Saturday, January 07, 2017

Trump Prepares Vicious Attacks - We Must Prepare Massive Resistance-The Cold Civil War Has Begun-Down With The Trump Government!

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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Scenes From An Ordinary Be-Bop 1960s Life - When "Stewball" Stu Stewart’s ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

Scenes From  An Ordinary Be-Bop 1960s Life - When "Stewball" Stu Stewart’s ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

[A while back we, a bunch of us who knew Markin who wrote the sketch below back in sunnier days, in hang around corner boy high school days and afterward too when we young bravos imbibed in the West Coast dragon chase he led us on in the high hellish mid-1960s summers of love, got together and put out a little tribute compilation of his written sketches that we were able to cobble from whatever we collectively still had around. Those writings were from a time when Markin was gaining steam as a writer for many of the alternative magazines, journals and newspapers that were beginning to be the alternative network of media resources that we were reading once we knew the main media outlets were feeding us bullshit on a bun, were working hand in glove with big government, big corporations, big whatever that was putting their thumbs in our eyes.

On big series, a series that Markin was nominated, or won, I don’t remember which an award for, which I will tell you about some other time was from a period toward the end of his life, a period when he was lucid enough to capture such stories. He had found himself out in Southern California with a bunch of homeless fellow Vietnam veterans, no homeless was not the right word, guys from ‘Nam, his, their word not mine since I did not serve in the military having been mercifully declared 4-F, unfit for military duty by our local draft board, who having come back to the “real” world just couldn’t, or wouldn’t adjust and started “creating” their own world, their own brethren circle, such as it was out along the railroad tracks, rivers and bridges. Bruce Springsteen would capture the pathos and pain of the situation in his classic tribute-Brothers Under The Bridge.  Markin’s series was called To The Jungle reflecting both the hard ass jungle of Vietnam from which they ahd come to the old-timey hobo railroad track jungle they found themselves in.     

Yeah, those were the great million word and ten thousand fact days, the mid to late 1960s, and after he had gotten back from Vietnam the early 1970s say up to 1974 or so when whatever Markin wrote seemed like pure gold, seemed like he had the pulse of what was disturbing our youth dreams, had been able to articulate in words we could understand the big jail-break out he was one of the first around our town to anticipate. Had gathered himself to cut the bullshit on a bun world out.

That was before Markin took the big fall down in Mexico, let his wanting habits, a term that our acknowledged high school corner boy leader Frankie Riley used incessantly to describe the poor boy hunger we had for dough, girls, stimulants, life, whatever, get the best of him. Of course Frankie had “cribbed” the term from some old blues song, maybe Bessie Smith who had her habits on for some no good man cheating on her and spending all her hard-earned dough, maybe Howlin’ Wolf wanting every gal he saw in sight, skinny or big-legged to “do the do” with that Markin also had turned us onto although I admit in my own case that it took me many years, many years after Markin was long gone before I appreciated the blues that he kept trying to cram down our throats as the black-etched version of what hellish times were going through in the backwaters of North Adamsville while the rest of the world was getting ahead. Heading to leafy suburban golden dreams while we could barely rub two dimes together and hence made up the different with severe wanting habits-even me.  

From what little we could gather about Markin’s fate from Josh Breslin, a guy from Maine, a corner boy himself, who I will talk about more in a minute and who saw Markin just before he hit the lower depths, before he let sweet girl cousin cocaine “run all around his brain, the say it is going to kill you but they won’t say when” let the stuff alter his judgment, he went off to Mexico to “cover” the beginnings of the cartel action there. Somewhere along the line the down there Markin decided that dealing high heaven dope was the way that he would gather in his pot of gold, would get the dough he never had as a kid, and get himself well. “Well” meaning nothing but his nose so full of “candy” all the time that the real world would no longer intrude on his life. Somehow in all that mixed up world he had tried his usual end-around, tried to do either an independent deal outside the cartel, a no-no, or stole some “product” to start his own operation, a very big no-no. Either scenario was possible when Markin got his wanting habits on and wound up dead, very mysteriously dead, in a dusty back street down Sonora way in 1975, 1976 we don’t even have the comfort of knowing that actual date of his passing.

