Saturday, August 24, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-*In The Time Of The “Beat” -English Style- “Beat Girl”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Beat Girl.

DVD Review

Beat Girl, Gilliam Hills, Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee, 1960

Forget “king of the literary ‘beats’”, Jack Kerouac. Forget beat down, beat up, up-beat, listen to the beat, be-bop beat, holy of holies beatitude, intoxicatingly sweet-incensed high-massed (catholic high-massed) beat. Forget the one hundred and one other words that old Jack used to describe, or try to describe, that great unquenched hunger, that beast-like hunger of the young, or at least the non-G.I. Bill, Levittown, sell-out for a mess of pottage, close your eyes and let Harry or Ike or Jack do it, post World War II, reds under all the beds, your mommy is a commie turn her in, great American night highway young. And forget “high priest of the literary ‘beats’”, howling trumpet angel, Allen Ginsberg. Forget “high Buddha”, "high om", high-candle lighting, high-flying, high song and dance man, high ganja high, high pre-hip-hop, hip-hop social poet prophet of that great American “beat” night in the cafes and garages of high art. Hell, forget even ironic, sardonic, moronic, “mass media king of the boob tube “beats,” television'd Dobey Gillis-"beat", Maynard G. Krebs. Forget bomb shelter, better dead than red, every mother’s favorite bedraggled, goateed, slightly rank, quirky, jerky, smirky black and white television “beat”, if she had a favorite beat and if she knew enough, which she probably didn’t for she was “square” and squares never knew enough. and she was anyway heavily-invested in that great “luxury” Leavitt town American night to know that it was all put on to stanch the terror of the mid-century, mid- 20th century night at the invasion of the “hip”. (Read: international, jewish, communist menace, or pick some variation of that theme.)

Yes, I say, forget all of that. They all had it wrong, even those who invented blessed “beat”. For until one see the film, the strictly low budget, English, black and white B-film, under review, Beat Girl, that all that was said above was merely eyewash. You see it had nothing to do with the great American highway night, or of hunger, beast-like or otherwise, even if only hunger for meaning but it was merely another in the endless, endless I say, ways that youth tries to assert itself in a world that it had not choice making and had not been asked about. A mere condition on the way to well-adjusted middle class respectability. A lark. No, that “cautionary tale” moral seems a little too pat for me.

A short summary is thus in order. Said titled “beat girl” (named in film but I will not name her, oh, okay, Jennifer), schoolgirl, blonde, of course, heavy mascara'd eye-shadowed , beautiful, curvaceous, upper-middle class, rebellious, slumming, double-life dregs of society-seeking, alienated, forlorn, fed-up, freaked out, sexually frustrated, sexually disoriented, incest-driven (maybe, in the post-Freudian age, who knows, I will throw it in anyway)is on a tear. Did I mention also vacuous, silly, vain and somewhat monosyllabic?

She has been, in any case, left alone, apparently pouting, in splendid early 1960s London isolation (except for the servants) by good old boy (English-style, not American) divorced father. A divorced father, moreover, out to conquer his worlds on his own terms, a thoroughly modern man, a man trying to do good whether asked to or not. Ms. Beat Girl (aka, Jennifer) amps up her aforementioned virtues and vices when “Pa” brings home a new “trophy” wife. A French trophy wife no less, and young to boot like all trophy wives, or most anyway, and blonde, although they are not always blonde. Now said trophy wife tries to make nice but “beat girl” being alienated, forlorn, fed-up, freaked-out and, who knows, maybe, incest driven (poor "Pa") is having in her hard teen age-honed years none of it. Not only that she is out to expose, come hell or high water, said “Ma” (trophy Ma) if for no other reason that to prove that she is “cool” and not “square” (or cubed, octagonal, or any kind of n-gonal existence) to her also alienated, freaked out, fed-up “beat” band of brothers and sisters, middle class, to the teeth (and teeth, good teeth, had a social meaning in that early 1960s England). Moreover, “Ma” has a shady, a very shady past as a night club stripper and as …., (you know what else just in case any one under the age of about eight is around) that cries out for exposure and ruin.

So you can see where this thing is heading, although I can barely keep my hands to the keyboard at this point. The problem is, more apparent in real life, “beat” real life or “real” real life, than in the film that “slumming” among the lower depths of society (here the stripper life) is risky business, very risky business whether for “kicks” or for compulsion. Thus, as our “beat girl” meets with the strip club owner who tries to seduce her (played by Christopher Lee, who as far as I can remember, has never, never, played anything but sinister, if not down right perverted roles, right?) she finally confronts, after his timely murder (not by her, of course) the fact that life with father (and “Ma”) is better, far better, than being alienated and perhaps “fresh meat” for those hoary-eyed, mean mamas who populate the women’s gaol (our jail, okay).

Now, after this admitted fluffy, sketchy, little summary one can ask, as I did, what in the name of sweet jesus does all of this plot line, except the alienated, freaked-out, trying to make sense of a world not of one’s own making, post World War II, declining British Empire, clueless youth have to do with “beat”, with Jack Kerouac thumbed-road, shoe-leather worn, endless diner/gas station-seeking, gong bong dope-smoking, Allen Ginsberg poem- wailing, hipster, dipster, tipster , Charlie Parker be-bop, smoke-filled cellar café night. Well, for that you have to go back to one Maynard G. Krebs. Or rather the idea that the mainstream media, including the makers of this film, had about what “beat” was all about. This film is just the other side of the old Maynard caricature. That “beat” leads straight to immorality, communism, warts, or worst sex, and other forbidden fruits and thus in need of this little parable to cry, cry in the wilderness, and it turns out for social order and those “little boxes” that Malvina Reynolds wrote about in a song by the same name.

So pretty good of me, right? To be able to take a second-rate, maybe, even third-rate B-film when you take into consideration the threadbare dialogue that I refused to mention and the, at times, bizarre facial expressions of the main characters as they “emote” their alienation, and turn it into a polemical beating over the head of those who would denigrate our sacred youthful “beatness.” Oh, well, all in a day’s work, however, there is more though. I am an “avenging angel” today.

Look, I do not have a feel for the pre-World War I Greenwich Village bohemianism that attracted the likes of John Reed, Louise Bryant, Mabel Dodge and Max Eastman. I do not have a real feel for the Paris-exiled, lost-generationness of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and their crowds. I do not have a feel for the jitterbugging, sweet “swing is king" clarinet man Benny Goodman, big band with brass and reeds, Great Depression grope-through to keep body and soul together, of my parents’ generation, and, maybe, of yours. I do, however, have a feel for the 1950s red scare, Cold War, atom bomb (or worst, H-bomb) is going to get us, live for today so live well, or at least live it up, this old world is too big for me to understand and I did not make it anyway, look over the hill for the next mountain to climb break-out, or just a small get out of the “square” house break-out, alienations of the “beats”. And I tried, tried like hell, to live it out a little, young and silly as I was. In short, being “beat” while being political.

And that feel is where I have issues with the “beats” presented here. Of course, like lots of things, social things, the middle class, or rather a small, disenchanted (or don’t fit in), sometimes dismissed, or declassed element of it drive such new movements. Fair enough. And it is almost ABCs that in the early stages, at least, that exclusiveness by dress, language, mores, style, what have you, drive the thing. That is what happened in this film. The alienated youth, including their jazz-background'd (but also budding rock and roll, classic Elvis, Bo Diddley, blue-influenced rock-driven), smoky cellar café, all night-partying caught the last flashes of “beatness.” Faux “beatness.”

As I pointed out earlier the moral of this thing was that “beat” was just another aspect of teen alienation. Hardly unusual, at least since about the 18th century, when teenagehood became more of a human condition (if for no other reason than people lived longer and needed a niche between babyhood and the work-a-day world). But what about those, like me, who took “beat” for good coin, at least as far as I understood it.

