (pre-tested in Vietnam, naturally, as I found out later). Jesus, bedlam, mad house, insane asylum, beat, beat like gongs, defeated.

Through bloodless bloodied streets (this, after all, was not Chicago, hog butcher to the world), may day tear down the government days, tears, tear-gas exploding, people running this way and that coming out of a half-induced daze, a crazed half-induced daze that mere good- will, mere righteousness would right the wrongs of this wicked old world. One arrested, two, three, many, endless thousands as if there was an endless capacity to arrest, and be arrested, arrest the world, and put it all in one great big Robert F. Kennedy stadium home to autumn gladiators on Sunday and sacrificial lambs this spring maypole may day basket druid day.

And, as I was being led away by one of D.C.’s finest, I turned around and saw that some early Sunday morning voice, some “cop” voice who advised caution and went on and on about getting some workers out to join us before we perished in an isolated blast of arrests and bad hubris also being led away all trussed up, metal hand-cuffs seemingly entwined around her whole slight body. She said she would stick with us even though she disagreed with the strategy that day and I had scoffed, less than twenty-four hours before, that she made it sound like she had to protect her erring children from themselves. And she, maybe, the only hero of the day. Righteous anonymous sister, forgive me. (Not so anonymous actually since I saw her many times later in Boston, almost would have traded in lust for her but I was still painted Botticelli-bewitched and so I, we, let the moment passed, and worked on about six million marches for about five millions causes with her but that was later. I saw no more of her in D.C. that week.)

Stop. Brain start. Out of the bloodless fury, out of the miscalculated night a strange bird, no peace dove, these were not such times even with all our unforced errors, and no flame-flecked phoenix raising but a bird, maybe the owl of Minerva came a better sense that this new world a-bornin’ would take some doing, some serious doing. More serious that some wispy-bearded, pony-tailed beat, beat down, beat around, beat up young stalwart road tramp acting in god’s place could even dream of. But that was later. Just then, just that screwed-up martyr moment, I was longing for the hot, dusty, truck driver stop meat loaf special, dishwater coffee on the side, road back home even ready to chance Connecticut highway dragnets to get there.


Frank Jackman wandered across the National Mall, the D.C. National Mall for those who have not been to that locale, the locale where the Washington Monument is, that early April 30th 1971 evening trying to keep warm against the unseasonable late April chill that was pressing down on the day. Wandered and found a space, a spot, a closed in spot where several people had begun to start a small fire away from the din of the massive crowds who had earlier in the day filled the space with their singed yearnings for peace leaving a less massive crowd ready to battle on the next day, May Day, against the whole freaking government. Frank needed to figure out where he stood on that proposition, needed to figure out if he could take more jail time just then. 


And that was no academic question as Frank thought back to just a few months before when he had finally under judicial edict been released from the Fort Devens stockade as a military conscientious objector after almost a collective year in jail. And that was his dilemma doing more jail time, although he was not altogether sure of the effectiveness of the proposed action either. But just that chilled evening he was in a memory mood, a mood to flash back a little and reflect on his own previous small contribution to the struggle against the Vietnam War.


He thought first and foremost about what a fool he had been to even allow himself to be drafted in the Army in the first place. While he had not been particularly vocal about his opposition to the war having been, frankly, caught up more with the idea of wine, women and song as befit many a college student lying in wait on the campuses of this country in order to pray that the war would be over before he graduated and his healthy body number was called. In any case he was drafted by his friends and neighborhoods in North Adamsville (as they so quaintly put it on his draft notice) and he was inducted in January, 1969 (after the heavy military action by the North Vietnamese in TET 1968, and the heavy political action in America throughout that year ahd changed the war mood significantly).       


From about day three after he had been shipped to the replacement center (nice army term) at Fort Jackson down in South Carolina Frank realized that he had made a grievous mistake and should have refused induction, or something. That only became clearer as he trudged through basic training and then was given his MOS, his job, 11 Bravo, infantryman, grunt in the common parlance, cannon fodder as he would later describe it after he got wised up politically. What was clear from that designation was that he was going to be trained to be doing hard fighting, and just then that hard fighting was only being done en masse in the jungles of Vietnam. That infantry training by the way was done down in high rebellion country (American Civil War rebellion) at Fort McClellan in Alabama. Although he (and a few other Yankees) gave the command fits about possibly refusing to fire machine guns he held his own consul until he could get to friendly ground after he received his orders to proceed to Fort Lewis in Washington State for transport to Vietnam.


At that point Frank became a little tired of thinking since he had been up about twenty-four hours straight and so he nodded off for a bit…   
Satin-Voiced  Ben E. King  Of Stand By Me Last Chance Last Dance Fame Passes On At 76-The Dance Hall 1960s Night Sits A Little Dimmer  

This piece was not written fro Ben E. King but it could have been...

