Saturday, August 20, 2016

Frida Kahlo-Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky 1937

Frida Kahlo-Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky 1937

© 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Ar
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937; The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce; © 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Kahlo, like many Mexican artists working after the Revolutionary decade that began in 1910, was influenced in her art and life by the nationalistic fervor known as Mexicanidad. The artists involved in this movement rejected European influences and favored a return to the country’s native roots and folk traditions. Kahlo often wore the distinctive clothing of the Tehuantepec women in southwest Mexico; she also looked to pre-Columbian art and Mexican folk art for forms and symbols in her paintings. The compositional elements of the stage and curtains, for example, draw upon Mexican vernacular paintings called retablos, devotional images of the Virgin or Christian saints painted on tin, which Kahlo collected.

*****In Search Of Lost Time… Then-With 1960s School Days In Mind

*****In Search Of Lost Time… Then-With 1960s School Days In Mind


From The Pen Of Bart Webber

Several years ago, maybe in 2007 or 2008 Sam Lowell, the locally well-known lawyer from the town of Carver about thirty miles south of Boston, wrote some small pieces about the old days in the town, the old days being for him the 1950s and 1960s, the time of the golden age of the automobile and relative abundance but also if mocking the ephemeral materialist nature of the times also the red scare Cold War night with its threats of some errant Russkie bomb landing of top of us. At that time the town was mainly a rural outpost, the usual Main Street and drive on through like many such places in outer America, where instead of the usual rural occupation of farming, truck or raising staple crops on fertile land,  the cranberry bogs, the marches and water pits, and boggers (as kids we called them “boogers” not knowing what the hell bogs were about although knew what nasty boogers were from the eternal kids picking their noses) held sway and dominated a fair part of town life, ran the town politics and determined the ethos, determined the ethos to the extent that was possible in post-World War II America where the older cultural norms were rapidly being replaced by a speedier and less homespun way of doing business.

In the teenage life line-up, the only one that was important in Sam’s world then, since he was not a low-life bogger and had no bogger roots he had gravitated to those whose families like his  that were connected with the shipbuilding industry about twenty miles up the road. So you would have seen Sam and his corner boys on any given Friday or Saturday night if not dated up holding up the wall in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner over on Main Street daring, with the exception of Jack Callahan the great school football running back and fourth generation bogger who hung with them because he thought they were “cool,” any of the bogger clan to do anything but go in and order food or play the jukebox.

(Seemingly every boy in town from junior high on, if not before, had his corner boys for protection against a dangerous world outside the corner, or something like that if you asked them. If you wanted an explanation more than that of self-preservation professional sociologists and cracker barrel philosophers of the time spent endless hours of their time analyzing that angst-driven night and could give you their take on the phenomenon although as usual they were about twelve steps behind  the curve and by the time they had caught up these guys were shedding their angst and alienation for Zen rock and roll, drugs, Nirvana and the Kama Sutra not necessarily in that  order.)

Sam had seen that small town Americana all change over his long association with the town, including a few terms as a town selectman, although the boggers were still there, still moaning about their collective water tax bills, and still a force on the board but the drift over the decades was for the town to become a bedroom community for the sprawling high tech industry running the Interstate corridor about ten miles away. Sam though hung up with some old age nostalgia twist wrote about the old neighborhood now still intact as if time had passed that hell’s little acre by (the new developments were created on abandoned bog lands to the benefit mainly of Myles Larson, the largest bogger around), largely still composed of the small tumbledown small single family homes with a patch of green like that he grew up and came of age on “the wrong side of the tracks” (along with three brothers all close in age in a five room shack, Sam had never, except in front of his parents, ever called it anything but that). Sam sighed one time to his old friend from that very neighborhood Bart Webber after they had put the dust of the old town behind them for a while on the hitchhike road west that the “acres” of the world will always be with us. Markin, in his “newer world” turn the old world upside down phase did not want to hear that, blocked it out when Sam would bring the idea up on the road. That said a lot about Markin, and about Sam as well.   

Wrote too about the old (painful, the painful being that the school drew the more prosperous new arrivals staring to come into town leaving the boggers over at John Alden Junior High and subjecting him to lots of taunts about his brother hand-me-down clothes, silly saran wrapped-brown lunch bag bologna sandwich lunches with no dessert, no twinkles, cupcakes, Jello or anything at all fruit even, stuff like that) days when he attended the then newly built Myles Standish Junior High School (such places are now almost universally called middle schools) where he and his fellow class- mates were the first to go through starting in seventh grade. In that piece he mentioned that he was not adverse, hell, he depended on “cribbing” words, phrases and sentences from many sources.