Beat was not just bongos, banjos, guitars, sitars, drums, rums, oms, roams, highways and byways but a way of looking at middle class life (admittedly, on my part from the edges of the working poor) and flipping the finger at it , for good. Whether that was done wearing three piece suits (hard, very hard to do, granted) or thonged-sandals, hot rod roadster-driven or on sore, worn-down, shoe-leathered feet, as bohemian or Bolshevik, flipping that finger for good, was the real deal when the deal went down. I have taken old brother wind Kerouac to task for many things, mainly political, but not for that. That flip of the finger. That is what is missing here. Hey, on second thought, don’t forget Jack Kerouac. Or Allen Ginsberg either.

Love, Oh Careless, Love-With Diane Keaton and Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” In Mind

Love, Oh Careless, Love-With Diane Keaton and Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” In Mind  

DVD Review

By Associate Editor Alden Riley 

Annie Hall, starring Diane Keaton, Woody Allen,

It is funny how some film assignments I get from my boss,
Sandy Salmon, come into being. I mentioned in a recent review of the classic female vs. male clash of wills and style George Cukor’s Adam’s Rib starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy that he wished me to watch such strong independent lead women’s roles from the 1930s and 1940s to prove out his thesis that female actors such as Hepburn were able to turn in great performances with style and panache without appearing to be man-eaters. Or not too much anyway in contrast to many female-driven leads today where to avoid such designations the     
story-line has to bend over backwards cutting the heart out of such efforts. I had mentioned that in my review of the current Wonder Woman as an example and that one phrase started Sandy’s wheels rolling. 

The genesis of the film under review, Woody Allen’s masterly romantic comedy Annie Hall is very different. It is based on two factors, the first stemming from a BBC radio news broadcast that Sandy heard on his way to work one day about a survey that had been done naming the 150 greatest comedy films of all times. Annie Hall had been named number three on that list. The second my answer that I had never seen the film, had no particular interest in Woody Allen’s logjam of films after having seen a few from his early 2000s production (except Blue Jasmine but that was carried by the performance of Cate Blanchett more than Woody’s plotline and dialogue), and tended away from reviewing romantic comedies. Naturally that put fury red in Allen devotee Sandy’s eyes (that “devotee” status which in turn he had gotten from his film critic friend Sam Lowell, former film editor here, when they were both at the American Film Gazette).        

So here I am grinding it out on this one. Pleasantly grinding it out on a film that still seems fresh today some thirty plus years after its premier. As my companion who was watching the film with me said “it has aged well.” Agreed. I am not sure where I would put it in the pantheon of cinematic great comedies but it certainly belongs among the low numbers, no question about that.   

Of course as with many Woody Allen vehicles the art is in the dialogue and wit and not so much the plotline. At the time of production Woody was well known for his New York Jewish kid comic routine in many such film efforts. Annie Hall is in line with that persona from the neurotic self-effacing guy who can’t seem to “get it” about romance after two failed marriages to two bright star Jewish women and starts out once again on the roady road to love-to romance. Although this time with a classic WASP woman from Wisconsin Annie Hall of the title played by then paramour Diane Keaton as an aspiring nightclub performer (check out her stand-up performance of It Seems Like Old Times which brought a tear to the eye of my viewing companion). Still Woody can’t seem to get the hang of modern romance and he loses Annie not only to another man but to another coast-the dreaded enemy Left Coast-LA. The film is rounded out with every important New York intellectual referential tidbit from the period. Sandy said he howled when Woody made a cutting comment to his second wife about two New York-based high-end intellectual publications of the day- Commentary and Dissent saying they had merged into a new magazine Dysentery. Sandy said “ouch” but I was, maybe not being from New York or old enough to remember those publication was non-plussed by that one although many of the other references were very funny.

Like I said I can for once agree with Sandy and also can truthfully say I was not be put off by yet another “have to do” Sandy assignment this time. This film deserves its low number on the greatest comedy list.

Happy Birthday Jim Kweskin-The Max Daddy Of Jug- *A “Blues Mama” For Our Times Encore- The Blues Of Maria Muldaur

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Maria Muldaur Performing " Richland Woman Blues".

CD Review

Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul, Maria Muldaur, Stony Plain Records, 2005

I have often noted that when white women cover blues songs done by the old classic black singers like Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton and the like some undefined ingredient is missing. Call it "soul" or the "miseries" or whatever you like but somehow the depths of a song are generally not reached. Not so here, as Maria Muldaur presents the second of an anticipated three albums covering some great classics of old time barrel house blues. (The first album was "Richland Woman's Blues", taking the title from a song by Mississippi John Hurt so you know Maria is reaching for the blues roots, no question).

Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues" sticks out as do her duos with the legendary Taj Mahal. Blind Willie Johnson’s classic religiously-tinged “Take A Stand” and Bessie Smith's (with Clara Smith) “I’m Going Back” get their proper workout. The big highlight though (and a very necessary “re-discovery”) is the tribute to Memphis Minnie, “She Put Me Outdoors”. And a very necessary “discovery” of the very hard times, hard hustle and hard knocks of the female blues singer, “Tricks Ain’t Walkin”. More needs to be said on that question. As Maria points out in her liner notes some of these songs here are ones that she wanted to do earlier in her career but was either talked out or could not do justice to then. But now Maria knows she has paid her dues, I know she has paid her dues, and you will too. Listen.

Blues Lyrics - Mississippi John Hurt
Richland's Woman Blues
All rights to lyrics included on these pages belong to the artists and authors of the works.
All lyrics, photographs, soundclips and other material on this website may only be used for private study, scholarship or research.

Gimme red lipstick and a bright purple rouge
A shingle bob haircut
and a shot of good boo'

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' your horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
Come along young man, everything settin' right
My husbands goin' away till next Saturday night

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
Now, I'm raring to go, got red shoes on my feet
My mind is sittin' right for a Tin Lizzie

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
The red rooster said, "Cockle-doodle-do-do"
The Richard's' woman said, "Any dude will do"

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
With rosy red garters, pink hose on my feet
Turkey red bloomer, with a rumble seat

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
Every Sunday mornin', church people watch me go
My wings sprouted out, and the preacher told me so

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone
Dress skirt cut high, then they cut low
Don't think I'm a sport, keep on watchin' me go

Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowin' you horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone

In Honor Of The King Of The Folk-Singing Hard-Living Hobos The Late Utah Phillips -From The Archives- *From The Archives- Rosalie Sorrels Passes At 83-A Rosalie Sorrels Potpourri-Idaho, Cafe Lena, Childhood Dreams and Such

From The Archives- Rosalie Sorrels Passes At 83 (2017)-A Rosalie Sorrels Potpourri-Idaho, Cafe Lena, Childhood Dreams and Such

If I Could Be The Rain I Would Be Rosalie Sorrels-The Legendary Folksinger-Songwriter Has Her Last Go Round At 83

By Music Critic  Bart Webber

Back the day, back in the emerging folk minute of the 1960s that guys like Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, the late Peter Paul Markin and others were deeply immersed in (and the former two never got over since they will still tell a tale or two about the times if you go anywhere within ten miles of the subject-I will take my chances here because this notice is important) all roads seemed to lead to Harvard Square, the Village down in NYC, North Beach out in San Francisco, and maybe Old Town in Chicago. That is where names like Baez, Dylan, Paxton, Ochs, and a whole crew of younger folksingers who sat at the feet of guys like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.  