Funny how memory draws you in, draws you in tight and hard once you focus in just a little. Take this combination. Recently I have been involved in writing some little sketches for my North Adamsville High School reunion Class of 1964 website. You know never before revealed stuff (and maybe should not be revealed now except I believe the statute of limitations has run out on most offenses) about what went on in the class rooms when some ill-advised teacher turned his or her on the class; the inevitable tales of triumph and heartbreak as told in the boys’ or girls’ Monday morning before school talkfest about what did, or did not, go on over the weekend with Susie or Billy; the heart-rending saga of being dateless for the senior prom; the heroics and devastating defeats of various sports teams especially the goliaths of the gridiron every leaf-turning autumn; the mysteries of learning about sex (I thought this might get your attention, innocent exploration or not) in the chaste day time down at the summer-side beach, or late at night after not watching the double feature at the outdoor drive-in movies (look it up on the Internet that there was such a way to watch them); date night devouring some hardened hamburgers complete with fries and Coke at the local all-know drive-in restaurant (ditto look up that too); older and car-addled taking the victory spoils after some after midnight “chicken run”; spending “quality time” watching breathlessly the “submarine races” (ask somebody from North Adamsville about that); and, just hanging out with your corner boys at Doc’s Drugstore throwing dimes and quarters in the jukebox to while the night away. Yeah, strictly 1960s memory stuff.   

Put those memory flashes together with my, seemingly, endlessly gone back to my early musical roots in reviewing a commercial classic rock and roll series that goes under the general title Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die. I noted in one review and it bears repeating here while time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-58, really did form the musical jail break-out for my generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune into music. Those two memory-inducing events coming together got me thinking even further back than high school, back to elementary school down at Adamsville South where music and sex (innocent, chaste variety) came together at the record hop (alternatively called the sock hop if in your locale the young girls wore bobby sox rather than nylons to these things. Nylons being one of the sure signs that you were a young women and not merely some stick girl so the distinction was not unimportant).    

See we, we small-time punk in the old-fashioned sense of that word meaning not knowledgeable, not the malicious sense, we hardly wet behind the ears elementary school kids, and that is all we were for those who are now claiming otherwise, listened our ears off to the radio or when we scurried home right after school to watch American Bandstand when that program came on in late afternoon. And we hungry to be “hip” (although not knowing that word, not knowing that out in the adult world guys, guys mostly, guys in places like North Beach in Frisco town or the Village in New Jack City were creating the ethos of hipness which we would half-inherit later as latent late term “beats”) wanted to emulate those swaying, be-bopping television boys and girls if not on the beauties of that medium then with some Friday or Saturday night hop in the school gym or in some church basement complete with some cranky record player playing our songs, our generation-dividing songs (dividing us for the prison of our parents music heard endlessly, too endlessly if there is such a concept).

Those were strange times indeed in that be-bop 1950s night when stuff happened, kid’s stuff, but still stuff like a friend of mine, not Billy who I will talk about some other time, who claimed, with a straight face, to the girls that he was Elvis’ long lost son. My friend’s twelve to Elvis’s maybe twenty. Did the girls do the math on that one? Or, maybe, they like us more brazen boys were hoping, hoping and praying, that it was true despite the numbers, so they too could be washed by that flamed-out night.

Well, this I know, boy and girl alike tuned in on our transistor radios (small battery- operated radios that we could put in our pockets, and hide from snooping parental ears, at will) to listen to music that from about day one, at least in my household was not considered “refined” enough for young, young pious you’ll never get to heaven listening to that devil music and you had better say about eight zillion Hail Marys to get right Catholic, ears. Yah right, Ma, like Patti Page or Bob Crosby and The Bobcats were supposed to satisfy our jail break cravings (not Bing, not the Bing of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? anyway). And the local hop put paid to that notion, taking the private music of our bedroom dreams and placing us, for good or evil, out on the dance floor to be wall-flower or “hip” (remember we did not know that term then, okay.)   

But can you blame me, or us, for our jail-break visions and our clandestine subterranean life-transistor radio dreams of lots of girls (or boys as the case may be), lots of cars, and lots of money if we could just get out from under that parental noise. Now getting back to that rock and roll series I told you that I had been reviewing. The series had many yearly compilations but as if to prove my point beyond discussion the year 1956 has two, do you hear me, two CDs to deal with that proposition that I mentioned above. And neither one includes Elvis, Jerry Lee, Bo Diddley or some other stuff that I might have included so you know we are in the golden age when there is that much good non- Hall of Fame stuff around.

Needless to say Larry Larkin, my old corner boy from North Adamsville home town day Phil Larkin’s cousin, remained a step ahead of everybody around Ashmont Street in the Dorchester section of Boston during those days, those days when that seismic change occurred in our youthful listening habits. (And Larry would transfer whatever cultural knowledge he had picked up on those Dorchester mean streets, mostly useful except more often than not wrong on the do’s and don’ts of sex, to Phil, known as “Foul-Mouth” Phil among the corner boy brethren who would pass it on to us). Everybody, everything had to change, had to take notice of the break-out, if only to cut off the jailbreak at the pass. And that is where Larry Larkin’s step ahead of everybody else came into play, everybody else who counted then, and that was mainly the junior corner boys who hung around in front of Kelly’s Variety Store on Adams Street where generations, at least two by that time and more since, of elementary school boys learned the corner life, for good or evil, mostly evil as a roster of those who wound up in the various county and state prisons would testify to.

And not just any elementary school corner boys but parochial school boys. That is what was significant about my bringing attention to the environs of the Dorchester section of Boston, a section loaded down with every kind of ethnic Catholic, recent immigrant or life-time denizen of the triple decker night, and where it seemed there was a Catholic church on every corner (and there almost was, and to prove the point Dorchester boys, girls too lately, identified themselves after being from “Dot” identified themselves by what parish they belonged to, say Saint Brendan’s on Main Street, Saint Gregory on Dorchester Avenue, Saint Anne’s on Neponset Avenue and so on, a phenomenon you would not notice in say Revere or Chelsea).

