Saturday, January 02, 2016

Sea Of Love - Phil Phillips With The Twilights

k c loving little willie littlefield

First Rock'n roll song?! Jimmy Preston - Rock the Joint (DOO WOP CORNER ...

Blind Willie Johnson Dark was the night (Cold was the Ground) Cover.wmv

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of  ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

*****Yes, You Had Better Shake, Rattle And Roll That Thing-With Big Joe Turner In

*****Yes, You Had Better Shake, Rattle And Roll That Thing-With Big Joe Turner In


From The Pen Of Bart Webber
In the old days, the old days when the songs were just starting to be weaned off of the old time religion gospel high heaven savior thing you know to testify, to consider yourself "saved" and had come down in the mud of speaking of hard, hard drinking, hard lovin’ maybe with your best gal's friend if it came right down to the core, maybe flipping the bird on you and running around all flouncy with your best friend, maybe some hard-hearted "do this do that" woman on your mind, yeah, the old birth of  the blues days, the blue being nothing but a good woman or man on your mind anyway, around the turn of the 20th century and you can check this out if you want to and not take my word for it a black guy, a rascally black guy of no known home, a drifter, maybe a hobo for all I know, and who knows what else named Joe Turner held forth among the folk. Old Joe would come around the share-cropper down South neighborhoods and steal whatever was not nailed down, including your woman, which depending on how you were feeling might be a blessing and if you in a spooning mod might be a curse on that bastard's head. Then Joe Turner would leave and move on to the next settlement and go about his plundering ways. Oh sure like lots of blues and old country music as it got passed on in the oral traditions there were as many versions of the saga as there were singers everybody adding their own touch. But it was always old Joe Turner doing the sinning and scratching for whatever he could scratch for. 

But for the most part the story line about old ne’er-do-well Joe Turner rang very similar over time. So Joe Turner got his grizzly self put into song out in the Saturday juke joints out in places like the Mississippi Delta where more legends were formed than you could shake a stick, got sanctified once old  Willie’s liquor, white lightning home-made liquor got to working, and some guy, maybe not the best singer if you asked around but a guy who could put words together to tell a story, a blues story, and that guy with a scratch guitar would put some verses together and the crowd would egg him on. Make the tale taller as the night went until everybody petered out and that song was left for the next guy to embellish.

By most accounts old Joe was bad man, a very bad man, bad mojo man, bad medicine as the folk call what ails but can't be fixed just short of as bad as Mister’s plantation foremen where those juke joint listeners worked sunup to sundown six days a week or just short as bad as the enforcers of Mister James Crow’s go here, not there, do this not that, move here not there laws seven days a week. Yeah, Joe was bad alright once he got his wanting habits on, although I have heard at least one recording from the Lomaxes who went all over the South in the 1930s and 1940s trying to record everything they could out in the back country where Joe Turner was something like a combination Santa Claus and Robin Hood. Hell, maybe he was and some guy who lost his woman to wily Joe just got sore and bad mouthed him. Passed that bad mouth on and the next guy who lost his woman to somebody pinned on Joe, Joe Turner, yeah it was that old rascal that did her in. Stranger things have happened.

In any case the Joe Turner, make that Big Joe, Turner I want to mention here as far as I know only stole the show when he got up on the bandstand and played the role of “godfather” of rock and roll. Yeah, that is what I want to talk about, about how one song, and specifically the place of Big Joe and one song, Shake Rattle and Roll in the rock pantheon. No question Big Joe and his snapping beat has a place in the history of rhythm and blues which is one of the musical forbear strands of rock and roll. The question is whether Shake is also the first serious effort to define rock and roll. If you look at the YouTube version of Big Joe be-bopping away with his guitar player doing some flinty stuff and that sax player searching for that high white note and Big Joe snapping away being  very suggestive about who should shake and what she should shake you can make a very strong case for that place. Add in that Bill Haley, Jerry Lee, and Elvis among others in the rock pantheon covered the song successfully and that would seem to clinch the matter.      

In 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the debut of Shake by Big Joe, there had been considerable talk and writing again as there is on such occasions by some knowledgeable rock critics about whether Shake was the foundational song of rock. That controversy brought back to my mind the arguments that me and my corner boys who hung out in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner in Carver, a town about thirty miles south of Boston, had on some nothing better to do Friday nights during high school (meaning girl-less, dough-less or both nights). I was the primary guy who argued for Big Joe and Shake giving that be-bop guitar and that wailing sexy sax work as my reasoning while Jimmy Jenkins swore that Ike Turner’s frantic piano-driven and screeching sax Rocket 88 (done under an alias of the Delta Cats apparently for contract reasons a not uncommon practice when something good came up but you would not have been able to do it under the label you were contracted to) was the be-bop beginning and Sam Lowell, odd-ball Sam Lowell dug deep into his record collection, really his parents' record collection which was filled mainly with folk music and the blues edge played off that to find Elmore James’ Look On Yonder Wall. And the other corner boys like our leader Frankie Riley lined up accordingly (nobody else came up with any others so it was those three).

Funny thing Frankie and most everybody else except I think Fritz Taylor who sided with Jimmy Jenkins sided with me and Big Joe. The funny part being that several years ago with the advent of YouTube I started to listen to the old stuff as it became available on-line and now I firmly believe that Ike’s Rocket 88 beats out Shake for the honor of the be-bop daddy of rock and roll. As for the old time Joe Turner, done come and gone, well, he will have to wait in line like the rest of us. What do you think of that?

