Saturday, November 26, 2016

To Live Outside The Law-With The Outlaw Poet Slade Martin In Mind

To Live Outside The Law-With The Outlaw Poet Slade Martin In Mind

By Bart Webber

No way in Slade Martin’s sweet young life in 1965 did he ever expect, ever want to turn into an outlaw poet, a poet out of Villon, Verlaine, and of late the “beat” gangster street poet Gregory Corso hanging around Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Billy Burroughs, all sainted poets in their own right although getting passed as beat got beat but the commercial code, got itself onto televisions out in the heartlands-the kiss of death for any off-beat movement. No way did he think, did he want to be a gunsel poet, a guy living outside the law writing his poetry on the run, waiting in some cloven corner for the civil war in his head to wrap around the idea that he was doomed by the times and by the actuarial tables for outlaw anything including poets. 

Figure it out for yourselves, Slade a product of Weston, out in the endlessly leafy suburbs of Boston did not project as some project kid with a dictionary in one hand and a gun in all the others. Not a big scholar beyond his from childhood love of language (had to go to summer school twice for math to give you an idea of his focus) but in the college track if for no other reason that he was excellent athlete, an excellent football player, a quarterback who would be heavily recruited by the smaller elite colleges like Williams, Lafayette or Amherst on the way to stockbroker heaven or a place in some daughter’s father’s company. Sweet.     

But Slade Martin had a problem, really two problems, one was that he really was mad for words, for English words (and later in high school Spanish palabras after reading Frederico Garcia Lorca to ragged pages), for poetry and no amount of kidding by his fellow football players and assorted jocks around the leafy suburban school, no amount of teasing from the bevy of young women who followed him around Monday morning after he had thrown for three touchdowns say and could have given a goddam about poetry but rather dreamed of silky sheets (we are in the suburbs remember where even the kids had silk this and silk that including bedding) could turn him from his love of language. The other problem was that in order to really be a poet, to be a poet not in the mold of say T.S. Eliot who was all the square rage just then just because he was dubbed a modernist poet who spoke, mostly, of modern themes of alienations and anguishes he knew he had to break out of the mold intended for him, intended to keep him to that stockbroker road that seemed to float around his destiny.      

But a kid like Slade who grew up on the streets of Weston unlike a kid who grew up on the streets of Lowell, Paterson, or Brooklyn did not instinctively have the wherewithal to figure out that he was going to have to live outside the law, to live out his life like some latter day Villon who became a hero once he discovered him by accident in an anthology of world poetry at the town library. (Villon who had no country that he would recognize, was a classic drifter and grifter almost any modern would recognize and had some pretty unsavory company inflamed Slade’s imagination although his poetry with few exceptions left him cold.) So Slade had to learn his outlaw trade by stealth, by figuring out that he had to go his own course. Funny before 1965 he expected to ply his trade, his love of language wrapped up for him via some academic training and then using whatever influences his father had in the publishing business to get his foot in the door.

Then Slade heard a song, a folk song, a genre he was not that familiar with but would later find a niche in, by a guy named Dylan (who was born with a different last name he had heard but had taken the last name Dylan in honor of the drunken poet Dylan Thomas who was raging against the dying of the light somewhere) where he made a big point out of having a reputation as an outlaw, saying that to be honest and Slade took this to mean honest in his poetry he must live outside the law. And so Slade, haltingly and inexpertly, turned himself into the outlaw poet that kids still read today when they read poetry in the elite schools although more usually they would sneak into the back alleys of the local library and read him there with a math book or something as cover and try to figure out what the fuck to do to speak their harried words to an indifferent world.   

Naturally Slade had to blow off Weston, get the leaves out of his ears, to blow off college too, to forget that application to Amherst who wanted that arm of his not for writing but beating Williams in their annual gridiron battles. So at sixteen almost seventeen Slade grabbed half a hundred dollars loose change sitting around his mother’s pocketbook and one night headed for Cambridge with an idea of some kind of adventure to be able to put some truthful words together instead of the prickly pear words that had to be coaxed out of him by a very sympathetic teacher (who nevertheless wanted him to go to Amherst, his alma mater). He took the Peter Pan bus into Boston and then the Redline subway to Harvard Square where when he emerged he found himself running up the steps to be face to face with the entrance to the fabled Hayes-Bickford. The Hayes the place where any midnight you could see the literate refugees from the night (and other more besotted refugees as well) holding forth for their fellows. Cups of steaming coffee armed and ready. 

