Saturday, January 30, 2016

*****Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-James P. Cannon

*****Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-James P. Cannon

 Click below to link to the James Cannon Internet Archives

From The Pen Of Josh Breslin

Back in the early 1970s after they had worked out between themselves the rudiment of what had gone wrong with the May Day 1971 actions in Washington, D.C. Sam Eaton and Ralph Morris began some serious study of leftist literature from an earlier time, from back earlier in the century. Those May Day anti-Vietnam War actions, ill-conceived as they in the end turned out to be, centered on the proposition that if the American government would not close down the damn blood-sucking war then they, those thousands that participated in the actions, would close down the government. All Sam, Ralph and those thousands of others got for their efforts was a round-up into the bastinado. Sam had been picked off in the round-up on Pennsylvania Avenue as his group (his “affinity group” for the action) had been on their way to “capture” the White House. Ralph and his affinity group of ex-veterans and their supporters were rounded-up on Massachusetts Avenues heading toward the Pentagon (they had no plans to capture that five-sided building, at least they were unlike Sam’s group not that naïve, just surround it like had occurred in an anti-war action in 1967 which has been detailed in Norman Mailer’s prize-winning book Armies Of The Night). For a time RFK (Robert F. Kennedy) Stadium, the home of the Washington Redskins football team) had been the main holding area for those arrested and detained. The irony of being held in a stadium named after the martyred late President’s younger brother and lightening rod for almost all anti-war and “newer world” political dissent before he was assassinated in the bloody summer of 1968 and in a place where football, a sport associated in many radical minds with all that was wrong with the American system was lost on Sam and Ralph at the time and it was only later, many decades later, as they were sitting in a bar in Boston across from the JFK Federal Building on one of their periodic reunions when Ralph was in town that Sam had picked up that connection.

Sam, from Carver in Massachusetts, who had been a late convert to the anti-war movement in 1969 after his closest high school friend, Jeff Mullin, had been blown away in some jungle town in the Central Highlands and was like many late converts to a cause a “true believer,” had taken part in many acts of civil disobedience at draft boards, including the one in hometown Carver, federal buildings and military bases. From an indifference, no that’s not right, from a mildly patriotic average young American citizen that you could find by the score hanging around Mom and Pop variety stores, pizza parlors, diners, and bowling alleys in the early 1960s, he had become a long-haired bearded “hippie anti-warrior.” Not too long though by the standards of “youth nation” of the day since he was running a small print shop in Carver in order to support his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1965 and which exempted him from military service. Not too short either since those “squares” were either poor bastards who got tagged by the military and had to wear their hair short an appearance which stuck out in towns like Cambridge, Ann Arbor, Berkeley and L.A. when the anti-war movement started embracing the increasingly frustrated and anti-war soldiers that  they were beginning to run across or, worse, cops before they got “hip” to the idea that guys wearing short hair, no beard, looked like they had just taken a bath, and wore plaid short-sleeved shirts and chinos might as well have a bulls-eye target on their backs surveilling the counter-cultural crowd.

Ralph, from Troy, New York, had been working in his father’s electrical shop which had major orders from General Electric the big employer in the area when he got his draft notice and had decided to enlist in order to avoid being an 11B, an infantryman, a grunt, “cannon fodder,” although he would not have known to call it that at the time, that would come later. He had expected to go into something which he knew something about in the electrical field at least that is what the recruiting sergeant in Albany had “promised” him. But in the year 1967 (and 1968 too since he had extended his tour six months to get out of the service a little early) what the military needed in Vietnam whatever else they might have needed was “cannon fodder,” guys to go out into the bushes and kill commies. Simple as that. And that was what Ralph Morris, a mildly patriotic average young American citizen, no that is not right, a very patriotic average young American citizen that you could also find by the score hanging around Mom and Pop variety stores, pizza parlors, diners, and bowling alleys in the early 1960s, did. But see he got “religion” up there in Pleiku, up there in the bush and so when he had been discharged from the Army in late 1969 he was in a rage against the machine.

Sure he had gone back to the grind of his father’s electrical shop but he was out of place just then, out of sorts, needed to find an outlet for his anger at what he had done, what had happened to buddies very close to him, what buddies had done, and how the military had made them animals, nothing less. (Ralph after his father retired would take over the electric shop business on his own in 1991 and would thereafter give it to his son to take over after he retired in 2011.)

One day he had gone to Albany on a job for his father and while on State Street he had seen a group of guys in mismatched military garb marching in the streets without talking, silent which was amazing in itself from what he had previously seen of such anti-war marches and were just carrying a big sign-Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) and nobody stopped them, no cops, nobody, nobody yelled “commie” either or a lot of other macho stuff that he and his hang out guys used to do in Troy when some peaceniks held peace vigils in the square. The civilian on-lookers held their tongues that day although Ralph knew that the whole area still retained a lot of residual pro-war feeling just because America was fighting somewhere for something. He parked his father’s truck and walked over to the march just to watch at first. Some guy in a tattered Marine mismatched uniform wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers in the march called out to the crowd for anybody who had served in Vietnam, served in the military to join them shouting out their military affiliation as they did so. Ralph almost automatically blurred out-“Big Red One” and walked right into the street. There were other Big Red One  guys there that day so he was among kindred. So yeah, Ralph did a lot of actions with VVAW and with “civilian” collectives who were planning more dramatic actions. Ralph always would say later that if it hadn’t been for getting “religion” on the war issue and doing all those political actions then he would have gone crazy, would have wound up like a lot of guys he would see later at the VA, see out in the cardboard box for a home streets, and would not until this day have continued to support in any way he could, although lately not physically since his knee replacement, those who had the audacity to march for the “good old cause.”                           