But there was another important strand that hovered around Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, up around Skidmore and some other colleges. That was Caffe Lena’s where some of those names played but also where some upstarts from the West got a chance to play the small crowds who gathered at that famed (and still existing) coffeehouse. Upstarts like Bruce “Utah” Phillips (although he could call several places home Utah was key to what he would sing about). And out of Idaho one Rosalie Sorrels who just joined her long-time friend Utah in that last go-round at the age of 83.

The last time I saw Rosalie perform in person was back in 2002 when she performed at what was billed as her last go-round, her hanging up her shoes from the dusty travel road. She was on fire that night except the then recent death of another folk legend, Dave Von Ronk, who was supposed to be on the bill (and who was replaced by David Bromberg who did a great job) cast a pall over the proceedings. I will always remember her cover of Old Devil Time that night -yeah, give me one more chance, one more breathe. But I will always think of If I Could Be The Rain whenever I hear her name. RIP Rosalie Sorrels 

A Folk Holiday Tradition

An Imaginary Christmas In Idaho, Rosalie Sorrels & Friends, Limberlost Books&Records, 1999

The first paragraph here has been used in reviewing other Rosalie Sorrels CDs in this space.

“My first association of the name Rosalie Sorrels with folk music came, many years ago now, from hearing the recently departed folk singer/storyteller/ songwriter and unrepentant Wobblie (IWW) Utah Phillips mention his long time friendship with her going back before he became known as a folksinger. I also recall that combination of Sorrels and Phillips as he performed his classic “Starlight On The Rails” and Rosalie his also classic “If I Could Be The Rain” on a PBS documentary honoring the Café Lena in Saratoga, New York, a place that I am also very familiar with for many personal and musical reasons. Of note here: it should be remembered that Rosalie saved, literally, many of the compositions that Utah left helter-skelter around the country in his “bumming” days.”

I do not usually do Christmas holiday-oriented CD reviews but I am on something of a Rosalie Sorrels streak after getting, as a Christmas gift, a copy of her “Strangers In Another Country”, her heart-felt tribute to her recently deceased long time friend Utah Phillips. Thus, in the interest of completeness I will make some a couple of comments. I will skip the obvious Christmas-oriented material here, although the spirit of anti-Christmas at least as the CD unfold is ‘in the air’ on this CD, including a little send-up of the old yuletide season by the above-mentioned Brother Phillips (“Jingle Bells’- Phillips style). The core of this presentation is the alternative take on the various traditions of Christmas out in Idaho (“The Fruitcake” and “Christmas Eve” , out in Minnesota (“Just A Little Lefse”)and among those who live a little closer to the edge of society (“Winter Song” and Grandma”), like Rosalie and her friends.

I need not mention Rosalie’s singing and storytelling abilities. Those are, as always, a given. I have noted elsewhere that Rosalie and the old curmudgeon Phillips did more than their fate share of work in order to keep these traditions alive. Old Utah handled the more overtly political phase and Rosalie, for lack of a better expression, the political side as it intersected the personal phase. That is evident here, especially in her recitation of a note and poem written by a Native American woman in response to the lingering death of her grandmother. Powerful stuff, at Christmas or anytime, and a rather nice way to come to terms with the tragedy of death that we all sooner or later face. Listen to this fine piece.

A special note to kind of bring us full circle. My first review of Rosalie’s and Utah’s combined works together mentioned a spark of renewed recognition kindled by long ago PBS documentary about the famous folk coffee house “The Café Lena” in Saratoga Springs, New York whose owner, Lena Spenser, sheltered them at various times from life’s storms. Lena, from all reports, was something of a 'fairy godmother' to many later famous folk singers and artists when they were either down on there luck or just starting out (or both). I have my own strong ties to Saratoga, its environs and Café Lena but Rosalie’s tribute to her late friend here, “Bufana and Lena”, about the Italian version of the Santa Claus myth can stand as the signpost for what this CD has attempted to do, and what that long ago folk revival that Lena represented was trying to do as well.

The Struggle For The Labor Party In The United States- American Socialist Workers Party Leader James P.Cannon-Early Years of the American Communist Movement-Origins of the Labor Party Policy

Click on the headline to link to a James P. Cannon Internet Archives online copy of Early Years of the American Communist Movement-Origins of the Labor Party Policy

Markin comment on this series:

Obviously, for a Marxist, the question of working class political power is central to the possibilities for the main thrust of his or her politics- the quest for that socialist revolution that initiates the socialist reconstruction of society. But working class politics, no less than any other kinds of political expressions has to take an organization form, a disciplined organizational form in the end, but organization nevertheless. In that sense every Marxist worth his or her salt, from individual labor militants to leagues, tendencies, and whatever other formations are out there these days on the left, struggles to built a revolutionary labor party, a Bolshevik-style party.

Glaringly, in the United States there is no such party, nor even a politically independent reformist labor party, as exists in Great Britain. And no, the Democratic Party, imperialist commander-in-chief Obama's Democratic Party is not a labor party. Although plenty of people believe it is an adequate substitute, including some avowed socialists. But they are just flat-out wrong. This series is thus predicated on providing information about, analysis of, and acting as a spur to a close look at the history of the labor party question in America by those who have actually attempted to create one, or at to propagandize for one.

As usual, I will start this series with the work of the International Communist League/Spartacist League/U.S. as I have been mining their archival materials of late. I am most familiar with the history of their work on this question, although on this question the Socialist Workers Party's efforts run a close second, especially in their revolutionary period. Lastly, and most importantly, I am comfortable starting with the ICL/SL efforts on the labor party question since after having reviewed in this space in previous series their G.I. work and youth work (Campus Spartacist and the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus Newsletter inside SDS) I noted that throughout their history they have consistently called for the creation of such a party in the various social arenas in which they have worked. Other organizational and independent efforts, most notably by the Socialist Workers Party and the American Communist Party will follow.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti-The Case That Will Not Die-Nor Should It