Those were the bad end days, the days out in Oakland where they were both staying before Markin headed south when according to Josh he said “fuck you” to writing for squally newspapers and journals and headed for the sweet dream hills. But he left plenty of material behind that had been published or at the apartment that he shared with Josh in Oakland before the nose candy got in the way. That material wound up in several locations as Josh in his turn took up the pen, spent his career writing for lots of unread small journals and newspapers in search of high-impact stories and drifted around the country before he settled down in Cambridge working as an free-lance editor for several well-known if also small publishing houses around Boston. So when the idea was proposed by Jack Callahan to pay a final written tribute to our fallen comrade we went looking for whatever was left wherever it might be found. You know from cleaning out the attics, garages, cellars looking for boxes where an old newspaper article or journal piece might still be found after being forgotten for the past forty or so years.

The first piece we found, found by Jack Callahan, one of the guys who hung around with us corner boys although he had a larger circle since as a handsome guy he had all the social butterfly girls around him and as a star football player for North Adamsville High he had the girls and all the “jock” hangers-on bumming on his tail, was a story by Markin for the East Bay Other about the transformation of Phil Larkin from “foul-mouth” Phil to “far-out’ Phil as a result of the big top social turmoil events which grabbed many of us who came of political, social, and cultural age in the roaring 1960s. Markin like I said before had been the lead guy in sensing the changes coming, had us following in his wake not only in our heads but his gold rush run in the great western trek to California where a lot of the trends got their start.

That is where we met the subject of the second piece, or rather Phil did and we did subsequently too as we made our various ways west, Josh Breslin, Josh from up in Podunk Maine, actually Olde Saco fast by the sea, and he became in the end one of the corner boys, one of the North Adamsville corner boys. But before those subsequent meetings he had first become part of Phil’s “family,” and as that second story documented also in the East Bay Other described it how Josh, working his new life under the moniker Prince Love, “married” one of the Phil’s girlfriends, Butterfly Swirl. The third one in the series dealt with the reality of Phil’s giving up that girlfriend to Prince Love and the “marriage” and “honeymoon,” 1960s alternative-style that cemented that relationship.

Yeah, those were wild times and if a lot of the social conventions accepted today without too much rancor like people living together as a couple without the benefit of marriage, same-sex marriage, and maybe even friends with benefits let me clue in to where they all started, or if not started got a big time work-out to make things acceptable. But that was not all he wrote about, just the easy to figure a good story about 1960s. Markin also wrote about those wanting habits days, our growing up poor in the 1950s days which while we had no dough, not enough to be rich was rich in odd-ball stuff we seemingly were forced to do to keep ourselves just a little left of the law, very little sometimes. Naturally he wrote about the characters like the one here, Stew-ball Stu, whom I hope doesn’t read this sketch if he is still alive because he might still take umbrage and without Markin around he might come after me with a wrench or jackknife, who we young boys, maybe girls too but then it was boys’ world mostly looked up to. The actual Stew-ball Stu he sued here was from a story told to him by Josh Breslin long after he shed his 1960s moniker of Prince Love when Markin was looking for corner boy stories. But believe me while the names might have been different old North Adamsville had its own full complement of Stus.        


For those not in the know, for those who didn’t read the first Phil Larkin piece where I mentioned what corner boy society in old North Adamsville was all about Phil was one of a number of guys, some say wise guys but we will let that pass who hung around successively Harry’s Variety Store over on Sagamore Street in elementary school,  Doc’s Drugstore complete with soda fountain and more importantly his bad ass jukebox complete with all the latest rock and roll hits as they came off the turntable on Newport Avenue in junior high school and Salducci’s Pizza “up the Downs” in high school, don’t worry nobody in the town could figure that designation out either, as their respective corners as the older guys in the neighborhood in their turn moved up and eventually out of corner boy life.

More importantly Phil was one of the guys who latter followed in “pioneer” Markin’s wake when he, Markin, headed west in 1966 after he had finished up his sophomore year in college and made a fateful decision to drop out of school in Boston in order to “find himself.” Fateful in that without a student deferment that “find himself” would eventually lead him to induction into the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War, an experience which he never really recovered from for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do directly with that war but which honed his “wanting habits” for a different life than he had projected when he naively dropped out of college to see “what was happening” out on the West Coast.