That mother larceny night was the night he met Freddy Fallon who would guide him through the world of petty gangster-dom and a lifelong outlaw habit that he could never, would never and did not want to break even when he became famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) in the underground circles where his poetry was lapped up by hungry acolytes and devotees. Funny thinking back on it Slade would laugh at how easily he, a raw egg kid from the evergreen suburbs fell so hard and quickly for Freddy’s urban highway bullshit line of patter. Maybe after all he just looking for that excuse to break out and see what that break did to his words. He did not have long to wait since Freddy conned (and Slade would later agree that that word was appropriate) him into his first midnight creep that very night on the basis that if he needed a place to stay he could stay with Freddy as long as he went on the caper with him. In the event the job was a piece of cake-a robbery (unarmed this time since a gun was not necessary) of a famous Harvard professor’s house over on Francis Street which was like grabbing low hanging fruit (Slade would use that very term when he wrote a poem, The Midnight Creep, dedicated to Freddy, about the escapade a few days which New Directions would publish in an anthology of young poets the next year). They grabbed a few thousand dollars’ worth of silver and other trinkets and just as Freddy called it the professor never even called the cops and so they were able to get way with that caper. The classic Slade poem The Last Go-Round would also much later be the product of that night’s work as would a number of other poems created after a lawless spree. 

(Some of Slade’s best poems were written in prison on those occasions when he and Freddy were not as lucky as with that embarrassed professor on that first night. He would be nominated and short-listed for Solace Sunset his first long lyric poem dedicated to Villon, or better the ghost of Villon who was the subject matter of the piece about the dignity of living outside the walls of respectable society if you had the cajones to do so which he believed was still in some high school English classroom anthologies.)            

They, they meaning a few professors who came to his cell to have an interview with him about his concept of the outlaw poet, had asked Slade the last time he was incarcerated before he passed away a few years back why he left the grandeur of the leafy suburbs to pursue a career on the lower depths of society, to give up what would have been a promising straight life career as a poet. He looked at the collective gathering with a sneer and sideward glances and after along harangue about the death ship suburbs and the bullshit academic poetry which nobody gave a fuck about, a longer harangue about how only authentic words should touch paper and pen and a few words about his underground following being more worthwhile to communicate with than sitting in cold cellars reading awful mishmash poems to fellow poets and their girlfriend and boyfriends.

He finished up with some words of wisdom which the late Freddy Fallon (killed several years before in a shoot-out with a couple of bank guards who thought the bank’s dough was their own money and who also paid with their lives for that belief) had imparted to him that very first night when he had gone on that Harvard caper. To live outside the law you must be honest. Of course like almost everything that Freddy said or did he stole it from Bob Dylan one night when Bob was around Cambridge and around the Hayes putting some finishing touches on a song he was writing. But the idea was right, and Slade said when they big book was written against his name they would know that his words were not all bullshit but honest, honest as the pure driven wind.       