That is the back story of a relationship has lasted until this day, an unlikely relationship in normal times and places but in that cauldron of the early 1970s when the young, even the not so very young, were trying to make heads or tails out of what was happening in a world they did not create, and were not asked about there were plenty of such stories, although most did not outlast that search for the newer world when the high tide of the 1960s ebbed in the mid-1970s. Ralph had noticed while milling around the football field waiting for something to happen, waiting to be released, Sam had a VVAW button on his shirt and since he did not recognize Sam from any previous VVAW action had asked if he was a member of the organization and where. Sam told him the story of his friend Jeff Mullin and of his change of heart about the war, and about doing something about ending the damn thing. That got them talking, talking well into the first night of their captivity when they found they had many things in common coming from deeply entrenched working-class cultures. (You already know about Troy. Carver is something like the cranberry bog capital of the world even today although the large producers dominate the market unlike when Sam was a kid and the small Finnish growers dominated the market and town life. The town moreover has turned into something of a bedroom community for the high-tech industry that dots U.S. Interstate 495.) After a couple of days in the bastinado Sam and Ralph hunger, thirsty, needing a shower after suffering through the Washington humidity heard that people were finding ways of getting out to the streets through some side exits. They decided to surreptiously attempt an “escape” which proved successful and they immediately headed through a bunch of letter, number and state streets on the Washington city grid toward Connecticut Avenue heading toward Silver Springs trying to hitchhike out of the city. A couple of days later having obtained a ride through from Trenton, New Jersey to Providence, Rhode Island they headed to Sam’s mother’s place in Carver. Ralph stayed there a few days before heading back home to Troy. They had agreed that they would keep in contact and try to figure out what the hell went wrong in Washington that week. After making some connections through some radicals he knew in Cambridge to live in a commune Sam asked Ralph to come stay with him for the summer and try to figure out that gnarly problem. Ralph did, although his father was furious since he needed his help on a big GE contract for the Defense Department but Ralph was having none of that.    

So in the summer of 1971 Sam and Ralph began to read that old time literature, although Ralph admitted he was not much of a reader and some of the stuff was way over his head, Sam’s too. Mostly they read socialist and communist literature, a little of the old IWW (Wobblie) stuff since they both were enthrall to the exploits of the likes of Big Bill Haywood out West which seemed to dominate the politics of that earlier time. They had even for a time joined a loose study group sponsored by one of the myriad “red collectives” that had sprung up like weeds in the Cambridge area. Both thought it ironic at the time, and others who were questioning the direction the “movement” was heading in stated the same thing when they were in the study groups, that before that time in the heyday of their anti-war activity everybody dismissed the old white guys (a term not in common use then like now) like Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and their progeny as irrelevant. Then everybody was glued to the books.

It was from that time that Sam and Ralph got a better appreciation of a lot of the events, places, and personalities from the old time radicals. Events like the start of May Day in 1886 as an international working class holiday which they had been clueless about despite the  May Day actions in Washington, the Russian Revolutions, the Paris Commune, the Chinese Revolutions, August 1914 as a watershed against war, the Communist International, those aforementioned radicals Marx, Lenin, Trostky, adding in Mao, Che, Fidel, Ho whose names were on everybody’s tongue (and on posters in every bedroom) even if the reason for that was not known. Most surprising of all were the American radicals like Haywood, Browder, Cannon, Foster, and others who nobody then, or almost nobody cared to know about at all.

As they learned more information about past American movements Sam, the more interested writer of such pieces began to write appreciation of past events, places and personalities. His first effort was to write something about the commemoration of the 3 Ls (Lenin, Luxemburg, and Liebknecht) started by the Communist International back in the 1920s in January 1972, the first two names that he knew from a history class in junior college and the third not at all. Here is what he had to say then which he recently freshly updated. Sam told Ralph after he had read the piece and asked if he was still a “true believer” said a lot of piece he would still stand by today:       

“Every January, as readers of this piece are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. [Sam did so for a few years but as the times changed, he expanded his printing business and started a family he gave that up.] That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices. This year we pay special honor to American Communist Party and American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon.

Note on inclusion: this year’s honoree does not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levelers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.




If you are interested in the history of the American Left or are a militant trying to understand some of the past lessons of our history concerning the socialist response to various social and labor questions this book is for you. This book is part of a continuing series of the writings of James P. Cannon that was published by the organization he founded, the Socialist Workers Party. [Cannon died in 1974.]

In the introduction the editors motivate the purpose for the publication of the book by stating the Cannon was the finest Communist leader that America had ever produced. This an intriguing question. The editors trace their political lineage back to Cannon’s leadership of the early Communist Party and later after his expulsion to the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party so their perspective is obvious. What does the documentation provided here show? This certainly is the period of Cannon’s political maturation, especially after his long collaboration working with Trotsky. The period under discussion- from the 1920’s when he was a leader of the American Communist Party to the red-baiting years after World War II- started with his leadership of the fight against the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and then later against those who no longer wanted to defend the gains of the Russian Revolution despite the Stalinist degeneration of that revolution. Cannon won his spurs in those fights and in his struggle to orient those organizations toward a revolutionary path. One thing is sure- in his prime which includes this period- Cannon had the instincts to want to lead a revolution and had the evident capacity to do so. That he never had an opportunity to lead a revolution is his personal tragedy and ours as well.

This volume is a compendium of Cannon’s speeches over most of his active political life beginning with his leadership role in the early American Communist Party and his secondary role in the Communist International. Some of the selections are also available in other parts of the series mentioned above. I would also note here that in contrast to his "Notebook of an Agitator" the pieces here tend to be longer and based on more general socialist principles. The socialist movement has always emphasized two ways of getting its message out- propaganda and agitation. The selections here represent a more propagandistic approach to that message. Many of the presentations hold their own even today in 1972 [and in 2015] as thoughtful expositions of the aims of socialism and how to struggle for it. I particularly draw the reader’s attention to "Sixty Years of American Radicalism" a speech given in 1959 in which Cannon draws a general overview of the ebbs and flows of the socialist movement from the turn of the 20th century until then. At that time Cannon also predicted a new radical upsurge which did occur shortly thereafter [the blazing 1960s of Sam, Frank and my youth.] but unfortunately has long since ended.

Cannon’s speech correctly marks the great divide in the American socialist movement at World War I and the socialist response American participation in that war and subsequently to the Russian Revolution. Prior to that time socialist activity was a loose, federated affair driven by a more evolutionary approach to ultimate socialist success i.e. reformism. That trend was symbolized by the work of the great socialist leader, Eugene V. Debs. While that approach had many, ultimately, fatal flaws it did represent a solid attempt to draw a class struggle line for independent (from the capitalist parties) political action by the working class.

Drawing on those lessons the early Communist Party, basing itself on support of the Russian Revolution, became dominant on the American left by expanding on that concept. That is, until the mid-1930’s after it had already long been an agency under orders from Moscow in support, by one means or another, of the Rooseveltian Democratic Party, a capitalist party. That was fatal to long term prospects for independent working class political action and Cannon has harsh words for the party’s policy. He also noted that the next upsurge would have to right that policy by again demanding an independent political expression for the working class. Unfortunately, when that radical upsurge did occur in the 1960’s and early 1970’s the party that he formed, the Socialist Workers Party, essentially replicated in the anti-Vietnam War movement and elsewhere the Communist Party’s class collaborationist policy with the remnants of American liberalism.

