Saturday, December 16, 2017

Just Before The Sea Change - With The Dixie Cups Going To The Chapel Of Love In Mind

Just Before The Sea Change - With The Dixie Cups Going To The Chapel Of Love In Mind

By Lance Lawrence  

There were some things about Edward Rowley’s youthful activities that he would rather not forget, things that defined his life, gave him that fifteen minutes of fame, if only to himself and his, that everybody kept talking about that everyone deserved before they departed this life. That is what got him thinking one sunny afternoon in September about five years ago as he waited for the seasons to turn almost before his eyes about the times around 1964, around the time that he graduated from North Adamsville High School, around the time that he realized that the big breeze jail-break that he had kind of been waiting for was about to bust out over the land, over America. It was not like he was some kind of soothsayer, could read tea leaves or tarot cards like some latter day Madame La Rue who actually did read his future once down at the Gloversville Fair, read that he was made for big events anything like that back then. No way although that tarot reading when he was twelve left an impression for a while.

Edward’s take on the musical twists and turns back then is where he had something the kids at North Adamsville High would comment on, would ask him about to see which way the winds were blowing, would put their nickels, dimes and quarters in the jukeboxes to hear. See his senses were very much directed by his tastes in music, by his immersion into all things rock and roll in the early 1960s where he sensed what he called silly “bubble gum” music that had passed for rock (and which the girls liked, or liked the look of the guys singing the tunes) was going to be buried under an avalanche of sounds going back to Elvis and forward to something else, something with more guitars all amped to bring in the new dispensation. More importantly since the issue of jailbreaks and sea changes were in the air he was the very first kid to grasp what would later be called the folk minute of the early 1960s (which when the tunes, not Dylan and Baez at first but guys like the Kingston Trio started playing on the jukebox at Jimmy Jack’s Diner after school some other girls, not the “bubble gum” girls went crazy over). So that musical sense combined with his ever present sense that things could be better in this wicked old world drilled into him by his kindly old grandmother who was an old devotee of the Catholic Worker movement kind of drove his aspirations. But at first it really was the music that had been the cutting edge of what followed later, followed until about 1964 when that new breeze arrived in the land.

That fascination with music had occupied Edward’s mind since he had been about ten and had received a transistor radio for his birthday and out of curiosity decided to turn the dial to AM radio channels other that WJDA which his parents, may they rest in peace, certainly rest in peace from his incessant clamoring for rock and roll records and later folk albums, concert tickets, radio listening time on the big family radio in the living room, had on constantly and which drove him crazy. Drove him crazy because that music, well, frankly that music, the music of the Doris Days, the Peggy Lees, The Rosemary Clooneys, the various corny sister acts like the Andrews Sisters, the Frank Sinatras, the Vaughn Monroes, the Dick Haynes and an endless series of male quartets did not “jump,” gave him no “kicks,’ left him flat. As a compromise, no, in order to end the family civil war, they had purchased a transistor radio at Radio Shack and left him to his own devises.

One night, one late night in 1955, 1956 when Edward was fiddling with the dial he heard this sound out of Cleveland, Ohio, a little fuzzy but audible playing this be-bop sound, not jazz although it had horns, not rhythm and blues although sort of, but a new beat driven by some wild guitar by a guy named Warren Smith who was singing about his Ruby, his Rock ‘n’ Roll Ruby who only was available apparently to dance the night away. And she didn’t seem to care whether she danced by herself on the tabletops or with her guy. Yeah, so if you need a name for what ailed young Edward Rowley, something he could not quite articulate then call her woman, call her Ruby and you will not be far off. And so with that as a pedigree Edward became one of the town’s most knowledgeable devotees of the new sound. Problem was that new sound, as happens frequently in music, got a little stale as time went on, as the original artists who captured his imagination faded from view one way or another and new guys, guys with nice Bobby this and Bobby that names, Patsy this and Brenda that names sang songs under the umbrella name rock and roll that his mother could love. Songs that could have easily fit into that WJDA box that his parents had been stuck in since about World War II.

So Edward was anxious for a new sound to go along with his feeling tired of the same old, same old stuff that had been hanging around in the American night since the damn nuclear hot flashes red scare Cold War started way before he had a clue about what that was all about. It had started with the music and then he got caught later in high school up with a guy in school, Daryl Wallace, a hipster, or that is what he called himself, a guy who liked “kicks” although being in high school in North Adamsville far from New York City, far from San Francisco, damn, far from Boston what those “kicks” were or what he or Eddie would do about getting those “kicks” never was made clear. But they played it out in a hokey way and for a while they were the town, really high school, “beatniks.”  So Eddie had had his short faux “beat” phase complete with flannel shirts, black chino pants, sunglasses, and a black beret (a beret that he kept hidden at home in his bedroom closet once he found out after his parents had seen and heard Jack Kerouac reading from the last page of On The Road on the Steve Allen Show that they severely disapproved on the man, the movement and anything that smacked of the “beat” and a beret always associated with French bohemians and foreignness would have had them seeing “red”). And for a while Daryl and Eddie played that out until Daryl moved away (at least that was the story that went around but there was a persistent rumor for a time that Mr. Wallace had dragooned Daryl into some military school in California in any case that disappearance from the town was the last he ever heard from his “beat” brother). Then came 1964 and  Eddie was fervently waiting for something to happen, for something to come out of the emptiness that he was feeling just as things started moving again with the emergence of the Beatles and the Stones as a harbinger of what was coming. 

That is where Eddie had been psychologically when his mother first began to harass him about his hair. Although the hair thing like the beret was just the symbol of clash that Eddie knew was coming and knew also that now that he was older that he was going to be able to handle differently that when he was a kid.  Here is what one episode of the battle sounded like:                   

“Isn’t that hair of yours a little long Mr. Edward Rowley, Junior,” clucked Mrs. Edward Rowley, Senior, “You had better get it cut before your father gets back from his conference trip, if you know what is good for you.” That mothers’-song was being endlessly repeated in North Adamsville households (and not just those households either but in places like North Adamsville, Hullsville, Shaker Heights, Dearborn, Cambridge any place where guys were waiting for the new dispensation and wearing hair a little longer than boys’ regular was the flash point) ever since the British invasion had brought longer hair into style (and a little less so, beards, that was later when guys got old enough to grow one without looking wispy, had taken a look at what their Victorian great-grandfathers grew and though it was “cool.” Cool along with new mishmash clothing and new age monikers to be called by.).

