Saturday, November 14, 2015

From The American Left History Blog Archives (2008) - On American Political Discourse - A MODEST PROPOSAL-RECRUIT, RUN INDEPENDENT LABOR MILITANTS FOR THE 2016 ELECTIONS (Updated)

****From The American Left History Blog Archives (2008) - On American Political Discourse - A MODEST PROPOSAL-RECRUIT, RUN INDEPENDENT LABOR MILITANTS FOR THE 2016 ELECTIONS (Updated)

Markin comment:

In 2007-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the then blossoming American presidential campaign, a changing of the guard election on the Democratic side, since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, “in my face” obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those few who really believed, who had talked themselves into, had a vested interest in touting that it would be a watershed election. That grim reality despite the hoopla, heavy cash and organizing of the thing, was that once again that election would essentially be a technician’s election, you know for armchair strategists and those who like to, for example, figure out how the Congressional race in the 26th District in Texas will impact the balance of power in the U.S. House. (I confess that early on in my life that kind of thing intrigued me too until I got “religion” and worried more about real live issues and political programs than wonk-ish concerns.)    
The subsequent “sleep-walk” four years of the Obama presidency, the non-watershed by anybody’s measurement 2012 American presidential election campaign, the banal mid-term elections of 2014 recently passed and the unending maelstrom of world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government. More than enough to do, right?  

Part of my “alternative” offering then of the same old, same of the electoral cycle was a proposition that the labor movement and its supporters rather than spent another dime on what even a child can now see is a waste of good dues money on supporting this or that bourgeois candidate instead run our own independent candidates for appropriate offices in what for now would be exemplary campaigns. To that end I motivated my pitch with a few reasons and the outline of a program. Today as the non-watershed 2016 elections loom in our faces even before we have devoured the fact of the 2014 elections I offer an updated version of that program and the urgency to get out independent labors candidates.  

The never-ending and apparently soon to be resurrected, with or without “boots on the ground” quagmire in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East (Palestine, Iran, Syria you name it) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is “stable.” Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militant labor candidates should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called known anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the “popular front” days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the war fight for this "no funding" position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yah, those progressive Democrats) who unanimously voted for the last war budget and are reliably foaming at the bit to vote for the next one (or in the same vein authorized millions for Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza bought and paid for with U.S. aid) get a free ride on the cheap. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.
It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less families, can live on the minimum wage of $7/hr. (or proposed $10/hr). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. A step in the right direction and a fight that should be supported and funded is the recent “Fight for $15.” We need universal free health care for all. End of story. (Although Obamacare is inadequate and filled with pitfalls it must be defended against those who wish to dismantle the whole thing and leave millions without insurance again.) The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s, go a long way to turning the conditions of labor and unionization around.

Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with anti-same sex marriage legislation! Support gay marriage rights! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But, so be it.

The Donkeys, Elephants and Greens have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers’ party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans and Greens!


We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago and has been choking human process since then. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and who could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Yah, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government after many years in the dentist chair. The point is you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good now. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies and make things difficult write-in campaigns are possible.

A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, and those who have just plain quit looking for work was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.

The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions, is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was when first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling and equitably divide up current work.

Without the key capitalist necessity of keeping up the rate of profit the social surplus created by that work could be used to redistribute the available work at the same agreed upon rate rather than go into the capitalists’ pockets. The only catch, a big catch one must admit, is that no capitalist, and no capitalist system, is going to do any such thing as to implement “30 for 40” –with the no reduction in pay proviso, although many low –end employers are even now under the “cover” of the flawed Obamacare reducing hours WITH loss of pay-so that to establish this work system as a norm it will, in the end, be necessary to fight for and win a workers government to implement this demand.