*****Once Again The Life Of The Dharma-Jack Kerouac-A Biography By Tom Clark

*****Once Again The Life Of The Dharma-Jack Kerouac-A Biography By Tom Clark

From The Pen Of Bart Webber  

Sam Lowell has of later liked to review books, movies, musical CDs for various citizen journalist blogs and other such cyberspace outlets as relaxation writing from the drear of his professional writing, writing legal briefs, memoranda and motions for himself and other lawyers. Usually he does such avocational writing as a wisp-of-willow affair depending on some prompt that would get him going like happened recently after hearing a song on YouTube by Bob Dylan from his prime days, Like a Rolling Stone. While listening to that song he noticed on the sidebar which gives other performances that one might wish to look at a segment from the D.A. Pennebaker documentary, Don’t Look Back, where Dylan, his then shortly to be abandoned flame and great folksinger in her own right, Joan Baez, and his then road manager and folksinger Bob Neuwirth were sitting in some English hotel singing bits of Hank Williams’ Lost Highway. That got him interested in seeing the whole documentary which had just been rereleased in the Criterion films series and which he ordered on Netflix and later reviewed. Such helter-skelter choices are the norm for his selection process.           

Not so on the subject of the “beats,” those cool cats and kittens (I guess that is the way it would have been put by hipsters in North Beach and the Village when beat was pure before the movement became just another commodity to be sold on television like cars or soap) who came shortly before our coming of age time down in working-class Carver where we grew up and were slightly singed by the beat flame. That “working-class” before Carver was not accidental, not for Sam anyway since his “max daddy,” “be-bop daddy,” or any way you want to say it literary hero from that period was the hipster mad monk novelist Jack Kerouac who had grown up about sixty miles north of Carver in working-class mill town getting ready to move south for cheaper labor Lowell. So in Sam’s eyes that designation was important then although maybe not quite as deeply thought through as recently when he had been on a tear re-reading most of Jack’s work.

Here again chance plays a part in what he would review. After having read a few of the more important novels, the iconic classic (we must use the word “iconic” these days to keep up with the professional users of that word which is now something of a flavor of the month term for any event or person who had had at least fifteen minutes of fame along the way) On The Road, Desolation Angels, and Big Sur he had picked up the Ann Charter-edited Portable Jack Kerouac which led him to her early informative biography. But Sam was looking for something more than a literary appraisal of Kerouac’s work, important as that is, than the Charter biography provided. He was looking for tidbits, pieces of information about Kerouac’s time in Lowell, the effect that growing up working poor had on him growing up in that city by the Merrimac. In short Sam wanted to expand on that idea of why Kerouac had, even if at a remove, on him, us as kids growing up in working poor Carver, then the cranberry capital of the world. So he went through some other later biographies which blossomed especially around the time in 2007 of the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road.

One of the books that satisfied his desire for biographical information was Tom Clark’s Jack Kerouac: A Biography (Paragon House, 1990) which he told us about one night, us being Frankie Riley, Jack Callahan, Sam Eaton, Ralph Morris and me, when we gathered together for our periodic night out at the Rusty Nail in downtown Boston and which he wrote a review of later.  Here’s what Sam had to say about Jack Kerouac, warts and all:

“I have been on a Jack Kerouac tear of late (if you do not know who he is at this point either think On The Road, the famous alternate hitchhike road to life from the white picket fence norm book he wrote putting flesh and blood to the “beat” movement of the 1950s, think of the guy who the media proclaimed as the “king of the beats” after writing that novel which he wore kicking and screaming or if those suggestions fail ask your parents, or ouch, grandparents for they will know of him, probably headed out on the road themselves if only for a minute after reading the book). I have been reading not so much his works, although I have been doing some of that too but reading biographies, essays, and other sketches to get a better grasp on my fascination about this working class guy from Lowell not so far from where I grew up, about a guy who grew up from hunger as I did, and a guy who for a minute anyway gave the literary set a run for its money with a new way of writing novels.

He called it, maybe disingenuously “spontaneous writing” since he was an incredible re-writer and reviser of everything he wrote as well as a meticulously organized keeper of his own archives but probably better is a take from a Norman Mailer title-“advertisements for myself” since the vast majority of his work was an on-going saga of his life and times spread out from the 1930s with Maggy Cassidy to just before his death in 1969 Vanities of Duclouz. (Allen Ginsberg, the poet, his early friend and road companion, and no mean hand as a rememberer himself called Jack “the great rememberer” of their generation and that is probably right.)

That said, I have gained a lot of information not previously known by looking into the life of the man who probably with the exceptions of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ernest Hemingway (yeah, Hemingway is always in the mix somewhere when you talk guys, guy writers in the 20th century, guys who influenced “modern” writing) has influenced me more than all others in a lifetime of reading. This is a little bit ironic since I was a shade bit too young to appreciate as a child of the generation of ’68 (you know those of us who raised hell with the government, with society, hell, with Jack who disowned us when the deal went down although we, I, did not disown him, or his influence in the 1960s).       