Caught up in the anti-immigrant hysteria and Red Scare that swept the U.S. in the aftermath of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, anarchist workers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested in May 1920 and framed up on murder and robbery charges of which they were manifestly innocent. In an article written after their execution in the Massachusetts electric chair on 23 August 1927, James P. Cannon, at the time a leader of the Workers (Communist) Party (CP) and secretary of the International Labor Defense (ILD) and later the founder of American Trotskyism, declared:
“The electric flames that consumed the bodies of Sacco and Vanzetti illuminated for tens of thousands of workers, in all its stark brutality, the essential nature of capitalist justice in America. The imprisonment, torture and murder of workers is seen more clearly now as part of an organized system of class persecution.”
—“A Living Monument to Sacco and Vanzetti,” Labor Defender (October 1927)
Pointing to the ILD’s role as the leading and organizing center of a protest movement that had rallied millions of workers around the world behind Sacco and Vanzetti’s cause, Cannon called for building “a stronger, more united and determined movement for labor defense on a class basis.” He noted that “the industrial masters of America” who had carried out the execution to deal a blow to the entire labor movement “were not without allies, both conscious and unconscious, in the camp of the workers themselves.” “Sacco and Vanzetti will have died in vain,” he wrote, “if the real meaning and the causes of their martyrdom are not understood in all their implications.” These lessons are indeed of crucial importance in the struggle against capitalist repression today and are posed with particular urgency in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal who, despite massive evidence of his innocence, was railroaded to death row for his political beliefs and lifetime of struggle against black oppression.
The Defense Movement
With little known about their arrests outside the Boston area, the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti was initially limited to a local group of Italian anarchists who founded the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee. The defense committee won the support of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a well-known radical, and her companion Carlo Tresca, an anarcho-syndicalist who edited the newspaper Il Martello in New York. The two members of the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) helped line up Fred Moore, who had a long record of defending union militants and radicals, to be lead attorney in the case.
Moore appealed to IWW members, union leaders and socialists to mobilize in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The American Civil Liberties Union, of which Flynn was a founding member, and its New England affiliate voiced their support as did a number of prominent liberals, notably the journalists Elizabeth Glendower Evans and Gardner Jackson. Various unions and even the conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL) tops came out in defense of the two workers. As Sacco and Vanzetti faced trial in May 1921, some 64 union locals from across the country contributed to the defense, and a flood of labor support swept in following their conviction in July. As we noted in Part One of this article, in the fall of 1921 the CP and Communist International (CI) called for a worldwide campaign of protest centered on the working class. The AFL passed a resolution in 1922 calling for a new trial and two years later declared Sacco and Vanzetti “victims of race and national prejudice and class hatred.”
In a 1927 ILD pamphlet, Max Shachtman described the wide range of support for Sacco and Vanzetti in the workers movement and observed:
“With many of these it was because they realized the class nature of the issues involved in the case; that it was not merely an incident of an accidental ‘miscarriage of justice’ but that the judge, jury and prosecutor were striking as severe a blow at the labor movement as was struck thirty-five years before in the trial of the Haymarket martyrs. With the others, it was the result of the feelings and pressure from the mass, who felt, however vaguely, a working class kinship with the two agitators.”
Sacco and Vanzetti:
Labor’s Martyrs
According to Massachusetts court procedure at the time, sentencing was postponed until all post-trial motions and appeals were decided. Although it was clear to everyone that the murder conviction could only mean a death sentence, that sentence was not pronounced until 1927. Sacco and Vanzetti’s lawyers, meanwhile, attempted to overturn the conviction with a series of motions before the same biased Judge Webster Thayer who presided over the kangaroo trial and appeals before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that rubber-stamped Thayer’s every move.
Thayer denied the first post-conviction motion for a new trial on Christmas Eve 1921. Beginning the month before and throughout the next two years, a series of six supplemental motions were filed by the defense. In July 1924, with those motions pending, Moore resigned as attorney in the case. With his replacement by William Thompson, the tactics of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee changed as well. As recounted in Bruce Watson’s Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (2007), Thompson flatly declared that he did not believe “the government was actuated by any ulterior purpose in bringing the charge against them.” Despising the mass protest movement, Thompson appealed instead to the legal and business establishment to use its influence on the courts and state house.
In turn, the Boston defense committee called for a stop to the workers’ protest actions. As Shachtman described in his pamphlet, for the next two years this strategy “helped to discredit the honest and powerful class support of the toilers…. They demanded the substitution of the movement of the masses by the movement of the lawyers.” Shachtman pointed out, “The defense turned more and more towards reliance upon those false friends concerned more with the vindication of ‘confidence in our institutions and their capacity to rectify errors,’ and ‘those high standards which are the pride of Massachusetts justice’ than with the vindication of two unknown immigrants.”
Based on the Marxist understanding that the courts, cops, prisons and armed forces are core components of the capitalist state—a machinery of organized violence to protect the rule and profits of the exploiting class—the CP and ILD tirelessly fought against illusions in the capitalists’ rigged legal system. They fought instead for workers to rely only on their class power, derived from the fact that it is their labor that creates the wealth of society. In his important new biography, James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (2007), Bryan Palmer includes a thorough account of Cannon’s leadership of the ILD, not least in regard to its efforts in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti.
The CP and ILD were determined that Sacco and Vanzetti would not be added to the long list of labor’s martyrs. They understood that mobilizing labor’s power in protest and strike action could compel the bourgeois rulers to relent in fear of the social costs that executing or imprisoning the two men for life would bring. They fought as well to imbue militants with the consciousness that to tear down the walls imprisoning fighters against exploitation and oppression once and for all requires a socialist revolution that destroys the capitalist state and replaces it with a workers state, where those who labor rule. In this, they were following the path laid out by Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, who wrote in his 1902 work What Is To Be Done? that the communist’s ideal
“should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”
Battle of Class Forces
In October 1924, Judge Thayer denied all motions presented by Sacco and Vanzetti’s lawyers. In December, the Communist International issued an appeal “To the workers of all countries! To all trade union organizations!” calling to “Organize mass demonstrations! Demand the liberation of Sacco and Vanzetti!” The Daily Worker, newspaper of the Workers (Communist) Party, continued to publicize this struggle, and the party organized a Chicago labor rally for Sacco and Vanzetti on 1 March 1925 and mobilized heavily for rallies in Boston and other cities that day. Shortly after its inception that year, the ILD issued a call for workers internationally to demonstrate solidarity with Sacco and Vanzetti. In a 23 May 1926 letter to the ILD, Vanzetti wrote, “The echo of your campaign in our behalf has reached my heart.”