Obviously, as a man in his sixties Cannon was no longer able or willing to fight against that policy by the party that he had created. Thus, the third wave of radicalism also ebbed and the American Left declined. Nevertheless this speech is Cannon’s legacy to the youth today. [2015] A new upsurge, and it will come, must learn this lesson and fight tooth and nail for independent political expression for the working class to avoid another failure.

*****With Unemployment Still Way Too High, Way Too High - The Call "30 For 40"- Now More Than Ever- The Transitional Socialist Program

*****With Unemployment Still Way Too High, Way Too High - The Call "30 For 40"- Now More Than Ever- The Transitional Socialist Program

Click Below To Link To The Full Transitional Program Of The Fourth International Adopted In 1938 As A Fighting Program In The Struggle For Socialism In That Era. Many Of The Points, Including The Headline Point Of 30 Hours Work For 40 Hours Pay To Spread The Work Around Among All Workers, Is As Valid Today As Then.

Guest Commentary


From The Transitional Program Of The Fourth International In 1938- Sliding Scale of Wages and Sliding Scale of Hours

Under the conditions of disintegrating capitalism, the masses continue to live the meagerized life of the oppressed, threatened now more than at any other time with the danger of being cast into the pit of pauperism. They must defend their mouthful of bread, if they cannot increase or better it. There is neither the need nor the opportunity to enumerate here those separate, partial demands which time and again arise on the basis of concrete circumstances – national, local, trade union. But two basic economic afflictions, in which is summarized the increasing absurdity of the capitalist system, that is, unemployment and high prices, demand generalized slogans and methods of struggle.

The Fourth International declares uncompromising war on the politics of the capitalists which, to a considerable degree, like the politics of their agents, the reformists, aims to place the whole burden of militarism, the crisis, the disorganization of the monetary system and all other scourges stemming from capitalism’s death agony upon the backs of the toilers. The Fourth International demands employment and decent living conditions for all.

Neither monetary inflation nor stabilization can serve as slogans for the proletariat because these are but two ends of the same stick. Against a bounding rise in prices, which with the approach of war will assume an ever more unbridled character, one can fight only under the slogan of a sliding scale of wages. This means that collective agreements should assure an automatic rise in wages in relation to the increase in price of consumer goods.

Under the menace of its own disintegration, the proletariat cannot permit the transformation of an increasing section of the workers into chronically unemployed paupers, living off the slops of a crumbling society. The right to employment is the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is being shorn from him at every step. Against unemployment,“structural” as well as “conjunctural,” the time is ripe to advance along with the slogan of public works, the slogan of a sliding scale of working hours. Trade unions and other mass organizations should bind the workers and the unemployed together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. On this basis all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, under a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. It is impossible to accept any other program for the present catastrophic period.

Property owners and their lawyers will prove the “unrealizability” of these demands. Smaller, especially ruined capitalists, in addition will refer to their account ledgers. The workers categorically denounce such conclusions and references. The question is not one of a “normal” collision between opposing material interests. The question is one of guarding the proletariat from decay, demoralization and ruin. The question is one of life or death of the only creative and progressive class, and by that token of the future of mankind. If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. “Realizability” or “unrealizability” is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.


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!

Veterans For Peace Statement-Free Bowe Bergdahl!

December 22, 2015
Veterans For Peace is dismayed by the Army’s decision to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and endangering troops, for which, if convicted, he could potentially face life in prison.  We believe that Sgt. Bergdahl should be freed from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.

Bowe Bergdahl is a prisoner of war, three times over.  First the U.S. government sent him on Mission Impossible, to salvage its illegal, immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan.  Then he was captured by the Taliban, who held him prisoner under brutal conditions for five years.  Now Sgt. Bergdahl is prisoner to an orgy of militaristic politics in the most fear-mongering election year in memory.  Republican front runner Donald Trump has publicly called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and suggested he should be executed.

Did Sgt. Bergdahl walk away from his post in Afghanistan?  Yes, by his own account he did so, in order to bring attention to poor leadership which he believed was endangering his fellow soldiers.  Resistance to Mission Impossible takes many forms.  Bowe Bergdahl may not have been explicitly protesting against the war in Afghanistan, but by taking drastic action he sent a distress signal.

Bergdahl is charged with Desertion to Avoid Hazardous Duty, and Misbehavior Before the Enemy, which respectively, carry maximum sentences of five years and life in prison. Charging him with serious crimes in a General Court Martial appears to be a political decision.  It overrides the recommendation of the Army’s own investigating officer, who said that Bergdahl’s actions did not warrant either jail time or a punitive discharge.  The investigating officer recommended, at most, a Special Court Martial which can mete out a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Bowe Bergdahl is clearly not guilty of desertion.  It cannot be proven that he was attempting to avoid hazardous duty or to remain away from his unit indefinitely.  The Misbehavior Before the Enemy Charge asserts that Bowe Bergdahl’s actions put his fellow soldiers at risk.  It has even been said that soldiers died looking for him.  However, no evidence has been provided to back up this claim.

It was the U.S. government that put our soldiers at risk by sending them to invade Afghanistan and to occupy it for going on 15 years.  Nearly 2,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including six who were killed just this week by a suicide bomber at Bagram Air Force Base.  None of these soldiers died as a result of Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions.

Bowe Bergdahl is being made the scapegoat for the failed policies for the disastrous U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan men, women and children.

Bowe Bergdahl remains a Prisoner of War.  Veterans For Peace demands that Sgt. Bergdahl be freed immediately with an Honorable Discharge.

Veterans For Peace is also concerned about the 9,800 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan, hostages to a failed policy, with targets on their backs.  The U.S. government should withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan immediately and finally bring that long U.S. war to an end.


