Saturday, April 20, 2019

In Honor Of Russian Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin’s Birthday (April 1870-January 1924)-The Struggle Continues-Ivan Smilga’s Political Journey-Take Five

In Honor Of Russian Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin’s Birthday (April 1870-January 1924)-The Struggle Continues-Ivan Smilga’s Political Journey-Take Five       

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 

For a number of years I have been honoring various revolutionary forbears, including the subject of this birthday tribute, the Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin architect (along with fellow revolutionary Leon Trotsky) of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 in each January under the headline-Honor The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg , Liebknecht. My purpose then was (and still is) to continue the traditions established by the Communist International in the early post-World War I period in honoring revolutionary forbears. That month has special significance since every January  

Leftists honor those three leading revolutionaries who died in that month, V.I. Lenin of Russia in his sleep after a long illness in 1924, and Karl Liebknecht of Germany and Rosa Luxemburg of Poland in 1919 murdered in separate incidents after leading the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin.

I have made my political points about the heroic Karl Liebknecht and his parliamentary fight against the German war budget in World War I in which he eventually wound up in prison only to be released when the Kaiser abdicated (correctly went to jail when it came down to it once the government pulled the hammer down on his opposition), on some previous occasions. The key point to be taken away today, still applicable today as in America we are in the age of endless war, endless war appropriations and seemingly endless desires to racket up another war out of whole cloth every change some ill-begotten administration decides it needs to “show the colors”, one hundred years later in that still lonely and frustrating struggle to get politicians to oppose war budgets, to risk prison to choke off the flow of war materials.  

I have also made some special point in previous years about the life of Rosa Luxemburg, the “rose of the revolution.” About her always opposing the tendencies in her adopted party, the German Social-Democracy, toward reform and accommodation, her struggle to make her Polish party ready for revolutionary opportunities, her important contributions to Marxist theory and her willing to face and go to jail when she opposed the first World War.

This month, the month of his birth, it is appropriate, at a time when the young needs to find, and are in desperate need of a few good heroes, a few revolutionaries who contributed to both our theoretical understandings about the tasks of the international working class in the age of imperialism (the age, unfortunately, that we are still mired in) and to the importance of the organization question in the struggle for revolutionary power, to highlight the  struggles of Vladimir Lenin, the third L, in order to define himself politically.

Below is a fifth sketch written as part of a series posted over several days before Lenin’s birthday on the American Left History blog starting on April 16th (see archives) of a young fictional labor militant, although not so fictional in the scheme of the revolutionary developments in the Russia of the Tsar toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th century which will help define the problems facing the working-class there then, and the ones that Lenin had to get a handle on.


Ivan Smilga did not know the first moment when he resolved to go after his lover Elena Kassova who was being prepared for deportation to Siberia and either aid her escape or share her fate. Ivan found that he needed to deal with the question of Elena’s fate after returning to Saint Petersburg shortly after New Year’s Day 1900 and finding that his “engaged” Elena Kassova had been arrested for political crimes and was being held for trial prior to deportation to Siberia. She had organized, or had attempted to organize since it never got off the ground, a demonstration on New Year’s Day calling for political rights from the Tsar in front of the Winter Palace. The minute the fifty or so students and workers stepped off onto the street they were arrested and thus there had to have been a Tsarist agent who had infiltrated the organization a problem inherent in the revolutionary movement. Ivan had, as a result of his own transportation to Siberia and some reflection on what was possible under the Tsar, totally opposed Elena’s project   and had left Saint Petersburg in a furious state when she said that she was going ahead with the demonstration. All Ivan knew was that he was ashamed that he had left the city in a huff after several quarrels about Elena’s leadership role in that political demonstration proposed for that New Year’s Day. A day when the bloody sabre-wielding Cossacks had wreaked havoc on the small demonstration before it even stepped off before the Winter Palace. He was ashamed first that he had not been there to share her fate and secondly that Elena had been right, right all along that, something more than getting better wages and working conditions needed to be done to bring Mother Russia into the new century.

Ivan reddened as he thought about how he had constantly belittled Elena (and her friends and associates, mostly sparsely-bearded radical students from Saint Petersburg University and a smattering of young workers, some from his own Putilov Works) around what Mother Russia did or did not need. Mainly that the fight for wages, for shorter hours and for a union was enough to carry the day. He could begin to see that even those demands could not be met without more political organization than that necessary for shop floor issues. Ivan wasn’t sure what that might be but he knew he had been wrong to rattle Elena’s confidence by dismissing her notion that a political party, a revolutionary party from the looks of the situation, was necessary to fight the Tsar and his minions. He cringed when he thought about how he had laughed out loud and said that Russia had too many political parties already.       

But politics, or finding out what politics would serve the ends desired, was not really what drove Ivan to distraction. Ivan loved Elena in the old-fashioned way like a wayward backward peasant boy. He had wronged her and therefore it was his responsibility to right that wrong and hence his resolve. Maybe by going to Siberia he would win back her respect. Maybe even join her and her comrades in their quixotic fight against the massive Tsarist repression. He was not looking forward to going back to Siberia after his prior tour there a few years back when he had served his own two year sentence for political crimes (a scatterbrain scheme involving holding responsible governmental officials hostage in return for some political action which had been betrayed by one of the workers in the cell) but he needed to go. Who knows what the future held but all Ivan knew was that whatever Elena’s fate that was his as well.       

A Year Or Two With Ernest-“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” (2015)-A Film Review

A Year Or Two With Ernest-“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” (2015)-A Film Review  

DVD Review

By Film Critic Sandy Salmon

[As long-time readers know I have recently taken over the day to day chores of film review for this site from my old friend and competitor from the American Film Gazette days Sam Lowell (that old friend and competitor by the way Sam’s designation not mine). He has on occasion like recently in reviewing a couple of rock and roll tribute-type films which I did not feel were worthy of coverage taken advantage of his privilege to write something here if the “spirit moves him” (his expression “stolen” from the Quakers I believe).    

