Saturday, April 07, 2018

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind 

Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown soldier
It's all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up

Comp'nee, halt
Present, arms

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And, it's all over
The war is over
It's all over
War is over

Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby
Ooh, ha, ha, all over
All over, baby
Oh, woah, yeah, all over
All over, heh

Robbie Krieger;John Densmore;Jim Morrison;Ray Manzarek

From The Pen of Zack James

There was no seamless thread that wrapped the counter-cultural dominated 1960s up tightly, wrapped it up neatly in a pretty bow all set for posterity except for the media types who lived day by day in those merciful times for scraps to feed the teletype hot wires and by on-the-make politicians who to this day attempt to make capital making sport of what in the final analysis was a half-thought out desire to create the “newer world” that some old-time English poet was harping about. That seamless thread business had been distracting Frank Jackman’s attention of late now that a new generation of media-types are at hand who want to refight that social battle and the politicians are whipping   up the raw meat good old boys and girls and the staid as well to provide the troops for that new battle against some phantom in their heads. Despite all the rhetoric, despite all the books written disclaiming any responsibility by those who led the march, despite all those who have now “seen the light” and have hopped back into the fold in academia and the professions (in fact that march back to what everybody used to call bourgeois society started the day after the whole movement ebbed or the day they got their doctorates or professional degrees) there was some question even in Franks’ own mind about whether “the movement” for all its high gloss publicity and whirlwind effect dominated the play as much as he and his kindred had thought then or can lay claim to these forty plus years later.
Place plenty of weight on Frank’s observation, maybe not to take to the bank but to have some knowledge about the limits to what a whole generation in all its diversity can claim as its own mark on society and history. Place plenty of weight for the very simple reason that he went through the whole thing in almost all of its contradictions. Had been raised under the star of parents who slogged through the Great Depression although that was a close thing, a very close thing for some like Frank’s parents who were desperately poor. His poor besotted mother having to leave home and head west looking, looking for whatever there was out there before coming back home with three dollars in hand, and maybe her virtue how can you ask that question of your mother when you wouldn’t think to look at her when young, later too, that she was capable of sex, not the sex you had at your pleasure with some sweet Maryjane. His father out of the Southern winds, out of tar-roof shack of a cabin, half naked, down in the coal-rich hills and hollows of Appalachia, the poorest of the poor, leaving that desperate place to seek something, some small fame that always eluded him. They together, collectively, slogged through the war, World War II, his father through Pacific fight, the most savage kind, had his fill of that damn island hopping and his mother waiting, fretfully waiting for the other shoe to drop, to hear her man had laid his head down for his country in some salted coral reef or atoll whatever they were. Get this though, gladly, gladly would lay that head down and she if it came right down to it would survive knowing he had laid that precious head down. That was the salts they were made of, the stuff this country was able to produce even if it had very little hand in forming such faithful servants so no one would, no one could deny their simple patriotism, or doubt that they would pass that feeling on to their progeny.
Made that progeny respect their music too, their misty, moody I’ll see you tomorrow, until we meet again, I’ll get by, if I didn’t care music, music fought and won with great purpose. But Frank balked, balked young as he was, with as little understanding as he had, the minute he heard some serious rhythm back-beat absent from that sugary palp his parents wanted to lay on him and he would, young as he was, stand up in his three brother shared room (when they were not around of course for they older “dug” Patti Page and Rosemary Clooney, stuff like that) and dance some phantom dance based on that beat he kept hearing in his head, and wondered whether anybody else heard what he heard (of course later when it was show and tell time in the 1960s that beat would be the thing that glued those who were kindred together, funny they were legion). Caught the tail end of the “beat” thing that those older brothers dismissed out of hand as faggy, as guys “light on their feet” and gals who seemed black-hearted blank and neurotic. But that was prelude, that, what did somebody in some sociology class call it, the predicate.                      
As the 1960s caught Frank by his throat, caught him in its maw as he liked to call it to swishy-dishy literary effect he got “religion” in about six different ways. Got grabbed  when the folk minute held sway, when guys like Bob Dylan and Dave Von Ronk and gals like Joan Baez preached “protest” to the hinterlands, reaching down to places like Frank’s Carver, nothing but a working poor town dependent on the ups and downs of the cranberry business. At one time the town was the cranberry capital of the world or close to it. That up and down business depending too on whether people were working and could afford to throw in cranberry sauce with their turkeys come Thanksgiving and Christmas or would be reduced to the eternal fallback beans and franks. But see Carver was close enough, thirty or forty miles south of Boston to Beacon Hill and Harvard Square to be splashed by that new sound and new way of going on dates too, going to coffeehouses or if times were tough just hang around the Harvard Square’s Hayes-Bickford watching with fascination the drunks, hipsters, dipsters, grifters, winos, hoboes, maybe  an odd whore drinking a cup of joe after some John split on her, but also guys and gals perfecting their acts as folk-singers, poets, artists and writers.
Grabbed on the basis of that protest music to the civil rights movement down South, putting Frank at odds with parents, neighbors and his corner boys around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys. Grabbed too the dope, the hope and every girl he could get his hands on, or get this to tell you about the times since he was at best an okay looking guy, they could get their hands on him, on those bedroom blue eyes of his they called it more times than not, that came with the great summers of love from about 1965 on.
Here’s where the contradictions started get all mixed up with things he had no control over, which he was defenseless against. So grabbed too that draft notice from his friends and neighbors at the Carver Draft Board and wound up a dog soldier in Vietnam for his efforts. Wound up on cheap street for a while when he came back unable to deal with the “real” world for a while. That failure to relate to the “real” world cost him his marriage, a conventional marriage to a young woman with conventional white picket fence, a little lawn, kids, and dogs dreams which only had happened because he was afraid that he would not come back from “Nam in one piece, would never get to marriage for what it was worth. Grabbed the streets for a while before he met a woman, a Quaker woman, who saved him, for a while until he went west with some of his corner boys who had also been washed by the great push. Did the whole on the road hitchhike trip, dope, did communes, did zodiacs of love, did lots of things until the hammer came down and the tide ebbed around the middle of the 1970s. So yeah Frank was almost like a bell-weather, no, a poster child for all that ailed society then, and for what needed to be fixed.      
That decade or so from about 1964 to about 1974 Frank decided as he got trapped in old time thoughts and as he related to his old friend Jack Callahan one night at his apartment in Cambridge as they passed a “joint” between them (some things die hard, or don’t die) was nevertheless beginning to look like a watershed time not just for the first wave immediate post-World War II baby-boomers like him, Jack, Frankie Riley, the late Peter Markin, Sam Lowell and a lot of other guys he passed the corner boy night with (the ones like him born immediately after the war as the troops came home, came off the transports, and guys and gals were all hopped up to start families, figure out how to finance that first white picket fence house and use the GI bill to get a little bit ahead in the world, at least get ahead of their parents’ dead-end great depression woes) who came of social and political age then washed clean by the new dispensation but for the country as a whole. More so since those of the so-called generation of ’68, so called by some wag who decided that the bookends of the rage of the American Democratic Convention in Chicago that year and the defeat of the revolutionary possibilities in France in May of that year signaled the beginning of the ebb tide for the whole thing, for those who are still up for a fight against the military monster who is still with us are continuing to fight a rearguard action to keep what little is left of accomplishments and the spirit of those time alive.
Thinking back a bit to that time, Frank as the dope kicked in, a thousand things, or it seemed like a thousand things, some things new in the social, economic, political or cultural forest came popping up out of nowhere in many cases, came together in pretty rapid succession to draw down in flames the dread red scare Cold War freezes of their  childhoods (that time always absurdly symbolically topped off by the sight of elementary school kids, them , crouched under some rickety old desk arms over their heads some air-raid drill practice time as if, as the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are still alive from that time can attest to, that would do the slightest bit of good if the “big one,” the nuclear bombs hit.
Yeah, the Cold War time too when what did they know except to keep their obedient heads down under their desks or face down on the floor when the periodic air-raid shelter tests were performed at school to see if they were ready to face the bleak future if they survived some ill-meant commie atomic blast. (Personally Frank remembered telling somebody then that he would, having seen newsreel footage of the bomb tests at Bikini, just as soon take his  chances above desk, thank you, for all the good the other maneuver would do them.)
For a while anyway Frank and the angel-saints were able to beat back that Cold War mentality, that cold-hearted angst, and calculated playing with the good green world, the world even if they had no say, zero, in creating what went on. Not so strangely, although maybe that is why people drifted away in droves once the old bourgeois order reasserted itself and pulled down the hammer, none of those who were caught up in the whirl thought it would be for only a while or at least thought it would fade so fast just as they thought, young and healthy as they were, that they would live forever. But if you, anybody when you really think about the matter, took a step back you could trace things a little, could make your own “live free” categories of the events that chipped away the ice of those dark nights.