Organize the unorganized is a demand that cries out for solution today now that the organized sectors of the labor movement, both public and private, in America are at historic lows, just over ten percent of the workforce. Part of the task is to reorganize some of the old industries like the automobile industry, now mainly unorganized as new plants come on line and others are abandoned, which used to provide a massive amount of decent jobs with decent benefits but which now have fallen to globalization and the “race to the bottom” bad times. The other sector that desperately need to be organized is to ratchet up the efforts to organize the service industries, hospitals, hotels, hi-tech, restaurants and the like, that have become a dominant aspect of the American economy. Support the recent militant efforts, including the old tactic of civil disobedience, by service unions and groups of fast-food workers to increase the minimum socially acceptable wage in their Fight For 15.

Organize the South-this low wage area, this consciously low-wage area, where many industries land before heading off-shore to even lower wage places cries out for organizing, especially among black and Hispanic workers who form the bulk of this industrial workforce. A corollary to organizing the South is obviously to organize internationally to keep the “race to the bottom” from continually occurring short of being resolved in favor of an international commonwealth of workers’ governments. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

Organize Wal-Mart- millions of workers, thousands of company-owned trucks, hundreds of distribution centers. A victory here would be the springboard to a revitalized organized labor movement just as auto and steel lead the industrial union movements of the 1930s. The key here is to organize the truckers and distribution workers the place where the whole thing comes together. We have seen mostly unsuccessful organizing of retail stores. To give an idea of how hard this task might be though someone once argued that it would be easier to organize a workers’ revolution that organize this giant. Well, that’s a thought.

Defend the right of public and private workers to unionize. Simple-No more defeats like in Wisconsin in 2011, no more attacks on collective bargaining the hallmark of a union contract. No reliance on labor boards, arbitration, courts or bourgeois recall elections either. Unions must keep their independent from government interference. Period.

* Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012 labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor.” The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement.

The hard reality is that the labor skates, not used to any form of class struggle or any kind of struggle, know no other way than class-collaboration, arbitration, courts, and every other way to avoid the appearance of strife, strife in defense of the bosses’ profits. The most egregious recent example that I can recall- the return of the Verizon workers to work after two weeks in the summer of 2011 when they had the company on the run and the subsequent announcement by the company of record profits. That sellout strategy may have worked for the bureaucrats, or rather their “fathers” for a time back in the 1950s “golden age” of labor, but now we are in a very hard and open class war. The rank and file must demand an end to using their precious dues payments for bourgeois candidates all of whom have turned out to be sworn enemies of labor from Obama on down.

This does not mean not using union dues for political purposes though. On the contrary we need to use them now more than ever in the class battles ahead. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized, organizing the South, organizing Wal-Mart, and other pro-labor causes. Think, for example, of the dough spent on the successful November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio. That type of activity is where labor’s money and other resources should go. And not on recall elections against individual reactionaries, like in Wisconsin, as substitutes for class struggle (and which was overwhelmingly unsuccessful to boot-while the number of unionized public workers has dwindled to a precious few).  

*End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, I argued that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before that fight is over. Not Another War In Iraq! No Intervention In Syria! Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East! Stop The Bombing Campaign! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!  

U.S. Hands Off Iran! Hands Off Syria!- American (and world) imperialists have periodically ratcheted up their propaganda war (right now) and increased economic sanctions that are a prelude to war well before the dust has settled on the now unsettled situation in Iraq and well before they have even sniffed at an Afghan withdrawal of any import. We will hold our noses, as we did with the Saddam leadership in Iraq and on other occasions, and call for the defense of Iran against the American imperial monster. A victory for the Americans (and their junior partner on this issue, Israel) in Iran is not in the interests of the international working class. Especially here in the “belly of the beast” we are duty-bound to call not just for non-intervention but for defense of Iran. We will, believe me we will, deal with the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Islamic fundamentalist in Iran in our own way in our own time.

U.S. Hands Off The World! And Keep Them Off!- With the number of “hot spots” that the American imperialists, or one or another of their junior allies, have their hands on in this wicked old world this generic slogan would seem to fill the bill.

Down With The War Budget! Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars! Honor World War I German Social-Democratic Party MP, Karl Liebknecht, who did just that in 1915 in the heat of war and paid the price unlike other party leaders who were pledged to stop the war budgets by going to prison. The only play for an honest representative of the working class under those conditions. The litmus test for every political candidate must be first opposition to the war budgets (let’s see, right now no new funding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran preparations, China preparations, etc. you get my drift). Then that big leap. The whole damn imperialist military budget. Again, no one said it would be simple. Revolution may be easier that depriving the imperialists of their military money. Well….okay.

*Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All! This would be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The health and welfare of any society’s citizenry is the simple glue that holds that society together. It is no accident that one of the prime concerns of workers states like Cuba, whatever their other political problems, has been to place health care and education front and center and to provide to the best of their capacity for free, quality healthcare and education for all. Even the hide-bound social-democratic-run capitalist governments of Europe have, until recently anyway, placed the “welfare state” protections central to their programs. Be clear Obamacare is not our program and has been shown to be totally inadequate and wasteful however we will defend that program against those who wish to dismantle it and leave millions once again uninsured and denied basic health benefits.  

Free, quality higher education for all! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! One Hundred, Two Hundred, Many Harvards!
This would again be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The struggle to increase the educational level of a society’s citizenry is another part of the simple glue that holds that society together. Today higher education is being placed out of reach for many working-class and minority families. Hell, it is getting tough for the middle-class as well.

Moreover the whole higher educational system is increasing skewed toward those who have better formal preparation and family lives leaving many deserving students from broken homes and minority homes in the wilderness. Take the resources of the private institutions and spread them around, throw in hundreds of billions from the government (take from the military budget and the bank bail-out money if you want to find the money quickly to do the job right), get rid of the top heavy and useless college administration apparatuses, mix it up, and let students, teachers, and campus workers run the thing through councils on a democratic basis.

Forgive student debt! The latest reports indicate that college student debt is something like a trillion dollars, give or take a few billion but who is counting. The price of tuition and expenses has gone up dramatically while low-cost aid has not kept pace. What has happened is that the future highly educated workforce that a modern society, and certainly a socialist society, desperately needs is going to be cast in some form of indentured servitude to the banks or other lending agencies for much of their young working lives. Let the banks take a “hit” for a change!

Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now! Although the worst of the crunch has abated there are still plenty of problems and so this demand is still timely if not desperately timely like in the recent past. Hey, everybody, everywhere in the world not just in America should have a safe, clean roof over their heads. Hell, even a single family home that is part of the “American dream,” if that is what they want. We didn’t make the housing crisis in America (or elsewhere, like in Ireland, where the bubble has also burst). The banks did. Their predatory lending practices and slip-shot application processes were out of control. Let them take the “hit” here as well.

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Karl Marx was right way back in the 19th century on his labor theory of value, the workers do produce the social surplus appropriated by the capitalists. Capitalism tends to beat down, beat down hard in all kinds of ways the mass of society for the benefit of the few. Most importantly capitalism, a system that at one time was historically progressive in the fight against feudalism and other ancient forms of production, has turned into its opposite and now is a fetter on production. The current multiple crises spawned by this system show there is no way forward, except that unless we push them out, push them out fast, they will muddle through, again.

Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Socialism is the only serious answer to the human crisis we face economically, socially, culturally and politically. This socialist system is the only one calculated to take one of the great tragedies of life, the struggle for daily survival in a world that we did not create, and replace it with more co-operative human endeavors.

Build a workers’ party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. None of the nice things mentioned above can be accomplished without as serious struggle for political power. We need to struggle for an independent working-class-centered political party that we can call our own and where our leaders act as “tribunes of the people” not hacks. The creation of that workers party, however, will get us nowhere unless it fights for a workers government to begin the transition to the next level of human progress on a world-wide scale.

As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):

“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.” 

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!


News Flash: A. F. Markin Will Not Run For President In 2016    

From The American Left History Blog-June 2015

“Apparently Mister Markin is the only politician in America, or at least in the Democratic or Republican Party, who has not thrown his or her hat, or tried to throw his or her hat,  into the ring this election cycle for a chance at the brass ring, or Hillary Rodham Clinton’s big target. He must be a rare bird.”-John Stewart, WDJA News

When asked about endorsing Hilary Rodham Clinton for President A.F. Markin, at his press conference in New York City announcing his decision new where he had just announced that he would not run for the office this cycle, quoted one of his favorite old time bluesman, a man who had many problems with, wine, women and song-“I’d rather be the devil that to be that woman’s man.” Enough said.       

