Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Honor Of The 145th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-All Honor To The Communards

In Honor Of The 145th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-All Honor To The Communards


Some events can be honorably commemorated every five, ten, twenty-five years or so like the French Revolution. Other events need to be honorably commemorated yearly, and here I include the uprising which went on to form the Paris Commune, established on March 18, 1871, the first time the working class as such took power if only for a short time and only in one city, although that the city was Paris was not accidental since the city of lights had an honorable history of such plebian uprisings from 1789, 1830, and 1848 and other lesser such insurrectionary happenings (there was an expression at the time in radical and revolutionary circles that as long as Blanqui was alive and people remembered the Babeuf uprisings that when the deal when down you could always depend on Paris to rise). We can, those of us in what now is a remnant who still believe in the old time verities and who still fight for such things as working-class led revolution, socialism leading to a world communist federation or some such seemingly utopian vision and a fairer shake in the appropriation of the world’s good, still draw lessons from that experience.

Sadly the bulk of the world’s working classes most definitely in the wake of the rather quick demise of the Soviet Union and East Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s which for better or worse had represented some socialist vision however distorted (or to use Trotsky’s terminology deformed workers states) have either dismissed socialist solutions out of hand these days when the situation in places like Greece, Spain and lots of East Europe countries cry out for such solutions or the links to such previous socialist ideas has become so attenuated that the ideas are not even in play. To take Greece as a current example anybody with the least bit of sense knows that you cannot keep squeezing the living standards of the vast majority of people in that country yet the number of those who seek a communist way out, at least as exemplified by the recent parliamentary results, a quick measure of the strength of the harder left is disheartening.

So yes, in the absence of more current positive examples, we can use the Commune to draw lessons that might help us in the one-sided fight against the human logjam that the international capitalist system, complete with its imperial coterie at the top, led by the United States, the has bequeathed us almost a century and one half later and that is ripe, no overripe to be replaced by a more human scale way of producing the good of this wicked world. Hence the commemoration in this the 144th anniversary year.

Some “talking head” commentator in the lead-up to the 2015 celebration of the French Revolution on July 14th, a commentator specifically brought in for the occasion, I heard recently on a television talk show reflecting the same sentiment I have heard elsewhere from other academic and ideological sources, had declared the French Revolution dead. By that he meant that the lessons to be learned from that experience has been exhausted, that in the post-modern world that event over two hundred years ago had become passé, passé in the whirlwind of the American century now in full bloom (an American century that we thought had run its course in the wake of the Vietnam defeat but drew new life, if only by default, with the demise of the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence). While not arguing here with the validity of that statement on the French revolution, a classic bourgeois revolution when the bourgeoisie was a progressive movement in human history and actually drew some connections between the Enlightenment philosophies that gave it inspiration and the tasks of the risen people, there are still lessons to be drawn from the Commune. If for no other reason than we still await that international working class society that such luminaries as the communist Karl Marx expanded upon in the 19th century.          

Obviously like the subsequent Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Chinese revolutions of the 1920s and 1940s, the Vietnamese which took up a great deal of the middle third of the twentieth century, and others the Paris Commune was formed in the crucible of war, or threat of war. Karl Marx, among others, the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky for one, had noted that war is the mother of revolution and the defeat of the French armies and the virtual occupation by the victorious German armies around Paris certainly conformed to that idea that the then current government was in disarray and the social fabric after a near starvation situation required more. Every revolutionary commentary has noted that those factors formed a classic pre-revolutionary phenomena. Moreover the Commune had been thrust upon the working masses of Paris by the usual treachery of the bourgeois government thrown up after Louis Bonaparte lost control. That had not been the most promising start to any new society. But you work with what you have to work with and defend as Marx, the First International, and precious few others did the best you can despite the odds, and the disarray. So no hard and fast blueprint on revolutionary upheavals except by negative example, by what was not done, could come ready-made from that experience.  