Start in with the mid-1950s if you like, which is where Frank liked to start dating his own sense of the new breeze coming through although being a pre-teenager then he told Jack he would not have had sense enough to call it that, with the heat of the black struggle for some semblance of civil liberties down South in the fight for voter rights and the famous desegregation of buses in Montgomery and the painful desegregation of the schools in Little Rock (and some sense of greater  equality up North too as organizations like the NAACP and Urban League pushed an agenda for better education and housing). Also at that same time, and in gathering anecdotal evidence Frank had found that these too are a common lynchpin, the first break-out of music with the crowning of rock and roll as the wave of the future (black rhythm and blues, scat, rockabilly music all mixed up and all stirred up), and the “discovery” of teen alienation and angst exemplified by sullen movie star  James Dean, who lived fast, and died fast a metaphor that would work its way through youth culture over the next generation. (And throw in surly “wild one” movie star Marlon Brando in The Wild One and a brooding Montgomery Cliff in almost anything during those days, take The Misfits for one, to the mix of what they could relate to as icons of alienation and angst .)   
An odd-ball mix right there. Throw in, as well, although this was only at the end and only in very commercial form, the influence of the “beats,” the guys (and very few gals since that Jack Kerouac-Neal Cassady-William Burroughs-Allen Ginsberg mix was strictly a male bonding thing) who listened to the guys who blew the cool be-bop jazz and wrote up a storm based on that sound, declared a new sound, that you would hear around cafés even if you did not understand it unlike rock and roll, the guys who hitchhiked across the American landscape creating a wanderlust in all who had heard about their exploits, and, of course, the bingo bongo poetry that threw the old modernists like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound out with a bang.
Then start to throw in the struggles against the old authority in places like Frisco town where they practically ran the red-baiters in the HUAC out of town (what Frank, and some of his friends although not the Carver corner boys except Markin, would learn to call “bourgeois authority working hand in hand with the capitalists”), the old certitudes that had calmed their parents’ lives, made them reach out with both hands for the plenty in the “golden age of plenty.”
Of course the biggest event that opened the doors for liberals, radicals, hell, even thoughtful conservatives was the sweet breeze coming down the road from Boston with the election of Jack Kennedy. Ike, the harmless uncle, the kindly grandfather, was for parents Frank wanted guys who set the buzz going, let them think about getting some kicks out of life, that maybe with some thought they would survive, and if they didn’t at least we had the kicks.

That event opened up a new psyche, that it was okay to question authority, whatever the limitations and shortness of the Camelot times with the struggles against some hoary things like segregation, the death penalty, nuclear proliferation, the unevenness of social life which would get propelled later in the decade with fight for women’s liberation, gay liberation, and the fight against the draft, the damn war in Vietnam that drove a nail into the heart of Frank’s generation. A river of ideas, and a river of tears, have been, and can be, shed over that damn war, what it did to young people, those who fought, maybe especially those who fought as Frank got older and heard more stories about the guys who like him didn’t make it back to the “real” world after “Nam, didn’t have a sweet mother Quaker lady like Frank to save them, those guys you see downtown in front of the VA hospitals, and those who refused to, that lingers on behind the scenes even today.
There were more things, things like the “Pill” (and Frank would always kid Jack who was pretty shy talking about sex despite the fact that he and Chrissie, his high school sweetheart, had had four kids when he asked what pill if you need to know what pill and its purpose where have you been) that opened up a whole can of worms about what everyone was incessantly curious about and hormonally interested in doing something about, sex, sex beyond the missionary position of timeless legends, something very different if the dramatic increase in sales of the Kama Sutra meant anything, a newer sensibility in music with the arrival of the protest folk songs for a new generation which pushed the struggle and the organizing forward.
Cultural things too like the experimenting with about seven different kinds of dope previously the hidden preserve of “cool cat” blacks and white hipsters (stuff that they only knew negatively about, about staying away from, thru reefer madness propaganda, thru the banning of some drugs that were previously legal like sweet sister cocaine and taunt Nelson Algren hard life down at the base of society in films like The Man With The Golden Arm), the outbreak of name changes with everybody seemingly trying to reinvent themselves in name (Frank’s moniker at one time was Be-Bop Benny draw what you will out of that the idea being like among some hipster blacks, although with less reason, they wanted to get rid of their  slave names)  fashion (the old college plaid look fading in the face of World War II army surplus, feverish colors, and consciously mismatched outfits and affectation (“cool, man, cool” and “right on’ said it all). More social experiments gathering in the “nation” through rock concerts, now acid-etched, new living arrangements with the arrival of the urban and rural communes (including sleeping on more than one floor in more than one church or mission when on the road, or later on the bum). They all, if not all widespread, and not all successful as new lifestyles all got a fair workout during this period as well.    

Plenty of Frank’s kindred in retrospective would weigh the various combinations of events differently in figuring out how the uprising started just as plenty of them had their specific dates for when the tide began to ebb, when the mean-spirited and authoritarian began their successful counter-offensive that they still lived with for not taking the omens more seriously. (Frank’s ebb tide, as he had  described to Frankie Riley one time, was the events around May Day 1971 when they seriously tried, or thought they were seriously trying, to shut down the government in D.C. if it would no shut down the war and got nothing but billy-clubs, tear gas, beatings and mass arrests for their efforts. After those days Frank, and others, figured out the other side was more serious about preserving the old order than they were about creating the new and that they had better rethink how to slay the monster they were up against and act accordingly.)

