Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Old Man’s Old Sea- In Honor Of Our Homeland, The Ocean-From The Pen Of Old Time Acre Neighborhood Corner Boy Allan Jackson

The Old Man’s Old Sea- In Honor Of Our Homeland, The Ocean-From The Pen Of Old Time Acre Neighborhood Corner Boy Allan Jackson

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin 

[No, you are not seeing things in some weird way when you see a seeming disconnect between the named person in the title of this piece and the person who wrote it. They are one in the same person. Peter Paul Markin was the moniker that Allan used when he was the site manager, then called administrator, at this publication for many years both in its hard copy and current on-line forms. The demise of Allan Jackson, his removal by a vote of no confidence from among the younger writers, has been written unto death and need not detain us further.

What I do want to detain you about is the origin of the Markin moniker because that long-departed mad man, Allan’s words, still hovers over this publication, especially among the older writers who knew Markin, who in a funny way have almost made a cult out of his sordid memory. To make a long story short since along the way many of the older writers have written their remembrances of their long- fallen corner boy brother I will hurry along. (In fact young Zack James, at the request of his brother Alex, who knew and was best friends with Markin in high school, was commissioned to edit and see to hard copy publication a collective memoir dedicated to Markin’s memory which will be released for the general readership next year.) Markin, whatever happened to him later after his Vietnam War military service and the drug addiction which would lead to his downfall, was the recognized “intellectual” leader of the Tonio’s Pizza Parlor corner boys and while he could barely tie his shoes in practical matters was the guy who came up with all the ideas, good and bad, legal and illegal.

Allan, as he told me once we got him back on board as a contributing editor when things started going awry with some of the younger writers wo buckled under a few suggestions I tried to pass their way, took Markin’s murky death down in Mexico pretty hard since one of the he and a bunch of other writers looking for steady work and publication to avoid that cabdriver (now Uber or Lyft, that faced every unrequited writer, had put this operation together with Markin in mind. He was so bereft that he had to take Markin’s name if only to keep the bastard’s aura hang over the joint, and so it remains. I, frankly don’t like it, don’t like a two bit junkie with big dope-filled eyes hanging around overhead looking down at my every move. But that is just me and I know I will take a rash of nonsense for even mentioning Markin’s name without genuflecting my ass off. Sorry, guys. Greg Green]       


It is dawn, or maybe just those few minutes before the dawn, those dark light minutes when the sun’s battle for the day is set. The waves splash, today not so innocently, today not tepidly like the past several days when the she sea sounds did not mercifully drown out traffics, construction hammers, or beach tractor clean-ups but swirling out from some hidden sea swells beyond the horizon against the defenseless waiting sand, sand beaten down since time immemorial. Or as long as anyone has been watching that feat, that seemingly endless feat.

This beach, this northern clime beach, the far end of Saco, Maine beach, is this day filled with empty clam shells from some timeless previous sea swirlings waiting sandification (is that right?), abandoned and mislaid lobster traps (and one up in lobster country had better know the difference, know the livelihood difference between the two conditions , just in case some irate boat craggy captain, aged liked sea, decides to reclaim one over your head), occasional oil slicks spilled from the trawlers (and hopefully only small working  residues and not some monster slick by some tiny horizon tanker heading to oil depot ports further up the coast), working trawlers nearby, the flotsam and jetsam streamed here of a thousand ships, cargoes, careless throwaways and conscious, very conscious dumpings, like the sea was just another land-fill wanting filling.

Today though I am ready, ready for the hundredth hundredth time to walk the walk, the ocean walk that has defined more parts of me than heaven will ever know. As I button up my yellow slicker against the April winds that come here more often than, and can come out of the blue against the Bay of Fundy confusions, one minute eighty degrees the next thirty five, I see, see faintly in the distance, a figure, a fellow traveler taking his, her or its (don’t laugh I have seen horses, unridden horses, trotting these beaches, although no sea monsters), maybe also hundredth hundredth walking along the ocean sidewalk, and maybe, just maybe, for the same reason.

Today, hundredth, hundredth walk or not, I am in a remembering mood, a high dudgeon remembering mood that always gets triggered by proximity, fifty mile proximity if the truth be known, to the ocean. I have just finished up a piece of work that reminded me of seas, sea-sides, sea walks, sea rocks, ocean-side carnival amusement parks placed as if to mock the intrinsic interest that one would have in the sea, our homeland the sea, and I need to sort this out, also for that now familiar ten-thousandth time. But I best begin at the beginning, or try to, so I will be finished in that hour or so that it will take me to walk this walk, this rambling ocean walk, and I will pass that solitary walker coming the other way and be obliged under some law of the sea to break my train of thought and remark on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune to that passing stranger.

Ah, memory, jesus, just the names, Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Snug Harbor Elementary School tell a story all on their own. Yes, those names, those seemingly misplaced, misbegotten names and places from the old housing project down in Adamsville, down in my old hometown, and where I came of age, sea-worthy age as well, surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, mast-strewn ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me.

Needless to say, ever since I was a toddler my imagination, my sense of imagery, my sense of the nature of the world has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes, although those drove my youth a bit but of the power of nature, for good or evil. And on those long ago days, just like now, I dressed against the impending inclement weather with my mustard yellow rain slicker(French’s mustard color not Guiden’s, okay) complete with Gloucester fisherman’s rain floppy rain hat of the same color and rubber boots, black, knee-length boots that go squish, squish and have done so since before time immemorial.

Of course, anybody with any sense knows that anyone who had even a passing attachment to a place like Adamsville, tucked in a bay, an Atlantic bay, had to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and, a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But, enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsiville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centered, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, Adamsville Central Beach. Puny by Saco beach far-as-the-eye-can-see standards, and Saco puny by Carlsbad (California Carlsbad) farther-than-the-eye-can-see standards but a place to learn the ropes of how to deal with the sea, with its pitfalls, its mysteries, it lure, and its lore.

For many of us of a certain age brought forth by the sea, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Central Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint you can only dream of such heavens although someone, not me, not me today as I remembrance with a broad stroke and have no time for pretty descriptions, for literary flourishes, should really do themselves proud and write the history, yah, the child’s view history of that establishment. And make the theme, make the theme if you will, the bond between New England love of ice cream and of the sea (yes, it is true, other parts of the country, other ocean parts of the country as well, are, well, nonplussed by the ice cream idea, and it shows in their product).

Know this for now though: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and “they don’t make them like they used to”, especially for those who only know “HoJo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken turnpike highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.

Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution against the dreaded jellyfish (or motherly cautions against everything, everything even the slightest bit harmful in this dangerous old world), pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the South Adamsville end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide (the days before dinosaur lament fossils fuels exploded the oceans). Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies, Nash Ramblers come to mind and disappear, that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine) that were some of the too few times when my family acted like a family. Or, more vivid, the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth (and maybe still ancient wound stuck there).

But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Central Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature ( a fitful and uneven struggle at best as a few over the top wave crashes have demonstrated to keep us on our toes, and humble), some Zen notions of oneness with the universe (and if not Zen then Kali, Misha or some Zoroastrian flaming fire god mad monk), the calming effect of the thundering waves (rule: speak no louder than the angriest wave in its presence, children under twelve excepted), thoughts of mortality (endless seas bring that notion to the fore and not just ancient wounds and sorrows), and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we, you and I, just in case a stray naive child of about eight is around, are not discussing the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races.” Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will confine ourselves to the day time beach.

Virtually from the day we got out of school for the summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Yacht Clubs (yes, it was that kind of city touting ancient wise men long gone and not missed, not missed after the obligatory sixth grade crypt visit in the Center, not missed, hell, not even on the radar for heady 1960s teenagers. Now, I ask you, was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, the king of the North Adamsville corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory and nothing but a flame-throwing lady-killer, uh, when his honey, Joanne Doyle was summering elsewhere) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a grade B ‘boy meets girl’ saga the plot behind a thousand Hollywood films, except they exploded into song on the beach as well.)

Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this section of the remembrance piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of the song Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and a cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read, tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about such a situation in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we, you and I, have agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?

