Saturday, February 23, 2019

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *Honor The Anniversary Of Harpers Ferry- Some People Still Don't Get It- A Guest Commentary From The Other Side

Click on title to link to "The Boston Globe", Sunday October 25, 2009, "The Observer" article by Sam Allis concerning the manliness of the Boston supporters of John Brown in the aftermath of Harpers Ferry.

Markin comment:

The name and exploits of the heroic revolutionary abolitionist John Brown, late of Harpers Ferry, has echoed all through this space and I need not, other than to note once again that this year marks the 150th anniversary of that epic effort, repeat that story here. Usually I do not spend much time on commenting on the utterings of bourgeois commentators but the above-linked article by one Sam Allis, a writer who when he writes on the travesties of parking meter readers, the travails of “empty-nesters”, or other local color stories from the Boston neighborhoods, is a good read but is way out of line here.

Needless to say that Mr. Allis is no partisan of John Brown. Fair enough. I will roll out the old political cliché about one person’s ‘terrorist’ being another person’s liberation fighter. Nor is he a fan of the Boston-centered “Secret Six” who provided John Brown with aid and comfort in his struggles to take direct action against slavery. Again fair enough. Although one should pause to think that the few thousands of dollars donated to Brown’s ‘mad’ strategy to liberate the slaves might not have been much cheaper than the eventual cost in human and natural resources the Civil War consumed to effect that same purpose.

I too have serious reservations, as I noted in a review of the life of Samuel Gridley Howe, about the seemingly cowardly actions of the group in the aftermath of Harpers Ferry. However I take exception to the characterization of this group and the Boston Brahmin milieu, or at least the non- Southern cotton dependent merchant section of it, in the pre-Civil War period as “effete”. As the fires of the Civil War would show Boston, including that segment of its elite, provided many brave soldiers in that effort. I need only mention Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Allis also notes his stance) of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers and Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the all black Massachusetts 54th Regiment. Moreover, after recently seeing a memorial stone commemorating the Massachusetts “Yankee Division”, the 26th Infantry and the battles they fought in, including Gettysburg and Chancellorsville I think their memory deserves better from this Johnny-come-lately to the requirements of 19th century manliness. I do not expect such as response, but it is due.

***Poet’s Corner- Langston Hughes –Dream Deferred

***Poets' Corner- Langston Hughes –Dream Deferred

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

February is Black History Month

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

…he, Ezra Benton, Ezra Benton named after his father and his father before him who had worked, had worked back-breaking hard, worked his way up from nothing but a half-whipped nigra hot sun beating down cotton field hand hands all blistered, stinking like God knows what, always water thirsty to the assistant plantation blacksmith, assistant to Mister George Wright the white man from town who had seen him in one of the cabins all big and strong and asked if he could handle a hammer and there he was sitting in the cool shed when not flaming the kiln fires, there he was the man who shoed the damn horses when some fool drove the beasts too hard, heard , heard through the grapevine that now that Atlanta had fallen, had fallen to Sherman and his bummers, that Father Abraham up in the United States, up in Washington, D. C. was going to break up Mister’s plantation and give each nigra family, and maybe others too, maybe some upstart young buck with ambition like  him, forty acres and a mule to get them started now that slavery days were falling down.

With that news, Ezra, who normally took news from the grapevine with a grain of salt, no more, got a little wistful. Wistful about how he would collect his now far- flung family scattered here and there throughout the delta, take his forty acres and his mule and plow, plow night and day until the heavens came home, maybe buy some more land, forty acres was only the beginning for a strong-hearted, strong-willed man like him maybe built him a little white picket fence house like he had seen in town, and mainly make sure that his ever hungry kin, and his ever hungry own self had enough to eat, and then some. And so he dreamed…

…he, Brady Benson, son, righteous son of old Ezra Benson, who had helped his father, his kin father not some Father Abraham up in Washington or some such father after Old Abe was shot up  who never did get around to giving that forty acres and a mule that old Ezra still kept talking about although more wistfully of late, sharecrop Mister’s plantation land, sharecropped and never got ahead, never go that Ole Abe forty acres, and definitely did not get any mule, had heard, heard through the nigratown grapevine, that some nigra in Louisiana had boarded a “whites only” trolley in New Orleans, had been thrown off because he was “colored” and was actually going to Washington to have his case heard before the entire United States Supreme Court, all of them to decide if he could ride that thing or not. With that news, Brady, who normally took news from the grapevine with a grain of salt, no more, got a little wistful. Wistful about how maybe now Mister would not be able to take most of the harvest, and most of the little money left from old daddy’s work. About how he, Brady, might be able to get his own small farm and provide for his family on his own instead of being bunched up with daddy. But mainly he thought that from here on in when he went to town, or anywhere, Mister, or some Mister, would not be able to tell him he could sit here, but not there, he could walk here, but not there, he could stand here, but not there, he could eat here, but not there. And so he dreamed…

…he, Leroy, son of Benson, son of righteous Benson, grandson of old righteous Ezra, had got himself a little town learning, a little broken down schoolhouse learning but learning, learning how to weld stuff together with a torch and so he kind of escaped from the bottomlands and hot sun that he family had faced for generations. Now that war had come, a fighting war in Europe between he thought England and Germany, he had floated north, north up big muddy Mississippi north, when he heard that Chi town needed, desperately, needed welders, for stuff sent overseas. And once settled in the Chi town flop house cold- water flat tenements, overpriced, under-fueled all Negroes squeezed in like at home he had heard through the grapevine, the Division Street grapevine, that the jobs given out were permanent, to be had for as long as a man, a man can you believe that, wanted to work. With that news, Leroy, who normally took news from the grapevine with a grain of salt, no more, got a little wistful. Got to thinking about bringing up his wife, Louella, and his kids, maybe even daddy and granddaddy, and getting that white picket fence house, maybe with some land for a garden, that old Ezra always kept talking about when he was not muttering some silly stuff about forty acres and a mule. And so he dreamed…

…he, Daniel, Daniel, like something out of the Old Testament Bible, son of Leroy, son of righteous Leroy, grandson of righteous Benson, great-grandson of the late patriarch Erza, righteous Ezra of the ever dreaming forty acres, and a veteran, a twice purple-hearted veteran, European Theater, took advantage of the G.I. bill and learned the carpentry trade, learned it well, and as well now that he had moved back south with his extended family took to preaching a little (although Leroy, Chi town proud, curled his tongue every time Daniel quoted chapter and verse), a little over at 18th Street Baptist, over on land that had once belonged to Mister, if you can believe that. And once everybody was settled in, wife and her family and his, and his carpentry business was set up and running, he kept hearing rumors, very persistent rumors, through the nigratown grapevine that Mister, or some Mister, was thinking about giving the better sort of Negros the vote, if you could believe that, if you could believe anything Mister said, even if you heard him say it. With that news, Daniel, who normally took news from the grapevine with a grain of salt, no more, got a little wistful. Wistful about how if they, the Negros had the right to vote then, maybe, that nigra stand here, that nigra sit there, that nigra walk over that hill, that nigra eat across that river would finally be damn done. And so he dreamed…

*Bric-A-Brac Of The American Civil War- Strictly For Aficionados

*Bric-A-Brac Of The American Civil War- Strictly For Aficionados

abraham lincoln, JOHN BROWN, harpers ferry, american civil war, abolitionism, revolutionary abolitionist, preserve the union,

Click on title to link to Marx/Engels Internet Archives for their writings on the American Civil War. Remember we,as Marxists, were fervent partisans of the Northern side in this one.