Of course when one was thinking about the British invasion in the year 1964 one was not thinking about the American Revolution or the War of 1812 but the Beatles. And while their music has taken 1964 teen world by a storm, a welcome storm after the long mainly musical counter-revolution since Elvis, Bo, Jerry Lee and Chuck ruled the rock night and had disappeared without a trace, the 1964 parent world was getting up in arms.
And not just about hair styles either. But about midnight trips on the clanking subway to Harvard Square coffeehouses to hear, to hear if you can believe this, folk music, mountain music, harp music or whatever performed by long-haired (male or female), long-bearded (male), blue jean–wearing (both), sandal-wearing (both), well, for lack of a better name “beatniks” (parents, as usual, being well behind the curve on teen cultural movements since by 1964 “beat”  except on silly television shows and “wise” social commentary who could have been “Ike” brothers and sisters, was yesterday’s news).

Mrs. Rowley would constantly harp about “why couldn’t Eddie be like he was when he listened to Bobby Vinton and his Mr. Lonely or that lovely-voiced Roy Orbison and his It’s Over and other nice songs on the local teen radio station, WMEX (he hated that name Eddie by the way, Eddie was also what everybody called his father so you can figure out why he hated the moniker just then). Now it was the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and a cranky-voiced guy named Bob Dylan that has his attention. And that damn Judy Jackson with her short skirt and her, well her… looks” (Mrs. Rowley like every mother in the post-Pill world refusing to use the “s” word, a throw-back to their girlish days when their mothers did not use such a word.)     

Since Mrs. Rowley, Alice to the neighbors, was getting worked up anyway, she let out what was really bothering her about her Eddie’s behavior, "What about all the talk about doing right by the down-trodden Negros down in Alabama and Mississippi. And you and that damn Peter Dawson, who used to be so nice when all you boys hung around together at Jimmy Jacks’ Diner [Edward: corner boys, Ma, that is what we were] and I at least knew you were no causing trouble, talking about organizing a book drive to get books for the little Negro children down there. If your father ever heard that there would be hell to pay, hell to pay and maybe a strap coming out of the closet big as you are. Worst though, worst that worrying about Negros down South is that treasonous talk about leaving this country, leaving North Adamsville, defenseless against the communists with your talk of nuclear disarmament. Why couldn’t you have just left well enough alone and stuck with your idea of forming a band that would play nice songs that make kids feel good like Gale Garnet’s We’ll Sing In The Sunshine or that pretty Negro girl Dionne Warwick and Her Walk On By instead of getting everybody upset."

And since Mrs. Rowley, Alice, to the neighbors had mentioned the name Judy Jackson, Edward’s flame and according to Monday morning before school girls’ “lav” talk, Judy’s talk they had “done the deed” and you can figure out what the deed was let’s hear what was going on in the Jackson household since one of the reasons that Edward was wearing his hair longer was because Judy thought it was “sexy” and so that talk of doing the deed may well have been true if there were any sceptics. Hear this:      

“Young lady, that dress is too short for you to wear in public, take it off, burn it for all I care, and put on another one or you are not going out of this house,” barked Mrs. James Jackson, echoing a sentiment that many worried North Adamsville mothers were feeling (and not just those mothers either but in places like Gloversville, Hullsville, Shaker Heights, Dearborn, Cambridge any place where gals were waiting for the new dispensation and wearing their skirts a little longer than mid-calf was the flash point) about their daughters dressing too provocatively and practically telling the boys, well practically telling them you know what as she suppressed the “s” word that was forming in her head. She too working up a high horse head of steam continued, "And that Eddie [“Edward, Ma,” Judy keep repeating every time Mrs. Jackson, Dorothy to the neighbors, said Eddie], and his new found friends like Peter Dawson taking you to those strange coffeehouses in Harvard Square with all the unwashed, untamed, unemployed “beatniks” instead of the high school dances on Saturday night. And that endless talk about the n-----s down South, about get books for the ignorant to read and other trash talk about how they are equal to us, and your father better not hear you talk like that, not at the dinner table since has to work around them and their smells and ignorance over in that factory in Dorchester.  And don’t start with that Commie trash about peace and getting rid of weapons. They should draft the whole bunch of them and put them over in front of that Berlin Wall. Then they wouldn’t be so negative about America."

Scene: Edward, Judy and Peter Dawson were sitting in the Club Nana in Harvard Square sipping coffee, maybe pecking at the one brownie between, and listening to a local wanna-be folk singing strumming his stuff (who turned out to be none other than Eric Von Schmidt). Beside them cartons of books that they are sorting to be taken along with them when head South this summer after graduation exercises at North Adamsville High School are completed in June. (By the way Peter’s parents were only slightly less irate about their son’s activities and used the word “Negro” when they were referring to black people, black people they wished their son definitely not to get involved with were only slightly less behind the times than Mrs. Rowley and Mrs. Jackson and so requires no separate screed by Mrs. Dawson. See Peter did not mention word one about what he was, or was not, doing and thus spared himself the anguish that Edward and Judy put themselves through trying to “relate” to their parents, their mothers really since fathers were some vague threatened presence in the background in those households.)

They, trying to hold back their excitement have already been to some training sessions at the NAACP office over on Massachusetts Avenue in the Roxbury section of Boston and have purchased their tickets for the Greyhound bus as far as New York’s Port Authority where they will meet others who will be heading south on a chartered bus. But get this Pete turned to Edward and said, “Have you heard that song, Popsicles and Icicles by the Mermaids, it has got great melodic sense.” Yes, we are still just before the sea change after which even Peter will chuckle about “bubble gum” music. Good luck though, young travelers, good luck.

The Latest From The Partisan Defense Committee-Show Support For Those Political Prisoners Inside The Walls-Give To The 32nd Holiday Appeal

The Latest From The Partisan  Defense Committee-Show Support For Those Political Prisoners Inside The Walls-Give To The 32nd Holiday Appeal   

Once Again- When The Capitalist World Was Young-With Dutch And Flemish Paintings In Mind

Once Again- When The Capitalist World Was Young-With Dutch And Flemish Paintings In Mind

By Brad Fox, Jr.

They say that Allan Jackson, a guy who grew up in North Adamsville south of Boston and a guy who as the neighborhood guys he used to hang out with used to say was “from hunger”  which seems self-explanatory, was kind of weird about stuff like politics and art. Stuff that seemed weird to me anyway when it got explained to me by my father, same name as me and hence junior, one night when he decided that I needed one, a drink or two, and, two, to be straightened out about Allan. Straightened out meaning that he would do his royal highness imperative thing with me which he has done with me since I was a kid when he thought I had something, sometimes anything wrong.       

