Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Lives Matter-The Late Class-War Prisoner Mondo we Langa's -"When It Gets To This Point"

Black Lives Matter-The Late Class-War Prisoner  Mondo we Langa's -"When It Gets To This Point"

Workers Vanguard No. 1086

25 March 2016
“When It Gets to This Point”

by Mondo we Langa

Michael Brown?
I had never heard of him
had never heard of anything he’d done
before the news of his death came
whoever he might have become
whatever he might have achieved
had he lived longer
not been riddled lifeless by
bullets from Darren Wilson’s gun
and crumpled on the pavement of a ferguson street
for more than four hours in
the heat of that august day
and before
I’d never heard of Trayvon Martin
had known nothing of who he was
until I learned of his demise
and cause of death
a bullet to the chest
George Zimmerman, the shooter
a badge-less, pretend police
with a pistol
and fear of the darkness
Trayvon’s darkness
and after a while
the pictures, the names,
the circumstances
run together
like so much colored laundry in the wash
that bleeds on whites

was it Eric Garner or Tamir Rice
who was twelve but seen as twenty
Hulk Hogan or The Hulk
with demonic eyes it was said
who shrank the cop in ferguson
into a five-year-old who
had to shoot
just had to shoot
and John Crawford the third
in a walmart store aisle
and air rifle in his hands he’d pick up
from the shelf
and held in the open
in an open-carry state
was it John or someone else
killed supposedly by mistake
in a dark stairwell
I know Akai Gurley fell
I hadn’t heard of him before
nor of Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell
prior to their killings
which of these two took slugs in the greater number
I don’t recall
my mind is too encumbered
with the names
of so many more before and since
the frequent news reports of
non-arrests, non-indictments,
non-true bills
and duplicitous presentations by “experts in the field”
the consultants put out front
to explain away
that which is so often plain as day
to coax and convince us that we’re the ones
who can’t see straight and
can’t hear clearly
who are the ones replacing facts with spin
to mislead and mystify
as the beatings and the chokings and shootings
of our boys and men
by these wrong arms of the law
proceed in orderly fashion
before the sometimes sad
sometimes angry faces of
our uncertain
our hesitant

Out In The Black Liberation Night- The Black Panthers And The Struggle For The Ten-Point Program- Two- A Job Of One’s Own

Out In The Black Liberation Night- The Black Panthers And The Struggle For The Ten-Point Program- Two- A Job Of One’s Own  

Two- A Job Of One’s Own  

Leon Coleman was worried, worried sick, when he heard rumors that due to the world oil situation, whatever that was, although as a practical matter he knew that meant higher gas prices at the pump and more shell out for ways to get around, get around in cars, the main way, including him, people got around in America.  The reason that Leon Coleman was worried, and rightly so, was that the world oil situation would determine whether he had a job or not, at least a good-paying union wage job or not. Whether people would still buy new cars every few years. See Leon worked the line, the assembly line, over at Dodge Main in Detroit (really Hamtramck, over in Polack town) yes, that famous Dodge Main from a few years back, around 1971, when some brothers, some righteous black brothers mainly, closed the place down over some cracker foreman’s racist slurs and stuff like hiring brothers in the skilled trades jobs to get them the hell off of the damn assembly line. And he had reason to worry as well because he had just come off of a short lay-off  about eight months back and since he was as they say “last hired”  (having only worked at the plant a couple of years altogether) he would again be among the “first fired.” An old story, an old black story as far as he knew but he didn’t have anything in particular to back that view up since most of his people had  come north from Mississippi a while back and they had always had plenty, too plenty, of back-breaking hot sun work to do on some Mister’s plantation. At least he never had to suffer that fate, tough as the line was, tough as it was when they kept speeding the damn thing up.  

All Leon Coleman knew was it was tough to be a black man, a young black man, trying to make something of himself. Maybe just being a man was tough, especially a man with family and a woman with wanting habits, he wouldn’t argue that, but the way the deal went down when things went wrong, anything from the world oil situation to get kicked off the job first a black man had a burden. Yah, the damn thing was stacked against a black man. Hell, he could understand why those brothers said enough a few years back (although as a “new hire” right after that time he was told to, and did, stay clear of any revolutionary brother stuff) and argued that the way workers were hired and fired (okay, laid-off but it felt like being fired) had to be changed, that black men (and women too since they were starting to hire more woman for some quota thing) should not have to be the “fall guy.” And just that minute he could see where they were right back then, although little good it would do him.       

Little good too it would do him with wifey, Alberta, sweet Alberta with her child-wanting ways, harping on him about starting a family. Jesus, lord. As he thought about what loomed ahead he thought back to the days before he got his first serious job at the auto plant (before then for real jobs as a teenager he had worked in a low-rent car wash and flipped a few burgers at different places but mainly he didn’t work) when he was “running the streets” with his corner boys, stealing stuff, midnight stealing stuff, a couple of armed robberies (never picked up for) and at the end, dealing dope (and sniffing to, bad stuff, dealing and sniffing too, because you take too many chances when you are dope-addled), dealing dope to high heaven (and picking up a couple of arrests in the pursuit). It was the last arrest, the last arrest when they were going to step him off for a few years at state prison that his mother (father, Leon too, long gone, a Mississippi rolling stone, whereabouts unknown) stepped in, made some connection with a union rep relative to get the auto job, made a deal with the judge, and he walked, as long as he kept clean. And he had, and Alberta, whatever her wanting ways, had made sure of that, after they had met at some whiskey joint out on Six Mile Road. So he harnessed himself to the work, kept straight during that lay-off time and grabbed all the overtime he could when he got back. He just wished it wasn’t so tough being a black man, a young black man, and that he had a job that he could call his own …                

The original "Ten Point Program" from October, 1966 was as follows:[39][40]

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.

We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.

2. We want full employment for our people.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black Community.

We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50 million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.

4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.

We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

We believe that black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.

We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.

8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.

We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.

9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the black community.

10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

American Slavery, The Civil War And Reconstruction- A Few Notes- A Guest Commentary

American Slavery, The Civil War And Reconstruction- A Few Notes- A Guest Commentary

February Is Black History Month

American Slavery, The Civil War And Reconstruction, Part II from Young Spartacus, March 1980.

Part Two of Two

The following article is the conclusion of a two-part series based on a transcription of an educational on American slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction given in the Detroit SYL local committee by Brian Manning. The period of the Civil War and Reconstruction is crucial to understand because it provides the backdrop for the formation of class relations, the development of the Democratic and Republican parties, the twin parties of capitalism, and the development of race relations as they exist today.

Part One covered the period from the American revolution to 1860, the beginning of the Civil War. It discussed the rise of American slavery and the conflict between northern industrial capitalism and the anachronistic mode of production of the slave plantations of the old South; the nature and scope of the slave revolts particularly in comparison to those of the Caribbean; the development of the abolitionist move¬ment; and the events which sparked the South's secession.

Part Two covers the period of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. It discusses the role of blacks in the war, the establishment of the Reconstruction governments, the institution of the black codes and the systematic terror against black freedmen in the aftermath of the war, blacks and the early labor movement, and the reversal of the gains of Reconstruction. The transcription has been minimally edited to preserve the character of the original presentation.