Phil had met, or I should say that Josh had met Phil, out on Russian Hill in San Francisco when Josh, after hitchhiking all the way from Maine in the early summer of 1967, had come up to the yellow brick road converted school bus (Markin’s term for the travelling caravan that he and Phil were then part of and which the rest of us, including even stay-at-home me for a few months ) he and a bunch of others were travelling up and down the West Coast on and had asked for some dope. Phil was the guy he had asked, and who had passed him a big old joint, and their eternal friendship formed from there. (Most of us would meet Josh later that summer as we in our turns headed out. Sam Lowell, Frankie Riley, Jack Callahan, Jimmy Jenkins and me all headed out after Markin who had “gone native” pleaded with us to not miss this big moment that he had been predicting was going to sea-change happens for a few years.) Although Markin met a tragic end murdered down in Mexico several years later over a still not well understood broken drug deal with some small cartel down there as a result of an ill-thought out pursuit of those wanting habits mentioned earlier he can take full credit for our lifetime friendship with Josh.-Bart Webber]

From The Pen Of The Late Peter Paul Markin   

Scene: Brought to mind by the cover artwork that graces the front of the booklet that accompanied an album  I had been reviewing. The artwork contained, in full James Dean-imitation pout, one good-looking, DA-quaffed, white muscle-shirted young man, an alienated young man, no question, leaning, leaning gently, very gently, arms folded, on the hood of his 1950’s classic automobile, clearly not his father’s car, but also clearly for our purposes let us call it his “baby.”

And that car, that extension of his young manhood, his young alienated manhood, is Friday night, Saturday night, or maybe a weekday night if it is summer, parked, priority parked, meaning nobody with some Nash Rambler, nobody with some foreign Volkswagen, no biker even , in short, nobody except somebody who is tougher, a lot tougher, than our alienated young man better breathe on the spot while he is within fifty miles of the place, directly in front of the local teenage (alienated or not) "hot spot." And in 1950s America, a teenage America with some disposal income (allowance, okay), that hot spot was likely to be, as here, the all-night Mel’s (or Joe’s, Adventure Car-Hop, whatever) drive-in restaurant opened to cater to the hot dog, hamburger, French fries, barbecued chicken cravings of exhausted youth. Youth exhausted after a hard night, well, let’s just call it a hard night and leave the rest to your knowing imagination, or their parents’ evil imaginations.

And in front of the restaurant, in front of that leaned-on “boss” automobile stands one teenage girl vision. One blondish, pony-tailed, midnight sun-glassed, must be a California great American West night teeny-bopper girl holding an ice cream soda after her night’s work. The work that we are leaving to fertile (or evil, as the case may be) imaginations. Although from the pout on Johnny’s (of course he has to be a Johnny, with that car) face maybe he “flunked out” but that is a story for somebody else to tell. Here is mine.


Not everybody, not everybody by a long-shot, who had a “boss” ’57 cherry red Chevy was some kind of god’s gift to the earth; good-looking, good clothes, dough in his pocket, money for gas and extras, money for the inevitable end of the night stop at Jimmy John’s Drive-In restaurant for burgers and fries (and Coke, with ice, of course) before taking the date home after a hard night of tumbling and stumbling (mainly stumbling). At least that is what one Joshua Breslin, Josh, told me, he a freshly minted fifteen- year old roadside philosopher thought as for the umpteenth time “Stewball” Stu left him  by Albemarle Road off Route One and rode off into the Olde Saco night with his latest “hot” honey, fifteen year old teen queen Sally Sullivan. Here is the skinny as we used to say as per one Joshua Breslin:

Yah, Stewball Stu was nothing but an old rum-dum, a nineteen year old rum-dum, except he had that “boss” girl-magnet ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy (painted those colors by Stu himself) and he had his pick of the litter in the Olde Saco, maybe all of Maine, night. By the way Stu’s official name, was Stuart Stewart, go figure, but don’t call him Stuart and definitely do not call him “Stewball” not if you want to live long enough not to have the word teen as part of your age. The Stewball thing was strictly for local boys, jealous local boys like Josh,  who when around Stu always could detect a whiff of liquor, usually cheap jack Southern Comfort, on his breathe, day or night.