When Rockabilly Rocked The Be-Bop 1950s Night- “Rock This Town-Volume 2”- A CD Review

When Rockabilly Rocked The Be-Bop 1950s Night- “Rock This Town-Volume 2”- A CD Review



CD Review

Rock This Town, Volume 2, various artists, Rhino Records, 1991


The bulk of this review was used to review Volume 1 as well:


The last time that I discussed rockabilly music in this space was a couple of years ago when I was featuring the work of artists like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis who got their start at Sam Phillips’ famed Sun Records studio in Memphis. Part of the reason for those reviews was my effort to trace the roots of rock and rock, the music of my coming of age, and that of my generation, the generation of ’68. Clearly rockabilly was, along with country and city blues from the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ike Turner and rhythm and blues from the likes of Big Joe Turner, a part of that formative process. The question then, and the question once again today, is which strand dominated the push to rock and rock, if one strand in fact did dominate.


I have gone back and forth on that question over the years. That couple of years ago mentioned above I was clearly under the influence of Big Joe Turner and Howlin’ Wolf and so I took every opportunity to stress the bluesy nature of rock. Recently though I have been listening, and listening very intently, to early Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis and I am hearing more of that be-bop rockabilly rhythm flowing into the rock night. Let me give a comparison. A ton of people have done Big Joe Turner’s classic rhythm and bluish Shake, Rattle, and Roll, including Bill Haley, Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee. When I listen to that song as performed in the more rockabilly style by them those versions seem closer to what evolved into rock. So for today, and today only, yes Big Joe is the big daddy, max daddy father of rock but Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Carl are the very pushy sons.


And that brings us to this treasure trove of rockabilly music presented in two volumes of which this is the second; including material by those who have revived, or kept the rockabilly genre alive over the past couple of decades. I have already done enough writing in praise of the work of Sam Phillips and Sun Records to bring that good old boy rockabilly sound out of the white southern countryside. There I noted that, for the most part, those who succeeded in rockabilly had to move on to rock to stay current and so the rockabilly sound was somewhat transient except for those who consciously decided to stay with it. Here are the examples that I used for volume one and they apply here as well:


“…the best example of that is Red Hot by Bill Riley and his Little Green Men, an extremely hot example by the way. If you listen to his other later material it stays very much in that rockabilly vein. In contrast, take High School Confidential by Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee might have started out in rockabilly but this number (and others) is nothing but the heart and soul of rock (and a song, by the way, we all prayed would be played at our middle school dances to get things moving).” Enough said.

Stick outs here on Volume 2 include: C’mon Everybody, Eddie Cochran (probably better known for his more bluesy, steamy, end of school rite of passage Summertime Blues, a very much underrated performer whose career was cut short when he was killed in a car accident; Let’s Have A Party, Wanda Jackson (one of the few famous women rockabilly artists in a very much male-dominated genre); Red Hot ( a cover of the famous one by Bill Riley featured in Volume 1), Robert Gordon and Link Wray; Rock This Town (title track from the group that probably is the best known devotee of the rockabilly revival), The Stray Cats.

Support The Partisan Defense Committee's Holiday Appeal -Free All Class War Prisoners!

Support The Partisan Defense Committee's Holiday Appeal -Free All Class-War Prisoners!  
Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website

Leonard Peltier 1972

My yearly comment on behalf of the Holiday Appeal-Frank Jackman  

I like to think of myself as a long-time fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the international working class. Cases from early on in the 1970s when the organization was founded and the committee defended the Black Panthers who were being targeted by every police agency that had an say in the matter, the almost abandoned by the left Weather Underground (in its various incantations) and Chilean miners in the wake of the Pinochet coup there in 1973 up to more recent times with the Mumia death penalty case, defense of the Occupy movement and the NATO three, and defense of the heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley).

Moreover the PDC is an organization committed, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program through the annual Holiday Appeal drive. Unfortunately having to raise these funds in support of political prisoners for many years now, too many years, as the American and international capitalist class and their hangers-on have declared relentless war, recently a very one-sided war, against those who would cry out against the monster. Attempting to silence voices from zealous lawyers like Lynne Stewart, articulate death-row prisoners like Mumia and the late Tookie Williams, anti-fascist street fighters like the Tingsley Five to black liberation fighters like the Assata Shakur, the Omaha Three and the Angola Three and who ended up on the wrong side of a cop and state vendetta and anti-imperialist fighters like the working-class based Ohio Seven and student-based Weather Underground who took Che Guevara’s admonition to wage battle inside the “belly of the beast” seriously. Of course this year we lost Hugo Pinell, George Jackson’s comrade-in-arms from the San Quentin Six to a murderous vendetta. Others, other militant labor and social liberation fighters as well, too numerous to mention here but remembered.

Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. One year though, and it now bears repeating each year, after I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson’s present class-war prisoner the late Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers in their better days, the days when the American state really was out to kill or detain every last supporter, and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven,  as represented by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their younger days; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today (also Black Panther-connected); the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. Many, too many for most of that time. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly. I urge others to do the same now at the holidays and throughout the year. The class-war prisoners must not stand alone. 



Box 99 Canal Street Station                        

New York, N.Y. 10013

*****From The Archives-Fight For A Worker Party That Fights For A Workers Government

*****From The Archives-Fight For A Worker Party That Fights For A Workers Government

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman (updated January 2016):

As we enter another "bummer" of an election year the notes below from the archives of Labor History seem to be timely if not for this election cycle then as thoughts to drive our  up hill work forward. The sentiments expressed below except the dates of delivery and events characterized could have been written in the year 2016 without blinking an eye. That is not good, not good at all. Read on.  

These notes (expanded) were originally intended to be presented as The Labor Question in the United States at a forum on the question on Saturday August 4, 2012. As a number of radicals have noted, most particularly organized socialist radicals, after the dust from the fall bourgeois election settles, regardless of who wins, the working class will lose. Pressure for an independent labor expression, as we head into 2013, may likely to move from its current propaganda point as part of the revolutionary program to agitation and action so learning about the past experiences in the revolutionary and radical labor movements is timely.

I had originally expected to spend most of the speech at the forum delving into the historical experiences, particularly the work of the American Communist Party and the American Socialist Workers Party with a couple of minutes “tip of the hat” to the work of radical around the Labor Party experiences of the late 1990s. However, the scope of the early work and that of those radical in the latter work could not, I felt, be done justice in one forum. Thus these notes are centered on the early historical experiences. If I get a chance, and gather enough information to do the subject justice, I will place notes for the 1990s Labor party work in this space as well.
The subject today is the Labor Party Question in the United States. For starters I want to reconfigure this concept and place it in the context of the Transitional Program first promulgated by Leon Trotsky and his fellows in the Fourth International in 1938. There the labor party concept was expressed as “a workers’ party that fights for a workers’ government.” [The actual expression for advanced capitalist countries like the U.S. was for a workers and farmers government but that is hardly applicable here now, at least in the United States. Some wag at the time, some Shachtmanite wag from what I understand, noted that there were then more dentists than farmers in the United States. Wag aside that remark is a good point since today we would call for a workers and X (oppressed communities, women, etc.) government to make our programmatic point more inclusive.]