Then Frank passed Jack a photograph that he had taken from a calendar put out by the New England Folk Song Society that his wife, Sarah, who worked to put the item out to raise funds for folk music preservation (see above) that acted as another catalyst for this his short screed, and which pictorially encapsulated a lot of what went then, a lot about “which side were you on” when the deal went down. This photograph Frank pointed out to Jack was almost impossible to imagine without some combination of that hell broth anti-war, anti-establishment, pro-“newer world” mix stirred up in the 1960s.
Three self-assured women (the “girls” of photograph a telltale sign of what society, even hip, progressive society thought about women in those slightly pre-women’s liberation time but they would learn the difference) comfortable with the loose and individualistic fashion statements of the day from floppy hats to granny dresses to bare legs, bare legs, Jesus, that alone would have shocked their girdled, silk stocking mothers, especially if those bare legs included wearing a mini-skirt (and mother dread thoughts about whether daughter knew about the pill, and heaven forbid if she was sexually active, a subject not for polite society, not for mother-daughter conversation, then she damn better well know, or else).
They are also uncomfortable about the damn Vietnam war, no, outraged is a better way to put the matter, that was eating up boyfriends, brothers, just friends, guys they knew in college or on the street who were facing heavy decisions about the draft, Canada exile, prison or succumbing to the worst choice, Frank’s choice if you could call his induction a choice what else could he have done gone to Canada, no,  military induction, at a heavy rate and they unlike their mothers who came through World War II waiting patiently and patriotically for their military heroes to come home, come home in one piece, have a very different sense of the heroic. A sense of the heroic going back to ancient times, Greek times anyway, when one group of women like their stay-at-home-waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop World War II mothers demanded that their men come home carried on their shields if they had to rather than speak of defeat. Others, the ones that count here, refusing their potential soldier boys any favors, read sexual favors, okay, if they went off to war, providing a distant echo, a foundation to make their request stand on some authority, for these three women pictured there.
Frank wondered how many guys would confess to the lure of that enticement if they had refused induction. His own wife, quickly married at the time was if anything more gung-ho about stopping the red menace than his parents. Frank did not refuse induction for a whole bunch of reasons but then he did not have any girlfriends like that sweet mother Quaker woman later, who made that demand, his girl- friends early on, and not just his wife if anyway were as likely to want him to come back carried on a shield as those warrior-proud ancient Greek women. Too bad. But Frank said to Jack as Jack got up ready to head home to Hingham and Chrissie that he liked to think that today they could expect more women to be like the sisters above. Yeah, more, many more of the latter, please as Frank and his comrades in Veterans for Peace continue to struggle against the night-takers in the nightmare world of endless war.

Friday, April 06, 2018

In Quincy,Ma -April 7-Poor peoples campalgn with free Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream

***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night -One Night With You- Sam’s Song

***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night -One Night With You- Sam’s Song  

By Allan Jackson

[Hey it is my dime. Okay, here goes why I say that smartass remark just now. As readers may know as about one half dozen sections ago of this seventy-odd sections series hailing the coming of rock and roll age of the baby-boomer generation I have had the by-line to a series that I was instrumental in nurturing after old friend Sam Lowell did some fancy negotiating on my behalf. The idea for me in these introductions was to make comments on some of the action in the sketches or to tell what I or the writer, mostly I, was thinking about putting the piece together.

Today though my dime is floating back to a comment I made when I was spending hard earned time defending myself against half the crazy rumors that surfaced after I was dismissed as site manager here and had gone “underground” for a while. One of the vicious rumors had me living in San Francisco with alternatively either a transvestite, today transgender, or a drag queen not necessarily the same thing and living high off the hog and high on the opium bonk bong.

Christ. I was in San Francisco no question but looking for money from people I know since I was unemployed and needed dough quick to keep up with alimony (three alimonies and collective college tuitions. Looked for some dough from my old friend (and one-time lover) Madame La Rue (her longtime brothel names not her given name) who now runs a high class whorehouse catering mostly to wealthy Asian businessmen with a taste for the wild side. Looking as well for some dough from Ms. Judy Garland, aka, Timmy Riley from the old growing up neighborhood in the Acre section of North Adamsville. He had fled as soon as he could once he knew he had kindred out there trying to collectively survive in a town not unfriendly to the different of all categories. I had helped both out financially and they have subsequently been very successful Timmy running a high end club for the tourist trade featuring the best drag queens on the West Coast. It is Timmy from his time before Ms. Judy Garland I want to talk about today. A worthy dime       

This whole going back to Timmy thing got started when after Frank Jackman, another old Acre neighborhood corner boy, was as Sam Lowell called it “outed” for having been listed as the by-line in the early part of this series by current site manager Greg Green. That was after he decided after several attempts to reach the younger generation by force-marching everybody into doing film reviews of the Marvel and DC comic book super-heroes gone to cinema once the older writers revolted led by Sam Lowell to go back to the real audience-the baby boomers of the 1960s and not having anything current and liking my series from the archives. Of course I was departed, “underground” and the series had a common use copyright so Greg conned Frank into the by-line. I found out about it, was enraged that one of the two or three productions in a long career that I was very proud of was being “stolen” from me and contacted Sam to negotiate a by-line for me to finish the series.

While negotiations were going on, and somewhat stalled at a couple of points, old friend and a financial angel of this publication  Jack Callahan did the by-lines and mainly at my request heroically tried to bat down some of the more wretched and dingbat ones. That is where Jack brought up the rumor that I had been living all doped up with a drag queen in Frisco town. Later when I got my byline I took a little space to give more details of what had really happened when I disappeared in order to give my take on swatting the more egregious rumors down. I mentioned Ms. Judy Garland, aka Timmy from the old neighborhood without going into great detail about a lot of the horror that Timmy had to go through in order to be a corner boy in the old days against his real inner identity. Even twenty years ago I would not whatever abstract feelings I had in support of gay rights, or the more generic right to sexual self-identity have mentioned word one about Timmy, let me call him Timmy but know his persona and singing style are pure Judy Garland, or mentioned that I personally knew and was helping out a drag queen-a flaming one (Timmy’s term which we both laugh about) and an utterly beautiful gay man.     

We have talked about it lately but you would not believe what inner suppressions Timmy had had to go through to stick with the corner boys-including leading the charge against some poor gay guy down in Provincetown when we have our infamous and shameful “kicks” when we were in high school, or just out of high school. All I should really have to say is early 1960s (well before Stonewall made the initial public turn about gay life and gay harassment) working poor Acre corner boys and one should even if not a baby-boomer know what was what concerning “fags” “faggy” behavior, anything that smacked of the feminine or not macho although that word was not used at the time amount sprawling corner boys. Corner boys being corner boys for the fact that they, we held up a corner of some store the most important one for us Tonio’s Pizza Parlor because we didn’t have freaking money a lot of times for cars, girls, dates or much of anything. But a lot of it was the camaraderie, that feeling that thick or thin guys had your back whatever it was. And dear sweet Timmy was right out there with us. Like I said beat that poor gay guy up just to keep up with us. Jesus.

I like to think that maybe I “knew” what Timmy was really about back in those days but that is mainly retroactive bullshitting myself (Timmy will appreciate the term) because I was as homophobic as the next guy. Steered clear of the drag queens (if kind of fascinated by them in that way when something very different comes your way) ever since the day my deeply Roman Catholic mother warned me and my brothers never to go to the Shipwreck, an old abandoned beached cruise ship where the local drag queens performed just outside of Nantasket Beach. Every time we went by there we would get the drill. My slight contention about Timmy’s identity was that I was utterly shocked when one night in sophomore year in high school Timmy was performing in a school play dressed up as, well, Miss Judy Garland and singing Over the Rainbow like he meant it. But that was a school play and right after he was back in boys’ clothing and the next night we were back to hanging at Tonio’s. It was just a freaking play-right. Right there ready to do the midnight creep Markin had planned and Frankie Riley led to grab us some fast dough. (Timmy claims that his performance that play night was not his realization that he was different from us. Said it was not until he went to NYU in the Village and saw both gays as straight gay men and gay men as flaming drag queens that he kind of knew who he was but still tried to deny it for a while. The whole thing was confusing-still is he says.)