On the 168th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.

Book Review

Civil War Curiosities; Strange Stories, Oddities, Events, and Coincidences, Webb Garrison, Rutledge Hill press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1994

In the course of a life long study of history, especially when looking at the impact of great revolutions on the course of history, and the American Civil War fits into that category, I have read many books that narrate the main events of those upheavals. I have honed in on the lives of the most important political actors in those dramas as well. Further, I have gone to the backs streets of the events to find out what the “people”, who formed the backbone for all the major revolutions, at least in the West, had to say. I have even, and here is where this book, “Civil War Curiosities”, falls run into compilations of the oddities and contradictions that have emanated from this historic events. This, my friends, as the headline to this entry indicates is a task for aficionados. So once you’ve gotten the main narrative of the Civil War down, have read about the major actors and checked out was happening in the back streets then you can take some time for some light, but informative , reading about the oddities.

Of course, on the subject of the American Civil War there is no shortage of books covering individual oddities and topics, or at least the subject has been covered in such depth that at this distance from the event there is not much room for fresh commentary except for the running through the ephemera. Personally, my tastes run to more detailed mainstream studies, like James McPherson’s, that center on the fight to abolish slavery or of Bruce Catton’s that detail the struggle to preserve a unitary state on this part of the continent. However, Mr. Garrison, a noted author with a resume filled with books that center on compiling the bric-a-brac of this war fills a rather different niche. And along the way provides some interesting information about the personage of Lincoln, his adversary Jefferson Davis, the women of the Civil War, plenty of material on battles and leaders, and most importantly, some new information about the role of blacks in their own liberation as soldiers. Not a book for everyone but interesting nevertheless.


An example of an American Civil War song that I gleaned from reading this book.
In the event, although the United States Congress authorized and budgeted for those 300,000 soldiers, I do not believe that the quota was met.

Words by James Sloan Gibbons
Music L.O. Emerson

We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more,
From Mississippi's winding stream and from New England's shore.
We leave our plows and workshops, our wives and children dear,
With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear.
We dare not look behind us but steadfastly before.
We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more!

CHORUS: We are coming, we are coming our Union to restore,
We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more!

If you look across the hilltops that meet the northern sky,
Long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry;
And now the wind, an instant, tears the cloudy veil aside,
And floats aloft our spangled flag in glory and in pride;
And bayonets in the sunlight gleam, and bands brave music pour,
We are coming, father Abr'am, three hundred thousand more!


If you look up all our valleys where the growing harvests shine,
You may see our sturdy farmer boys fast forming into line;
And children from their mother's knees are pulling at the weeds ,
And learning how to reap and sow against their country's needs;
And a farewell group stands weeping at every cottage door,
We are coming, Father Abr'am, three hundred thousand more!


You have called us, and we're coming by Richmond's bloody tide,
To lay us down for freedom's sake, our brothers' bones beside;
Or from foul treason's savage group, to wrench the murderous blade;
And in the face of foreign foes its fragments to parade.
Six hundred thousand loyal men and true have gone before,
We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more!


In The Heat Of The L.A. Noir Night -Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974)-A Film Review

In The Heat Of The L.A. Noir Night -Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974)-A Film Review   

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, Far Dunaway, John Huston, directed by Roman Polanski, 1974   

No question the 1930s and1940s gave us some great black and white tough guy film noir detectives. Guys like Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade who were more than willing to take a punch or two, take a few slugs (bullets and liquor both), keep the femmes happy in or out of the un-shown bed and wave a little flag for some rough-hewn justice in this wicked old world. Or a detective like Steve in Out Of The Past who let a gun simple femme get the better of his judgment and wound up dead, very dead for his efforts. No wonder since that time there have been periodic homage to that genre in the days of Technicolor. The film under review Roman Polanski’s homage to the genre in color Chinatown fits right in with that trend.

Here our protagonist J.J. Gettis, played to a tee by Jack Nicholson, is working the mean slumming streets of L.A. back in the 1930s, a time if you can believe this when the place was a small almost desert community stopped by the Pacific Ocean. A time when a tough guy detective could navigate the town without trouble. As usual in detective thrillers what Gettis was originally hired for, getting the goods on an errant husband off on a toot with a mistress turns out to be a greed, hunger, and treachery all wrapped up in one bow-water rights.   

See that errant husband happened to be the water commissioner for L.A back in the day and since he was serious about his work he noticed some very strange things happening to the water supply just as a city bond to build a damn was coming up for a vote. That something funny cost the good commissioner his life, and Gettis a nasty slice on the nose. Of course that only whetted his appetite for the truth. So he winds up going mano y mano with one Noah Cross, played by gruff John Huston who is the big wheel behind the building of the dam of his own purposes. Those purposes did not include providing water for drought-stricken L.A. but to irrigate the farmlands in the valley. The land that he was buying up through dummy proxies. So the battle was joined.

Along the way the water commissioner’s wife, his real wife and not the scam wife that was sent to Gettis to set him up for the fall, Noah’s daughter, played by Faye Dunaway, hires Gettis hired Gettis to get to the bottom of the situation about her husband’s death but also to keep tabs on him since she was hiding a deep dark secret that she did not want exposed. That secret in the end was that the young women who her husband was supposed to be having an affair with was actually her sister-and daughter. Yes incest was in the air among the rich and powerful. That secret also led to her death by that overbearing father’s action. And poor Jake was left holding the bag.  

There might not have been much rough-hewn justice in the end in this film but Jake certainly took a few cuts, a few slugs (bullets and liquor both), keep the daughter happy in the shown bed, and tried to bring some early version of truth to power so he earned his top shelf status among the great film detectives right along with Phillip and Sam. A modern noir-ish classic.        

The Other Thin Man-Ginger Rogers And William Powell’s “Star Of Midnight” (1935)-A Film Review

The Other Thin Man-Ginger Rogers And William Powell’s “Star Of Midnight” (1935)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Film Emeritus Sam Lowell

[Although Sam is formally retired he has expressed a desire to help out when we have several films to review and not enough hands to do the task. Since he is very familiar with The Thin Man series which also starred William Powell (and Myrna Loy) he was the natural choice to cover this film. Thanks, Sam-Pete Markin-This review was in the pipeline before the recent change of management and is posted under an agreement between new management and the coven of young and old writers about ending the public dispute that has rattled this publication for the past few months-Greg Green]

Star of Midnight, starring Ginger Rogers, William Powell, 1935 

One of the problems a few actors have had is to be type-cast into a certain cinematic persona. That was generally the case with William Powell, the male lead in the film under review, Star of Midnight where he plays a smart, sophisticated urban (New York City of course) man about town very similar to the role that he played in The Thin Man the year before this film was released (and would go on to star with Myrna Loy in six sequels, ouch) except here he is a high-priced lawyer, Dal, and not an ex-cop private dick Nick Charles. 