If there seemed to be a church on every corner there was sure to be a bevy, if that is the way they are gathered, of parish priests ready to guide the youth in the ways of the church, including at Saint Brendan’s one Lawrence Joseph Larkin. And one of the things that had upset that 1950s era bevy of priests at that parish (and at other parishes and had caused concern in other religious groupings as well) was the effect that the new music, rock and roll, in corrupting the morals of the youth. Was making them zombies listening on those transistor radios that seemed to be attached to their ears to the exclusion of all else. Was making them do lewd, yes, lewd, moves while they were dancing (and not even dancing arm and arm with some girl but kind of free-form about three feet away from each other as if the space between was some sacred land to be worshiped but not defiled, blasphemy, pure blasphemy) at what they called record hops, or sock hops, or some such thing on Friday nights at the public school Eliot School over on Ashmont Street. Was making them a little snarly when dealing with adults a snarl they learned from the television or movies with guys named Elvis or James leading them on, begging them to follow them in the great break-out.  Worse, worse of all was the danger of dangers, sex, which bad as the fast dancing was when they did an occasion slow dance was very improper, the guys hands drifting down to the girl’s ass and she not even swatting it away. So yes there was something like a panic about to erupt.

And formerly pious altar boy Larry Larkin was leading the charge, was the first to wear those damn longer sideburns like he was some Civil War general. To constantly rake his hair with that always back pocket comb to look like Elvis’ pompadour style (strangely Larry was a dead-eye blue-eyed blonde kid, so go figure). He had introduced the new flaky dance moves like the Watushi learned from eternal afternoon rush home from school American Bandstand, from his older brothers   or from “Foul-Mouth” Phil’s latest intelligence from his older brothers , that had priests and parents alike on fire, had been the villain who had introduced the move of the boy putting his hand almost to a girl’s ass when slow dancing (the girls learned to not swat them away on their own so don’t blame Larry for that one), and a mass of other sins, mortal and venial. All learned, according to the priests, at that damn (although they did not use that word publicly) secular school over on Ashmont Street. The priests and a few like-minded parents were determined after a collective meeting of the minds among themselves to put a stop to this once and for all.      

Their strategy was simplicity itself, with few moving parts to complicate things-“if you can’t fight them, join them.” So come the first Friday night in November of the year of our Lord 1957 Saint Brendan’s Parish used its adjacent auditorium for its first sock hop. Worse, worse for Larry, hell, worse for everybody who learned anything at all from him, and liked it, boy or girl, the priests had ordered from their Sunday pulpits  that every parent with teenagers was to send their charges to the hop under penalty, of I don’t know what, but under penalty. And thus the long chagrin death march faces come that first hop night.                       

Obviously there were to be certain, ah, restrictions, enforced by the chaperones inevitable at such gatherings of the young, those chaperones being the younger priests of the parish who were allegedly closer to the kids, had a clue to what was going on, or else dour older boys and girls, probably headed to the seminaries and convents themselves, or those who were sucking up to the priests for sin brownie point. Banned: no lipstick or short dresses (short being anything above the ankle practically in those days) on girls and ties and jackets for boys and no slick stuff on their hair. Worse, worst of all no grabbing ass on the slow dances (not put that way but the reader will get the picture). Yes, boring made more so by the selection of records that were something out of their parents’ vault with nothing faster than some Patti Page number yakking about old Cape Cod or Marty Robbins crooning about white carnations cranking out on the old record player that had been donated by Smiling Jack’s Record Store over on the Boulevard. (Jack O’Malley, proprietor of the shop, a notorious drunk and skirt-chaser in his off hours obviously in desperate need of indulgences, no question).           

Enter Larry Larkin who had been dragged to the front door of the auditorium by his parents and who were duly recognized by Father Joyce, the young priest put in charge of the operation by Monsignor Lally (although Larry had not been too hard dragged since Maggie Kelly was to be there, yes, he had it bad for her). Now everybody knew that Phil had a “boss” record collection either bought from his earnings as a caddie over at the golf course on weekends and in the summer or “clipped” from Smiling Jack’s (and if the reader needs to know what “clipped” meant well we will just leave it at Larry did not pay for them). They also knew he has a pretty good record player with an amplifier that his parents had bought for him the Christmas before last. None of that stuff some of which had used by Loopy Lenny the DJ over at the Eliot School sock hops would be used this evening and some of the kids commented on the fact that Larry came record empty-handed. Yes all the signs where there for a boring evening.   