Timmy for whatever reason despite having gone out to California with us in the Summer of Love, 1967 basically stayed in North Adamsville with his aging parents until he could not stand it anymore. When he told his parents what he was they kicked him out of the house (recently when I went back to town I heard a similar story about a young gay guy whose father drove him to the MBTA station and told him to never come back to town or he would shoot his own flesh and blood so not everybody has gotten the word or bought into the idea of leaving the sexually different alone).   When he tried to talk about it to whoever was around then Bart Webber I know, probably Jack Callahan too and most certainly Frankie Riley they basically disowned knowing him, maybe were not ready to ride him out of town on a rail but they couldn’t figure out what had happened to the guy who was the biggest gay-basher around. Then he headed to Frisco. (All those guys have changed their positions 180 degrees since then but Timmy is still a little wary when they meet according to Jack. When we heard, and that included me that he was working in Maxie’s, then the primo drag queen review out in the Bay Area we couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that Timmy liked to wear female attire (oops flaming attire).

From what Timmy told me toward the end of the 1970s a few years after Scribe died with a couple of slugs in his head after what we all assume was a busted drug deal and I was out visiting Josh Breslin those years in the late 1960s even out in user-friendly Frisco he struggled to survive since there were about six very good Judy Garland drag queens working the clubs and so he lived on the dole. My attitude had changed some on a little of this but the real reason was Timmy, well, Timmy was Timmy one of the corner boys and the ethos of having the back your corner boys was so strong that I had to help him out. Now with one of my own kids living in an openly gay relationship I have a better grip on the whole thing then I just would sent along some money and then when Timmy made his break-through I helped finance his club and the rest is history. Who would have thought. Allan Jackson]       
 Sam Lowell thought it was funny how things worked out sometimes in such a contrary fashion in this wicked old world. Not his expression that “wicked old world” for he preferred of late the more elastic and ironic “sad old world” but that of his old time North Adamsville corner boy Peter Markin who will be more fully introduced in a moment (Markin aka Peter Paul Markin although nobody ever called him that except his mother, as one would expect although he hated to be teased about it by every kid from elementary school on including girls, girls who liked to tease him, tease him when they wanted to show their interest usually, and his first ill-advised wife, Martha, a heiress of the local Mayfair swells who tried, unsuccessfully since they sensed right away that he was not one of them, to impress her leafy horse country Dover suburban parents with the familiar waspy triple names).

Neither of those expressions referred to however dated back to their youth since neither Sam nor Peter back then, back in their 1960s youth, would have used such old-fashioned religious-drenched expressions to explain their take on the world since as with all youth, or at least youth who expected to “turn the world upside down” (an expression that they both did use although each in very different contexts) they would have withheld such judgments or were too busy doing that “turning” business they had no time for adjectives to express their worldly concerns. No that expression, that understanding about the wickedness of the world had been picked up by Sam from Peter when they had reconnected a number of years before after they had not seen each other for decades to express the uphill battles of those who had expected humankind to exhibit the “better angels of their nature” on a more regular basis. Some might call this nostalgic glancing back, especially by Peter since he had more at stake in a favorable result, on a world that did not turn upside down or did so in a way very different from those hazy days.  

The funny part (or ironic if you prefer) was that back then Sam had been in his youth the least political, the least culturally-oriented, the least musically-oriented of those corner boys like Markin, Jack Dawson, Jimmy Jenkins and “ding-dong daddy” leader Fritz Fallon (that “ding-dong max daddy” another expression coined, or picked up from somewhere by Peter so although he has not even been properly introduced we know plenty about his place in the corner boy life, his place as “flak,” for Fritz’s operation although Fritz always called him “the Scribe” when he wanted something written and needed to play on Peter’s vanity) who kept the coins flowing into the jukebox at Phil’s House of Pizza. That shop had been located down a couple of blocks from the choppy ocean waters of Adamsville Beach (and is still there although under totally different management from the arch-Italian Rizzo family that ran the place for several generations now run by some immigrant Albanians named Hoxha).

That made Phil’s among other things a natural hang-out place for wayward but harmless poor teenage corner boys. The serious “townie” professional corner boys, the rumblers, tumblers, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters hung around Harry’s Variety with leader Red Riley over on Sagamore Street far from beaches. Night haunting boys far from sweated sun, tanned daytime beaches, with their equally pale, black dress-etched “tramps,” well known in the in boyos network at the high school for those few adventurous enough to mess with an off-hand “from hunger” girl looking for kicks and a fast ride in some souped-up Chevy or on back of fat hog Harley, the bike of choice around the town. Although tanned daytime beaches rumors had it that the beach, the isolated Rock Island end, had been the site of more than one nighttime orgy with “nice” publicly virginal girls looking for kicks with rough boys down among the briny rocks. Rumors they remained until Sam ran into Sissy Roswell many years later who confessed that she and the “social butterfly” prom/fall dance/ yearbook crowd of girls that she hung around with on a couple of occasions had been among the briny rocks with the bad ass biker the summer after graduation when school social ladders and girls’ locker room talk didn’t mean a thing. Yeah, just like the Madonna tramps looking for kicks, looking for the minute wild side with guys that they would probably never see again and who could have cared less about their fake virginal status as long as the put out, put out hard and fast, before running off to college or finding some high-end stockbroker to pay the freight.   

Getting back to Harry’s though, a place where cops with their patrol cars parked conspicuously in front of the store during the daytime placed their bets with “connected” Harry who used the store as a shabby front for the bookie operation and to fence Red’s nighttime work (the store had about three cans of beans and a couple of cans of soup on the shelves but did have a great big Coca-Cola ice chest filled with soda and a classic Madame La Rue pinball machine). Fritz and the boys would not have gone within three blocks of that place. Maybe more from fear, legitimate fear as Fritz’s older brother, Timmy, a serious tough guy himself, could testify to the one time he tried to wait outside Harry’s for some reason and got chain-whipped by Red for his indiscretion. So the tame corner boys at Phil’s were more than happy to hang out there where the Rizzos were more than happy to have them spent dough on the jukebox and pizzas except on Friday family pizza night set up to give Mom a rest for once not until after nine (and Tonio Rizzo the zen-master pizza maker secretly, since these corner boys were, if tame, still appealing looking to passing girls glad to have then around at that hour to boost the weekend sales). Moreover this spot provided a beautiful vantage point for scanning the horizon for those wayward girls who also kept their coins flowing into Phil’s jukebox (or maybe a stray “nice” girl turned tramp after Red and his corner boys threw her over).