Back issues of Young Spartacus No. 78 containing Part One of "Slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction" are available and may be obtained for 25 cents from: Spartacus Youth Publishing Co., Box 825, Canal Street Station, New York, N. Y. 10013

According to Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War was started as a war to save the Union. But everybody, particularly the slaves, knew that it was a war to free the slaves. There's a little story in Rehearsal for Reconstruction by Willie Lee Rose about Port Royal in the Sea Islands of North Carolina between Charleston and Savannah right off the coast. It was one of the first places liberated by the North because the South never had a navy; the slave owners just fled back to the mainland. An ex-slave 75 years later related the story of the day the Yankees came. He was tugging on his mother's skirts as the ships were coming in, and they were firing on Port Royal. He said, "Mommy, listen—there's thunder." And his mother explained crisply, "Son, dat ain't no t'under, dat Yankee come to gib you Freedom." They knew. The Union army couldn't keep the black slaves from flocking to its lines, even when it persisted in saying that it wasn't going to liberate them. Officially, slaves were still the property of the slave owners.

Blacks in Union Blue

Lincoln held off as long as he could on the slavery question. Finally, in 1862 he saw that the Union wasn't winning the war and was having more and more trouble getting an army together. The North hadn't instituted a draft and was enlisting people for just three months at a time, so that after fighting one battle the soldiers would go home and plough their fields. Lincoln needed some help. Meanwhile the blacks in the South were pretty quiescent, except when the Union army was near. The slaves were continuing to produce the goods and agricultural products needed for the Confederacy. So Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation which wasn't even a real emancipation. All it said was that all slaves in the areas not currently under the control of the Union army were hereby free. What about the slaves in the areas the Union did control? The Union army still didn't know what to do with all the refugees. It started using them as laborers. First blacks were given lower pay, and the army would only send them on picket duty in the garrisons along the southern coast where there was a lot of yellow fever. Finally they were integrated into the army in fighting regiments. By the end of the war there were 200,000 blacks under arms, approximately a fifth to a quarter of the Union army.

When they saw what the Union was doing, the Confederates figured they would try the same thing. They offered freedom after the war to anyone who enlisted in the Confederate army. They were not very successful because, as one perceptive southern gentleman put it, "Why should the slaves join us and have a chance at freedom, when all they have to do is walk across to the Union lines, and they're automatically free?"

The blacks fought well, which surprised a lot of people who still thought that they had tails. Proportionally they were in the Union army in greater numbers than were the northern whites. I'm sure that the black soldiers in the Union blue deeply threatened the slave owners. They certainly didn't like to see black soldiers marching through Charleston, the seat of the South and its biggest and most civilized city. It was a black regiment raised in Massachusetts by Garrison and Douglass which took the lead of the army, singing "John Brown's Body" as it marched through Charleston after the Confederate withdrawal.

Free At Last... But Destitute

The situation of the black freedmen after the war was really bad. Destitute
and landless, in desperate poverty, they were uneducated of course, but they were to a large extent skilled. It was the blacks who had built the South before the war. The slave owners would teach their slaves how to blacksmith or how to be mechanics rather than pay outside white labor, so there were far more skilled blacks than whites. For example, Philip Foner estimates that there were two black blacksmiths for every white one in Mississippi; and six Negro mechanics for every white one in North Carolina. But after the war there was terrible disorder and dislocation in the South. One of the things that all travelers in the immediate post-war period commented on was the masses of blacks wandering aimlessly around the roads of the South, real poor, in rags. There had been a number of attempts to give blacks land. When the slaves were freed on Port Royal, a number of blacks were able to work for wages and work their own land. Jefferson Davis' plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi was also one of the places liberated relatively soon—by U.S. Grant, in fact. The blacks had land and worked it for a while. When Sherman marched to the sea through Georgia, he had a terrible problem with all the liberated slaves following the army eating food, so he decided to give them 40 acres for the duration.

Generally, this is not what happened after the war. Blacks were either working on the plantations in much the same conditions or they were wandering around. Lincoln never had a thoroughgoing plan for Reconstruction. All he wanted to do was to save the Union. Perhaps if he had lived longer, his mystique as the Great Emancipator would have been smashed. His basic attitude toward blacks can be illustrated by a famous quote from the Lincoln-Douglass debates: "On the question of the negro, I don't regard him as an equal, never have and never will. I don't think he can be taught," etc., etc. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation his plan was to gradually free the slaves so that by 1900, blacks would be free throughout the South. By 1900! Those who were emancipated he wanted to colonize in Africa. He didn't live to try to institute his plan.
Andrew Johnson came in as president after Lincoln's assassination with a seeming determination to bust the planter aristocracy. Johnson was a poor white from Tennessee, and he always hated the planter aristocracy. His main objection to slavery was that only a few privileged whites got to enjoy the fruits of it. He wanted to strengthen and establish the position of a white American yeomanry in the South. His plan was to let the Confederates take an amnesty oath with some exceptions, and the state governments would be restored. He said nothing about blacks, nothing about emancipation. At first, in order to vote, any person who owned $25,000 worth of property or more couldn't simply take an amnesty oath, but needed a personal pardon from the president. So of course all the planter aristocracy came up to Johnson, flocked to him, flattered him and sweet-talked him, so that eventually he became its tool.

The Black Codes and the Rise of Racist Terror

Meanwhile, the blacks in the South were kept in a subordinate position with the institution of the black codes. These codes prohibited blacks from bearing arms; blacks couldn't sell produce without evidence that it wasn't stolen; there was a poll tax placed on all blacks; any white could arrest any black upon viewing a misdemeanor by aforesaid black; the right to buy land was limited in both amount and location, i.e., the whites got all the good land and the blacks didn't get any. There were numerous vagrancy apprenticeship laws, so that a black had to make a contract with a landowner within the first ten days of January, and was bound for a year to work for him. If he didn't, then he was a vagrant and was fined, imprisoned and probably sent to work on the plantation of that very same landowner. A black had to have a pass to go anywhere, and the wage system was only nominal. White people were prevented from associating with blacks on terms of equality, but blacks could finally get legaUy married. All this was an attempt by the slavocracy to main¬tain its power while legally abolishing slavery, but still using the same system of gang labor on the plantations.
Blacks didn't take this entirely sitting down. There were "colored conventions" throughout the South to protest this treatment. In a number of cities the upper layer of blacks—the skilled workers and the professionals—would participate in these colored conventions. On the one hand the slavocracy was instituting the black codes, but on the other hand there were 200,000 blacks who had been in the army, a number of whom hadn't been demobilized. There was a desire among the freedmen to take over the land, with the tacit consent of these black troops. But that never really got off the ground. It was at this time, around the winter of 1865 to 1866, that if the Radicals had had power, the blacks might have had a chance to get the land. The Confeder¬ates had definitely been militarily defeated.

I wanted to read you a graphic passage out of DuBois' Black Reconstruction which describes a convention in New Orleans and how it was broken up by the Klansmen. It was a state convention to determine whether blacks would get the vote. A lot of blacks were in attendance:

"Most of the leaders in this movement stayed away from the opening, and in fact only a small number of members accepted the call; but Monroe, also chief of a secret society known as "The Southern Cross," armed his police and the mob, who wore white handkerchiefs on their necks.

