Saturday, March 12, 2016

In Honor Of Women’s History Month- “Big Bill” Haywood’s Nevada Jane

In Honor Of Women’s History Month- “Big Bill” Haywood’s Nevada Jane    

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Nevada Jane-Utah Phillips

Are the linens turned down in folds of glowing white?
Are you lying there alone again tonight?
He’s marching with the men through the cold November rain,
But you know he’ll come back home, Nevada Jane.

Have you seen the way he holds her as thought she was a bride,
Children riding on shoulders strong & wide?
She never thought to scold him or even to com-plain,
& Big Bill always loved Nevada Jane.

And when he stumbles in with blood upon his shirt,
Washing up alone, just to hide the hurt,
He will lie down by your side and wake you with your name,
You’ll hold him in your arms, Nevada Jane. (Chorus)

Nevada Jane went riding, her pony took a fall,
The doctor said she never would walk again at all;
But Big Bill could lift her lightly, the big hands rough and plain
Would gently carry home Nevada Jane.

The storms of Colorado rained for ten long years,
The mines of old Montana were filled with blood and tears,
Utah, Arizona, California hear the name
Of the man who always loved Nevada Jane. (Chorus)

Although the ranks are scattered like leaves upon the breeze,
And with them go the memory of harder times than these,
Some things never change, but always stay the same,
Just like the way Bill loved Nevada Jane. (Chorus)


Nevada Jane

I've been told that I'm wrong about this song. I don't know whether I am or not, since Bill Haywood, who was with the Western Federation of Miners and was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Industrial Workers of the World, never mentioned his wife in his autobiography except very briefly, so I can't tell whether he really loved his wife or not.

I do have stories from old-timers who tell me about when Bill Haywood was working in a mine camp, basically doing a job of de-horning. His wife, Nevada Jane, had been crippled by a fall from her pony, so she couldn't walk. Bill had a house on the edge of town, and he would carry his wife down to the railroad station every morning. She would sit there and talk to the women of the town about what they could do to help organize the town, while Bill was brawling at the bars. He'd come back at the end of the day, pick Nevada Jane up, hang one of their kids off of each shoulder, and every night you'd see him carrying the wife and kids up to the house.

Most of the songs about labor struggles are full of loud shouting and arm-waving and thunder and rhetoric. It's good for me, every now and then, to try to take a look at the human side of it, right or wrong.

The tune is by one of my favorite songwriters, Stephen Foster. I first heard "Gentle Annie" from Kate McGarrigle of Canada. The tune has too many wide-apart changes in it for me to sing the way Stephen Foster wrote it, so I changed it some –Utah Phillips

… and I will follow Utah’s lead

She knew she wanted him, knew she wanted “Big Bill” Haywood (nobody ever called him just Bill, not even his drinking companions, and certainly not his legion of lady friends who had a different take of that Big Bill notion, so Big Bill it was)  from the first time she set eyes on him. First set eyes on him in front of those Virginia City miners all hungry, sweaty, and dirty from the thankless work-a-day toil, listening intently at that meeting where he boomed out his message-his message that working men had to stick together against the damn (he used less elegant language but that conveyed the idea) bosses and their agents in and out of the government, that all working men were brothers (brothers in a time when that designation sat in for all humankind without I think showing disrespect just narrowness after all remember the heroic Lawrence strikers of 1912 who had many women textile workers out there fighting for their bread and roses) and that a better system, a system where the working man had a say in what the hell (again he used more salty language, language that the poor workers understood better than some intellectual mumbo-jumbo but that needed that too just didn’t need to be told they were the fucking wretched of the earth they knew that, knew that in triplicate) was going on and how to keep from starving for starters to boot.

He had more to say, spent the better part of an hour saying it with all those sweaty bodies filled with haggard eyes still following him, but she, Nevada Jane (although just Jane then, he gave her the Nevada part later, later after he had “conquered” her or that was the way he told the story) was more, uh, interested in the look of him, that big rugged man look, that take no prisoners look, that man of the West look, that had her entranced from that first moment. She had to have him, have him come hell or high water.

And she did, she did snare that man of the West by being a woman of the West, and just aiming straight for him. Oh, she used her feminine wiles for part of it, no question, but what Big Bill found interesting in her was that pioneer stock woman who asked for no more than he could give, and gave no less than she could give. Now everybody heard, hell, everybody knew, that Big Bill liked the ladies, had to have them, but even before her accident, her damn accident on that favored mare which crippled her up, she knew that when the deal went down he would always come back to her if he could. And after the accident he did, did more often than not come back, pleased to be with her back, back to his Nevada Jane.

But see Big Bill was a man of action and she knew, knew deep in her pioneer stock womanhood, that he had to do what he had to do. And so along with the joy at his sight when he showed up she had days and nights of anguish. Days and nights when he was on a miners’ organizing drive in some hellhole place like Bisbee, out in Arizona copper country, or over in the rapidly vanishing Nevada silver mines or up in Butte, up in Big Sky country where the mines stretched out over the high prairies  and hills. All places where the bosses’ had a bounty out on Big Bill’s hide.  Days and nights of worry about his health, especially that big heart that might break at any time, or that dead eye that might flare up and cause some hell. Days and nights of worry that he might drink that river of liquor, hard liquor, hard old whiskey, that he kept saying he needed to keep him fit for the work (except when he wanted to call a meeting and would literally close down every bar in some town, forcibly if he had to, to insure a proper attendance).

Mostly though she worried about the women, about some young thing, maybe a pioneer woman who was not crippled up, or maybe one of those New York society women who were all agog over him when he went East to raise money and support for the miners and for the IWW (Wobblies, Industrial Workers Of The World), but she worried. She worried and she kept his home clean and nice, pioneer simple but clean and neat, for his return. And he did return for as long as he could…

And hence this Women’s History Month contribution   

A View From The Left-No to U.S.-Backed Right-Wing Reaction!-Venezuela in Crisis-Break with Bourgeois Populism!