For revolutionaries these two algebraically -expressed political ideas are organically joined together. What we mean, what we translate this as, in our propaganda is a mass revolutionary labor party (think Bolsheviks first and foremost, and us) based on the trade unions (the only serious currently organized part of the working class) fighting for soviets (workers councils, factory committees, etc.) as an expression of state power. In short, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a term we do not yet use in “polite” society these days in order not to scare off the masses. And that is the nut. Those of us who stand on those intertwined revolutionary premises are few and far between today and so we need, desperately need, to have a bridge expression, and a bridge organization, the workers party, to do the day to day work of bringing masses of working people to see the need to have an independent organized expression fighting programmatically for their class interests. And we, they, need it pronto.

That program, the program that we as revolutionaries would fight for, would, as it evolved, center on demands, yes, demands, that would go from day to day needs to the struggle for state power. Today focusing on massive job programs at union wages and benefits to get people back to work, workers control of production as a way to spread the available work around, the historic slogan of 30 for 40, nationalization of the banks and other financial institutions under workers control, a home foreclosure moratorium, and debt for homeowners and students. Obviously more demands come to mind but those listed are sufficient to show our direction.

Now there have historically been many efforts to create a mass workers party in the United States going all the way back to the 1830s with the Workingmen’s Party based in New York City. Later efforts, after the Civil War, mainly, when classic capitalism began to become the driving economic norm, included the famous Terence Powderly-led Knights of Labor, including (segregated black locals), a National Negro Union, and various European social-democratic off -shoots (including pro-Marxist formations). All those had flaws, some serious like being pro-capitalist, merely reformist, and the like (sound familiar?) and reflected the birth pangs of the organized labor movement rather than serious predecessors.

Things got serious around the turn of the century (oops, turn of the 20th century) when the “age of the robber barons” declared unequivocally that class warfare between labor and capital was the norm in American society (if not expressed that way in “polite” society). This was the period of the rise the Debsian-inspired party of the whole class, the American Socialist Party. More importantly, if contradictorily, emerging from a segment of that organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) was, to my mind the first serious revolutionary labor organization (party/union?) that we could look to as fighting a class struggle fight for working class interests. Everyone should read the Preamble to the IWW Constitution of 1905 (look it up on Wikipedia or the IWW website) to see what I mean. It still retains its stirring revolutionary fervor today.

The most unambiguous work of creating a mass labor party that we could recognize though really came with the fight of the American Communist Party (which had been formed by the sections, the revolutionary-inclined sections, of the American Socialist Party that split off in the great revolutionary/reformist division after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917) in the 1920s to form one based on the trade unions (mainly in the Midwest, and mainly in Chicago with the John Fitzgerald –led AFL). That effort was stillborn, stillborn because the non-communist labor leaders who had the numbers, the locals, and, ah, the dough wanted a farmer-labor party, a two class party to cushion them against radical solutions (breaking from the bourgeois parties and electoralism). Only the timely intervention of the Communist International saved the day from a major blunder (Go to the James P. Cannon Internet Archives for more, much more on this movement, He, and his factional allies including one William Z. Foster, later the titular head of the Communist Party, were in the thick of things to his later red-faced chagrin).

Moving forward, the American Communist Party at the height of the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s, that one, not the one we are in now) created the American Labor Party (along with the American Socialist party and other pro-Democratic Party labor skates) which had a mass base in places like New York and the Midwest. The problem though was this organization was, mainly, a left-handed way to get votes for Roosevelt from class conscious socialist-minded workers who balked at a direct vote for Roosevelt. (Sound familiar, again?) And that, before the Labor Party movement of the 1990s, is pretty much, except a few odd local attempts here and there by leftist groups, some sincere, some not, was probably the last major effort to form any kind of independent labor political organization. (The American Communist Party after 1936, excepting 1940, and even that is up for questioning, would thereafter not dream of seriously organizing such a party. For them the Democratic Party was more than adequate, thank you. Later the Socialist Workers Party essentially took the same stance.)

So much then for the historical aspects of the workers party question. The real question, the real lessons, for revolutionaries posed by all of this is something that was pointed out by James P. Cannon in the late 1930s and early 1940s (and before him Leon Trotsky). Can revolutionaries in the United States recruit masses of working people to a revolutionary labor party (us, again) today (and again think Bolshevik)? To pose the question is to give the answer (an old lawyer’s trick, by the way).

America today, no. Russia in 1917, yes. Germany in 1921, yes. Same place 1923, yes. Spain in 1936 (really from 1934 on), yes. America in the 1930s, probably not (even with no Stalinist ALP siphoning). France 1968, yes. Greece (or Spain) today, yes. So it is all a question of concrete circumstances. That is what Cannon (and before him Trotsky) was arguing about. If you can recruit to the revolutionary labor party that is the main ticket. We, even in America, are not historically pre-determined to go the old time British Labor Party route as an exclusive way to create a mass- based political labor organization. If we are not able to recruit directly then you have to look at some way station effort. That is why in his 1940 documents (which can also be found at the Cannon Internet Archives as well) Cannon stressed that the SWP should where possible (mainly New York) work in the Stalinist-controlled (heaven forbid, cried the Shachtmanites) American Labor Party. That was where masses of organized trade union workers were.

Now I don’t know, and probably nobody else does either, if and when, the American working class is going to come out of its slumber. Some of us thought that Occupy might be a catalyst for that. That has turned out to be patently false as far as the working class goes. So we have to expect that maybe some middle level labor organizers or local union officials feeling pressure from the ranks may begin to call for a labor party. That, as the 1990s Socialist Alternative Labor Party archives indicates, is about what happened when those efforts started.