But visions of nearly one-half century ago hardly exhaust the lure of the sea. And, speaking of visions, that fellow sea-seeker I mentioned a while ago, coming from the other end of the beach is starting to take shape, it is a he, I can tell by the walk, by the sea walk that men put on when they are alone with their thoughts, although beyond that he is too far away for me to determine age, class (this is a very democratic beach, in most spots, with few vulgar and almost universally disregarded no-trespassing-private property-keep out-beware-of-dogs-police-take-notice signs on some Mayfair swell properties), or physical description, as the suppressed light from the cloudy morning day gets a little brighter

Funny, some people I have known, including some I grew up with, grew up with breathing ocean air embedded in their inner beings and who started with a love of the sea much as I did, moved to Kansas, Omaha, Peoria, Winnemucca or some such place, some such distinctly non-ocean place and never looked back. Christ, as is well known by one and all who know me I get very nervous even now when, as a city boy, I go to the country and do not have the feel of city lights to comfort me. Not as well known is the fact, the hard fact that I get nervous, very nervous, when I am not within driving distance of some ocean, say that fifty miles mentioned above. So keep, please keep, your Kansas, your Omaha, your Peoria, and your damned Winnemucca (and that desolate bus station bench I slept on one night after giving up on the hitchhike road for the evening trying to head out of town to no avail, trying to head ocean west, and let me be, be in places like Bar Harbor, Maine, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Sanibel Island, Florida, Carlsbad, California (hell no, not the New Mexico one ), Mendocino, ditto California, Seattle, Washington just to name a few places on this continent, and there are many others, and on other continents, or the edges of other continents, as well. And stories, plenty of stories, which I don’t have time to tell you now except for one that will stand in as an exemplar for what I mean. By the way that form, that mannish form, coming toward me is looking more like a young man by the speed of his walk, and he too seems to have on a favored sea dog yellow rain jacket.

January 1970 visions of Angelica, Angelica of the homeland sea.

I waved good-bye to Angelica, once again, as she drove off from the ocean front campsite that we had been camping out on, the Leo Carrillo State Park near Point Magoo about fifty miles or so north of Los Angeles. She will now drive the road back in her green Ford Hertz unlimited mileage, mid-size rental (paid for, as she explained one night, by her parents whose golden age of the automobile-frenzied minds counted it as a strike against me, a very big strike, that when I had “kidnapped” their daughter on the 1969 blue-pink summer road west down in Steubenville, Ohio I didn’t even have a car). She planned (on my advice) to drive back mostly on the ocean-abutted, white-capped waves smashing against jagged ancient shore rocks, Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and Santa Monica to take one last look at the Pacific Ocean as the final point on her first look ocean trip, on the way to LAX to take a flight back to school days Muncie, Indiana.

She will also be driving back to the airport and getting on that miserable plane east knowing as I do since we talked about it incessantly during her stay, that some right things, or at least some maybe right things, like our being together last summer heading free west and for these two January weeks in front of the sea, our homeland the sea, before her classes started again, got caught up in the curious web of the human drama. For no understandable reason. Hey, you already knew this if you have ever had even that one teeny-weeny, tiny, minuscule love affair that just had no place to go, or no time to take root, or just got caught out there in the blue-pink night. Yah, you know that story. But let me take some minutes to tell you this one. If it seems very familiar and you “know” the plot line well then just move on.

To get you up to speed after Angelica and I had been on the heartland hitchhike road (and places like Moline, Neola, and Omaha are nothing but the heartland, good or bad), she, well, she just got tired of it, tired of the lacks, tired of the uncertainties of the road. Hell hell-on-wheels, I was getting tired of it myself except I was a man on a mission. The nature of that mission is contained in the words “search for the blue-pink great American West night” so the particulars of that mission need not detain us here. So in Neola, Iowa, Neola, Iowa of all places aided by “fairy grandmother” Aunt Betty, who ran the local diner where Angelica worked to help make us some dough to move on, and her own sense of dreams she called it quits back in September. Aunt Betty drove us to Omaha where Angelica took the bus back east, Indiana east from Nebraska, to hometown Muncie and I hit Interstate 80 West headed first to Denver before the snows, or so I hoped.
Honestly, although we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers where messages could be left, or where we could speak to each other (her parents’ house not being one of them), and made big plans to reunite in California in January during her school break, I didn’t really think that once we were off the road together that those plans would pan out.
Now I may not remember all my reasoning at the time this far removed, the now of my telling this story many years later, but I had had enough relationships with women to sense this one was good, very good, while it lasted but it could not survive the parting.
Not one of those overused “absence makes the heart grow fonder” things you hear about. And, truth to tell, because I thought that was the way things would play out, I started getting focused back on Boston Joyel more than a little as I walked a lot, stood at the shoulder of the hitchhike road a lot, and fitfully got my rides on the road west.

But see this is where you think you have something figured out just so and then it goes awry. Angelica called, left messages, sent letters, even a telegram, to Denver (to the commune where, Jack and Mattie, my traveling companions on the final leg west whom I had met earlier in the spring on a different trip down to D.C., were staying). She sent more communications in early December saying that she was still coming to Los Angeles as well where we three stayed with a few artistic friends of Jack and Mattie’s. Cinema-crazed artistic friends, including one budding film director who, moreover, had great dope connections right into the heart of Mexico. This is where they would stay while I planned to push the hitchhike road north heading to San Francisco.

I once, in running through one of the scenes in this hitchhike road show, oh yah, it was the Neola scene, mentioned that in Angelica what you saw was what you got, what she said was what she meant, and both those were good things indeed. And so if I had thought about it a minute of course she was coming to California in January and staying with me for her two week break, and maybe longer. So when January came she contacted me though John and Mattie, who like I said were now staying with this very interesting experimental film-maker, David, in the Hollywood hills and canyons. I started back south to L.A. in order to meet her at the airport. From there I had it planned that we would go to Point Magoo and camp out like in the “old days” at an ocean front state park.

Needless to say when I greeted her at LAX we both were all smiles, I was in more than all smiles mode, because I had been “stag” for a while and she was, well, fetching as always, or almost always. Here though is where I noticed that the road really is not for everyone. In Neola, and later getting on the bus back home in Omaha, poor Angelica looked pretty haggard but at the airport, well like I said, she was fetching.
And, guess what, she brought her sleeping bag that we had gotten for her in a Lexington, Kentucky Army-Navy Store when we first seriously started on the road west. The first thing she said about it was, referring to a little in-joke between us, “it fits two, in a pinch.” Be still my heart. So we gathered up her stuff, did the airport exit stuff (easier in those days) and picked up the outside shuttle to the Hertz car rental terminal. We were jabbering away like crazy, but best of all, we were like, a little, those first days last summer back in that old-time Steubenville truck stop diner and cabin when I first met her.

Of course, part of the trip for her, part of what she went as far as she could with me on the hitchhike road for, was to get to California and see what it was all about, and what the ocean was all about since she was a heartland girl who had never seen the ocean before. When we got to Point Magoo she flipped out, she flipped out mostly at the idea that we would stay, could stay right on the beach in front of the ocean. And just like a kid, just like I did when I was kid and saw the ocean, when she saw the Pacific, she jumped right in. Hell, she was so excited she almost got caught in a small riptide. I had to go drag her out. I won’t say we had fun every minute of those weeks acting out our ocean nomad existence, but most minutes, and I could see that she felt the same way.

Naturally, as time drifted away toward her return flight date we talked more and more about what the future, if any, held in store for us. She was adamant about not going back on the road, she was adamant as well that she wanted to finish school and make something of herself. I had no serious defense against that practical wisdom. And, truthfully, I wasn’t, toward the end of her stay, pushing the issue, partially because even I could see that it made sense but also, we had had a “flare-up” over the Boston Joyel question (I am being polite here).

But it was more than that; the flat out, hungry truth was that I really didn’t know how to deal with a Midwestern what you see is what you get woman like Angelica. I was more used to virtuous Irish Catholic girls who drove me crazy as a kid getting me all twisted up about religion, about nice girls, and about duplicity when I found out what the real score was with this type of young girl/ woman later. I was also, and Joyel was the epitome of this type, totally in sync (well, as much as a man can be) with the Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of human relationships 24/7 kind of woman. And fatally attracted to them (and still am). This Angelica look at things only a couple of ways, let’s work things out easy-like, heavens, let’s not analyze everything to the nth degree flipped me out. Angelica was a breath of fresh air and, maybe, maybe, about ten years later, and two divorces later to boot, I would have had that enough sense god gave geese to hold onto her with both hands, tightly, very tightly. But I was in my blue-pink search phase and not to be detoured.

Of course all this hard work of trying to understand where we stood put a little crack in our reason for being together in the first place. The search for, search for something. Maybe, for her, it was just that life minute at the ocean and then on to regular life minutes out in the thickets of the white picket fences. She never said it then in so many words but that seemed to be the aim. And to be truthful, although I was only just barely thinking about it at the time, as the social turmoil of the times got weird, diffuse, and began to evaporate things started to lose steam. As we were, seemingly, endlessly taking our one-sided beatings as those in charge started a counter-offensive ( a counter-offensive still going on) people, good people, but people made of human clay nevertheless got tired of the this and that existence, even Joyel. Joyel of Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of relationships 24/7 was also weary and wary of what was next and where she fit into “square” society. Christ, enough of that, we know, or knew, that song too well.