Now there are several ways to approach doing a biography about a writer. The two ways that come to mind most readily in the case of Jack Kerouac are, one, to do a close analysis of his writings like his first real biographer, Ann Charters did (the one whom almost all those have written something about Jack afterward own a debt to, acknowledged or not), who had the advantage of actually working with the man on his bibliography before he passed (and the disadvantage of knowing him too well so that on the personal stuff she did a great deal of sliding over as later biographers have felt no need to do). The other is to do like the writer/poet Tom Clark did in the book under review, Jack Kerouac: A Biography, and give us the more nitty-gritty details of Jack’s life, his terrible struggles to get published and his awful time with success when he became the “once and future king of the “beats”         

In a recent review of the Ann Charters biography which I think bears repeating here I noted the following:

“It is probably hard for today’s youthful generation (the so-called millennials) to grasp how important the jail break-out of the 1960s, of breaking free from old time Cold War red scare golden age dream, of creating our own sense of space was to my generation, my generation of ’68 (so-called). That “generation of ’68” designation picked up from the hard fact that that seminal year of 1968, a year when the Tet offensive by the Viet Cong and their allies put in shambles the lie that we (meaning the United States government) was winning that vicious bloodstained honor-less war, to the results in New Hampshire which caused Lyndon Baines Johnson, the sitting President to run for cover down in Texas somewhere after being beaten like a gong by a quirky Irish poet from the Midwest and a band of wayward troubadours from all over, mainly the seething college campuses, to the death of the post-racial society dream as advertised by the slain Doctor Martin Luther King, to the barricade days in Paris where for once and all the limits of what wayward students could do without substantial allies in bringing down a reactionary government, to the death of the search for a “newer world” as advertised by the slain Robert F. Kennedy, to the war-circus of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago which put paid to any notion that any newer world would come without the spilling of rivers of blood, to the election of Richard Milhous Nixon which meant that we had seen the high side go under, that the promise of the flamboyant 1960s was veering toward an ebb tide.

But we did not “invent” the era whole, especially in the cultural, personal ethos part, the part about skipping for a while anyway the nine to five work routine, the white house and picket fence family routine, the hold your breath nose to the grindstone routine and discovering the lure of the road and of discovering ourselves, of our capacity to wonder. No question that elements of the generation before us, the sullen West Coast hot-rodders, the perfect wave surfers, the teen-alienated rebel James Dean and wild one Marlon Brando and above all the “beats” helped push the can down the road, especially the “beats” who wrote to the high heavens about what they did, how they did it and what the hell it was they were running from.

Now the truth of the matter is that most generation of ‘68ers like myself only caught the tail-end of the “beat” scene, the end where mainstream culture and commerce made it into just another “bummer” like they have done with any movement that threatened to get out of hand. So most of us who were affected by the be-bop sound and feel of the “beats” got what we knew from reading about them. And above all, above even Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem, Howl which was a clarion call for rebellion, was Jack Kerouac’s On The Road which thrilled even those who did not go out in the search the great blue-pink American West night.”              

Here the odd thing, as Tom Clark’s biography insightfully brings out better than Ann Charters who as I said perhaps was too close to the scene , Kerouac except for that short burst in the late 1940s was almost the antithesis of what we of the generation of ’68 were striving to accomplish. He spent after some modest success with the semi-autobiographical Town And City writing about six versions of Road, other unpublished material and lots of frustration although not much self-doubt trying to break through the arcane New York publishing scene. He said when fame did come he was no longer physically, mentally or philosophically the same man who sought out the mid-20th century version of the great American West dream of his youth even though his admirers thought he still had those inclinations. As is fairly well known, and if not you can google YouTube for the famous debate Kerouac was part of in 1968 on William Buckley’s PBS show Firing Line where he lays it, by those who lived through the 1960s, Kerouac would eventually disown his “step-children.” Be that as it may his role, earned or not, wanted or not, as media-anointed “king of the beats” is worthy of investigation along with his obvious literary merits as a member in good standing of the American literary pantheon.           

On the face of it a poor working-class kid from the textile mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, from a staunch Roman Catholic French-Canadian heritage of those who came south to “see if the streets of America really were paved with gold” would seem an unlikely person to be involved in a movement that in many ways was the opposite of what his generation, the parents of the generation of ’68 to put the matter in perspective, born in the 1920s, coming of age in the Great Depression and slogging through World War II was searching for in the post-World War II “golden age of America.” Add to those factors his being a “jock,” a corner boy (at least that is the feel from a read his antics with his boys and his forlorn love in Maggie Cassidy), and a guy who liked to goof off and that only adds to the confusion about who and what Jack Kerouac was about.

But here is the secret, the secret thread that runs through the Clark biography (and Charters too as well as Jack’s friend and rival John Holmes in his remembrances of Jack), he was a mad man to write, to write and to write about himself and his times. And had enough of an ego to think that his writing would carry out his task of making a legend of his own life. Yeah, a million word guy (probably much more than that and without a word processor to keep count, to make editing easier, despite his theory of spontaneous writing to the contrary, and to easily store his output).

So the value of this biography is the material presented about his rough-hewn upbringing in down and out Lowell, the dramatic effect that the death of his older brother at a young age had on his psyche, his football prowess and disappointments, his coming of age problems with girls, his going off to New York to prep school and college, his eventual decision to “dig” the scene in the Village, his checkered military record during the war, the shock of the death of his father, his inability to deal with women, and marriage, his extreme sense of male bonding, his early and often drinking problems and other personal anecdotes offered by a host of people who knew, loved and hated him do not play second fiddle to this literary strand here.       

Mister Clark does his best work when he goes by the numbers and discusses Kerouac’s various troubles trying to be a published paid serious writer, and to be taken seriously by the literary establishment. The fate of On The Road which after all is about his and Neal Cassady’s various cross-country trips, drug and alcohol highs, partying, women grabbed in the late 1940s and not published until 1957 is indicative of the gap between what Kerouac thought was his due and what the finicky publishing world thought about him. Of course after he became a best-seller, had his “fifteen minutes of fame plus fifty plus years” getting his work published was the least of his problems.