Workers Vanguard No. 1084
26 February 2016
No to U.S.-Backed Right-Wing Reaction!-Venezuela in Crisis-Break with Bourgeois Populism!
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!

Venezuela is in the throes of a deep economic crisis fueled in large part by the collapse of world oil prices. The economy contracted by 10 percent last year and is projected to shrink another 8 percent this year. More than 95 percent of state revenue comes from oil exports, while the country relies on imports for most food, medical supplies and other necessities.
There are shortages of many basic goods—for example, rice, beans, diapers and toilet paper—which, while subject to price controls, are strictly rationed. Venezuelans are assigned scheduled days to line up outside stores to try to obtain such goods, but it is common to wait for six or seven hours only to get nothing. Many items are siphoned off by speculators who resell them on the black market at much higher prices. Inflation has hit triple digits and could surpass 700 percent by the end of the year. While the official bank exchange rate for the national currency, the bolivar, is ten to the U.S. dollar, on the black market a dollar now costs more than 1,000 bolivars—about three days’ pay for a minimum-wage worker.
The U.S. imperialists are salivating at the prospect of ousting Venezuela’s long-ruling bourgeois-nationalist regime, which was run by Hugo Chávez from 1999 until his death in 2013 and is now led by his hand-picked successor, Nicolás Maduro. Chávez, a military officer turned populist strongman, used some of the country’s oil profits to institute social programs that benefited the poor and consolidated his support by denouncing Washington’s barbaric economic and military policies in Latin America and elsewhere.
The economic crisis that has engulfed the country has now been compounded by a political crisis. A U.S.-backed right-wing opposition coalition won December’s legislative elections and now threatens sweeping attacks on the workers and the poor. The country’s economic collapse and the gains of the reactionaries expose the bankruptcy of the nationalist populism of Chávez and Maduro. During Chávez’s presidency, a host of reformist leftists internationally hailed his policies as a model of supposed resistance to U.S. imperialism and even of “21st century socialism.” Though targeted by the U.S. rulers and hated by the dominant sectors of the local bourgeoisie, which are closely tied to Washington and Wall Street, Chávez, as we emphasized from the beginning, headed a capitalist government, as does Maduro today. Despite cheap “socialist” rhetoric and demagogic claims to be leading a “Bolivarian Revolution,” Chávez himself made clear over ten years ago that his “revolution” was “not in contradiction with private property.”
Chávez’s main concern upon taking office was to shore up the country’s faltering oil profits, long the lifeblood of Venezuelan capitalism. He moved to discipline the oil workers union and to increase the efficiency of the state-owned oil industry, while pressing the OPEC oil cartel to raise prices. Thanks to such efforts, and in the interest of political stability, he was initially supported by much of the Venezuelan ruling class.
As oil prices climbed, Chávez used some of the huge profits to finance his reforms. He tripled the education budget, instituted paid six-month maternity leave for women and set up free health clinics staffed by well-trained Cuban doctors as well as food distribution programs for the poor. But far from representing a social revolution, such measures were aimed at binding the dispossessed masses more firmly to the Venezuelan capitalist state. Chávez’s policies also permitted a section of the local capitalists—the so-called boliburguesía (Bolivarian bourgeoisie)—to line its pockets.
We warned two years ago:
“Chávez was lucky: the price of oil rose from $10.87 per barrel in 1998 to $96.13 in 2013. However, the price of oil is notoriously unstable and the United States, the largest recipient of Venezuela’s oil, has cut its imports. The social welfare programs introduced by Chávez cannot be sustained in the long term under capitalism.”
— “Venezuela: U.S. Imperialism Fuels Right-Wing Protests,” WV No. 1043, 4 April 2014
This projection has now come to pass. As oil prices have plunged to less than $30 a barrel, the plight of Venezuela’s workers and the poor has worsened and social programs are unraveling. Some 26 percent of households were in poverty in 2008, a sharp drop from the early years of that decade. But by the end of 2014 the rate had climbed back to almost 50 percent. With many prices skyrocketing, gas was kept cheap enough to be affordable for the masses, but now the regime has hiked the price by 6,000 percent. On top of all this is the country’s looming debt crisis. Tens of billions of dollars are owed to American and other imperialist bankers, and an installment of $2.3 billion is due by February 26, mainly to hedge funds and other capitalist vultures.
The broad coalition that won the December legislative elections—an unstable alliance dominated by reactionary, pro-U.S. forces—managed to tap into discontent among the masses struggling to survive in the face of scarcity, corruption and crime. It is now seeking to use its control of the legislature to reverse Chávez’s reforms. A recently adopted bill would decrease and privatize the construction of housing for the poor, putting an end to a program that provided apartments for thousands of people formerly living in tin-roofed shacks with no electricity or running water. Vowing to resist such moves, last month Maduro declared a state of economic emergency.
The U.S. rulers have long seen Latin America as their own private backyard and have a bloody record of backing right-wing military dictators, overthrowing governments they don’t like and pillaging the resources of the region. In Venezuela, they have worked relentlessly with their local satraps to oust the regimes of Chávez and his successor. The U.S. imperialists backed an unsuccessful military coup in 2002, which was soon followed by the right-wing opposition organizing a lockout aimed at crippling the oil industry. Two years ago, Washington fueled street protests in affluent neighborhoods of Caracas and other cities demanding the salida (exit) of Maduro. Last year, the Obama administration slapped punitive sanctions on Venezuela and issued an executive order declaring the country an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security. Down with the sanctions! U.S. imperialism: Hands off Venezuela!
Nationalist Populism and American Imperialism
While the rise of the pro-U.S. right wing is ominous, the nationalist populism associated with Chávez and Maduro is an obstacle to any struggle against imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation. Such a struggle requires the independent class mobilization of the proletariat standing at the head of all the oppressed. There can be no permanent amelioration of the plight of the urban and rural poor without replacing the capitalists’ state and their social order with the rule of the working class. A series of workers revolutions internationally is necessary to open the road to a global classless society in which all forms of exploitation and oppression have been eliminated. Radical-minded youth and workers must draw lessons from the current crisis. What is urgently needed is to break from chavista bourgeois populism and to forge a revolutionary workers party.
The anti-Maduro coalition is far from homogeneous. It includes forces ranging from frothing pro-U.S. reactionaries to disaffected former supporters of the regime. The dominant force in the new legislature, Democratic Action (AD), is one of the traditional Venezuelan bourgeois parties notorious for receiving funding from Washington. The core of the white Venezuelan ruling class has always looked with disdain at the indigenous and black masses who backed Chávez, himself of zambo (mixed black and indigenous) heritage. Expressing this contempt, AD leader Henry Ramos Allup ordered that all pictures of Chávez be removed from the legislature, saying they should be dumped in the slums or given to the building’s janitors. Ramos is pushing for a referendum to oust Maduro, declaring that there is no need to wait until the 2019 elections (Diario ABC, 3 February). It captures something of this individual that even the former U.S. ambassador privately called him repellent, complaining about his constant requests for money and other favors (“Acción Democrática, A Hopeless Case,”, 17 April 2006).
The growing influence of China in Latin America is also of concern to U.S. imperialism, and various American economists are blaming China for Venezuela’s crisis. Over the last decade, Venezuela has received about $60 billion in loans and investments from China in exchange for often-deferred oil shipments. China is not capitalist but a bureaucratically deformed workers state. Thus, in sharp contrast to the U.S., its foreign investments are not primarily driven by the capitalist profit motive but by a drive to accrue resources for economic development.