Thayer’s 1924 decision was appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which sat on the case before affirming the convictions on 12 May 1926. Two weeks later, lawyers filed another motion for a new trial based on the affidavit of Celestino Medeiros confessing his involvement in the robbery that led to the murder charges against Sacco and Vanzetti, exonerating the two men. In October, Thayer rejected the Medeiros confession along with affidavits of two federal agents documenting the government’s involvement in the frame-up and confirming that the two were targeted for their political activities. This was appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court.
The court proceedings touched off renewed protest activity. Labor Defender published a special “Save Sacco and Vanzetti” issue in July 1926 featuring “An Appeal to American Labor” by Eugene V. Debs, historic spokesman of the Socialist Party. Resolutions on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti were adopted by the Washington Federation of Labor and the New York Socialist Party. 
The ILD initiated Sacco-Vanzetti committees and conferences throughout the U.S. that drew IWW militants, anarchists and delegates from the AFL and other union bodies around the call “Life and Freedom for Sacco and Vanzetti!” These meetings were an application of the tactic of the united front, through which a wide range of workers organizations unite in action around a common call while engaging in political debate based on their own programs. Through this means, the ILD sought to lay the basis for mass labor protest and strikes. The ILD also participated in rallies called by the Boston defense committee and other organizations. Cannon wrote to a wide array of public figures seeking statements in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. But the ILD’s primary focus was unleashing labor strikes and protests.
In New York City, the ILD-initiated Sacco-Vanzetti Emergency Committee encompassed individuals and organizations representing nearly half a million workers. Rallies organized by the committee drew over 15,000 in New York’s Madison Square Garden on 17 November 1926 and another 25,000 in Union Square the following April. Equally large gatherings were organized by ILD-led committees in Milwaukee, San Jose, Boston, Denver, Seattle and Chicago. Across the country, a network of two to three million workers was enlisted in the committees. The International Red Aid mobilized its organizations around the world, forming united-front committees in hundreds of cities and organizing mass protests. Millions throughout the entirety of the Soviet Union demonstrated in solidarity with the two class-war prisoners.
Thayer’s rulings opened up a period of sharpening political struggle over the way forward in this fight that would last up through the executions. The Socialist Party, AFL tops and anarchists organized some working-class protest, at times mobilizing significant forces. But such efforts were in the service of appeals for Sacco and Vanzetti to get their “fair day in court,” to be accomplished by tapping into liberal public opinion that hoped to spare the men’s lives for the sake of America’s “democratic” image. As for the national AFL leadership, rather than issuing a call for labor mobilizations, it pushed a resolution through the October 1926 AFL convention appealing to Congress to investigate the case. The SP and AFL tops undermined the growing mobilization of the workers by looking to the political agencies of the class enemy, a policy accompanied by a vicious anti-Communist campaign of slander and exclusion.
Throughout the 1920s, the SP leadership under Morris Hillquit, which in 1919 had purged the left-wing Socialists who supported the Bolshevik Revolution, waged a campaign against Communist influence in the labor movement that was particularly fierce in the needle trades in New York City. For his part, Matthew Woll, a member of the AFL Executive Council, ranted that the AFL was “the first object of attack by the Communist movement.” The same Woll was acting president of the National Civic Federation, an anti-union business group that viciously opposed the campaign for Sacco and Vanzetti’s freedom.
In November 1926, the Ohio State Socialist Party refused to join in a rally called by the ILD-initiated Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, and the SP’s New Leader (18 December 1926) retailed lying charges by the Boston defense committee that the CP and ILD had solicited funds for legal defense that were not forwarded and for which no accounting was made. In response to these slanders, Labor Defender (January 1927) published the ILD’s accounts and copies of checks forwarded to the Boston committee. The article pointed out that an earlier Labor Defender (September 1926) had printed, as part of its regular practice, an accounting of its receipts and ILD campaign expenses and had called for contributions for legal defense to be sent directly to the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee in Boston rather than to the ILD.
The smears against the ILD were gleefully seized upon by the bourgeois press at the time and are repeated to this day. In answering the blatantly false charge that the ILD had pocketed $500,000 raised for Sacco and Vanzetti’s defense, Labor Defender (October 1927) remarked that this slander only aided “the Department of Justice and other agencies which consummated the murder of Sacco and Vanzetti” and now hope to prevent the protest movement from “being drawn into the fight in behalf of the other victims of the frame-up system now in prison or facing trial.”
Class-Struggle Defense
With the case again before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Cannon alluded to the sectarian exclusions and counterposed a class-struggle defense perspective in “Who Can Save Sacco and Vanzetti?” (Labor Defender, January 1927):
“The Sacco-Vanzetti case is no private monopoly, but an issue of the class struggle in which the decisive word will be spoken by the masses who have made this fight their own. It is therefore, necessary to discuss openly the conflicting policies which are bound up with different objectives.
“One policy is the policy of the class struggle. It puts the center of gravity in the protest movement of the workers of America and the world. It puts all faith in the power of the masses and no faith whatever in the justice of the courts. While favoring all possible legal proceedings, it calls for agitation, publicity, demonstrations—organized protest on a national and international scale. It calls for unity and solidarity of all workers on this burning issue, regardless of conflicting views on other questions. This is what has prevented the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti so far. Its goal is nothing less than their triumphant vindication and liberation.
“The other policy is the policy of ‘respectability,’ of the ‘soft pedal’ and of ridiculous illusions about ‘justice’ from the courts of the enemy. It relies mainly on legal proceedings. It seeks to blur the issue of the class struggle. It shrinks from the ‘vulgar and noisy’ demonstrations of the militant workers and throws the mud of slander on them. It tries to represent the martyrdom of Sacco and Vanzetti as an ‘unfortunate’ error which can be rectified by the ‘right’ people proceeding in the ‘right’ way. The objective of this policy is a whitewash of the courts of Massachusetts and ‘clemency’ for Sacco and Vanzetti in the form of a commutation to life imprisonment for a crime of which the world knows they are innocent.”
The battle between these counterposed strategies took center stage following a 5 April 1927 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court again upholding Judge Thayer. Four days later, the front page of the Daily Worker carried an appeal by Cannon, “From Supreme Court of Capital to Supreme Court of the Masses,” in which he wrote, “The New England bourbons want the blood of innocent men. This was decided from the first, only fools expected otherwise. Only fools put faith in the courts of the enemy.” Cannon added, “It is time now to appeal finally to the masses. It is time for the workers to say their word.”
On April 9, Sacco and Vanzetti were called into Thayer’s courtroom for sentence to be pronounced. The two men spoke defiantly. Sacco told the judge, “I know the sentence will be between two class[es], the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will always be collision between one and the other.” When Vanzetti got his turn, he stated: “I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian;...but I am so convinced to be right that if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already” (quoted in Herbert P. Ehrmann, The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti [1969]). They were sentenced to die in three months.
Following the sentencing, the ILD issued a call for a national conference “of all elements willing to unite to demand and force freedom for Sacco and Vanzetti.” On April 16, 20,000 workers filled New York’s Union Square in a protest called by the ILD-led Sacco-Vanzetti Emergency Committee. As part of an intensive effort over the next several weeks, more than 500 May Day meetings were organized by the ILD across the U.S and Canada.