While he was to write some more things after he became famous there is a real sense that he ran out of steam. And as Clark’s last chapters summarily detailed beginning with the 1960 events which made up the short novel Big Sur about his increasing alcohol and drug problems and breakdowns highlight those problems and how the problem of fame itself got the better of him. Although no way can you consider Jack Kerouac a one-note literary Johnny. However if he had only written On The Road his niche in the pantheon would be assured.          

At the end of my review of the Charters biography I made a suggestion to the millennials who need to read Kerouac -after you read On The Road - read Charter’s something of an early definitive biography (with lots of good notes at the end about her sources for various opinions and questions of fact) to get a feel for what it was like to be there at the creation of the big jail-break “beat” minute which spawned your parents, or ouch, grandparents “hippie” minute. I can now make another addition. Read this one too. While other later biographies have been produced, especially around the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of On The Road in 2007, this is the one to check out next.   





 Every January leftists honor three revolutionaries who died in that month, V.I. Lenin of Russia in 1924, Karl Liebknecht of Germany and Rosa Luxemburg of Poland in 1919 murdered after leading the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin. Lenin needs no special commendation.  I will make my political points about the heroic Karl Liebknecht and his parliamentary fight against the German war budget in World War I in this space tomorrow so I would like to make some points here about the life of Rosa Luxemburg. These comments come at a time when the question of a woman President is the buzz in the political atmosphere in the United States in the lead up to the upcoming 2016 elections. Rosa, who died almost a century ago, puts all such pretenders to so-called ‘progressive’ political leadership in the shade.   

The early Marxist movement, like virtually all progressive political movements in the past, was heavily dominated by men. I say this as a statement of fact and not as something that was necessarily intentional or good. It is only fairly late in the 20th century that the political emancipation of women, mainly through the granting of the vote earlier in the century, led to mass participation of women in politics as voters or politicians. Although, socialists, particularly revolutionary socialists, have placed the social, political and economic emancipation of women at the center of their various programs from the early days that fact had been honored more in the breech than the observance.


All of this is by way of saying that the political career of the physically frail but intellectually robust Rosa Luxemburg was all the more remarkable because she had the capacity to hold her own politically and theoretically with the male leadership of the international social democratic movement in the pre-World War I period. While the writings of the likes of then leading German Social Democratic theoretician Karl Kautsky are safely left in the basket Rosa’s writings today still retain a freshness, insightfulness and vigor that anti-imperialist militants can benefit from by reading. Her book Accumulation of Capital , whatever its shortfalls alone would place her in the select company of important Marxist thinkers.

But Rosa Luxemburg was more than a Marxist thinker. She was also deeply involved in the daily political struggles pushing for left-wing solutions. Yes, the more bureaucratic types, comfortable in their party and trade union niches, hated her for it (and she, in turn, hated them) but she fought hard for her positions on an anti-class collaborationist, anti-militarist and anti-imperialist left-wing of the International of the social democratic movement throughout this period. And she did this not merely as an adjunct leader of a women’s section of a social democratic party but as a fully established leader of left-wing men and women, as a fully socialist leader. One of the interesting facts about her life is how little she wrote on the women question as a separate issue from the broader socialist question of the emancipation of women. Militant leftist, socialist and feminist women today take note.


One of the easy ways for leftists, particularly later leftists influenced by Stalinist ideology, to denigrate the importance of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought and theoretical contributions to Marxism was to write her off as too soft on the question of the necessity of a hard vanguard revolutionary organization to lead the socialist revolution. Underpinning that theme was the accusation that she relied too much on the spontaneous upsurge of the masses as a corrective to the lack of hard organization or the impediments that  reformist socialist elements threw up to derail the revolutionary process. A close examination of her own organization, The Socialist Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, shows that this was not the case; this was a small replica of a Bolshevik-type organization. That organization, moreover, made several important political blocs with the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the defeat of the Russian revolution of 1905. Yes, there were political differences between the organizations, particularly over the critical question for both the Polish and Russian parties of the correct approach to the right of national self-determination, but the need for a hard organization does not appear to be one of them.


Furthermore, no less a stalwart Bolshevik revolutionary than Leon Trotsky, writing in her defense in the 1930’s, dismissed charges of Rosa’s supposed ‘spontaneous uprising’ fetish as so much hot air. Her tragic fate, murdered with the complicity of her former Social Democratic comrades, after the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin in 1919 (at the same time as her comrade, Karl Liebknecht), had causes related to the smallness of the group, its  political immaturity and indecisiveness than in its spontaneousness. If one is to accuse Rosa Luxemburg of any political mistake it is in not pulling the Spartacist group out of Kautsky’s Independent Social Democrats (itself a split from the main Social Democratic party during the war, over the war issue) sooner than late 1918. However, as the future history of the communist movement would painfully demonstrate revolutionaries have to take advantage of the revolutionary opportunities that come their way, even if not the most opportune or of their own making.

All of the above controversies aside, let me be clear, Rosa Luxemburg did not then need nor does she now need a certificate of revolutionary good conduct from today’s leftists, from any  reader of this space or from this writer. For her revolutionary opposition to World War I when it counted, at a time when many supposed socialists had capitulated to their respective ruling classes including her comrades in the German Social Democratic Party, she holds a place of honor. Today, as we face the endless wars of imperialist intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere in Iraq we could use a few more Rosas, and a few less tepid, timid parliamentary opponents.  For this revolutionary opposition she went to jail like her comrade Karl Liebknecht. For revolutionaries it goes with the territory. And in jail she wrote, she always wrote, about the fight against the ongoing imperialist war (especially in the Junius pamphlets about the need for a Third International).  Yes, Rosa was at her post then. And she died at her post later in the Spartacist fight doing her internationalist duty trying to lead the German socialist revolution the success of which would have  gone a long way to saving the Russian Revolution. This is a woman leader I could follow who, moreover, places today’s bourgeois women parliamentary politicians in the shade. As the political atmosphere gets heated up over the next couple years, remember what a real fighting revolutionary woman politician looked like. Remember Rosa Luxemburg, the Rose of the Revolution.      