Chávez was one in a long line of military officers in Latin America and beyond (e.g., Juan Perón in Argentina in the 1940s) who came to power on the basis of nationalist populism. The history of Venezuela and other Latin American countries has long been marked by two faces of capitalist rule, populist reform and U.S.-dictated austerity enforced by brutal repression of working people. These alternating policy prescriptions available to the national bourgeoisie are sometimes embodied in the same leader embracing one and then the other. An example is former Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez, who in his first term in the 1970s nationalized the oil industry (with compensation). High oil prices provided resources that he partly invested in social programs, education and health care. But in his second term, 1989-93, he did the opposite: faced with a crash in the oil market he implemented sweeping cuts and privatizations at the behest of the IMF.
Marxists support social reforms favorable to the oppressed and defend nationalizations in dependent countries against imperialist encroachment. But these are not socialist measures. In fact, capitalist regimes typically use nationalizations to tie the working masses to their coattails. And, especially in underdeveloped countries like Venezuela, reforms in the interests of workers and the poor are always temporary and subject to reversal.
Tellingly, on February 15, Maduro dismissed his vice president for the economy, Luis Salas, who had blamed the U.S. “strategy of economic destabilization” for Venezuela’s crisis. Maduro replaced him with Miguel Pérez, a former head of the Fedeindustria business association who is widely seen as more “business-friendly.”
Chávez’s rule was part of a wave of left-talking bourgeois regimes in Latin America over the past decade and a half, including Lula da Silva in Brazil, Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. To be sure, these regimes were different from those of the neoliberal 1990s, which oversaw a yawning gap between the rich and the poor and a wave of privatizations and “free trade” agreements in the direct interests of U.S. imperialism. But all of the governments remained thoroughly in the framework of the capitalist-imperialist system. More recently, Latin America has experienced another shift to the right. Washington’s toady Mauricio Macri was recently elected president of Argentina, while the Brazilian government, led by the social-democratic Workers Party, has made a sharp turn to austerity and is increasingly unpopular.
Chávez’s “Socialist” Advisers
Among the array of reformist groups that have politically supported the Chávez and Maduro regimes, one of the most shameless is Alan Woods’s International Marxist Tendency (IMT), a self-proclaimed Trotskyist group whose U.S. publication is Socialist Appeal. Spitting on the fundamental tenets of Trotskyism, Woods spent a decade advising the bourgeois demagogue Chávez on how to run his government. Today, the IMT continues to provide a left cover for Maduro, while complaining of a “capitalist fifth column within the Bolivarian movement” (, 7 December 2015).
In one of his salutes to Chávez, an article titled “The Transition to Socialism in Venezuela,” Woods claimed that the government in Venezuela “has the power to carry through a revolutionary socialist programme,” but “what is lacking is the necessary will” (, 9 February 2015). Such prettification of a capitalist government politically disarms the working class and the oppressed masses, leaving them defenseless in the face of resurgent right-wing forces.
For all his populist rhetoric, Chávez was no less the class opponent of the victory of the workers and urban and rural poor than his neoliberal opponents, and the same applies to his successor Maduro. We have fought to break the illusion held by working people and the oppressed—both in Venezuela and internationally—that these bourgeois regimes could implement a fundamental social transformation. In contrast, our reformist political opponents have accommodated and deepened such illusions. As we wrote more than a decade ago: “History will reserve a harsh verdict for those ‘leftists’ who promote one or another left-talking capitalist caudillo” (“Venezuela: Populist Nationalism vs. Permanent Revolution,” WV No. 860, 9 December 2005).
With the Chávez regime aligning itself with Cuba, the IMT and other reformists falsely compared Venezuela to the Cuban Revolution. IMT spokesman Jorge Martin claimed that the “dynamic of action and reaction of the Venezuelan revolution reminds us in a very powerful way of the first five years of the Cuban revolution” (, 1 March 2005).
But the class nature of Venezuela was and is completely different from that of Cuba, which is a bureaucratically deformed workers state. When Fidel Castro’s guerrillas marched into Havana in January 1959, the capitalist state apparatus headed by the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista was destroyed. Facing threats from the American imperialists, in 1960-61 the Castro regime carried out a social revolution from above, nationalizing all U.S.-owned and domestic capitalist property and eliminating the Cuban bourgeoisie as a social class on the island. This was in no small part possible due to the existence of the Soviet Union, which acted as a military counterweight to the U.S. and provided Cuba with essential economic support.
Trotskyists stand for the unconditional military defense of Cuba and the other remaining deformed workers states: China, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. The Stalinist bureaucrats who rule these countries uphold the nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country,” in sharp counterposition to the program of international socialist revolution that animated the 1917 Russian October Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky. We fight for workers political revolutions to oust the bureaucratic rulers and establish regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. Our defense of the deformed workers states is part of our fight for new October Revolutions throughout the world.
For Permanent Revolution
The way for Venezuela’s workers and oppressed to free themselves from imperialist domination, poverty and oppression can be found in Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Latin America, a victim of colonial and neocolonial plunder, is a region of uneven and combined development, where the most modern industries coexist alongside the deepest poverty and rural backwardness. The weak national bourgeoisies are tied by a thousand threads to the imperialist economic and political order. They are too dependent on foreign capital and too hostile to and fearful of the proletariat to resolve any of the fundamental social problems.
The vital task is to forge revolutionary internationalist workers parties that break the working class from all variants of bourgeois nationalism and champion the cause of all the oppressed: black and indigenous people, peasants, women, the poor. Latin America has numerous concentrations of workers with potential social power, from the oil workers of Venezuela to auto workers in Mexico and Brazil to the miners of Chile, Peru and elsewhere. Due to its centrality in capitalist production, the working class has the strategic power to overthrow capitalist class rule through socialist revolution.
A social revolution that brings the working class to power in Venezuela with the support of the rural masses would undertake such urgent democratic tasks as giving land to the peasants. It would also repudiate the country’s foreign debt and expropriate the bourgeoisie as a class in order to establish a collectivized, planned economy in which production is based on social need rather than profit. The U.S. and other imperialist powers would certainly move to crush such a revolutionary regime. Key to the survival of a workers revolution in Venezuela would be its international extension to the rest of Latin America and to the U.S. itself.
As part of a socialist federation of Latin America, a Venezuelan workers and peasants government could begin to address the need for massive programs to build infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, highways and public transportation and lift the productive capacities of the society. But the conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the socialist revolution; it only opens it by changing the direction of social development. Short of the international extension of the revolution to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers, that social development will be arrested and ultimately reversed.
Proletarian revolutionary internationalism is at the core of Trotsky’s perspective. The struggles of the proletariat in the semicolonial countries are necessarily intertwined with the fight for power by workers in the heartlands of world imperialism—not least in the United States with its millions-strong proletariat, including powerful black and Latino components. The International Communist League fights to build national sections of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution, which will organize and educate the working class in the spirit of uncompromising hostility to the depredations of imperialism and to any and all faces of capitalist rule.