Media Flash: A. F. Markin, long time anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist activist and the evil genius behind the blog American Left History, has announced today that under no conditions will he be a candidate for President of the United States in 2016. In prior election cycles he has run for the office as an Independent Social-Democrat (2004) and after nomination on the Green Wave Party ticket (2008, although he waged an opportunistic low-level campaign because according to one campaign worker he did not want to ruin then Senator Barack Obama’s chances at the White House expecting some kind of job offer for doing so. To once again prove that opportunism does not pay, especially for so-called principled socialists like him and Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, he was never offered any position in that administration). In 2012 he got “religion” and sat out the campaign not because of any thought of ruining the chances of that “miserable sell-out bastard Obama” (Markin’s words) but because he had read an obscure document based on the tenets of the Communist International (Vladimir Lenin’s old-time operation to create world revolution established in 1919 and went out of business in 1943) in a left-wing socialist newspaper which stated that socialists should not seek, not even run for, the executive offices (President, Governor, sheriff) of what they called the “bourgeois capitalist state.” Chastised, thoroughly chastised by that obscure odd-ball reference he is again sitting the 2016 election cycle out.     

At the press conference held in New York City’s Best Eastern Hotel making the announcement Markin, paraphrasing the great 19th century Northern Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman (hero of “Billy’s bummers traipsing through Georgia and its environs and scourge of the rebels) stated that “if drafted I will not run and if elected I will not serve” in that post. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of running for some legislative office like the United States Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. –Josh Breslin, Portland Free Press

A.F. Markin commentary on the American Politics Today website expanding on his decision not to run (originally posted on the American Left History blog on June 6, 2015):      

“I know that the long suffering readers of this blog have been waiting breathlessly for me to announce my intentions for the presidential campaign of 2016. Wait a minute! What kind of madness is this on my part to impose on readers who I am sure are still recovering from the shell-shock of that seemingly endless and mendacious 2012 presidential campaign. Well… Okay, as usual I want to, for good or ill, make a little point about running for the executive offices of the bourgeois state now that I have gotten ‘religion’ about the necessary of radicals and revolutionaries, even garden variety socialists like me, NOT to do so. I think this point can really be driven home today now that we have a ‘progressive’ Democratic president, one Barack Obama, as a foil.

I have detailed elsewhere the controversy and checkered history in the international workers movement, and especially in the Communist International in its heroic days in the early 1920's, surrounding the question of whether radicals and revolutionaries, on principle, should run for these executive offices of the bourgeois state. I need not repeat that argument here. (See June 2008 Archives, "If Drafted I Will Not Run, If Elected I Will Not Serve-Revolutionaries and Running For Executive Offices," American Left History blog, dated June 15, 2008). I have also noted there the trajectory of my own conversion to the position of opposition to such runs.
Previously I had seen such electoral efforts as good propaganda tools and/or basically harmless attempts to intersect political reality at times when the electorate is tuned in. Always under the assumption made clear during the campaign that, of course, if elected one would not assume the office.

In any case, I admit to a previously rather cavalier attitude toward the whole question, even as I began to see the wisdom of opposition. But having gone through the recent presidential campaign and, more importantly, the inauguration and installation of a ‘progressive’ black man to the highest office attainable under the imperium I have begun to wipe that smirk off my face.

Why? I have hardly been unaware throughout my leftist political career that Social Democratic and Communist (Stalinist/Maoist varieties especially) Party politicians have, individually or in popular front alliances with capitalist parties, wreaked havoc on working people while administrating the bourgeois state. I have, in particular, spent a good part of my political career fighting against the notion of popular front strategies as they have been forged in the past, disastrously in places like Spain during the Civil War in the 1930’s and Chile in 1973 or less disastrously in France in the 1980’s. However this question of the realities of running the imperial state in America really hit home with the coming into office of Barack Obama.