A couple of days before Angelica was to leave, and on a day when the sun seemed especially bright, especially bright for then smog-filled Los Angeles January, and warm, not resident warm but Boston and Muncie warm, sat like two seals sunning ourselves in the glow of mother ocean she nudged me and asked me if I had a joint. Now Angelica liked a little vino now and then but I can’t recall her ever doing a joint (grass, marijuana, herb, ganja, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). So this is new. The problem, although not a big one in ocean-side state park 1970 Southern California, was that I was not “holding.” No problem though, a few spots down the beach was an old well-traveled, kind of beat-up Volkswagen van that I knew, knew just as sure as I was standing on that white sand beach, was “holding.” I went over, asked around, and “bingo” two nice big joints came traveling with me back to our campsite. Oh, daddy, daddy out in the be-bop blue-pink night thank you brother van man. For just a minute, just that 1970 California minute, the righteous did inherit the earth.

Back at our camp site Angelica awaited the outcome of my quest, although she also wanted to wait until later, until the day’s sun started going down a bit more to go into that smoked-filled good night. When that later came Angelica was scared/ thrilled, as she tried to smoke the one I lit up for her and started coughing like crazy, but that was nothing then. Everybody, at least everybody I knew, went through that same baptism. But Jesus, did we get mellow, that stuff, as was most stuff then, was primo, not your ragweed bull stuff that ran the rounds later. And why should it have not been so as we were so close to the then sane Mexican border of those days to get the good stuff.

But all of this build-up over this dope scene is so much filler, filler in those days when if you didn’t at least take a pipe full (inhale or not, like it or not) you were a square “squared.” What the stuff did for Angelica, and through Angelica to me, got her to open up a little. No, not about family, or old boyfriends, or her this and that problems. No, but kind of deep, kind of deep somewhere that she maybe didn’t know existed. Deep as I had ever heard her before. She talked about her fate, the fate of the fates, about what was going on in the world, no, not politics; she was organically incapable of that. Mystics stuff, getting in touch with the sea homeland stuff, earth mother stuff too in a way. Dope-edged stuff sure but when she compared the splashing foam-flecked waves to some cosmic force that I forget how she put it (remember I was dope-addled as well) then for just that moment, just that moment when the old red-balled sun started to dip to the horizon on one of those fairly rare days when it met the ocean I swear that Angelica knew, knew in her heart, knew in her soul even, what the blue-pink American West dream stuff I had bombarded her with was all about. That was our moment, and we both knew it.

So when leaving came a couple of days later and we both knew, I think, as we packed up her things, including that well-used sleeping bag, we had come to a parting of the roads. As I put her stuff in the rental car she sweetly blurted out something I was also thinking, “I’ll always remember that night we made the earth under the cabin in Steubenville shake.” And I thought I bet she will, although she forgot the part about the making the roof of the cabin move too. And so there I was, waving as she drove off to her Angelica dreams. And I never saw her again.
But enough of ancient thoughts, of ancient sea thoughts, and ancient sea loves because just now I see that previously distant figure is none other than a young boy, a young boy of maybe six or seven, not older I am sure. About fifty yards away he stops, as boys and girls will when confronted with the endless treasures of the sea, and is intently looking at some sea object although I cannot make it out from this distance. What I can make out, make out very plainly, is that he is wearing a mustard yellow rain slicker (French’s mustard color not Guiden’s) complete with a Gloucester fisherman’s floppy rain hat of the same color and knee-deep rubber boots, black, of course. As we approach each other I notice that he has that determined sea walk that I have carried with me since childhood. I look at him intensely, he looks at me intensely, and we nod as we pass each other. No words, no remarks on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune need be spoken between us. The nod, the ocean swell, and the ocean sound as the waves crashed almost to the sand beneath our feet, spoke for us. The torch had been passed.

Taking The World Back From Being Out Of Joint-Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night- Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers- A Film Adaptation

Taking The World Back From Being Out Of Joint-Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night- Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers- A Film Adaptation

By Josh Breslin

DVD Review

The Killers, starring Edmond O’Brian, Burt Lancaster, and Ava Gardner, based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway, 1946

[I have noted in a recent bracketed introduction (see, Archives January 11, 2019 Jenny Dolan Speaks Her Mind) that some of the material that former site manager, then called administrator, Allan Jackson had let his old cronies run wild with whatever they wanted to write about centered on the old days their old days. Write about under his direction, some of the younger non-crony writers at the time said under his command, their old Acre neighborhood corner boy days back in their youthful 1960s. And they did, and truth, did a pretty good job. That however at the expense of other materials that this publication has been noted for since its hard copy inception back in the mid-1970s.

My background is from many years at the American Film Gazette in both its hard copy and on-line forms, so I was somewhat appalled when I noted that films, current or classic, were being given short shrift, especially in that last period of Allan’s reign when he had them running through hoops to pay 24/7/365 homage to the Summer of Love, 1967. The writer here, Josh Breslin although not an old time Acre neighborhood corner boy did hitch up with these older writers under the guidance of one Peter Paul Markin after he met this crowd out on Russian Hill in San Francisco in that long, hot summer of 1967. Notwithstanding that long association Josh wrote the following short, short by the Jackson standard then that every film review had to be only a little short of a cinematic studies dissertation without the footnotes, about an adaptation of one of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories and did a good job of it. Thus the encore.

Although I have been in the film review business for many years going back to when Sam Lowell used to be at American Film Gazette as a stringer I have always had something of an ambivalent feeling about film noir, that 1940s mostly genre that turned hardboiled literary productions by guys like Ray Chandler and Dashiell Hammett into hard-boiled films complete with great black and white photography and some femme with a knife, no, better gun in her pocketbook for a little off-hand shooting if the occasion arose, and it did. Maybe I am just that half-generation removed from Sam, and Josh, who lived and died by this Saturday afternoon matinee double feature menu as they came of age but a recent review of this film under review has moved me a little in a positive direction. In any case watch out for that gal with the gun-simple eyes, yes, watch out. Greg Green]

As I have mentioned before at the start of other reviews in this genre, I am an aficionado of film noir, especially those 1940s detective epics like the film adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Nothing like that gritty black and white film, ominous musical background and shadowy moments to stir the imagination. Others in the genre like Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and Out Of The Past rate a nod because in addition to those attributes mentioned above they also have classic femme fatales to add a little off-hand spice to the plot line, and, oh yah, they look nice too. Beyond those classics this period (say, roughly from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s) produced many black and white film noir set pieces, some good some not so good. For plot line, and plot interest, femme fatale interest and sheer duplicity the film under review, The Killers, is under that former category.

Although the screen adaptation owes little, except the opening passages, to Ernest Hemingway’s short story of the same name this is primo 1940s crime noir stuff. Here, although Hemingway left plenty of room for other possibilities in his plot line, the question is why did two professional killers, serious, bad-ass killers want to kill the seemingly harmless “Swede” (played by a young, rough-hewn Burt Lancaster). But come on now, wake up, you know as well as I do that it’s about a dame, a frill, a frail, a woman, and not just any woman, but a high roller femme fatale. In this case that would be Kitty Collins (played by sultry, very sultry, husky-voiced, dark-haired Ava Gardner) as just a poor colleen trying to get up from under and a femme fatale that has the boys, rich or poor, begging for more.

As I have noted recently in a review of the 1945 crime noir, Fallen Angel, femme fatales come in all shapes, sizes and dispositions. But, high or low, all want some dough, and man who has it or knows how to get it. This is no modernist, post-1970s concept but hard 1940s realities. And duplicity, big-time duplicity, is just one of the “feminine wiles” that will help get the dough. Now thoroughly modern Kitty is not all that choosy about the dough's source, any mug will do, but she has some kind of sixth sense that it is not the Swede, at least not in the long haul, and that notion will drive the action for a bit. And if you think about it, of course Kitty is going with the smart guy. And old Swede is nothing but a busted-up old palooka of a prize fighter past his prime and looking, just like every other past his prime guy, for some easy money. No, no way Kitty is going to wind up with him in some shoddy flea-bitten rooming house out in the sticks, just waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Let’s run through the plot a little and it will start to make more sense. You already know that other shoe dropped for Swede. And why he just waited for the fates to rush in on him. What you didn’t know is that to get some easy dough for another run at Ms. Kitty’s affections he, Swede, is involved along with Kitty’s current paramour, “Big Jim”, and a couple of other midnight grifters in a major hold-up of a hat factory (who would have guessed that is where the dough, real dough, was). The heist goes off like clockwork. Where it gets dicey is pay-off time. Kitty and Big Jim are dealing the others out, and dealing them out big time. And they get away with it for a while until an insurance investigator (yah, I know, what would such a guy want to get involved in this thing) trying to figure out why Swede just cast his fate to the wind starts to figure things out. And they lead naturally to the big double-cross. But double-crossing people, even simple midnight grifters, is not good criminal practice and so all hell breaks loose. Watch this film. And stay away from dark-haired Irish beauties with no heart, especially if you are just an average Joe. Okay.