That was well and good when it came to those rock and roll films where madmen DJs run a pirate radio station off the coast of England when they are thwarted by the appropriate authorities concerned about the corrupting of the morals of the youth who were gravitating toward the seductive lure of rock music or when a slumming grunge band type mad monk put together a rock band composed of fourth-graders but when Sam tried to horn in a review of a movie connected to a serious literary figure like Ernest Hemingway I had to put my foot down. We had both viewed the film together and he had tried to invoke some seniority baloney to grab this one. I had to take the exceptional step and go to the site administrator Pete Markin and have him explain the “what for” to the recalcitrant Mister Lowell. You see whose name is on the byline so you know how Pete decided “what for.” Sandy Salmon]

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, starring Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks, filmed in Cuba, 2015     

No question young men, maybe women too but Ernest Hemingway by subject matter and by reputation seemed to be the quintessential man’s man writer for good or evil, of the generation before mine and of my own generation who had a taste for the literary life saw him (along with Scott Fitzgerald on his good days, his The Great Gatsby good days) as the paragon of solid sparse writing that drew us in. As a kid anything to do with Hemingway was grabbed up by me and devoured on many a late night lights out read (and re-devoured many times if such a thing can happen with the written word). So when a colleague and I, a man of my generation, saw this film under review together, Papa: Hemingway In Cuba, we almost came to blows about who would review the thing. That emotional response despite the fact that both of us agreed that the film itself seemed kind of maudlin and less than informative as a slice of life semi-biopic.      

Naturally since the film is not an actual biopic about either Hemingway or the young writer, Denn Bart Petticlerc, whose memoir the film is based on the producers used plenty of cinematic license in translating that story to the screen (just as any self-respecting writer would use a great deal of literary license to the same effect). But they got the main thrust of the memoir right-the story of how a young writer (Ed Myers in the film played by Giovanni Ribisi) caught the attention of Ernest Hemingway (played by Adrian Spark who looked the very image of Papa when I looked at some old photographs) and developed a mentor-kind of surrogate son relationship late in Papa’s life a couple of years before he put an end to his saga with a shotgun blast to his head.         

Of course Hemingway seemingly spent half of his life in some kind of exile or out of America anyway and Cuba was his home along with his fourth wife, the well-known foreign correspondent Mary Welsh, played by Joely Richardson, for a good portion of the last twenty or so years of his life. Of course like some kind of fateful muse the period when Papa and Ed were friendly also happened to be a time when the Cuban Revolution, Castro’s guerilla fighters, were coming down from the hills to confront Batista and his forces in the cities. At that point you know that regime’s days were short, extremely short. So between adventure and writing tips they developed a short term bond.  And an odd sort of ménage with Mary (although Ed had a real love interest back at his newspaper in Miami in the days before it became Little Havana).    

As already noted this film suffered from some overwrought emotional scenes of Hemingway in decline, in a love-hate relationship with Mary which seemed cruelty itself on both their parts at time. The real shocker for any writer watching though was Hemingway’s frustration that he could no longer write, had “writer’s block” the dreaded words that every writer, pro or amateur, wakes up in the midnight hour sweating about. Papa had the shakes that way too. Maybe he had lost it at the end but go read The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bells Toll, and The Old Man and The Sea if you want to know what it was like when Papa had the words, when he wrote those sparse clean words for keeps.

*"We Are Coming Father Abraham"- A Song Of The American Civil War

*"We Are Coming Father Abraham"- A Song Of The American Civil War

On the 149th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.

An example of an American Civil War song that I gleaned from reading the book, Civil War Curiosities" by Webb Garrison.

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 Honor Of Abraham Lincoln's Birthday-Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-"The Internationale"- A Working Class Song For All Seasons

Click on the title to link a YouTube film clip of a performance of the Internationale.

In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist. Sadly though, hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground and have rather more often than not been fellow-travelers. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.
The Internationale [variant words in square brackets]
Arise ye workers [starvelings] from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We'll change henceforth [forthwith] the old tradition [conditions]
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side.

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty [give up their booty]
And give to all a happier lot.
Each [those] at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.


Debout les damnés de la terre
Debout les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère
C'est l'éruption de la fin
Du passe faisons table rase
Foules, esclaves, debout, debout
Le monde va changer de base
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout

C'est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain (bis)
Sera le genre humain

Il n'est pas de sauveurs suprêmes
Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun
Producteurs, sauvons-nous nous-mêmes
Décrétons le salut commun
Pour que le voleur rende gorge
Pour tirer l'esprit du cachot
Soufflons nous-mêmes notre forge
Battons le fer quand il est chaud

L'état comprime et la loi triche
L'impôt saigne le malheureux
Nul devoir ne s'impose au riche
Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux
C'est assez, languir en tutelle
L'égalité veut d'autres lois
Pas de droits sans devoirs dit-elle
Egaux, pas de devoirs sans droits

Hideux dans leur apothéose
Les rois de la mine et du rail
Ont-ils jamais fait autre chose
Que dévaliser le travail
Dans les coffres-forts de la bande
Ce qu'il a crée s'est fondu
En décrétant qu'on le lui rende
Le peuple ne veut que son dû.

Les rois nous saoulaient de fumées
Paix entre nous, guerre aux tyrans
Appliquons la grève aux armées
Crosse en l'air, et rompons les rangs
S'ils s'obstinent, ces cannibales
A faire de nous des héros
Ils sauront bientôt que nos balles
Sont pour nos propres généraux

Ouvriers, paysans, nous sommes
Le grand parti des travailleurs
La terre n'appartient qu'aux hommes
L'oisif ira loger ailleurs
Combien, de nos chairs se repaissent
Mais si les corbeaux, les vautours
Un de ces matins disparaissent
Le soleil brillera toujours.

Die Internationale

Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde,
die stets man noch zum Hungern zwingt!
Das Recht wie Glut im Kraterherde
nun mit Macht zum Durchbruch dringt.
Reinen Tisch macht mit dem Bedranger!
Heer der Sklaven, wache auf!
Ein nichts zu sein, tragt es nicht langer
Alles zu werden, stromt zuhauf!

Volker, hort die Signale!
Auf, zum letzten Gefecht!
Die Internationale
Erkampft das Menschenrecht

Es rettet uns kein hoh'res Wesen
kein Gott, kein Kaiser, noch Tribun
Uns aus dem Elend zu erlosen
konnen wir nur selber tun!
Leeres Wort: des armen Rechte,
Leeres Wort: des Reichen Pflicht!
Unmundigt nennt man uns Knechte,
duldet die Schmach langer nicht!

In Stadt und Land, ihr Arbeitsleute,
wir sind die starkste Partei'n
Die Mussigganger schiebt beiseite!
Diese Welt muss unser sein;
Unser Blut sei nicht mehr der Raben
und der machtigen Geier Frass!
Erst wenn wir sie vertrieben haben
dann scheint die Sonn' ohn' Unterlass!

(The English version most commonly sung in South Africa. )
The Internationale

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye toilers of the earth
For reason thunders new creation
`Tis a better world in birth.

Never more traditions' chains shall bind us
Arise ye toilers no more in thrall
The earth shall rise on new foundations
We are naught but we shall be all.

Then comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

(Zulu) i-Internationale

n'zigqila zezwe lonke
Sizokwakh'umhlaba kabusha
Siqed'indlala nobumpofu.