In Honor Of Women's History Month-From Women And Revolution-The Grimke Sisters-Pioneers For Abolition And Women's Rights

In Honor Of Women's History Month-From Women And Revolution-The Grimke Sisters-Pioneers For Abolition And Women's Rights


The Ghost Of Evangeline-With Jolie Blond The Cajun Queen In Mind

The Ghost Of Evangeline-With Jolie Blond The Cajun Queen In Mind

By Lester Lannon

“Where is my Jolie blond, where is my Jolie blond,” the fading voice of the fading Rene Dubois cried out in the darkened night of his sad end hospital bed. That sad end Veterans Administration hospital bed courtesy of a wound he had suffered back in his Vietnam day when “Charlie,” the name that the U.S. troops had bestowed on North Vietnamese regular army soldiers and South Vietnamese civilian guerillas which had never really healed properly since he had been left out in the field too long before the necessary operation could be performed and now was the frontal cause of his final decline. Yeah, the frontal cause but the wound that was really laying him and which he received even earlier in his youth was the one that never healed.     

“I’m right here, here next to your side, Mon Cherie, my love, and will be forever,” Louise Perot whispered barely containing a mass of built-up tears as she wiped the sweat from his forehead with her clenched handkerchief. Those endless tears the result of not finding her beloved until the previous week after searching for almost forty years by various means including private detectives, long journeys and just misses and only by chance had she by the virtues of the Internet been able to find him.

But more on that eternal search and its results later. For now we have to go back something more than forty years, closer to fifty really, and the night when against all reason the two lovers, lovers who had declared from their respective childhoods their eternal knot, had a knockdown drag out fight over some supposed belief, supposed on Rene’s part, that Louise was responding to the advances of Ben Smith. Ben, a guy from New Orleans who had arrived shortly before that night to run the Lafayette part of a family business and who was not even a Cajun, not one drop of Cajun blood. Bloody British as Rene found out when he did the research and Rene as a true son of the diaspora held the plight of his, and Louise’ s forbears from ancient Arcadie up by Nova Scotia, against every son and daughter of that equally ancient enemy.

For the volatile Rene, known far and wide in the wilds of Southwest Louisiana, around Lafayette mostly, as a tough, as a guy who was as likely to wield a whipsaw chain against an adversary as listen to reason was in no mood to see his ancient stock diluted by some tryst between his woman (and down in that part of Louisiana that was the word, that was the stark term of relationship which every red-blooded Cajun man used to define his nest) and the bloody historic oppressor. Louise was the only one who could reason with him when he got in whipsaw chain mood but this night her entreaties would go for naught against the sacred blood. Grandpa Dubois had taught his grandson well the ancient sorrows and the ancient wounds meted out in olden times forcing his people southward to hardscrabble Louisiana.           