Trump Prepares Vicious Attacks - We Must Prepare Massive Resistance

Trump Prepares Vicious Attacks - We Must Prepare Massive Resistance

by Tom Crean and Philip Locker

Trump’s victory in the presidential election two weeks ago was a profound shock to tens of millions of progressive workers, young people, immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and LGBTQ people across the US. As Trump’s reactionary cabinet appointments have been announced and the list of targets of his administration has become clearer there is enormous fear and anger in many communities.
Many are waiting to see how events unfold or hoping against hope that Trump will see reason and moderate his positions. But the reported plans to deport three million people, establish a “registry” for Muslims, criminalize dissent, and nominate a Supreme Court justice who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade and shred union rights in the public sector are not idle threats.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets across the country and the mood to resist is growing. Socialist Alternative called many of the first protests which were dominated by young people. But now we are seeing wider forces preparing for what will be truly massive protests around Trump’s inauguration, particularly the Women’s March on Washington DC on January 21. We and Socialist Students are also focusing on building student walkouts across the country on the actual day of the inauguration, January 20, which could become the biggest coordinated student actions since the Vietnam War. Socialist Alternative, with Socialist Students and Movement for the 99%, aims to raise $25,000 by the end of December to fund the youth-led, national mass student walkouts. Please help us reach that by donating $25 today. 
No Mandate
The truth is that Trump’s racist, misogynist agenda does not have a popular mandate. Votes are still being counted but despite winning in the undemocratic throwback Electoral College, Trump only got 46.4% of the popular vote and Clinton now has a lead of over two million.
Some leading Democrats have continued with their pathetic attempt to blame the outcome of the election on FBI director Comey – who reopened the investigation into Clinton’s emails in the final days of the campaign – Bernie Sanders supporters, or even Jill Stein and the Greens. But even those sections of the corporate media which backed Clinton to the hilt have had to partially acknowledge that the outcome was more a defeat for the Democrats than a victory for Trump.
Exit polls showed that fully 20% of Trump voters (approximately 12 million voters) had an unfavorable view of him. As the Washington Post said, “There is no precedent for a candidate winning the Presidency with fewer voters viewing him favorably, or looking forward to his administration, than the loser.”
The underlying reality in the US remains, as we have said, huge political and social polarization. Big sections of society moved to the left in recent years. This was expressed in Occupy, the fight for $15, BLM, mass support for marriage equality and more recently for Native people at Standing Rock. But without doubt the most dramatic expression of this trend were the millions, especially young people, who supported Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution against the billionaire class. At the end of the day, Clinton’s status quo campaign had no appeal to those hostile to the ruling elite and simply failed to energize and mobilize progressive Americans in sufficient numbers despite the fear of Trump. As the roughly 54% election turnout showed, tens of millions of Americans simply saw no point in choosing between the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the country’s history.
This has led to the situation where the right now controls the White House as well as both Houses of Congress. In 23 states the Republicans have control of all three branches of government. This gives the right enormous institutional power. There is also the real danger of an energized hard right sinking roots. But there is huge potential power in the opposition to Trump especially if the social power of the working class can be brought to bear. Trump’s agenda is beatable but it will require the most profound social struggle since the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 60s and 70s.
Trump’s Appointments
In the past week, Trump’s transition team has announced a series of appointments to cabinet and adviser positions in the White House. This includes Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General; Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff; Steve Bannon as Trump’s main adviser and General Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, represents the Republican establishment which is reactionary enough. Bannon, however, who was the CEO of Trump’s campaign in the fall, was previously the chairman of Breitbart News which is one of the central platforms for the hard right, white supremacist “alt-right.” Sessions was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate in the 80s for a position in the federal judiciary because he was simply too racist even for them, while Flynn rants about Islam being “like a cancer.” It is a bit difficult to know which of these disgusting reactionaries we should be most alarmed about.
Further appointments before Thanksgiving include Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development. DeVos is a billionaire advocate of charter schools and vouchers and a vicious opponent of public education.
But in appointing Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, as US representative to the UN, Trump may be seeking to put a bit of balance into this toxic mix. While Haley was elected as a Tea Party Republican she is also remembered for having pushed through the removal of the Confederate Flag as the state’s official symbol after the killing of nine black churchgoers by white supremacist Dylan Roof. This is a bit of a poke in the eye to Trump’s far right fans. Trump may try to go further in this “balancing act”. For example, he now says that he will not pursue further investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation.
Trump’s Agenda Becomes Clearer
But while Trump may try to inject some “balance” in his appointments and talks of “healing the wounds” of the campaign, this should in no way blind people to the deeply reactionary plans for the beginning of this billionaire-led administration.
It is amply clear that Trump intends to deliver on the threat to deport three million immigrants. He intends to do in months what it took the Obama administration eight years to accomplish as it deported 2.7 million. There will also be a special focus on Muslim immigrants under the cover of “fighting ISIS,” with the threat of a national registry of all Muslims being raised.
This will be linked to a recasting of US policy in the Middle East as an existential struggle with “radical Islamic terrorists.” Both Bush and Obama sought to avoid lumping all the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims together as part of the “enemy” but Trump may be prepared to go in this direction. This is highly alarming to US allies who fear that it would lead to a massive expansion of conflict in the coming period even if ISIS suffers further defeat on the battleground.
Clearly Trump will nominate an outright reactionary to the Supreme Court who could go after Roe v Wade and it is very possible that he will be make a further appointment during the next four years. This comes after years of relentless attacks on women’s reproductive rights by Republican-dominated Southern state legislatures.
There is also clear intent to go after union rights. The public sector unions dodged a bullet last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the Supreme Court’s 4-4 tie in the Friedrichs case. The effect of this case succeeding would have meant extending anti-union “right to work” rules which exist in Republican run states to the entire national public sector.
There will definitely be an attempt to revive Friedrichs. Trump’s team sees Scott Walker’s successful campaign to eviscerate public sector unions in Wisconsin as a model. But the administration’s more immediate target will be the unions representing federal employees and those workers’ rights and benefits. They undoubtedly see the federal workforce as a soft target which will not elicit much sympathy. If they succeed this will then allow them to ramp up the anti-union campaign more broadly.