One such “crib” was appropriating the title of a six-volume saga by the French writer Marcel Proust for one of those sketches, the title used here In Search of Lost Time as well. He noted that an alternative translation of that work was Remembrances of Things Past which he felt did not do justice to what he, Sam, was trying to get a across. Sam had no problem, no known problem anyway, with remembering things from the past but he thought the idea of a search, of an active scouring of what had gone on in his callow youth (his term) was more appropriate to what he was thinking and feeling.       

Prior to writing those pieces Sam had contacted through the marvels of modern technology, through the Internet, Google and Facebook a number of the surviving members of that Myles Standish Class of 1962 to get their take on what they remembered, what search that they might be interested in undertaking to “understand what the hell happened back then and why” (his expression, okay). He got a number of responses, the unusual stuff that people who have not seen each for a long time, since the old days as school and so are inclined to put up a “front.” To show that the trajectory toward state prison or whore-houses which Miss Winot or one of them had predicted was to be their fate had been put behind them long ago, so endlessly going on and on about beautiful houses in beautiful neighborhoods putting paid to the dust of the dingy old town, what they had done with their lives in resume form, endless prattle about grandchildren (Sam admitted to a certain inclination that way himself so he was more forgiving on that issue) and so forth who also once Sam brought the matter up wanted to think back to those days.

One of those classmates, Melinda Loring, whom Sam in high school although not in junior high had something of a “crush” on but so did a lot of other guys, after they had sent some e-mail traffic to each other, sent him via that same method (oh beautiful technology on some things) a copy of a booklet that had been put out by the Myles Standish school administrators in 1987 commemorating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the school. Sam thoughtfully (his term) looked through the booklet and when he came upon the page shown above where an art class and a music class were pictured he discovered that one of the students in the art class photograph was of him.        

That set off a train of memories about how in those days, days by the way when the community freely offered every student a chance to take art in school and outside as well unlike today when he had been recently informed that due to school budget cuts art is no longer offered to each student in school but is tied to some cumbersome Saturday morning classes at the out-of-the-way community center, he was encouraged in his pursuit of artistic expression. In seventh grade after noticing some seascapes that he had done in a crude quasi-impressionist style like the French painter Monet whose work he had seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where he and his brother Kenny had done a whirlwind tour of the place in about two hours going there mainly to see the Egyptian exhibits but stopping at the French Impressionists for some kindred reason Mrs. Robert’s encouraged him to become an artist, thought he had some talent, enough to carry into an art school if he worked at it hard enough. Later at Carver High his junior and senior year art teacher Mr. Henry thought the same thing after he had done some less crude and less imitative semi-Impressionist-like rural scenes from the bogs around town and some quite good Abstract Expressionist work when he discovered the work of Jackson Pollock. He was prepared to recommend Sam to his alma mater, the Massachusetts School of Art in the Back Bay of Boston.

Art for Sam had always been a way for him to express what he could not put in words, could not easily put in words anyway and he was always crazy to go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see some artwork by real professionals, especially in high school the abstract expressionists that he was visually drawn to (and would leave after viewing such modern masterpieces feeling like he at best would always be an inspired amateur since he did not have the vision to break off from what he already had seen and imitated, at least that is what he thought then). Part of the appeal of art was the kind of bohemian lifestyle he imagined they led, having read a few things in the encyclopedia about various artists like Gauguin and Van Gogh and that enflamed a kid who was stuck in a three boys to one bedroom shack of a house down in the wrong side of the tracks and part was the idea of breaking out, breaking out from the traditional art that you would see on people’s walls, stuff used as decoration. His idea was to create something that someone would buy and not put on the walls for decoration by maybe highlight in a room of its own as the next new thing in art. Those were on his better days, days when he had not seen museum pieces for a while and began to believe once he had the basics down he could take off from what Picasso, Miro, Pollack, Rivers, Dove and the others were trying to do. Those were the days when he had painted a weird scene in watercolor, a medium always hard for him to work in, that was something like a breakaway from a Georgia O’Keefe Southwest mountain painting which Mr. Henry wanted him to enter into the Art for Art’s Sake competition the Boston Globe was sponsoring and he won third prize, his best effort ever.  

The big reason that Sam did not pursue that art career had a lot to do with coming up “from hunger,” coming up the hard way. When he broached the subject to his parents after he won the prize (and had already been accepted in a local college based on his high SAT score in History), mainly his mother, Delores, lowered the boom, vigorously emphasized the hard life of the average artist, and old chestnut about the million failed artists for every Picasso, and told him that a manly profession like a teacher was better for a boy who had come up from the dust of society. (“Manly” her term, although she did not mean the practice of law which he had not aspired to at the time except that his cranky old grandfather would keep bugging him to be a lawyer after he had recited the Gettysburg Address as part of a school ceremony honoring Abraham Lincoln on the centenary of that event, but like all second-generation Irish mothers in that town when they got their tongues wagging some nice white collar civil service job to support a nice wife, nice three children and a nice white picket fenced house outside the “acre,” such were motherly dreams).