To my mind, and this is influenced by the subsequent Russian revolutions of 1905 and February and October 1917, no question the decisive problem of the Commune was what later became to be known as the crisis of revolutionary leadership. Of course they should have expropriated the banks and centered their efforts around strengthening the authority of the Central Committee of the National Guard and not let lots of windbags and weirdos have their say based on barely deserved reputations but the result of those failures were that no serious party or parties were available to take charge and create a strong government to defend against the Thiers counter-attack from Versailles. (Also no appeals to other communes to come to the defense of Paris and no work among the Versailles soldiers.) It is problematic whether given the small weight of the industrial proletariat (masses factory workers like at Putilov in Petrograd rather than the small shop artisans and workman which dominated the Paris landscape), the lack of weaponry to fend off both the Germans and the Versailles armies, and food supply whether even if such a revolutionary leadership had existed that the Commune could have continued to exist in such isolated circumstances but the contours for the future of working class revolution would have been much different. The central and critical role of a revolutionary leadership which got fudged around in places like Germany where the working class party for all intents and purposes was barely a parliamentary party in the struggle against capitalism would have been clarified and at least a few revolutions, including those in Germany between 1918 and 1924 might have turned out differently and the world as well. The “what ifs” of history aside which are always problematic that is the bitter lesson we still before us today.   



****From The American Left History Blog Archives (2008) - On American Political Discourse
Markin comment:

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

Part of my “alternative” offering back then in 2008 to the same old, same of the electoral cycle was a proposition that the labor movement and its supporters rather than spent another dime on what even a child could now see was a waste of good dues money on supporting this or that bourgeois candidate instead run our own independent labor candidates for appropriate offices in what for now would be exemplary campaigns. To that end I motivated my pitch with a few reasons and the outline of a program. Today as the non-watershed 2016 elections looms in our faces even before we have devoured the fact of the horrendous 2014 elections and subsequent plethora of Demo-Repub presidential candidates who can barely keep a straight face in public I offer an updated version of that program and the urgency to get out independent labor candidates.  

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

But, one of those "talking heads, etc." might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the “popular front” days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the wars fight for this "no funding" position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yah, those progressive Democrats) who unanimously voted for the last war budget and are reliably foaming at the bit to vote for the next one (or in the same vein authorized millions for Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza bought and paid for with U.S. aid) get a free ride on the cheap. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.


It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less families, can live on the minimum wage of $7/hr. (or proposed $10/hr). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. A step in the right direction and a fight that should be supported and funded is the recent “Fight for $15” campaign spearheaded by organized labor and some leftist groups. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. (Although Obamacare is inadequate and filled with pitfalls it must be defended against those who wish, including fully-insured at public expense Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress and the Senate to dismantle the whole thing and leave millions without insurance again.) The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930s, go a long way to turning the conditions of labor and unionization around from its abysmal current status.

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

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


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

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

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

A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, and those who have just plain quit looking for work was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.
The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions, is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was when first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling and equitably divide up current work.

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

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

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

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

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

* Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012  ( I don't know the 2014 number) labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor.” The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back like with the recent UAW contract give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement.

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

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

*End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, I argued that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before these fights are over. Not Another War In Iraq!  Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East! Stop The Bombing Campaign! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!  

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

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

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

*Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All!

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

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

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

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

Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now!

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

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The American Left History Blog-June 2015

“Apparently Mister Markin is the only politician in America, or at least in the Democratic or Republican Party, who has not thrown his or her hat, or tried to throw his or her hat,  into the ring this election cycle for a chance at the brass ring, or Hillary Rodham Clinton’s big target. He must be a rare bird.”-John Stewart, WDJA News
When asked about endorsing Hilary Rodham Clinton for President A.F. Markin, at his press conference in New York City announcing his decision where he had just announced that he would not run for the office this cycle, quoted one of his favorite old time bluesman, a man who had many problems with, wine, women and song-“I’d rather be with the devil than to be that woman’s man.” Enough said.       

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

At the press conference held in New York City’s Best Eastern Hotel making the announcement Markin, paraphrasing the great 19th century Northern Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman (hero of “Billy’s bummers' traipsing through Georgia and its environs and scourge of the rebels) stated that “if drafted I will not run and if elected I will not serve” in that post. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of running for some legislative office like the United States Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. –Josh Breslin, Portland Free Press
A.F. Markin commentary on the American Politics Today website expanding on his decision not to run (originally posted on the American Left History blog on June 6, 2015):      

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

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

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

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

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


Down In Faulkner’s Land-Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman’s The Long, Hot Summer

Down In Faulkner’s Land-Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman’s The Long, Hot Summer

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

The Long, Hot Summer , starring Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Orson Welles,