The play is the same though although the romantic interest is Donna a young smitten, smitten by Dal, played by Ginger Rogers who is not his boon companion as Myra Loy as Nora Charles was. Here a friend of Dal’s is looking for him to find his missing paramour who blew Chic town (okay, Chicago) a year before without leaving a forwarding address. (Forget it buddy, move on, and that isn’t even high-priced legal advice.)  The plot thickens when the three of them attend a play and nobody but a masked girlfriend is on the stage. The guy yells out Alice. Bad move though since she is on the lam from somebody trying to silence her after she witnessed a murder in, ah, Chicago. Somebody has reason to silence her to cover up his own dastardly deeds so he let out that he was looking for Alice too. Don’t worry even though Dal was accused of killing a source killed in his own apartment he was left by the coppers to figure the whole thing out. And you know just like Nick (and Nora) he does. By the way Dal won’t be lonesome anymore. Donna snagged him. The killer: well grab the film and check it out. It could have been one of several people as usual.      

The Other Thin Man-Ginger Rogers And William Powell’s “Star Of Midnight” (1935)-A Film Review

The Other Thin Man-Ginger Rogers And William Powell’s “Star Of Midnight” (1935)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Film Emeritus Sam Lowell

[Although Sam is formally retired he has expressed a desire to help out when we have several films to review and not enough hands to do the task. Since he is very familiar with The Thin Man series which also starred William Powell (and Myrna Loy) he was the natural choice to cover this film. Thanks, Sam-Pete Markin-This review was in the pipeline before the recent change of management and is posted under an agreement between new management and the coven of young and old writers about ending the public dispute that has rattled this publication for the past few months-Greg Green]

Star of Midnight, starring Ginger Rogers, William Powell, 1935 

One of the problems a few actors have had is to be type-cast into a certain cinematic persona. That was generally the case with William Powell, the male lead in the film under review, Star of Midnight where he plays a smart, sophisticated urban (New York City of course) man about town very similar to the role that he played in The Thin Man the year before this film was released (and would go on to star with Myrna Loy in six sequels, ouch) except here he is a high-priced lawyer, Dal, and not an ex-cop private dick Nick Charles. 

The play is the same though although the romantic interest is Donna a young smitten, smitten by Dal, played by Ginger Rogers who is not his boon companion as Myra Loy as Nora Charles was. Here a friend of Dal’s is looking for him to find his missing paramour who blew Chic town (okay, Chicago) a year before without leaving a forwarding address. (Forget it buddy, move on, and that isn’t even high-priced legal advice.)  The plot thickens when the three of them attend a play and nobody but a masked girlfriend is on the stage. The guy yells out Alice. Bad move though since she is on the lam from somebody trying to silence her after she witnessed a murder in, ah, Chicago. Somebody has reason to silence her to cover up his own dastardly deeds so he let out that he was looking for Alice too. Don’t worry even though Dal was accused of killing a source killed in his own apartment he was left by the coppers to figure the whole thing out. And you know just like Nick (and Nora) he does. By the way Dal won’t be lonesome anymore. Donna snagged him. The killer: well grab the film and check it out. It could have been one of several people as usual.      

For Workers Revolution in Indonesia! Independence for West Papua! (Parts 1 &2 ) We reprint below the first part of an article from Australasian Spartacist No. 236 (Summer 2018/19), newspaper of the Spartacist League of Australia, section of the International Communist League.