Asilwise yonk'incindezelo
Asisodwa Kulomkhankaso

Sibhekene nempi yamanqamu
Ibumb'uluntu lonke
British Translation Billy Bragg's Revision[16] American version

First stanza

Arise, ye workers from your slumber,
Arise, ye prisoners of want.
For reason in revolt now thunders,
and at last ends the age of cant!
Away with all your superstitions,
Servile masses, arise, arise!
We'll change henceforth the old tradition,
And spurn the dust to win the prize!

So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.

Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.

So come brothers and sisters,
For the struggle carries on.
The Internationale,
Unites the world in song.
So comrades, come rally,
For this is the time and place!
The international ideal,
Unites the human race.

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-From The Pen Of Revolutionary Socialist James Connolly- The Workshop Talks - Socialism Made Easy (1909)

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-From The Pen Of  Revolutionary Socialist James Connolly- The Workshop Talks - Socialism Made Easy (1909)

Click on the headline to link to the Socialist Alternative (CWI) website.

The Workshop Talks - Socialism Made Easy

by James Connolly

First Published: 1909

Socialism is a foreign importation!

* * *
I know it because I read it in the papers. I also know it to be the case because in every country I have graced with my presence up to the present time, or have heard from, the possessing classes through their organs in the press, and their spokesmen upon the platform have been vociferous and insistent in declaring the foreign origin of Socialism.
* * *
In Ireland Socialism is an English importation, in England they are convinced it was made in Germany, in Germany it is a scheme of traitors in alliance with the French to disrupt the Empire, in France it is an accursed conspiracy to discredit the army which is destined to reconquer Alsace and Lorraine, in Russia it is an English plot to prevent Russian extension towards Asia, in Asia it is known to have been set on foot by American enemies of Chinese and Japanese industrial progress, and in America it is one of the baneful fruits of unrestricted pauper and criminal immigration.
* * *
All nations today repudiate Socialism, yet Socialist ideas are conquering all nations. When anything has to be done in a practical direction toward ameliorating the lot of the helpless ones, or towards using the collective force of society in strengthening the hands of the individual it is sure to be in the intellectual armory of Socialists the right weapon is found for the work.

A case in point

There are tens of thousands of hungry children in New York today as in every other large American city, and many well-meant efforts have been made to succour them. Free lunches have been opened in the poorest districts, bread lines have been established and charitable organisations are busy visiting homes and schools to find out the worst cases. But all this has only touched the fringe of the destitution, with the additional aggravation that anything passing through the hands of these charitable committees usually cost ten times as much for administration as it bestows on the object of its charity.
* * *
Also that the investigation is usually more effectual in destroying the last vestiges of self-respect in its victims than in succouring their needs.
* * *
In the midst of this difficulty Superintendent Maxwell of the New York Schools sends a letter to a committee of thirteen charitable organizations which had met together to consider the problem, and in this letter he advocates the method of relieving distress long since initiated by the Socialist representatives in the Municipality of Paris. I quote from the New York World:

"A committee of seven was appointed to inquire more fully into the question of feeding school children and to report at a subsequent meeting. School Superintendent Maxwell sent a letter advocating the establishment in New York schools with city money of lunch kitchens, these to sell food at actual cost and to give to needy children tickets just like those paid for, to the end that no child might know that his fellow was eating at the expense of the city by the color of his ticket. This is done in Paris."

Contrast this solicitude for the self-respect of the poor children, recognized by Superintendent Maxwell in the plan of these "foreign Socialists" with the insulting methods of the capitalist "bread lines" and charitable organizations in general.
* * *
But all the same it is too horible to take practical examples in relieving the distress caused by capitalist society from pestilent agitators who wish to destroy the society whose victims they are succouring, and mere foreigners, too. The capitalist method of parading mothers and children for an hour in the street befofe feeding them is more calculated to build up the proper degree of pride in the embryo American citizens; and make them appreciate the benefits their fathers and brothers are asked to vote for.
* * *
Read this telling how hungry children and mothers stood patiently waiting for a meal on the sidewalk, and whoop it up for pure ecstacy of joy that you are permitted to live in a system of society wherein a great metropolitan daily thought that the fact of five hundred children getting a "hearty luncheon" was remarkable enough to deserve a paragraph:

"Five hundred ill-fed children who attend the schools on the lower east side got a hearty luncheon yesterday when the first of the children's lunchrooms was opened at Canal and Forsyth streets. Long before noon there was a large gathering of children, some of them accompanied by their mothers, awaiting the opening of the doors."

Well, I am not interested in internationalism. This country is good enough for me.

Is that so? Say: Are you taking a share in the Moscow Windau-Rydinsk Railway?
* * *
"No, where is that?"

My dear friend, where that railway runs has nothing to do with you. What you have to do is simply to take a share, and then go and have a good time whilst the Russian railway workers, whom you do not know, working in a country you never saw, speaking a language you don't understand, earn your dividend by the sweat of their brows.
* * *
Curious, ain't it?

We Socialists are always talking about the international solidarity of labour, about the oneness of our interests all over the world, and ever and anon working off our heaving chests a peroration on the bonds of fraternal sympathy which should unite the wage slaves of the capitalist system.

But there is another kind of bond - Russian railway bonds - which join, not the workers, but the idlers of the world in fraternal sympathy, and which creates among the members of the capitalist class a feeling of identity of interest, of international solidarity, which they don't perorate about but which is most potent and effective notwithstanding.
* * *
You do not fully recognise the fact that the internationality of Socialism is at most but a lame and halting attempt to create a counterpoise to the internationality of capitalism. Yet so it is.

Here is a case in point. The Moscow-Windau-Rydinsk railway is, as its name indicates, a railway running, or proposed to be run, from one part of Russia to another. You would think that that concerned the Russian people only, and that our patriotic capitalist class, always so ready to declare against working class Socialists with international sympathies, would never look at it or touch it.
* * *
You would not think that Ireland, for example - whose professional patriots are forever telling the gullible working men that Ireland will be ruined for the lack of capital and enterprise - would be a good country to find money in to finance a Russian railway.
* * *
Yet, observe the fact. All the Dublin papers of Monday, June 12, 1899, contained the prospectus of this far away Russian railway, offered for the investment of Irish capitalists, and offered by a firm of London stockbrokers who are astute enough not to waste money in endeavouring to catch fish in waters where they were not in the habit of biting freely.

And in the midst of the Russian revolution (of 1905) the agents of the Czar succeeded in obtaining almost unlimited treasures in the United States to pay the expenses of throttling the infant Liberty.

As the shares in Russian railways were sold in Ireland, as Russian bonds were sold in America, so the shares in American mines, railroads and factories are bought and sold on all the stock exchanges in Europe and Asia by men who never saw America in their lifetime.