Of course that supposed tryst between Louise and Ben was all in Rene’s rather weak-willed imagination since as Louise tried to tell him repeatedly that night when he confronted her with the “evidence” on the basis of hearsay put up from Pierre LeBlanc, a so-called friend who in the end turned out to have had his own very serious un-British designs on Louise. Louise since she had graduated from Lafayette High the previous summer had worked in the business offices of the Lafayette branch of Smith, Johnson & Sons out of New Orleans. Ben had been sent there by his father to learn the business and so since Louise even in the short time that she had worked there being an extremely intelligent girl who in a later age and place would have been prime college material was assigned the task of filling young Smith in on what went on in the offices. That was the sum total of their exchanges. But Rene, a true Cajun in that way too would having formed his opinion bolstered by the lying Pierre, not believed her story, her very reasonable explanation. That night all hell had broken loose in Rene’s head and Louise would later tell friends she for a moment feared that he might if she had not been a women been subject to one of Rene’s notorious whipsaw chain beatings.     

That night several hours after their heated exchange, really early that next morning Rene Dubois who had loved Louise since childhood (and she him) in the dead of night packed up his small bag of belongings and headed out to the Greyhound bus station for the trip to Baton Rouge to join the Army. That previous night would be the last that either Rene or Louise would see each other for over forty almost fifty years. Although not for Louise’s lack of looking, looking everywhere after she had gone over the Dubois trailer on Montmartre Street that next morning and was told by Mama Dubois that Rene had not come downstairs for his usual breakfast and that when she went up to knock on the door not hearing any stirrings at the knock opened the door to find Rene gone.  

Rene’s story is simpler to tell so it can be told first. After getting off the bus in Baton Rouge Rene headed directly to the Army Recruitment Station on Lamar Street and signed up on the dotted line. Signed up in effect for hell since the year he signed up, 1965, all hell was breaking loose in Vietnam and Uncle Sam was looking without question for anybody who would don the uniform and fight the hated commies. Rene, a good if not practicing Catholic boy had been bought up, as many others had who were not necessarily Cajun or Catholic into that script, had bought into the need to fight the commies, to eliminate the dominoes or something like that. “Push their faces into the ground and make them eat dirt” was the way Rene had put it to Pierre when they discussed in passing the fate of the Vietnamese Catholics one night after hearing about a commie massacre of one Catholic village by the commie rats. An event that never happened and which had been the orchestrated result of the South Vietnamese government’s very deliberate media blitz, just one of a stockpile of lies and deceptions by all sides in that civil war. But mainly young Rene was interested in “kicking ass” from Ben Smith messing with his girl to some enlisted men one Saturday night in a brawl after too much to drink to Charlie and his evil ways.     

Rene it turned out once he got some discipline via boot camp and Advanced Infantry Training was a born soldier notwithstanding that Saturday night melee act of indiscipline just mentioned and so he rapidly became a member of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, a division which would take serious beatings in the battles again Mister Charlie. Of course depending on the day the fight could go either way but somewhere down in the Delta, the Mekong Delta, the rice paddles that produced the bulk of the country’s food supplies one Sergeant Rene Dubois’ luck ran out and he was severely wounded in three places, the shoulder, the right leg and very close to the heart, the latter a wound that never properly healed because despite the advanced medical rescue operation which saved his life Rene had been out in the field too long to have the operation he needed right away to be effective. Several month later he was discharged to ultimately receive 60% disability compensation for his physical wounds and from there he disappeared from any radar. Everybody knew from the reports by the Army officer in charge of notifications that Rene had slipped away to the Army after the fight with Louise, had gone to Vietnam and had been wounded. But Rene never even went back to Lafayette to see Pierre, his family, and certainly not Louise, that latter continued stubbornness was a Cajun trait too despite his continual love for her.

Rene when he came back to the “real world” which is what more and more returning veterans back then called coming back from Vietnam after his recuperation landed and had stayed in California, stayed for no other reason at first that it was not wounded, never healed Lafayette but the direct wounds of war left him helpless, left him with a sea change of heart about what he had done to people with whom he had no quarrel. That angst left him drifting from small job to small job as a mechanic, a skill which he had picked up enough down home working on every one of Jerry Jeff’s super-duper car to get jobs at service stations and small garages up and down the coast until a few years later when his drug habit (and occasional binge drinking, a habit easily picked up in Vietnam although back in youth Lafayette he hated to even hear of anybody using drink) got the better of him, couldn’t put out the fire in his head he found himself in the “brothers under the bridge” railroad “jungle” encampment near Westminster and he stayed with his fellow drifting Vietnam War brothers.

What had happened along the way was that between ‘Nam, the recuperation hospital and then out on the streets Rene had picked up a drug habit, mostly cocaine but later heroin because it made whatever suffering he endured easier to handle. He was able to work and do his share of drugs together for a while but then he just lost whatever motivation he had to move on and moved down instead, moved down with guys who knew his pain and who had created a haphazard raggedly old world for themselves along the riverbeds, arroyos, and under railroad bridges of Southern California. It wasn’t a good life, wasn’t any life really but it got him by for a while, a few years before those encampments kind of fell in on themselves and he wound up heading north to San Francisco and the flops of the Embarcadero. There he stayed for many years doing “pearl-diver,” day labor, bracero kind of work to feed his new alcohol habit after sobering up from the heroin which almost killed him one night. As he aged he became a sad sight around Market and Third, places like that a little raggedy, mumbling, never having any real friends except the occasional stew-bums who gathered together to buy quarts of rotgut wine, Thunderbird and Ripple the bottom of the barrel and swig away. No woman, no woman after Louise and that would have been that, another lost soul out of the ashes of war. Then one morning he had the DTs so bad he could hardly stand and some kindly cop got him into the police van and instead of bringing him to the station after seeing he was a veteran through his VA card brought him over to the Smiley VA hospital over near Seal Rock. And that is where he was and in what condition when Louise Perot finally found him after her long search. 