Workers Vanguard No. 1147
18 January 2019
For Workers Revolution in Indonesia!
Independence for West Papua!
(Part One)
We reprint below the first part of an article from Australasian Spartacist No. 236 (Summer 2018/19), newspaper of the Spartacist League of Australia, section of the International Communist League.
Next year [2019] marks 50 years since the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” that formalised West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia. The former Dutch colonial rulers had ceded control seven years earlier. Under this cynically named Act, just over 1,000 Papuan leaders were selected by the Indonesian regime and threatened and coerced into voting unanimously in favour of integration. The rigged outcome was rubber-stamped by the United Nations, with Australia playing a leading role in having it rammed through. Faced with the indigenous population’s just strivings for self-determination, the Indonesian regime has carried out a brutal military occupation from the outset.
Between 1963 and 1969, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Papuans were killed by the Indonesian military (TNI), with many more tortured and terrorised. Today, the estimated number of Papuans slaughtered ranges from 100,000 to 500,000. Simply raising the Morning Star flag, the symbol of West Papuan independence, is a crime that carries a 15-year jail sentence or worse. The 1998 Biak massacre is but one example of the countless atrocities carried out by the Indonesian state. In a coordinated action, Indonesian police, navy and military forces attacked, tortured, sexually abused and killed some 150 people following pro-independence gatherings. Mutilated bodies dumped at sea washed up on shore for days afterwards. Twenty years on, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, seeks to lull the populace with talk of giving “special attention to West Papua” while overseeing the continued military suppression of Papuan separatism. According to an article in the Asia Times (13 March), 8,000 Papuan independence activists have been imprisoned in the last two years.
Such repression is carried out with the assistance of Australian and other imperialist forces [including the U.S.], who help train and supply the ruthless Kopassus special forces killers and the “anti-terror” squad known as Detachment 88 linked to the widespread torture and extra-judicial killings in West Papua. One Papuan activist summed up the Australian government’s role: “You give money for Indonesia to kill people in West Papua—you are the perpetrators of violence in West Papua” (ABC News online, 29 August 2012). We oppose all military ties between the Australian imperialists and the Indonesian regime.
With its vast wealth of natural resources, West Papua is a place of brutal exploitation where largely tribal subsistence farmers have been driven off their land without compensation. West Papua’s per capita GDP is more than 40 percent above the Indonesian average, yet the poverty rate among the indigenous population is nearly triple the country’s average. The region has the highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Indonesia as well as the worst literacy rates. A study in 2013 reported the occurrence of HIV/AIDS was almost 20 times the national average.
Despite dire hardship and the ferocious repression meted out against men, women and children, the Melanesian Papuans have been fighting tenaciously for decades for their independence, defiantly protesting, convening independence congresses, and waging a protracted low-level guerrilla insurgency by the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), the National Liberation Army of West Papua. The Papuans’ struggle for independence must be championed by workers around the world, including in Australia. As a Leninist tribune of the people, we oppose the hideous oppression of indigenous Melanesians and link that opposition to a program for socialist revolution. We stand for the military defence of the independence fighters against the Indonesian military, while giving no political support to bourgeois nationalist forces. We demand: Indonesian troops out! Australia hands off! Independence for West Papua!
We fight for a workers and peasants government centred on the indigenous Melanesians. However, our support for Papuan independence is not contingent upon socialist revolution. As Marxists, we recognise that the struggle for the rights of oppressed nations can be a motor force for revolution. Our stand for West Papuan independence is part of our perspective for socialist revolution in the Indonesian prison house of peoples. Indonesia’s multinational population, brought together under colonial rule, is predominantly Muslim. Today, with the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, religious minorities and the small ethnic Chinese population are targets for persecution. From Aceh to West Papua, oppressed national minorities have struggled against the stranglehold of the Javanese-chauvinist bourgeoisie and its military machine.
In suppressing the struggles of workers and the myriad oppressed minorities, the Indonesian bourgeoisie act as compradors for the Australian, U.S. and other imperialists. Enforcing capitalist stability, they ensure the imperialists’ continued plunder of the archipelago’s rich natural resources and super-exploitation of its toiling masses. This is sharply seen in West Papua with the currently majority U.S.-owned Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine. One of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, it is Indonesia’s largest taxpayer. While the Indonesian capitalists, corrupt governmental bodies and TNI all take their cut of the profits, the mining conglomerates take the lion’s share under the protection of the imperialist-funded military.
Reasserting Leninism on the National Question
It is over 30 years since we have raised the correct demand for West Papuan independence in our Trotskyist press (see “Australia’s Indonesia Jitters,” ASp No. 109, Summer 1984/85). While we have opposed the murderous Indonesian military, demanding the TNI get out and Australian imperialism keep its bloody hands off, the call for independence for West Papua as for East Timor was dropped following the publication of a letter in ASp No. 110 (March/April 1985). Titled “East Timor/West Papua: The National Question,” and published without reply, the letter conflated political independence and national emancipation. In doing so, the conclusion was that, as these were largely tribal, pre-national societies, their independence could only be achieved by “breaking the grip of imperialism through region-wide socialist revolution.”
The premise of the letter was consistent with an anti-Leninist assimilationist framework for oppressed nations in multinational states then adhered to by the International Communist League (ICL). By concluding that these societies would be incapable of forging independent states under capitalism this letter served to denigrate the just fight of the East Timorese and West Papuans for national liberation. Despite the talk of “socialist revolution,” this attitude could only be to the benefit of the brutal Indonesian regime and its imperialist overlords.
As Lenin wrote in 1916:
“It would be no less mistaken to delete any of the points of the democratic programme, for example, the point of self-determination of nations, on the ground that it is ‘infeasible,’ or that it is ‘illusory’ under capitalism….
“…all the fundamental demands of political democracy are ‘possible of achievement’ under imperialism, only in an incomplete, in a mutilated form and as a rare exception (for example, the secession of Norway from Sweden in 1905). The demand for the immediate liberation of the colonies, as advanced by all revolutionary Social-Democrats, is also ‘impossible of achievement’ under capitalism without a series of revolutions. This does not imply, however, that Social-Democracy must refrain from conducting an immediate and most determined struggle for all these demands—to refrain would merely be to the advantage of the bourgeoisie and reaction.”
The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (January-February 1916)
While it is true that national emancipation cannot be won short of socialist revolution, it is false that independence cannot be achieved under capitalism.
Through an internal political fight in the mid-1990s, with key contributions from international cadre, the SL/A re-established the call for independence for East Timor. This was a qualitative step forward in taking a Leninist approach to the national question in Indonesia. It also put us in good stead when the chauvinist campaign for Australian troops to East Timor erupted in 1999 in response to the terror unleashed by TNI-sponsored pro-Indonesian death squads following the vote for independence. The SL/A was almost alone on the left in opposing the pro-imperialist campaign. Demanding independence for East Timor, we motivated the need for workers revolution in both Australia and Indonesia (see “Australian/UN Imperialist Troops Out of East Timor,” ASp No. 170, Autumn 2000).
While reinstating the call for East Timor’s independence, our internal fight did not draw broader programmatic conclusions and the question of West Papua was left untouched. In 2012, an attempt by the SL/A to restore the demand for independence was shelved following international discussion. The question was finally put on a Leninist foundation in the context of our recent international fight against adaptation to great power chauvinism and the concomitant longstanding perversion of Leninism on the national question. The outcome of this internal fight was codified at the Seventh International Conference of the ICL (see Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 65, Summer 2017).
An SL/A motion re-establishing the call for independence for West Papua was endorsed by the 2017 International Conference. Pointing to the convulsive 2011 Grasberg miners’ strike that united Melanesian and non-Melanesian workers in struggle, and galvanised support from West Papuan independence fighters, the motion concluded, “This [strike] illustrates our perspective of linking the emancipation of the deeply exploited working class of the archipelago with the struggles of its minority peoples, and the necessity of linking the fight for workers revolution in Indonesia with the fight for workers revolution in the advanced imperialist countries.”
West Papua and Dutch Colonialism
West Papua was one of three colonies carved out by the imperialists on the island of New Guinea in the 19th century. The eastern half of the island was divided between Germany and Britain. In 1906 Australia took over administration of the British colony and then seized the German colony with the outbreak of the first imperialist world war. The League of Nations (precursor to the UN) granted “trusteeship” to Australia in 1920. Thus Australia got its very own colony as a result of World War I. With little prospect for major profits until mining opened up around the 1960s, Australia developed little infrastructure and ran a grotesquely racist, paternalistic colonial regime. Renamed Papua New Guinea (PNG), the country gained independence in 1975 and became a neo-colony of Australian imperialism.
The western half of New Guinea, now West Papua, was claimed by the Netherlands and known as Dutch New Guinea. It became part of the lucrative Netherlands East Indies that extended across the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The indigenous Melanesian people, however, are distinct from the largely Austronesian ethnic groups of Indonesia. Made up of hundreds of ethnolinguistic groups, the Melanesians are more closely linked to the populations of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Kanaky (New Caledonia).
The Dutch government had little interest in developing Dutch New Guinea and little impact. Far greater inroads were made by Dutch and German missionaries, such that today most Papuans identify as Christian. Government posts established around 1900 served mainly to assert territorial claims against the British, Germans and Americans. The almost impenetrable highlands remained largely unexplored until the Second World War. One thing the Dutch did establish in the inhospitable jungles of West Papua was the notorious disease-ridden Tanah Merah internment camp, built to hold Indonesian nationalist and Communist anti-colonial militants. Opened in 1927, the first prisoners, numbering more than 2,000, were survivors of two abortive uprisings in 1926-27 which were led by the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and ruthlessly crushed by the Dutch.