Now, let us examine the situation, keeping in mind the fact that this is but a type of what prevails all round; you can satisfy yourself on that head by a daily glance at our capitalist papers.

Capital is International

The shares of Russian railways, African mines, Nicaraguan canals, Chilian gas works, Norwegian timber, Mexican water works, Canadian fur trappings, Australian kanaka slave trade, Indian tea plantations, Japanese linen factories, Chinese cotton mills, European national and municipal debts, United States bonanza farms are bought and sold every day by investors, many of whom never saw any one of the countries in which their money is invested, but who have, by virtue of so investing, a legal right to a share of the plunder extracted under the capitalist system from the wage workers whose bone and sinew earn the dividends upon the bonds they have purchased.

When our investing classes purchase a share in any capitalist concern, in any country whatsoever, they do so, not in order to build up a useful industry, but because the act of purchase endows them with a prospective share of the spoils it is proposed to wring from labour.

Therefore, every member of the investing classes is interested to the extent of his investments, present or prospective, in the subjection of Labour all over the world.

That is the internationality of Capital and Capitalism.

The wage worker is oppressed under this system in the interest of a class of capitalist investors who may be living thousands of miles away and whose very names are unknown to him.

He is, therefore, interested in every revolt of Labour all over the world, for the very individuals against whom that revolt may be directed may - by the wondrous mechanism of the capitalist system - through shares, bonds, national and municipal debts - be the parasites who are sucking his blood also.

That is one of the underlying facts inspiring the internationalism of Labour and Socialism.

But the Socialist proposals, they say, would destroy the individual character of the worker. He would lean on the community, instead of upon his own efforts.

Yes: Giving evidence before the Old Age Pensions' Committee in England, Sir John Dorrington, M.P., expressed the belief that the "provision of Old Age Pensions by the State, for instance, would do more harm than good. It was an objectionable principle, and would lead to improvidence."

There now! You will always observe that it is some member of what an Irish revolutionist called "the canting, fed classes," who is anxious that nothing should be done by the State to give the working class habits of "improvidence," or to do us any "harm." Dear, kind souls!

To do them justice they are most consistent. For both in public and private their efforts are most whole-heartedly bent in the same direction, viz., to prevent improvidence - on our part.

They lower our wages - to prevent improvidence; they increase our rent - to prevent improvidence, they periodically suspend us from our employment - to prevent improvidence, and as soon as we are worn out in their service they send us to a semi-convict establishment, known as the Workhouse, where we are scientifically starved to death - to prevent improvidence.

Old Age Pensions might do us harm. Ah, yes! And yet, come to think of it, I know quite a number of people who draw Old Age Pensions and it doesn't do them a bit of harm. Strange, isn't it?

Then all the Royal Families have pensions, and they don't seem to do them any harm; royal babies, in fact, begin to draw pensions and milk from a bottle at the same time.

Afterwards they drop the milk, but they never drop the pension - nor the bottle.

Then all our judges get pensions, and are not corrupted thereby - at least not more than usual. In fact, all well-paid officials in governmental or municipal service get pensions, and there are no fears expressed that the receipt of the same may do them harm.

But the underpaid, overworked wage-slave. To give him a pension would ruin his moral fibre, weaken his stamina, debase his manhood, sap his integrity, corrupt his morals, check his prudence, emasculate his character, lower his aspirations, vitiate his resolves, destroy his self-reliance, annihilate his rectitude, corrode his virility - and - and - other things.
* * *
Let us be practical. We want something pr-r-ractical.

Always the cry of hum-drum mediocrity, afraid to face the stern necessity for uncompromising action. That saying has done more yeoman service in the cause of oppression than all its avowed supporters.

The average man dislikes to be thought unpractical, and so, while frequently loathing the principles or distrusting the leaders of the particular political party he is associated with, declines to leave them, in the hope that their very lack of earnestness may be more fruitful of practical results than the honest outspokenness of the party in whose principles he does believe.

In the phraseology of politics, a party too indifferent to the sorrow and sufferings of humanity to raise its voice in protest, is a moderate, practical party; whilst a party totally indifferent to the personality of leaders, or questions of leadership, but hot to enthusiasm on every question affecting the well-being of the toiling masses, is an extreme, a dangerous party.

Yet, although it may seem a paradox to say so, there is no party so incapable of achieving practical results as an orthodox political party; and there is no party so certain of placing moderate reforms to its credit as an extreme - a revolutionary party.

The possessing classes will and do laugh to scorn every scheme for the amelioration of the workers so long as those responsible for the initiation of the scheme admit as justifiable the "rights of property"; but when the public attention is directed towards questioning the justifiable nature of those "rights" in themselves, then the master class, alarmed for the safety of their booty, yield reform after reform - in order to prevent revolution.

Moral - Don't be "practical" in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines, and in the grooves those who rob you would desire you to think.

In any case it is time we got rid of all the cant about "politics" and "constitutional agitation" in general. For there is really no meaning whatever in those phrases.

Every public question is a political question. The men who tell us that Labour questions, for instance, have nothing to do with politics, understand neither the one nor the other. The Labour Question cannot be settled except by measures which necessitate a revision of the whole system of society, which, of course, implies political warfare to secure the power to effect such revision:

If by politics we understand the fight between the outs and ins, or the contest for party leadership, then Labour is rightly supremely indifferent to such politics, but to the politics which centre round the question of property and the administration thereof Labour is not, cannot be, indifferent.

To effect its emancipation Labour must reorganise society on the basis of labour; this cannot be done while the forces of government are in the hands of the rich, therefore the governing power must be wrested from the hands of the rich peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary.

In the phraseology of the master class and its pressmen the trade unionist who is not a Socialist is more practical than he who is, and the worker who is neither one nor the other but can resign himself to the state of slavery in which he was born, is the most practical of all men.

The heroes and martyrs who in the past gave up their lives for the liberty of the race were not practical, but they were heroes all the same.

The slavish multitude who refused to second their efforts from a craven fear lest their skins might suffer were practical, but they were soulless serfs, nevertheless.

Revolution is never practical - until the hour of the Revolution strikes. Then it alone is practical, and all the efforts of the conservatives and compromisers become the most futile and visionary of human imaginings.

For that hour, let us work, think and hope; for that hour let us pawn our present ease in hopes of a glorious redemption; for that hour let us prepare the hosts of Labour with intelligence sufficient to laugh at the nostrums dubbed practical by our slave-lords, practical for the perpetuation of our slavery; for that supreme crisis of human history let us watch, like sentinels, with weapons ever ready, remembering always that there can be no dignity in Labour until Labour knows no master.
* * *
Would you confiscate the property of the capitalist class and rob men of that which they have, perhaps, worked a whole life time to accumulate?