Dad’s authority for the straightening out was that he was one of the guys who knew Allan in those “from hunger” days back in the 1960s when the whole neighborhood, including the Fox family, was wedded to that same condition. He felt since he had already straightened me out ad infinitum on the Fox family “from hunger” story when I was about eight he could skip that and run Allan’s story. I have to tell you though that Bradley Fox, Senior pulled himself up from under by the bootstraps and went on to run a couple of small high tech specialty plants which were contracted to Raytheon to make materials for their various very lucrative defense contracts and while he sold off those businesses when he retired Raytheon is still working off the public teat with those lucrative, very lucrative defense contracts. I also have to tell you that except for a couple of months out in San Francisco in 1967 when the Summer of Love for his generation was in full bloom at a time when his whole crowd was guilt-tripped into going out West by a mad man guy they hung around with whom Dad always called Scribe he went straight-arrow from high school to college (two years), marriage, kids, a decent and “not from hunger” life passed on to his kids and then that fairly recent retirement.

That combination strong work ethic and straight arrow family man would characterize most of his hang-out youthful crowd with the big exception of Scribe. And Allan who followed him for a while anyway before Scribe got too weird, got catch up with a cocaine addiction and fell down, was helped falling down by two straight bullets in Mexico back in the 1970 in circumstances Dad would not talk about, won’t talk about even now since he says it hurts him too much to think about Scribe’s fate, a fate that except for a few happy turns might have befallen him. So the “Allan following Scribe” part consisted of essentially two things-a visceral hatred of current day capitalism partially derived through an old-fashioned now somewhat obsolete except for academics Marxism, you know, greedy capitalist (my father to a certain extent although he was not, is not,  greedy) versus downtrodden workers AND a love of painting from the early days of capitalism-when it was beginning to come full bloom in places like London, Amsterdam and Antwerp-painters like Rembrandt, Hals, Ruebens.    

Dad said it was hard to say when Scribe and therefore Allan got into radical politics since no way in high school when they all formed lasting bonds did those guys have such ideas. They would have been run out of town, would emphatically not have been hanging around Harry’s Variety Store with Dad and the other guys spouting “commie” rag stuff in those Cold War beat the Russians to a pulp days. What they all cared about, what they all talked about was cars, not having cars the fate of most of them during high school, girls, and either not having them of how to get into their pants, Dad’s expression not mine, booze, and how to get somebody old enough to “buy” for them, and endlessly rock and roll music, and how to use that hot rock and roll to get a girl into a car, get her softened up with booze and in the mood to do what he called “do the do” which I think is pretty self-explanatory as well. So maybe girls was all they really cared about in the end and the other stuff was just talk to talk. One way or another Scribe and his ardent follower, his “girl” some of the guys would say just to do a little “fag” baiting long before even guys like Dad got hip that being gay was okay, that they were not the devils incarnate, were as hyped to the chasing girls scene as all the others. 

Dad figured that what probably happened to turn them around was their getting drafted and sent to Vietnam (neither events at the same time but close together) and when they returned they were very different in ways Dad couldn’t explain but different mainly because neither man wanted to talk about the stuff they saw, did, or saw others do in what they would always call “Nam. So they started hanging around with college guys and gals, maybe others too, all young and bright-eyed over in Cambridge the other side of Boston. Started going to things called study groups and such. The long and short of it was before long they were longed-haired, bearded hippie-looking guys just like a million other guys around Boston at the time Dad said. Getting arrested for this and that, stuff called civil disobedience not robberies or mayhem or anything like it. Kept talking about class struggle, kicking the bosses’ asses, decaying capitalism, imperialism all the stuff you read about in a Government class and then let drop like a lead balloon after an exam. That lasted like I said until Scribe fell down and Allan went back to school on the G.I. Bill.    

The craving for Dutch and Flemish painting Dad said was easier to explain, at least he thought so. It seemed like this Allan was a holy goof, a wacko to me in our old neighborhood terms out in the leafy suburbs. Dad said, and this is the way Allan explained it to him so take it for what its worth since you know I think it is the uttering of a holy goof. According to this Marxist schematic even though now capitalism (now now or fifty years ago now it doesn’t matter since it is still around) has turned in on itself, has lost its energy, has become a brake on serious human progress that was not always the case. In the early days when it was giving feudalism the boot it was what they called “progressive,” meaning it was better than feudalism and so did things then that could be supported in historical terms by latter day radicals. Okay, Allan, whatever you say.

Here’s where I think it really gets weird, art, all the cultural expressions, get reflected in the emerging new system of organizing society so when Rembrandt say painted those prosperous dour-looking merchants, town burghers, and shop owners (and their wives, also dour, see above. usually in separate portraits showing that had enough real money to pay for two expensive paintings or else couldn’t stand being in the same room together for the long sittings) he was reflecting the bright light times of this new system that would wind up dominating the world. According to Dad Allan and another guy went, I think he said, to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston Allan where he flipped out over these odd-ball portrait or domestic scene paintings in the 16th and 17th century Dutch-Flemish section. Said, and Dad quoted this, that was when capitalism was young and fresh and you could feel it in almost every painting. Also said while the stuff wouldn’t pass art muster today it was like catnip back then. Like I said a holy goof. And if you don’t believe me go, if you are near a major museum which would have such art, and check it out for yourself because young or old, Rembrandt or not, this stuff is old hat as far as I am concerned.      

In The Twilight Of The Folk Minute- Peter Seeger And Arlo Guthrie In Concert In The Late 1980s

In The Twilight Of The Folk Minute- Peter Seeger And Arlo Guthrie In Concert In The Late 1980s

By Johnny Blade

“Jesus, they charged me fourteen dollars each for these tickets to see Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. Remember Laura about ten or fifteen years ago when we saw Pete for five bucks each at the Café Nana over in Harvard Square (and the price of an expresso coffee for two people and maybe a shared piece of carrot cake since they had been on a date, a cheap date when he didn’t have much cash and at a time when the guy was expected to pay, no “dutch treat,” no Laura dutch treat expected anyway especially on a heavy date, and that one had been when he was intrigued by her early on) and around that same time, that same Spring of 1973, Arlo gave a free concert out on Concord Common,” said Sam Lowell to his date Laura Peters and the couple they were standing in line with, Patrick Darling and Julia James, in front of Symphony Hall in Boston waiting for the doors to open for the concert that evening. This would be the first time Pete and Arlo had appeared together since Newport a number of years back and the first time this foresome  had seen either of them in a good number of years since Pete had gone to upstate New York and had been spending more time making the rivers and forests up there green again than performing and Arlo was nursing something out in Stockbridge. “Maybe, Alice,” Patrick said and everybody laughed at that inside joke. 