During World War II, with the advance of the Japanese army into the Netherlands East Indies in 1942, the Dutch colonial administration fled to Australia. After three centuries of being under the boot of the Dutch, many Indonesians initially welcomed the Japanese imperialists as a liberating force. This illusion was soon shattered by the brutality of the new occupying power. In Dutch New Guinea, Papuans reportedly aided the Allied imperialist forces. Contrary to Australian nationalist mythology, in neighbouring PNG many inhabitants had little choice. Dragooned into service, those who rebelled or simply wanted to leave were kept by force. The Second World War in the Pacific, as in Europe, was an imperialist war between rival powers for markets and colonies. Australia’s “war effort” was fuelled by vile anti-Japanese racism. Trotskyists fought for revolutionary defeatism of the imperialist combatants while standing for the unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union, a degenerated workers state, and for the liberation of the colonies.
By mid-1944, U.S.-led forces under General MacArthur had defeated the Japanese military in western New Guinea and the Dutch oppressors returned to the region. However the Japanese remained in control of Java and other islands until their surrender in August 1945, whereupon the Indonesian nationalists declared independence. When the Dutch subsequently attempted to reassert control, they were met with determined, widespread resistance by independence fighters. This struggle was supported by unions in India, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, including Holland. Workers successfully fought together to black ban [refuse to handle] Dutch shipping to Indonesia, including preventing the transport of military equipment and personnel. Known as the Black Armada, these international proletarian solidarity actions played a vital role in stopping the Dutch from recolonising Indonesia, helping to open the way for independence.
Indonesian Nationalists Demand West Papua
It took four years of fierce armed struggle before the Dutch finally conceded Indonesian independence in late 1949. However, the Dutch refused to relinquish their New Guinea province to the new Indonesian bourgeois-nationalist regime, who claimed the territory as part of the old colonial Dutch East Indies. The Dutch hoped to turn the province into a profitable neo-colony. (The discovery of a huge oil field was kept under wraps.) Making a show of having broken from the old forms of colonialism, they began to prepare the Papuan population for independence. West Papuans welcomed the moves to increased self-governance and the prospect of sovereignty.
Ongoing negotiations over West Papua between the Dutch and Indonesians completely broke down in 1952. By the following year, the dispute was the central political issue in Indonesia, with all parties, including the PKI, backing President Sukarno’s strident determination to bring West Papua under Indonesian control. During the anti-colonial struggle, Dutch New Guinea had been promoted as an intrinsic part of the future nation— “Indonesia free—from Sabang to Merauke” was a popular slogan. It was also woven into the folklore of the independence struggle as many Indonesian martyrs had been interned and had died at the Tanah Merah prison camp. The capitalist state that emerged with independence was dominated by the Javanese majority, whose political representatives opposed autonomy or independence for the various peoples of the former Dutch colony.
Over the next decade, Sukarno used the continuing Dutch administration of West Papua to whip up nationalism and hold together the multitude of competing ethnic, religious and political groups within Indonesia. His “anti-colonial” rhetoric demanding Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua helped to harness potential political rivals to his leadership and divert attention from deteriorating economic conditions, including skyrocketing inflation. By 1957, growing bitterness towards the Javanese-centred government erupted in open revolt. Outer islands which were the major wealth producers (from oil, rubber, tin and copra) resented that the greater share of revenue went to the main, most populous island of Java.
In 1957-58, rebellions in Sumatra and Sulawesi, led by disgruntled regional army commanders in collusion with the imperialists, attempted to break from Jakarta. Faced with insurrections and economic chaos, Sukarno imposed a “State of War and Siege” and set about crushing the revolts. This was followed by a campaign whipping up a frenzy against the Dutch over West Papua and leading to the nationalisation of Dutch-owned companies. Sukarno also proclaimed the basis of government to be “Nasakom,” the union of nationalist, religious and communist organisations (nasionalisme-agama-komunisme). Sukarno’s bloc with the PKI was an attempt to both prop up his fragile bonapartist regime and to co-opt the Communists. By then the PKI had become the largest Communist Party in the capitalist world, with three million members, and over fifteen million in affiliated unions and peasant, women’s and other associations.
Imperialist Cold War Machinations
In the 1950s, the imperialists’ anti-Communist Cold War against the Soviet Union was in full swing. While the United States had emerged from World War II as the preeminent imperialist power, the Soviet Union had also gained enormous international prestige through its leading role in defeating Nazi Germany. U.S. imperialism and its Australian junior ally watched developments in Indonesia with growing concern. Already revolutionary upheavals in the rest of Asia had seen peasant-based guerrilla armies in China and North Korea sweep away capitalist rule, consolidating bureaucratically deformed workers states modelled on the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union. Communist-led forces in Vietnam had defeated the French colonialists at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and were now fighting against a U.S.-backed puppet regime in the South. Communist-led insurgencies had erupted in Burma (Myanmar), Malaya and elsewhere. Capitalist Indonesia’s professed “non-alignment” with either Washington or Moscow and, above all, the growth of the PKI was of major concern to the imperialists, who wanted to ensure that the toiling masses of Indonesia did not take the Communist road. To that end, they began developing closer ties with the Indonesian military, fostering anti-communist elements within the officer corps.
By the early 1960s, escalating tension over control of West Papua led the Indonesians and Dutch imperialists to the brink of war. Sukarno played the two camps of the Cold War off against each other, anticipating that the substantial military aid received from the Soviets would force Washington’s intervention into the dispute over West Papua. In 1961, newly elected U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, spearheaded a drive to stop Sukarno moving closer to the Soviet Union by pressuring the Dutch to abandon their claim on West Papua. The Dutch finally ceded West Papua to Indonesia in a 1962 “New York Agreement” overseen by Washington. Jakarta was “obligated” under the agreement to conduct a referendum on self-determination no later than 1969. However, once in control, the Indonesian military acted to stamp out any political dissent.
By 1967, General Suharto and his military dictatorship had risen to power in Indonesia through the slaughter of over a million Communists, workers, peasants and ethnic Chinese. One of the most savage massacres in modern history, the white terror that raged throughout the archipelago from late 1965 through early 1966 was perpetrated by an alliance between the army and Islamic fanatics mobilised in a holy war against Communism with the direct support of the imperialists. The killings were so ferocious that rivers were choked with human corpses. Hundreds of thousands more were arrested and thousands interned for years, including the renowned anti-colonial novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Workers Vanguard No. 1148
8 February 2019
For Workers Revolution in Indonesia!
Independence for West Papua!
(Part Two)
We reprint below the second part of an article from Australasian Spartacist No. 236 (Summer 2018/19), newspaper of the Spartacist League of Australia, section of the International Communist League. Part One appeared in Workers Vanguard No. 1147 (15 January).
The bloody slaughter of 1965-66 was the direct product of the support by the PKI [Communist Party of Indonesia], as well as their Stalinist mentors in Moscow and Beijing, to the bourgeois government of Sukarno. Far from championing national struggles as a motor force for proletarian revolution, the PKI helped to channel the Indonesian masses’ deep bitterness at colonialism into support for bourgeois nationalism. After Sukarno’s forces crushed its 1948 revolt in the city of Madiun, the PKI gained “respectability” and re-established its prominence as a political party by grotesquely embracing Indonesia’s chauvinist claim over West Papua.
In line with Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong’s “bloc of four classes” doctrine and the Stalinist quest for “peaceful coexistence” with “progressive, non-aligned” capitalist “friends,” the PKI helped to prop up capitalist Indonesia, maintaining its alliance with the weak bourgeoisie by restraining the working class and containing class struggle. Adhering to Sukarno’s “Nasakom” popular front, the party leadership preached “joint unity” with Sukarno and his Indonesian National Party to forge a “united national front, including the national bourgeoisie,” which would carry out “not socialist but democratic reforms” (see “Lessons of Indonesia 1965,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 55, Autumn 1999).
This treacherous class-collaborationist program stands in stark contrast to the revolutionary internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party in Russia. In many respects, Indonesia then, as today, resembled tsarist Russia, albeit the latter was the weakest link in the imperialist chain. Russia was a multinational state with a narrowly based ruling class, subservient to and dependent on imperialist countries, and with enormous social contradictions between a modern industrial sector and a countryside stamped in pre-capitalist times. The perspective for resolving the fundamental democratic questions posed by such combined and uneven development is provided by the theory of permanent revolution, developed by Leon Trotsky and vindicated by the victory of the 1917 Russian Revolution. As Trotsky wrote:
“With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”
The Permanent Revolution (1929)
If it is not to be strangled by backwardness and imperialist intervention, the social overturn must be linked to the fight for workers rule in the advanced capitalist countries, like Australia.
Lenin forged the Bolshevik Party in the struggle against Great Russian chauvinism and for national liberation struggles in the tsarist prison house of peoples. The Bolsheviks’ championing of the democratic right of self-determination resonated amongst the masses of the oppressed nations under tsarism. As Trotsky put it in his powerful History of the Russian Revolution (1932), “the national current, like the agrarian, was pouring into the channel of the October revolution.” Just as the Bolsheviks’ fight for the rights of oppressed nationalities was key to the victory of the 1917 October Revolution, so too championing the national rights of the Melanesian Papuans and other oppressed nationalities will be key to uniting the workers and peasants across the archipelago, including the Javanese masses, in the struggle for the revolutionary overthrow of Indonesian capitalism.
The regime issuing from the October Revolution provides a model for what this might look like. In November 1917, the new Soviet government issued the “Declaration of Rights of the Peoples of Russia” setting forth the equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia, the right of self-determination up to secession and the formation of a separate state, abolition of all national and religious privileges, and the free development of all national and ethnic groups inhabiting Russia.