Certainly, Obama did not have, and in the course of such things could not have any qualms about administering the bourgeois state, even if such toilsome work contradicted his most basic principles. Assuming, for the sake of argument here, that Obama is not the worst bourgeois politician, progressive or not, that has come down the pike. Already, in a few short weeks in office, he has escalated the troop levels in Afghanistan. He is most earnestly committed to bailing out the financial heart of the imperial system, at the long term expense of working people. Where is the room for that vaunted ‘progressive’ designation in all of this? Oh yes he has is against torture and illegal torture centers. That, dear readers might have passed for progressive action- in the 17th century. Jesus, is there no end to this madness in taking grandstanding kudos for stuff that Voltaire would have dismissed out of hand. So the next time someone asks you to run for President of the United States (or governor of a state or mayor of a city) take the Markin pledge - Just say NO!



In The Days When Capitalism Held Wonder In The World-With The Dutch Masters In Mind

In The Days When Capitalism Held Wonder In The World-With The Dutch Masters In Mind

A while back, not too long ago, a few months at most, I was thinking about when I was a kid growing up in the reds scare Cold War 1950s, a time when due to international politics one manifestation of the struggle for supremacy was the race to space, the race to see who could claim to get there first in a manned object and stake a claim. The way that translated to a kid, this kid, but certainly many others as well was to direct me, us, to the stars and to stare and wonder, wonder what the heck was out there, and whether what was out there was dangerous to Mother Earth, or friendly. Maybe today such efforts are directed toward the earth itself more and the creation of technology commensurate with our seemingly endless need to look at electronic gadgetry but then the heavens held our gaze and we judged those who reached for the stars as the vanguard, as the way forward. And it was not just kids either as my old friend Sam Lowell reminded me but kids, kids I knew anyway way seemed to get an extra jolt out of the idea of being kings (and queens but precious few girls shared the vision as far as Sam and I recall and maybe that is why we were “outcasts” in late elementary school and junior high when they were dreaming of sock hops and “cool” guys).  Sam can testify to that unsuccessful part since he almost became a victim of the “collateral damage” of the quest for the stars. After several attempts with anything from balsa wood models glided along a wire flight path between two poles to welded soup cans and a funnel filled with odd-ball chemicals (hey, come on I was ten or eleven what do you want) and nearly getting people killed or grievously injured (Sam, my late younger brother, Kenny, and Allan Johnson whom I had met in first grade), including myself, I left the task to safer hands. But the wonder stayed for a long while, the wonder about what was out there and what was new to discover. Then I slowly turned my face to more earthly matters (after also failing to figure out girls, earth version), trying to figure out how to organize this world more equitably through a litany of theoretical models.             


When I look at the picture of these clearly prosperous well-fed Dutch merchant-adventurers (see above) I have the feeling that they too were wondering about what was out there, out beyond the coastal European seas, wondering how to get there first before the bounty they expected to find could be taken by other hands. Wondering, since these are Dutch burghers we are referring to, what they, better what their sea-captains would make of what F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby called the “fresh green breast of the new world” when they entered Long Island Sound and saw infinite possibilities now that they had left the baggage of the restrictive universal Catholic Church behind (although that organization was as rapacious as any pious Protestant burgher) and imbibed deeply of the Protestant work ethic-to get theirs in the here and now. Wondered, maybe innocently, for a minute anyway before digging away at whatever they had come for, just like the space race wonder of my youth.

Then I put my political hat on and thought back to that time, to a time when such types, wondering or not, led the drive away from the old stagnant feudal order, the old hokus-pokus religion (they all have the look of those who took their religion as an individual task, took it lightly once the crush of the Holy Catholic popish church had been lifted allowing them to wonder about earthly “doing and making”), and that there was a pretty penny to be made in the world.    