Note: This is not the first Hemingway writing, or an idea for a writing, that has appeared in film totally different from the original idea. More famous, and rightly so, is his sea tale, To Have Or Have Not, that William Faulkner wrote the screenplay and that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall turned into a steamy (1940s steamy, okay) black and white film classic.

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-From The Pen Of Rosa Luxemburg-"Marxist Theory And The Proletariat"

Click on title to link to Rosa Luxemburg's 1903 article "Marxist Theory And The Proletariat".

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-

By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  

Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  

Markin comment:

Every January we of the international communist movement honor the 3 L's- Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht. The linked article above is one reason why we honor Rosa- the Rose of the revolution.

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-Marxism, Militarism and War (Young Spartacus-2005)

Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.

Workers Vanguard No. 857
28 October 2005

Not One Person, Not One Penny for the Imperialist Military!

Marxism, Militarism and War

U.S. Out of Iraq Now! Down With the Imperialist Occupation!

(Young Spartacus Pages)

The following Young Spartacus article was issued in leaflet form on October 19 and distributed by the SYC at the “On the Frontlines” national “counter-recruitment” conference at UC Berkeley on October 22-23.

* * *

As the barbaric U.S. neocolonial occupation of Iraq drags on, hundreds of thousands rallied for an end to the occupation in Washington, D.C., L.A. and San Francisco on September 24. Hundreds of students in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., marched in “College Not Combat, Relief Not War” contingents. These contingents represented students around the country who have waged campaigns against military recruiters in high schools and on college campuses, broadly known as the “counter-recruitment” movement. These student protests have been motivated by opposition not only to the occupation of Iraq, but also to the “economic draft,” which drives many working-class, disproportionately black and other minority youth to sign up for the military, as well as opposition to the military’s anti-gay discrimination.

The U.S. rulers’ crusade against Iraq for more than a decade, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has exacted a huge death toll, primarily of Iraqis: over 1.5 million were killed by malnutrition and disease as a result of UN sanctions alone and several hundred thousand more during both wars and the occupation. While much sympathy in the U.S. is directed currently toward the almost 2,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, the starting point for Marxists is that working people must take a side in the war and occupation—against U.S. imperialism. Every blow, setback or defeat for the bloodiest imperialist power on the planet is a blow in the interests of working people around the world. Just as we stood for the defense of Iraq against U.S. attack during the war, today we stand for the unconditional, immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and for defense of the peoples of Iraq against U.S. attack and repression. Insofar as Iraqi forces on the ground aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers and their lackeys, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. At the same time, we oppose the murderous communal violence against ethnic, religious and national populations often carried out by the same forces fighting the occupation.

While much of the activity around the “counter-recruitment” movement is directed at preventing individual youth from signing up for the military, the main campus organizers of many of the college protests, the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), which is dominated politically by the International Socialist Organization (ISO), state: “We believe that it is not enough to convince people on an individual level that the military is a bad idea.... We need to build a movement that will force the military out of our school and our classrooms for good” (“College Not Combat: Get the Military Out of Our Schools,” CAN Web site).

The question is: Can you actually accomplish that? While it is a very good thing that student protests may succeed in temporarily kicking the military off campus, the reality is that recruiters and officer training programs like ROTC will keep coming back so long as the imperialist army exists. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, ROTC was kicked off over a hundred campuses, not only as the result of student protest, but especially because there was massive social struggle going on more broadly and because the U.S. imperialists were losing the war against the revolutionary Vietnamese workers and peasants. But over the years, ROTC was restored to many of these campuses again. As Marxists, our goal is not just to get ROTC and military recruiters off campus for now, but to win students to the struggle to organize the social power of the working class for socialist revolution to get rid of imperialist militarism, and the capitalist system it serves, once and for all.

Revolutionary Anti-Militarism vs. Pacifist Delusion

The Spartacus Youth Clubs and the Spartacist League have initiated, led and participated in many protests to drive military recruiters and ROTC off campuses over the course of four decades. As we stated at an SYC-led protest against ROTC at UC Berkeley last April: “Military recruiters and ROTC are direct appendages of the military machine that exists to defend the American imperialist ruling class” (“SYC Leads Protest Against ROTC,” WV No. 848, 13 May). We understand that the military exists to carry out imperialist conquest abroad and repression against working people at home. We uphold the call raised by German Marxist Wilhelm Liebknecht: “Not a man nor a penny” for bourgeois militarism.

We vigorously defend all those who have been victimized by campus administrations and the cops for their actions against military recruiters, including most recently, student protesters at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts who on September 29 were assaulted by police while picketing an Army National Guard recruiting table in the school cafeteria. We also defend those organizations that have been victimized by the campus administration for organizing protests, such as the ISO and Students Against War at San Francisco State University.

As Marxists, we have a program for fighting against the imperialist military that is counterposed to that of the “counter-recruitment” movement, whose organizers range from religious and liberal pacifists to supposedly socialist organizations such as the ISO. The difference comes down to how you answer two fundamental and related questions: How do you successfully fight to end imperialist war? How do you fight to end militarism? We understand that you cannot end war, imperialist militarism or the economic conditions that force working-class and minority youth into the military without getting rid of the capitalist system in which these are rooted.

In contrast, the program of the “counter-recruitment” movement is to try to reform the capitalist system to be less militarist and imperialist. This is summed up in CAN’s “College Not Combat” pamphlet:

“We believe that the money that is going to fight the occupation of Iraq and the $4 billion spent annually on military recruiting should be spent on real educational opportunities and job funding. The best way to win that demand is to build a mass movement to get recruiters off our campuses for good.”

This strategy is entirely consistent with the politics of purportedly socialist organizations such as the ISO, Workers World Party (WWP) and Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which have sought to build an “antiwar movement” consisting of “peace-loving” people of all different classes to pressure the imperialist rulers to stop the war on Iraq, end the occupation and put resources into worthy endeavors rather than war. The main goal for such organizations is to reform the capitalist system, a system that can’t be made to serve the interests of working people and the oppressed.

The ISO, WWP and RCP’s program of pressuring the capitalists to make their system more humane serves to demobilize struggles of radical youth, workers and the oppressed. Preaching pacifist reformism, these groups are an obstacle to the development of revolutionary consciousness among those engaged in struggle. A resolution during World War I by a conference of exiled Russian revolutionary Marxists in Switzerland, including Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin, explained:

“Pacifism, the preaching of peace in the abstract, is one of the means of duping the working class. Under capitalism, particularly in its imperialist stage, wars are inevitable….

“The propaganda of peace unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action can only sow illusions and demoralise the proletariat, for it makes the proletariat believe that the bourgeoisie is humane.”

—“The Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad,” February 1915

It is precisely such pacifist duping that reformist “socialist” groups engage in by building antiwar and “counter-recruitment” movements based on calls such as “No to war!”, “War is not the answer,” “Hurricane relief, not war”—the preaching of peace in the abstract with no call for revolutionary action by the working class against the capitalist system. Such campaigns push the lie that imperialist militarism and war can be ended through means other than the overthrow of the imperialist order through proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist struggle.

The Road to Peace Lies Through Class War

As the newspaper of the American Trotskyist youth organization of the 1930s from which we take our name stated:

“For the youth, as for other workers, it is imperative that he learns the class nature of society and of government and of warfare. When he learns these lessons he will have made headway in the fundamental question. Between classes there can be no peace till one or the other is vanquished. The workers have to understand that the road to peace lies through war: class war, class struggle.”

—“Disarmament and Pacifism,” Young Spartacus No. 3, February 1932

Imperialist war and militarism are the outcome of capitalist, class-divided society, in which a tiny minority of the population owns the banks and industry and amasses profit by exploiting the labor of the working class. The military is an integral component of the capitalist state, which consists also of the cops, the courts, the prisons—forces of repression and violence that defend the rule of the capitalist class against the working and oppressed masses.