The SP’s response to the sentencing was to further promote false hopes in bourgeois politicians. The New Leader (16 April 1927) wrote, “The next move is up to Governor Fuller, and there seems to be no doubt that he will have to accede to the world-wide demand that he act to save the lives of the two men.” The SP declared the scheduled execution date of July 10 as “a day of national mourning for the death of American justice,” while Hillquit called upon “the government and the governor of the State of Massachusetts to order a full and impartial investigation of the whole case” (New Leader, 23 April 1927).
After SP organizers of Sacco-Vanzetti meetings in Philadelphia and Cleveland refused to seat delegates from the ILD and other organizations, Cannon issued a statement printed in the Daily Worker (4 May 1927) condemning the disruption of the “labor reactionaries,” noting that “their aim is to isolate the militants and then sabotage the movement.” With the social democrats, anarchists and labor tops working to undermine the ILD’s efforts, the plan to hold a national Sacco-Vanzetti conference fell through. The Boston defense committee sought to head off growing sentiment in the unions for such a conference by appealing instead for Governor Fuller to appoint a commission to review the case. On June 1, they got their wish, as Fuller announced the appointment of a three-man panel to advise him on Vanzetti’s petition for clemency filed the previous month.
The panel was led by Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell, a patrician reactionary who had campaigned for the draconian 1921 Immigration Quota Act, banned black students from living in Harvard dorms, restricted Jewish enrollment at Harvard and opposed legislation reducing child labor in the textile industry. This record did not stop the Boston committee from lauding the commission as “men reputed to be scholarly, of high intelligence and intellectual probity, with minds unswayed by prejudice.” The committee advised the governor to implement the power of commutation because that would be “far less likely to undermine public faith in the courts of the Commonwealth.” The SP affirmed its faith that “while the members of this commission are conservatives, it is generally believed that their high professional standing gives fair assurance that they will make a report justified by all the facts in the case” (New Leader, 9 July 1927).
Rumors swirled that Fuller would respond to the growing international protests by commuting the death sentences. Recalling how an earlier movement on behalf of class-war prisoners Tom Mooney, who faced execution, and Warren Billings had been sapped by the commutation of Mooney’s death sentence to life imprisonment, Cannon cautioned in “Death, Commutation or Freedom?” (Labor Defender, July 1927): “The great movement for Sacco and Vanzetti, which now embraces millions of workers, must not allow itself to be dissolved by a similar subterfuge.” Calling a life sentence “a living death,” he warned, “The hearts of the Massachusetts executioners have not softened with kindness, and their desire to murder our comrades has not changed.... The working class must reply: Not the chair of death, but life for Sacco and Vanzetti! Not the imprisonment of death, but freedom to Sacco and Vanzetti!”
Political Battle Comes to a Boil
As the scheduled execution date of July 10 neared, the social democrats brought their anti-Communist campaign to a fever pitch, regurgitating the slander about the ILD’s fundraising and stepping up their divisive attempts to exclude CP and ILD militants. This came to a head at a mass rally of 25,000 workers in Union Square on July 7. Called by the labor-based Sacco-Vanzetti Liberation Committee (SVLC), some 30 unions joined in the call for a one-hour protest strike that day, bringing out half a million workers. The ILD and its Emergency Committee built heavily for the protest, distributing 200,000 leaflets. The rally went ahead despite the granting of a one-month reprieve by Governor Fuller.
In negotiations before the rally, the SVLC had agreed that there would be four platforms, with two allotted to the Emergency Committee. But the SP had other plans, and only two platforms were set up, both controlled by the SP. After a number of Socialist speakers addressed the crowd, a contingent of workers hoisted Ben Gold, a CP member who had led a successful Furriers strike, onto their shoulders. As they approached the podium demanding that Gold speak, SP honcho Abraham Weinberg kicked Gold in the chest, sending him reeling into the crowd. When the workers carried Gold to the other platform, SP bigwig August Claessens attacked him as well.
Claessens and Weinberg then called in the police, who charged the crowd on horseback and broke up the rally. After the attack, SP spokesmen made absolutely clear that driving out the reds took priority over carrying out a united action in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The SP’s Samuel Friedman baldly stated, “We would rather have the meeting broken up than allow a faker like Gold speak” (Daily Worker, 8 July 1927). The New Leader (16 July 1927) declared that due to “known antagonism” and “charges of misconduct…it had been decided that the Communists were not to be permitted to co-operate in the meetings.”
The SP’s exclusionism only served to weaken the movement in the face of a furious onslaught by the bourgeois state. As the new execution date of August 10 approached, the ILD helped build a July 31 protest at Boston Common called by the Boston defense committee. As described in the New Leader (13 August 1927), after the cops broke up the SP-led rally at one end of the Common, most of the demonstrators moved to another part of the park, where the Communists held a permit. That rally, too, was dispersed by the cops. Around the country, cops broke up protest meetings with clubs, guns and tear gas.
Governor Fuller denied clemency on August 3. The next day, the ILD’s Emergency Committee issued a call for a half-day strike of New York labor on August 9. The labor tops tried their best to sabotage the strike, with the AFL leadership spurning calls from numerous unions and other workers organizations to take action while many local union officials announced in the capitalist press that they opposed the strike. Nonetheless, 50,000 turned out in Union Square, and another 50,000 struck in Philadelphia. A Chicago protest of 20,000 the same day was fired on by the cops. Fuller’s denial had finally spurred AFL head William Green to “action,” writing Fuller to ask for “executive clemency.” As the Daily Worker (10 August) commented, an appeal by Green to AFL unions “would aid tremendously in staying the hand of the executioner! But an appeal to Fuller couched in such honeyed words as Green uses only enhances that vile enemy of labor in the eyes of his class and indirectly sanctions the murders.”
As the hour of execution neared, a wave of protests took place around the world. In the U.S., police forces brutally moved against the protesters: offices were raided in New York, Detroit and San Francisco, and meetings were broken up. On the night of August 10, cars of heavily armed cops roamed through Chicago, breaking up every gathering of more than a dozen workers. Earlier that same day, U.S. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a liberal icon, had turned down a habeas corpus petition for Sacco and Vanzetti, and shortly before midnight they were brought to the death house. A half hour before the time set for execution, Fuller announced a reprieve until midnight, August 22, to allow their attorney to argue a new motion before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
On August 16, the day of the hearing, the ILD announced plans for protests in 200 cities. The 18 August Daily Worker carried a front-page appeal by Cannon, titled “No Illusions,” that warned the “working masses not to be fooled with false hopes and false security.” He stressed:
“The great task, therefore, in the few fateful days remaining, up to the last minute of the last hour, is to put all energy, courage and militancy into the organization of mass demonstrations and protest strikes. All brakes upon this movement must be regarded as the greatest danger. All illusions which paralyze the movement must be overcome. All agents of the bosses who try to sabotage and discredit the protest and strike movement must be given their proper name.”
Another front-page appeal by Cannon the following day declared: “Put no faith in capitalist justice! Organize the protest movement on a wider scale and with a more determined spirit! Demonstrate and strike for Sacco and Vanzetti!” When the Massachusetts high court turned down another appeal on the 19th, the Emergency Committee called for a mass protest strike on August 22.
On August 20, Oliver Wendell Holmes refused to stay the execution, and a similar request was turned down by Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone on August 22. Millions took to the streets worldwide. But Sacco and Vanzetti were executed shortly after midnight.