Workers Vanguard No. 1060
23 January 2015
From the Archives of Marxism
Honor Rosa Luxemburg!
From Lenin, Liebknecht, Luxemburg by Max Shachtman
“Today the bourgeoisie and the social-traitors are jubilating in Berlin—they have succeeded in murdering Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Ebert and Scheidemann, who for four years led the workers to the slaughter for the sake of depredation, have now assumed the role of butchers of the proletarian leaders. The example of the German revolution proves that ‘democracy’ is only a camouflage for bourgeois robbery and the most savage violence.
“Death to the butchers!”
— “Speech at a Protest Rally Following the Murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg,” 19 January 1919
This was Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin’s cry of rage after the assassination of two revered Marxist leaders of the German proletariat. They were murdered by the fascistic Freikorps at the behest of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) government of Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann as it moved to crush the unfolding workers revolution in that country. German Social Democracy had proved its rottenness on 4 August 1914, when SPD deputies in parliament voted to fund the German military in World War I. Against the social-traitors Ebert & Co., Liebknecht and Luxemburg fought for revolutionary proletarian internationalism. In the tradition of the early Communist International, every January we honor the memory of these revolutionary fighters, the “Three Ls”—Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Lenin himself, who died on 21 January 1924.
The appreciation of Luxemburg reprinted below comes from the undated pamphlet Lenin, Liebknecht, Luxemburg published by the Young Workers (Communist) League of America sometime between 1924 and 1928. The pamphlet’s author, Max Shachtman, was expelled in 1928 from the U.S. Communist Party for supporting the Left Opposition led internationally by Leon Trotsky. The Trotskyists fought down the line against the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state and the Communist International. Although Shachtman would break from Trotskyism during World War II and eventually become an open supporter of U.S. imperialism, he was for a time a revolutionary leader and talented proponent of Marxism.
The excerpt below erroneously states that Berlin police chief Emil Eichhorn was removed from office a year after the founding of the German Communist Party. In fact, it was only a few days later, as the article on the facing page lays out in greater detail.