A signal shot was fired, and the mob deployed across the head of Dryades Street, moved upon the State House, and shot down the people who were in the hall.

The Reverend Dr. Morton waving a white handkerchief, cried to the police: 'Gentlemen, I beseech you to stop firing; we are non-combatants. If you want to arrest us, make any arrest you please, we are not prepared to defend our¬selves.' Some of the police, it is claimed, replied, 'We don't want any prisoners; .'you have all got to die.' Dr. Morton was shot and fell, mortally wounded. Dr. Dostie who was an object of special animosity on account of his inflammatory addresses was a marked victim. Shot through the spine, and with a sword thrust through his stomach, he died a few days later. There were about one hundred and fifty persons in the hall, mostly Negroes. Seizing chairs, they beat back the police three times, and barred the doors. But the police returned to the attack, firing their revolvers as they came. Some of the Negroes returned the fire, but most of them leaped from the windows in wild panic. In some cases they were shot as they came down or as they scrambled over the fence at the bottom. The only member of the convention, however, that was killed was a certain John Henderson. Some say six or seven hundred shots were fired. Negroes were pursued, and in some cases were killed on the streets. One of them, two miles from the scene, was taken from his shop and wounded in his side, hip, and back. The dead and wounded were piled upon drays and carried. Some say forty-eight were killed—".

That was New Orleans in 1865, and here was another big riot up in Memphis. The black codes didn't go over too big with the northerners, either. They didn't like the idea that they had just fought a war to end slavery and break the power of the slavocracy, and yet the condition of blacks seemed almost unchanged. So for example, the Chicago Tribune, that bastion of radi¬calism during Reconstruction, warned upon the enactment of the black codes in Mississippi that the North would "convert Mississippi into a frog-pond before permitting slavery to be reestablished." That kind of militant sentiment on the part of the northerners was omnipresent. Also, they didn't like the political power that the South was going to get in Washington. If their governments were readmitted, the South would actually have more power than it had before the Civil War, when the basis of representation for blacks was three-fifths. Now that blacks were going to be citizens, every black counted as a whole person. Since blacks weren't being allowed to vote under the black codes, the planter aristocracy would have that much more political power, and the Republicans would lose in any national elections. Other issues were that the North did not want to pay the debts incurred by the southern governments during the Civil War, nor did it want to pay the Confederate pensioners. By and large, northerners did not like the fact that the Johnson governments in the South had introduced a whole system of discrimination, segregation and disenfranchisement, and they were willing to fight it.

The southern whites weren't reconciled to the status of blacks as freedmen, and they fought tooth and nail to drive them back onto the plantations and forcibly suppress them as at best second-class citizens. At this time, 1865, the Klan was formed in Tennessee. Bands of ex-Confederates roamed around at will murdering, beating and intimidating. There were also people called the "regulators," like Marlon Brando in "Missouri Breaks." He was a regulator and a pretty rotten character in the movie, but these regulators were even worse, with a real social purpose. They weren't just guns for hire. They were murderers of blacks in particular, and murderers of Republicans and Unionists. In Texas, for example, they were so bad that it led the military administrator of the state, General P. H. Sheridan, to comment that if he owned both hell and Texas, he would live in hell and rent out Texas.

The Rise and Fall of Reconstruction

Let me shift back to the North where the decisions about what was going on in the South were actually being made. That's the whole dynamic of Reconstruction. It was a revolution from above, determined by the Republicans in Washington, D.C., not by the freedmen in the South. The freedmen went along with the Republicans until it was too late.

So Washington, D.C. controlled what Reconstruction was going to look like in the end, and the Republicans controlled Washington, D.C. They had won a smashing victory in the 1864 presidential elections and still enjoyed almost total support from the northern electorate. The party itself was divided into three main camps: the conservative supporters of Johnson, the majority of the party who were moderates vacillat¬ing between support to Johnson or the Radicals, and the Radicals. The Radicals were committed to the enfranchise¬ment of blacks and believed in their equality, but while most formally recognized the primacy of the land question for black freedmen, little was done to actually redistribute the land. The Radical leaders were people like Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner and Wendell Phillips. They were all radicals from way back, and Charles Sumner was actually caned to within an inch of his life on the Senate floor by a southern senator for his political views. The Republican Party was pretty timid except for these few isolated Radicals. It was lucky that the Radicals were able to push through the Reconstruction Acts at a time when the party was divided and threatened by the slavocracy in the South.

It was the moderates who held the real balance of power in the Republican Party, and only the ability of Stevens, Sumner and Phillips to get these moderates on their side for a while enabled Reconstruction to go forward at all. The Radicals made a number of attempts to get Johnson to change, and not succeeding there, they eventually impeached him. The whole dynamic was that Congress would pass some bill enacting civil rights or the vote for blacks, and Johnson would veto it, thumbing his nose at Congress, and they would override his veto. For example, the Fourteenth Amendment, which gave blacks citizenship and implicitly the right to vote, was ratified by the Radical Unionist government in Tennessee, the first southern government to be re-admitted to the Union. The governor of Tennessee sent his message to Congress saying that it has been a great victory and the Fourteenth Amendment has been ratified, and by the way, give my regards to that dead dog in the White House. Essentially, the impeachment was a frame-up on charges of bureaucratic shuffling. But Johnson's policy toward the South was the real issue, and the impeachment failed by one vote.

In 1867, over Johnson's veto, the Reconstruction Act was passed, separating the South into five military districts, giving universal suffrage to blacks and calling for state conventions in order to write up new state constitutions. Everybody had to take an oath of allegiance, and each state convention had to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before the state would be re-admitted to the Union. Also the Freedmen's Bureau, which had been in existence since 1865, became a real force in the South; it was a bureau for establishing schools and giving aid to refugees. On the whole, the South got off easy. What conquered nation has ever gotten off as easy as the South did after the Civil War? There were 2,000 troops in each state, and essentially all they did was guard the state house. They weren't out on the bayous and the plantations protecting blacks.

After the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the blacks were a landless but voting mass. They had to fight even to keep the vote. They were dependent on the small Union army forces which by and large looked on benignly whenever anything happened. The Reconstruction governments them¬selves, although charged with all sorts of corruption and high taxation, were in fact governments with a large black component, which did things like establish the first school system the South had ever seen. They were small and moderately effective governments. But only the land would have given blacks the social basis for the protection of their rights. Land and arms. The Republicans weren't enthusiastic about fighting for that. Confiscation of land— private property—came too close to home for all the freeholders in the North. The Radical Republicans how¬ever did fight for land. In the forefront of this was Thaddeus Stevens, an industrialist for Pennsylvania. He introduced a bill in Congress with the intention of giving land to blacks.

Meanwhile, the planters were moving toward controlling the black vote through the actions of the Klan and other groups. It was easy for them to do this: there's a poor little sharecropper who votes Republican, and his boss says, "I'm sorry, I don't want you voting Republican, so get off my land." There were big campaigns of intimidation. For example, DuBois mentions a parish in Louisiana where in an election in the spring, something like 17,000 people voted Republican, and all throughout the spring and summer there was a campaign of intimidation, murder and terror, so that by the fall, two people voted Republican. That went on throughout the South.