But here is where fate took a turn on a dime, or maybe not fate so much as the fact that the new breeze coming through the teenage land was gathering some fierce strength in aid of the jail-break many like Larry knew was coming, had to come. About half way through the first part of the dance when more kids were milling around than dancing, talking in boy-girl segregated corners, when even the wallflowers were getting restless and threatening to dance, and they never danced but just hung to their collective walls, definitely before the intermission, all of a sudden from “heaven” it seemed came blaring out Danny and the Juniors At The Hop and the formerly downbeat scene started jumping with kids dancing up a storm (including a few former wallflowers who too must have sensed a portent in the air). The priests bewildered by where the music was coming from tried to investigate while Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock came on with the kids dancing fast like crazy (including some off-hand grabbing ass usually reserved for slow dances). Irate and failing to find the source of the “devil’s music” Father Joyce, red-faced (whether because he knew that the closed dance doomed him among the kids or because he was going to on the carpet with the Monsignor and probably consigned to do the 6:00 AM weekday masses) declared the dance over. Done. And that was the last time Saint Brendan’s Parish sponsored a sock hop for their tender youth charges.         

Oh, yes, how does Larry Larkin last seen among the milling around crowd on the dance floor fit into this whole mix. Simple, he had hired Jimmy Jenkin, a non-Catholic ace tech guy older friend of his brother, Jack, and therefore not subject to the fire and brimstone of hell for his heathen actions, to jerry-rig Larry’s sound system in a room with an electric outlet near up near the rafters of the auditorium, a place that the good priests were probably totally unaware of. Money well spent and a kudo to Jimmy. And Larry, well, if you want to see Larry (and “Foul-Mouth” Phil, now a regular weekly visitor at his cousin’s, ready to bring the new dispensation across the river to Adamsville) then show up some Friday night at the Eliot School where he will be dancing to the latest tunes with Maggie Kelly in tow. Enough said.          

Hey, here are some stick-outs records from Larry’s collection used by Loopy Lenny at the Eliot School that every decent hopping, be-bopping record hop (or sock hop, okay) spun out of pure gold:

Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins (Elvis covered it and made millions but old Carl had a better old rockabilly back beat on his version); In The Still Of The Night, The Five Satins (a doo wop classic that I am humming right this minute, sha dot do be doo, sha dot do be doo or something like that spelling, okay); Eddie, My Love, The Teen Queens (incredible harmony, doo wop back-up, and, and “oh Eddie, please don’t make me wait too long” as part of the lyrics, Whoa!); Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry ( a deservedly early break-out rock anthem. Hell I thought it was a big deal just to trash my parents’ Patti Page old Chuck went after the big boys like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.); Be-Bop-a-Lula, Gene Vincent (the guy was kind of a one hit wonder but Christ what a one hit, "yah, she’s my baby now"); Blueberry Hill, Fats Domino (that old smooth piano riffing away); Rip It Up, Little Richard (he/she wild man Richard rips it up); Young Love, Sonny James ( dreamy stuff that those giggling girls at school loved, and so you "loved" too); Why Do Fools Fall In Love?, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (for a minute the king be-bop, doo wop teenage angel boy. Everybody wanted to be the doo wop king or queen, including my friend Billy); See You Later, Alligator, Bill Haley and The Comets (yah, these “old guys” could rock, especially that sax man. Think about the expression  people still use “see you later alligator”); and Since I Met You Baby, Ivory Joe Hunter (every dance pray, every last dance pray, oh my god, let them play Ivory Joe at the end so I can dance close with that certain she I have been eyeing all night).

Note: I have mentioned previously the excellent album cover art that accompanied each classic rock series compilation. Not only do they almost automatically evoke long ago memories of red hot youth, and those dreams, those steamy dance night dreams too, but has supplied this writer with more than one idea for a commentary. One of the 1956 compilation album covers is in that same vein. The cover shows what looks like a local cover band from the 1950s getting ready to perform at the local high school dance, not a record hop but if they are worth anything at all they will play the songs us po’ boys were listening to on the transistor radio or via that cranky record player lent by somebody for the occasion at the hop. Although the guys, especially the lead vocalist, look a little skittish they know they have to make a good showing because this is their small-time chance at the big time. Besides there are about six thousand other guys hanging around in their fathers’ garages ready and willing to step up if the Danny and the Bluenotes fall flat. If they don’t make that big splash hit like Danny and the Juniors did with At The Hop, the first song that got me jumping, jack they are done for.

This live band idea was actually something of a treat because, from what I personally recall, many times these school dance things survived on loud record playing dee-jay chatter, thus the term “record hop.” From the look of it the school auditorium is the locale (although ours were inevitably held in the school gym), complete with the obligatory crepe, other temporary school-spirit related ornaments and a mesmerized girl band groupie to give the joint a festive appearance.

More importantly, as I said before, at least for the band, as they are warming up for the night’s work, is that they have to make their mark here (and at other such venues) and start to get a following if they want to avoid another dreaded fate of rock life. Yes, the dreaded fate of most bands that don’t break out of the old neighborhood, the fate of having to some years down the road play at some of the students they are performing for that night children’s birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings and the like. That thought should be enough to keep these guys working until late in the night, jamming the night away, disturbing some old fogy Frank Sinatra fans in the neighborhood, perfecting those covers of Roll Over Beethoven, Rip It Up, Rock Around The Clock and Jailhouse Rock. Go to it boys, buy the ticket and ride the furies.