The drive toward war is inherent in the capitalist system. In his classic work on the subject, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin laid out that imperialism is not some reformable policy, but the final stage of capitalism in its decay. Contending imperialist powers carve up the world into spheres of economic influence, as the nation-state proves too narrow and confining in terms of markets and the availability of cheap labor and natural resources. Imperialism is fundamentally an economic system backed up by massive military force to “settle” the inevitable economic rivalries between major capitalist states. These rivalries throw humanity into interimperialist world wars of massive devastation, such as World Wars I and II. The drive to control markets and spheres of exploitation also leads to predatory wars by imperialists against colonial and semicolonial countries.

Revolutionary Marxist Rosa Luxemburg in her 1916 Junius Pamphlet described the true nature of imperialist capitalism, as revealed at that time by World War I:

“Shamed, dishonored, wading in blood and dripping with filth—thus stands bourgeois society. And so it is. Not as we usually see it, pretty and chaste, playing the roles of peace and righteousness, of order, of philosophy, ethics and culture. It shows itself in its true, naked form—as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as a pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity.”

While this barbaric system generates discontent among wide layers of the population, the only power that students have on their own is to register their anger through various forms of protest. However, there is a social force that has the power not just to protest, but to shut down the whole system we live under—the multiracial working class. Its social power derives from the fact that it has its hands directly on the means of production—the mines, factories, means of transport and communications—and can shut down production and capitalist profit by withholding its labor, by striking. One solid longshore strike during the Iraq war would have had a far greater impact on the U.S. government than many millions of peace protesters marching in the street. It is that kind of social power that students and the oppressed masses need to look to and ally with.

The working class not only has the social power but the objective interest to put an end to capitalist rule. The workers’ interests can never be reconciled with those of the capitalists who exploit them. The interests of working people and the oppressed can be served only by creating a socialist society where production is for human need, not the profit of a small layer of exploiters. It is only through class war, i.e., the struggle of the working class leading the oppressed against the capitalist order, that the economic and political roots of imperialist war and militarism can be destroyed. The destruction of capitalism will not happen spontaneously, but requires the intervention of a conscious Marxist leadership, a revolutionary workers party that fights for socialist revolution. It is such a party that the Spartacist League, of which the SYCs are the student-youth auxiliary, is dedicated to forging.

Left Servants of Imperialism

If the idea of mobilizing the working class in mass struggle seems far-fetched to most youth in the U.S. today, it is because what they have seen of class war in their lifetimes has mostly consisted of a capitalist assault on workers, with very little working-class struggle in response. It is important to understand from a historical perspective not only that the class contradictions of this system will inevitably lead to future mass struggles by working people, but also that the power of the working class has been kept in chains by working-class misleaderships. Class struggle has been demobilized by the false ideology pushed by the trade-union bureaucracy and its left helpers: that the interests of labor and capital can be reconciled, that the overturn of this whole rotten, stinking system is impossible and therefore the best we can do is to negotiate “better” terms of capitalist exploitation for working people. As part of the struggle to uproot the whole profit system, a class-struggle leadership of the labor movement would fight for free, quality, integrated education for all, free health care, decent jobs and housing for all and against racial and sexual oppression.

The lie that working people and their exploiters can share a common interest is pushed in practice through the trade-union bureaucracy’s open support to the capitalist Democratic Party and the promotion of “antiwar” Democrats and petty capitalist Greens by ostensibly socialist organizations in the antiwar movement. Pro-imperialist trade-union bureaucrats who support the “war on terror” (in reality a war on immigrants, black people and labor) and the war and occupation in Iraq are clearly misleaders of the working class. More insidious are those who stand in opposition to the war but preach a program of capitalist reform, a program that is objectively for the maintenance of the system that breeds war—these are also misleaders of the working class.

Such left-talking misleaders are hardly a recent development in the history of the class struggle. Lenin’s trenchant polemics against two “servants of imperialism” during World War I, Karl Kautsky and Filippo Turati, fit today’s ISO, WWP and RCP to a tee:

“When socialist leaders like Turati and Kautsky try to convince the masses, either by direct statements…, or by silent evasions (of which Kautsky is a past master), that the present imperialist war can result in a democratic peace, while the bourgeois governments remain in power and without a revolutionary insurrection against the whole network of imperialist world relations, it is our duty to declare that such propaganda is a deception of the people, that it has nothing in common with socialism, that it amounts to the embellishment of an imperialist peace….

“Their [Kautsky and Turati] attention is entirely absorbed in reforms, in pacts between sections of the ruling classes; it is to them that they address themselves, it is them they seek to ‘persuade,’ it is to them they wish to adapt the labour movement.”

—“A Turn in World Politics,” January 1917

An example of how the ISO and WWP look to the capitalist class enemy, not the working class, is their promotion of cross-class liberal “antiwar” alliances, such as the strategy of working with Democratic and Green Party politicians to get city council resolutions (in New York) and ballot propositions (in San Francisco) passed against military recruiters in schools. Seeking to persuade the powers that be on the campus level, the ISO appeals to those who administer the colleges on behalf of the capitalists to stop violating their professed anti-discrimination policies and ban military recruiters. We call for a “yes” vote on San Francisco Proposition I as a basic statement of opposition to military recruiters in schools. However, it is not through propositions that you can fight to end imperialist militarism—only through working-class struggle. And working-class struggle must be independent of the capitalist class enemy, including the Democratic Party of racism and war.

Revolutionary Politics and Military Defense of Iraq

The ISO, WWP and RCP’s refusal to call for the military defense of Iraq against U.S. and British imperialism in the lead-up to and during the war is yet another proof of their class-collaborationist orientation. Marxists are not pacifists. In his 1915 work, Socialism and War, Lenin summarized the attitude of Marxists to wars between imperialist powers and colonial or semicolonial countries:

“If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just,’ and ‘defensive’ wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.”

The Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Club applied this program of revolutionary defensism in the lead-up to and during the Iraq war, uniquely raising the slogans: “Defend Iraq Against U.S./British Imperialist Attack! Down With U.S. Imperialism! For Class Struggle Against U.S. Capitalist Rulers!” We took a side militarily with semicolonial Iraq against the U.S. imperialist invaders, while politically opposing Saddam Hussein’s bloody capitalist regime. While favoring the defeat of the U.S., we understood that given the enormous military advantage of the United States, the most effective means of opposing the U.S. war drive was international working-class struggle against the capitalists, especially here in the U.S.

Forthright military defense of Iraq was anathema to the ISO, WWP and RCP because their goal was not to mobilize working people on the side of the Iraqi people and for the defeat of the U.S., but to build a “movement” for pressuring the imperialists to end the war. In practice this meant uniting with liberals and capitalist politicians like Democrats Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who came out against the Iraq war not because they are opposed to U.S. imperialism but because they don’t think the war/occupation is the best way of advancing the interests of U.S. imperialism. That sentiment has grown among a layer of the ruling class who want to extract the U.S. from the quagmire the Iraq occupation has become. In addition to being the voice for a section of the ruling class who thought that an anti-Communist campaign against North Korea made more sense than going after Iraq, these “antiwar” politicians are doing their job for the capitalists of containing black and working-class anger against this system safely within the confines of bourgeois electoralism.

In a seeming about-face, the very organizations that steadfastly refused to call for the defense of Iraq during the war, i.e., when it counted, such as the ISO and WWP, are today cheering the “right to resist” the U.S. occupation forces. The ISO has suddenly discovered quotes from Lenin and Trotsky on the need to defend oppressed nations against imperialism. But what is really behind their shift in position is the hope that victories by the Iraqi “resistance” will augment support within the Democratic Party for withdrawal from Iraq. Just as the ISO and WWP practice class collaboration at home, they cheer on Islamic reactionaries and other forces as “anti-imperialists” in the neocolonial world. The ISO writes: “Even if it were true that the resistance was dominated by Baathists and hard-line Islamists, this wouldn’t be the central issue. Whatever the religious and political affiliations of the different resistance organizations and groupings, the main goal—the one that unites various forces of the Iraqi resistance—is ‘to liberate their country from foreign occupation’” (“Why We Support the Resistance to Occupation: Iraq’s Right to National Self-Determination,” Socialist Worker, 4 February).

In fact, the Iraqi “resistance” largely consists of disparate and mutually hostile ethnic, religious and communalist forces that aim much of their fire against rival civilian populations. When such forces do aim their blows against the occupation forces and their lackeys, we militarily defend them. However, in contrast to the ISO, we have stated: “We do not imbue the forces presently organizing guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces with ‘anti-imperialist’ credentials and warn that in the absence of working-class struggle in Iraq and internationally against the occupation, the victory of one or another of the reactionary clerical forces is more likely to come about through an alliance with U.S. imperialism” (“The Left and the Iraqi Resistance: U.S. Out of Iraq Now!” WV No. 830, 6 August 2004).