Trump intends to gut environmental protection in the name of “bringing back jobs” as in the energy sector. But the main reason the coal industry has collapsed is due to market factors, especially the extremely low price of oil and natural gas.
Finally there is a clear desire to criminalize political dissent linked to Trump’s ominous talk about a “law and order” offensive. Key Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has talked about bringing back the McCarthy era House Un-American Activities Committee which launched an anti-communist witchhunt in the 1950s. Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, another key Trump surrogate and possible appointee, has described the Black Lives Matter movement as “inherently racist” and “un-American”. Chris Christie claimed BLM called for killing police officers.
Taken as a whole this is the most reactionary agenda of any administration since at least Ronald Reagan. However, to be clear Trump will also push populist measures like infrastructure spending and paid parental leave. He will halt negotiation of further trade deals as part of a protectionist shift. At this point the Trans Pacific Partnership which represented a serious threat to workers rights and the environment is dead in the water. A section of the working class and middle class has real expectations based on Trump’s promises to bring back manufacturing and good jobs. They will be severely disappointed but perhaps not immediately.
The Lessons of the Past
The stakes now are extremely high. Trump will seek to inflict severe and demoralizing defeats by picking off one target at a time. All sections of society targeted by Trump must therefore unite their forces from the start.
The old slogan of the labor movement – “an injury to one is an injury to all” – was never more relevant. And the labor movement has a key role to play in this situation. Despite its long retreat the unions still represent 16 million workers and retain strength in some industrial sectors but especially the public sector and in key cities that will be central to the resistance against Trump.
The social power of working people uniting all parts of a mass movement must be counterposed to the institutional power of the right. The mass protests around the inauguration are a crucial first step. How events unfold after January 20 is very difficult to say but there are critical lessons which must be drawn out from previous battles against the right wing in this country.
After Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the air traffic controllers’ union PATCO went on strike. Reagan decided to turn this into a showdown with labor as a whole by firing all the members of this union which had actually endorsed him in the election! There was an enormous willingness in the still-strong labor movement to fight back. Tens of thousands would have responded to a call from the AFL-CIO for mass pickets to shut down key airports.
Labor Day in 1981 saw 250,000 workers march in Washington DC with the PATCO workers at their head. But the union leadership criminally refused to extend the strike, PATCO was smashed and the labor movement was put decisively on the defensive. The defeat is what is remembered but what is equally important is that Reagan could have been beaten which would have changed the entire dynamic and encouraged the further development of a mass movement to defeat the rest of Reagan’s neo-liberal agenda.
In 2006, the Republican-dominated House passed the Sensenbrenner Bill which threatened mass deportations of all undocumented workers in the US and their families and made it a crime to help them. This sparked the biggest mass demonstrations in US history including the “day without an immigrant” on May 1 which had elements of a general strike of Latino immigrant workers. The movement beat back the bill and also pushed back anti-immigrant attitudes for a period. But although many were sympathetic with the stand of millions of immigrants demanding citizenship rights and “equal rights for all workers,” the native born working class largely stood on the sidelines. This allowed the Bush administration to eventually move to savagely repress the movement especially the section of immigrant workers that was actively moving to unionize.
In 2010, Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin. He and the Republican-controlled legislature moved to impose savage cutbacks in education but also cripple public sector unions by stripping their right to collectively bargain over anything besides wages. Even then they were no longer allowed to negotiate wage increases above inflation. Part of the legislation also stipulated that all public sector unions had to hold recertification votes on a yearly basis. This was the most serious frontal attack on the labor movement since the PATCO strike. Tens of thousands marched on a weekly basis in the state capital Madison in early 2011 in the largest protests in Wisconsin history, and the capitol building itself was occupied for weeks on end.
Beating Walker required escalating the movement. Socialist Alternative argued for a one day public sector general strike as a first step in this direction. There was an enormously positive response from workers to this idea but the national leadership of the AFL-CIO, as in 1981, put on the brakes. Rather than escalate they de-escalated and advocated a campaign to recall Scott Walker, i.e. to get a Democrat elected. This strategy failed comprehensively and Walker is still in office today.
The Right Is Beatable
As in 1981, 2006, and 2011, the right can be beaten but only with an effective strategy and an utterly determined leadership. There are several factors that can help the movement. First of all, unlike in the 1980s when neo-liberalism had a real base of social support including within sections of the working and middle classes, right wing ideology has a weaker social grip today. The far right is emboldened by Trump’s victory but they are far from establishing a mass base in their own right.
Also the ruling class remains on the whole deeply unhappy about Trump’s accession to power. They see him as potentially highly damaging to their global and domestic interests. It is true that at the moment markets are factoring in the possibility of economic growth under Trump because of infrastructure spending and ending DC gridlock. Wall Street also supports his proposals to cut taxes further for the superrich and get rid of financial regulation. But there is real possibility of global and domestic recession in next period which would throw a Trump administration into deep crisis.
With or without a recession sections of the ruling class could begin to exert real pressure against Trump, especially if he overreaches and provokes effective mass resistance. They would do this in the wider interest of the system and precisely to cut across the movement. In this context, it is significant that a number of Democratic big city mayors are promising to resist attempts to ban “sanctuary cities” for immigrants despite threats to cut federal funding. Governor Cuomo of New York, a reliable ally of Wall Street, even declared that he, as the grandson of immigrants, should be deported first.
But where was Cuomo as the Obama administration ramped up deportations to record levels? We must place no reliance on corporate Democrats whose anti-working class policies have driven so many into the arms of the right. Instead, a mass movement against Trump must be centered on the social power of working people mobilized to fight for their own independent class interests.
Working Class Unity Against the Right
There has been a vast amount of ink spilled in the media about the “white working class” either vilifying it as one reactionary mass because it is supposedly in lock step behind Trump or trying to “understand” its concerns. We have consistently rejected the narrative that the support for Trump is simply motivated by racism and sexism although that is a real factor for a section of his supporters. We have repeatedly pointed out that Trump, through a right-wing populist and nationalist appeal, tapped into the anger at the effects of neo-liberalism and globalization especially the massive loss of good manufacturing jobs which was partly the result of trade deals like NAFTA. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000 and 2014.