Yes sir, and certainly not.

We would certainly confiscate the property of the capitalist class, but we do not propose to rob anyone. On the contrary, we propose to establish honesty once and forever as the basis of our social relations. This Socialist movement is indeed worthy to be entitled The Great Anti-Theft Movement of the Twentieth Century.

You see, confiscation is one great certainty of the future for every businessman outside the trust. It lies with him to say if it will be confiscation by the Trust in the interest of the Trust, or confiscation by Socialism in the interest of All.

If he resolves to continue to support the capitalist order of society he will surely have his property confiscated. After having, as you say, "worked for a whole lifetime to accumulate" a fortune, to establish a business on what he imagined would be a sound foundation, on some fine day the Trust will enter into competition with him, will invade his market, use their enormous capital to undersell him at ruinous prices, take his customers from him, ruin his business, and finally drive him into bankruptcy, and perhaps to end his days as a pauper.

That is capitalist confiscation! It is going on all around us, and every time the business man who is not a Trust Magnate votes for capitalism, he is working to prepare that fate for himself.

On the other hand, if he works for Socialism it also will confiscate his property. But it will only do so in order to acquire the industrial equipment necessary to establish a system of society in which the whole human race will be secured against the fear of want for all time, a system in which all men and women will be joint heirs and owners of all the intellectual and material conquests made possible by associated effort.

Socialism will confiscate the property of the capitalist and in return will secure the individual against poverty and oppression; it, in return for so confiscating, will assure to all men and women a free, happy and unanxious human life. And that is more than capitalism can assure anyone to-day.

So you see the average capitalist has to choose between two kinds of confiscation. One or the other he must certainly endure. Confiscation by the Trust and consequently bankruptcy, poverty and perhaps pauperism in his old age, or --

Confiscation by Socialism and consequently security, plenty and a Care-Free Life to him and his to the remotest generation.

Which will it be?

But it is their property. Why should Socialists confiscate it?

Their property, eh? Let us see: Here is a cutting from the New York World giving a synopsis of the Annual Report of the Coats Thread Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for 1907. Now, let us examine it, and bear in mind that this company is the basis of the Thread Trust, with branches in Paisley, Scotland, and on the continent of Europe.

Also bear in mind that it is not a "horrible example," but simply a normal type of a normally conducted industry, and therefore what applies to it will apply in a greater or less degree to all others.

This report gives the dividend for the year at 20 per cent per annum. Twenty per cent dividend means 20 cents on the dollar profit. Now, what is a profit?

According to Socialists, profit only exists when all other items of production are paid for. The workers by their labour must create enough wealth to pay for certain items before profit appears. They must pay for the cost of raw material, the wear and tear of machine-ry, buildings, etc. (the depreciation of capital), the wages of superintendence, their own wages, and a certain amount to be left aside as a reserve fund to meet all possible contingencies. After, and only after, all these items have been paid for by their labour, all that is left is profit.

With this company the profit amounted to 20 cents on every dollar invested.

What does this mean? It means that in the course of five years - five times 20 cents equals one dollar - the workers in the industry had created enough profit to buy the whole industry from its present owners. It means that after paying all the expenses of the factory, including their own wages, they created enough profit to buy the whole building, from the roof to the basement, all the offices and agencies, and everything in the shape of capital. All this in five years.

And after they had so bought it from the capitalists it still belonged to the capitalists.

It means that if a capitalist had invested $1,000 in that industry, in the course of five years he would draw out a thousand dollars, and still have a thousand dollars lying there untouched; in the course of ten years he would draw two thousand dollars, in fifteen years he would draw three thousand dollars. And still his first thousand dollars would be as virgin as ever.

You understand that this has been going on ever since the capitalist system came into being; all the capital in the world has been paid for by the working class over and over again, and we are still creating it, and recreating it. And the oftener we buy it the less it belongs to us.

The capital of the master class is not their property; it is the unpaid labour of the working class - "the hire of the labourer kept back by fraud."

Oh, the capitalist has his anxieties too. And the worker has often a good time.

Sure: Say, where were you for the holidays?
* * *
Were you tempted to go abroad? Did you visit Europe? Did you riot, in all the abandonment of a wage slave let loose, among the pleasure haunts of the world?

Perhaps you went to the Riviera; perhaps you luxuriated in ecstatic worship of that glorious bit of nature's handiwork where the blue waters of the Mediterranean roll in all their entrancing splendor against the shores of classic Italy.
* * *
Perhaps you rambled among the vine-clad hills of sunny France, and visited the spots hallowed by the hand of that country's glorious history.
* * *
Perhaps you sailed up the castellated Rhine, toasted the eyes of bewitching German frauleins in frothy German beer, explored the recesses of the legend haunted Hartz mountains, and established a nodding acquaintance with the Spirit of the Brocken.

Perhaps you traversed the lakes and fjords of Norway, sat down in awe before the neglected magnificence of the Alhambra, had a cup of coffee with Menelik of Abyssinia, smelt afar off the odors of the streets of Morocco, climbed the Pyramids of Egypt, shared the hospitable tent of the Bedouin, visited Cyprus, looked in at Constantinople, ogled the dark-eyed beauties of Circassia, rubbed up against the Cossack in his Ural mountains, or...

Perhaps you lay in bed all day in order to save a meal, and listened to your wife wondering how she could make ends meet with a day's pay short in the weekly wages.

And whilst you thus squandered your substance in riotous living, did you ever stop to think of your master - your poor, dear, overworked, tired master?
* * *
Did you ever stop to reflect upon the pitiable condition of that individual who so kindly provides you with employment, and does no useful work himself in order that you may get plenty of it?
* * *
When you consider how hard a task it was for you to decide in what manner you should spend your Holiday; where you should go for that ONE DAY, then you must perceive how hard it is for your masters to find a way in which to spend the practically perpetual holiday which you force upon them by your love for work.
* * *
Ah, yes, that large section of our masters who have realised that ideal of complete idleness after which all our masters strive, those men who do not work, never did work, and with the help of God and the ignorance of the people - never intend to work, how terrible must be their lot in life!
* * *
We, who toil from early morn till late at night, from January till December, from childhood to old age, have no care or trouble or mental anxiety to cross our mind - except the landlord, the fear of loss of employment, the danger of sickness, the lack of common necessities, to say nothing of luxuries, for our children, the insolence of our superiors, the unhealthy condition of our homes, the exhausting nature of our toil, the lack of all opportunities of mental cultivation, and the ever-present question whether we shall shuffle off this mortal coil in a miserable garret, be killed by hard work, or die in the Poorhouse.