Sam continued along that line of his about “the back in the days” for a while, with the three who were also something of folk aficionados well after the heyday of that music in what Sam called the “1960s folk minute” nodding their heads in agreement saying “things sure were cheaper then and people, folkies for sure, did their gigs for the love of it as much as for the money, maybe more so. Did it, what did Dave Van Ronk call it then, oh yeah, for the “basket,” for from hunger walking around money to keep the wolves from the doors. For a room to play out whatever saga drove them to places like the Village, Harvard Square, North Beach and their itch to make a niche in the booming folk world where everything seemed possible and if you had any kind of voice to the left of Dylan’s and Van Ronk’s, could play three chords on a guitar (or a la Pete work a banjo, a mando, or some other stringed instrument), and write of love, sorrow, some dastardly death deed, or on some pressing issue of the day.”

After being silent for a moment Sam got a smile on his face and said “On that three chord playing thing I remember Geoff Muldaur from the Kweskin Jug Band, a guy who knew the American folk songbook as well as anybody then, worked at learning it too, as did Kweskin, learned even that Harry Smith anthology stuff which meant you had to be serious, saying that if you could play three chords you were sure to draw a crowd, a girl crowd around you, if you knew four or five that  meant you were a serious folkie and you could even get a date from among that crowd, and if you knew ten or twelve you could have whatever you wanted. I don’t know if that is true since I never got beyond the three chord thing but no question that was a way to attract women, especially at parties.” Laura, never one to leave something unsaid when Sam left her an opening said in reply “I didn’t even have to play three chords on a guitar, couldn’t then and I can’t now, although as Sam knows I play a mean kazoo, but all I had to do was start singing some Joan Baez or Judie Collins cover and with my long black hair ironing board straight like Joan’s I had all the boy come around and I will leave it to your imaginations about the whatever I wanted part.” They all laughed although Sam’s face reddened a bit at the thought of her crowded with guys although he had not known her back then but only later in the early 1970s.                     

Those reference got Julia thinking back the early 1960s when she and Sam went “dutch treat” to see Dave Van Ronk at the Club Blue. (Sam and Julia were thus by definition not on a heavy date, neither had been intrigued by the other but folk music was their bond and despite persistent Julia BU dorm roommate rumors what with Sam hanging around all the time had never been lovers). She mentioned that to Sam as they waited to see if he remembered and while he thought he remembered he was not sure. He asked Julie, “Was that the night he played that haunting version of Fair and Tender Ladies with Eric Von Schmidt backing him up on the banjo?” Julie had replied yes and that she too had never forgotten that song and how the house which usually had a certain amount of chatter going on even when someone was performing had been dead silent once he started singing.
Club Blue had been located in that same Harvard Square that Sam had mentioned earlier and along with the Café Nana, which was something of a hot spot once Dylan, Baez, Tom Rush and the members of the Kweskin band started hanging out there, and about five or six other coffeehouses all within a few blocks of each other (one down on Arrow Street was down in the sub-basement and Sam swore that Dylan must have written Subterranean Homesick Blues there). Coffeehouses then where you could, for a dollar or two, see Bob, Joan, Eric (Von Schmidt), Tom (Rush), Phil (Ochs) and lots of lean and hungry performers working for that “basket” Sam had mentioned earlier passed among the patrons and be glad, at least according to Van Ronk when she had asked him about the “take” during one intermission, to get twenty bucks for your efforts that night.

That was the night during that same intermission Dave also told her that while the folk breeze was driving things his way just then and people were hungry to hear anything that was not what he called “bubble gum” music like you heard on AM radio that had not been the case when he started out in the Village in the 1950s when he worked “sweeping out” clubs for a couple of dollars. That sweeping out was not with a broom, no way, Dave had said with that sardonic wit of his that such work was beneath the “dignity” of a professional musician but the way folk singers were used to empty the house between shows. In the “beat”1950s with Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg, and their comrades (Dave’s word reflecting his left-wing attachments) making everybody crazy for poetry, big be-bop poetry backed up by big be-bop jazz the coffeehouses played to that clientele and on weekends or in the summer people would be waiting in fairly long lines to get in. So what Dave (and Happy Traum and a couple of other singers that she could not remember) did was after the readings were done and people were still lingering over their expressos he would get up on the makeshift stage and begin singing some old sea chanty or some slavery day freedom song in that raspy, gravelly voice of his which would sent the customers out the door. And if they didn’t go then he was out the door. Tough times, tough times indeed.             
Coffeehouses too where for the price of a cup of coffee, maybe a pastry, shared, you could wallow in the fluff of the folk minute that swept America, maybe the world, and hear the music that was the leading edge then toward that new breeze that everybody that Julie and Sam knew was bound to come what with all the things going on in the world. Black civil rights, mainly down in the police state South, nuclear disarmament, the Pill to open up sexual possibilities previously too dangerous or forbidden, and music too, not just the folk music that she had been addicted to but something coming from England paying tribute to old-time blues with a rock upbeat that was now a standard part of the folk scene ever since they “discovered” blues guys like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White, and Skip James. All the mix to turn the world upside down. All of which as well was grist to the mill for the budding folk troubadours to write songs about.

Julie made her companions laugh as they stood there starting to get a little impatient since the doors to the concert hall were supposed to open at seven and here it was almost seven fifteen (Sam had fumed, as he always did when he had to wait for anything, a relic of his Army days during the Vietnam War when everything had been “hurry up and wait”). She had mentioned that back then, back in those college days when guys like Sam did not have a lot of money, if worse came to worse and you had no money like happened one time with a guy, a budding folkie poet, Jack Dawson, she had a date with you could always go to the Hayes-Bickford in the Square (the other H-Bs in other locations around Boston were strictly “no-go” places where people actually just went to eat the steamed to death food and drink the weak-kneed coffee). As long as you were not rowdy like the whiskey drunks rambling on and on asking for cigarettes and getting testy if you did not have one for the simple reason that you did not smoke (almost everybody did then including Sam although usually not with her and definitely not in the dorm), winos who smelled like piss and vomit and not having bathed in a while, panhandlers (looking you dead in the eye defying you to not give them something, money or a cigarette but something) and hoboes (the quiet ones of that crowd  who somebody had told her were royalty in the misfit, outcast world and thus would not ask for dough or smokes) who drifted through there you could watch the scene for free. On any given night, maybe around midnight, on weekends later when the bars closed later you could hear some next best thing guy in full flannel shirt, denim jeans, maybe some kind of vest for protection against the cold but with a hungry look on his face or a gal with the de riguer long-ironed hair, some peasant blouse belying her leafy suburban roots, some boots or sandals depending on the weathers singing low some tune they wrote or reciting to their own vocal beat some poem. As Julie finished her thought some guy who looked like an usher in some foreign castle opened the concert hall doors and the four aficionados scampered in to find their seats.                 