All of this got tied together for me one day after looking at the picture several times at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and realizing that back then those wonderings, that seeking out of individual worth, even that concept of “doing and making” in the world which drove their ethic, and which formed the rudiments of the capitalist ethos is what pushed human progress along. Fitfully, unevenly, and with plenty of inequality but pushed it along whatever the personal desires of the individuals portrayed in the picture. So while today I, we, can see that the old-time positive capitalist ethos has lost its head of steam and another system of organizing the productive forces of the world is necessary those smirky, self-satisfied burghers have an honorable place in human history. Yeah, and all of their capacity to wonder too.            


In Boston- Smedley Butler Brigade-Veterans For Peace Fundraiser- November 18th

In Boston- Smedley Butler Brigade-Veterans For Peace Fundraiser- November 18th

Smedley Butler Brigade -Veterans For Peace Armistice Day Program

Smedley  Butler Brigade -Veterans For Peace Armistice Day Program

On Armistice Day- There Is A Wall In Washington  


The following short remarks were addressed to group of fellow veterans and other peace and social activists at a Boston Armistice Day commemoration by Frank Jackman.

There Is A Wall In Washington  

The specter of the Vietnam War still haunts my generation, the generation of ’68. I am a Vietnam era veteran and although I was trained as an 11 Bravo, an infantryman, a grunt, cannon fodder I did not serve in Vietnam for a whole lot of reasons that need not detain us now because I don’t want to talk about my story but about Ralph Morris’ story, or rather about his younger brother, Kenny Morris’ story, yeah, this is Kenny’s story. Some of you may have heard this story which was part of a longer story that I read at last month’s Midnight Voices so bear with me since on this day when we are trying to cry in the wilderness against the endless fruitless wars and the lives they have taken, the lives of our brothers and sisters, for no good reason it bears repeating.

I met Ralph Morris, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Big Red One, the Ist Division, a unit which saw plenty of action during his time “in country” in 1968 and who is a member of Veterans for Peace from Troy in upstate New York last March at a rally, unfortunately a small, too small, rally, in front of the White House protesting the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We talked for a while during the rally and subsequent march through the city and found that we had a common duty when we were in Washington. He would always go to the “black granite” as he called it, the Vietnam War Memorial down the Lincoln Memorial end of the National Mall to share a moment, and to shed a tear, for the fallen he wished to acknowledge from his home town and from the Big Red One.     

And for a different reason Kenneth Morris, his younger brother Kenny, who had actually joined the Army before him in 1966. Joined to fight the red menace, stop the dominos from falling or whatever irrational reason the sitting government gave at the time since Kenny was as patriotic as the next man, maybe more so, just like most of us back then, maybe questioning the wisdom of the government’s actions but not challenging them. Kenny had served with distinction in the Ist Brigade of 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, had earned a fistful of medals, maybe not as many as our own Bob Funke but plenty unlike Ralph who said he was just lucky and had guys around him who saved his ass. Kenny like Ralph got out of that hellhole alive. Got back to the “real” world in one piece for a while. Did okay for a few years, got a job, had a girlfriend, went places, then the other shoe fell. I don’t have to tell this audience where this story is going. Something snapped, some horror Kenny had witnessed or had taken part in during the war got to him. It started when Kenny began setting fire alarms off around the neighborhood which at first were overlooked by the family. Then the midnight walks started Kenny going naked down Ferry Street. Eventually Kenny got VA help, drugs and therapy, which kept his demons away, for a while. When those failed institutionalization, again for a while. Kenny was eventually released when the trend was to get guys out of institutions and into half-way houses. Then one night in 1977 shortly after his release Kenny jumped off the Mohawk River Bridge north of Albany heading toward Saratoga Springs on U.S. 87. Gone.

So yeah Ralph that March day shed a tear for Kenny too. You know there is no wall in Washington for the Kennys of the Vietnam War ….but maybe there should be.  Yeah, the specter of the Vietnam War still haunts my generation of ’68.   Kenneth Morris, presente. 



In Boston- African-American Soldiers Series November 17th

Celebrating Black Veterans

Roxbury History Speaker Series
November 17, 2015  7PM

at Haley House Bakery Café, 12 Dade St. Roxbury


From the American Revolution to the present day
Judge Edward Gourdin
Presentation by Dr. Chad Williams-Chair Dept. of African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis and author of Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the WWI Era
Panelists sharing their experiences will include The Honorable Charles Walker, whose father was a Tuskegee Airman and Haywood Fennell, Vietnam Era Veteran. Randall Tatum, the grand niece of Commander Gourdin will share his remembrances. Moderated by Barry Gaither, Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists.