The Russian Revolution was also internationalist in character, the first step on the road to world socialist revolution. It opened the possibility for extension to Europe. However, with the failure of revolutionary opportunities in Europe, most particularly in Germany, the economic backwardness and isolation of the Soviet workers state led to the rise of a nationalist, bureaucratic caste that seized political power from the working class in a political counterrevolution headed by Stalin in 1923-24. With the consolidation of its rule, and the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet workers state, the revolutionary, internationalist program of the Bolsheviks was replaced with the Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” and the illusory pursuit of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Defending the remaining gains of the revolution, not least the collectivised property forms, Trotskyists stood for the unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution while fighting for a political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and return to the road of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks.
West Papua: “New Order” Prize for 1965 Massacre
U.S., British and Australian imperialism were up to their necks in the blood of the Indonesian people in 1965-66. From the U.S. embassy in Jakarta lists that had been compiled of some 5,000 Communist Party members and sympathisers were passed on to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to aid the massacres. Radio Australia operating in Indonesia broadcast pro-army propaganda during the killings, urged on by Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, who boasted it was “excellent propaganda and of assistance to the anti-PKI forces.” In the wake of the massacres, Australia’s prime minister, Harold Holt, gloated to a gathering of the Australian-American Association in New York, “With 500,000 to 1 million Communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place” (New York Times, 6 July 1966).
Once in power, Suharto’s “New Order” regime reopened Indonesia to foreign capital, and soon many American and European companies had regained control of mines, estates and other enterprises nationalised under Sukarno. The Suharto regime also began selling off West Papua’s resources for imperialist exploitation. In 1967 they signed a contract with the U.S.-based Freeport Sulphur company to begin mining gold and copper at Mt. Ertsberg. In 1968, a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate for Indonesia smugly stated, “The prospects for private foreign investment in extractive industries are fairly good….”
The imperialists’ endorsement of the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” in West Papua was a reward for services rendered by Suharto’s military in crushing the Indonesian Communists. The military commander in West Papua at the time was the violently anti-Communist CIA-linked Sarwo Edhie, who (having returned from military training in Australia) commanded the paramilitary forces dispatched in 1965 to Central Java to “clean up” and restore order.
For 32 years, Suharto’s blood-drenched military regime ruled Indonesia with an iron fist. While Suharto has long gone, Jakarta continues to ride roughshod over the many different peoples across the archipelago. In West Papua, successive regimes have enforced the ongoing military occupation, with at least 15,000 troops stationed there in 2011. There are over 40 administrative regencies across the territory, each with its own police station and military base. There are reportedly plans to increase the number by 70 percent. As one activist put it, “Special forces and intelligence personnel are stationed in virtually every village.” The military in West Papua have vested interests in suppressing dissent. Only 25 percent of their budget comes from the central government with the rest made up from fees for services, including providing security at businesses and facilities such as the Grasberg mine.
Seeking to “divide and conquer” West Papua, in 2003 Jakarta split the territory into two provinces, called “West Papua” and “Papua.” Jakarta also implemented “special autonomy” in a futile attempt to weaken the independence movement but this has only led to greater discontent.
From the beginning, Jakarta has pursued conscious policies designed to assimilate West Papua into the Malayic culture of Indonesia and extinguish the Melanesian Papuan identity with its different languages, religion, social customs and organisation, and agricultural practices. To this end, Jakarta has for decades used its government-sponsored transmigration program to relocate many thousands of people from Java and other islands to West Papua. Significant self-financed transmigration has also occurred over the last decades, particularly from eastern provinces such as Sulawesi and Maluku. Alongside creating a non-Papuan workforce, transmigration has also served “security” objectives, with settlements adjacent to PNG [Papua New Guinea], along with the depopulation of local villages, acting to restrict the cross-border movements of Papuan activists. Reportedly, many transmigrants in these areas are former military personnel. While President Widodo stated in mid-2015 that the transmigration program to West Papua would end, it continues to be encouraged. As one government minister earlier declared, “There is still a lot of land,” (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 2015).
Following successive waves of settlers, by 2010 the population in West Papua had grown to 3.6 million and was fairly evenly divided between Papuans and non-Papuans. More recent population projections calculate that Papuans may now have become a minority within their own country. However, they continue to occupy the largest geographical area, almost exclusively in the highlands. In the accessible coastal areas, where new settlers predominate, there is a vast mix of ethnicities.
As part of the fight to break the hold of the Indonesian ruling class, Marxists would seek to mobilise the combative Indonesian workers, including those in West Papua, to champion the struggle of the indigenous population for independence. In an independent West Papua, revolutionaries would recognise the right of settlers to remain in the land they have made home. Among those who have moved to West Papua are minorities fleeing religious and ethnic persecution. Many of these people have little reason for allegiance to the Javanese-chauvinist regime in Jakarta and may welcome independence from Indonesia.
For Workers Revolution in Indonesia
In September 2017, exiled Papuan independence leader, Benny Wenda, presented the United Nations “decolonisation committee” with a petition calling for an internationally supervised referendum for self-determination. The West Papuan People’s Petition had been signed by 1.8 million West Papuans, including reportedly 70 percent of all Papuans and more than 96,000 settlers. The committee chairman predictably refused to consider the petition, declaring his support for Indonesia’s territorial integrity. The campaign then sought to appeal to the UN General Assembly, which met in September/October this year. In the lead-up, independence activists in West Papua organised protests seeking to highlight the plight of West Papuans. These were met with a crackdown by security forces. For over a week security forces systematically arrested, tortured, shot at and killed West Papuans accused of supporting self-determination.
Also appealing to the UN to oversee a new independence referendum is the “Westminster Declaration” of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, a group co-founded by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, renowned for opposingScottish independence from his own country. The Declaration has been signed by an array of capitalist politicians internationally. West Papua is a cause célèbre for bourgeois liberals, including the capitalist Greens in this country. These “friends of West Papua” would keep Papuans begging to the same United Nations that oversaw the outrageous 1969 “Act of Free Choice” in the first place. The UN is a den of imperialist thieves, their victims and intended victims. Its interests lie in upholding the grinding oppression of the West Papuans under the heel of the Indonesian regime and their imperialist masters. The natural ally of the oppressed Papuan peoples is the working class of Indonesia and internationally.
Like the Bolsheviks, we base our revolutionary program on the political independence of the workers movement. We fight to forge Leninist-Trotskyist parties, tribunes of the people, that instil in the working class irreconcilable hostility to all the capitalist exploiters and the consciousness of its historic tasks. Led by such a revolutionary workers party, and at the head of all the oppressed, the working class must sweep away the entire capitalist system through socialist revolution, and establish a workers state based on collectivised industry and serving the needs of all.
In 2013, after three West Papuan activists sought refuge in the Australian consulate in Bali, calling for the release of Papuan political prisoners incarcerated by the Indonesian regime, the then prime minister, Tony Abbott, warned that Australia would not “give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia.” As part of their role in maintaining stability for Australian imperialist profit-making in the region, both Liberal/National Coalition and Labor Party administrations have long defended the territorial integrity of Indonesia. For Australia, backing the Indonesian regime’s oppression in West Papua also serves its interest in keeping unrest from spilling over the border and igniting struggles in its poverty-stricken PNG neo-colony.
Australia has become increasingly jittery about Chinese influence in the region and in PNG in particular. PNG has pushed for Australia to help fund a doubling of its defence force, with the defence chief declaring that China was ready to step in if rebuffed. Recently Australia brokered a deal with PNG (since joined by the U.S.) to redevelop the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island, where Australia long maintained a notorious offshore refugee detention camp.
Along with its extensive national resources and low-wage labour, Indonesia is of great geo-strategic importance as it sits astride the gate to the Pacific Rim. It forms the southern land mass of the narrow Strait of Malacca through which much of China’s fuel imports are carried from the Middle East. Ever since the 1949 Revolution swept away capitalist rule in China, the imperialists have sought to destroy the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state by one means or another, in the pursuit of unhindered imperialist exploitation. Today, as part of the U.S.-led military encirclement of China, U.S. and Australian imperialism have been strengthening their military ties with Jakarta.
It is in the interests of the world’s working class and oppressed to defend the Chinese deformed workers state against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution. A political revolution is necessary in China to sweep away the bureaucratic, nationalist Stalinist regime, which appeases the imperialists, and to establish a government based on genuine workers councils and a revolutionary internationalist program.
In Indonesia, the fight to emancipate the deeply exploited working class is bound up with the struggles of the oppressed minority peoples, of women and the rural poor. Only socialist revolution establishing the dictatorship of the workers, leaning on the poor peasantry, can satisfy the basic needs of the masses: freedom from imperialist subjugation, agrarian revolution, alleviation of poverty, social equality for women and emancipation for oppressed national minorities. This struggle is necessarily internationalist in its outlook. For workers to succeed in this fight requires the building of a multiethnic revolutionary internationalist workers party—an Indonesian section of a reforged Fourth International. Workers in Australia also have a role to play, not simply by standing in class solidarity with the struggles of their Indonesian class brothers and sisters but by forging a Trotskyist party in this country to lead the necessary fight to sweep away the racist Australia ruling class through socialist revolution and establish a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia.