August 4, 1914. The world was astounded by the social democratic vote on war credits. But Rosa wasted not a moment. Declaring the social democracy a whited sepulchre, a foul corpse, she grouped around herself the cream of the revolutionary wing of the old party. With her came Karl Liebknecht, Leo Jogiches, Franz Mehring, Wilhelm Pieck, Clara Zetkin, [Ernst] Meyer and others. A small band they were, but immediately they proceeded to their task. Illegal literature was spread at every opportunity. Flaming appeals against the imperialist war were the order of the day. Rosa Luxemburg, who had written her famous open letter to [French social democrat] Jean Jaures six years before, arguing against his declaration that the alliance between France, England and Russia was a step towards peace, was being confronted by the truth of her own prophetic words.
The workers were beginning to come out of the stupor resulting from the first shock at the socialist betrayal. Within six months the small handful of revolutionists had grown to greater proportions despite its illegality and the hindrances in its way. In February of the year following the declaration of war, representatives from many cities gathered to found the group of “The International.” To combine legal with illegal work they proposed to issue a magazine with the name of their group at its head and with Red Rosa as its editor. This brilliant organ was declared illegal after the publication of the first number.
And now the sentence against Rosa for her Frankfurt speech [in 1914 against the imperialist war] was confirmed and she was once more imprisoned for a year. Surrounded by stone and iron she continued to carry on her agitation as though she were free. With the cooperation of the faithful Leo Tyszka [Jogiches], her oldest friend and co-worker, she issued numbers of Die Internationale, which stands today as the official theoretical organ of the party she founded, the German Communist Party, a monument to her work. From prison, also, she wrote her famous pamphlet, “The Crisis in the German Social Democracy,” which became known far and wide as the Junius brochure, since she was unable to sign her own name to it and was therefore obliged to use the pseudonym Junius.
“Shamed, dishonored, wading in blood and dripping with filth, thus capitalist society stands. Not as we usually see it, playing the roles of peace and righteousness, of order, of philosophy, of ethics—as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as a pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity—so it appears in all its hideous nakedness. And in the midst of this orgy a world tragedy has occured: the capitulation of the social democracy.... It forgot all its principles, its pledges, the decision of international congresses, just at the moment when they should have found their application.”
Bitterly did she scourge the social democratic traitors; scornfully she lashed to tatters their false arguments of national defense; and skilfully she exposed the imperialist roots of the war. Yet here also she relied too greatly upon the spontaneous action of the masses. Unlike Lenin she did not raise the inspiring slogan: Turn the imperialist war into a civil war of the proletariat against its oppressors! And Lenin, while greeting joyously this noble revolutionary voice crying in the sterile desert of shameless betrayal, did not fail to criticize this omission in his own book, “Against the Stream,” which he collected together with other articles written by Zinoviev.
Against the stream! “It is never easy to swim against the current, and when the stream rushes on with the rapidity and the power of a Niagara it does not become easier!” said the older Liebknecht [Karl’s father Wilhelm]. And yet Rosa swam bravely with her comrades against the streams of blood which were being shed in the imperialist slaughter. Released from prison just before Liebknecht’s arrest [for speaking against the war in 1916] at the famous May Day demonstration, she was soon rearrested to be released only by the first revolution in Germany [in November 1918]. Again there flowed from prison a constant stream of propaganda from her fertile pen. From her prison cell were written the famous Spartacus Letters. There also she replied to the critics of her “Accumulation of Capital” which had been published before the war, in which she attempted to set forth a Marxist theory of imperialist political economy. From that cell, too, came the letters to the wife of Karl Liebknecht which portrayed the sensitive and lovable soul of this uncompromising rebel, her love for life and struggle. There also her pamphlet on the Russian revolution, unfortunately composed on the basis of misinformation, the errors of which she later partially corrected, and which was triumphantly published by the renegade Paul Levi [after his departure from the Communist Party] who attempted to use it to justify his own cowardice and to attack the first working class republic.
“This madness will not stop, and this bloody nightmare of hell will not cease until the workers of Germany, of France, of Russia and of England will wake up out of their drunken sleep; will clasp each other’s hands in brotherhood and will drown the bestial chorus of war agitators and the hoarse cry of capitalist hyenas with the mighty cry of labor, ‘Proletarians of all countries, unite!’”
Thus had she ended her Junius brochure. And when the German revolution followed the successful uprising in Russia she was freed, together with Liebknecht, again to take up her incessant struggle for the workers’ cause. With new hopes the two Spartacans renewed their labors to build up a Communist Party in Germany. Battle-scarred, undaunted, they proceeded to unite the revolutionary forces of Germany: the Spartakusbund and the revolutionary groups of Hamburg and Bremen which were led by Paul Frölich, [Johann] Knief, and Karl Radek. At the end of the year of 1918 the first congress of the Communist Party of Germany was completed. The party was as yet weak; it was dominated by leftist elements. Despite the opposition of Rosa and Karl, the congress voted to oppose participation in elections or parliaments of any kind, as well as for the boycotting of the trade unions and appeals to the workers to leave them. Rosa argued, with little avail. Yet, in the program she wrote and which was adopted by the congress, the aims of the young Communist movement are clearly stated:
“The proletarian revolution is the death-bed of slavery and oppression. For this reason all capitalists, Junkers [landed nobility], members of the petty middle class, officers, and all those who live on exploitation and class hegemony, will rise against it to a man in a struggle for life and death. It is madness to believe that the capitalist class will, with good will, subordinate itself to the verdict of a socialist majority in parliament; and that it will voluntarily renounce its proprietary rights and its privileges of exploitation. Every ruling class has, to the very end, fought for its privileges with the most stubborn energy. The class of capitalist imperialists exceeds all its predecessors in undisguised cynicism, brutality, and meanness.... Against the threatening danger of the counter-revolution must come the arming of the workers and the disarming of the hitherto ruling class. The fight for socialism is the most gigantic civil war in history, and the proletarian revolution must prepare the necessary defense for this war. It must learn to use it, to fight and to conquer. This defence of the compact masses of the workers, this arming of them with the full political power for the accomplishment of the revolution, is what is known as the dictatorship of the proletariat. This, and only this, is the true democracy.”