Once Again- Stop The Damn Wars- Stop The Damn American And Allied  Bombings In Syria And Iraq- Stop The Damn American Killer Drone Attacks Everywhere- Stop The Saudi Bombing Decimation Of Yemen-Stop The American Military Aid To Israel- Hell, Just Stop The Madness In The Middle East 



Once Again- Stop The Damn Wars- Stop The Damn American And Allied  Bombings In Syria And Iraq- Stop The Damn American Killer Drone Attacks Everywhere- Stop The Saudi Bombing Decimation Of Yemen-Stop The American Military Aid To Israel- Hell, Just Stop The Madness In The Middle East 

For a very long time, a very long time it seems now since the first days that  I started looking to the Russian revolutions of 1917 (the essentially embryonic stillborn one in February and the more world-historic Soviet socialist one in October) and to a somewhat lesser extent that of 1905 as historical events that anybody seriously interested in working-class centered revolution has to take the measure of I have seemingly endlessly touted the example of the Bolshevik Duma deputies (who actually resided in the workers section of that body, proving yet again the second, hell, maybe third class status of that class in Imperial Russia) in voting against the Czar’s war budgets for supplies in World War I (and winding up in Siberian exile for their troubles) as a prime example of what anti-war parliamentary representatives should do when the war drums start beating. I have also noted the examples of the Bulgarian and Serbian Social-Democrats in that war voting against their respective war budgets, and more so given the more decisive character of the betrayed of socialism by the cowardly majority of the German Social-Democrats, the valor of Karl Liebknecht in Germany in breaking with Social-Democratic Party policy of voting as a bloc in voting against the Kaiser’s war budgets also in that same war (and winding in the Kaiser’s jails for his efforts). I have argued with those in the now almost moribund anti-war movement as well as in the past starting with George McGovern in the early 1970s when I began to think through how to stop the damn wars that seem to constantly confront us in the age of the American imperium that the key to any political support to any politician is their negative vote on the war budgets. That, at times, has meant not voting for the over-all defense budget which is asking for way too much of any bourgeois political these days and would have me put away in some protective institution for my own good even by Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont just against the specific budgets for whatever current adventure the United States government has embarked upon. You know the one hundred billion here and there each year for Afghanistan, Iraq and the odd conflict all of which by every reasonable account adds up to some serious money, over a trillion dollars at last count, drawn down the drain. That is the litmus test for any serious opposition at the parliamentary level. [Saunders who has just announced for the presidency here in America for 2016 not as an independent socialist but as some kind of animal called a “democratic socialist” running as a Democrat against Madame Clinton, one of the wings of the war party and thus no longer worthy of consideration as a candidate. His consistent votes for endless military aid to Israel in order to continue the savage suppression of the Palestinian people within and outside its borders also precludes such support.]

This, if the recent past is any example, is no abstract question these days as I wrote in February 2015 when President Obama was scratching around once again for Congressional authorization to go after ISIS and whoever else he has in his gun-sights these days. Who knows what is next if the Saudis get bogged down in Yemen, some other country becomes a “failed state” after a little off-hand American bombing and troops, somebody’s troops paid out of the U.S. mint coin of the realm. At that moment I, we, the anti-war movement was not even asking anything about saying “no” to the war budgets but for Congress to simply say “no” to another imperial adventure. That simply sane act would be a big step and even Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont would grant me a reprieve from that institution he was about to throw me in for such a reasonable request. Let’s get to it, let’s set a fire under the Congress each time war resolutions and war budgets come to the floor and hold each and every hand to that fire on this one. Even if we have to hold our noses while doing so. 

Some of my fellow anti-war activists have argued with me about this “no support for politicians who say “yes” to war resolutions and budgets citing the “progressive” variation of the old chestnut that you must support Democrat X because despite the fact that he or she put up every hand for every war resolution and every war budget you have to support him or her because the other guys, usually Republican W, Y, Z, are so much worse, maybe wants to bomb extra countries or jack up the war budget or something. All these so-called anti-war maneuvers of supporting the “lesser evil” whether my fellows know it or not were honed into an art form in their turns by the Socialist Party whose pro and anti-war faction fights over World War I and the example of the Russian October as the most decisive anti-war action in history when they withdrew from World War I, the Communist Party when they back-handedly (and not so back-handedly when the deal went down) backed every Roosevelt action in World War II and the Socialist Workers Party who openly promoted their links to bourgeois politicians and refused to make a no on the war budget a litmus test in the Vietnam anti-war movement, the three leftwing organizations in this country that have had the minimal clout necessary to argue this point. I cannot follow that path. However I am always ready to join with the too few forces who care about such questions of war and peace to oppose whatever action the American government is taking to gear up for war, or gear up their incessant bombing, and now drone campaigns. So yes you will see me walking along with the brethren whenever the call comes out.   

Off the recent track record in the failed state of Iraq, the failed state in Libya, the nearly failed state in Syria (I am still looking for those “moderate” anti-ISIS forces that the United States is trying to supply in Syria) and also the nearly failed state in Ukraine all of which have the fingerprints of American involvement over them the beginning of wisdom is to oppose further military involvement beginning with a “no” vote to supply the damn wars. Hands Off Syria! No New War In Iraq! Stop The Bombings and Drone Attacks! Down With The Saudi Bombings In Yemen! No Military Aid to Ukraine….and that is just for starters.                 

From The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive Website- The Alba Blog


Click below to link to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive blog page for all kinds of interesting information about that important historic grouping in the International Brigades that fought for our side, the side of the people in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39.