The class-collaborationist, anti-revolutionary program of groups like the ISO is defined by their visceral hostility toward those countries where capitalism has been overturned. The ISO supported every counterrevolutionary movement that sought to overturn the gains of the Russian Revolution and cheered the destruction of the USSR in 1991-92. Capitalist restoration has been a disaster for the working people of the ex-USSR, resulting in unprecedented devastation of living standards and the destruction of historic social gains for women and ethnic and national minorities. In opposition to the imperialist triumphalism that communism is dead, as well as the widespread view among radical youth that there is nothing about the Soviet Union worth replicating today, we understand that the 1917 October Revolution remains the model for social liberation. That revolution, led by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, established the world’s first workers state, a beacon for all those struggling to liberate humanity. Despite later Stalinist degeneration, the USSR demonstrated the power of a planned, collectivized economy, providing free education, health care, inexpensive housing and jobs for all.

The destruction of the Soviet Union represented a world-historic defeat for working people around the world, removing the military and industrial power that stayed the hand of the imperialists and made possible victories like the overturn of capitalism in East Europe and in Cuba, North Korea, China and Vietnam. We followed in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky by fighting for the unconditional military defense of the USSR against imperialism and against the restoration of capitalism, while simultaneously fighting for working-class political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats. Unlike pacifists and the anti-Soviet ISO and RCP, we militarily defend the workers states, despite their Stalinist deformations, against the imperialists, which includes upholding their right to nuclear weapons. The Soviet bureaucracy’s nationalist, parasitic rule undermined the gains of the Russian Revolution, especially by renouncing the struggle for international socialist revolution. The anti-Marxist Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” meant betrayal of revolutionary opportunities around the world and led ultimately to the final undoing of the Russian Revolution itself.

Race, Class and Militarism

Reflecting the growing opposition among the U.S. populace as a whole to the occupation of Iraq was the outpouring this summer of support and sympathy for Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, who is for ending the occupation. Sheehan captured headlines for weeks with her encampment outside President Bush’s Texas ranch. Sheehan’s poignant protest exposed the capitalist rulers’ contempt for the overwhelmingly working-class and minority ranks of the military and their families, who are expected to unquestioningly obey “God and country” and provide the cannon fodder for the U.S. imperialist war machine.

Notwithstanding the working-class background of most U.S. troops, the imperialist armed forces are the instrument of American conquest and enforcers of the capitalist system of exploitation. Against those who in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have called to bring the troops home to help in the Gulf Coast, we say that the imperialist army is no friend of working people at home, either. There is a long and deadly history of the use of troops within the U.S. to suppress strikes, repress student antiwar protesters and crush upheavals of black people against entrenched racial oppression. And while National Guard troops sent to New Orleans have played a role in search and rescue actions that saved lives, they were sent mainly not to help the population but to impose reactionary “law and order.” Democratic Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said as much when 300 members of the Arkansas National Guard were sent to New Orleans: “These troops know how to shoot and kill…and I expect they will.” They were sent to hunt down “looters,” desperate black people trying to find food and water, and imposed strict curfews, essentially martial law, forcing out those who didn’t want to leave and preventing journalists from even photographing the dead.

At the same time that Marxists are emphatic opponents of bourgeois militarism, we recognize the internal class contradictions of the military. As Karl Liebknecht stated in his classic 1907 work, Militarism and Anti-Militarism:

“Thus we are confronted by modern militarism which wants neither more nor less than the squaring of the circle, which arms the people against the people itself, which dares to force the become oppressors and enemies, murderers of their own comrades and friends, of their parents, brothers and sisters and children, and which compels them to blight their own past and future. Modern militarism wants to be democratic and despotic, enlightened and machine-like, nationalist and antagonistic to the nation at the same time.”

In addition to the class divide between the working-class ranks and the bourgeois officer corps present in all capitalist armies, the U.S. military reflects the deep-rooted racial oppression of black people in this country. The disproportionate number of black and minority youth in today’s volunteer army—driven to join in large part because they have no jobs and no future, or because it is the only way to afford college or learn a skill—represents an Achilles heel for U.S. imperialism. The American military reflects the racism, anti-woman and anti-gay bigotry of capitalist society in a concentrated way.

Because we uphold Liebknecht’s opposition to a single person or penny for the bourgeois army, we oppose volunteering for the army. We likewise oppose the reinstatement of the draft. The last time the U.S imperialists seriously considered reinstating the draft, during the height of their Cold War II drive against the Soviet Union in 1980, we agitated against the draft and in defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state. At the same time, we have no illusions that the U.S. imperialists won’t reinstate the draft when they need to, and they will eventually need to.

“Individual Resistance”: A Losing Strategy

The “counter-recruitment” movement has drawn inspiration from soldiers, such as Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman, who have refused orders to serve in the Iraq war and occupation and sought to expose the horrors of imperialist war. They and several other soldiers have been court-martialed for their refusal to serve. We say: Free Kevin Benderman and hands off the other “resisters”! “Antiwar” reformists have placed great emphasis on these acts of individual resistance, promoting the idea that if more people were prevented from signing up for the military and more soldiers refused to serve it could throw a monkey wrench in the works of the war machine. This strategy is false because it seeks to paralyze a core component of the capitalist state through pacifist resistance.

It is precisely because the military is integral to the capitalist state that it has very repressive means for dealing with those who refuse to serve. Insubordinate soldiers can face discipline in military tribunals with punishments that include execution. As we wrote in “On Draft Resistance: You Will Go!”: “It would be approximately as easy to directly overthrow the government as to deprive that government of its armed forces” (Spartacist No. 11, March-April 1968). In other words, to talk about paralyzing the military as a repressive force means the prelude to revolution. Such a situation is possible only in the context of massive working-class and social struggle against the capitalist order. Marxists seek to organize for collective victory through proletarian struggle, not defeat through martyrdom in individual, moralistic acts of “resistance.” The key task today is to imbue the discontented, exploited and oppressed working masses with the consciousness that they can and must organize to struggle on the basis of their common class interests against the war-mongering capitalist rulers.

The logic of the strategy of individual resistance parallels the promotion of draft “resistance” during the Vietnam War. This is expressed by the youth group of the WWP, which supports the “No Draft, No Way” movement that advocates “refusal to be inducted into the military under any circumstances” ( The duty of revolutionaries who are drafted is to go with the mass of working-class youth into the military. During the Vietnam War, as youth were chanting “Hell no, we won’t go!” we said, “You will go!” Our Spartacist article “You Will Go!” addressed antiwar activists:

“If you refuse induction, you will either go to prison, or you will flee the country. In both cases your body will be exactly where the rulers of the U.S. want it: removed from struggle and removed from contact with the youth who fight the wars….

“For prominent working-class leaders to dodge the draft earns them the disrespect of the workers and is a direct aid to the ruling class, as it removes them from any contact with the workers they claim to represent.”

Our article went on to explain: “The main argument for draft resistance is that it will hurt the U.S. war effort. But this is not going to happen. A few hundred middle-class, anti-war students might be diverted from military service, but the tens of thousands of black and white working-class...youth who are to be drafted will not respond to the anti-draft campaign.” It was with the perspective of influencing the working-class and oppressed ranks of the military with a socialist program that Spartacist supporters in the Army published several issues of an antiwar newspaper distributed to GIs during the Vietnam War called G.I. Voice.

For a Class-Struggle Perspective

In fact, many of those who advocated draft resistance during the Vietnam War were students benefiting from the “College Not Combat” measure of the time: student deferments. We called for the abolition of the student deferment because it expressed class privilege, meaning that wealthy and petty-bourgeois youth who had the privilege of being in college didn’t get drafted, while poor and working-class youth did. More generally, the bourgeoisie uses its wealth and privilege to keep its sons out of combat. A prime example is George W. Bush, who avoided combat in Vietnam by taking advantage of family connections to get a safe sinecure in the Air National Guard.

Polemicizing against anarchists, Karl Liebknecht succinctly captured the difference between liberal and revolutionary anti-militarism in his Militarism and Anti-Militarism. Noting that “It [anarchism] lays great stress upon individual refusal to do military service, individual refusal to resort to arms and upon individual protests,” Liebknecht argued:

“Anarchism works here, first of all, with ethical enthusiasm, with the stimuli of morality, with arguments of humanity, of justice; in short, with all sorts of impulses on the will which ignore the class war character of anti-militarism, and attempt to stamp it as an abstract efflux of a categorical imperative of universal application….