Figure this too. How does a guy who lives out on Tobacco Road in an old run-down trailer, half-trailer really, from about World War I that looked like something out of some old-time Great Depression Hoover-ville scene, complete with scrawny dog, and tires and cannibalized car leavings every which way have girls, and nothing but good-looking girls from twelve to twenty (nothing older because as Stu says, anything older was a woman and he wants nothing to do with women, and their women’s needs, whatever they are). And the rest of us got his leavings, or like tonight left on the side of the road on Route One. And get this, they, the girls from twelve to twenty actually walk over to Tobacco Road from nice across the other side of the tracks homes like on Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Street, sometimes by themselves and sometime in packs just to smell the grease, booze, burnt rubber, and assorted other odd-ball smells that come for free at Stu’s so-called garage/trailer.

Let me tell you about Stu, Sally, and me tonight and this will definitely clue you in to the Stu-madness of the be-bop Olde Saco girl night. First of all, as usual, it is strictly Stu and me starting out. Usually, like today, I hang around his garage on Saturdays to get away from my own hell-house up the road on Ames Street, meaning almost as poor as Stu except they are not trailers but, well, shacks, all that the working poor like my people could afford in the golden age and I am kind of Stu’s unofficial mascot. Now Stu had been working all day on his dual-exhaust carburetor or something, so his denims are greasy, his white tee-shirt (sic) is nothing but wet with perspiration and oil stains, he hasn’t taken a bath since Tuesday (he told me that himself with some sense of pride) and he was not planning to do so this night, and of course, drinking all day from his silver Southern Comfort flask he reeked of alcohol (but don’t tell him that if you read this and are from Olde Saco because, honestly, I want to live to have twenty–something as my age). About 7:00 PM he bellows out to me, cigarette hanging from his mouth, an unfiltered Lucky of course (filtered cigarettes are for girls in Stu world), let’s go cruising.

Well, cruising means nothing but taking that be-bop ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy out on East Grand and look. Look for girls, look for boys from the hicks with bad-ass cars who want to take a chance on beating Stu at the “chicken run” down at the flats on the far end of Sagamore Beach, look for something to take the edge off the hunger to be somebody number one. At least that last is what I figured after a few of these cruises with Stu. Tonight it looks like girls from the way he put some of that grease (no not car grease, hair-oil stuff) on his nappy hair. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to cruising tonight once I have that sign because, usually whatever girl Stu might not want, or maybe there are a couple of extras, or something I get first dibs. Yah, Stu is righteous like that.

So off we go, stopping at my house first so I can get a little cleaned up and put on a new shirt and tell my brother to tell our mother that I will be back later, maybe much later, if she ever gets home herself before I do. The cruising routine in Olde Saco means up and down Route One (okay, okay Main Street), checking out the lesser spots (Darby’s Pizza Palace, Hank’s Ice Cream joint, the Colonial Donut Shoppe where I hang during the week after school and which serves a lot more stuff than donuts and coffee, sandwiches and stuff, and so on). Nothing much this Saturday. So we head right away for the mecca, Jimmy John’s. As we hit Stu’s “saved” parking spot just in front I can see that several stray girls are eyeing the old car, eyeing it like tonight is the night, tonight is the night Stu, kind of, sort of, maybe notices them (and I, my heart starting to race a little in anticipation and glad that I stopped off at my house, got a clean shirt, and put some deodorant on and guzzled some mouthwash, am feeling tonight is the night too).

But tonight is not the night, no way. Not for me, not for those knees-trembling girls. Why? No sooner did we park than Sally Sullivan came strolling out (okay I don’t know if she was strolling or doo-wopping but she was swaying in such a sexy way that I knew she meant business, that she was looking for something in the Olde Saco night and that she had “found” it) to Stu’s Chevy and with no ifs, ands, or buts asked, asked Stu straight if he was doing anything this night. Let me explain before I tell you what Stu’s answer was that this Sally Sullivan is nothing but a sex kitten, maybe innocent-looking, but definitely has half the boys, hell maybe all the boys at Olde Saco High, including a lot of the guys on the football team drooling over her. I know, because I have had more than one sleepless night over her myself.

See, she is in my English class and because Mr. Murphy lets us sit where we want I usually sit with a good view of her. So Stu says, kind of off-handedly, like having the town teen fox come hinter on him was a daily occurrence, kind of lewdly, “Well, baby I am if you want to go down Sagamore Rocks right now and look for dolphins?” See, Sagamore Rocks is nothing but the local lovers’ lane here and “looking for dolphins” is the way everybody, every teenage everybody in town says “going all the way,” having sex for the clueless. And Sally, as you can guess if you have been following my story said, “Yes” just like that. At that is why I was dumped, unceremoniously dumped, while they roared off into the night. So like I said not every “boss” car owner is god’s gift to women, not by a long shot. Or maybe they are.