Organized defense of Sacco and Vanzetti was initiated by Italian anarchists in Boston and joined shortly after by a number of civil libertarians. But it was the intervention of the International Red Aid and the ILD in the U.S. that played a central role in the proletarian protest movement. And at a time when executions routinely took place shortly after convictions, it was the mobilization of millions that kept Sacco and Vanzetti alive for six years.
The Communist International and the CP in the U.S. issued appeals for a worldwide campaign for Sacco and Vanzetti in the fall of 1921. The first issue of Labor Herald (March 1922), publication of the CP-allied Trade Union Educational League, called for “Labor! Act at Once to Rescue Sacco and Vanzetti!” The CP’s Daily Worker reported on each twist and turn in the case and regularly reported on protests internationally. In a front-page appeal, the CP called in the Daily Worker (27 December 1924) for “all organizations of workers in America to join with it in a united front for Sacco and Vanzetti, against their capitalist enemies and for their immediate release.”
The Sacco and Vanzetti case was a feature of the founding convention of the ILD in 1925. The ILD grew out of discussions in Moscow between James P. Cannon and ex-“Wobbly” Big Bill Haywood. Non-sectarian labor defense had been a theme of Workers (Communist) Party propaganda since its inception, but the ILD gave it flesh and blood. A former IWW member himself, Cannon had a history of experience in labor defense cases. He recalled, “I came from the background of the old movement when the one thing that was absolutely sacred was unity on behalf of the victims of capitalist justice” (quoted in Bryan Palmer, James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 [2007]). Seeking to overcome the limitations of past labor defense practices, in which each case would lead to the establishment anew of an ad hoc defense committee, Cannon sought to build a labor-based defense organization for the entire workers movement.
As Cannon described in The First Ten Years of American Communism (1962), the ILD was founded especially to take up the plight of “any member of the working class movement, regardless of his views, who suffered persecution by the capitalist courts because of his activities or his opinions.” The ILD fused the IWW tradition of class-struggle, non-sectarian defense—captured in the Wobbly slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all”—with the internationalism of the Bolshevik Revolution. Upon its founding, the ILD identified 106 class-war prisoners in the U.S. and instituted the policy of financially assisting them and their families. Within a little more than a year, the ILD had branches in 146 cities with 20,000 individual members as well as 75,000 members of unions and other workers organizations collectively affiliated to the ILD.
The ILD publicized Sacco and Vanzetti’s struggle and organized rallies and political strikes to demand their freedom. The ILD struggled to prevent the workers’ militancy and class solidarity from being dissipated by the liberals, social democrats and AFL tops who preached the inherent justice of the capitalist courts. The ILD mobilized on the basis of the united front, seeking maximum unity in struggle of the various organizations standing for defense of Sacco and Vanzetti while giving a thorough airing of the political differences between the CP/ILD and others. The slogan “march separately, strike together” embodies the two aims of the united-front tactic: class unity and the political fight for a communist program.
The international protest movement wrote a historic page in the textbook of class-struggle defense. The ILD initiated 500 May Day Sacco and Vanzetti meetings in cities across the country and played a key role in organizing labor protests and strikes, from a rally of 20,000 in New York City’s Union Square in April 1927 to protests and strikes involving hundreds of thousands on the eve of the executions. The ILD understood that in order to stop the executions and win their freedom, it could rely only on mounting such a powerful wave of labor action that the capitalist rulers would refrain from carrying out their plans.
However, the anti-Communist AFL tops sabotaged the strike movement at decisive moments, abetted by the SP social democrats and others. Countless articles and books have since been written vilifying the CP and ILD—from those that acknowledge a “miscarriage” of justice in the case to others preposterously claiming that either Sacco or both men were guilty. Representative of the former is the newly published Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind by Bruce Watson, which parrots anti-Communist slanders passed on for generations, from the grotesque claim that the CP couldn’t have cared less whether Sacco and Vanzetti lived or died to the lie that the ILD pocketed the money they raised for the defense.
The Red Scare
Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested on 5 May 1920 amid a virulent anti-immigrant, anti-Red hysteria. When U.S. imperialism entered the First World War, the government implemented a plethora of repressive measures criminalizing antiwar activity. The 1917 Espionage Act mandated imprisonment for any act deemed to interfere with the recruitment of troops. Haunted by the spectre of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the following year Congress passed the Sedition Act that made criticizing the “U.S. form of government” a felony.
The Red Scare hit full stride in 1919. That year saw the crest of a wave of labor radicalism that swept Europe in response to the carnage of WWI and under the impact of the Russian Revolution. In the U.S., the ranks of the SP swelled to more than 100,000, mostly foreign-born workers, with two-thirds supporting the pro-Bolshevik left wing. The U.S. was hit by the biggest strike wave up to that time, as four million workers walked off their jobs in response to inflation induced by the war. In Seattle, a general strike brought the city to a halt for five days in February 1919, while later that year longshoremen refused to load munitions being sent to counterrevolutionaries seeking to overthrow the young Soviet workers state.
The U.S. bourgeoisie whipped up hysteria over a series of bombings attributed to anarchists. After an attempt to bomb his home in June 1919, U.S. attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer unleashed an additional wave of repression, ranting that revolution was “licking at the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes, seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundation of society.” In November the Palmer Raids were launched with the arrests of over 3,000 foreign-born radicals. Ultimately, at least 6,000 would be deported. As the world capitalist order stabilized, the 1920s in the U.S., now the world’s chief capitalist power, was a decade of rampant reaction: further anti-immigrant legislation was passed in 1921 and 1924; anti-trust laws were used to break strikes; labor militants and Communists were thrown in jail. Growing by leaps and bounds, the Ku Klux Klan marched 40,000-strong in Washington, D.C.
Sacco and Vanzetti came to symbolize those caught in the web of repression. Each had come to the United States in 1908. Within five years they had become anarchists and subscribers to the Italian-language anarchist newspaper Cronaca Sovversiva (Chronicle of Subversion) of Luigi Galleani. Sacco’s name appeared frequently in the paper’s column announcing organizing activities, particularly raising money for political prisoners and jailed strikers. Sacco helped raise funds for workers and their arrested leaders during the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The following year he helped organize strike pickets at the Hopedale Paper Mill and in December 1916 was one of three Massachusetts anarchists arrested for holding a meeting without a permit in solidarity with striking iron workers in Minnesota. Also in 1916, Vanzetti raised funds to support strikers at the giant Plymouth Cordage plant, at which he had previously worked.
Sacco and Vanzetti met for the first time in 1917 in Mexico, where many Galleanists had gone to avoid registering for the draft. Sacco returned to the U.S. after a few months. Vanzetti returned later, at a time of intense repression against Cronaca Sovversiva, including repeated raids on its offices and confiscation of the paper, which was banned from the mails. In February 1918, federal agents raided the Cronaca office in Lynn, Massachusetts, seizing 5,000 addresses of subscribers, including Sacco and Vanzetti. Eighty Galleanists were arrested, and Galleani himself was deported in 1919.
The Frame-Up
On 24 December 1919, an attempt was made to rob a payroll truck as it approached the L. Q. White shoe factory in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. When payroll guards fired back, the two gunmen fled to a waiting black car which drove off. Witnesses described the gunmen as “foreigners.” One who fired a shotgun was said to have a dark complexion and black moustache. On 15 April 1920, two employees of the Slater & Morrill shoe company in South Braintree, outside of Boston, were attacked by two men as they carried the factory payroll. Paymaster Frederick Parmenter and his assistant Alessandro Berardelli were shot and killed, and the bandits escaped with others in a dark-colored car.
Three weeks later, on May 5, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested in a trap set by Bridgewater police chief Michael Stewart, who sought to pin both robberies on anarchists. The two anarchists, along with their comrades Ricardo Orciani and Mike Boda, had sought to retrieve Boda’s car from a West Bridgewater garage where it was being repaired. As prearranged with Chief Stewart, the owner refused to turn over the car, and his wife called the cops. After the anarchists left the garage, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested on a streetcar to Boston.
Never told that they were robbery suspects, Sacco and Vanzetti believed that they were being arrested for their political activities. In his court testimony, Vanzetti described the questioning by Stewart: “He asked me why we were in Bridgewater, how long I know Sacco, if I am a Radical, if I am an anarchist or Communist, and he asked me if I believe in the government of the United States.”
The immediate backdrop to their arrests was the death two days before of fellow anarchist Andrea Salsedo, who had plunged 14 floors from the Department of Justice office in New York City. Arrested in February, Salsedo and Roberto Elia had been held incommunicado. In late April, Grupo Autonomo, a cell of Italian anarchists, had sent Vanzetti to New York to obtain information about the two. There he was advised by the Italian Defense Committee to dump any radical literature as more raids were anticipated. For that purpose, on May 5 they went to retrieve Boda’s car. When arrested, they did not tell the cops the purpose of their visit to the garage.
Vanzetti was first tried on frame-up charges for the failed robbery in Bridgeport in an attempt by the state to stick either him or Sacco with a criminal record before trial on the Braintree murder charges. Felix Frankfurter described the farce in The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti (1927):
“The evidence of identification of Vanzetti in the Bridgewater case bordered on the frivolous, reaching its climax in the testimony of a little newsboy who, from behind the telegraph pole to which he had run for refuge during the shooting, had caught a glimpse of the criminal and ‘knew by the way he ran he was a foreigner.’ Vanzetti was a foreigner, so of course it was Vanzetti!”
Despite the testimony of 18 witnesses that he was in Plymouth selling eels at the time, Vanzetti was convicted of assault charges. Vanzetti and Sacco were then immediately indicted for the Braintree murders.
The murder trial began on 31 May 1921 in Dedham, Massachusetts, with a platoon of cops armed with riot guns stationed on the courthouse steps. Even a federal agent noted that “the feeling in Dedham against Italians is very strong, and will probably get stronger as the trial progresses” (quoted in William Young and David E. Kaiser, Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti [1985]). Five of the jurors were chosen from a pool of personal acquaintances of a sheriff’s deputy. Jury foreman Walter Ripley was a former police chief who began every court session by ostentatiously standing and saluting the flag. When a friend told Ripley before the trial that he didn’t believe Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty, Ripley snapped back, “Damn them, they ought to hang them anyway!”
In his opening remarks, Judge Thayer called on the jurors to render service “with the same spirit of patriotism, courage and devotion to duty as was exhibited by our soldier boys across the seas.” With Thayer’s support, prosecutor Frederick Katzmann cross-examined Sacco as to whether his collection of anarchist and socialist literature was “in the interests of the United States.” To inflame the jury, Katzmann asked repeated questions about their avoiding the draft by going to Mexico, and in his jury instructions Judge Thayer repeatedly referred to Sacco and Vanzetti as “slackers.”
Despite the utter lack of evidence, the jury returned with guilty verdicts after only five hours of deliberation. In December 1921, Judge Thayer turned down a motion for a new trial. Though conceding the weakness of the prosecution’s case, Thayer ruled that “the evidence that convicted these defendants was circumstantial and was evidence that is known in law as ‘consciousness of guilt’,” supposedly manifested by the lies Sacco and Vanzetti told when arrested in order to protect themselves and their comrades. As the 1927 ILD pamphlet Labor’s Martyrs written by Max Shachtman put it, “The consciousness of guilt attributed to Sacco and Vanzetti was nothing but a healthy consciousness of the class struggle and the methods of the enemies of the working class.”