We already know why Rene left, why his massive Cajun pride got the best of him when he thought, as we know erroneously, that Ben Smith was stealing his time, stealing his girl and she was letting him. When Rene left, left without a word, left for the Army was all she heard from that bastard Pierre she started to succumb to Ben’s advances for a while. But it was not to be because she was still in love with her Mon Cherie, her Rene. That love would take her many places and many wrong turns before she wound up at the Smiley VA hospital. Once she knew she could not love or marry Ben she left Lafayette, strangely enough left for Baton Rouge which seemed to be then the gateway out of Cajun country. She stayed there for a while but eventually headed for Chicago. Chicago one of the main points, Old Town anyway, of connection to the new cultural happenings which would become known as the”1960s,” the counter-culture, the hippies.

While in Baton Rouge she had met up with some “freaks” who were heading west and they turned her on to some drugs, not an uncommon occurrence then either in Vietnam or the streets of America. Not hard drugs like parents used to dread would come unto their children, morphine, opium, or heroin but stuff like grass, bennies and mescaline. “Trip” stuff, magical mystery tour trip stuff when all the non-military, non-square world was getting high on life, high on whatever was new in the world. In Baton Rouge she also lost her virginity one night to a Buffalo Bill kind of guy complete with buckskin jacket, moccasins and cowboy hat from Wyoming and they settled in together in a house, a commune they dubbed it as was the style then, with a revolving cast of residents, about par for the course then. But soon Baton Rouge and that life was not big enough for her and one night she split with just her knapsack and a small handbag and headed to the Greyhound bus station for up-river Chicago. A part, a big part of her leaving the communal scene and her buckskin cowboy who took her virtue although she was pleased to do have him do so, as it would be in the future was that she still couldn’t get Rene out of her mind, couldn’t get over the idea that she would never go to bed with him. And it would be in Chicago in the late 1960s where she would decide that she had to find Rene one way or another. Find out if he still cared for her, or was still holding that Cajun blood grudge.

Louise as the years passed by was mainly true to that idea, to that quest, but as with lots of things in life not everything goes onward and upward the way you like it. Louise, no question, ever since she first got “turned on” in Baton Rouge by those freaks and later by that doped-out silver glass cowboy loved her drugs, loved bennies best of all for they would give her a great deal of energy but after a while that intensity, those three day rushes, wore her down and that was when she, after meeting a girl at a bar on Division Street when she was looking for work as a waitress, got into cocaine, developed a serious attachment to the stuff (they said it was not addictive unlike heroin but don’t ever tell Louise that, not after she got sober). That cocaine madness took her pretty far down into the mean streets before she got up on her feet again. Obviously a young woman with a habit like that, no real resources, no real job skills, and no interest in men, men to be used as sugar daddies, or protectors until she found her Rene needed to find work that would pay the freight for getting high.

Once night she was sitting in Benny’s, the one off of Division, not the one up by the Loop wondering where she was going to get the money for rent from when this big brawny guy came up to her and whispered in her ear that he would give her one hundred dollars if she went with him to his hotel room. He said he had some coke too. Now a few years before she might had thought that advance was kind of raw, such talk she thought would have had Rene shooting from the hip if he had heard about it but just then she took about five seconds to grab her coat and go out the door with him. That first “trick” would not be the last as she thereafter used Benny’s (giving owner Benny his cut and his occasional piece of her which was nice, everybody agreed nice as she earned her dough the hard way) as her place of business for a number of years. Too many.

But the drugs, the hard life on the bed, the hard life on your back took a lot out of Louise, and she did not age well so her clientele since she could not be as choosy dropped down in class too. Some nights she would go down on guy out in Benny’s back alley for a few lines of coke, not much more. Then one day she heard a guy, a Vietnam veteran named Phil who had been through it all as he was willing to tell anybody who listened, talking about a bunch of guys down in Southern California who didn’t belong back in the “real world,” didn’t fit in after ‘Nam (she did not know what that meant then but she soon found out) and who were hanging under a railroad bridge. When Phil was out there, having sobered up himself beforehand, he had stopped by to see if he could help his brothers out, see if he could bring them back to the real world. He mentioned one guy, a crazy Cajun guy from Lafayette who was so surly that nobody wanted to mess with him. Something out of a Nelson Algren novel, a real bad boy especially when he got that cheapjack wine down his throat. While nobody wanted to mess with him nobody was going to throw him out either since he was a “brother.” Louise immediately thought Rene. After asking Phil what the Cajun looked like and finding the description could have been of Rene she asked where the encampment was and he told her Westminster down below Los Angeles.

Louise decided that very night to sober up and head out there to find her man. But like the man said not everything is forever onward and upward so sobering up was not easy for Louise and she fell down a few times before she kicked the jams out of the habit. Took a couple of years to get the kinks out. Stopped giving blow-jobs in back alleys and other indignities as well for lines of coke. But eventually after that couple of years she was ready to go to Westminster. Problem was when she got there the encampment had been busted up by the cops and most of the guys had headed north. So Louise headed north working her way slowly up the coast asking around for the local “railroad jungles” and wound up in San Francisco, working in a bar for tips and not much else. Along the way up the coast Louise would always when she hit a town check the VA hospitals to see if they might have a line on Rene. In Monterey near old run-down Cannery Row made famous by John Steinbeck she got a lead that a Cajun crazy speaking patois (although the person who gave that information did not know what that meant when she asked if he spoke corrupted French) had been there but had moved on a couple of months before.