We welcome all Black veterans to join us and share their experiences.

Sponsored by the Roxbury Historical Society in partnership with Haley House Bakery Café.   Come early, dinner for purchase. Seating limited.

Photo: Judge Edward Gourdin, Brigadier General 372nd Infantry Regiment and Roxbury Resident. Justice Edward O. Gourdin Veteran's Memorial Park named in his honor


Save the Dates: Nov 20-22 - SOA Watch Vigil-Down With The School Of The Americas

Save the Dates: Nov 20-22 - SOA Watch Vigil

Join us as we continue to denounce the failed U.S. policies, which have left a brutal legacy of impunity and Human Rights violations throughout the hemisphere.

VFP SOAW Coordinator:  Mike Tork

Hourly Shuttle Info from Atlanta to Columbus

Meeting for VFP members is scheduled at 6:30 - 7:45, room 210, on Saturday, November  21st.

Veterans For Peace Weekly E-Letter

If you'd like to view this email in a Web browser, please click here.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Veterans Ring Bells For Peace on Armistice Day

A blossoming campaign to reclaim Veterans Day, November 11, as Armistice Day, a day to end all wars, could not have been timelier.  The apparently deliberate U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan and worldwide demands for an independent investigation have been met with stonewalling by the U.S. military and a decision by President Obama to prolong the occupation of Afghanistan beyond his presidency.  The entrance of Russian warplanes into the war in Syria has been met by Obama’s announcement that U.S. troops (aka “advisers”) will be deployed on Syrian territory.  The U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have created a disaster throughout the Middle East, turning millions of people into homeless refugees desperately seeking a safe haven for their families. <Full statement>

Check out the Member Highlight section of the national website for great op-eds, poems and pictures from VFP members on Armistice Day.  

Save the Dates: Nov 20-22 - SOA Watch Vigil

Join us as we continue to denounce the failed U.S. policies, which have left a brutal legacy of impunity and Human Rights violations throughout the hemisphere.
VFP SOAW Coordinator:  Mike Tork
Hourly Shuttle Info from Atlanta to Columbus
Meeting for VFP members is scheduled at 6:30 - 7:45, room 210, on Saturday, November  21st.
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VFP 2016 Annual Spring Tour to Viet Nam

Dates of travel:  Mar 14 - Mar 30, 2016
Each year since 2012, members of Việt Nam's Hoa Binh (Peace) Chapter 160 of Veterans For Peace invite up to 20 veterans, non-veterans, spouses & peace activists to come to Việt Nam for an insider's 2-week tour. The Hoa Binh chapter is the first & only overseas VFP chapter of American veterans living in Việt Nam!

The mission of the tour is to address the legacies of America’s war, as well as visit a beautiful country & form lasting ties of friendship & peace. 

For more information, email Nadya Williams @

Travel Opportunities for Activists

Only 1 space remains. Our tours are led by VFP member and Cuban documentary film maker Jim Ryerson, who has been to the island more than 25 times.  If you are interested, please contact Jim. Like the other 2 trips, this one will sell out.

Here is the itinerary
(Click on Book Now to see prices)

Sponsored by
Contact for Additional Information
Venezuela SOAW Dec 2-10, 2015 For more information email Terri Mattson at
Cuba Jim Ryerson Jan 22-29 2016 For more information email Jim Ryerson at
Cuba Code Pink Feb 2016 Visit the Code Pink website
Việt Nam Việt Nam's  Hoa Binh (Peace) Chapter 160 Mar 14 -Mar 30
For more information, please email Nadya Williams
Cuba Code Pink May 2016 Visit the Code Pink website
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders May 21 -Jun 1 2016 For more information email
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders Jul 16 - Jul 29 2016 For more information email
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders Oct 24 - Nov 6 2016 For more information email

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