But while some particularly obtuse liberal commentators seem to think that the question of jobs is about defending “white male privilege” the truth is that de-industrialization and the deep retreat of the unions in the private sector had an even more devastating effect on the black working class.
But neither are we blind to the fact that Trump’s open racism, xenophobia and misogyny resonated with a section of his supporters. This is not the first time in history that the accumulated failures of the left and the labor leadership has opened the door to dangerous right wing ideas. This situation can be reversed with a determined mass movement that speaks directly to the common interests of all sections of the working class and firmly opposes racism and sexism.
The truth is far more complicated and contradictory than most liberal commentators seem able to grasp. What is certain is that the Democratic Party establishment has lost the ability to even pretend to speak to working people’s interests, whether white, black or Latino. What was notable in this election was not just a limited (and frequently exaggerated) turn by white workers to the Republicans, but the lack of enthusiasm among young black workers for the Democrats and the incredible nearly 30% vote among Latinos for Trump. As Mike Davis recently pointed out on, “the lower Black turnout in Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia alone would explain most of Clinton’s defeat in the Midwest.” He adds though that the lower turnout was also due to voter suppression, ie traditional Republican election rigging.
The question of Trump’s working class support is not simply a matter of “understanding others.” It is a very real practical question facing the movement. Simply put, to really defeat the right and begin to resume an offensive struggle for the needs of working people, the movement will need to win over sections of Trump’s base. Sanders’ poll numbers against Trump and the huge response he received among working people generally shows that this can be done.
Another section of Trump’s base will not be reached. But it is possible to isolate and defeat the organized far right forces which at this point remain small, though emboldened, and generally extremely unskilful.
The Democrats, the Unions, and the Role of Socialists
A huge debate is opening up among progressive workers and youth about how to defeat Trump. Packed meetings of hundreds, including many organized by Socialist Alternative, are being held around the country.
One argument which at this point has a lot of support is that we must combine building a movement against Trump with a determined effort to “take over” the Democratic Party and make it an instrument that represents the interests of ordinary people rather than Wall Street. This is the argument of Sanders and Our Revolution, as well as the dominant elements in the Democratic Socialists of America.
Given the crisis that has opened up in the Democratic Party due to their incredible failure to defeat the odious Trump, it is understandable why many would be attracted to this perspective. More than at any time in the past 40 years the “centrist” neo-liberal leadership of the party is on the defensive. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren have been strengthened. They are supporting Keith Ellison, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who is standing for chair of the DNC. While Ellison has also received the support of some figures in the establishment like Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, who are playing for time and want to avoid deeper division, Ellison’s campaign is now running into pushback from the Obama White House.
Undoubtedly, the Sanders position which stresses the need for movements “from below” is far superior to the craven response of Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO and key Democrats who said they wanted to “work with Trump” or have a “seat at the table.”
We believe in the unity of the widest possible forces in common action against Trump’s attacks. But we strongly disagree with the idea that the corporate Democrats can be turned into an instrument for working people. There is a mistaken idea promoted by some on the left that the Democrats once represented the interests of working people. This was never the case. It is true that the party shifted sharply to the right in the 80s and 90s but this reflected the needs of capitalism in a new period.
The question of the character of the Democrats was sharply posed by Sanders historic campaign earlier this year. This led to ferocious resistance by the party establishment. The lengths to which they were prepared to go to prevent Sanders pro-working class campaign winning has now been fully revealed by Wikileaks.
But even if Sanders had somehow managed to win the rigged primary he would have faced the choice of either capitulating to the demands of the neo-liberal party establishment or having to go to war against their sabotage. This would have meant essentially laying the basis for a new party. As Sanders correctly said to Clinton in the debates you can’t serve the interests of both Wall Street and working people.
A party which stands for working people must first of all advance a bold anti-corporate, working class agenda. But it must also require their elected representatives to refuse all corporate donations and accept only the average income of their constituents like Kshama Sawant, socialist councilmember in Seattle. Most Democratic elected officials would choose to leave the Democrats rather than accept this situation. This is why we will continue to argue for a new party of the 99%.
The movement to defeat Trump’s reactionary agenda will face many challenges. But there is no reason for despair. The enormous determination to fight back already being shown by hundreds of thousands of young people, women, people of color and LGBTQ people points to the potential for building the biggest mass movement in American history which can inflict a decisive blow to the right.
But we have to clearly understand the tasks posed and who our friends and who our enemies are. As we have argued here we need a clear strategy based on the social power of working people. Some might despair given the conservative leadership of the existing unions. But there have also been real signs of life like the Verizon strike earlier this year, the biggest strike in nearly 20 years which beat back the company’s attacks. There is also a developing alliance of progressive unions including National Nurses United, the Communication Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union, all of whom supported Sanders and are now supporting the heroic fight of Native people at Standing Rock. The questions of shaking up, transforming and building unions into democratically run campaigning organizations that can organize and lead struggles will be more and more sharply posed.
At the end of the day, Trump’s ascendancy is a reflection of the deep and growing crisis of the capitalist system whose institutions have been deeply discredited during the last historical period and even more during this election cycle. The ruling class is divided, not sure how to respond. The economic collapse of 2008 and 2009 and the millions of jobs lost and homes foreclosed while the rich have got richer has led to a serious questioning of the system along with the looming climate catastrophe and the exposure of searing racial injustice.
Trump’s presidency will deepen the radicalization of sections of society. Poll after poll indicates growing support for socialism especially among young people. Socialist Alternative is working towards building a new socialist party, based on Marxist politics. The movement we are building will need a clear anti-capitalist, socialist force within it that argues for a working class centered struggle against Trump and the entire system which has totally outlived its usefulness. If you agree, join us!
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*****In The Beginning Was... The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band