The economic power of the planters provided the basis for the development of the race/color caste of blacks. With no land and no vote, it was clear that blacks weren't going to be integrated as equals into American society. The poor whites feared the blacks being raised to the level of social equals, and so they did the planters' dirty work. They were the ones in the Klan. They were the ones wno drove the blacks out of the cities, out of the skilled trades and back into the fields. At the same time a different system of labor was developed. After the slavocracy was politically defeated through Reconstruction, the plantations were broken up. Gang labor no longer existed as it had under slavery, but the new sharecropping system, a system of virtual peonage, didn't mean that the living conditions of blacks was improved significantly.

The Republicans abandoned the blacks after Reconstruction because the interests of the northern industrialists jived more with the interests of the planters than the blacks. Any union between the Republican Party and blacks could only be uneasy after the Republican Party failed to give blacks land. The continued enfranchisement of blacks was no longer a condition for the success of the Republican Party. They had consolidated power. They had accomplished the triumph of the urban North. They had gotten their protective tariffs, their national banking system and their transcontinental railway, and the party was rent with divisions. They wanted to unify the party and make profits. The Radical Republicans were isolated and the blacks, the freedmen, were left holding the bag. By 1869, land reform was essentially a dead issue and the Freedmen's Bureau was winding up. Some Reconstruction governments had been overturned as early as 1869. The power of the Radicals was broken by 1870 through retirement, electoral defeats, death, etc. A large portion of the southern landholders came to accept black suffrage and some civil and political rights. They were able to control the vote anyway. Given the removal of Federal troops in 1877, they knew that they could control the blacks entirely.

In 1877, the contested election of Rutherford Hayes led to the withdrawal of the Union troops. Hayes was a Republican. The southern Democrats said, "We won't contest it, which would mean that you might lose, if you promise to pull out all your troops." That was the Compromise of 1877, the official end of Reconstruction, but it was dead long before that.

Blacks and the Early Labor Movement

Given the fact that the Republican Party did not give blacks land, it would seem logical for blacks to turn to labor at this time to fight for their rights. But the labor movement was just getting off the ground. It was not strong, and given the anti-black prejudice in the unions, the presence of blacks was not looked on kindly. There was a labor organization called the National Labor Union (NLU), formed right after the Civil War, which did not actually have an explicitly anti-black program, but it certainly did not go out of its way to organize blacks. It had segregated union locals and a prejudice in favor of skilled tradesmen and craftsmen. Even the Marxists, the American First Internationalists—even Fredrick Sorge—-did not speak up in favor of blacks or of land for blacks at the convention of the NLU. The perspective'of the NLU was that if it didn't organize blacks, they might scab, so it would organize them when it had to. One delegate from the Bricklayers summed up their attitude welk "If we don't organize him, he will work for anyone at any price."

There were also instances of white labor driving out black labor. Philip Foner in Blacks and Organized Labor mentions the Baltimore ship caulkers (they sealed seams in wooden ships) who were driven out of the labor force. The blacks got together, bought their own shipyard, formed their own union and worked in their own shipyard in Baltimore because they had been driven out of the industry by the whites.

The Colored National Labor Union (CNLU) was formed in 1869 from a split in the NLU. One of the main reasons for the split was that the NLU said that the workers shouldn't support the Demo¬crats or the Republicans because they were both the bosses' parties. The CNLU wanted to support the Republi¬cans. While the NLU was groping toward a break with the bourgeois parties, its policies on the race question were often backward. Not only did the NLU organize segregated unions but it failed to recognize the revolutionary side of Reconstruction. The CNLU remained loyal to the Republican Party as the party of Reconstruction. The CNLU organized both blacks and whites together, addressed the land question in the South, and also admitted Chinese labor, whereas the NLU op¬posed "coolie labor" on the West Coast.

The Knights of Labor (K of L), which made real inroads into the organization of blacks and whites, didn't hit the scene until the mid-1870s after Reconstruction had been defeated.On the whole, the Civil War and Reconstruction were a triumph for capitalism. It united for the first time the northern and southern propertied classes. It broke the back of the slavocracy and the plantations and recruited the southern workers as lackeys for the southern landowners. It established an industrial reserve army, which however was not needed until the beginning of the twentieth century. This industrial reserve army of sharecroppers and marginal workers, hillbillies, was consolidated in the South. Recon¬struction paved the way for black people like Booker T. Washington and his ilk: the shut-up-and-work school, where maybe a black man could make it if he avoided politics. That's how blacks were until the 1930s, until they got out of the South. Two societies existed, separate and unequal, black and white. At the same time the basis was laid for the integration of blacks into the political economy of the United States, albeit at the bottom, as a race-color caste. It was the failure of Reconstruction that really laid the groundwork for that caste system.

When Sun Records Blew The Lid Off Rock And Roll-With The Show “Million Dollar Quartet” In Mind

When Sun Records Blew The Lid Off Rock And Roll-With The Show “Million Dollar Quartet” In Mind  

By Sam Lowell

“You know they are right whoever said it sometimes a picture, a photograph, tells more than a thousand words, or you name the number of words,” Jack Callahan was telling his lady-friend, wife, and number one companion of forty-odd years, Chrissie (nee McNamara and so as Irish as her beau and husband), as they exited the side door of the Ogunquit Playhouse, the non-profit theater group up in the town of the same name up in Southern Maine which in the fall of 2016 had brought back by popular demand the hit show-The Million Dollar Quartet. (Although it is really a story for another day that forty-odd years started back in high school where Jack was the high-flying ace back for the Blue Devils and Chrissie, who had been smitten with him since junior high school, and he her, finally took matters into her own hands and planted herself smack dab in shy, socially backward Jack’s lap at Tonio’s Pizza Parlor one lonely Friday night and dared him to pull her off. They say in the town legend about that night it would have taken the whole football team to get Chrissie off his lap. Not to worry though the legend also goes on to state that it would have taken the whole football team and the water-boys thrown if somebody had tried to get her off Jack’s lap. Yeah, a story for another day though.)        

Jack’s photograph reference was to the now famous one of the key creators and interpreters of rock and roll, ouch, now called the classic age of rock and roll Elvis (no last name needed at least for anybody who knew anything at all about rock and roll and maybe just about music and maybe even know if you look at a recently issued United States postage stamp with the solo moniker on its face), Carl Perkins (who actually had first dibs of right on a song, Blue Suede Shoes, that Elvis blew everybody out of the water with but had been sidelined when the deal went down although he eventually made something of a hit of his own version when it was released), Johnny Cash (a name known as much for good old boy black-attired country and gospel-oriented music later but a serious rocker out of the blocks when he was starting out who travelled  with the previously mentioned artists as they wowed the young things in the backwaters of the South), and, Jerry Lee Lewis, in the end the most long-lived and perhaps if he could have as Jack’s grandfather put it, “kept his pecker in his pants” the most prolific of the lot. Certainly the way he was highlighted in the show, the way the actor who portrayed him did his bit, stole the damn show in fact there was much in that possibility. All four, had at various times been under contract to legendary Sun Records owner Sam Phillips and that photograph taken in the end of 1956 represented the only time all four were under one roof singing together. Beautiful.