With these trifling exceptions we have nothing to bother us; but the boss, ah, the poor, poor boss!

He has everything to bother him. Whilst we are amusing ourselves in the hold of a ship shoveling coal, swinging a hammer in front of a forge, toiling up a ladder with bricks, stitching until our eyes grow dim at the board, gaily riding up and down for twelve hours per day, seven days per week, on a trolley car, riding around the city in all weather with teams or swinging by the skin of our teeth on the iron framework of a skyscraper, standing at our ease OUTSIDE the printing office door listening to the musical click of the linotype as it performs the work we used to do INSIDE, telling each other comforting stories about the new machinery which takes our places as carpenters, harness-makers, tinplate-workers, labourers, etc., in short whilst we are enjoying ourselves, free from all mental worry.

Our unselfish tired-out bosses are sitting at home, with their feet on the table, softly patting the bottom button of their vests.

Working with their brains.

Poor bosses! Mighty brains!

Without our toil they would never get the education necessary to develop their brains; if we were not defrauded by their class of the fruits of our toil we could provide for education enough to develop the mental powers of all, and so deprive the ruling class of the last vestige of an excuse for clinging to mastership, viz., their assumed intellectual superiority.

I say "assumed," because the greater part of the brainwork of industry today is performed by men taken from the ranks of the workers, and paid high salaries in proportion as they develop expertness as slave-drivers.

As education spreads among the people the workers will want to enjoy life more; they will assert their right to the full fruits of their labour, and by that act of self-assertion lay the foundation of that Socialist Republic in which labour will be so easy, and the reward so great, that life will seem a perpetual holiday.
* * *
But Socialism is against religion. I can't be a Socialist and be a Christian.
O, quit your fooling! That talk is all right for those who know nothing of the relations between capital and labour, or are innocent of any knowledge of the processes of modern industry, or imagine that men, in their daily struggles for bread or fortunes, are governed by the Sermon on the Mount.

But between workingmen that talk is absurd. We know that Socialism bears upon daily life in the workshop, and that religion does not; we know that the man who never set foot in a church in his lifetime will, if he is rich, be more honored by Christian society than the poor man who goes to church every Sunday, and says his prayers morning and evening; we know that the capitalists of all religions pay more for the service of a good lawyer to keep them out of the clutches of the law than for the services of a good priest to keep them out of the clutches of the devil; and we never heard a capitalist, who, in his business, respected the Sermon on the Mount as much as he did the decisions of the Supreme Court.

These things we know. We also know that neither capitalist nor worker can practice the moral precepts of religion, and without its moral precepts a religion is simply a sham. If a religion cannot enforce its moral teachings upon its votaries it has as little relation to actual life as the pre-election promises of a politician have to legislation.

We know that Christianity teaches us to love our neighbour as ourselves, but we also know that if a capitalist attempted to run his business upon that plan his relatives would have no difficulty in getting lawyers, judges and physicians to declare him incompetent to conduct his affairs in the business world.

He would not be half as certain of reaching Heaven in the next world as he would be of getting into the "bughouse" in this.

And, as for the worker. Well, in the fall of 1908, the New York World printed an advertisement for a teamster in Brooklyn, wages to be $12 per week. Over 700 applicants responded. Now, could each of these men love their neighbours in that line of hungry competitors for that pitiful wage?

As each man stood in line in that awful parade of misery could he pray for his neighbour to get the job, and could he be expected to follow up his prayer by giving up his chance, and so making certain the prolongation of the misery of his wife and little ones?

No, my friend, Socialism is a bread and butter question. It is a question of the stomach; it is going to be settled in the factories, mines and ballot boxes of this country and is not going to be settled at the altar or in the church.

This is what our well-fed friends call a "base, material standpoint," but remember that beauty and genius and art and poetry and all the finer efflorescences of the higher nature of man can only be realised in all their completeness upon the material basis of a healthy body, that not only an army but the whole human race marches upon its stomach, and then you will grasp the full wisdom of our position.

That the question to be settled by Socialism is the effect of private ownership of the means of production upon the well-being of the race; that we are determined to have a straight fight upon the question between those who believe that such private ownership is destructive of human well-being and those who believe it to be beneficial, that as men of all religions and of none are in the ranks of the capitalists, and men of all religions and of none are on the side of the workers the attempt to make religion an issue in the question is an intrusion, an impertinence and an absurdity.

Personally I am opposed to any system wherein the capitalist is more powerful than God Almighty. You need not serve God unless you like, and may refuse to serve Him and grow fat, prosperous and universally respected. But if you refuse to serve the capitalist your doom is sealed; misery and poverty and public odium await you.

No worker is compelled to enter a church and to serve God; every worker is compelled to enter the employment of a capitalist and serve him.

As Socialists we are concerned to free mankind from the servitude forced upon them as a necessity of their life; we propose to allow the question of all kinds of service voluntarily rendered to be settled by the emancipated human race of the future.

I do not deny that Socialists often leave the church. But why do they do so? Is their defection from the church a result of our attitude towards religion; or is it the result of the attitude of the church and its ministers towards Socialism?

Let us take a case in point, one of those cases that are being paralleled every day in our midst. An Irish Catholic joins the Socialist movement. He finds that as a rule the Socialist men and women are better educated than their fellows; he finds that they are immensely cleaner in speech and thought than are the adherents of capitalism in the same class; that they are devoted husbands and loyal wives, loving and cheerful fathers and mothers, skilful and industrious workers in the shops and office, and that although poor and needy as a rule, yet that they continually bleed themselves to support their cause, and give up for Socialism what many others spend in the saloon.

He finds that a drunken Socialist is as rare as a white blackbird, and that a Socialist of criminal tendencies is such a rare avis that when one is found the public press heralds it forth as a great discovery.

Democratic and republican jailbirds are so common that the public press do not regard their existence as "news" to anybody, nor yet does the public press think it necessary to say that certain criminals belong to the Protestant or Catholic religions. That is nothing unusual, and therefore not worth printing. But a criminal Socialist - that would be news indeed!

Our Irish Catholic Socialist gradually begins to notice these things. He looks around and he finds the press full of reports of crimes, murders, robberies, bank swindlers, forgeries, debauches, gambling transactions, and midnight orgies in which the most revolting indecencies are perpetrated. He investigates and he discovers that the perpetrators of these crimes were respectable capitalists, pillars of society, and red-hot enemies of Socialism, and that the dives in which the highest and the lowest meet together in a saturnalia of vice contribute a large proportion of the campaign funds of the capitalist political parties.