Markin comment:

This blog had gotten my attention for two reasons: those rank and filers who fought to defend democracy, fight the fascists and fight for socialism in Spain for the most part, political opponents or not, were kindred spirits; and, those with first-hand knowledge of those times over seventy years ago are dwindling down to a precious few and so we had better listen to their stories while they are around to tell it. Viva La Quince Brigada!  


I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class revolutions after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted that the political class consciousness of the Spanish proletariat at that time was higher than that of the Russian proletariat in 1917. Yet it failed in Spain. Trotsky's writings on this period represent a provocative and thoughtful approach to an understanding of the causes of that failure. Moreover, with all proper historical proportions considered, his analysis has continuing value as the international working class struggles against the seemingly one-sided class war being waged by the international bourgeoisie today.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 has been the subject of innumerable works from every possible political and military perspective possible. A fair number of such treatises, especially from those responsible for the military and political policies on the Republican side, are merely alibis for the disastrous policies that led to defeat. Trotsky's complication of articles, letters, pamphlets, etc. which make up the volume reviewed here is an exception. Trotsky was actively trying to intervene in the unfolding events in order to present a program of socialist revolution that most of the active forces on the Republican side were fighting, or believed they were fighting for. Thus, Trotsky's analysis brings a breath of fresh air to the historical debate. That in the end Trotsky could not organize the necessary cadres to carry out his program or meaningfully impact the unfolding events in Spain is one of the ultimate tragedies of that revolution. Nevertheless, Trotsky had a damn good idea of what forces were acting as a roadblock to revolution. He also had a strategic conception of the road to victory. And that most definitely was not through the Popular Front.

The central question Trotsky addresses throughout the whole period under review here was the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the proletarian forces. That premise entailed, in short, a view that the objective conditions for the success of a socialist program for society had ripened. Nevertheless, until that time, despite several revolutionary upheavals elsewhere, the international working class had not been successful anywhere except in backward Russia. Trotsky thus argued that it was necessary to focus on the question of forging the missing element of revolutionary leadership that would assure victory or at least put up a fight to the finish.

This underlying premise was the continuation of an analysis that Trotsky developed in earnest in his struggle to fight the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution in the mid-1920's. The need to learn the lessons of the Russian Revolution and to extend that revolution internationally was thus not a merely a theoretical question for Trotsky. Spain, moreover, represented a struggle where the best of the various leftist forces were in confusion about how to move forward. Those forces could have profitably heeded Trotsky's advice. I further note that the question of the crisis of revolutionary leadership still remains to be resolved by the international working class.

Trotsky's polemics in this volume are highlighted by the article ‘The Lessons of Spain-Last Warning’, his definitive assessment of the Spanish situation in the wake of the defeat of the Barcelona uprising in May 1937. Those polemics center on the failure of the Party of Marxist Unification (hereafter, POUM) to provide revolutionary leadership. That party, partially created by cadre formerly associated with Trotsky in the Spanish Left Opposition, failed on virtually every count. Those conscious mistakes included, but were not limited to, the creation of an unprincipled bloc between the former Left Oppositionists and the former Right Oppositionists (Bukharinites) of Maurin to form the POUM in 1935; political support to the Popular Front including entry into the government coalition by its leader; creation of its own small trade union federation instead of entry in the anarchist led-CNT; creation of its own militia units reflecting a hands-off attitude toward political struggle with other parties; and, fatally, an at best equivocal role in the Barcelona uprising of 1937.

Trotsky had no illusions about the roadblock to revolution of the policies carried out by the old-time Anarchist, Socialist and Communist Parties. Unfortunately the POUM did. Moreover, despite being the most honest revolutionary party in Spain it failed to keep up an intransigent struggle to push the revolution forward. The Trotsky - Andreas Nin (key leader of the POUM and former Left Oppositionist) correspondence in the Appendix makes that problem painfully clear.

The most compelling example of this failure - As a result of the failure of the Communist Party of Germany to oppose the rise of Hitler in 1933 and the subsequent decapitation and the defeat of the Austrian working class in 1934 the European workers, especially the younger workers, of the traditional Socialist Parties started to move left. Trotsky observed this situation and told his supporters to intersect that development by an entry, called the ‘French turn’, into those parties. Nin and the Spanish Left Opposition, and later the POUM failed to do that. As a result the Socialist Party youth were recruited to the Communist Party en masse. This accretion formed the basic for its expansion as a party and the key cadre of its notorious security apparatus that would, after the Barcelona uprising, suppress the more left ward organizations. For more such examples of the results of the crisis of leadership in the Spanish Revolution read this book.

Revised-June 19, 2006

"Viva La Quince Brigada"- The Abraham Lincoln Battalion In The Spanish Civil War (2006)

THE ODYSSEY OF THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE: AMERICANS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, Peter N. Carroll, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1994.


I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 since I was a teenager. My first term paper was on this subject. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class uprisings after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in one of his writings on Spain that the Spanish proletariat at the start of its revolutionary period had a higher political consciousness than the Russian proletariat in 1917. That calls into question the strategies put forth by the parties of the Popular Front, including the Spanish Communist Party- defeat Franco first, and then make the social transformation of society. Mr. Carroll’s book while not directly addressing that issue nevertheless demonstrates through the story of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion how the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and through it the policy of the Communist International in calling for international brigades to fight in Spain aided in the defeat of that promising revolution.