“Social-Democratic [Marxist] anti-militarist propaganda, on the contrary, propagates the class-struggle and therefore it appeals on principle exclusively to those classes which, necessarily, are the foes of militarism in the class struggle.... It enlightens people to win them over, but it enlightens them not concerning categorical imperatives, humanitarian points of view, ethical postulates of freedom and justice, but concerning the class struggle, the interests of the proletariat therein.”

Military society is a reflection of civil society, and major shifts in the consciousness of the poor and working-class ranks of the military parallel such shifts in civil society. For example, many of the soldiers who carried out acts of rebellion against officers during the Vietnam War were black. This had much to do with the mass social struggle against racial oppression that was taking place back home. War often brings the class contradictions of society acutely to the fore—this was especially the case in the massive, seemingly senseless all-sided slaughter of World War I and in wars where the imperialists were losing to forces fighting for social revolution, such as Vietnam. This is why, as Leon Trotsky noted, “war is the mother of revolution” (Military Writings, Volume 1: 1918). War brings the contradiction between the interests of the capitalist rulers and those of working people starkly to light in a way that is often obscured in times of “peace.” It is only in a revolutionary situation that the bourgeois army will split along class lines. The role of revolutionaries in such a situation is to provide the program and leadership to struggling soldiers and working people for a successful overturn of capitalism.

Bolshevik Revolution: Model for Today

The need for a revolutionary Marxist party to lead the fight for working-class power was demonstrated in both the positive and negative during WWI. This war brought to a head a historic split in the Marxist movement throughout Europe. The war was essentially fought to redivide world markets among the belligerent imperialist powers of Europe, and was completely unprecedented in the level of death and destruction—some 15 million people were killed. Nearly every socialist party that faced the challenge of World War I failed miserably. The most spectacular failure was the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) whose parliamentary deputies voted, on 4 August 1914, for war credits, i.e., in support of the war on the side of their “own” bourgeoisie. Within the Marxist movement throughout Europe there were some leaders who similarly capitulated to the intense pressures of patriotism and declared that socialists could stand for the “defense of the fatherland.” Breaking with the social-chauvinist SPD leaders in Germany, Karl Liebknecht voted against war credits in December 1914 and used his parliamentary post to agitate against the war and the social-chauvinists. The German bourgeoisie tried to silence him by drafting him into the military where he continued his agitation in his soldier’s uniform, and was imprisoned a second time for his agitation against militarism and war.

Tens of thousands of leaflets authored by Liebknecht and his comrades of the Spartakusbund were published with the ringing internationalist slogan: “The Main Enemy Is at Home!” Unlike a predatory war by an imperialist power against a colonial country, in a war between imperialist powers such as WWI the working class has no side. Liebknecht’s slogan paralleled Lenin’s demand that the working class turn the interimperialist war into a civil war against their “own” capitalist rulers. This cut across not only the social-chauvinism of leading European Social Democrats, but also against the social-pacifists whose only demands were for “peace,” i.e., for a return to capitalist stability.

In Russia, Lenin had fought since 1903 to build a hard revolutionary party with a clear program, and so, unlike the majority of the SPD, the Bolsheviks did not cave in to the bourgeois pressures around WWI. The social-chauvinists and social-pacifists in Russia were constituted in the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary parties. Lenin insisted on the necessity for revolutionaries to split with the opportunists within the Marxist movement over the question of the war. Lenin described opportunism as having the same content as social-chauvinism: “collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution” (Socialism and War).

In this same pamphlet he continued, “Today unity with the opportunists actually means subordinating the working class to their ‘own’ national bourgeoisie and an alliance with the latter for the purpose of oppressing other nations and of fighting for dominant-nation privileges; it means splitting the revolutionary proletariat of all countries.” It was this revolutionary intransigence that enabled Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party to lead the October Revolution in Russia, pulling Russia out of WWI. In 1917 rebellious soldiers took their stand with the revolutionary proletariat against Russian tsarism, capitalism and the war, signaling the collapse of the state and unraveling of capitalist rule in Russia. The Bolsheviks led these struggles toward the seizure of state power by the working class.

It was the lack of such a leadership in Germany that led to the defeat of the revolutionary wave between 1918 and 1923. The heroic leaders, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, having eventually split first with the SPD and then the Kautskyite centrists to form the German Communist Party, were shortly thereafter murdered by counterrevolutionary forces dispatched by SPD leaders in 1919. When a revolutionary crisis erupted in 1923, the German Communist Party had a vacillating leadership and was programmatically weak (see “A Trotskyist Critique of Germany 1923 and the Comintern,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 56, Spring 2001).

It is precisely the fight to expose the opportunists in the workers movement, and split the working class away from the false program these reformists offer, that is required to unshackle the power of labor today. Mobilizing that power is the critical factor in every struggle against imperialism, exploitation and the myriad forms of oppression engendered by the capitalist system. Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher powerfully summed this up in a 1966 speech addressed to New Left antiwar radicals during the Vietnam War:

“Unless you have found a way to the young age groups of the American working class and shaken this sleeping giant of yours, this sleeping giant of the American working class...out of the sleep into which he has been drugged, unless you have done this, you will be lost.

“Your only salvation is in carrying back the idea of socialism to the working class and coming back with the working class to storm—to storm, yes, to storm—the bastions of capitalism.”

—“On Socialist Man,” Marxism in Our Time, 1971

From The Archives Of “American Left History”-An Analysis And A Summing Up After His First Year By Site Manager Greg Green

From The Archives Of “American Left History”-An Analysis And A Summing Up After His First Year By Site Manager Greg Green

November 14, 2018 marked the first anniversary of my officially becoming site manager at this publication and in acknowledgement of that tight touch first year I started going back to the archives here from the time this publication went to totally on-line existence due to financial considerations in 2006. (Previously from its inception in 1974 it had been hard copy for many years and then in the early 2000s was both hard copy and on-line before turning solely to on-line publication.) This first year has been hard starting with the residue of the “water-cooler fist fight” started by some of the younger writers who balked at the incessant coverage of the 1960s, highlighted in 2017 by the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Summer of Love, 1967 ordered by previous site manager Allan Jackson. 

They had not even been born, had had to consult in many cases parents and the older writers here when Allan assigned them say a review of the Jefferson Airplane rock band which dominated the San Francisco scene at the height of the 1960s. That balking led to a decisive vote of “no confidence” requested by the “youth cabal” in the Jackson regime and replacement by me. You can read all about the various “takes” on the situation in these very archives from the fall of 2017 on if you can stand it. If you want to know if Allan was “purged,” “sent into exile,” variously ran a whorehouse in San Francisco with old flame Madame LaRue or shacked up with a drag queen named Miss Judy Garland or sold out to the Mormons to get a press agent job with the Mitt Romney for Senate campaign after he left here it is all there. I, having been brought in by Allan from American Film Gazette to run the day to day operations as he concentrated on “the big picture” stayed on the sidelines, didn’t have a vote in any case since I was only on “probation.”        

A lot of the rocky road I faced was of my own making early on since to make my mark, and to look toward the future I came up with what even I now see as a silly idea of trying to reach a younger demographic (than the 1960s devotees who have sustained this publication since its founding). I went on a crash program of having writers, young and old, do reviews of Marvel/DC cinematic comic book characters, graphic novels, hip-hop, techno music and such. The blow-back came fast and furious by young and old writers alike and so the Editorial Board that had been put in place in the wake of Allan’s departure called a halt to that direction. A lot of the reasons why I am presenting the archival material along with this piece is both to see where we can go from here that makes sense to the Ed Board and through that body the cohort of writers who grace this publication and which deals with the reality of a fading demographic as the “Generation of ’68” passes on. Additionally, like every publication hard copy or on-line, we receive much material we can’t or won’t use although that too falls into the archives so here is a chance to give that material a “second life.”    
When one, me, glanced through the archives I was struck almost immediately that the ghost of Peter Paul Markin hovers over this publication and won’t give up, at least it appears until the older writers who knew him, who caught the fresh breeze he had early on in 1960s predicted was on its way and acted with him on it pass on. At least one, Sam Lowell, who had known Markin from elementary school days  (they always call him the Scribe among themselves , a corner boy nickname, moniker they gave him for always writing something down on the tattered notepad he carried in his out of fashion plaid shirts along with some wizened pencil but I will stick with Markin to avoid confusion ) has been working his ass off since the founding to link Markin to the purpose of this publication-the preservation of the memories of the political, social, economic and cultural movements that animated their times, that “Generation of’ 68” that caught Allan Jackson short when he tried to single-handedly revive the times out of some serious hubris, earlier and later movements which linked into that time.