Some Sunday he goes to Mass as usual, and he finds that at Gospel the priest launches out into a political speech and tells the congregation that the honest, self-sacrificing, industrious, clean men and women, whom he calls "comrades" are a wicked, impious, dissolute sect, desiring to destroy the home, to distribute the earnings of the provident among the idle and lazy of the world, and reveling in all sorts of impure thoughts about women.

And as this Irish Catholic Socialist listens to this foul libel, what wonder if the hot blood of anger rushes to his face, and he begins to believe that the temple of God has itself been sold to the all-desecrating grasp of the capitalist?

While he is yet wondering what to think of the matter, he hears that his immortal soul will be lost if he fails to vote for capitalism, and he reflects that if he lined up with the brothel keepers, gambling house proprietors, race track swindlers, and white slave traders to vote the capitalist ticket, this same priest would tell him he was a good Catholic and loyal son of the church.

At such a juncture the Irish Catholic Socialist often rises up, goes out of the church and wipes its dust off his feet forever. Then we are told that Socialism took him away from the church. But did it? Was it not rather the horrible spectacle of a priest of God standing up in the Holy Presence lying about and slandering honest men and women, and helping to support polidcal parties whose campaign fund in every large city represents more bestiality than ever Sodom and Gomorrah knew?

These are the things that drive Socialists from the church, and the responsibility for every soul so lost lies upon those slanderers and not upon the Socialist movement.
* * *
Well, you won't get the Irish to help you. Our Irish-American leaders tell us that all we Irish in this country ought to stand together and use our votes to free Ireland.

Sure, let us free Ireland!

Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.

Let us free Ireland!

The rackrenting landlord; is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother - yea, even when he raises our rent.

Let us free Ireland !

The profit-grinding capitalist, who robs us of three-fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks the very marrow of our bones when we were young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn-out tool, when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him?

Let us free Ireland!

"The land that bred and bore us." And the landlord who makes us pay for permission to live upon it.

Whoop it up for liberty!

"Let us free Ireland," says the patriot, who won't touch Socialism.

Let us all join together and cr-r-rush the br-r-rutal Saxon. Let us all join together, says he, all classes and creeds.

And, says the town worker, after we have crushed the Saxon and freed Ireland, what will we do?

Oh, then you can go back to your slums, same as before.

Whoop it up for liberty!

And, says the agricultural workers, after we have freed Ireland, what then?

Oh, then you can go scraping around for the landlord's rent or the money-lenders' interest same as before.

Whoop it up for liberty!

After Ireland is free, says the patriot who won't touch Socialism, we will protect all classes, and if you won't pay your rent you will be evicted same as now. But the evicting party, under command of the sheriff, will wear green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the roadside will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic.

Now, isn't that worth fighting for?

And when you cannot find employment, and, giving up the struggle of life in despair, enter the Poorhouse, the band of the nearest regiment of the Irish army will escort you to the Poorhouse door to the tune of "St. Patrick's Day."

Oh, it will be nice to live in those days!

"With the Green Flag floating o'er us" and an ever-increasing army of unemployed workers walking about under the Green Flag, wishing they had something to eat. Same as now!

Whoop it up for liberty!

Now, my friend, I also am Irish, but I'm a bit more logical. The capitalist, I say, is a parasite on industry; as useless in the present stage of our industrial development as any other parasite in the animal or vegetable world is to the life of the animal or vegetable upon which it feeds.

The working class is the victim of this parasite - this human leech, and it is the duty and interest of the working class to use every means in its power to oust this parasite class from the position which enables it to thus prey upon the vitals of Labour.

Therefore, I say, let us organise as a class to meet our masters and destroy their mastership; organise to drive them from their hold upon public life through their political power; organise to wrench from their robber clutch the land and workshops on and in which they enslave us; organise to cleanse our social life from the stain of social cannibalism, from the preying of man upon his fellow man.

Organise for a full, free and happy life FOR ALL OR FOR NONE. SPEED THE DAY

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Luke Kelly- "The Foggy Dew"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Luke Kelly performing "The Foggy Dew".

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

The Foggy Dew

As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There Armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No fife did hum nor battle drum did sound it's dread tatoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through
While Britannia's Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew

'Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Sulva's waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep 'neath the shroud of the foggy dew

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light might shine through the foggy dew

Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I'd kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.

*A Saga Of The "Famine Ship" Irish- Albany-Style- William Kennedy's "Quinn's Book"

Click on the title to link to the "New York State Writers Institute" Website for its entry on Albany-cycle writer William Kennedy.

Book Review

Quinn’s Book, William Kennedy, Viking Press, New York, 1988

Recently, in reviewing an early William Kennedy Albany-cycle novel, “Ironweed” I mentioned that he was my kind of writer. I will let what I stated there stand on that score here. Here is what I said:

“William Kennedy is, at least in his Albany stories, my kind of writer. He writes about the trials and tribulations of the Irish diaspora as it penetrated the rough and tumble of American urban WASP-run society, for good or evil. I know these people, my people, their follies and foibles like the back of my hand. Check. Kennedy writes, as here with the main characters Fran Phelan and Helen Archer two down at the heels sorts, about that pervasive hold that Catholicism has even on its most debased sons and daughters, saint and sinner alike. I know those characteristics all too well. Check. He writes about that place in class society where the working class meets the lumpen-proletariat-the thieves, grifters, drifters and con men- the human dust. I know that place well, much better than I would ever let on. Check. He writes about the sorrows and dangers of the effects alcohol on working class families. I know that place too. Check. And so on. Oh, by the way, did I mention that he also, at some point, was an editor of some sort associated with the late Hunter S. Thompson down in Puerto Rico. I know that mad man’s work well. He remains something of a muse for me. Check.”

That said, this little novel takes place in an earlier time in the Albany novel cycle, the earliest period thus far in my reading of the cycle. This is a story of the hard period in America for those “famine ship Irish” that were driven to seek a new life in the New World against their collective wills. But, certainly they were driven out of Ireland by economic necessity and desperation. For the most part the snippets of character detailed here, including the earliest generations of names that are familiar from later generations in Kennedy’s books , do not suggest that they were driven out due to some criminal activity, political or not, against old “Mother “England”.

That "snippet of character" reference above also can be used as a point that makes this novel a little different from the others in this cycle. The narrator, Daniel Quinn, a teenage boy-man orphan (nice touch, as narrator in a fresh, young country) with plenty of spunk and ambition, as is usually the case gets plenty of character build-up throughout. However this novel is driven more by the plot than by character development than prior Kennedy reads. That plot, such as it is, centers on Quinn's “golden quest” to win the hand of the “teen angel”, Maud, come hell or high water. Along the way, we are taken on a Kennedy version of “magical realism”, 19th century Albany Irish style: of the "famine ship" Irish; of the old Dutch squirarchy that ruled the Hudson Valley in those days; of the American racial and political scene in the pre-Civil War period, and much else. That “much else” sometimes gets in the way of the “golden quest”, but as almost always with Kennedy he gives us a good read, if not a great one.