…As they walked down the step of Symphony Hall having watched Pete work his banjo magic, work the string of his own Woody-inspired songs like Golden Thread and of covers from the big sky American songbook and Arlo wowed with his City of New Orleans and some of his father’s stuff (no Alice’s Restaurant that night he was saving that for Thanksgiving he said) Sam told his companions, “that fourteen dollars each for tickets was a steal for such performances, especially in that acoustically fantastic hall” and told his three friends that he would stand for coffees at the Blue Parrot over in Harvard Square if they liked. “And maybe share some pastry too.”     

In Boston (Everywhere)-Build (and Nourish) The Resistance!-Introducing The Organization "Food For Activists"

In Boston (Everywhere)-Build (and Nourish) The Resistance!-Introducing The Organization "Food For Activists" 

On The 150th Anniversary Of The Publication Of "Das Capital" (1867)-Karl Marx Was Right!-World Economic Crisis—Workers Must Fight for Power

On The 150th Anniversary Of  The Publication Of "Das Capital" (1867)-Karl Marx Was Right!-World Economic Crisis—Workers Must Fight for Power

Markin comment:

This is a very good, very nicely pedagogic introduction to basic Marxist economics for today's younger readers not versed in the old time (ouch!)1960s studies of his economic theories that were de riguer for leftists then.
Workers Vanguard No. 997
2 March 2012

Karl Marx Was Right!

World Economic Crisis—Workers Must Fight for Power

(Young Spartacus pages)

We reprint below a presentation on Marxist economics given by Tynan Maddalena, editor of Spartacist Canada’s Young Spartacus pages. The presentation was originally given to a 24 September 2011 Trotskyist League of Canada/Spartacus Youth Club day school in Toronto and published in Spartacist Canada No. 171 (Winter 2011/2012).

As the economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 continues around the globe, the post-Cold War myth that capitalism is the final stage in human progress and can continue to grow without limit is shattering before our eyes. In the United States, millions of workers have been thrown into the ranks of the unemployed, millions have lost their homes, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are deported every year, and youth are burdened with huge student debt with dwindling prospects of getting a job. For those who see no future under capitalism, Marx’s analysis is an essential tool to understand the world we live in today—and change it.

Since this presentation was given, populist Occupy Wall Street protests against inequality and austerity spread further around the country. The Occupy organizers have argued that they have no clear political agenda, affiliation or even a fixed set of demands, but in fact they do have a program: liberal reform, especially of the financial sector, and “democratization” of capitalism. But capitalism cannot be fundamentally reformed. There is a fundamental class divide in society between the capitalists—the tiny number of families that own industry and the banks—and the working class, whose labor is the source of the capitalists’ profits.

In this election year, Occupy protesters and others will be told to swallow the poison pill of “lesser evilism,” as attempts will be made to corral them into support for Obama and the capitalist Democratic Party. Posturing as the “friends” of labor and the oppressed, the Democrats are in reality no less committed than the Republicans to the maintenance of capitalist exploitation and pursuit of bloody imperialist wars.

To students and young workers seeking a revolutionary program for the destruction of capitalism, as opposed to seeking only liberal reform, Young Spartacus offers Marxism. The Spartacus Youth Clubs train the next generation of revolutionary socialists—the future cadre of a multiracial workers party built in opposition to all capitalist parties and their sycophants. Led by such a party and armed with a revolutionary program, the working class can vanquish this system of exploitation and war, laying the basis for a global communist society of abundance and human freedom.

*   *    *

As stock markets crash and the world economy stands on the precipice of a second “Great Recession,” consider that the collapse of 2008-09, the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s, added 130 million people to the ranks of the chronically malnourished and hungry. That brings the total number to over one billion. In so many words, one-seventh of the human race is starving. One-seventh and counting.

Across the European Union, 23 million workers are out of work. In Spain, which was recently rocked by general strikes and enormous protest movements, youth unemployment is over 44 percent. In Greece, hundreds of thousands of jobs are gone, homelessness is through the roof, and many people, especially pensioners, line up at soup kitchens in order to survive.

Every so-called bailout for every financial crisis across the eurozone—from Greece to Ireland to Portugal—brings with it unrelenting attacks on the living standards of the masses, who seethe with discontent. The IMF, the European Central Bank, the governments of Germany, France and the United States all chauvinistically chastise the peoples of these countries in crisis as living beyond their means or lazy. In reality, the financial powers are only bailing out themselves—their own failed banking systems—on the backs of workers and the poor.

Here in North America, we hear a lot of talk about an economic recovery. It is a jobless recovery, a wageless recovery, a fragile recovery, a “still nascent” recovery. At the end of July, the American government revised its statistics: the 2008 recession was deeper than reported, and the “recovery” was even more dubious than reported. As for the Canadian economy, we recently learned that it shrank by 0.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. Scotiabank released a report two weeks ago forecasting another drop in the third quarter which could be as great as 2.5 percent. “Canada could be among the first of the world’s advanced economies to fall into a technical recession,” warned the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]. That’s rich. We’ve had a jobless, wageless, fragile, still nascent recovery, but don’t worry, the coming recession is going to be only a “technical” one!

In human terms, one in six Americans is now unemployed, with the average time out of work close to ten months. Forty-five million people are on food stamps, and that has increased more than 30 percent during the two years of this specious recovery. Since the housing bubble burst in the U.S., there have been over seven million home foreclosures. Enforcing them is a brutal act of state repression: the police come to a home, haul the furniture and other possessions onto the street and lock the family out. The bourgeois media would have you believe that the worst was over by 2008. The truth is that 932,000 of those foreclosures came in the first quarter of 2010, and that was an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. And under racist American capitalism, blacks and Latinos, one-third of whose households have no net worth, always suffer disproportionately. In some largely black and Latino neighbourhoods of South Chicago, as well as across the Detroit metropolitan area, one of every 20 households was in foreclosure.

In Canada, well over a quarter million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2002. This underscores the decades-long deindustrialization of North America, represented in the rusted wreckage of steel mills and the shells of auto plants. As Karl Marx put it: “Thus the forest of uplifted arms demanding work becomes ever thicker, while the arms themselves become ever thinner.”

At the same time, corporate profits have reached record levels. Ed Clark, chief executive officer of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, whose profits recently rose to a staggering $1.45 billion, recently joined billionaire capitalist parasites Warren Buffett and George Soros in advocating higher taxes for the rich. Their only concern, of course, is to better preserve the capitalist system, including by giving it a facelift—though that did not prevent right-wing demagogues from labeling Buffett and Soros “socialists.” As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

It should come as no surprise that the Conservatives, now with a majority government, are moving rapidly against the unions. The government ended a lockout by Canada Post [the postal service] this spring by legislating wage levels that were even lower than the employer’s final offer. Recently, two different unions at Air Canada were threatened with strikebreaking legislation.