Oh sure today, today in 2016, everybody who looks back at Mister James Crow times down in Mississippi thinks that the singer/songwriter Nina Simone with her Mississippi Goddam and the fearless writer Mister James Baldwin (fearless in rooting out the white side of the equation in racism too, praise be) in a million books and essays including The Fire Next Time understands that they had it just about right about that benighted place (still benighted, still some third-world country place deep in these United States if you look at the numbers). But back before all hell broke loose as the black civil rights movement charged ahead to change at least a sliver of the old historical narrative, back when historians took their cues from a Southern interpretation of the American Civil War and its Reconstruction aftermath, back when William Faulkner blazed the southern skies you would get a very different view, a magnolias and mint juleps view of that hell-bound place. After watching in 2016 and not in say, 1956 the film under review, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman’s The Long, Hot Summer, based on a couple of segments of Brother Faulkner’s work you would have that very different view right on your screen. Would come away with a more gentile view of what went down in those Mister James Crow days.         

Of course this one centers on the small fictional town of Frenchman’s Lick and of its over-the-top king hell king largest land-owner (and owner of every other socially and economically vital institution in town, and proud of it), one Will Varner played by larger than life actor Orson Welles. Centers too, as such things go, on those below Varner, those who want what he has, and quick too, one Ben Quick, one “barn-burner,” the worst name you could call a man in rural Mississippi, played by Paul Newman. Yeah, Ben Quick, who despite his manly physique and those piercing blue eyes is nothing but what we Yankees would call “white trash,” or at least that is what he has to live down. Over the course of the film we see Ben transformed from fugitive outcast to sitting right in Will Varner’s big house, a big house complete with those magnolias and mint juleps and obliging “colored” servants smiling to beat the band. Sitting right there with Junior Varner who had been blessed with none of Papa’s devilment, nothing of what old Will saw in Ben Quick the minute he laid eyes on him.

Now, no question, one part of the story line here deals with the rise of a young upstart working his way into the old-time Southern oligarchy but that would make for a rather dreary film. The other side of this one is the romance, naturally. Or rather romances from young Varner’s lustrous wife (played by a young Lee Remick) the subject of many longing looks by the young studs around town to old rascal Will’s affair with Minnie Littlejohn who tries to make an honest man of him to the primo romance that drives that part of the film Mister Ben Quick’s chasing after Southern Belle cum old maid (at twenty-three, go figure) Miss Clara Varner played by Joanne Woodward. Naturally prim and proper school marm Miss Clara is totally repulsed by upstart Ben, well maybe not totally for she has eyes for old gentile decaying aristocrat Alan of the weak blooded downwardly mobile clan. But Ben is nothing if not relentless and before you know it Miss Clara falls under his spell. And the old “New South” will emerge from that coupling-that is if those damn civil rights agitators, those outsiders, don’t rile up the “colored” and bring hell and damnation on everybody’s head.                  

Six Years In Jail Is Enough, More Than Enough- President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!- Report On Boston Chelsea Manning Stand-Out -May 21st

Six Years In Jail Is Enough, More Than Enough- President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!- Report On Boston Chelsea Manning Stand-Out -May 21st

On Saturday May 21st a spirited stand out to commemorate heroic Wiki-Leaks whistle-blower Private Chelsea Manning sixth year of incarceration by the American military took place at the historic spot for such events-Park Street Station on the corner of the Boston Common.   

Speakers pointed out that Private Manning had been taken into Army military police custody on May 27, 2010 and later held for months under torturous conditions at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. Chelsea Manning was tried and sentenced in a military court-martial at Fort Meade in Maryland to 35 years in August 2013 for releasing many military secrets through Wikileaks about U.S. crimes in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan among other revelations. One speaker pointed that if this sentence stands she will not be out until 2045 and gained loud applause when she pointed out that we cannot let this happen– we have to get her out!

Other speakers spoke to the legal case still pending in the long appeals process, Chelsea’s access to social media and the harassment and unnecessary horrors of being a woman in a men’s disciplinary barracks out in Fort Leavenworth out in the wheat fields of Kansas. A number of speakers urged the crowd and passers-by to sign the continuing on-line petition for a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama at the Chelsea Manning Support Network website- or at Amnesty  A final speaker pointed out that those assembled at the stand-out were making sure that Chelsea Manning’s case remains in the public spotlight- we will not leave our sister behind. Free Chelsea Now! President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!    