Nothing to Lose But Our Chains Join the Fight for a Socialist Future! We print below a speech, abridged and edited for publication, by Spartacist League speaker Kelly Glass at the Partisan Defense Committee’s 33rd annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners in New York City on January 26.

Workers Vanguard No. 1148
8 February 2019
Nothing to Lose But Our Chains
Join the Fight for a Socialist Future!
We print below a speech, abridged and edited for publication, by Spartacist League speaker Kelly Glass at the Partisan Defense Committee’s 33rd annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners in New York City on January 26.
Over the last month of the government shutdown, the media would have you believe that there is a major divide between the two capitalist parties. Trump calls to “Make America Great Again,” a return to the days when black people and women supposedly knew their place, and reds were witchhunted. Meanwhile, the Democrats peddle the lie that America is already great…“Make America America again.” America’s true legacy is the genocide of the Native Americans and slavery, class exploitation and imperialism. Its legacy is stealing about half of Mexico’s territory, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Haymarket Massacre, the Japanese American internment camps, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the anti-Soviet Cold War, years of slaughtering Vietnamese workers and peasants, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen…I could go on.
The ruling class of this country is united when it comes to plundering the oppressed peoples of the world, even if they have different ideas about how to carry out their occupations, drone attacks and domination of the Near East and beyond. If anything, the Democrats are the party of war. They are often more hawkish and more dangerous because they fool the masses into thinking this is about defending democracy and so-called human rights. When Trump announced that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, Democrats raised a stink. And the Democrats, from the Clintons to Bernie Sanders, are among the most vocal promoters of the anti-China trade war and military provocations. Trump’s counterrevolutionary drive against the Chinese deformed workers state is just a continuation of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” The imperialists hate that they don’t have free rein, and want to turn the world’s biggest workers state into a sweatshop they can profit from. We defend China unconditionally against imperialism and counterrevolution, while fighting for a workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy.
So now it looks like the government is temporarily reopened, while negotiations over “border security” continue. Despite this recent lovers’ quarrel, both parties agree that whether you call it a wall, a fence or a hedge, strong border protection is a priority. That includes militarization, deportations and detentions. Under Obama, billions went to border enforcement, including thousands more agents and over 700 miles of fencing. The working class has a direct interest in fighting against deportations and in organizing immigrant workers into the unions with full rights. Many of the people trying to cross the border now are fleeing destitution brought about by U.S. imperialism in their home countries. Every immigrant who has made it here should have full citizenship rights.
It was pretty cheap for the Democrats to cry crocodile tears over the suffering of federal workers during the shutdown, while those in Congress and the Supreme Court judges were still getting their fat paychecks. It’s easy for the Democrats to posture as the friends of the oppressed when standing next to Republicans who openly ponder why white supremacy is offensive. During the shutdown, the main tactic of the Democrats in Congress, including the so-called progressive Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was to prove themselves better defenders of national security by, for example, complaining that airport security agents, border patrol and prison guards were not getting paid. One of the very first votes of newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a DSAer, was to keep the Department of Homeland Security up and running. Prison guards torture inmates; cops break strikes, kill blacks and terrorize immigrants. We do not consider any of these “law and order” forces to be part of the working class. They should not be in the unions and we wouldn’t support their strikes.
But this shutdown has and will continue to be widely felt by thousands of government workers, as well as Native Americans, people relying on food stamps and government assistance, and the homeless. Here we are in the richest country in the world, and nearly 80 percent of fulltime workers live paycheck to paycheck, with tens of thousands dying every year because they lack health insurance. Every day, the capitalist rulers starve and deprive their wage slaves of basic human needs.
Is it any wonder that overworked and underpaid teachers are going on strike across the country? From West Virginia to Arizona, and most recently Los Angeles, teachers have fought back against the gutting of public education and the ongoing war against the teachers unions. It’s clear that workers want to fight. The pro-capitalist leadership of the unions holds them back by selling the lie that some progressive politician will come to their rescue. We need a new class-struggle leadership of labor. One that understands that the battle is class against class, that workers organizations must be independent of the bosses’ parties, and that the only way anything has ever been won in this country is through hard-fought struggle, not by begging politicians.
What we really need is workers power—a workers government that will seize industry and finance from the capitalists and build a planned, socialist order. For this, the workers need their own party with an internationalist, revolutionary program. This party will be, in the spirit of Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, a tribune of the people, able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, painting a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation.
My favorite slogan is actually on that sign over there—“Finish the Civil War!” Being from the South, I knew right away how powerful this slogan was. Some 150 years ago, a bloody Civil War—the Second American Revolution—successfully smashed black chattel slavery. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” Indeed. But the promise of black freedom was never fulfilled, and so black oppression continues to be the bedrock of capitalist America. It will take another earthquake, another fire to win black freedom by overthrowing capitalist rule. The fight for black liberation and the fight for socialism will not be won separately. Black workers are slated to play a leading role in the revolutionary party that the Spartacist League is committed to building.
Those who are today behind bars for struggling against racism and capitalist injustice, like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, will be honored as fighters on the road to liberation. I’d like to end with the last lines of the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels in 1847, which I encourage everyone to read and reread. “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