Sam wondered about that long ago mother’s sensible remark after seeing the photograph, after seeing that twinkle in his eye as he was creating something with his hands, some painting because outside the brush he was not very mechanically-inclined. Wondered about the fact that after a lifetime of working the manly profession of the practice of the law all he could conclude was that there were a million good lawyers (and he included himself in that category without any undue modesty he thought) but far fewer good artists and maybe he could have at least had his fifteen minutes of fame in that field. He might not have caught he Pop Art/Op Art waves that were carrying art forward then but maybe being around such artists would have made him push his personal envelope. He resolved to search for some old artwork stored he did not know where, maybe still in the attic of the old family house which after his parents passed on his unmarried older brother, Seamus, took over, the only one who didn’t flee the place like it was the plague, to see if that path would have made sense.  

Sam had had to laugh after looking at the other photograph, the one of the music room, where he spotted his old friend Ralph Morse who went on in the 1960s to some small fame in the Greater Boston area as a member of the rock group The Rockin’ Ramrods. Actually a bit more than small fame since they had fronted for the Stones when they came to the Boston area a few years later and had had a couple of local hits that went number one on the WMEX hot rock charts. Many an after concert party in Boston or down at the Surf Ballroom in Hull where they were a fixture and were “discovered” by Alex Ginsberg from WMEX one night when he was there because his girlfriend had heard about the band from a woman she worked with and had bugged Alex to go hear them and he pushed them forward after that found Ralph and Sam drunk as skunks talking about the old days when rock and roll music was not even let into the Morse household (his parents were Evangelicals and hated “the devil’s music”). Hell barely tolerated in the pious Catholic Lowell household (a truce declared when Sam’s parents purchased a transistor radio for him one Christmas at the Radio Shack so they could not hear the music). Ralph had eventually once the Ramrods broke up as such bands do when there are personal differences or in Ralph’s case when he wanted to try his luck as solo lead singer headed west to seek his fame and fortune but kind of fell off the face of the earth in the early 1970s out in Oregon and nobody even with today’s technology, Internet/Facebook and whatever else could help track somebody down, somebody who was not hiding under the radar anyway, has been able to find out his whereabouts, if any.

That Ralph look too set off a train of memories about how in those days, days by the way when the community freely offered every student a chance to take music in school and outside as well like with art classes unlike today when he had been informed recently that due to school budget cuts music is no longer offered to each student but is also tied to some cumbersome Saturday morning classes at the out-of-the-way community center. However unlike with his art teachers Mr. Dasher the slap-dash music teacher often went out of his way to tell Sam to keep his voice down since it was gravelly, and off-key to boot.

At the time Sam did not think much about it, did not feel bad about having no musical sense. Later though once he heard folk music, the blues and some other roots music he felt bad that Mister Dasher had put a damper on his musical sensibilities. (Mister Dasher who had a band of his own, you know a swing band, playing stuff for people like his parents from the big band era, Benny Goodman, Count this, Duke that to supplement his meager teacher’s pay was something of a flashy dresser and was taunted by the kids in class, taunted by Sam right along with the others as Mister Dasher, the Nighttime Flasher. In that innocent age nobody thought anything of it except kids caught up in the nation-wide “rhyming simon” craze but today no question such a moniker would bring heaven’s own wrath down on his poor head, Jesus.) Not that he would have gone on to some career like Ralph, at least Ralph had his fifteen minutes of fame, got Mick and the boys autographs and had a few of their leftover party girls but he would have avoided that life-long habit of singing low, singing in the shower, singing up in the isolated third floor of his current home where no one, including his longtime companion, Laura Perkins a woman with a professional grade voice that would make the angels weep for their inadequacies, would hear him. The search for memory goes on….  


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.   