Sam had recently thought about that funny story that Markin had told the crowd once on a hot night when nobody had any money and were just holding up the wall at Phil’s about Johnny Callahan, the flashy and unstoppable halfback from the high school team (and a guy even Red respected having made plenty of money off of with local sports who bet with him on the strength of Johnny’s prowess any given Saturday although Johnny once confessed that he, rightly, avoided Harry’s after what had happened to Timmy Fallon). See Johnny was pretty poor even by the median working poor standard of the old neighborhoods in those days (although now, courtesy of his incessant radio and television advertising which continues to make everyone within fifty miles of North Adamsville who knew Johnny back in the day aware of his new profession, he is a prosperous Toyota car dealer, called Mr. Toyota,  down across from the mall in Hull about twenty miles from North Adamsville, the town where their mutual friend Josh Breslin soon to be introduced came from). Johnny, a real music maniac who would do his football weight-lifting exercises to Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire, Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and stuff like that to get him hyped up, had this routine in order to get to hear songs that he was dying to hear, stuff he would hear late at night coming from a rock station out of Detroit and which would show up a few weeks later on Phil’s jukebox just waiting for Johnny and the kids to fill the coffers, with the girls who had some dough, enough dough anyway to put coins into that jukebox.
Johnny would go up all flirty and virile to some “young thing” (a Fritz expression coped from Jerry Lee and not an invention of Markin as Peter would later claim to some “young thing” that he was trying to “score”). 

Maybe, depending on whatever intelligent he had on the girl, maybe she had just had a fight with her boyfriend or had broken up with him Johnny would be all sympathy, or maybe she was just down in the dumps for no articulable reason like every teen goes through every chance they get, whatever it took. Johnny, by the way, would have gotten that intelligence via Peter who whatever else anybody had to say about him, good or bad, was wired into, no, made himself consciously privy to, all kinds of boy-girl information almost like he had a hook into that Monday morning before school girls’ locker room talkfest. Everybody already knew that he was hooked into the boys’ Monday morning version and had started more rumors and other unsavory deeds than any ten other guys.  Spreading ugly rumors about a guy whose girl he was interested in a specialty. But the guy was like Teflon, nobody ever thought to take him out for his actions they were so dependent on his information to keep their place in the social pecking order.

Now here is what Johnny “knew” about almost every girl if they had the quarter which allowed them to play three selections. He would let them pick that first one on their own, maybe something to express interest in his flirtation, maybe her name, say Donna, was also being used as the title of a latest hit, or if broken up some boy sorrow thing. Brenda Lee’s I Want To Be Wanted, stuff like that. The second one he would “suggest” something everybody wanted to listen to no matter what but which was starting to get old. Maybe an Elvis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee thing still on the jukebox playlist but getting wearisome. Then he would go in for the kill and “suggest” they play this new platter, you know, something like Martha and the Vandelas Dancing in the Streets or Roy’s Blue Bayou both of which he had heard on the midnight radio airwaves out of Detroit one night and were just getting play on the jukeboxes. And bingo before you know it she was playing the thing again, and again. Beautiful. And Johnny said that sometimes he would wind up with a date, especially if he had just scored about three touchdowns for the school, a date that is in the days before he and Kitty Kelly became an item. An item, although it is not germane to the story, who still is Johnny’s girl, wife, known as Mrs. Toyota now.

But enough of this downstream stuff Sam thought. The hell with Johnny and his cheapjack tricks (although not to those three beautiful touchdowns days, okay) this thing gnawing at him was about old age angst and not the corner boy glory days at Phil’s, although it is about old time corner boys and their current doings, some of them anyway. So yeah he had other things he wanted to think about (and besides he had already, with a good trade-in, gotten his latest car from Mr. Toyota so enough there), to tell a candid world about how over the past few years with the country, the world, the universe had been going to hell in a hand-basket. In the old day, like he kept going back to, back in the day he was not the least bit interested in anything in the big world outside of sports, and girls, of course. And endlessly working on plans to own his own business, a print shop, before he was twenty-five. 
Well, he did get that small business, although not until thirty and had prospered when he made connections to do printing for several big high-tech companies, notably IBM when they began outsourcing their work. He had prospered, had married (twice, and divorced twice), had the requisite tolerated children and adored grandchildren, and in his old age a woman companion to ease his time.

But there had been for a long time, through those failed marriages, through that business success something gnawing at him, something that Sam felt he had missed out on, or felt he had do something about. Then a few years ago when it was getting time for a high school class reunion he had Googled “North Adamsville Class of 1964” and came upon a class website for that year, his year, that had been set up by the reunion committee, and decided to joint to keep up with what was going on with developments there. He would wind up not going to that reunion as he had planned, a long story about a slight ill-advised flirtation with an old flame classmate although that too is not germane to the story here except as one more thing that gnawed at him. But mostly in the end he could not face going home, came to believe what Thomas Wolfe said in the title of one of his novels, you can’t go home again).

After Sam had registered on the site giving a brief resume of his interests and what he had been up to those past forty years or so years Sam looked at the class list, the entire list of class members alive and deceased (a rose beside their name signifying their passing) of who had joined and found the names of Peter Markin. He had to laugh Peter had been listed as Peter Paul Markin since everybody was listed by their full names, revenge from the grave by his poor mother, and that leafy suburban first wife who tried to give him Mayflower credentials, he thought.  He also found the name of corner boy Jimmy Jenkins among those who had done so. (Jack Dawson had passed away a few years before, a broken man, broken after his son who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan had committed suicide, according to Peter, as had their corner boy leader, Fritz Fallon, homeless, and found down along a railroad trestle in New Jersey, after going through a couple of fortunes, his own and a third wife’s).

Through the mechanism established on the site which allowed each class member who joined to have a private cyberspace e-mail slot Sam contacted both men and the three of them started a rather vigorous on-line chat line for several weeks going through the alphabet of their experiences, good and bad. The time for sugar-coating was over unlike in their youth when all three would lie like crazy, especially about sex and with whom in order to keep their place in the pecking order, and in order to keep up with Fritz whom lied more than the three of them combined. Peter knew that, knew it better than anybody else but in order to keep his place as “scribe” in that crazy quill pecking order went along with such silly teenage stuff, stuff that in his other pursuits he would have laughed at but that is what made being a teenager back then, now too, from what Sam saw of his grandchildren’s trials and tribulations.

After a while, once the e-mail questions had worked their course, all three men met in Boston at the Sunnyvale Grille, a place where Markin had begun to hang out in after he had moved back to Boston (read: where he did his daytime drinking) over by the waterfront, and spent a few hours discussing not so much old times per se but what was going on in the world, and how the world had changed so much in the meantime. And since Markin, the political maniac of the tribe, was involved in the conversations maybe do something about it at least that is what Sam had hoped since he knew that is where he thought he needed to head in order to cut into that gnawing feeling. Sam was elated, and unlike in his youth he did not shut his ears down, when those two guys would talk politics, about the arts or about music. He now regretted that he had not listened back then since he was so strictly into girls and sports, not always in that order (which caused many problems later including one of the grounds for his one of his divorces, not the sports but the girls).