*****In The Beginning Was... The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band

Who knows how it happened, how the jug bug craze got started in the folk minute of the 1960s, maybe it happened just like in the 1920s and early 1930s when “jug” got a boost by the likes of the Memphis Jug Band, The Mississippi Sheiks, and about twelve other state-named Sheik groupings using home-made weapons, uh, instruments, picked up from here and there, a jug here, a triangle there, fashion a kazoo of wood or grab a metal one at Woolworth's 5&10 there (got you on that one folkies, right, but they along with Sears & Roebuck's catalogue and maybe Marshall Fields' too sold all manner of musical instruments and before the folk boom of the 1960s when with disposable income [read: allowances and parents of means ready to indulge a few fantasies through their kids] which allowed kids to buy instruments from music stores a lot of guys, guys like Hobart Smith, Homer Jones and Matthew Arnold got their instruments handed down to them or some desperate mother or father like Guy Davis,' Son House's, Cliff Mathers', and Slim Parsons' ordered straight from the catalogue not the finest instruments but those guys spoke highly of their first store-bought instruments even when they could afford better when they made their marks), pluck a worn out grandmother's washtub there and come up with some pretty interesting sounds. Yeah, once you listen to the old stuff on YouTube these days where the Memphis Jug Band has a whole video file devoted to their stuff, same with a lot of the others, you could see where that period might have been the start of the big first wave.