An Encore- Coming Of Age, Political Age, In The 1960s Night- A Baptism Of Fire-Making War On The War-Makers

An Encore- Coming Of Age, Political Age, In The 1960s Night- A Baptism Of Fire-Making War On The War-Makers


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

He was scared. All of fourteen year old Peter Paul Markin’s body was scared. Of course he knew, knew just as well as anybody else, if anybody thought to ask, that he was really afraid not scared, but Peter Paul was scared anyway. No, not scared (or afraid for the literary correct types), not Frannie De Angelo demon neighborhood tough boy, schoolboy nemesis scared, scared that he would be kicked in the groin, bent over to the ground in pain for no reason, no reason except Frannie deep psycho hard boy reasons known only to himself. Markin was used to that kind of scared, not liking it, not liking getting used to it but he was not tough, not even close although he was wiry, but not Franny heavyweight tough, but used to it. And this certainly was not his usual girl scared-ness on the off chance that one, one girl that is, might say something to him and he would have no “cool” rejoinder. (Yes, girls scared him, not Franny scared but no social graces scared, except in the comfortable confines of a classroom where he could show off with his knowledge of two thousand arcane facts that he thought would impress them but no avail then, later he would be swarmed, well, maybe not swarmed but he didn’t have to spend many lonely weekend nights studying to get to three thousand arcane facts) This was different. This, and his handkerchief-dabbed wet palms and forehead did not lie, was an unknown scared.

See, Peter Paul had taken a bet, a “put your money where your mouth is" bet, from best freshman high school friend Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, if you want to know the full name. Now these guys had previously bet on everything under the sun since middle school, practically, from sports game spreads, you know Ohio State by ten over Michigan stuff like that, to how high the master pizza man and owner at Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, Tonio, would throw his pizza dough one strange night when Frankie needed dough (money dough that is) for his hot date with girlfriend Joanne. So no bet was too strange for this pair, although this proposition was probably way too solemn to be bet on.


What got it started, the need for a bet started, this time, really had to do with school, or maybe better, the world situation in 1960. Peter Paul, a bundle of two thousand facts that he guarded like a king’s ransom, went off the deep end in 9th grade Civics class when he, during a current events discussion, exploded upon his fellow classmates with the observation that there were too many missiles, too many nuclear bomb-loaded guided missiles, in the world and that both sides in the Cold War (The United States and the Soviet Union and their respective hangers-on) should “ban the bomb.” But you have not heard the most provocative part yet, Peter Paul then argued that, as a good-will gesture and having more of them, the United States should destroy a few of its own. Unilaterally.


Pandemonium ensued as smarts guys and gals, simps and stups also, even those who never uttered a word in class, took aim at Peter Paul’s head. The least of it was that he was called a “commie” and a "dupe" and the discussion degenerated from there. Mr. Merck was barely able to contain the class, and nobody usually stepped out line in his class, or else. Somehow order was restored by the end of class and within a few days the class was back to normal, smart guys and girls chirping away with all kinds of flutter answers and the simps and stups, well the simp and stups did their simp and stup thing, as always.


Frankie always maintained that that particular day was one of the few that he wasn’t, and he really wasn’t, glad that Peter Paul was his friend. And during that class discussion he made a point, a big point, of not entering the fray in defense of his misbegotten friend. He thought Peter Paul was off the wall, way off the wall, on this one and let him know it after class. Of course, Peter Paul could not leave well enough alone and started badgering friend Frankie about it some more. But this was stone wall time because Frankie, irreverent, most of the time irreligious, and usually just happy to be girl-smitten in the world, and doing stuff about that, and not worried about its larger problems really believed, like the hard Roman Catholic-bred boy that he was underneath, that the evil Soviet Union should be nuclear fizzled-that very day.