This is probably the place for Sam to introduce Peter Markin although he had already given an earful (and what goes for Peter goes to a lesser extent for Jimmy who tended to follow in Pete’s wake on the issues back then, and still does). Peter, as Sam has already noted, provided that noteworthy, national security agency-worthy service, that “intelligence” he provided all the guys (and not just his corner boys, although they had first dibs) about girls. Who was “taken,” a very important factor if some frail (a Fritz term from watching too many 1940s gangster and detective movies and reading Dashiell Hammett too closely, especially The Maltese Falcon),was involved with some bruiser football player, some college joe who belonged to a fraternity and the brothers were sworn to avenge any brother’s indignities, or worse, worse of all, if she was involved with some outlaw biker who hung out in Adamsville and who if he hadn’t had his monthly quota of  college boy wannabes red meat hanging out at Phil’s would not think twice about chain-whipping you just for the fuck of it (“for the fuck of it” a  term Jimmy constantly used then, and now, so it was not always Markin or Fritz who led the verbal life around the corner). Who was “unapproachable,”  probably more important than that social blunder of ‘hitting on” a taken woman since that snub by Miss Perfect-Turned-Up-Nose would make the rounds of the now legendary seminar, Monday morning before school girls’ locker room (and eventually work its way through Markin to the boys’ Monday morning version ruining whatever social standing the guy had spent since junior high trying to perfect in order to avoid the fatal nerd-dweeb-wallflower-square- name your term existence). Strangely Markin made a serious mistake with Melinda Loring who blasted her freeze deep on him and he survived to tell the tale, or at least that is what he had the boys believe. Make of this what you will though, Peter never after that Melinda Loring mistake, had a high school girlfriend from North Adamsville High, who, well, liked to “do the do” as they called it back then, that last part not always correct since everybody, girls and boys alike, were lying like crazy about whether they were “doing the do” or not, including Markin.

But beyond, well beyond, that schoolboy silliness Markin was made of sterner stuff (although Sam would not have bothered to use such a positive attribute about Markin back then) was super-political, super into art and into what he called culture, you know going to poetry readings at coffeehouses, going over Cambridge to watch foreign films with subtitles and themes at the Brattle Theater that he would try to talk about and even Jimmy would turn his head when he went on and on about French films, especially those films by Jean Renoir, and super into music, fortunately he was not crazy for classical music (unlike some nerds in school then who were in the band) but serious about what is now called classic rock and roll and then in turn, the blues, and folk music. (Sam still shuttered at that hillbilly folk music stuff Markin tried to interest him in when he thought about it).

That folk music was how Peter had first met Josh Breslin, still a friend, whom he introduced to Sam at one of their meetings over at the Sunnyvale Grille. Josh told the gathering that Markin had met him after high school, after he had graduated from Hull High (the same town where Johnny Callahan was burning up the Toyota sales records for New England) down at the Surf Ballroom (Sam had his own under twenty-one memories of the place, some good, some bad including one affair that almost wound up in marriage). Apparently Josh and Peter had had their wanting habits on the same girl at one Friday night dance when the great local cover band, the Rockin’ Ramrods held sway there, and had been successively her boyfriend for short periods both to be dumped for some stockbroker from New York. But their friendship remained and they had gone west together, gone on that Jack Kerouac-drenched On The Road for a number of years when they were trying their own version of turning the world upside down on. Josh also dabbled (his word) in the turning upside down politics of the time.

And that was the remarkable thing about Peter, not so much later in cahoots with Josh because half of youth nation, half the generation of ’68 was knee-deep in some movement, but in staid old North Adamsville High days, days when to just be conventionally political, wanting to run for office or something, was kind of strange. See Peter was into the civil rights movement, nuclear disarmament, and social justice stuff that everybody thought he was crazy to be into, everybody from Ma to Fritz (and a few anonymous midnight phone-callers yelling n----r-lover in the Markin home phone).  He had actually gone into Boston when he was a freshman and joined the picket-line in front of Woolworth’s protesting the fact that they would not let black people eat in their lunchrooms down south (and maybe Markin would say when he mentioned what he was up to they were not that happy to have blacks in their northern lunchrooms either ), had joined a bunch of Quakers and little old ladies in tennis sneakers (a term then in use for airhead blue-haired lady do-gooders with nothing but time on their hands) calling on the government to stop building atomic bombs (not popular in the red scare Cold War we-are-fighting- against- the- Russians-terror North Adamsville, or most other American places either), running over to the art museum to check out the exhibits (including some funny stories about him and Jimmy busting up the place looking at the old Pharaoh times slave building Pyramids stuff uncovered by some Harvard guys way back), and going to coffeehouses in Harvard Square and listening to hokey folk music that was a drag. (Sam’s take on that subject then, and now.) So Peter was a walking contradiction, although that was probably not as strange now as it seemed back then when every new thing was looked at with suspicion, and when kids like Peter were twisted in the wind between being corner boys and trying to figure out what that new wind was that was blowing though the land, when Sam and the other corner boys, except Jimmy and sometimes Jack would try to talk him out of stuff that would only upset everybody in town.

But here is the beauty, beauty for Sam now that he was all ears about what Peter had to say, he had kept at it, had kept the faith, while everybody else from their generation, or almost everybody, who protested war, protested around the social issues, had hung around coffeehouses and who had listened to folk music had long before given it up. Markin had, after his  Army time, spent a lot of time working with GIs around the war issues, protested American foreign policy at the drop of a hat and frequented off-beat coffeehouses set up in the basements of churches in order to hear the dwindling number of folk artists around. He had gotten and kept his “religion,” kept the faith in a sullen world. And like in the old days a new generation (added to that older North Adamsville generation which still, from the class website e-mail traffic he received when classmates found out they were in communication had not gotten that much less hostile to what Peter had to say about this wicked old world, you already know the genesis of that term, right), was ready to curse him out, ready to curse the darkness against his small voice.

One night when Peter and Sam were alone at the Sunnyvale, maybe both had had a few too many high-shelf scotches (able to afford such liquor unlike in the old days when they both in their respective poverties drank low-shelf Johnny Walker whiskey with a beer chaser when they had the dough, if not some cheapjack wine), Peter told Sam the story of how he had wanted to go to Alabama in high school, go to Selma, but his mother threatened to disown him if he did, threatened to disown him not for his desire to go but because she would not have been able to hold her head up in public if he had, and so although it ate at him not to go, go when his girlfriend, Helen Jackson, who lived in Gloversville, did go, he took a dive (Peter’s words).

Told a redemptive story too about his anti-war fight in the Army when he refused to go to Vietnam and wound up in an Army stockade for a couple of years altogether. (Sam thought that was a high price to pay for redemption but it may have been the scotch at work.) Told a number of stories about working with various veterans’ groups, throwing medals over Supreme Court barricades, chainings to the White House fence, sitting down in hostile honked traffic streets, blocking freeways complete with those same hostile honkings, a million walks for this and that, and some plain old ordinary handing out leaflets, working the polls and button-holing reluctant politicians to vote against the endless war budgets (this last the hardest task, harder than all the jailings, honkings, marches put together and seemingly the most fruitless). Told too stories about the small coffeehouse places seeing retread folkies who had gone on to other things and then in a fit of anguish, or hubris, decided to go back on the trail. Told of many things that night not in a feast of pride but to let Sam know that sometimes it was easier to act than to let that gnawing win the day. Told Sam that he too always had the gnaw, probably always would in this wicked old world. Sam was delighted by the whole talk, even if Peter was on his soapbox. 

That night too Peter mentioned in passing that he contributed to a number of blogs, a couple of political ones, including an anti-war veterans’ group, a couple of old time left-wing cultural sites and a folk music-oriented one. Sam confessed to Peter that although he had heard the word “blog” he did not know what a blog was. Peter told him that one of the virtues of the Internet was that it provided space (cyberspace, a term Sam had heard of and knew what it meant) for the average citizen to speak his or her mind via setting up a website or a blog. Blogs were simply a way to put your opinions and comments out there just like newspaper Op/Ed writers or news reporters and commentators although among professional reporters the average blog and blog writer were seen as too filled with opinions and sometimes rather loose with the facts. Peter said he was perfectly willing to allow the so-called “objective” reporters roam free to state the facts but he would be damned if the blog system was not a great way to get together with others interested in your areas of interest, yeah, stuff that interested you and that other like-minded spirits might respond to. Yeah, that was worth the effort.