Chrissie had had to laugh when she thought about how they had come to be in Ogunquit in the late fall, a time when she normally did not even want to think about north, north of their home in Hingham a town on the coast south of Boston. (And more frequently of late in winter not even that close to north as she kept hammering Jack, strictly a New England hearty type to get them a nice winter condo in Florida or California.) The hard fact was that Jack and Chrissie had had another of their periodic falling-outs and Jack had, in the interest of preserving the marriage, taken one of those periodic “sabbaticals” from Chrissie that had helped in the past to salvage their marriage. So Jack had taken a small off-season cottage in Ogunquit, a town he, they knew well for almost as long as they had been together having “summered” up there for many years.  (A standing joke between them making “summer” a verb since they had both grown up in Riverdale on the “wrong side of the tracks” in Irishtown and the only summering they had done was walking to Adamsville Beach some five or six miles away.) While he had been in “exile” he would frequently pass the Playhouse and notice the billboard how long the show was playing for. If Chrissie relented before the first week in November he was determined to take her to the show. As it turned out, as usual but nothing negative should be made of the idea, Chrissie had gotten lonely for her Jack and suggested that she would head north (a real sign that she was missing her guy) and stay with Jack before the end of October). Hence the conversation on Friday night as they exited that side door to reach their automobile for the short ride to Jack’s “exile” cottage.

Of course “luring” Chrissie to the show was a no-brainer since they both had grown up, had come of age during the second wave of the rise of rock and roll coming to smite down their parents Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee et al. music that they had been previously enslaved to without recourse. (Their respective older brothers and sisters were the first wave and they passed the torch on.) On any given Friday or Saturday night Jack Callahan, a legitimate high school football hero who would go on to be a good if not great college career, and his corner boys, everybody had corner boys in the old Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville, would hang around Tonio’s Pizza Parlor putting dimes and quarters into the jukebox to hear (and re-hear) the newest big rock hits.

(Although it is really a story for another day that forty-odd years started back in high school where Jack was the high-flying ace back for the Blue Devils and Chrissie, who had been smitten with him since junior high school, and he her, finally took matters into her own hands and planted herself smack dab in shy, socially backward Jack’s lap at Tonio’s Pizza Parlor one lonely Friday night and dared him to pull her off. They say in the town legend about that night it would have taken the whole football team to get Chrissie off his lap. Not to worry though the legend also goes on to state that it would have taken the whole football team and the water-boys thrown if somebody had tried to get her off Jack’s lap. Eventually, after Chrissie had gotten under Jack’s skin and had done something about it that one Friday night, a story in itself worthy of telling, she and Jack would spent those Friday and Saturday nights spinning tunes-and other stuff too. Yeah, a story for another day though. This is about rock and roll legends and not the hi-jinks of 1950s teenagers so we will move on.)

Back to the show though. They had had dinner at a local restaurant and then headed to the Playhouse a little early since neither in all the years they had collectively been going to Maine had set foot in the place. So they were thrilled when they saw the stage all festooned with the Sun Record label in bright lights and with the stage set up to be like Sam Phillips’ wreck of a low rent storefront recording studio. To top that off in the background rock and roll music was being played over the loudspeakers- Jack laughed (and sang along) when he heard Warren Smith doing his classic Rock and Roll Ruby followed by Jerry Lee’s Mona Lisa. Jack admitted and Chrissie would too at intermission that they were amped up, expected to be thrilled to hear a lot of the songs they had grown up with and hadn’t heard for a while. And they were not disappointed, no way.

Of course the core of the show was about the fabulous four (not to be confused with the other fabulous four the Beatles who had worshipped at the shrine of these older rockers over in Britain when the American teen audience was gravitating toward bubble-gum music). But there also was a sub-story line dealing with the hardships of a small record company promoting talent, promoting rock and roll talent, and in those days most of them were small and would be out of business without some kind of hit to keep them afloat. So the story line was as much about the trials and tribulations of Sam Phillips’ trying to keep his operation afloat-including the unfortunate selling of Elvis’ contract to big dog RCA for what in the end was chump change in order to keep above water-to keep his dream of creating rock legends alive.

The other tension was between the various performers and their desires to make the big time which at times did not coincide with what Sam was trying to. At the edge of the Phillips story though is what to do after Elvis got away, and Johnny and Carl wanted to sign with a bigger record company. And that is where grooming Jerry Lee came in, the next big thing that Phillips seemed to be able to draw to his little two-bit operation. Like Jack’s grandfather said if Jerry Lee could have just kept it in his pants once maybe he could have ruled the whole rock and roll universe. That was the way the story played here.  

Story-line or no story line (including an additional female singer, a girlfriend of Elvis’ who represented the seriously under told story of female singers in the early days of rock and roll) the show was about the songs that Jack and Chrissie came of age to from Elvis’ classics like Jailhouse Rock, that previously mentioned Blue Suede Shoes, and the amped up cover of black rhythm and blues guru Smiley Lewis’ One Night With You,  including those hips moving frantically to Carl’s great rockabilly guitar (he dubbed the “king of rockabilly” back then) to Johnny’s deep baritone. And the topping-the actor doing Jerry Lee’s role doing things with a piano (including blind-folded) that would seem impossible. Made the joint jump and made both of them wonder why they had been so enthralled and entranced by Elvis after the first couple of years when Jerry Lee had more energy in on fist than Elvis had in his whole body. (In preparation for a class reunion one time some classmate, Jack though it was probably Frank Jackman but they decided to let the instigator tab remain nameless, posted a comment, a provocative comment as it turned out on the class reunion website,  about who was the “max” daddy, that is the word the instigator used, Elvis or Jerry Lee. A cold civil war brewed up over that one with Jack taking Jerry Lee and Chrissie swooning over Elvis but after the show Chrissie said she probably had to rethink her position on that burning historical question.) What there was no question about, well let’s put it this way after that night Chrissie was seriously thinking about taking Jack back-again. Enough said.               


On The 50th Anniversary Of Tet- “What The Hell Are We Fighting For-Next Stop Is Vietnam”-Never Forgive, Never Forget” From The North Adamsville War Class of 1969- With Lynn Novack and Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” Documentary In Mind

On The 50th Anniversary Of Tet- “What The Hell Are We Fighting For-Next Stop Is Vietnam”-Never Forgive, Never Forget” From The North Adamsville Vietnam War Class of 1969- Novack-Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” Documentary

For “Mogie” Crocker and all the other brothers and sisters who laid down their heads in that goddam war. Never forget, never forgive-Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, and Allan Jackson-War Class of 1969  

By Sam Eaton

If 1967 was dominated by the Summer of Love (the 50th anniversary of which was commemorated last year mainly on the West Coast which was the central axis of the movement and which had a hell of a lot of space in this blog in 2017 since a goodly number of the older writers from North Adamsville were involved one way or another) then 1968 was the Year Of Tet, the year of war, real war for a lot of the same guys around our way who celebrated the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” cultural explosion of the previous year. You may wonder why I, Sam Eaton am writing this piece since usually in this space I do a little political commentary, mainly around war issues, books, and music and am not one of the guys listed in the epitaph. That answer is simple and two-fold. First, none of those North Adamsville guys after seeing the ten part Ken Burns/Lynn Novack series and the memories it stirred in them felt up to the task of actually writing about those old-time war experiences. (Even Frank Jackman who was in his own way part of the North Adamsville War Class of ’69, a soldier in the Army at that time but one who unlike them refused orders to Vietnam and served some serious time in an Army stockade which will be expanded upon below refused to write about his experiences.) Secondly, I too am a member of the War Class of ’69 although I came from Carver about forty miles south of North Adamsville and have unlike the other guys never mentioned that hard fact in the public prints. Hell most of the people I know do not know I was in Vietnam during that hellish war. In the Burns’ documentary very early on one of the “talking head” ex-Vietnam Marines mentioned that a very close friend of hers husband had been in Vietnam as well as her own husband but it was not until twelve years into their friendship that the even knew that mutual fact. So this is me coming out of the closet and so bear with me if I stumble a bit. (By the way my association with the North Adamsville guys happened a few years later after Vietnam when we were all way or another in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, VVAW, mostly in Boston with former Secretary of State John Kerry and later, and now too, with Veterans Peace Action, VPA)  