*****Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-The International Working Class Anthem The Internationale

*****Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-The International Working Class Anthem The Internationale

Introducing The Committee For International Labor Defense


Mission Statement

The Committee for International Labor Defense (CILD) is a legal and political defense organization working on behalf of the international working class and oppressed minorities providing aid and solidarity in legal cases. We stand today in the traditions of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense (ILD) 1925-1946, the defense arm of the American Communist Party which won its authority as a defense organization in cases like Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro Boys, defense of Black Sharecropper’ Union and Birmingham steelworkers union efforts in the South in the 1930s and 1940s, and garnering support in the United States for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. 

The ILD takes a side. In the struggles of working people to defend their unions and independent political organizations and to organize themselves we stand in solidarity against their exploiters. In the struggles of the oppressed and other socially marginalized peoples to defend their communities and to organize themselves we stand in solidarity with their efforts against their oppressors.  While favoring all possible legal proceedings for the cases we support, we recognize that the courts, prisons and police exist to maintain the ruling class’ dominance over all others. To paraphrase one of the founding members of the original ILD said “we place 100% of our faith in the power of the masses to mobilize to defend their own and zero faith, none, in the ‘justice’ of the courts or other tribunals.”

As we take the side of working people and oppressed minorities we also strive to be anti-sectarian. We will, according to our abilities, critically but unconditionally support movements and defend cases of organizations or individuals with whose political views we do not necessarily agree. We defend, to paraphrase the original statement of purpose of the old ILD, “any member of the workers and oppressed movement, regardless of their views, who has suffered persecution by the capitalist courts and other coercive institutions because of their activities or their opinions.” As the old labor slogan goes-“an injury to one is an injury to all.”


A YouTube film clip of a performance of the classic international working class song of struggle, The Internationale.

Ralph Morris comment:

“Never in a million years” if you had asked me the question of whether I knew the words, melody or history of The Internationale before I linked up in 1971 with my old friend and comrade, Sam Eaton, asked me whether I had known how important such a song and protest music in general was to left-wing movements as a motivating force for struggle against whatever the American government is down on in the war or social front to squeeze the life out of average Joes and Joanne. To the contrary I would have looked at you with ice picks in my eyes wondering where you fit into the international communist conspiracy if you has asked me that question say in 1964, 1965 maybe later, as late as 1967. Then living in Troy, New York I imbibed all the working class prejudices against reds (you know communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy), against blacks (stood there right next to my father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with me and my corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people sometimes to their faces), against gays and lesbians (you know fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and I went to Saratoga Springs where they spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other), against uppity woman (servile, domestic women like my good old mother and wanna-bes were okay). Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar. But mainly I was a red, white and blue American patriotic guy who really did have ice picks for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around our way).

But things sometimes change in this wicked old world, change when some big events force everybody, or almost everybody since some people will go on about their business as if nothing had happened even come judgment day. That event for me was the Vietnam War, the war that tore this nation, my generation and a whole lot more asunder and has not really been put back together even now. And that Vietnam War was not an abstract thing like it was for a lot of guys who opposed it on principle, or were against the draft at least for themselves since once I got my draft notice in early 1967 I decided to enlist to avoid being cannon fodder for what looked to me a bloodbath going on over there. But I did that enlistment out of patriotic reasons since my idea also was to use some skills I had in the electrical field to aid the cause. When I got my draft notice I was working in my father’s high skill electrical shop where he did precision work for the big outfit in the area, General Electric (which was swamped with defense contract work at the time) and figured that is what I could do best. My recruiting sergeant in Albany led me to believe that as well. Silly boy (silly boy now but then he promised the stars and I taken in by his swagger bought the whole deal).

Pay attention to that year I got my draft notice, 1967. What Uncle was looking for that year (and in 1968 as well) were guys to go out in the bush in some desolate place and kill every commie they could find (and as I know from later experience if you didn’t have a commie to count just throw a red star on some poor son of a peasant who had just been mowed down in the crossfire and claim him, hell, claim her as an enemy kill, Jesus). So I wound up humping the hills of the Central Highlands of Vietnam not just for a year like most guys but I extended for six month to get out a little earlier when I got back to the “real” world. This is not the place to tell what I did, what my buddies did, and what the American government made us do, made us in nothing but animals but whatever you might have heard about atrocities and screw ups is close enough to the truth for now.