On The 60th Anniversary- In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement-IN DEFENSE OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION -On The Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement

In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman (2015)
Every leftist, hell, everybody who stands on the democratic principle that each nation has the right to self-determination should cautiously rejoice at the “defrosting” of the long-time diplomatic relations between the American imperial behemoth and the island of Cuba (and the freedom of the remaining Cuban Five in the bargain). Every leftist militant should understand that each non-capitalist like Cuba going back to the establishment of the now defunct Soviet Union has had the right (maybe until we win our socialist future the duty) to make whatever advantageous agreements they can with the capitalist world. That despite whatever disagreements we have with the political regimes ruling those non-capitalist states. That is a question for us to work out not the imperialists.
For those who have defended the Cuban Revolution since its victory in 1959 under whatever political rationale (pro-socialist, right to self-determination, or some other hands off policy) watching on black and white television the rebels entering Havana this day which commemorates the heroic if unsuccessful efforts at Moncada we should affirm our continued defense of the Cuban revolution. Oh yes, and tell the American government to give back Guantanamo while we are at it.    




This year marks the 58th anniversary of the Cuban July 26th movement, the 52nd anniversary of the victory of the Cuban Revolution and the 44th anniversary of the execution of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara by the Bolivian Army after the defeat of his guerrilla forces and his capture in godforsaken rural Bolivia. I have reviewed the life of Che elsewhere in this space (see July archives, dated July 5, 2006). The Cuban Revolution stood for my generation, the Generation of 68, and, hopefully, will for later generations as a symbol of revolutionary intransigence against United States imperialism. Thus, it is fitting to review a biography of Che’s comrade and central leader of that revolution, Fidel Castro. Obviously, it is harder to evaluate the place in history of the disabled, but still living, Fidel than the iconic Che whose place is secured in the revolutionary pantheon. The choice of this biography reflected my desire to review a recent biography. As always one must accept that most Western biographers have various degrees of hostility to the Castro regime and the Cuban Revolution and one would expect that to be particularly true of one written by a former British Ambassador to Cuba (who has since died). After reading this biography I find that it gives a reasonable account of the highlights of Fidel’s life thus far and for those not familiar with the Fidel saga a good place to start.

Let us be clear about two things. First, this writer has defended the Cuban Revolution since its inception; initially under a liberal- democratic premise of the right of nations, especially applicable to small nations pressed up against the imperialist powers, to self-determination; later under the above-mentioned premise and also that it should be defended on socialist grounds, not my idea of socialism- the Bolshevik, 1917 kind- but as an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist revolution nevertheless. That prospective continues to be this writer’s position today. Secondly, my conception of revolutionary strategy and thus of world politics has for a long time been far removed from Fidel Castro’s (and Che’s) strategy, which emphasized military victory by guerrilla forces in the countryside, rather than my position of mass action by the urban proletariat leading the rural masses. That said, despite those strategic political differences this militant can honor the Cuban Revolution as a symbol of a fight all anti-imperialist militants should defend.

The Ambassador obviously differs with my political prospective. Nevertheless he has interesting things to say about the highlights of Fidel’s career; the early student days struggling for political recognition; the initial fights against Batista; the famous but unsuccessful Moncada attack; the subsequent trial, imprisonment and then exile in Mexico; the return to Cuba and renewed fight under a central strategy of guerrilla warfare rather than urban insurrection; the triumph over Batista in 1959; the struggle against American imperialist intervention and the nationalizations of much of Cuba’s economy; the American sponsored Bay of Pigs in 1961; the rocky alliance with the Soviet Union and the Cuban Missile Crisis; the various ups and downs in the Cuban economy stemming from reliance on the monoculture of sugar; the various periods of Cuban international revolutionary support activity, including Angola and Nicaragua; the demise of the Soviet Union and the necessity of Cuba to go it alone along with its intendant hardships; and, various other events up until 2002. There is plenty of material to start with and much to analyze. As mentioned before Che’s place is secure and will be a legitimate symbol of rebellion for youth for a long time. Fidel, as a leader of state and a much more mainline Stalinist (although compared with various stodgy Soviet leaderships he must have seemed like their worst Trotsky nightmare) has a much less assured place. Alas, the old truism holds here - revolutionaries should not die in their beds