By the time she got to Frisco town, got a room, got that bar job for tips she had an idea that she was close to the end of her journey. By chance she had stopped at the library off Market Street to check on various locations where a street guy might wind up in the town. She asked the librarian on duty to help her and that librarian directed her to a computer, the Internet and the wonders of Google. After showing Louise what to do she went to town getting a ton of information which she started to use the next day. There were, unfortunately a million places where bums, hoboes, tramps and crazy Cajuns might hang out. It was not until two weeks later that she found pay dirt, found that Rene had been staying at the Cider Inn, a place for homeless veterans no questions asked. Once there a staff social worker told her Rene was at the Smiley VA hospital near Seal Harbor. And that was how Louise wound up forty almost fifty years later sitting next to Rene in that fading hospital bed.      

In Honor Of Women's History Month- From The Archives Of Women And Revolution-The Clash Over The "Color Purple"

In Honor Of Women's History Month- From The Archives Of Women And Revolution-The Clash Over The "Color Purple"


Veterans For Peace Weekly E-Letter

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Friday, March 4, 2016

This Weekend Join Us in Washington DC for the Summit on Saudi Arabia

Date:  Mar 5-6, 2016
Time: Saturday, 8:00am to 9:00pm | Sunday, 8:00am to 5:00pm
Location: The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (4340 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008)
CODEPINK, along with VFP, The Nation Magazine, Institute for Policy Studies, Peace Action, and many other organizations are hosting a two-day summit examining the policies and practices of Saudi Arabia and U.S.-Saudi ties.
This Summit will address issues such as human rights; Saudi internal and foreign policy; and the prospects for change inside the kingdom and in U.S.-Saudi relations.
For more information, email Andrea at
Purchase your ticket today!
$20 - $100 sliding scale, includes lunch

VFP Endorsed the Women’s Boat to Gaza

Veterans For Peace endorses the Women’s Boat to Gaza and its challenge to the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza that has made Gaza virtually uninhabitable. The three brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014 have shown a level of barbarity that has appalled the membership of Veterans For Peace.  VFP is also very concerned about the continued illegal settlements in the West Bank, the apartheid wall and imprisonment of many youth of Palestine for throwing rocks at those who invade their homes and stop them for endless hours at intentionally demeaning checkpoints. <Full endorsement>

Film:  Paying the Price for Peace Premiere

The documentary film, Paying the Price for Peace produced by Bo Boudart and others will premiere around the end of March.
Click image above to play trailer
The film focuses on Vietnam veteran S. Brian Willson who paid the price for peace by nearly being killed by a military train during a non-violent protest.   Other peace activists in the film include:  Alice Walker, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Ron Kovic, Bruce Gagnon, Cindy Sheehan, Martin Sheen, Blase Bonpane,  Phil Donahue, and others.

Stop U.S. Militarization Around the World

Ann Wright is interviewed by Liz Rees on U.S. Militarization Around the World.  She talks about the CODEPINK: Women for Peace trip to Guantanamo, Cuba and VFP trips to Jeju Island, South Korea and Okinawa.

Zinn Fund Request For Proposals

Does your chapter have a project to promote peace and justice?
The Howard Zinn Fund for Peace and Justice provides support to local chapters to start or to significantly develop ongoing local programs that produce substantive changes for the VFP mission.  Two types of awards are made, depending on available funds:
  • Several Independent Awards of up $500 to support focused local projects which further the VFP mission.
  • One Partnership Award of up to $5,000 to support the development of an ongoing chapter program that will produce significant results for the long-term mission of VFP.  This involves a collaborative process between the chapter team and the Zinn Fund Committee over several months to develop the project and the final proposal.  The collaboration continues during the grant period as the project is implemented and project reports are prepared.  These projects are used to demonstrate VFP activities and to promote support for the VFP mission.
The deadline for Zinn Fund Applications is Friday March 18
For more information, visit the webpage Howard Zinn Fund.

Veterans Challenge Islamophobia 

VETERANS write an opinion piece or short statement as to why you think this campaign is important. Send a copy of your statement to

Stand With Our Muslim Friends hosted by VFP Smedley Butler Chapter Update

The Muslims Are Not the EnemyEvent presented by the Smedley D. Butler Brigade and hosted by the Islamic Center of Boston Cultural Center in Boston this past Saturday, had over two hundred people in attendance.  The center is the largest Mosque in New England. There were seventeen individual speakers; thirteen of which were veterans, including Muslim veterans. VFP’s President Barry Ladendorf, Lyndon Bilal, the Commander of the Muslim American Veterans Association, Joy Cumming, the Adjunct of the Department of Mass., Veterans of Foreign Wars and Commissioner Bill Evans of the Boston Police Department were among the speakers. 
Our Muslim friends at the Mosque expressed their overwhelming heartfelt joy and gratitude for the wonderful show of support by Veterans For Peace. It is the Smedley’s hope that this event will act as a small template for similar events by VFP all over the country.
Thanks to Regis Tremblay for video of the event
Click image above to play video of event

This Month:  March 27-April 2, 2016 - 
2nd Annual Shut Down Creech

Join us March 27-April 2, 2016 at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada for a 2nd national mobilization of nonviolent resistance to shut down killer drone operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia and everywhere. Last year 150 activists joined us from 20 different states, including than 50 veterans. Sponsored by: VFP, CODEPINK: Women For Peace, Nevada Desert Experience, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

501(c)(3) and Political Election Activity 

VFP will abide by the 501(c)(3) rules set forth by the law firm Harmon, Curran, Spielberg Eisenberg, LLC regarding political election activity.  The document contains a list of "10 Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid in an Election Year

Delmar Berg - Presente!