[A reference back to the American Communist Party’s work in the 1920s may be informative here. As mentioned above there was some confusion, no, a lot of confusion back then about building a labor party base on workers and farmers, a two -class party. While the demands of both groups may in some cases overlap farmers, except for farm hands, are small capitalists on the land. We need a program for such potential allies, petty bourgeois allies, but their demands are subordinate to labor’s in a workers’ party program. Fast forward to today and it is entirely possible, especially in light of the recent Occupy experiences, that some vague popular frontist trans-class movement might develop like the Labor Non-Partisan League that the labor skates put forward in the 1930s as a catch basin for all kinds of political tendencies. We, of course, would work in such formations fighting for a revolutionary perspective but this is not what we advocate for now.]

In 2014 AFL-CIO President Trumka made noises about labor “going its own way.” I guess he had had too much to drink at the Democratic National Committee meeting the night before, or something. So we should be cautious, but we should be ready. While at the moment tactics like a great regroupment of left forces, a united front with labor militants, or entry in other labor organizations for the purpose of pushing the workers party are premature we should be ready.

And that last sentence brings up my final point, another point courtesy of Jim Cannon. He made a big point in the 1940s documents about the various kinds of political activities that small revolutionary propaganda groups or individuals (us, yet again) can participate in (and actually large socialist organizations too before taking state power). He lumped propaganda, agitation, and action together. For us today we have our propaganda points “a workers’ party that fights for a workers (and X, okay) government.” In the future, if things head our way, we will “united front” the labor skates to death agitating for the need for an independent labor expression. But we will really be speaking over their heads to their memberships (and other working class formations, if any, as well). Then we will take action to create that damn party, fighting to make it a revolutionary instrument. Enough said.



Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- Girl Meets Our Lord Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night Boy

***Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- Girl Meets Our Lord Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night Boy- For Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, King Of North Adamsville Schoolboy Night - Class of 1964


From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin  


Yes, I can hear the snickering, cyberspace snickering if that is possible anyway, between them now, just like in the old days, although I did not always know what it meant then but now I do. I do after Frankie’s, Francis Xavier Riley’s, recent desecration of this space to tell his wild and wooly story, Boy Meets Our Lady Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night Girl, about how he and his ever-loving middle school and high school sweetheart, Joanne, came together as a couple through their adventures at the 1959 Saint Patrick’s Day parade over in Southie, South Boston that is. In case you were not aware, painfully aware by now, Frankie, king of the be-bop late 1950s and early 1960s schoolboy be-bop night in our old, mainly Irish, working class neighborhood in North Adamsville and his “ball and chain,” Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy, decided as part of their Southie caper that three was “one too many” and that neither would ever cry, cry out loud about it. And the three, or third, was me, Markin, Peter Paul Markin, Frankie’s then (and now, now maybe) faithful retainer during his reign. I decided to go to school instead of “skipping” the day as they did. Thankfully I am resilient and such childish things as snickers by just barely teenage co-conspirators are so much, well, so much.


But that is not the end of it, not the end of it by a long shot, although you and I will wish that I had not taken the genie out of the bottle, at least I will. Now one of the beauties of the high tech age we live in is that long forgotten friends and acquaintances are “findable” in short order, at least those who have left enough traces to be found. The same holds true for the use of cyberspace, as used here, as something of a public diary about the back-in-the-days times of the be-bop high school 1960s night. Now I had not heard from Frankie for many years, maybe forty or so, as our paths went in very different directions at some point. All that is important right this minute is that Frankie, king Frankie, heard that I was writing, writing relentlessly, about the old days, and about his lordship. I will give you the details of the hows and whys of how he got in touch with me some other time, maybe. What you know, if you have been attentive is that Frankie has been spewing forth (sorry there is no other word, other appropriate public word, for it) to one and all about His take on the old days as my guest commentator.


Here is where the genie out of the bottle part comes in. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, is not the only one who knows how to work the marvels of cyberspace to get his “party line” out. Now, and christ I’ll be damned if I know how she found out (although I suspect my ex-wife, my first ex-wife that is, who was not part of the old North Adamsville scene but knew all about it, knew, as she said, “where all the bodies were buried”) Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy (I will use her high school name here just to keep things from getting any more confused than they already are), has actually been following this space, especially since Frankie has “come on board.” And what she wants, no, what she insists on, is “equal time,” equal time to tell her side of the story, the 1959 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade story. She said that Frankie left a lot out, a lot that would make him a little less cocky (her word) if the world knew certain things. Also that Frankie had it wrong, half-arsed wrong, no, full-arsed wrong about her Irishness sensibilities and where they fit into her young schoolgirl life.


Can you believe that? What is more she says there are some other “inaccuracies” in Frankie’s other stories, mainly the ones I wrote. Well, those are fighting words in my book, and as Frankie can tell you, would bring some fists out in our old-fashioned values, mainly Irish working class neighborhood. Those were the old days and I was going to, really going to, just let old Joanne, old ever-loving Joanne twist in the wind on this one. But here is where you have be careful about people, well, okay about women because after I sent her an e-mail on my decision, about thirty-six seconds later I got a return e-mail. And that e-mail asked, pretty please asked, acidly-etched pretty please asked, didn’t I want to know about whether it was true or not that she was “smitten” with me back in the days. What? Who? Well that puts a different perspective on it and perhaps I, in the interest of hearing all sides should allow her this one opportunity to “put things straight.” Besides like I used to say in the old days I like to give the other side an opportunity to speak if only to hang themselves.


Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy, comment:


Yes, one Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley (Christ, Markin has got me saying it now), and one Markin, Peter Paul Markin, were thick as thieves from the time Markin came over to North Adamsville Junior High School (yes, I know just like Frankie and Pee-pee, my pet name for Markin, know it is now called middle school) from the Adamsville projects over the other side of town in the middle of seventh grade. That part is true, and you can take my word for it. And the part about “Joanne was smart, check, pretty, check, had a winning smile, check, and was universally kind out her religiously-derived social sense, check.” Everything else that this pair has written about the old days, well, why don’t we just say “take it with the grain of salt.” Okay. Now I do not know how much old Markin, dear truth-at-any-price Peter Paul, is going to cut out (edit he calls it) so I want to make sure you know about three things: my opinion of Markin in those old days; the real story of Saint Patrick’s Day 1959; and various inaccuracies about what I did, or didn’t know, about Frankie’s girl flings after we had our little disputes (what he called “misunderstandings”). If I don’t get these points all through Markin’s (and maybe Frankie behind it, as well) meat-cutter please contact me at


Frankie thinks he had Markin figured out, and figured out easy. Just throw him a morsel of an idea and he’ll jump through hoops for you. Well, where do you think, and who do you think gave Frankie that idea? Didn’t I have it right, and here I am speaking "truth to power" about it as proof, on how to get Markin to let me write about the old days in his “space.” All I had to do was throw out the words “smitten" and "Joanne” and he was hooked, just like in the old days. And Frankie never would believe this then, and probably will not now but I was, I won’t say smitten but definitely attracted to Markin from the time he came to our school. No, no the looks, Frankie had them, no question. No, not the be-bop pitter-patter (weak stuff anyway as I will discuss later). No, not the clothes or “style” (Christ, Markin always looked about two inches from a hobo-on the good days-sorry). But Markin had something Frankie never did have, and never will have, his love of ideas (or morsels of ideas), and his love of sharing them with all and sundry.