Maybe though back in the 1960s somebody, a few musicians, got together and figured here was something that folk-crazed kids, a very specific demographic not to be confused with all of the generation of ’68 post-war baby boomers coming of age rock and roll jail break-out but those who were sick unto death of the vanilla rock and roll that was being passed out about 1960 or so, get this, music that more than one mother, including my mother, thought was “nice” and that was the kiss of death to that kind of music after the death of classic Elvis/Chuck/Bo/Jerry Lee rock for a while before the Brits came over the pond to stir things up and the West Coast acid-eaters ate enough of the drug to sink the Golden Gate Bridge or at least the park and headed east in the Second Coming of rock and roll (not to be confused with the Christian second coming which would signify the end of the world as we know it or with Yeats' mystical version with the seven-headed dragon staring you in the face so stay away from those who want to travel that route) so they started tinkering. Maybe, and remember the folk milieu perhaps more widely that the rock milieu was very literate, was very into knowing about roots and genesis and where things fit in (including where they, the folkies who also a vision about a kinder, gentler world all mixed in until heads got busted in goddam Mississippi goddam, got their heads busted on Fifth Avenue in NYC for calling for an armed truce to the Vietnam War, got their heads busted come May Day 1971 when all the evil spirits in the world rose to bust a certain kind of dream) somebody in the quickly forming and changing bands looked up some songs in the album archives at the library, or, more likely from what later anecdotal evidence had to say about the matter, found some gem in some record store, maybe a store like Sandy’s over between Harvard and Central Squares in Cambridge who had all kinds of eclectic stuff if you had the time and wherewithal to shuffle through the bins. Institutions like Sandy's and a lot of towns had such oases even some unknown name ones like Larry's in Portland, Maine and Sukie's out in Eire, Pennsylvania if you can believe that sustained many for hours back then in the cusp of the 1960s folk revival when there were record stores on almost every corner in places like Harvard Square and the Village in the East you could find some gems if you searched long enough and maybe found some old moth-eaten three volume set Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and came up with The Memphis Jug Band and K.C. Moan or the Sheiks doing Rent Man Blues, maybe Furry Lewis on Kassie Jones (although sometimes the search was barren or, maybe worse, something second hand by Miss Patti Page singing about Cape Cod Bay all moony for the parents or try to hustle our young emotions but traipsing a dog in front of us, Tennessee Ernie Ford singing about sixteen tons, tons of coal and breaking your back too, or good god, some country bumpkin George Jones thing like I couldn't even give you a title for stared you in the face).

From there they, the jug masters of the revival, found the Cannon’s Stompers, the Mississippi Sheiks or the Memphis Jug Band, could be the way to prosper by going back to those days if they kept the arrangements simple, since that was what allowed the jug bands to prosper in the commercial markets of those days, keep the melody so simple that every working stiff and every forlorn housewife had the tune coming out of the sides of their brains and that was that. See, everybody then was looking for roots, American music roots, old country roots, roots of some ancient thoughts of a democratic America before the robber barons and their progeny grabbed everything with every hand they had on their fetid bodies. Let’s make it simple, something that was not death-smeared we-are- going-to-die-tomorrow if the Ruskkies go over the top red scare bomb shelter Cold War night that we were trying to shake and take our chances, stake our lives that there was something better to do that wait for the foreordained end.

And that wide awake search was no accident, at least from the oral history evidence I have held from those who came of age with me in that time after having grown up with rock and roll and found in that minute that genre wanting.  Some went reaching South to the homeland of much roots music, since those who were left behind or decided out of ennui or sloth to stay put kept up the old country British Isles Child ballad stuff (their own spin on the stuff not Child’s Brattle Street Brahmin rarified collection stuff) and found some grizzled old geezers like Buell Kazee, Hobart Smith, Homer Jones, Reverend Jack Robinson and the like, who had made small names for themselves in the 1920s when labels like RCA and Paramount went out looking for talent in the hinterlands.

So there was history there, certainly for the individual members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Jim, Geoff Mulduar, Mel Lymon, Maria Muldaur, Fritz Richmond , the most famous and long-lasting of the 1960s jug groupings, all well-versed in many aspects of the American Songbook (hell, I would say so, say they were well-versed, even old tacky Tin Pan Alley Irving Berlin, smooth Cole Porter and the saucy Gershwin Brothers got a hearing from them and if they could simple those damn complicated Tin Pan Alley melodies they took a shot at those as well), history there for the taking. All they needed was a jug, a good old boy homemade corn liquor jug giving the best sound but maybe some down in the cellar grandpa jug from the old days of Ball jars and crockery, a found washtub grandma used to use before she got that electric washer from the old garage where she put it against a rainy day when she might have to use it again when hard times came again as they usually did, a washboard found  in that same location, a triangle from somewhere, a kazoo from the music store, some fiddle, a guitar, throw in  a tambourine for Maria and so they were off, off to conquer places like Harvard Square, like the Village, like almost any place in the Bay area within the sound of the bay.