On The 150th Anniversary Of The Beginning Of The American Civil War – Karl Marx On The American Civil War-In Honor Of The Union Side

Markin comment:

I am always amazed when I run into some younger leftists, or even older radicals who may have not read much Marx and Engels, and find that they are surprised, very surprised to see that Marx and Engels were avid partisans of the Abraham Lincoln-led Union side in the American Civil War. In the age of advanced imperialism, of which the United States is currently the prime example, and villain, we are almost always negative about capitalism’s role in world politics. And are always harping on the need to overthrow the system in order to bring forth a new socialist reconstruction of society. Thus one could be excused for forgetting that at earlier points in history capitalism played a progressive role. A role that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and other leading Marxists, if not applauded, then at least understood represented human progress. Of course, one does not expect everyone to be a historical materialist and therefore know that in the Marxist scheme of things both the struggle to bring America under a unitary state that would create a national capitalist market by virtue of a Union victory and the historically more important struggle to abolish slavery that turned out to a necessary outcome of that Union struggle were progressive in our eyes. Read on.
Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1862

Comments on the North American Events


Source: MECW Volume 19, p. 248;
Written: on October 7, 1862;
First published: in Die Presse, October 12, 1862.


The short campaign in Maryland has decided the fate of the American Civil War, however much the fortune of war may still vacillate between the opposing parties for a shorter or longer time. As we have already stated in this newspaper, the fight for the possession of the border slave states is a fight for the domination over the Union, and the Confederacy has been defeated in this fight, which it started under extremely favourable circumstances that are not likely ever to occur again.

Maryland was rightly considered the head and Kentucky the arm of the slaveholders’ party in the border states. Maryland’s capital, Baltimore, has been kept “loyal” up to now only by martial law. It was a dogma not only in the South but also in the North that the arrival of the Confederates in Maryland would be the signal for a popular rising en masse against “Lincoln’s satellites”. Here it was not only a question of a military success but also of a moral demonstration which was expected to electrify the Southern elements in all the border states and to draw them forcefully into the vortex.

With Maryland Washington would fall, Philadelphia would be menaced and New York would no longer be safe. The invasion of Kentucky, the most important of the border states owing to the size of its population, its situation and its economic resources, which took place simultaneously, was, considered in isolation, merely a diversion. But supported by decisive success in Maryland, it could have crushed the Union party in Tennessee, outflanked Missouri, protected Arkansas and Texas, threatened New Orleans, and above all shifted the theatre of war to Ohio, the central state of the North, whose possession spells the subjugation of the North just as the possession of Georgia spells that of the South. A Confederate army in Ohio would cut off the West of the Northern states from the East and fight the enemy from his own centre. After the fiasco of the rebels’ main army in Maryland, the invasion of Kentucky which was not pressing ahead with sufficient drive and was nowhere supported by popular sympathy, was reduced to an insignificant guerilla attack. Even the occupation of Louisville would now only unite the “Great West”, the legions from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, so that they would form an “avalanche” similar to that which crashed down on the South during the first glorious Kentucky campaign.

The Maryland campaign has thus proved that the waves of secession lack the power to roll over the Potomac and reach the Ohio. The South has been reduced to the defensive, but offensive operations were its only chance of success. Deprived of the border states and hemmed in by the Mississippi in the west and the Atlantic in the east, the South has conquered nothing — but a graveyard.

One must not forget even for a moment that, when the Southerners hoisted the banner of rebellion, they held the border states and dominated them politically. What they demanded were the Territories. They have lost both the Territories and the border states.

Nevertheless, the invasion of Maryland was risked at a most favourable conjuncture. The North had suffered a disgraceful series of quite unprecedented defeats, the Federal army was demoralised, Stonewall Jackson the hero of the day, Lincoln and his government a universal laughing-stock, the Democratic Party, strong again in the North and people expecting Jefferson Davis to become president, France and England were openly preparing to proclaim the legitimacy — already recognised at home-of the slaveholders. “E pur si muove.” Reason nevertheless prevails in world history.

Lincoln’s proclamation is even more important than the Maryland campaign. Lincoln is a sui generis figure in the annals of history. fie has no initiative, no idealistic impetus, cothurnus, no historical trappings. He gives his most important actions always the most commonplace form. Other people claim to be “fighting for an idea”, when it is for them a matter of square feet of land. Lincoln, even when he is motivated by, an idea, talks about “square feet”. He sings the bravura aria of his part hesitatively, reluctantly and unwillingly, as though apologising for being compelled by circumstances “to act the lion”. The most redoubtable decrees — which will always remain remarkable historical documents-flung by him at the enemy all look like, and are intended to look like, routine summonses sent by a lawyer to the lawyer of the opposing party, legal chicaneries, involved, hidebound actiones juris. His latest proclamation, which is drafted in the same style, the manifesto abolishing slavery, is the most important document in American history since the establishment of the Union, tantamount to the tearing tip of the old American Constitution.

Nothing is simpler than to show that Lincoln’s principal political actions contain much that is aesthetically. repulsive, logically inadequate, farcical in form and politically, contradictory, as is done by, the English Pindars of slavery, The Times, The Saturday Review and tutti quanti. But Lincoln’s place in the history of the United States and of mankind will, nevertheless, be next to that of Washington! Nowadays, when the insignificant struts about melodramatically on this side of the Atlantic, is it of no significance at all that the significant is clothed in everyday dress in the new world?

Lincoln is not the product of a popular revolution. This plebeian, who worked his way tip from stone-breaker to Senator in Illinois, without intellectual brilliance, without a particularly outstanding character, without exceptional importance-an average person of good will, was placed at the top by the interplay of the forces of universal suffrage unaware of the great issues at stake. The new world has never achieved a greater triumph than by this demonstration that, given its political and social organisation, ordinary people of good will can accomplish feats which only heroes could accomplish in the old world!

Hegel once observed that comedy is in act superior to tragedy and humourous reasoning superior to grandiloquent reasoning.[Lectures on Aesthetics] Although Lincoln does riot possess the grandiloquence of historical action, as an average man of the people he has its humour. When (foes he issue the proclamation declaring that from January 1, 1863, slavery in the. Confederacy shall be abolished At the very moment when the Confederacy as an independent state decided on “peace negotiations- at its Richmond Congress. At the very, moment when the slave-owners of the border states believed that the invasion of Kentucky by the armies of the South had made “the peculiar institution” just as safe as was their domination over their compatriot, President Abraham Lincoln in Washington.