The bailouts of the banks—in some cases to the tune of trillions of dollars—were enacted uniformly by every government in the imperialist West and Japan at the expense of the working class. These measures point to an elementary truth of Marxism-Leninism: that the executive of the modern state is but a committee for deciding the common affairs of the ruling class as a whole. Or look at Export Development Canada’s agreement to lend $1 billion to the Vale mining conglomerate. This came after a year-long strike at Vale’s Sudbury nickel mines, during which the company claimed that funds simply weren’t available to meet the union’s modest demands.

Various reformists and even self-professed Marxists claim that the way forward is to look for “concrete” solutions “in the here and now,” i.e., liberal palliatives. The problem is that any reform wrested from the capitalists today will only be taken away tomorrow—and today the rulers aren’t even offering the pretense of reform. The reformists especially drag out their cant about “real world” solutions when they want to express disdain for the theory and program of revolutionary Marxism, which they dismiss as “abstract.”

In fact, the reformists’ perspective is counterposed to the only road that can end the hunger, poverty and social degradation that are intrinsic to capitalism. Vladimir Lenin, who along with Leon Trotsky led the October Revolution of 1917, warned: “Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realise that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes” (“The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” 1913). Lenin stressed that “there is only one way of smashing the resistance of those classes, and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can—and, owing to their social position, must—constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organise those forces for the struggle.” As scientific socialists, we fight for workers revolution to establish an international, centrally planned economy based on satisfying human want.

Marxist Theory and the Class Struggle

Lenin called Marxist theory the “granite foundation” of the Bolshevik Party. Without revolutionary theory, he explained, there can be no revolutionary movement. The core of Marxism is the labour theory of value, elaborated by Marx in the first volume of Capital. Not a breeze to read. But when it comes to the theory that all value in a capitalist economy derives solely from, or is indeed synonymous with, labour, whether or not someone wants to learn this hinges to a great extent on their sympathies for the working class. It was Marx’s commitment to the modern industrial proletariat that allowed him to unlock the secret of value that underlies commodity circulation. As we Spartacists say, program generates theory.

Capitalist production developed from commodity circulation. People have always had to come together to produce for their needs. However, as the techniques of production developed and diversified, people no longer produced goods solely for their own groups, but for trade with others through the medium of exchange. Thus Marx called commodities a relationship between people expressed as a relationship between things.

Obviously, there would be no need for someone to trade their product for something they already had. In order to be exchanged, two commodities must have different uses to satisfy different wants. At the same time, they must on some level be equivalent: they must possess equal value, otherwise there would be no basis for each person to voluntarily give up their product for someone else’s. The great discovery of Karl Marx was that the basis for this equivalence is that all commodities are the product of labour, labour in the most abstract and general sense.

Go to an economics lecture at a university and you may learn that people exchange things solely because they have different uses. But why not just get it yourself? The answer is that it has to be produced: it takes work to acquire it. A slightly more sophisticated version of the same bourgeois argument is that you can’t get it yourself because it is scarce. That reflects a certain truth. However, it is a rigid, static view of the truth that is conditioned by the values of the bourgeoisie, which is an idle class. Anyone who works readily understands that all commodities are scarce until they are brought into existence by labour.

It has never been the case that people have produced commodities on a level playing field. Capitalism did not begin with a clean slate, but was built up on the previously existing systems of feudalism and slavery. Large sections of the ruling classes of these societies capitalized their wealth, whereas the slaves remained dispossessed and the peasants were often brutally robbed of what little they had. Through market competition, the larger, more efficient producers drove the smaller, weaker ones out of business, bought out their capital and conquered their share of the market. Those who were amassing the wealth became capitalists—the bourgeoisie. Those who had nothing left to sell but their own sweat and blood were the workers—the proletariat.

It’s often said that workers sell their labour. In fact, they are not permitted to do even that. The prerequisites for labour in an industrial society—machines and factories, the core of which can be scientifically termed the means of production—belong to the capitalist. The worker cannot work without first receiving permission from the capitalist. What the worker actually sells is therefore not his labour, but rather his potential to labour. That is what Marxists call labour power.

Labour power is bought, sold and consumed. It is a commodity, but there is something peculiar about it. The price of any commodity is based roughly on its value, or the amount of labour necessary for its reproduction. What is the value of labour power? The cost of reproducing the ability of the worker to perform his labour. That consists of food, shelter, clothing, some means of relaxation and of acquiring the skills necessary for doing the job. And finally, enough to support a family so that the working class can continue to exist from one generation to the next.

Taken together, the labour required for these measures constitutes the value of labour power. The gist of capitalist exploitation is that the proletariat generates far more value than is required for the production and reproduction of its labour power. In other words, the peculiarity of the commodity of labour power, its unique attribute, is that it is a source of value. The difference between the total value the worker adds to the product and the value of labour power is called surplus value. Exactly how much of the total value goes to the capitalist and how much goes back to the labourer? This is determined by living factors, by a contest of forces—in other words, by the class struggle.

Take Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Their operation in Indonesia faced a strike last July. Reuters news agency, which is anything but Marxist, made the following calculation: the workers’ wages were $1.50 an hour, the price of gold, $1,500 an ounce; therefore, the gold output lost during the eight-day strike could have covered three times the workers’ annual wages.

To begin to determine the rate of exploitation of these miners—otherwise known as the rate of surplus value—you would need to know the value of the machinery and fuel used up during production and subtract it from the total product. Otherwise, you could not verify the total amount of value the workers add to the product through their labour. However, the fact stands that these gold mines yield 137 times the workers’ annual wages each year, and Indonesian mines are not famous for being high-tech. Since based on our present knowledge we are confined to being somewhat less than scientific, let’s just say that someone is being taken advantage of here, and it’s not the capitalist.

There can be no fair division of the social product between the worker and the capitalist. As Trotsky explained: “The class struggle is nothing else than the struggle for surplus-product. He who owns surplus-product is master of the situation—owns wealth, owns the state, has the key to the church, to the courts, to the sciences and to the arts” (“Marxism in Our Time,” 1939). There can be no such thing as equality, fairness, freedom or democracy between the slaves and the slave masters.

Exploitation and Capitalist Crisis

So what are social classes? Lenin defined them as “large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently”—only consequently—“by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it” (“A Great Beginning,” 1919).