One of the big things that jogged my memories while watching the early parts of the documentary was how very similar the backgrounds and attitudes of the various “grunts,” the guys who fought the war on the ground, the mainly white working class and black and Hispanic (Latino if that is the preferred reference) whose stories were being told. How much of a true cross-section of the millions of men who went to that war I don’t know but the stories “spoke to me,” spoke of my own upbringing. Spoke too of a lot of the values and unquestioning subservience that we all were brought up in during that heinous Cold War red scare time. “Better dead that red,” “if your mommy is a commie turn her in” real slogans that expressed the underlying terms which we dealt with for anything that moved anywhere not 100 per cent pro-American “my country right or wrong” another key slogan, could be construed as pro-Soviet or pro-“Red Chinese’ an actual expression used to describe that country after the victory of Mao and his brethren.)

I will go into the very similar “life-styles” of the North Adamsville guys, the “corner boys” which meant something in working class culture in the 1950s and 1960s but is something I was not part of down in Carver since in those days before it became something of a bedroom community for the high tech industry about twenty miles away it didn’t have anything like a corner pizza parlor, bowling alleys or variety store to be a corner boy around. Or enough guys with time on their hands to hold up the wall in front of the place. Carver in those days was something like the cranberry capital of the world and those in the town, including four generations as far as I can figure on the Eaton side and three on the O’Brian side, who actually worked the bogs, were called derisively “boggers” which defined the class division in the town. Including where you lived, our section called the “Hump.” 

For our purposes though the “boggers” and the other cohort, the middle class cohort called “the Pilgrims” since many of those families could trace their roots pretty far back although I do not remember that any family could claim forebear’s passage on the Mayflower shared common patriotic holiday traditions with parades and other festivities which is the only time there was social mingling. With the exception of a couple of great bogger football players those lines held all through school, most rigidly in high school where you had no chance with the Pilgrim girls and either tied up with a bogger girl or looked out of town, something which I tended to do since I couldn’t deal with what the bogger girl expected on their guys, marriage right out of high school and some Hump small apartment.

The big thing though is that in the Hump you went into the military when called up by the draft, or more usually since the high school drop-out rate for boggers was pretty high volunteer. In my own family, mostly uneducated, I would be the first to actually go to college and get a degree, those four generations of boggers all went to war when called going back to World War I. On the O’Brian side likewise and my mother’s uncle, Frank, has a square still named after him in the town common having died in World War I. So, and it came through loud and clear in the various documentary interviews, where was there room for not going into the military when I was drafted. Where was there a support system if I, or anybody in town, had refused. At the time this town would have crucified any young man who refused the draft, thought about Canada which was not even on the radar, or even thought to express an anti-war opinion whatever they thought instead and whatever doubts they had about going to war especially in my time, my war class time of 1969 when all hell was breaking loose in Vietnam, and in this country. So I went in, did what I had to do to survive and tried to forget about the awful things I did, and had seen done to people I had no quarrel with. It took a few years to shake that horror loose before I grabbed a life-line from a bunch of guys, fellow veterans, who wanted to stop the war madness- and still do.

The impetus for my getting off my duff had been watching a bunch of Vietnam veterans marching in silence (and in an orderly march manner something which tended to be lacking up to this day in later anti-war veterans peace marches and such), down a hot and humid Miami boulevard during the week of the Republican National Convention in 1972. The sight of those be-medaled soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, stirred something in me that no dope, no alcohol my previous remedies of sorts could slake. Their rough treatment by the Nixon-fired up forces of law and order further made something in me snap. Don’t ask me now some fifty years later to explain everything I was thinking that pushed me on to the brink of self-destruction and everything that pulled me back any more than you could ask all those soldiers and Marines on the Ken Burns interviews what moved them to anti-war action. Amazingly when asked to articulate some of that experience and the why of it those interviewees stopped and could not come up with an answer other than the very familiar “I don’t know.”  Except I knew, they knew,  all roads led back to Vietnam, led back to the bad stuff we did there, stuff that we could never live down.  

Back in 1972, maybe 1971 too I was living in Rhode Island to be away from friends, family, girlfriends, everybody while I sorted things out. Didn’t let anybody but growing up friend Will Badger know where I was since while he had been in the Navy during the war shelling the hell out of places like Da Nang and far from the daily butchery on the ground he was a troubled soul as well. He did slip up one time and somehow my girlfriend who had been my fiancé before I left for Vietnam but as was the nature of the times we decided not to “go bourgeois” and get little white house with picket fence, kids, and dog married and wind up like our respective parents followed him one day. After something of a screaming match initiated by me we decided to keep company, be companions again and I was glad of that in the end even though we drifted apart a few years later when she wanted to get married and I was against the idea.

All through those experiences I kept thinking about that powerful silent veterans march and that fall of 1972 I went up to Boston once I found out where there was an active VVAW chapter. (This remember before the days of the Internet which would have let me find the organization in about two minutes. Then I had to check the telephone directory and got no information since the phone number was not listed as yet in that publication and only found out where they had an office and telephone number by going to Providence and Brown University to a Vietnam Mobilization office where they had such information about what was what in New England.)          

At that first meeting in Boston two things happened which marked me then and to this day. One was that in the political divide within the organization about what is always an issue with left-wing groups whether to push the electoral button or go for street confrontations I tended toward the street cred guys, the flame-throwers against guys like former Secretary of State (and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts) John Kerry who even then was looking for the “main chance” which he sought with a vengeance. This issue tended to draw something of a class line as well since those who favored the electoral essentially reformist way to deal with social change, with the struggle against the military machine and war tended to have been ROTC or OCS officers and from very middle class backgrounds and those like the guys from North Adamsville who I will discuss in a minute and me who wanted to “burn the mother-fucker down,” go after those in the mansions.            