A lot of “water cooler” talk, first heard by me from Laura Perkins, Sam’s long-time companion and a recent and welcome addition to the writers’ stable here, was that the whole idea of a then hard copy publication had been hatched in one last desperate effort to save Markin’s sagging life by letting him write reviews, music, film, books, cultural events which they would “piggyback” onto. Stuff they all were in varying degrees good at. It was not to be, as looking at a small memorial book in Markin’s honor put together by younger writer Zack James in the summer of 2017 at the urging of his oldest brother Alex, another close Markin friend, after he had come back from viewing a Summer of Love, 1967 exhibition at the de Young Museum out in San Francisco graphically illustrated. There, almost to a man, and it was a man’s recollections memoir, Markin’s corner boys from the growing up Acre section of North Adamsville and a few others like Josh Breslin met along the way, comment on Markin’s deterioration, his increasing addition to cocaine when that became the drug of the month among the “hip” in the mid-1970s. Sam commented that Markin, and to a certain extent the other Acre corner boys as well including himself, never got over their military experiences in Vietnam and maybe a bigger push his from hunger “wanting” habits from growing up dirt poor down in the mud of society. I won’t go into the details, such as they are since everybody who has tried was warned off so the details are to say the least sketchy, of Markin’s end except he now is down in some potters’ field plot in Sonora, Mexico after having been murdered in some dirty dusty back road over what is still presumed to have been a busted drug deal Markin was trying to put together to get on “easy street” once he saw what was good about the 1960s fading before his very eyes.         

I have not gone through the hard copy archives and I am not sure I will get a chance to since they are located in New York City and I am not sure when I will be able to spent at least a week looking through them, dusting off old year volumes and other materials so I will let it rip in no particular order but what comes to mind about what has been written, political clearing house advertised, and commemorated in this space as I have ventured to gather what the heck has gone on here for the past decade plus of the on-line work. The overarching comment though is that patchwork quilt or not it has stayed pretty close to what it had in the masthead stated it intended to do-without much, or too much bloodshed.    

You can tell, number-wise and number of pages that 2006 was a year when the financial crunch which necessitated the complete switch-over to on-line publication really was a wrenching process. The pieces are too-heavily weighted toward book, film, music reviews and an overlay of political commentary when Frank Jackman had to take a part-time job working at National Commentary. I can disclose here that many of the writers, guys like Si Lannon, Seth Garth, Fritz Taylor, even Josh Breslin were “moonlighting” when I ran things over at American Film Gazette which despite its’ name reviewed all kind of things including consumer products (not my decision but that was that). Or they were submitting the reviews they wrote here for free (no money in any case) and then submitting them over to me for cold hard cash. I was going to say they were double-dipping but that would imply they were being paid here for their work which generally was hit or miss. I did not know the financial situation here although I was glad to have the reviews whatever was happening here. Paid my cash and got my due.

I am not exactly sure when the shift toward lots of personal pieces about the 1960s and reviews of earlier books, films music connected with those times became a serious trend under the former head, Allan Jackson, but you can see by browsing the archives that 2006 is definite trend-setter. Not only that but once again by virtue of “water-cooler” gossip shifting slightly that way grabbed a spike in readership and more revenue. So Allan, who later, who in 2017 would be skewered for his 24/7/365 nostalgia blanket coverage, made a good decision then to move away from reviews of more contemporary cultural events. Interestingly he got into a “pissing” contest when he had Si Lannon, sorry Si if I am mistaken, do a series of 1960s folksingers who were “not Bob Dylan,” did not go on to what has become a never-ending concert tour schedule and career but moved elsewhere or kept their ambitions low when the so-called folk minute passed by and it did not look like they could survive on the thin gruel left. I heard that there was almost an insurrection with say Seth Garth wondering why his old sidekick folksinger/songwriter Erick Saint Jean was not highlighted (meaning what didn’t he get that assignment to explain why Erick went on to a successful art career rather than grind out the dimes and donuts coffeehouse circuit rapidly fading away in the acid rock night). Half these guys, according to Sam, hated folk music when, guess who, Markin is right, started going to Harvard Square on the low to get the hell out of his horrible homelife and really only accidently gravitated to the coffeehouse when guys and gals he would meet late at night at the Hayes-Bickford told him that was where the action was. Not the H-B itself though which was for winos and con men, maybe a hang-out for a while after the coffeehouses closed down and you still were trying to figure out what was what with some girl you wanted to take down to the Charles River to see what was really what.

From what I can gather Markin was a guy who was all in or forget it so once he had some dough, some dough when the guy caddied for some swanks at some country club to get dough to meet the cover charge, grab some coffee, grab a date’s bill and throw some money in the basket for the performer whose life depended on those proceeds then tried to get everybody in. Seth Garth to this day cannot stand the Dylan voice, cannot stand the silly lyrics about lost loves and doing bodily harm if some dish did not reciprocate your devotion and you dunked her in say the Ohio River. Be that as it may I noticed a definite spike in sales and ad revenue when that series ran since Allan must have highlighted every guy who could handle three chords and some basic melody-guys like Lemon Lewis and Ben Amos, guys who about three people have heard of. He had though as Sam loves to say a “hook” no question as even people who never heard the singers took interest in where they landed, if they landed. Maybe this says it better than anything else Allan decided to run the distaff side, okay, woman of folk playing off of the anointed queen, anointed at least in the tabloids, Joan Baez.       

It is hard to say what will drive the nuts and bolts of a publication but I think I can see something like a clear line when Allan decided to do “nostalgia” and let the writers he had at the time who were all, I think all, veterans of the 1960s or like beautiful Zack James were influenced by older brother Alex who was knee-down into that period which created some stability for the publication in the post-2006 period. That Bob Dylan-Joan Baez spike got the ball rolling even further back to the time of classic rock and roll and all that meant to the veteran writers who sucked up the air with their recollections and received plenty of attention (and a couple of awards) for their work. How much of it was to gather in their regrets about Markin and how much was natural going back to the music you grew up with which never really leaves you is hard to say but the spike in interest of the old Acre section of North Adamsville where most of the action takes place is interesting.

It must have been exciting, separate, hard-scrabble, cagey in those days when each guy, and it was all guys in those days, the girls, young women were kind of appendages, important appendages but appendages nevertheless reflecting not only that coming of age awkwardness but a kind of unwritten law established by Markin who was trying even then, even in high school to emulate the “beats” the guys who came up the line just before them and who were popular figures like Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg even as the “beats” were in retreat. (Seth Garth told me that Markin never mentioned those guys when they were out in the corner boy night but he was reading their stuff, including pretty openly gay Ginsberg which would have closed the door if he had mentioned that to the boyos.) These guys from nowhere had a certain routine, a certain laundry- list of things they talked about, adventures they got into (including the always veiled mention of certain burglaries to get dough which was one way they did it). Rock and roll, music, music that spoke to that generation perhaps more than any earlier one and certainly more than in my own generation one generation removed from the classic days of the genre.

No question these guys lived and died for the music, hanging out not by chance at a pizza parlor where the owner had installed a jukebox with all the latest hits to draw the kids in-and he did. Taking the boys in because if boys were hanging around then girls, the ones with money, the ones who came in and played the machine would come by too. Nice move but also the source of many interesting stories about how the guys would con the girls to play music they, the guys wanted to hear. Conned them, the girls out of other stuff too if you believe half of what memories they have decided to share knowing from my own experiences in a very different environment that lying was a matter of honor on the question of sexual conquests. The funniest part is that for all his leadership, so-called, his intelligence about what was going on in school, with girls with, guys who had girlfriends, more importantly, girls with boyfriends, invaluable intelligence no question and would make any such person if he or she had existed in my crowd a leader, never really had dates with Acre or North Adamsville girls when he was a corner boy. He would find companionship in Harvard Square or some such place but not at home.         

As anybody with eyes can see, even with the temporary disaster of the “dumbing down” action I initiated and blew off when the deal went down this past year has been heavy with political material, some additional art material and a big push on commemorating 100th anniversary the last year of the horrendous World War I and the armistice which put everything on hold as it turned out. Since I agree that we are essentially in the middle of a cold civil war which may very likely turn hot before our eyes we will be amping up our political coverage anchored by award-winning Frank Jackman interspersed with additional art and poetry reviews to augment the films, music and book reviews the reader is already familiar with and will hopefully appreciate with our stable of younger writers taking the lead.