Social class does not derive from a state of mind, nor is it even fundamentally a question of the rich and the poor. For example, a skilled unionized worker in a modern factory in an imperialist country may under exceptional cases make over $100,000 per year. Yet because labour productivity is so high, his or her rate of exploitation is likely much higher than that of far more oppressed and impoverished labourers in a semicolonial country. Moreover, a unionized worker in the trades may make as much as or more than a yuppie supervisor in an office. Nevertheless, the worker still has an economic interest in overthrowing his capitalist exploiter, while the supervisor is an accessory to capitalist production and thus bound to it materially and, you could say, spiritually.

Just about anyone can criticize capitalism from the standpoint of reason or morality. Yet Marx criticized capitalism from the standpoint of maximizing labour productivity, which is generally promoted by capitalism’s ideological defenders as its strong point. Marx proved that capitalist production increasingly puts the brakes on historical development, at the same time as it creates its own gravedigger, the proletariat.

Day in and day out, the proletariat continues to produce. It cannot use its own labour to get ahead as a class, because it is only paid what is necessary to allow it to continue producing. Everything necessary to get ahead goes to the capitalists. As Marx put it: “If the silk worm were to spin in order to continue its existence as a caterpillar, it would be a complete wage-worker.”

As capitalism develops, the bourgeoisie amasses more and more capital. Technology advances. Machinery becomes more and more sophisticated and extensive and labour productivity rises. The capitalist devotes an increasingly large ratio of his wealth toward acquiring machinery, and a correspondingly declining ratio toward employing workers. In Marx’s words, the organic composition of capital increases. The effect of this is contradictory. On one hand, the rate of exploitation increases. On the other hand, the rate of profit decreases. That’s the dilemma the capitalist faces. Even if he ratchets up the rate of exploitation, the rate of profit still tends to go down. That is why the capitalist has no future. Let’s take a closer look.

Say you’ve got your engineering degree and you’re looking for a job in your field. Off you go to the Celestica factory at Don Mills and Eglinton to pave the information superhighway, one transistor at a time, for $11.75 an hour on six-month contracts with no benefits. (And your boss can call you a few hours before your shift starts to tell you to stay home without pay.)

So there you are with your co-workers paving the information superhighway with these transistors; array enough together in the right way and you get a flip-flop, an edifice of the binary logic used on a grand scale in computers. It’s nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds in Wired magazine or those trendy post-Marxist academic seminars. Away you work. Eventually, the company replaces the soldering irons that each of you uses with a wave solder machine. A chunk of your co-workers gets laid off. You’re producing way more circuit boards than before, only your wage is the same. Since most of your friends were laid off, the company’s spending on wages has gone way down. The rate of exploitation overall has increased astronomically. Good times for the capitalist, right? Not so fast.

At first, the company will have an advantage over its competitors. Soon, however, that new machinery will become the standard across the industry. Even though the rate of exploitation has gone up, the rate of profit will go down. It all comes back to labour being the sole source of value. One capitalist can sell another capitalist a machine, but that exchange does not increase the total amount of value in the economy. The value just changes hands. It’s only once the capitalist purchases labour power, and consumes it by having the worker do his job, that any new value is added to the economy. The lower the ratio of the capitalist’s wealth that is spent on wage labour, the lower is the ratio of surplus value to his total expenses. More and more of his wealth gets tied up in replacing and maintaining machinery—what Marx evocatively termed “dead labour.”

As I said, the rate of exploitation is going up, but the rate of profit is going down. The capitalist does not resign himself to that fate peacefully, however. He panics and slashes wages like a madman, doing whatever he can to transfer the burden of his decaying system onto the backs of the people he exploits. When that capitalist can no longer produce at a competitive rate of profit, he simply ceases to produce. He throws his workers onto the street. Like Malcolm X said of the slave master, he worked them like dogs and dropped them in the mud. Production is in chaos. The empty factories rust.

Once the slave escapes his master, he is no longer a slave; once the serf gets his plot of land, he is no longer a serf. But even after the proletarian punches his time card for the final time and quits (or loses) his job, he remains a proletarian. The modern slave, the wage slave, is slave to the entire capitalist class. The proletariat cannot escape this exploiting class but must overthrow it in its entirety, worldwide, and in so doing liberate everyone who is oppressed by capitalism.

For a Revolutionary Workers Party!

What has been placed on the agenda is proletarian revolution, even if this seems far off today. We look above all to the legacy of the Russian Revolution. As Trotsky noted about the early years of the Soviet Union:

“Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earth’s surface—not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement and electricity. Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of its leadership, were to collapse—which we firmly hope will not happen—there would remain as an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than ten years successes unexampled in history.”

—The Revolution Betrayed (1936)

We Trotskyists fought against the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR, and against its final counterrevolutionary collapse in 1991-92. Nevertheless, that collapse did occur, and the ideologues of the bourgeoisie have done everything they can to bury the lessons of the October Revolution, which remains our model.

The key political instrument for victory is the revolutionary vanguard party as developed by Lenin. Trotsky explained: “The class, taken by itself, is only material for exploitation. The proletariat assumes an independent role only at that moment when from a social class in itself it becomes a political class for itself. This cannot take place otherwise than through the medium of a party. The party is that historical organ by means of which the class becomes class conscious” (“What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat,” 1932). We seek to win the working class, starting with its most advanced layers, to understand the necessity of sweeping away capitalist rule and establishing what Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the only road to communism, a global high-tech society of material abundance where classes, the state and family no longer exist, and where thereby social inequality based on sex is eradicated and the social significance of race, nation and ethnicity abolished.

Where to get started? We come full circle to the question of what to do concretely in the here and now. We can now approach that question scientifically, from the standpoint of the historic interest of the proletariat as a class. We can avoid the pitfall of do-gooder moralism, of becoming, as Lenin warned, “the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics,” whether in the form of right-wing religious demagogy or social-democratic opportunism.

The class consciousness of the proletariat and its will to struggle have been greatly undermined by the social-democratic misleadership of the labour movement, exemplified by the New Democratic Party. Three years ago, the now-deceased NDP leader Jack Layton—who, unlike the reformist left, we do not eulogize—called on workers to have the “courage” to “take a pay cut so your friends at the plant can keep their job.” This is one of many reasons why we said “No vote to the NDP” in the May federal election, and we say so again for the upcoming Ontario election.