Mr. Carroll chronicles anecdotally how individual militants were recruited, transported, fought and died as ‘premature anti-fascists’ in that struggle. No militant today, or ever, can deny the heroic qualities of the volunteers and their commitment to defeat fascism- the number one issue for militants of that generation-despite the fatal policy of the the various party leaderships. Such individuals were desperately needed then, as now, if revolutionary struggle is to succeed. However, to truly honor their sacrifice we must learn the lessons of that defeat through mistaken strategy as we fight today. Interestingly, as chronicled here, and elsewhere in the memoirs of some veterans, many of the surviving militants of that struggle continued to believe that it was necessary to defeat Franco first, and then fight for socialism. This was most dramatically evoked by the Lincolns' negative response to the Barcelona uprising of 1937-the last time a flat out fight for leadership of the revolution could have galvanized the demoralized workers and peasants for a desperate struggle against Franco.

Probably the most important part of Mr. Carroll’s book is tracing the trials and tribulations of the volunteers after their withdrawal from Spain in late 1938. Their organization-the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade- was constantly harassed and monitored by the United States government for many years as a Communist 'front' group. Individuals also faced prosecution and discrimination for their past association with the Brigades. He also traces the aging and death of that cadre. In short, this book is a labor of love for the subjects of his treatment. Whatever else this writer certainly does not disagree with that purpose. If you want to read about what a heroic part of the vanguard of the international working class looked like in the 1930’s, look here. Viva la Quince Brigada!!
Karl Marx On The American Civil War On The 150th Anniversary Of The Great Northern Victory  

Markin comment:

I am always amazed when I run into some younger leftists, or even older radicals who may have not read much Marx and Engels, and find that they are surprised, very surprised to see that Marx and Engels were avid partisans of the Abraham Lincoln-led Union side in the American Civil War. In the age of advanced imperialism, of which the United States is currently the prime example, and villain, we are almost always negative about capitalism’s role in world politics. And are always harping on the need to overthrow the system in order to bring forth a new socialist reconstruction of society. Thus one could be excused for forgetting that at earlier points in history capitalism played a progressive role. A role that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and other leading Marxists, if not applauded, then at least understood represented human progress. Of course, one does not expect everyone to be a historical materialist and therefore know that in the Marxist scheme of things both the struggle to bring America under a unitary state that would create a national capitalist market by virtue of a Union victory and the historically more important struggle to abolish slavery that turned out to a necessary outcome of that Union struggle were progressive in our eyes. Read on.
Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1862

The English Press and the Fall of New Orleans


Source: MECW Volume 19, p. 199;
Written: on May 16, 1862;
First published: in Die Presse, May 20, 1862.


London, May 16
On the arrival of the first rumours of the fall of New Orleans, The Times, The Herald, The Standard, The Morning Post, The Daily Telegraph, and other English “sympathisers” with the Southern “nigger-drivers” proved strategically, tactically, philologically, exegetically, politically, morally and fortificationally that the rumour was one of the “canards” which Reuter, Havas, Wolff and their understrappers so often let fly. The natural means of defence of New Orleans, it was said, had been augmented not only by newly constructed forts, but by submarine infernal machines of every sort and ironclad gunboats. Then there was the Spartan character of the citizens of New Orleans and their deadly hatred of Lincoln’s mercenaries. Finally, was it not at New Orleans that England suffered the defeat that brought her second war against the United States (1812 to 1814) to an ignominious end? Consequently, there was no reason to doubt that New Orleans would immortalise itself as a second Saragossa or a Moscow of the “South”. Besides, it harboured 15,000 bales of cotton, with which it could so easily have kindled an inextinguishable fire to destroy itself, quite apart from the fact that in 1814 the duly damped cotton bales proved more indestructible by cannon fire than the earthworks of Sevastopol. It was therefore as clear as daylight that the fall of New Orleans was a case of the familiar Yankee bragging.

When the first rumours were confirmed two days later by steamers arriving from New York, the bulk of the English Ispro-slavery press persisted in its scepticism. The Evening Standard, especially, was so positive in its unbelief that in the same number it published a first leader which proved the Crescent City’s impregnability in black and white, whilst its latest news” announced the impregnable city’s fall in large type. The Times, however, which has always held discretion for the better part of valour, veered round. It still doubted, but, at the same time, it made ready for every eventuality, since New Orleans was a city of “rowdies” and not of heroes. On this occasion, The Times was right. New Orleans is a settlement of the dregs of the French bohème, in the true sense of the word, a French convict colony -and never, with the changes of time, has it belied its origin. Only, The Times came Post festum to this pretty widespread realisation.

Finally, however, the fait accompli struck even the blindest Thomas. What was to be done? The English pro-slavery press now proves that the fall of New Orleans means a gain for the Confederates and a defeat for the Federals.

The fall of New Orleans allowed General Lovell to reinforce Beauregard’s army with his troops; Beauregard was all the more in need of reinforcements, since 160,000 men (surely an exaggeration!) were said to have been concentrated on his front by Halleck and, on the other hand, General Mitchel had cut Beauregard’s communications with the East by breaking the railway connection between Memphis and Chattanooga, that is, with Richmond, Charleston and Savannah. After his communications had been cut (which we indicated as a necessary strategical move long before the battle of Corinth), Beauregard had no longer any railway connections from Corinth, save those with Mobile and New Orleans. After New Orleans had fallen and he was only left with the single railway to Mobile to rely on, he naturally could no longer procure the necessary provisions for his troops. He therefore fell back on Tupelo and, in the estimation of the English p ro-slavery press, his provisioning capacity has, of course, been increased by the entry of Lovell’s troops!