The actual process of blog creation (as opposed to the more complex website-creation which still takes a fair amount of expertise to create) had been made fairly simple over time, just follow a few simple prompts and you are in business. Also over time what was possible to do has been updated for ease, for example linking to other platforms to your site and be able to present multi-media works lashing up say your blog with YouTube or downloading photographs to add something to your presentation. Peter one afternoon after Sam had asked about his blog links showed him the most political one that he belonged to, one he had recently begun to share space with Josh Breslin, Frank Jackman and a couple of other guys that he had known since the 1960s on and who were familiar with the various social, political and cultural trends that floated out from that period. 
Sam was amazed at the topics that those guys tackled, stuff that he vaguely remembered hearing about but which kind of passed him by as he delved into the struggle to build his printing shop. He told Peter that he got dizzy looking at the various titles from reviews of old time black and white movies that he remembered watching at the old Strand second-run theater uptown, poetry from the “beat” generation, various political pieces on current stuff like the Middle East, the fight against war, political prisoners most of whom he had never heard of except the ones who had been Black Panthers or guys like that, all kinds of reviews of rock and roll complete with the songs via YouTube, too many reviews of folk music that he never really cared for, books that he knew Peter read like crazy but he could not remember the titles. The guys really had put a lot of stuff together, even stuff from other sites and announcements for every conceivable left-wing oriented event. He decided that he would become a Follower which was nothing sinister like some cult but just that you would receive notice when something was put on the blog.

Peter also encouraged him to write some pieces about what interested him, maybe start out about the old days in North Adamsville since all the guys mined that vein for sketches. That is what Peter liked to call most of the material on site since they were usually too short to be considered short stories but too long to be human interest snapshots. Sam said he would think about the matter, think about it seriously once he read the caption below:                                                                           

“This space is noted for politics mainly, and mainly the desperate political fight against various social, economic and moral injustices and wrongs in this wicked old world, although the place where politics and cultural expression, especially post-World War II be-bop cultural expression, has drawn some of our interest over the past several years. The most telling example of that interest is in the field of popular music, centrally the blues, city and country, good woman on your mind, hardworking, hard drinking blues and folk music, mainly urban, mainly protest to high heaven against the world’s injustices smite the dragon down, folk music. Of late though the old time 1950s kid, primordial, big bang, jail-break rock and roll music that set us off from earlier generations has drawn our attention. Mostly by reviewing oldies CDs but here, and occasionally hereafter under this headline, specifically songs that some future archaeologists might dig up as prime examples of how we primitives lived ,and what we listened to back in the day.”

Sam could relate to that, had something to say about some of those songs. Josh Breslin laughed when he heard that Sam was interested in doing old time rock and roll sketches. He then added, “If we can only get him to move off his butt and come out and do some street politics with us we would be getting somewhere.” Peter just replied, “one step at a time.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

We Are In A Cold Civil War-Join The Anti-Fascist Resistance-For Labor/Black Action to Stop Fascists!

We Are In A Cold Civil War-Join The Anti-Fascist Resistance-For Labor/Black Action to Stop Fascists!

By Frank Jackman

Usually I place articles and announcement from various left-wing and progressive groupings that I do not necessarily agree with but think that the general radical-left liberal milieu might find of interest in a blog site dedicated to American Left History (and its complement cultural component) past and present. I have noted more than once that I usually do not comment on the views expressed and if I do have differences I can either write my own comments or if the differences are severe or reflect bad taste not post the item. Occasionally in the struggle against the ugly forces that have reared their heads in the age of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States and apparently nothing but a common criminal and maybe a sociopath, have felt the wind at their backs under his tenure I find some article or statement which I am in general agreement with and will as here take the time to express general if not total solidarity with the views expressed by others.  

The most important point made in the article belong which deals with an analysis and program to defeat the emergent serious extra-parliamentary right-wing threat is that we must learn the hard lessons of history on the question of stopping the fascist and fascistic elements in the egg. If that had been done in Germany at any point up to and including 1933 the history of the Western world could very well have taken a different trajectory and we would today probably not be faced with what looks like yet again a global right-wing counter-revolutionary movement baring its knuckles. Closer to home we have to nip the small but growing fascist threat which seemingly is turning the cold civil war we have been facing for a while now and which is getting more heated in the bud- and in the streets.

A second point to note is knowing what period we are in and who is and who is not going to benefit from the rise of the fascists (call them as they call themselves “the alt-right” it is the same damn thing that has been with us since post-World War I times). The rise of Trump was by parliamentary means-by regular bourgeois norms elections and does not represent a fascist take-over as some claim. The ruling class at this moment has not been defeated anyplace in the world militarily, at least where it would fatally hurt, as it did in Germany after their World War I defeat and that ruling class here is not now, and I emphasize not now, confronted by any militant mass left-wing movements that would threaten their power necessitating the need to go beyond their normal military/police forces to curb.   

As this cold civil war heats up there will be plenty of those in the opposition, on our side, who want to call on the government to stop the fascists, or better yet, call on the opposition party, the Democrats, to do something about the matter. Wrong. While we may unite with all who want to oppose the fascist threat on the streets, including democrats, to rely on the good offices of any establishment political organization to do our work for us is fool-hardy and in the end dangerous. We must rely centrally on our ability to gather masses of working people and the oppressed to stop these sewer rats. History shows no other way but a straight up fight to the finish or else these scumbags, excuse my vulgar usage but we are in a fierce fight and the niceties of everyday politics are not called for, will be further emboldened. Those who profess some “rational” and “reasoned” approach to deal with this life-threatening menace are doomed to the scrap heap.

Finally there is no room for being “liberal” in this fight. These fascists are not a literary/political club movement we can debate with or permit to spew their trash talk under the banner of “free speech.” Those who thought that approach might work in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and early 1930s either had to flee into exile or found themselves in some death camp. We can give no quarter here. Period. 

So yes, for once, on this issue of fighting the emerging fascist threat I stand in solidarity with the views expressed below with its sober analysis and program to fight the menace right now.  