The young party was soon to receive its baptism in blood. The social democrats were placed at the head of the so-called revolutionary government to head off the real revolution which would place power actually into the hands of the working class. Traitorous, they quaked at the idea of a proletarian revolution. Growing up by their side, like the Soviets alongside of the decaying Russian Constituent Assembly, were the Workmen’s Councils and the Communist Party. The social democrats did not hesitate to choose between revolution and suppression of revolutionary forces. A year after the founding of the Communist Party, the Workmen’s Councils were maliciously provoked by the social democratic government which removed the popular police president of Berlin, Emil Eichhorn, a member of the Independent Socialist Party. Rosa knew that the situation was not yet developed for an uprising. She realized that the masses had not yet been rallied to the support of the Communist Party; that they had not, in the words of the program she had written, gained “the consent of the clear, unanimous will of the majority of the proletarian masses of Germany and...conscious agreement with the aims and methods of the Spartakusbund.” But less clear heads prevailed and instantly the battle was on.
Together with a group of independent socialists, the Communists seized the building of the social democratic Vorwärts [newspaper] and issued a manifesto deposing the national government. Barricades were thrown up overnight. Workers armed themselves and prepared to give battle. Red Rosa did not hesitate. Marx, before her, had disapproved of the action of the revolutionaries of Paris in proclaiming the Commune [in 1870]; but as soon as the revolt was on he placed himself in line with the rebels—uncompromisingly; and after their terrible defeat he wrote the most brilliant declaration in its defense that the world has yet seen. And Rosa, in the same dilemma of being obliged to take a position in favor of an action which had been taken against her best judgment, showed the same revolutionary spirit as Karl Marx.
Unhesitatingly, the young party threw itself into the battle. With historic heroism they fought the troops of the social democrat [Gustav] Noske. With sabers and machine guns their proletarian lives were cut down to the ground. Rosa led in the battles. Liebknecht was everywhere, in the front ranks, among the youth who defended buildings that were being held by the Spartacans, in the barricades, indefatigably working among the inexperienced troops, giving encouragement and good cheer to all.
A general strike is declared; the factories stand gaunt and silent. The Berliner Tageblatt [newspaper] is taken over by the Berlin youth; the paper rolls are used for barricades, the books of the concern to bolster up the windows; a Red Cross station is established and guards are placed. On a number of churches, machine guns are lashed to command the streets. In front of the Vorwärts building a huge bonfire of the social democratic leaflets which have insulted the working class. The Bötzow brewery is held by the armed workers.
The government marshalls its forces: social democratic workers who have been poisoned against the revolutionaries. Workers against workers.
Saturday sees the end of the brave battle. The Vorwärts building is surrounded and surrendered. Whoever is caught with arms is forthwith shot. A sixteen year old fighter is called upon to shout “Long live the republic!”; he shouts instead “Long live Liebknecht!”; he is killed. The historic January days are over. They have seen heroic sacrifice and base betrayal.
A short few days pass. Liebknecht and Luxemburg are discovered. They are taken to the Eden Hotel, the headquarters of the troopers. Karl is spirited away and murdered by these “heroes.” As Rosa is leaving the hotel entrance, the trooper Runge is standing at the door. Commander Petri has given the order that she is not to reach the prison alive. The obliging Runge strikes her heavily on the head twice, so heavily that the blows are heard in the lobby of the hotel. Rosa sinks to the ground. She is lifted and thrown into the vehicle, one man on each side of her and Lieutenant Vogel in the rear. As the truck drives off, a soldier springs up from behind and delivers another sharp blow to the unconscious martyr; Lieutenant Vogel levels his revolver and shoots her in the back of the head; the frail, broken body quivers for the last time. They drive between the Landwehr Canal and the Zoological Gardens. No one is in sight. At the exit of the gardens near the canal, a group of soldiers are standing. The auto halts and the corpse is heaved into the canal at the order of Lieutenant Vogel. A few days later the watersoaked body is recovered and interred by the side of Liebknecht. The assassinated Jogiches finds his resting place by their side a short time later.
The social democratic Vorwärts has very humorous writers of jingles. On the eve of the murders they publish a little song:
“Five hundred corpses in a row,
Liebknecht, Rosa, Radek & Co.:
Are they not there also?”
The workers mourn and plan their vengeance. The murderers walk the streets today: they are free men.
*   *   *
It is said that were Red Rosa living today she would be among the best leaders of the iron regiments of the powerful Communist Party of Germany. Of that there can be little doubt. The attempts of renegades and unscrupulous scoundrels to darken the sacred memory of Rosa Luxemburg by spreading the tale that she opposed the Russian revolution and the Russian Bolsheviks have already been brought to nought. Rosa had many shortcomings. Perhaps only in her last days did she begin to understand that her attitude towards the question of the peasantry was incorrect. In the question of the attitude of revolutionaries towards national independence and the right of self-determination to the point of separation she also held the wrong position. She erred in certain respects in her estimation of the Russian party conflicts, and later in her understanding of the Bolshevik revolution and its tactics. She was wrong in her book “The Accumulation of Capital” and unconsciously, in fighting so vigorously for the principles of Marxism against the opportunist revisionists, herself deviated from those basic economic principles. She had too much confidence in the spontaneous action of the masses irrespective of preparatory organizational work and of the leading role of the party.
And yet she will remain a cherished, beloved memory; yet her spirit will continue to be embodied in the world’s revolutionary movement; yet her name will continue to grow in the hearts of the masses for whom she fought when those who betrayed her will have cheated oblivion only by obloquy.
The Paul Levis who seek to capitalize her errors and forget her glorious history of revolutionary struggle have best been answered by Lenin, who often took issue with Red Rosa, but who appreciated her work as few men do:
“An eagle may descend lower than a chicken, but the chicken can never rise like an eagle. Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken on the question of the independence of Poland, she was mistaken in 1903 in her estimate of the Mensheviki; she was mistaken in her theory of the accumulation of capital; she was mistaken in defending the union of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1914 along with Plekhanov, Vandervelde, Kautsky and others; she was mistaken in her prison writings in 1918 (on coming out of prison, however, at the end of 1918, she corrected a large number of these mistakes herself). But notwithstanding all her mistakes she was and remains an eagle; and not only will her memory always be highly esteemed by the Communists of all the world, but her biography and the complete collection of her writings will be useful for the instruction of many generations of Communists in all countries. As for the German social democrats after the 4th of August, 1914,—‘a foul corpse’ is the appellation which Rosa Luxemburg gave them, and with which their name will go down in the history of the international labor movement. But in the backyard of the labor movement, among the manure piles, chickens like Paul Levi, Scheidemann, Kautsky and all that fraternity, will be especially enraptured by the mistakes of the great Communist.”
Rosa Luxemburg died like the bravest soldier of the revolution at his post. She died after the defeat of a revolution, after “order” had been established. The last words she is known to have written are her best epitaph:
“Order reigns in Berlin! You senseless thugs! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. The Revolution will rise tomorrow, bristling to the heights, and will to your terror sound forth the trumpet call: ‘I was, I am, I am to be!’”
These words are the muted song of the grim regiments of the proletariat who march in the final struggle and for the final victory.