But Peter Paul kept egging the situation on. And here is the problem with a purist, a fourteen year old purist, a wet behind the ears fourteen year old purist when you think about it. Peter Paul was as Roman Catholic-bred underneath as Frankie but with this not so slight difference. Peter Paul’s grandmother, Anna, was, and everybody who came in contact with her agreed, a saint. A saint in the true-believer catholic social gospel sense and who was a fervent admirer of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker for social justice movement started in the 1930s. So frequently The Catholic Worker, the movement newspaper, would be lying around her house. And just as frequently Peter Paul, taking grandmother refuge from the hell-bend storms at his own house, would read the articles. And in almost every issue there would be an article bemoaning the incredible increase in nuclear weapons by both sides, the cold war freeze-out that escalated that spiral and the hard fact that the tipping point beyond no return was right around the corner. And something had to be done about it, and fast, by rational people who did not want the world blown up by someone’s ill-tempered whim. Yah, heady stuff, no question, but just the kind of thing that a certain fourteen year old boy could add to his collection of now two thousand plus facts.

Heady stuff, yah, but also stuff that carried some contradictions. Not in grandmother Anna, not in Dorothy Day so much as in Peter Paul and through him Frankie. See, the Catholic Worker movement had no truck, not known truck, anyway with “commies" and "dupes”, although that movement too, more than once, and by fellow Catholics too, was tarred with that brush. They were as fervent in their denunciation of the atheistic Soviet Union as any 1950s red-baiter. But they also saw that that stance alone was not going to make the world safer for believers, or anybody else. And that tension between the two strands is where Frankie and Peter Paul kind of got mixed up in the world’s affairs. Especially when Peter Paul said that the Catholic Worker had an announcement in their last issue that in October (1960) they were going to help sponsor an anti-nuclear proliferation rally on the Boston Common as part of a group called SANE two weeks before the presidential elections.

Frankie took that information as manna from heaven. See, Frankie was just as interested in knowing two thousand facts in this world as Peter Paul. Except Frankie didn’t guard them like a king’s ransom but rather used them, and then discarded them like a tissue. And old Frankie, even then, even in 1960 starting to spread his wings as the corner boy king of the North Adamsville high school class of 1964, knew how to use his stockpile of facts better than Peter Paul ever could. So one night, one fiercely debated night, when Frankie could take no more, he said “bet.” And he bet that Peter Paul would not have the courage to travel from North Adamsville to Park Street Station in Boston to attend that SANE rally by himself (who else would go from old working- class, patriotic, red-scare scared, North Adamsville anyway). And as is the nature of fourteen year old boy relationships, or was, failure to take the bet, whatever bet was social suicide. “Bet,” said Peter Paul quickly before too much thinking time would elapse and destroy the fact of the bet marred by the hint of hesitation.

But nothing is ever just one thing in this wicked old world. Peter Paul believed, believed fervently, in the social message of the Catholic Worker movement especially on this nuclear war issue. But this was also 1960 and Irish Jack Kennedy was running, and running hard, to be President of the United States against bad man Richard Milhous Nixon and Peter Paul was crazy for Jack (really for younger brother, Bobby, the ruthless organizer behind the throne which is the way he saw his own future as a political operative). And, of course, October in election year presidential politics is crunch time, a time to be out hustling votes, out on Saturday hustling votes, especially every Irish vote, every Catholic vote, hell, every youth vote for your man.


On top of that Jack, old Irish Jack Kennedy, war hero, good-looking guy with a good-looking wife (not Irish though not as far as anyone could tell), rich as hell, was trying to out-Cold War Nixon, a Cold War warrior of the first degree. And the way he was trying to outgun Nixon was by haranguing everyone who would listen that there was a “missile gap,” and the United was falling behind. And when one talked about a missile gap in 1960 that only meant one thing, only brooked only one solution- order up more, many more, nuclear-bomb loaded guided missiles. So there it was, one of the little quirks of life, of political life. So, Peter Paul, all fourteen year old scared Peter Paul has to make good on his bet with Frankie but in the process put a crimp into his hoped-for political career. And just for that one moment, although with some hesitation, he decided to be on the side of the “angels” and to go.