The other thing that has stayed with me to this day are the friendships, social and political friendships, I struck up with the guys from North Adamsville and guys they had gathered around them like Josh Breslin from up in Maine whom they met out in California during that Summer of Love, 1967 that was the hot topic here last year and Fritz Taylor and Ralph Morse met in the Army. Everyone was a flame-thrower, a “burn the mansion down” guy then, and not far from that now either although time has mellowed them (and me) personally-a bit. The basis of that mutual attraction was the incredible similarity of all of our growing up experiences, the white working class and white trash poor backgrounds whether in North Adamsville, Carver, Olde Saco, Maine or with Fritz Fulton County, Georgia, the unquestioning patriotism, the anti-communism culled from the red scare Cold war night that enveloped us all, and the small town-ish values about “Mom, God and apple pie” Fourth of July parade façade that we swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Here is an antidote from the mad wizard Seth Garth which kind of sums up the social milieu around the war issue mid-1960s working class style which tells a lot, maybe all you need to know about how Uncle Sam got the “cannon fodder,” not my term originally but one that we all have adopted since back in the days, to fight his wars then, now too probably even with an all-volunteer army, the volunteer part subject to lots of social, class, racial, ethnic, and economic provisos. Seth had decided to attend his fiftieth class reunion, the Class of 1964 but the other classes around that time produced the same fact once the corner boys from different graduation years compared notes on the subject, a few years ago and as a prelude to that the organizers of the reunion (not so strangely the same “social butterflies,” male and female who were the “in crowd” back in high school at least the ones who were still standing), set up a class website to gather information about those still standing.

That class, that heart of the baby-boomer class, had about five hundred members of which about two hundred or so responded, about evenly divided between male and female. (By way of comparison my whole combined junior and senior high school had five hundred students to give another example of how small Carver was then.) One of the questions asked was about military service which in that day would have been a question asked and answered almost totally by males. Of that one hundred or so respondents ninety of them put down some military service from National Guard to Vietnam including a small clot of military lifers. That alone tells the tale about who went and what the environment was like for anybody who thought for a minute about resistance or even just questioning the aims of the war, or of war.           

We still gnash our teeth over our collective naïve, our collective taking in the bullshit without question and our failures to do something about the whole damn thing long before we were drafted or enlisted. (That latter condition, drafted or enlisted, the only thing that separated the entire collective which was as much about personal circumstances as anything since it never entered anybody’s mind, even special case, Frank Jackman, not to go into the military in our youth.)
The North Adamsville guys, I will deal with Josh, Fritz, and a couple of other guys in passing, were cemented together by one thing, they all grew up in the desperately poor working class and working poor neighborhood of the town called the “Acre.” All were members of the North Adamsville classes of 1963, 64, 65 (the prime years for young men who would face the grist mill of Vietnam which cut too many from those years in their prime). Josh was Olde Saco Class of 1967, Fritz Robert E. Lee High Class of 1962). More importantly the social glue that kept them together centered in their high school days around Tonio’s Pizza Parlor where they were the so-called corner boys, a mainly derogatory sociological and cultural term coined by legal professionals, cops, and academics who were worried about the angst and alienation of this swath of  youth. The term fit so completely that they adopted the expression for their own amusement. Mainly that amusement was hanging around Tonio’s since they rarely had dough for dates and such or going on what they called the “midnight creep,” grabbing stuff through burglaries to get dough for dates and such.  A hard dollar any way you look at it and it was a close thing that they mainly survived to tell the tale.       

You cannot, I cannot although I only him slightly personally and more through endless talk of his legend, talk about the North Adamsville corner boys without mentioning their “leader” Peter Paul Markin, always known as “Scribe.” (This is the real Markin who died in the 1970s not the former site manager of this blog who used the moniker on-line in honor of his fallen comrade which explains a lot of that “leader” point just made.) The Scribe was not the leader, leader, you know the one who kept things in order that was Frankie Riley who wound up 4-F (unfit for military duty) and who later became a very successful lawyer in Boston, but something like the intellectual leader. He was the guy who got Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, Jack Callahan, Bart Webber, Allan Jackson, Seth Garth, Frank Jackman, Jimmy Jenkins who would die in Vietnam in 1968, and Frankie all except Frankie who would be drafted or enlist in the military to head out to California in the summer of 1967 and get knee-deep, no, neck-deep in the Summer of Love. (Other North Adamsville corner boys Rick Rizzo and Johnny Kelly who lived right next door to each other and joined the Army together laid down their heads in Vietnam in 1966 so never got the chance to experiment with the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” that drove those days.) Josh met this crew out there as well before his military service. Fritz came into the group through Sam when they were in the Army together.

Markin too was the guy who probably was the most affected by his loss of innocence from his Vietnam experience, by the shattering of his Summer of Love-like dreams for a new world which he really expected to happen according to all the guys. Like me his was “lost” coming back to the “real” world as we called it after landing in the U.S.A from Vietnam. He would drift back out to California and start writing for a bunch of alterative newspapers which were flourishing out there for a while. Did some award-winning work when he found and joined an alternative society of returned Vietnam War G.I.s who like him could not adjust to the “real” world and lived along the railroad tracks and bridges of South California doing the best they could. Singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen would name a song later which would fit-“brothers under the bridge.” Markin wrote, or rather let them tell their stories for a while.

Josh who lived out in Oakland with him in a communal house then said he was starting to come out of his shell with that work. Not for long though because later in the mid-1970s he would develop a very serious cocaine habit which he fed by dealing the drug, always a bad proposition and wound up getting killed, murdered, down in Mexico after a botched drug deal with a couple of slugs in his head in some back alley. Nobody knows to this day exactly what happened although they still shed a tear every time his name is mentioned.

All of that was a few years later though when it was unmistakable that the “newer world” was not going to make it.  In 1972 they were under Markin’s guidance members of VVAW and in attendance that that first meeting I went to. They all had, except Frank Jackman who I will discuss in a minute, various evidences of their service on. As had I. My 101st Airborne patch on an old faded olive drab shirt with my name tag on it. Si had been attached to the same division and was the first to welcome me. The meeting, the long meeting as such things went in those days when in the interest of “democracy” everybody got to speak for as long as they wanted and seemingly whatever they wanted even if off-topic, went as expected as they were planning an action on Boston Common in conjunction with the inevitable Fall/Spring semi-annual anti-war mobilizations coming up a few weeks later. They invited me to Durgin Park for some food and drink (mostly drink and later some dope). During this meal/drink-fest Markin, who was back from California for a while since he was looking for a couple of guys who he had met “under the bridge” to get their “back stories” asked for my story.

Everybody except me laughed when I had finished my seemingly sad little tale of a story. Laughed a sardonic laugh when you think about it because Si asked me whether I had grown up in North Adamsville. I didn’t understand the question until he said that my story, like their stories, like the stories of Mogie, Mulgrave, Sullivan in the Burns’ documentary, was too familiar. That the working class from small towns and sections of cities and poor bastards in the ghettoes and barrios bore the brunt of the crap that went down in Vietnam no matter what happened at home (or among those groupings in Vietnam, not always brotherly, no way, the racial tensions would sometimes get hot and heavy especially when the mainly white officers overplayed placing black men on point or down in the fucking tunnels but also when guys from small white bread towns like me couldn’t figure out what made the black guys tick and the same the other way).   So I was “initiated” and like Josh and Fritz (and Remmy and Jamal, a couple of black brothers who have since died one of an overdose of heroin started out in the Golden Triangle madness) became an honorary North Adamsville corner boy. And I still am, proudly am.                 