All of that made me a very angry young man when I got out of the Army in late 1969. I tried to talk to my father about it but he was hung up in a combination “good war, World War II, his war where America saved international civilization from the Nazis and Nips (my father’s term since he fought in the Pacific with the Marines) and “my country, right or wrong.” All he really wanted me to do was get back to the shop and help him fill those goddam GE defense contract orders. And I did it, for a while.

One day in1970 though I was taking a high compression motor to Albany and had parked the shop truck on Van Dyke Street near Russell Sage College. Coming down the line, silent, silent as the grave I thought later, were a ragtag bunch of guys in mismatched (on purpose I found out later) military uniforms carrying signs but with a big banner in front calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and signing the banner with the name of the organization-Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). That was all, and all that was needed. Nobody on those still patriotic, mostly government worker, streets called them commies or anything like that but you could tell some guys in white collars and who never came close to a gun, except maybe to kill animals or something defenseless really wanted to. One veteran as they came nearer to me shouted out for any veterans to join them, to tell the world what they knew first-hand about what was going on in Vietnam. Yeah, that shout-out was all I needed, all I needed to join my “band of brothers.”                                

I still worked in my father’s shop for a while but our relationship was icy (and would be for a long time after that although in 1991 when he retired I took over the business) and I would take part in whatever actions I could around the area (and down in New York City a couple of times when they called for re-enforcements to make a big splash). Then in the spring of 1971, the year that I met Sam Eaton, I joined with a group of VVAWers and supporters for an action down in Washington, D.C.

The idea, which will sound kind of strange today in a different time when there is very little overt anti-war activity against the current crop of endless wars but also shows you how desperate we were to end that damn war, was to on May Day shut down the government if it did not shut down the war. Our task, as part of the bigger scheme, since we were to form up as a total veterans and supporters contingent was to symbolically shut down the Pentagon. Wild right, but see the figuring was that they, the government, would not dare to arrest vets and we figured (we meaning all those who planned the events and went along with the plan) the government would treat it somewhat like the big civilian action at the Pentagon in 1967 which Norman Mailer won a literary prize writing a book about, Armies of the Night. Silly us. 

Naturally we were arrested well before we even got close to the place and got a first-hand lesson in what the government was willing to do to maintain itself at all costs. And in the RFK Stadium that day where we had been herded little cattle by the forces of order since we had thousands of people being arrested is where I met Sam who, for his own reasons which he has, I think, described elsewhere on his own hook, had come down from Boston with a group of radicals and reds whose target was to “capture” the White House. And so we met on that forlorn summertime football and formed our lifelong friendship. Sam, I know, if I know anything has already told you about all of that so I will skip past the events of those few days to what we figured out to do afterwards.      

No question we had been spinning our wheels for a long time in trying to oppose the war (and change other things as well as we were coming to realize needed changing as well) and May Day made that very clear. So for a time, for a couple of years after that say until about 1974, 1975 when we knew the high tide of the 1960s was seriously ebbing,  we joined study groups and associated with “red collectives” in Cambridge where Sam lived in a commune at the time. The most serious group “The Red October Collective,”  a group that was studying Marxism in general and “Che” Guevara and Leon Trotsky in particular, is where we learned the most in the summer of 1972 when Sam asked me to join him (my father was pissed off, went a little crazy but I wanted to do it and so I did). The thing was that at the end of each class, each action, each meeting the Internationale, or some version of it would be sung in unison to close the event and express solidarity with all the oppressed.

At the beginning some of my old habits kind of held me back, you know the anti-red stuff, Cold War enemy stuff, just like at first I had trouble despite all I knew about calling for victory to the Viet Cong (who in-country we called Charlie in derision although in Tet 1968 with much more respect when he came at us and kept coming despite high losses). But I got over it, got in the swing. Funny not long after that time and certainly since the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites when socialism took a big hit out of favor to solve world’s pressing problems I very seldom sing it anymore, in public anyway. 

Sam, who likes to write up stuff about the old days more than I do, writes for different blogs and websites on the Internet and he asked me to do this remembrance about my experience learning the Internationale as part of a protest music series that a guy he knows named Fritz Jasper has put together. So I have done my bit and here is what Sam and Fritz want to convey to you:                          

Fritz  Jasper comment:
In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our socialist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.