The NDP is based not merely on a bad set of ideas. It is rooted materially in the trade-union bureaucracy of English Canada. That bureaucracy expresses the interests of a stratum of the working class that Marxists term the labour aristocracy. Where does the labour aristocracy come from? It lives off scraps from the superprofits the capitalists in imperialist countries tear out of the semicolonial countries. Thus, to Marxists, it was no surprise that the NDP voted with both hands for NATO’s war on Libya. The NDP is what Marx’s close collaborator Friedrich Engels called a bourgeois workers party: it may be linked to the organizations of the working class, but it is thoroughly pro-capitalist in its leadership and outlook.

What is needed is something completely different: a class-struggle workers party that understands that the interests of the capitalists and the workers have nothing in common. Such a party would be, in Lenin’s words, a tribune of the people, which understands that the working class can only emancipate itself by ultimately abolishing all forms of oppression.

A revolutionary workers party would intervene into the class struggle as the most historically conscious and advanced element of the proletariat. It would advocate Quebec independence to oppose the dominant Anglo chauvinism and get the stifling national question off the agenda, making way for a higher level of class struggle. It would champion free abortion on demand and fight for the perspective of women’s liberation through socialist revolution, including among the more backward layers of the proletariat. To combat mass unemployment, it would demand the sharing of available work, with no loss of pay, and a massive program of public works.

To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the capitalist owners and the swindles of the banks, a class-struggle workers party would demand that the capitalists open their books. Raising the call for the expropriation of branches of industry vital for national existence, it would explain that this must be linked to the fight for the seizure of power by the working class, as against the reformist misleaders for whom the call for nationalization is merely a prescription for bailing out bankrupt capitalist enterprises. As Trotsky argued in opposition to the capitalists and their reformist agents in the Transitional Program (1938):

“If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. ‘Realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’ is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

That is the task to which we of the Trotskyist League and the Spartacus Youth Clubs are dedicated. In the trough of the reactionary political period following the destruction of the Soviet Union, it’s a task with few immediate rewards. But let’s be sober and scientific about this—there is an overhead to historical progress. And on the grounds of that necessity, we urge you to join us in that struggle.

On The 150th Anniversary Of Marx's "Das Capital"(1867)-From The Histologion Website- Karl Marx on Public Debt

On The 150th Anniversary Of Marx's "Das Capital"(1867)-From The Histologion Website- Karl Marx on Public Debt

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Karl Marx on public debt

Karl Marx: Economic Manuscripts: Capital Vol. I - Chapter Thirty-One: 

...The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possessions of modern peoples is their national debt. Hence, as a necessary consequence, the modern doctrine that a nation becomes the richer the more deeply it is in debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital. And with the rise of national debt-making, want of faith in the national debt takes the place of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which may not be forgiven.

The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, it endows barren money with the power of breeding and thus turns it into capital, without the necessity of its exposing itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury. The state-creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bonds, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands just as so much hard cash would. But further, apart from the class of lazy annuitants thus created, and from the improvised wealth of the financiers, middlemen between the government and the nation-as also apart from the tax-farmers, merchants, private manufacturers, to whom a good part of every national loan renders the service of a capital fallen from heaven-the national debt has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to agiotage, in a word to stock-exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.

On The 150th Anniversary Of Marx's "Das Capital"(1867)-Economic Crisis: Karl Marx Was Right-Guest Commentary

On The 150th Anniversary Of Marx's "Das Capital"(1867)-Economic Crisis: Karl Marx Was Right-Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

Workers Vanguard No. 937
22 May 2009

New Spartacist Pamphlet

Economic Crisis: Karl Marx Was Right

We reprint below the introduction to the just-released Spartacist pamphlet, Capitalist Anarchy and the Immiseration of the Working Class.

The anarchy and brutality of the capitalist system has been revealed again in a global economic crisis, which threatens to reach the proportions of the Great Depression. As millions are thrown out of work, as massive numbers of foreclosures throw people out of their homes, as hunger stalks the poor, black people and other minorities, the sick and vulnerable, the U.S. has seen a bitter winter of deprivation. The impact of this crisis extends far beyond the U.S., threatening the lives and livelihoods of the working class and oppressed internationally. It is left to revolutionary Marxists both to explain the roots of the current crisis and to provide the program necessary to put an end to this barbaric, irrational system through the emancipation of the proletariat and establishment of its class rule, thus laying the basis for the construction of a socialist planned economy as a transition to a classless, egalitarian and harmonious society on a global scale. That is the purpose of this pamphlet, composed of articles previously published in Workers Vanguard.

Leon Trotsky’s The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (also known as the Transitional Program), adopted as the basic programmatic document of the founding conference of the Fourth International in September 1938, is particularly relevant and urgent today. The political situation of the late 1930s and that of the post-Soviet world in which we live today are quite different, to be sure. But Trotsky’s declaration that “under the conditions of disintegrating capitalism, the masses continue to live the impoverished life of the oppressed, threatened now more than at any other time with the danger of being cast into the pit of pauperism” could have been written about conditions in Detroit and elsewhere today. The same is the case with the call in the Transitional Program that: “The Fourth International declares uncompromising war on the politics of the capitalists, which to a considerable degree, like the politics of their agents, the reformists, aims to place the whole burden of militarism, the crises, the disorganization of the monetary system, and all other scourges stemming from capitalism’s death agony upon the backs of the toilers. The Fourth International demands employment and decent living conditions for all” (emphasis in original). Such transitional demands, as Trotsky wrote, stemmed “from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class” and unalterably led “to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.”

Against the tried and failed stratagems pushed by liberals and fake socialists—from the Keynesian project of “benevolent” intervention by the capitalist state to the British Labour Party’s bourgeois nationalizations in the post-World War II period—we Marxists understand that no amount of tinkering with the existing system can wrench it into serving the needs of the proletariat and the oppressed. The 1997-98 Workers Vanguard series “Wall Street and the War Against Labor,” reprinted here, takes this up in the U.S. context. It also deals with the labor movement in the U.S. and the roots of its historic economic militancy and political backwardness—a backwardness due not least to the continuing oppression of black people as a race-color caste, integrated into the industrial proletariat but at the same time forcibly segregated at the bottom of society.

The more recent articles reprinted in this pamphlet put forward our revolutionary program against those who purvey illusions in the Democratic Party and its current Obama administration as well as for class-struggle opposition to the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy. Part and parcel of such a struggle is a fight against nationalist, chauvinist protectionism, anti-immigrant racism and the anti-Communist poison spread by the union tops against those states where capitalism has been overthrown, centrally China but also the other deformed workers states of North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam. Our program is that of unconditional military defense of those states against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution and for proletarian political revolution to replace the nationalist bureaucratic regimes that undermine their defense. Our model remains that of the victorious October Revolution of 1917 led by Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party. For class against class! For new October Revolutions

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars-Some Books Of Interest

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars-Some Books Of Interest