Delmer Berg, the last known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade  <Obituary>

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Travel Opportunities for Activists

Location Sponsored by Dates Contact
U.S./Mexico border SOAW Apr 25 - May 1 Email marialuisa@soaw.orgfor more information.
Cuba Code Pink
May 2016
Visit the Code Pink website
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders
May 21 - Jun 1 2016
For more information
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders
16- 29 2016
For more information
Palestine Interfaith Peacebuilders
Oct   24-Nov     6
For more information

In This Issue:

This Weekend Join Us in Washington DC for the  Summit on Saudi Arabia

VFP Endorsed the Women’s Boat to Gaza

Film:  Paying the Price for Peace Premiere

Stop U.S. Militarization Around the World!

Zinn Fund Request For Proposals

Veterans Challenge Islamophobia 
Stand With Our Muslim Friends hosted by VFP Smedley Butler Chapter Update

This Month:  March 27-April 2, 2016 - 2nd Annual Shut Down Creech

501(c)(3) and Political Election Activity

Delmar Berg - Presente!

Travel Opportunities for Activists

2016 Convention Update

VFP Statement of Purpose Available in Other Languages

VFP Needs You to Help Increase VFP's UN Interaction

Want to join VFP Online Discussions?

Seeking Women Candidates for VFP Board

New VFP Tote Bag

Member Highlights

Save the Dates:  Upcoming VFP Endorsed Actions/Events

A Thought Worth Remembering!

2016 Convention Update

Peace At Home, Peace Abroad
A Just and Sustainable Future for the World’s Children  
The 2016 convention hosting chapter is VFP San Francisco Chapter 69.  The dates for the convention are Thursday, August 11 thru Monday, August 15@ University California - Clark Kerr campus in Berkeley CA.  Please note the change from our past program.  This convention will not be Wednesday thru Sunday.
Workshop applications 
Workshops will be held on Friday and Sunday.  The 2016 Planning Committee is accepting applications for all interested in presenting workshop(s). 
Purchase your Ad for program book
Ad prices are the same as previous years.  Please review the ad guidelines.
Details of table size will be provided later.  Tabling may be limited, so be sure to purchase your table early.
Proposed Convention Program
  • Thu, Aug 11 - Presidents Reception/Poetry Reading
  • Fri, Aug 12 - Opening Plenary, Workshop Presentations, Public Evening Event
  • Sat, Aug 13 - Business Meeting, Banquet
  • Sun, Aug 14 - Workshop Presentations
  • Mon, Aug 15 - Closing

VFP Statement of Purpose Available in Other Languages

VFP's statement of purpose is available from the national office in Chinese, French, German and Spanish.  Please submit this form if you would like to receive a translated copy.

VFP Needs You To Help Increase VFP's UN Interaction

Participants are needed for the 2016 NGO Conference to be held in South Korea in late May/early June.  The planning committee is also seeking participants.  There are several VFP slots available for the conference.  Registration will open soon. 
Here are a few ways that members can get involved
  • Provide input about counter-recruiting in schools.
  • Run for the Department of Public Information Board -  Elections are held in May.  

Email, Ellen Barfield @ if you are interested in any of these opportunities.
2015 Report on VFP and the UN by Ellen Barfield

Want to join VFP Online Discussions?

Do you want to know what actions or topics other VFP members find interesting?  Find the listserv(s) that suite your need:

1) VFP-All - One of the main Veterans For Peace eGroups. All dues-paying members, full and associate, may participate. Messages of interest are posted to the entire group.  

To join, email

2) VFP-Chapter Contacts - Initiated as a place where official chapter contacts could discuss VFP-related business and ideas.  It has since morphed into a general discussion list and many of the chapter contacts not interested in general discussions dropped off.  To join, email

3) VFP-Biz is for chapter leaders, staff & board members for VFP related business. This is intended to be the primary communication between board, staff & chapter leaders.  It is to be used for floating ideas, coordinating activities, & discussion-not for posting of articles.  Send an email to Shelly, if you are a chapter leader and would like to join this group.


4) VFP-Action - is an unmoderated discussion list for VFP members who are participating in nonviolent actions.  This listserv is not monitored by VFP National.  To subscribe to this group, please send an email to

Seeking Women Candidates for VFP Board

If you are interested in becoming a Board member, please send a short resume including a statement explaining why you are interested in serving as a VFP Board member to Board President Barry Ladendorf or call the VFP National Office 314-725-6005 to speak to the Executive Director Michael T. McPhearson to answer any questions.

New VFP Tote Bag

  • Union made canvas tote with shoulder  strap, 
  • Measures 18 inches wide x 15 inches high x 5 inches deep.
  • $10

Member Highlights

David Givers, member of Red River Valley, NDChapter 154, has written a letter requesting that the 2017 Pentagon budget be cut by 10 percent. <Articlecourtesy of>
Michael McPhearson, Executive Director was recently interviewed by a RT reporter and in the interview he talks about his experiences in the first Gulf War.  The U.S. is marking the 25th anniversary since the end of this war.  He goes into detail about the war going on today being an extension of that war and part of larger strategy to control the region <Articlecourtesy of>

Save the Dates:  Upcoming VFP Endorsed Actions/Events

Mar 1-25 - Art Display:  Peace is Patriotic: A Soldier’s (mis)Remembrances in Maryville, TN
Mar 5-6, 2016 - 2016 Summit on Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC
Mar 27- April 2, 2016 - Shut Down Creech AFBoutside of Las Vegas, NV
Apr 15 - GDAMS (Global Day Against Military Spending)

Apr 22 - Earth Day
May 14-21 - Sam's 5th Annual Ride for Peace, Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC
May 30 — Memorial Day (Observed)
Jul 27 - Korean War Armistice Day
Aug 11-15, 2016 - VFP Annual Convention at Clark Kerr campus of University of California Berkeley, CA
Sep 21—International Day of Peace
Oct 7-10 - First SOAW bi-national convergence at the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona

Nov 11 - Armistice Day

A Thought Worth Remembering!
If we don't end war, war will end us.....
H. G. Welly
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