*****President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!-The Struggle Continues ….We Will Not Leave Our Sister Behind

*****President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!-The Struggle Continues ….We Will Not Leave Our Sister Behind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Updated-Winter 2015  

A while back, maybe a year or so ago, I was asked by a fellow member of Veterans For Peace at a monthly meeting in Cambridge about the status of the case of Chelsea Manning since he knew that I had been seriously involved with publicizing her case and he had not heard much about the case since she had been convicted in August 2013 (on some twenty counts including several Espionage Act counts, the Act itself, as it relates to Chelsea and its constitutionality will be the basis for one of her issues on appeal) and sentenced by Judge Lind to thirty-five years imprisonment to be served at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. (She had already been held for three years before trial, the subject of another appeals issue and as of May 2015 had served five years altogether thus far and will be formally eligible for parole in the not too distant future although usually the first parole decision is negative).

That had also been the time immediately after the sentencing when Private Manning announced to the world her sexual identity and turned from Bradley to Chelsea. The question of her sexual identity was a situation than some of us already had known about while respecting Private Manning’s, Chelsea’s, and those of her ardent supporters at Courage to Resist and elsewhere the subject of her sexual identity was kept in the background so the reasons she was being tried would not be muddled and for which she was savagely fighting in her defense would not be warped by the mainstream media into some kind of identity politics circus.

I had responded to my fellow member that, as usual in such super-charged cases involving political prisoners, and there is no question that Private Manning is one despite the fact that every United States Attorney-General including the one in charge during her trial claims that there are no such prisoners in American jails only law-breakers, once the media glare of the trial and sentencing is over the case usually falls by the wayside into the media vacuum while the appellate process proceed on over the next several years.

At that point I informed him of the details that I did know. Chelsea immediately after sentencing had been put in the normal isolation before being put in with the general population at Fort Leavenworth. She seemed to be adjusting according to her trial defense lawyer to the pall of prison life as best she could. Later she had gone to a Kansas civil court to have her name changed from Bradley to Chelsea Elizabeth which the judge granted although the Army for a period insisted that mail be sent to her under her former male Bradley name. Her request for hormone therapies to help reflect her sexual identity had either been denied or the process stonewalled despite the Army’s own medical and psychiatric personnel stating in court that she was entitled to such measures.

At the beginning of 2014 the Commanding General of the Military District of Washington, General Buchanan, who had the authority to grant clemency on the sentence part of the case, despite the unusual severity of the sentence, had denied Chelsea any relief from the onerous sentence imposed by Judge Lind.

Locally on Veterans Day 2013, the first such event after her sentencing we had honored Chelsea at the annual VFP Armistice Day program and in December 2013 held a stand-out celebrating Chelsea’s birthday (as we did in December 2014 and will do again this December of 2015).  Most important of the information I gave my fellow VFPer was that Chelsea’s case going forward to the Army appellate process was being handled by nationally renowned lawyer Nancy Hollander and her associate Vincent Ward. Thus the case was in the long drawn out legal phase that does not generally get much coverage except by those interested in the case like well-known Vietnam era Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, various progressive groups which either nominated or rewarded her with their prizes, and the organization that has steadfastly continued to handle her case’s publicity and raising financial aid for her appeal, Courage to Resist (an organization dedicated to publicizing the cases of other military resisters as well).     

At our February 2015 monthly meeting that same VFPer asked me if it was true that as he had heard the Army, or the Department of Defense, had ordered Chelsea’s hormone therapy treatments to begin. I informed him after a long battle, including an ACLU suit ordering such relief, that information was true and she had started her treatments a month previously. I also informed him that the Army had thus far refused her request to have an appropriate length woman’s hair-do. On the legal front the case was still being reviewed for issues to be presented which could overturn the lower court decision in the Army Court Of Criminal Appeals by the lawyers and the actual writing of the appeal was upcoming. A seemingly small but very important victory on that front was that after the seemingly inevitable stonewalling on every issue the Army had agreed to use feminine or neutral pronoun in any documentation concerning Private Manning’s case. The lawyers had in June 2014 also been successful in avoiding the attempt by the Department of Defense to place Chelsea in a civil facility as they tried to foist their “problem” elsewhere. 
On the political front Chelsea continued to receive awards, and after a fierce battle in 2013 was finally in 2014 made an honorary grand marshal of the very important GLBTQ Pride Parade in San Francisco (and had a contingent supporting her freedom again in the 2015 parade). Recently she has been given status as a contributor to the Guardian newspaper, a newspaper that was central to the fight by fellow whistle-blower Edward Snowden, where her first contribution was a very appropriate piece on what the fate of the notorious CIA torturers should be, having herself faced such torture down in Quantico adding to the poignancy of that suggestion. More recently she has written articles about the dire situation in the Middle East and the American government’s inability to learn any lessons from history and a call on the military to stop the practice of denying transgender people the right to serve. (Not everybody agrees with her positon in the transgender community or the VFP but she is out there in front with it.) 

[Maybe most important of all in this social networking, social media, texting world of the young (mostly) Chelsea has a twitter account- @xychelsea
Locally over the past two year we have marched for Chelsea in the Boston Pride Parade, commemorated her fifth year in prison last May [2015] and the fifth this year with a vigil, honored her again on Armistice Day 2015, celebrated her 28th birthday in December with a rally.
More recently big campaigns by Courage To Resist and the Press Freedom Foundation have almost raised the $200, 000 needed (maybe more by now) to give her legal team adequate resources during her appeals process (first step, after looking over the one hundred plus volumes of her pre-trial and trial hearings, the Army Court Of Criminal Appeal)

Recently although in this case more ominously and more threateningly Chelsea has been charged and convicted of several prison infractions (among them having a copy of the now famous Vanity Fair with Caitlyn, formerly Bruce, Jenner’s photograph on the cover) which could affect her parole status and other considerations going forward.     

We have continued to urge one and all to sign the on-line Amnesty International petition asking President Obama to grant an immediate pardon as well as asking that those with the means sent financial contributions to Courage To Resist to help with her legal expenses.

After I got home that night of the meeting I began thinking that a lot has happened over the past couple of years in the Chelsea Manning case and that I should made what I know more generally available to more than my local VFPers. I do so here, and gladly. Just one more example of our fervent belief that as we have said all along in Veterans for Peace and elsewhere- we will not leave our sister behind… More later.