In The 76th Anniversary Year Of The Assassination Of Great Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky A Tribute- DEFEATED, BUT UNBOWED-THE WRITINGS OF LEON TROTSKY, 1929-1940

In The 76th Anniversary Year Of The Assassination Of Great Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky A Tribute- DEFEATED, BUT UNBOWED-THE WRITINGS OF LEON TROTSKY, 1929-1940




If you are interested in the history of the International Left in the first half of the 20th century or are a militant trying to understand some of the past lessons of our history concerning the communist response to various social and labor questions this book is for you. I have reviewed elsewhere Trotsky’s writings published under the title The Left Opposition, 1923-1929 (in three volumes) dealing with Trotsky’s internal political struggles for power inside the Russian Communist Party (and by extension, the political struggles inside the Communist International) in order to save the Russian Revolution. This book is part of a continuing series of volumes in English of his writings from his various points of external exile from 1929 up until his death in 1940. These volumes were published by the organization that James P. Cannon, early American Communist Party and later Trotskyist leader founded, the Socialist Workers Party, during the 1970’s and 1980’s. (Cannon’s writings in support of Trotsky’s work are reviewed elsewhere in this space). Look in the archives in this space for other related reviews on and by this important world communist leader.

To set the framework for these reviews I will give a little personal, political and organizational sketch of the period under discussion. After that I will highlight some of the writings from each volume that are of continuing interest. Reviewing such compilations is a little hard to get a handle on as compared to single subject volumes of Trotsky’s writing but, hopefully, they will give the reader a sense of the range of this important revolutionary’s writings.

After the political defeat of the various Trotsky-led Left Oppositions 1923 to 1929 by Stalin and his state and party bureaucracy he nevertheless found it far too dangerous to keep Trotsky in Moscow. He therefore had Trotsky placed in internal exile at Ata Alma in the Soviet Far East in 1928. Even that turned out to be too much for Stalin’s tastes and in 1929 he arranged for the external exile of Trotsky to Turkey. Although Stalin probably rued the day that he did it this exile was the first of a number of places which Trotsky found himself in external exile. Other places included, France, Norway and, finally, Mexico where he was assassinated by a Stalinist agent in 1940. As these volumes, and many others from this period attest to, Trotsky continued to write on behalf of a revolutionary perspective. Damn, did he write. Some, including a few of his biographers, have argued that he should have given up the struggle, retired to who knows where, and acted the role of proper bourgeois writer or professor. Please! These volumes scream out against such a fate, despite the long odds against him and his efforts on behalf of international socialist revolution. Remember this is a revolutionary who had been through more exiles and prisons than one can count easily, held various positions of power and authority in the Soviet state and given the vicissitudes of his life could reasonably expect to return to power with a new revolutionary upsurge. Personally, I think Trotsky liked and was driven harder by the long odds.

The political prospects for socialist revolution in the period under discussion are, to say the least, rather bleak, or ultimately turned out that way. The post-World War I revolutionary upsurge has dissipated leaving Soviet Russia isolated. Various other promising revolutionary situations, most notably the aborted German revolution of 1923 that would have gone a long way to saving the Russian Revolution, had come to naught. In the period under discussion there is a real sense of defensiveness about the prospects for revolutionary change. The specter of fascism loomed heavily and we know at what cost to the international working class. The capitulation to fascism by the German Communist and Social Democratic Parties in 1933, the defeat of the heroic Austrian working class in 1934, the defeat in Spain in 1939, and the outlines of the impending Second World War colored all political prospects, not the least Trotsky’s.

Organizationally, Trotsky developed two tactical orientations. The first was a continuation of the policy of the Left Opposition during the 1920’s. The International Left Opposition as it cohered in 1930 still acted as an external and unjustly expelled faction of the official Communist parties and of the Communist International and oriented itself to winning militants from those organizations. After the debacle in Germany in 1933 a call for new national parties and a new, fourth, international became the organizational focus. Many of the volumes here contain letters, circulars, and manifestos around these orientations. The daunting struggle to create an international cadre and to gain some sort of mass base animate many of the writings collected in this series. Many of these pieces show Trotsky’s unbending determination to make a breakthrough. That these effort were, ultimately, militarily defeated during the course of World War Two does not take away from the grandeur of the efforts. Hats off to Leon Trotsky.

*In Honor OF LeonTrotsky-Leader Of The Red Army

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky ,founder and leader of the Russian Red Army, on the anniversary of his death.
An Appeal From Veterans For Peace-President Obama Pardon Leonard Peltier -He Must Not Die In Jail  

On Making Allies Where You Can-The War Tax Resisters



Frank Jackman comment:


A long time ago I gave up trying to figure out the best way to combat war, to make the war- makers scream “uncle” (“Uncle Sam,” better). I/we tried to shame them back in the old days of the Vietnam War with marches, vigils, rallies in our local cities and towns, and ultimately Washington when they continued to prove unmovable. Tried to shut down their damn government, unsuccessfully, bitterly unsuccessfully, on May Day 1971 and got nothing but mace, tear gas and mass arrests into the bastinado for our efforts. Tried to get to the front-line fighters of their wars-the mainly working class soldiers, the cannon-fodder, the grunt who fight every war with coffeehouses and advice that it was in their hands. All along that way, working in the background a lot except for the requisite formal endorsement of whatever good work was worth endorsing-on paper anything- stood the War Resisters League with the seemingly simple proposition that if you, meaning you the individual, withheld your war tax money from the government that would dry up their capacity to fund war, and thus put a big crimp in their ability to wage war.