The Scribe was one end of what happened to some guys during and after the war but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special case of Frank Jackman, another North Adamsville corner boy. In the Burns documentary the famous Vietnam War writer Tim O’Brien laments, no anguishes over the fact that he had not refused to be drafted, not refused to go to Vietnam. Others both in that presentation and in real life in the organizations I have belonged to most recently Veterans Peace Action where there are clots of guys who anguished over those kinds of decisions that young people, young soldiers are forced to deal  just like Tim O’Brian had had to do. It may be hard for the couple of generations that have now come of age since Vietnam time to fathom what EVERY young male had to go through back then even those who were gung-ho to go. Draft refusal, going to Canada or Sweden, going to jail, going to the stockade, faking all kind of injuries that would make one 4-F (unfit for military duty) some of them pretty gruesome, faking mental disorders,. faking homosexuality then a way out, scrambling to get into National Guard or Armed Forces Reserved units. I could go on but you get the picture, decisions all around the subject. So plenty of similar stories and regrets. After the service, after the fact. That was my case and the case of all the North Adamsville corner boys, real and honorary, everybody except beautiful and righteous Frank Jackman was did refuse to go, who let his conscience and maybe a few generations of hard won integrity and thoughtfulness DNA guide his decisions. A little balls too as we used to say back in the day when somebody did some action worthy of such a note, jail time always a qualifier, once he had orders to do so, to report to Fort Lewis for transit to Vietnam.     

Now we all know, and if the reader doesn’t then a run though this ten-part Burns-Novack series will enlighten you to the fact, that during the American portion of the war, the American War as the Vietnamese rightly called it, every and I mean every young man had a decision to make, consciously or unconsciously, about what to do about his participation in the war machine. Like I said above some refused the draft, some went to Canada, some filed and received civilian conscientious objector status of some kind, some when in the service went AWOL, and a lot of other things. Maybe Burns could have spent more time on those anguishing decisions and on the resistance in the military itself especially after Tet, 1968. A few, and Frank Jackman was one of them, were of that small, small as against a couple of million man army, category of military resister. Went in like the rest of us did but at some point said no-no to Vietnam, no to the killing the rest of us, anti-war and pro-war, proud of service or not, have spent the rest of our lives trying to square up. Funny because of all the guys who hung around the corner one would have expected the wild man Scribe, Markin, to have been a resister if anybody was. Still Frank Jackman’s story can serve as a very graphic example of the anguish of the generation of ’68.

If you noticed the headline to this piece there is a reference to the War Class of 1969. That is because everyone who I have mentioned here from North Adamsville to Fulton County, Georgia, including myself, served in the military during that fateful year, the year after Tet proved to all who cared to see, all who had anything but a hidebound refusal to see, that the war, the American war once again as the Vietnamese correctly called it, was unwinnable. Meaning that those who served in say 1969, who were the grunts, the “cannon fodder” were serving for no reasonable reason except as we learned later through The Pentagon Papers and other Freedom of Information documents governmental hubris. Only the names changed throughout the changes in government the hubris remained until almost the very end. They, we, all served and forevermore called ourselves the class of 1969. That class included one soldier, Frank Jackman, who did not serve in Vietnam but who will forevermore also be a member of that class of 1969.

Frank Jackman had had orders to report to Fort Lewis in Washington for transit to Vietnam and through a rather long process including stockade time refused to go. We would often talk, we still do although not when Frank is around because he like a ton of Vietnam era guys, military guys, don’t like to talk about those times even if he was righteous and as courageous as anybody who went to death trap Vietnam, about how Frank out of the almost dozen guys was the one guy who refused to go, refused to righteously go despite no support at home and no history of there being anything like it done in his town, my town, our collective clot of towns, before. Frank was not a leader among the North Adamsville corner boys like Frankie Riley or the Scribe but a sideliner, a guy who was as comfortable with a book as a jimmy for those infamous midnight creeps. (Everybody, all hands, except the Scribe who planned many of the creeps but who was totally incompetent to carry them out participated in every caper on principal-or would have gotten the boot.) Make no mistake he had imbibed, believed all of the stuff us other guys did about duty, patriotism and the like but there was something of the quietude in him that spoke of something more, or maybe as he pointed out when we discussed it later, that was so much eyewash.

Frank like all the others accepted induction in his case after he finished college in 1968 and received his draft notice to report in January 1969 (he had received four years of deferment for going to college standard at the time dependent on decent grades but in a way the kiss of death for the army with smart civilian citizens mixed in with the usual high school graduates and drop-outs). It was about after three days down in Fort Gordon for basic training far from home that he realized that he had made a mistake, that he should have refused induction. Being isolated down in the South he waited until he got back home after receiving order to Vietnam as an infantryman to decide what to do in August 1969. (Yes, the August 1969 when half a million other kids, boys and girls, were like lemmings to the sea to Woodstock nation and good luck.)

All he knew was that the war was over for him. He made his way over to Cambridge and the Quaker Meeting House where they were offering G.I. counselling for those who were military refuse-niks. For years the anti-war movement had bene centered on draft resistance and maybe rightly so but as the years rolled on and the number of Frank-like guys started needing help organizations like the Friends expanded their operation. There was a political component to it as well since protesting government policy was leading up a blind alley and if the natural objective of the anti-war was to stop the war then they had to get to the troops. Get down in the mud at the base and stop depending on some politician-savior to break the fall, to half-heartedly call the whole thing dust in the eyes.  

Through the counselling process plans were outlined, options presented the most reasonable given Frank’s situation was for him to go absent without leave (AWOL) for more than thirty days which would leave him dropped from the rolls out in Fort Lewis (AWOL a chargeable offense itself although pretty far down on the totem pole of penalties) and then turn himself to the nearest local fort, Fort Devens about forty miles from Boston to put in an application for status as a conscientious objector. A strategy while outlined which was aided by assigning him a pro bone civilian lawyer. (Not all G.I.s sought, desired, or received civilian lawyers partially because so few of them were familiar with the arcane Code of Military Justice but the way Frank presented himself, presented the case they thought he could use good legal advice and make some splash. That turned out to be true on all counts.)  
As that time conscientious objector status for those who were actually in the military was rare, very rare, and in due course he was turned down although at every level those who interviewed him believed he was sincere which would help him later when he got to civilian federal court. By a stroke of luck, and a good attorney, he was able to get his case into the federal court in Boston along with a temporary restraining order to keep him in the jurisdiction of the court. (The stroke of luck was getting a notoriously conservative judge to see that Frank had a case in civilian court that he could win. That too would come in handy later. But that was only the surface, the technical stuff.)            

That is where that idea of whatever Frank had inside him, whatever grit the generations had left in his DNA came to the fore. He decided that he would no longer play the soldier and so one Monday morning when the weekly formation came up he walked onto the parade field in civilian clothing and a sign “Bring the boys home.” Immediately a couple of lifer sergeants grabbed him and that started his road to the stockade. He would eventually serve two six month sentences for refusing to obey orders to wear the uniform. For years he would make the few people he told his story to laugh when he told them that if the federal court had not granted his writ of habeas corpus he might still be in that stockade he was so determined to fight the bastards to the end. So maybe that story should have gotten some play, or stories like that when Ken Burns was trying to tie the knot around what the whole thing meant. Might have thought twice, as a civilian, about a remark attributed to him about “war being in the DNA of the human species and hence all beyond the pale, all doomed to bloody up the world and let untold number lay down their heads for some stupid cause. Still and all Frank belongs in that small cohort of the war class of 1969 as some kind of beacon. That says it all, all that needs to be said.