Frankie just kind of used ideas as a pillow, as something convenient, as something for the moment. Markin would draw circles in the air around them, as if to keep them safe from harm or abuse. See, who do you think was “holding my hand” when old Frankie and I had our problems (sorry Frankie) and we would read poetry or something, or discuss books to make the Frankie-less times a little less hard. So when old Markin says he wouldn’t jump off a bridge for me, don’t you be fooled (or you either Frankie) by his deception. Notice how Pee-pee was talking about “looks”- ask him about intellectual companionship, or discussing books, or reading his inflamed poetry. [Markin interjection: well, yes, of course, which one]. So when Markin (or Frankie, for that matter) goes on and on about Joanne "ball and chain,” or "Joanne didn’t (or couldn’t) do this or that," or even "three’s one too many" that caused plenty of tensions, and caused Markin and I to be sometimes stiffly civil in Frankie presence from seventh grade on just remember what I said here.


Yes, after reading the Frankie screed about how we met in the seventh grade and how he swept me off my feet on Saint Patrick’s Day and after reading as well Peter Paul’s various defenses of his “king” I can confidently say this. The fact that we were all in the seventh grade in 1959, and that we were all in the same school at that time is true. Everything else that this pair has written about me, or about the Frankie-Joanne romance should be handled, well let me put it gently, with a cattle prod. The king and his scribe may have been familiar, in passing, with the idea of the truth, but the truth itself is as Markin was fond of saying in high school a book sealed with seven seals. Let me put you straight, if I can.


Sure I was attracted to Frankie, well, attracted, is probably too strong a word on the first day anyway, let’s call it intrigued. A good-looking (yes, even then twelve years old girls, and maybe, especially twelve year old girls, had their rating systems and Frankie rated pretty high among us girls in that department in those girls’ lav moments when we talked of such things), blondish-brown headed guy with little curled sideburns as was the style then, blue eyes, wiry, medium-built who also came into class wearing brown flannel shirts in September, black chino pants (without cuffs, as they both will endlessly tell you at the drop of a dime, if you just ask them), clunky work boots, workers' work boots, and his midnight sunglasses.


Especially the sunglasses, day and night, night and day. He called them his midnight sunglasses. I do not think that Frankie or Peter Paul mentioned the various battles over those sunglasses in school (and in my house when mother Doris and father James saw him midnight sun-glassed one night). Either selective memory, forget memory or something but what do you think- that a twelve year old kid walking into a working class junior high school in 1958, in the heat of the despised beat movement, was going to go unchallenged on wearing what did not appear to be prescription glasses in school. Well let them, or one of them, tell the whole story, I’ll just say that a compromise (parents, etc. present in principal’s office) was reached and said sunglasses were treated as regular eye wear. Yes, intrigued was just about right, and from the first day. Okay.


Okay, except no way, no way was I going to run with his crowd, especially when I heard, heard from somebody that I remember that I trusted, although I cannot remember her name just now, that Frankie swore, and swore a lot as part of his be-bop pitter patter (as he called it). These guys made fun of me here, and back then even worst, about my being pious, pious at least for public consumption, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like to hear swearing). Not because of some religious scruples but just because my father, and lots of people in the neighborhood, always felt free to swear, swear loudly and whenever they pleased, and it offended my so-called "lace curtain" sensibilities. But we, Frankie and I, were in the same class together and I kind of got used to his pitter-patter and actually, as least as far as I remember, he didn’t swear when I was within earshot. And earshot was the way I kept it for the first few months, maybe closer to the first half of seventh grade. But then I saw that some girls, some girls, some of those girls that Peter Paul called "not so bright" and he was right, that told me they would never go near Frankie and his awful clothes and those weird sunglasses started to hang around his table at lunch, and follow him during class passes. I even saw a couple of girls, a couple who were supposed to be friends of mine and even more pious, really more pious than I was, walking homeward with Frankie. And meantime I was starting to like the look of him. Although something inside still said "stay away."


Then one day, one January day maybe, Frankie cornered me after school, after school and on my way home, and started going on and on about religion, our Roman Catholic religion. I still am not quite sure what he was trying to get at but he went into all kinds of things that I knew were wrong, although the way he said them was nice. Still I thought he had gone off the deep-end rattling on about this and that, including theology that he did not know anything about. I dismissed him out of hand as a nice guy but not for me, not for me unless he showed me a better face.


And then he actually did that. During the February vacation I was working on a project at the old Thomas Crane Public Library on Atlantic Avenue, the one they had as a storefront before they built a better one up at Norfolk Downs across from our Sacred Heart Church. As I was leaving I saw Frankie come up the street. I swear, I swear on the Bible, that I tried to walk pass him as fast as I could and just gave him a friendly nod. But then he started to talk his pitter-patter talk, but this time talking about the Book of Kell, and Ireland, and the old days of struggle against the "bloody English." I found out that he had found out that I was interested in Irish history, and the Irish history of the Church, and stuff like that from my grandmother, Anna, Anna Maude Mulvey, nee O’Brian, who was very close to the people who fought in the struggles against those same "bloody English" in Dublin in 1916. Had relatives over there (some now here) and so on.

So I listened to him, and he sounded better than in January. And that sounding better got him a date, although when he asked me out, asked twelve year old me out, I thought like with other boys it would be, I don’t know, a movie or a dance or something. But, no, Frankie, had to push the Irish card to the fullest. He wanted us to go over to South Boston, along with his new stooge (my term) Peter Paul Markin who was hovering around him like crazy and trying to imitate his "style," unsuccessfully I might add, the stooge was to keep things "on the level," I suppose, for the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which was on a Wednesday, I think, a school day in North Adamsville. I said no way, no way because I didn’t want to miss school, and my mother would not have let me miss school for such a thing.