Workers Vanguard No. 1110
21 April 2017
For Labor/Black Action to Stop Fascists!
Fascists Fueled by Trump Election
Hundreds of Jewish headstones desecrated. Women wearing the headscarf attacked on the streets. Two software engineers from India shot, one fatally, in Kansas in February by a Navy vet who howled, “Get out of my country.” A Sikh American shot in his driveway in Kent, Washington, last month by a masked white man screaming, “Go back to your own country.” Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old black man, murdered on the streets of Manhattan on March 20 by a white-supremacist who had come to New York City from Baltimore with the express purpose of killing black men.
The race-terrorists have been emboldened by the campaign and victory of the right-wing demagogue Donald Trump, and are taking their cue from the unabashed racism and anti-immigrant vitriol emanating from the White House. The ultimate aim of the fascists, including those who congregate around the “alt-right,” is racial genocide and the destruction of workers organizations, including unions and the left.
The race-terrorists have played on the racist backlash against Barack Obama, America’s first black president. Obama’s eight years in office offered nothing to black and working people; the Democratic Party no less than the Republicans represents the very capitalist order that breeds fascism. During the Obama administration, conditions for black people and workers continued to worsen while cops wantonly gunned down black people on the streets. More industrial areas turned into rust bowls, while strongholds of union power continued their steep decline. Obama rigorously pursued U.S. imperialism’s war aims abroad, while ramping up the “war on terror” at home, which targets Muslims in particular. The fascist thugs feed off anger and frustration arising from economic devastation; they scapegoat black people, immigrants and minorities for the misery inflicted on the population by the capitalist rulers.
On April 15, when hundreds of “protesters” descended on downtown Berkeley for a pro-Trump rally, the fascists infesting the crowd made clear that they were out for blood. Chanting “Hitler did nothing wrong” and giving Nazi salutes, they viciously attacked antifa activists and leftists with clubs, flagpoles and knives. One viral video shows Nathan Damigo, head of the fascist group Identity Evropa, punching a woman in the face. Last June, in Sacramento, white-supremacists of the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Golden Gate Skinheads stabbed and slashed at least seven anti-fascists, sending them to the hospital. In Berkeley, anti-fascists were able to defend themselves from fascist violence but a number were injured.
Individual acts of courage are not enough to smash the fascist threat. What is needed are massive, integrated, disciplined mobilizations based on the social power of the multiracial working class. The workplace is the only real point of integration in American society, providing the potential basis for unity in struggle to defend working people and the oppressed. Black workers in particular can be the living link that unites the power of the working class with the anger of the ghettos.
The union movement has been flat on its back for many years under a misleadership that is committed to capitalism and has shackled the unions to the Democratic Party. A fight by militant unionists to organize labor/black power to crush the fascists can give the working class a taste of its social power. It is the fascists—not black people, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, leftists and others—who must be made to feel the sting of fear.
Who Are These Scum?
Today, many fascist groups in the “alt-right” claim that they are something different from the Klan and Nazis. They dress in “respectable” suits and ties and promote themselves as intellectuals. One of their leading voices is Richard Spencer, führer of the innocuously named National Policy Institute (NPI). When the NPI held a conference in Washington, D.C., shortly after Trump’s election, Spencer responded to the audience’s stiff-armed Nazi salutes by declaring: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” (the latter a translation of the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil”).
Allied with Spencer is Identity Evropa, which describes itself as an organization of “awakened Europeans” and requires that its members be of “European, non-Semitic heritage.” Its leader, Damigo, is a former Marine who was twice deployed to Iraq. After returning, he held up an immigrant taxi driver at gunpoint in San Diego in 2007, believing the man was Iraqi. While in prison for four years, he immersed himself in the writings of “former” Klansman David Duke. Before founding Identity Evropa in March 2016, Damigo—who describes black people as “inferior to whites, genetically”—was a leader of the now-defunct National Youth Front, the youth arm of the white-supremacist American Freedom Party.
Identity Evropa is currently waging a campaign, called “Project Siege,” to recruit from College Republicans. Its members have appeared at colleges and its posters and stickers have been spotted on campuses around the country. These posters consist of Greco-Roman images with slogans like, “Protect Your Heritage.” Their slick website serves as a portal for those who claim racial superiority and who deny the Holocaust. As part of their recruitment drive, Damigo, Spencer and others held a rally on 6 May 2016 at UC Berkeley, the former bastion of left-wing student protest.
Today, outfits like Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and others are still small. But they will strike with force, as seen in Sacramento and Berkeley. It is vital that they be crushed in the egg before they grow. Against those who call for bans on “hate speech” or who argue for “free speech” for fascists, we say that when these race-terrorists rear their heads they must be repulsed through mass protest. Fascism is not about speech or ideas; it is about racist terror. “Anti-extremism” bans, whether instituted by campus administrations or government forces, will always be used to silence leftists, anti-racists and minority activists.
Fascism in the U.S. is rooted in the defeat of the Confederacy by the Union Army in the Civil War, when 200,000 black soldiers and sailors played a key role in destroying slavery. The Klan and other race-terrorists came into being after that victory and bloodily suppressed the newly freed slaves. No less than the KKK, the fascist vermin in the “alt-right” represent a threat to the very right of black people to exist. They aim to reverse the verdict of the Civil War.
Prepare to Fight!
Unlike Germany in the 1930s, when the Nazis rose to power and went on to carry out the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, America’s capitalist rulers do not at this time feel the need to resort to fascism. The U.S. is not a defeated imperialist power, as Germany was after World War I, nor does the U.S. bourgeoisie currently face a challenge to its rule from the working class. The daily terror meted out by the cops against black people and minorities is today deemed sufficient to keep the oppressed in check. At the same time, the capitalist rulers hold the fascist shock troops in reserve, to be unleashed at times of social crisis in order to spike any prospect of revolutionary struggle by the working class.
The Trump administration is not fascist, but the fascists sure as hell have a lot of friends in high places. Trump appointed as his chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a well-known “white nationalist” who took over Breitbart News and turned it into “the platform of the alt-right,” as he boasted. Trump’s top counter-terrorism advisor, Sebastian Gorka, is reportedly a member of the Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian organization that harks back to the fascistic interwar dictatorship of Admiral Horthy—Gorka wore its medal at Trump’s inauguration ball. Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior advisors, joined Richard Spencer in organizing an anti-immigrant event at Duke University in 2007. He went on to work for notorious racist and defender of the Confederacy, Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. One could go on.
Bolstered by their high-ranking friends, the fascists have put the left in their deadly sights. We of the Spartacist League were targeted earlier this year, when a fascist secretly videoed one of our comrades distributing Workers Vanguard at the D.C. inauguration protests. The fascist posted the video on YouTube and vowed to “infiltrate” our organization. In Berkeley, the fascists made it clear that they are targeting leftists by chanting “commies, off our street!” It is a matter of life and death for the left to fight for united-front actions, based on the power of the unions, to beat back the fascist threat. In such united fronts, every organization must be free to put forward its political program in the course of struggle. As Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky put it: “March separately, but strike together!”
During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, much like today, the official racism of the White House encouraged the Klan and Nazis. When the fascists tried to hold rallies in major urban centers, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee initiated and organized labor/black mobilizations. From Washington, D.C., where the Klan threatened to stage an anti-immigrant provocation, to Chicago, where the Nazis took aim at a Gay Pride demonstration, and elsewhere, we succeeded in sparking protests of thousands to stop the fascists. At the core of these actions were contingents of determined workers from the multiracial unions standing at the head of the black poor, immigrants and all the intended victims of fascist terror.
These mobilizations required a constant political struggle—against the cops, courts and other forces of the capitalist state, as well as capitalist politicians. Fearing the specter of labor/black power, Democratic mayors and other officials preached “tolerance” and “peace.” They called diversionary rallies far from where the fascists intended to march while violence-baiting those who wanted to stop fascist violence. And time and again, they were joined by reformist leftists who promoted reliance on the Democrats. When, in October 1999, we issued a call to stop the Klan from marching in New York City, the International Socialist Organization refused to endorse and instead joined a diversion organized by the Democrats where they shared the platform with a Latino police association. It should be an elementary understanding for leftists that the cops are the enemy. Historically, the policeman and the Klansman have often been the same man.
What is needed is a fight to finish the Civil War through an American workers revolution that achieves the promise of black equality, the liberation of all the exploited and oppressed and puts the last nail in the coffin of the fascist killers. The labor/black mobilizations we initiated are a small example of the leadership and forces needed to build a party of our class in struggle against the capitalist enemy. In the face of the growing fascist menace, we must be prepared to mobilize.