That Saturday, that October Saturday, was a brisk, clear autumn day and so Peter Paul decided to walk the few miles from his house in North Adamsville over the Neponset Bridge to the first MTA subway station at Fields Corner rather than take the forever Eastern Mass. bus that came by his street erratically. After crossing the bridge he passed through one of the many sections of Boston that could pass for the streets of Dublin. Except on those streets he saw many young Peter Pauls holding signs at street corners for Jack Kennedy, other passing out literature, and others talking up Jack’s name. Even as he approached the subway station he saw signs everywhere proclaiming Jack’s virtues. Hell, the nearby political hang-out Eire Pub looked like a campaign headquarters. What this whole scene did not look like to Peter Paul was a stronghold place to talk to people about an anti-nuclear weapons rally. Peter Paul got even more scared as he thought about the reception likely at the Boston Commons. He pushed on, not without a certain tentative regret, but he pushed on through the turnstile, waited for the on-coming subway to stop, got on, and had an uneventful ride to the Park Street Station, the nearest stop to the Common.

Now Park Street on any given Saturday, especially in October after the college student hordes have descended on Boston, is a madhouse of activity. College student strolling around downtown looking for goods at the shops, other are just rubber-necking, other are sunning themselves on the grass or park benches in the last late sun days before winter arrives with a fury. Beyond the mainly civilized college students (civilized on the streets in the daytime anyway) there are the perennial street people who populate any big city and who when not looking for handouts, a stray cigarette, or a stray drink are talking a mile a minute among themselves about some supposed injustice that has marred their lives and caused their unhappy decline. Lastly, and old town Boston, historic old town Boston, scene of many political battles for every cause from temperance to liberty, is defined by this, there are a motley crew of speakers, soap-box speakers whether on a real soap-box or not, who are holding forth on many subjects, although none that drew Peter Paul’s attention this day. After running that gauntlet, as he heads for the Francis Parkman Bandstand where the SANE rally was to take place he was amused by all that surrounds him putting him in a better mood, although still apprehensive of what the day will bring forth.

Arriving at the bandstand he saw about twenty people milling around with signs, hand-made signs that showed some spunk, the most prominent being a large poster-painted sign that stated boldly, “Ban The Bomb.” He is in the right place, no question. Although he is surprised that there are not more people present he is happy, secretly happy, that those twenty are there, because, frankly, he thought there might be just about two. And among that crowd he spotted a clot of people who were wearing Catholic Worker buttons so he is now more fully at ease, and was starting to be glad that he came here on this day. He went over to the clot and introduced himself and tells them how he came to be there. He also noted that one CWer wore the collar of a priest; a surprise because at Sacred Heart, his parish church, it was nothing but “fire and brimstone” from the pulpit against the heathen communist menace.

Get this-he also met a little old lady in tennis sneakers. For real. Now Frankie, devil’s advocate Frankie, baited Peter Paul in their arguments about nuclear disarmament by stating that the “peaceniks” were mainly little old ladies in tennis shoes-meaning, of course, batty and of no account, no main chance political account, no manly Jack Kennedy stand up to the Russians account. Peter Paul thought to himself wait until I see Frankie and tell him that this little old lady knew more about politics, and history, than even his two thousand facts. And was funny too boot. Moreover, and this was something that he had privately noticed, as the youngest person by far at the rally she, and later others, would make a fuss over him for that very reason talking about young bravery and courage and stuff like that.

Over the course of the two hours or so of the rally the crowd may have swelled to about fifty, especially when a dynamic black speaker from the W.E.B. Dubois club at Harvard University linked up the struggle against nuclear weapons with the black struggle down South for voting rights that those in the North had been hearing more about lately. It was not until later, much later, that Peter Paul found out that this Dubois club business was really the name of the youth group of the American Communist Party (CP) at the time but by that time he was knowledgeable enough to say “so what.” And it was not until later that he found out that the little old lady with the tennis sneakers was a CPer, although she had said at the time he talked to her she was with some committee, some women’s peace committee, within the Democratic Party. Oh, well. But then he would also be able to say “so what” to that accusation in proper “family of the left” fashion.


But forget all that later stuff, and what he knew or did not know later. See, that day, that October 1960 autumn day, Peter Paul learned something about serious politics. If you are on the right side of the angels on an issue, a central issue of the day, you are kindred. And although there were more than a few catcalls from the passers-by about “commies”, “dupes”, and “go back to Russia” he was glad, glad as hell that he came over. Although nothing turned inside him, noticeably turned inside him that day, about his politics and his determination to see Jack Kennedy and the Democrats take the White House he thought about those brave people at the bandstand and what they were standing for a lot for a long time after the event faded from memory. Oh yah, it was good to be on the side of the angels. And it didn’t hurt that he won that Frankie bet, either.