But Frankie was persistent, and every day he would add to his bleeding Ireland pitter-patter and, of course, I liked that he did it but still there was the mother factor, the mother factor, the pious, lace curtain Irish mother who had along with grandmother, so she claimed, had taken great pains, great pains as she said more than once, to get our family away from the heathen, half- heathen anyway, "shanty" Irish that overran South Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day (and every day as she, revealing her real position, also later mentioned more than once). What I did not know then (and didn’t find out about until a few years later was that her shanty Irish applied to Frankie, Peter Paul, and all other North Adamsville shanty Irish who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and that was literally the wrong side of the tracks not just a figure of speech in that town. More than that she hated, purely hated the idea, the very idea, and fumed over it more than once right in my face about it, that I would go anywhere, anywhere at all with a heathen, or half-heathen, half-breed like Peter Paul who had a Protestant father, can you believe that a Protestant father (although I, and lots of other people, lots of other Roman Catholic to the manor born Irish like Frankie's father, and mine, liked Peter Paul’s father, Prescott, a lot).


And maybe Peter Paul knew this, or knows this now, but at the time when I was rolling the rock up the hill trying to get Doris to give in and let me go with Frankie to the parade when he said he couldn’t go, or wouldn’t go, that actually was when dear mother started to relent. But it was a struggle, no question. Then about two, or three days before that parade, Grandma Anna came over and talked to mother, and talked to her in no uncertain terms about the educational value, the Irish educational value, of going over to see my kindred, and the representative Irish stuff and all of that. And Grandma said she would take Frankie and me over herself. What mother didn't know, old sweet mother Doris, and she was sweet when you didn’t cross her little lace curtain Irish plans to become, I think, just regular Americans, not Irish-Americans like we, meaning my family and others around us call ourselves now, and not carry the baggage from the old days and the old country in our brains every minute, was that I had in desperation called in the “big guns,” Grandma Anna.


That is the term, "big guns," Markin always used whenever some dispute came up with his mother (Arlene, nee McNally) and she called in old Prescott to back her up. I had, in any case, sobbed to Grandma about my plight, about mother not letting me learn about the old country and show Irish pride. “Stop it,” she said. And then blasted out “You just want to be with that boy you’ve been mooning over for the last few months, Frankie, away from home a little and who knows what else, don’t tell me it’s all about Irish history although that doesn’t hurt either.” “But that will be our story, anyway,” she added. I admitted to her, and it is no telling tales out of school here, that I got a little faint when Frankie was around me, and looked my way. She didn’t say anything to that, she didn’t have to say anything to that but just gave her knowing little chuckle. And so grandma law prevailed and Frankie and I were on our way.


Later, a couple of weeks later, after she had taken us over to the parade in her car and them left us to ourselves when she told us she had some “business” to attend to (thanks, grandma,) she said, and I wish maybe I had listened a little more closely, watch out for blarney men, and watch out with both eyes. (Thanks, grandma again although then it was too late). I think Frankie already told you about the parade, and if he didn’t I can’t help much in describing those things because my head and heart were so full of Frankie that day, and about how he really had to be sweet when he went to all the trouble to learn about the troubles, the Irish troubles, just for me and about how I hoped that he would kiss me and that I would be his girl and not one of those other “less bright” girls that were still hanging around his table at lunch and were all moony over him. I know Frankie told you that he did kiss me, and kissed me more than once, and giving me Irish history kisses that I was thrilled to get, even if we both were giving and taking awkward twelve almost thirteen year old kisses. Yes, so if anybody is bothering to keep count, including old Peter Paul whose posed the question, yes I too proudly have a big A (for absence) on my North Adamsville Junior High School attendance sheet for March 17, 1959. A big Irish-kissed A. And what of it.


P.S. I wanted to make sure that Markin didn’t “delete” my telling of the story of Frankie and my first date so I didn’t put anything in about the errors in Frankie’s and Peter Paul’s other stories. This probably won’t make it through the Markin censor machine but if it does then here is the real scoop on old lover boy Frankie’s “love affairs” when we had our later “misunderstandings.” Okay? When Markin told the story of how Frankie went and tried to be the king of the teen age dance club and Frankie fell all over himself over what Markin called that Grace Kelly look-a-like girl whom I was friendly with and had a class with in school and who wouldn’t give him the time of day on the dance floor that night these two, showing definite male vanity, cooked up that part where old Grace Kelly said she was smitten with Frankie but that she wouldn’t mess with him because she was my serious boyfriend. Old Grace didn’t care one bit for Frankie, thought he was a silly old beatnik past his prime and thought it was juvenile in the nth degree to wear sunglasses in school in the hope that it would attract attention, her attention anyway. She said Frankie was “square,” very square and what she said about Frankie's scribe (self-described, Peter Paul self-described), cannot be repeated here (she knew how to swear which I didn’t like, as you know). Also she was not related to me in any way, although she was more than happy to snub old Frankie for me while I was away on summer vacation with my family. E-mail me if you want her full description of Frankie’s “approach” to her that night, it is a riot. We laughed about it for weeks.


More serious though, and this one really has to be straightened out was Markin’s story about another “misunderstanding” time with Frankie and me when Frankie and he were down at the Adventure Car Hop and Frankie picked up my cousin (yes, that part was true, second cousin) Sandy, a car hop there. Yes, Frankie did take her home at his insistence, and yes, he stayed the night. On the sofa. By himself. Sandy was lonely okay, her husband was in the service and wanted more company than a screaming baby to while away the night. And Frankie seemed cool to her that night, and was friendly as well. But when the deal went down she was “true blue” to Rick (her husband) who would also, no question, kill her, maybe literally, if he ever found out and he would. You and I know that too, it’s not that big a town. According to Sandy, Frankie didn’t press the issue, although I do find that part hard to believe but needed to stay at least until dawn to cover his story. A couple of days later Sandy, after finding out that I was Frankie’s honey, called me up with the straight story so I know it’s true. Yes, Frankie, Peter Paul, and I met and hung out together in seventh grade in 1959 and after but beyond that fact if you believe anything this pair has to say, then or now, do so at your peril.


[Markin interjection: Old Joanne, old Professor Murphy, has gone off the deep-end. I would not dream of cutting one word of this little Joanne “take” on our old times. I like to give everybody their say, give everybody enough rope to hang themselves, and she has.]