Sometimes though a simple proposition turns into its opposite, turns into a nightmare of bureaucratic paperwork when you come right down to the core of the matter. The dear friends at the IRS do not like, very much do not like, folks who do not pay their taxes, for good reasons or bad. Don’t like folks sending in letters in lieu of taxes saying exactly why they are not paying up. So that simple strategy, one might say rational strategy got added by one Frank Jackman to the heap of ideas that did not work out so well about stopping the war-makers in their footsteps. Oh, by the way, that has not stopped one Frank Jackman from protesting every way he has been able to raise as much hell as he could with the war-makers.               


*In Memory Of The "Old Man"- Photos Of The Bolshevik Revolutionary Leon Trotsky On The 76th Anniversary Of His Assassination

Click on title to link to a photograph of Leon Trotsky taken in 1905 after his arrest as President of the Saint Petersburg Soviet from the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives.

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky

Click on the title to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive's copy of his 1923 article, "The Tasks Of Communist Education"

This is a repost of an earlier entry used here to honor of the memory of this great communist internationalist revolutionary on the anniversary of his death.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.


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

Markin comment:

The name Leon Trotsky hardly needs added comment from this writer. After Marx, Engels and Lenin, and in his case it is just slightly after, Trotsky is our heroic leader of the international communist movement. I would argue, and have in the past, that if one were looking for a model of what a human being would be like in our communist future Leon Trotsky, warts and all, is the closest approximation that the bourgeois age has produced. No bad, right? Thanks, Comrade Trotsky.

It Don’t Mean A Thing Just Cause You Can Sing “Amazing Grace”-With The Music Of Judy Collins In Mind

It Don’t Mean A Thing Just Cause You Can Sing “Amazing Grace”-With The Music Of Judy Collins In Mind 


CD Review


By Zack James


American Folk Music, Number Four, various artists, Ducca Premier Records, 1999


Bradley Fox one day decided that he would check on Facebook to see if he could find out whatever happened to Sally Soren, whom everybody called Sal once she had come to Gloversville just before her freshman year. Every guy in the school, a few not in school as well, took dead aim at her right from the start, although nobody got any place until Bradley took matters into his own hands and by a simple devious method got her talking to him, got him past first base if it came to it. The reason that guys were all taking dead aim at her almost from day one was that she was a beauty-not your Hollywood ice queen beauty but more the homespun wholesome girl beauty. Which Sal was since she had come out of the heartland, come out of Ohio when her father had transferred to Massachusetts where his company was involved in computer startups back when that industry was in its infancy and had landed in Gloversville not far from the plant.


The reason that nobody ever got anywhere with Sal also had to do with her parents, Phil and Nancy, who were devout members of the Brethren of the Common Life and frowned, deeply frowned on her associating with “heathen” (Phil’s word) boys around town. Things did not look good for Sal since the closest boys who were Brethren lived out in Western Massachusetts and as far as she knew were what non-Brethren would call “goofs.” Didn’t look good for Bradley either but he was a resourceful lad then when some good looking girl got on his mind.    


The way Bradley had gotten through to Sal was both ingenuous and simple. One day he had passed her house on the way home from hanging around with his corner boys at Vinny’s Variety Store Thornton Street and she had been sitting on her front porch rather absent-mindedly singing Amazing Grace. No, not absent-mindedly really but singing to make the angels weep for their inadequacies against that heavenly voice. That happenstance had given Bradley his “hook” as he called it. The next day as he was passing her locker in the first floor corridor at school he stopped and mentioned that he had heard her sing the day before on her porch as he was passing by and that he was very interested in such hymns-did she know more? Did she know Higher Love and Great God Jehovah and a few others that he could not remember now. She immediately smiled and said she knew many such hymns and asked, naively asked, how he knew such songs, was he a Brethren she had no knowledge of. Bradley shook his head in confusion never had until that moment heard of the Brethren. He said, he lied, that he was into church hymns from his own church, the Unitarians. That was enough to get him a hearing, and for Sal to give him a concert after school at his request at Tilton Park. From there it was easy.