And for a while the band did conquer, picking up other stuff chimes, more exotic kazoos, harmonicas, what the heck, even up-graded guitars and they made great music, great entertainment music, not heavy with social messages but just evoking those long lost spirits from the 1920s when jug music would sustain a crowd on a Saturday night. Made some stuff up as they went along, or better, made old stuff their own like Washington At Valley Forge, Bumble Bee, Sweet Sue from Paul Whitman and plenty of on the edge Scotty Fitzgerald Jazz Age stuff that got people moving and forgetting their blues. Here is the beauty of it unlike most of the 1920s first wave stuff which was confined to records and radio listening, a lot of the rarer stuff now long gone lost, you can see the Kweskin Jug Band back in the day on YouTube and see the kind of energy which they produced when they were in high form (music that they, Jim and Geoff anyway, still give high energy to when they occasionally appear together in places like Club Passim in Harvard Square these days). Yeah, in the beginning was the jug… 

An Idea Whose Time Has Come-Divest From The Pentagon-Now!

An Idea Whose Time Has Come-Divest From The Pentagon-Now! 

Frank Jackman comment:


As I pointed out in the headline the idea of “divesting” from the deadweight of the Pentagon overlay on society’s resources is the beginning of wisdom. Hell, a nice idea until you figure out that the military-industrial complex that old-time President Eisenhower, a recipient of much military largess in his time, railed against is degrees of magnitude far greater than the “skimpy” role it played in society in his day. For leftist militants, for anti-imperialist fighters, heck, for just rational people the real beginning of wisdom is to not to “tweak” this or that aspect of the complex but to smash it, smash it utterly. There is no other way so when you thing about this slogan-think about what is behind it. The task. Think too that you will be about being a slayer of some very big monster-and there will be blowback. For now that is enough said.

Pipeline protesters vow to stay camped on federal land-Stand In Solidarity With Standing Rock!

Pipeline protesters vow to stay camped on federal land

CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters will not follow a government directive to leave the federal land where hundreds have camped for months, organizers said Saturday, despite state officials encouraging them to do so.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers confidently explained that they'll stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp and continue with nonviolent protests a day after Archambault received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that said all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for "safety concerns."
The Corps cited the oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters, who believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites, and police.
"We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they can't remove us," said protester Isaac Weston, who is an Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota. "We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water."
The vast majority of the several hundred people fighting against the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline have created a self-sustaining community at the sprawling camp, which is on Corps land in southern North Dakota, and have put up semi-permanent structures or brought motor homes and trailers in advance of the harsh winter.
On the unseasonably warm Saturday, people were chopping wood and setting up tents at the encampment, which is more than a mile from a Missouri River reservoir where the final large segment of the pipeline is yet to be completed due to the Corps consulting with the tribe. Authorities had set up a staging area about a mile away on a hill overlooking the site.
Dallas Goldtooth, a protest organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said it is "an atrocious example that colonization has not ended for us here as indigenous people," and that the government's request will escalate already rocky tensions.
Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers didn't immediately return multiple messages Friday or Saturday seeking comment and verification of the letter. Last month, the Corps said it would not evict the encampment, which started as overflow from smaller private and permitted protest sites nearby and began growing in August.
President Barack Obama raised the possibility of rerouting the pipeline in that area earlier this month, something Kelcy Warren, CEO of Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, told The Associated Press is not an option from the company's standpoint. Obama said his administration is monitoring the "challenging situation" but would "let it play out for several more weeks."
Some of the protests have resulted in violent confrontations — one woman suffered a serious arm injury last weekend — and more than 500 people have been arrested since August.
The Corps' letter, according to Archambault, said that those who stay on the land after Dec. 5 may be prosecuted, and that there'll be a free speech zone south of the river.
Archambault said Saturday that he doesn't believe the Corps will forcibly evict people from the camp, adding that the tribe is working to provide protesters protection from the elements on its reservation, which is south of the Cannonball River, but offered few details.
It's the federal government's job to peacefully close the camp because it allowed people to stay there in the first place, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement Saturday.
"Our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to do all they can to keep private property and public infrastructure free from unpermitted protest activities, and its past time that the federal government provides the law enforcement resources ... to enforce their own order to vacate," the Republican said.
Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said the protesters need to move for public safety.
"The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence," Hoeven said in a statement Friday. He also called on the Obama administration to let work on the pipeline move forward, saying, "this difficult situation has gone on too long and we need to get it resolved."
Heitkamp said the Corps' order is "a needed step to support the safety of residents, workers, protesters and law enforcement."