On the other hand, the same oracles remark, the yellow fever will take a heavy toll of the Federals in New Orleans and, finally, if the city itself is no Moscow, is not its mayor a a Brutus? Only read (cf. New York”) his melodramatically valorous epistle to Commodore Farragut, “Brave words, Sir, brave words!” But hard words break no bones.

The press organs of the Southern slaveholders, however, do not construe the fall of New Orleans so optimistically as their English comforters. This will be seen from the following extracts:

The Richmond Dispatch says:

‘What has become of the ironclad gunboats, the Mississippi and the Louisiana, from which we expected the salvation of the Crescent City? In respect of their effect on the foe, these ships might just as well have been ships of glass. It is useless do deny that the fall of New Orleans is a heavy blow. The Confederate government is thereby cut off from West Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas.”

The Norfolk Day Book observes:

“This is the most serious reverse since the beginning of the war. It augurs privations and want for all classes of society and, what is worse, it threatens our army supplies.”

The Atlantic Intelligencer laments:

“We expected that the outcome would be different. The approach of the enemy was no surprise attack; it has long been foreseen, and we had been promised that, should he even pass by Fort Jackson, fearful artillery, contrivances would force him to withdraw or ensure his annihilation. In all this, we have deceived ourselves, as on every occasion when the defences were supposed to guarantee the safety of a place or town. It appears that modern inventions have destroyed the defensive capacity of fortification. Ironclad gunboats destroy them or sail past then) unceremoniously. Memphis, we fear, will share the fate of New Orleans. Would it not be folly to deceive ourselves with hope?”

Finally, the Petersburg Express:

“The capture of New Orleans by the Federals is the most extraordinary and fateful event of the whole war.”
Stop The Incessant Escalations-- Immediate Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops And Mercenaries From The Middle East! –Stop The
U.S. Arms Shipments …

Frank Jackman comment:

Nobel “Peace” Prize Winner, U.S. President Barack Obama (and yes that word peace should be placed in quotation marks every time that award winning is referenced in relationship to this new age warmonger extraordinaire), abetted by the usual suspects in the House and Senate (not so strangely more Republicans than Democrats, at least more vociferously)as internationally (Britain, France, the NATO guys, etc.),  has over the past several months ordered more air bombing strikes in the north of Iraq and in Syria, has sent more “advisers”, another fifteen hundred most recently (but who knows the real number by the time you rotate guys in and out, hire mercenaries, and other tricks of the trade long worked out among the bureaucratiti), to “protect” American outposts in Iraq and buck up the feckless Iraqi Army, has sent seemingly limitless arms shipments to the Kurds now acting as on the ground agents of American imperialism whatever their otherwise supportable desires for a unified Kurdish state, and has authorized supplies of arms to the cutthroat and ghost-like moderate Syrian opposition if it can be found to give weapons to,  quite a lot of war-like actions for a “peace” guy (maybe those quotation mark should be used anytime anyone is talking about Obama). Of course the existential threat of ISIS has Obama crying to the high heavens for authorizations, essentially "blank check" authorizations just like any other "war" president, from Congress in order to immerse the United States on one side in a merciless sectarian war which countless American blunders from the get go has helped create.

All these actions, and threatened future ones as well, have made guys who served in the American military during the Vietnam War and who, like me, belatedly, got “religion” on the war issue from the experience (and become a fervent anti-warrior ever since), learn to think long and hard about the war drums rising as a kneejerk way to resolve the conflicts in this wicked old world. Have made us very skeptical. We might very well be excused for our failed suspension of disbelief when the White House keeps pounding out the propaganda that these actions are limited when all signs point to the slippery slope of escalation (and the most recent hikes of whatever number for "training" purposes  puts paid to that thought).

And during all this deluge Obama and company have been saying with a straight face the familiar (Vietnam-era familiar updated for the present)-“we seek no wider war”-meaning no American combat troops. Well if you start bombing places back to the Stone Age, or trying to, if you cannot rely on the weak-kneed Iraqi troops who have already shown what they are made of and cannot rely on a now virtually non-existent “Syrian Free Army” which you are willing to give whatever they want and will still come up short what do you think the next step will be? Now not every event in history gets repeated exactly but given the recent United States Government’s history in Iraq those old time Vietnam vets who I like to hang around with might be on to something. In any case dust off the old banners, placards, and buttons and get your voices in shape- just in case. No New War In Iraq!–Stop The Bombings !- Stop The Arms Shipments!-Vote Down The Syria-Iraq War Budget Appropriations!  

Here is something to think about picked up from a leaflet at a recent anti-war rally:  

Workers and the oppressed have no interest in a victory by one combatant or the other in the reactionary Sunni-Shi’ite civil war in Iraq or the victory of any side in Syria. However, the international working class definitely has a side in opposing imperialist intervention in Iraq and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and mercenaries. It is U.S. imperialism that constitutes the greatest danger to the world’s working people and downtrodden.

[Whatever unknown sister or brother put that idea together sure has it right]