Kind of easy once he got pass the Phil and Nancy gauntlet, the question of whether they would let a heathen, well, half heathen which is the way they always treated him whenever he showed up in their presence. He was able to con them enough that first time spouting all the damn hymns he could gather in. See Bradley didn’t know anything about church music as church music since he was basically left to the wind by his religiously indifferent parents. He had lied to that extent. Unitarian seemed the right choice of an esoteric religion that might pass muster (it didn’t since Brethren thought all other denominations were “heathen”). What Bradley knew, what he knew as a child of the new breeze coming into his generation (and Sal’s too if she let it), this search for “roots” music that the better part of the generation was looking for was folk music. And the old time hymns from down in the back country of the South, down in the Appalachian Mountains where the hymns were a form of entertainment on cold Sunday mornings were “roots” music. So Bradley was able to convince Sal’s parents, Sal too that he was taking her to a church social of some sort. What he was actually was going to do was take her to Harvard Square over in Cambridge to see a folk concert at the Café Blue, a place he had discovered one night when he was investigating what this folk thing was all about.


In any case the deception worked, worked enough to make Sal laugh, and not be too mad at him. Worked in that she/they enjoyed themselves and their cups of coffee (she had never had coffee before since the Brethren frowned on stimulants) and shared brownie. (One of the great attractions for Bradley of folk music was as a poor boy he got by on cheap dates, that is if the girl was interested in folk music otherwise he was like every other poor boy wondering how the hell he was going to grab some serious dough to meet expenses.) More importantly Sal was very interested in what Bradley had to say about folk music and while that night not one hymn passed anybody’s lips he sensed that she like him was attracted to the simplicity and power of the music, the root. Sal was impressed when Bradley was able to quote chapter and verse the history of various hymns and others songs as they were transported by immigrants to the new landsway back when.


The long and short of the matter was that through the rest of high school and the first two years he was at Boston University Sal and he stuck together. Stuck together even when Sal’s parents refused to let her go to college which she was smart enough to have attended and which Bradley had begged her to try to attend(the Brethren frowned upon too much non-Biblical information in this life as the reader could probably have figured out by now). So Sal was reduced to working for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Boston as an accounts clerks. But that was not the end of it for Sal. Being with Bradley she had become very interested in folk music. Would sing from Rise Up Singing, the folk bible, up in her room when her parents were not home, would sing when with Bradley, would sing along when they attended the folk coffeehouses or concerts that were the staple of date nights. Bradley also encouraged her to learn to play the guitar when it turned out that his roommate, Jesse, who would have some local success on the folk scene around Cambridge, had a guitar and would teach her to play.           


Things went along as well as could be expected for the first couple of years of college but Sal was getting itchy. She/they/Jesse knew she had talent, could still make the angels weep like that very first time Bradley had heard her that fateful day he passed  by her house. The dime turned though one night at the Club Nana which held a weekly talent search, what would now be called an “open mic” in which each contestant was permitted three songs. The winner to get a feature at the club on a Saturday night in the future. Sal won that night with her god is beautiful version of Amazing Grace which had the crowd singing along like Jehovah was in the room, praise be. Later success at that Saturday night feature and remarks by Sid Lawrence, the manager of Club Nana at the time, that Sal should seek a professional career in music, should go to New York to be “discovered” had her all as she said “betwixt and between.”  


One night she told Bradley that she was going to go to New York, to the Village, with Jesse and his girlfriend, Maura, who all were going to live in some shared loft and seek their fame and fortune-or bust. Bradley tried to talk her out of going saying that they could go together right after he graduated in two years but she insisted that she had to go then, go while there was a folk minute to ride to the stars. She never told her parents and just said Liberty Mutual needed workers in New York and despite one final entreaty by Bradley she with Jesse and Maura left for New York.


Bradley would talk to her over the telephone and write over the next year but that parting night was the last he saw of her. After that first year they stopped communication both because Sal was having some long hours success as a folk singer under the name Lara Lee and Bradley had moved away from folk music to the new scene, the counter-cultural scene and the turn back to rock, “acid” rock it was called before he was drafted into the American Army for the long trek to Vietnam. He would think about Sal over the years but between this and that after he got back to the “real” world after ‘Nam and an assortment of other problems he never got around to searching for her. Never heard that she made it big, or small, when he was able to check around with various people associated with the dwindling folk scene.


Then Facebook came along and he figured what the hell he would try that possibility with a billion people on the site, maybe. He was single now after three failed marriages so what was there to lose going back in time to see what might have been. Just to be on the safe side he tried Sally Soren, no luck, then Sal Soren, bingo, although it was now Sal Soren-Martin which had certain cachet among women affected by the feminist movement in the 1970s who did not want to lose their identities to their husbands when they got married. As turned out Sal after some small success in the Village lost out to the hard fact that the folk minute had ebbed just as she was ready to move in. Same thing with Jesse Martin whom she had married after Maura left him for a rock and roll drummer a couple of years later when they moved to the West Coast. Finally winding up in San Diego. Jesse had passed away a couple of years before but she was the proud mother of three children and seven grandchildren-none of them thankfully Brethren of the Common Life-who kept her busy these days.


She made Bradley laugh in one message when she said that she attended monthly coffeehouses out there in San Diego sponsored by the now Unitarian-Universalist Church. “Open mics,” was what she was up to these days to keep the rest of her time occupied. Bradley was not sure what he would be doing these days-whether he would be pursuing his old flame or not. All he knew was that he would always remember that first time he passed her house and she had made the heavens moan with that Amazing Grace she sang.           


*In Honor Of Leon Trotsky-Bolshevik Leader Of The Red Army On The Anniversary Of His Death

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky,founder and leader of the Russian Red Army, on the anniversary of his death.

*****Smokestack Lightning, Indeed- With Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf In Mind

*****Smokestack Lightning, Indeed- With Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf In Mind


Sometimes a picture really can be worth a thousand words, a thousand words and more as in the case Howlin’ Wolf doing his Midnight creep in the photograph above taken from an album of his work but nowadays with the advances in computer technology and someone’s desire to share also to be seen on sites such as YouTube where you can get a real flavor of what that mad man was about when he got his blues wanting habits on. In fact I am a little hesitate to use a bunch of words describing Howlin’ Wolf in high gear since maybe I would leave out that drop of perspiration dripping from his overworked forehead and that salted drop might be the very thing that drove him that night or describing his oneness with his harmonica because that might cause some karmic funk. So, no, I am not really going to go on and on about his midnight creep but when the big man got into high gear, when he went to a place where he sweating profusely, a little ragged in voice and eyes all shot to hell he roared for his version of the high white note. Funny, a lot of people, myself for a while included, used to think that the high white note business was strictly a jazz thing, maybe somebody like the “Prez” Lester Young or Duke’s Johnny Hodges after hours, after the paying customers had had their fill, or what they thought was all those men had in them, shutting the doors tight, putting up the tables leaving the chairs for whoever came by around dawn, grabbing a few guys from around the town as they finished their gigs and make the search, make a serious bid to blow the world to kingdom come.

Some nights they were on fire as they blew that big high white note out in to some heavy air and who knows where it landed, most nights though it was just “nice try.” One night I was out in Frisco when “Saps” McCoy blew a big sexy sax right out the door of Chez Benny’s over in North Beach when North Beach was just turning away from be-bop “beat” and that high white note, I swear, blew out into the bay and who knows maybe all the way to the Japan seas. Well see we were all a little high so I don’t know about that Japan seas stuff but I sure know that brother blew that high white one somewhere out the door.  But see if I had, or anybody had, thought about it for a minute jazz and the blues are cousins, cousins no question so of course Howlin’ Wolf blew out that high white note more than once, plenty including a couple of shows I caught him at later when he was not in his prime.         

The photograph (and now video) that I was thinking of is one where he is practically eating the harmonica as he performs How Many More Years (and now like I say thanks to some thoughtful archivist you can go on to YouTube and see him doing his devouring act in real time and in motion, wow, and also berating “father” preacher/sinner man Son House for showing up drunk. Yes, the Wolf could blast out the blues and on this one you get a real appreciation for how serious he was as a performer and as blues representative of the highest order.

Howlin’ Wolf like his near contemporary and rival Muddy Waters, like a whole generation of black bluesmen who learned their trade at the feet of old-time country blues masters like Charley Patton, the aforementioned Son House who had had his own personal fight with the devil, Robert Johnson who allegedly sold his soul to the devil out on Highway 61 so he could get his own version of that high white note, and the like down in Mississippi or other southern places in the first half of the twentieth century. They as part and parcel of that great black migration (even as exceptional musicians they would do stints in the sweated Northern factories before hitting Maxwell Street) took the road north, or rather the river north, an amazing number from the Delta and an even more amazing number from around Clarksville in Mississippi right by that Highway 61 and headed first maybe to Memphis and then on to sweet home Chicago.  

They went where the jobs were, went where the ugliness of Mister James Crow telling them to sit here not there, to walk here but not there, to drink the water here not there, don’t look at our women under any conditions and on and on did not haunt their every move (although they would find not racial Garden of Eden in the North, last hired, first fired, squeezed in cold water flats too many to a room, harassed, but they at least has some breathing space, some room to create a little something they could call their own and not Mister’s), went where the big black migration was heading after World War I. Went also to explore a new way of presenting the blues to an urban audience in need of a faster beat, in need of getting away from the Saturday juke joint acoustic country sound with some old timey guys ripping up three chord ditties to go with that jug of Jack Flash’s homemade corn liquor (or so he, Jack Flash called it).

So they, guys like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Magic Slim, Johnny Shines, and James Cotton prospered by doing what Elvis did for rock and rock and Bob Dylan did for folk and pulled the hammer down on the old electric guitar and made big, big sounds that reached all the way back of the room in the Red Hat and Tip Top clubs lining the black streets of blustered America and made the max daddies and max mamas jump, make some moves. And here is where all kinds of thing got intersected, as part of all the trends in post-World War II music up to the 1960s anyway from R&B, rock and roll, electric blues and folk the edges of the music hit all the way to then small white audiences too and they howled for the blues, which spoke to some sense of their own alienation. Hell, the Beatles and more particularly the Stones lived to hear Muddy and the Wolf. The Stones even went to Mecca, to Chess Records to be at one with Muddy. And they also took lessons from Howlin’ Wolf himself on the right way to play Little Red Rooster which they had covered and made famous in the early 1960s (or infamous depending on your point of view since many radio stations including some Boston stations had banned it from the air originally).Yes, Howlin’ Wolf and that big bad harmonica and that big bad voice that howled in the night did that for a new generation, did pretty good, right.  


*****From The Pages Of The Communist International- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The CI (1919)

From The Pages Of The Communist International- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International (1919) -Desperately Seeking Revolutionary Intellectuals-Now, And Then

Click below to link to the Communist International Internet Archives"

Markin comment from the American Left History blog (2007):



An underlying premise of the Lenin-led Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 was that success there would be the first episode in a world-wide socialist revolution. While a specific timetable was not placed on the order of the day the early Bolshevik leaders, principally Lenin and Trotsky, both assumed that those events would occur in the immediate post-World War I period, or shortly thereafter. Alas, such was not the case, although not from lack of trying on the part of an internationalist-minded section of the Bolshevik leadership.

Another underlying premise, developed by the Leninists as part of their opposition to the imperialist First World War, was the need for a new revolutionary labor international to replace the compromised and moribund Socialist International (also known as the Second International) which had turned out to be useless as an instrument for revolution or even of opposition to the European war. The Bolsheviks took that step after seizing power and established the Communist International (also known as the Comintern or Third International) in 1919. As part of the process of arming that international with a revolutionary strategy (and practice) Lenin produced this polemic to address certain confusions, some willful, that had arisen in the European left and also attempted to instill some of the hard-learned lessons of the Russian revolutionary experience in them.

The Russian Revolution, and after it the Comintern in the early heroic days, for the most part, drew the best and most militant layers of the working-class and radical intellectuals to their defense. However, that is not the same as drawing experienced Bolsheviks to that defense. Many militants were anti-parliamentarian or anti-electoral in principle after the sorry experiences with the European social democracy. Others wanted to emulate the old heroic days of the Bolshevik underground party or create a minority, exclusive conspiratorial party.

Still others wanted to abandon the reformist bureaucratically-led trade unions to their then current leaderships, and so on. Lenin’s polemic, and it nothing but a flat-out polemic against all kinds of misconceptions of the Bolshevik experience, cut across these erroneous ideas like a knife. His literary style may not appeal to today’s audience but the political message still has considerable application today. At the time that it was written no less a figure than James P. Cannon, a central leader of the American Communist Party, credited the pamphlet with straightening out that badly confused movement (Indeed, it seems every possible political problem Lenin argued against in that pamphlet had some following in the American Party-in triplicate!). That alone makes it worth a look at.

I would like to highlight one point made by Lenin that has currency for leftists today, particularly American leftists. At the time it was written many (most) of the communist organizations adhering to the Comintern were little more than propaganda groups (including the American party). Lenin suggested one of the ways to break out of that isolation was a tactic of critical support to the still large and influential social-democratic organizations at election time. In his apt expression- to support those organizations "like a rope supports a hanging man".

However, as part of my political experiences in America around election time I have run into any number of ‘socialists’ and ‘communists’ who have turned Lenin’s concept on its head. How? By arguing that militants needed to ‘critically support’ the Democratic Party (who else, right?) as an application of the Leninist criterion for critical support. No, a thousand times no. Lenin’s specific example was the reformist British Labor Party, a party at that time (and to a lesser extent today) solidly based on the trade unions- organizations of the working class and no other. The Democratic Party in America was then, is now, and will always be a capitalist party. Yes, the labor bureaucrats and ordinary workers support it, finance it, drool over it but in no way is it a labor party. That is the class difference which even sincere militants have broken their teeth on for at least the last seventy years. And that, dear reader, is another reason why it worthwhile to take a peek at this book.