An Encore Salute To The Untold Stories Of The Working- Class 1960s Radicals-“The Sam And Ralph Stories”- A Real Independence Day (4th of July) Walk Through The Streets- A Tale Of Two Parades

An Encore Salute To The Untold Stories Of The Working- Class 1960s Radicals-“The Sam And Ralph Stories”- A Real Independence Day (4th of July) Walk Through The Streets- A Tale Of Two Parades
Greg Green, site manager Introduction 
 [In early 2018, shortly after I had taken over the reins as site manager at this on-line publication I “saw the light” and bowed to the wisdom of a number of older writers who balked at my idea of reaching younger and newer audiences by having them review films like Marvel/DC Comics productions, write about various video games and books that would not offend a flea unlike the flaming red books previously reviewed here centered on the now aging 1960s baby-boomer demographic which had sustained the publication through good times and bad as a hard copy and then on-line proposition. One senior writer, who shall remain nameless in case some stray millennial sees this introduction and spreads some viral social media hate campaign his way, made the very telling observation that the younger set, his term, don’t read film reviews or hard copy books as a rule and those hardy Generation of ’68 partisans who still support this publication in the transition from the old Allan Jackson leadership to mine don’t give a fuck about comics, video games or graphic novels. I stand humbled.
Not only stand humbled though but in a valiant and seemingly successful attempt to stabilize this operation decided to give an encore presentation to some of the most important series produced and edited by Allan Jackson-without Allan. That too proved to be an error when I had Frank Jackman introduce the first few sections of The Roots Is The Toots Rock And Roll series which Allan had sweated his ass over to bring out over a couple of years. Writers, and not only senior writers who had supported Allan in the vote of no confidence fight challenging his leadership after he went overboard attempting to cash in on the hoopla over the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in 1967 but also my younger writer partisans, balked at this subterfuge. One called it a travesty.
Backing off after finding Allan, not an easy task since he had fled to the safer waters of the West looking for work and had been rumored to be any place from Salt Lake City to some mountainous last hippie commune in the hills of Northern California doing anything from pimping as press agent for Mitt Romney’s U.S. Senate campaign in Utah to running a whorehouse with Madame La Rue in Frisco or shacking up with drag queen Miss Judy Garland in that same city, we brought Allan back to do the introductions to the remaining sections. That we, me and the Editorial Board established after Allan’s demise and as a guard against one-person rule, had compromised on that gesture with the last of the series being the termination of Allan’s association with the publication except possibly as an occasional writer, a stringer really, when some nostalgia event needed some attention.      
That was the way things went and not too badly when we finished up the series in the early summer of 2018. But that is not the end of the Allan story. While looking through the on-line archives I noticed that Allan had also seriously edited another 1960s-related series, the Sam and Ralph Stories, a series centered on the trials and tribulations of two working-class guys who had been radicalized in different ways by the 1960s upheavals and have never lost the faith in what Allan called from Tennyson “seeking a newer world” would resurface in this wicked old world, somebody’s term.
I once again attempted to make the mistake of having someone else, in this case Josh Breslin, introduce the series (after my introduction here) but the Editorial Board bucked me even before I could set that idea in motion. I claimed, somewhat disingenuously, that Allan was probably out in Utah looking for some residual work for Mitt Romney now that he is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senator for Utah or running back to Madame La Rue, an old flame, and that high- end whorehouse or hanging with Miss Judy Garland at her successful drag queen tourist attraction cabaret. No such luck since he was up in Maine working on a book about his life as an editor. To be published in hard cop y by well-known Wheeler Press whenever he gets the proofs done. So hereafter former editor and site manager Allan will handle the introductions on this encore presentation of this excellent series. Greg Green]                   
Allan Jackson, editor The Sam And Ralph Stories -New General Introduction
[As my replacement Greg Green, whom I brought in from American Film Gazette originally to handle the day to day site operations while I concentrated on editing but who led a successful revolt against my regime based on the wishes of the younger writers to as they said at the time not be slaves to the 1960s upheavals a time which they only knew second or third hand, mentioned in his general introduction above some of the series I initiated were/are worth an encore presentation. The Sam and Ralph Stories are one such series and as we go along I will try to describe why this series was an important testament to an unheralded segment of the mass movements of the 1960s-the radicalized white working- class kids who certainly made up a significant component of the Vietnam War soldiery, some of who were like Sam and Ralph forever after suspicious of every governmental war cry. Who also somewhat belatedly got caught up in the second wave rock and roll revival which emerged under the general slogan of “drug, sex and rock and roll” which represented a vast sea change for attitudes about a lot of things that under ordinary circumstances would have had them merely replicating their parents’ ethos and fate.        
As I said I will describe that transformation in future segment introductions but today since it is my “dime” I want to once again clear up some misapprehensions about what has gone on over the past year or so in the interest of informing the readership, as Greg Green has staked his standing at this publication on doing to insure his own survival, about what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing business. This would not have been necessary after the big flap when Greg tried an “end around” something that I and every other editor worth her or his salt have tried as well and have somebody else, here commentator and my old high school friend Frank Jackman, act as general introducer of The Roots Is The Toots  rock and roll coming of age series that I believe is one of the best productions I have ever worked on. That got writers, young and old, with me or against me, led by Sam Lowell, another of my old high school friends, who had been the decisive vote against me in the “vote of no confidence” which ended my regime up in arms. I have forgiven Sam, and others, as I knew full well from the time I entered into the business that at best it was a cutthroat survival of the fittest racket. (Not only have I forgiven Sam but I am in his corner in his recent struggles with young up and coming by-line writer Sarah Lemoyne who is being guided through the shoals by another old high school friend Seth Garth as she attempts to make her way up the film critic food chain, probably the most vicious segment of the business where a thousand knives wait the unwary from so-called fellow reviewers.) The upshot of that controversy was that Greg had to back off and let me finish the introducing the series for which after all I had been present at the creation.               
That would have been the end of it but once we successfully, and thankfully by Greg who gave me not only kudos around the water cooler but a nice honorarium, concluded that series encore in the early summer of 2018 he found another way to cut me. Going through the archives of this publication to try to stabilize the readership after doing some “holy goof” stuff like having serious writers, young and old, reviewing films based on comic book characters, the latest in video games and graphic novels with no success forgetting the cardinal rule of the post-Internet world that the younger set get their information from other sources than old line academic- driven websites and don’t read beyond their techie tools Greg found another series, the one highlighted here, that intrigued him for an encore presentation. This is where Greg proved only too human since he once again attempted an “end around,” by having Josh Breslin, another old friend whom I meet in the Summer of Love, 1967 out in San Francisco, introduce the series citing my unavailability as the reason although paying attention to the fact that I had sweated bullets over that one as well.      
This time though the Editorial Board, now headed by Sam Lowell, intervened even before Greg could approach Josh for the assignment. This Ed Board was instituted after my departure to insure the operation would not descend, Sam’s word actually, into the so-called autocratic one-person rule that had been the norm under my regime. They told Greg to call me back in on the encore project or to forget it. I would not have put up with such a suggestion from an overriding Ed Board and would have willingly bowed out if anybody had tried to undermine me that way. I can understand fully Greg’s desire to cast me to the deeps, have done with me as in my time I did as well knowing others in the food chain would see this as their opportunity to move up.  
That part I had no problem with, told Greg exactly that. What bothered me was the continuing “urban legend” about what I had done, where I had gone after that decisive vote of no confidence. Greg continued, may continue today, to fuel the rumors that not only after my initial demise but after finishing up the Roots Is The Toots series I had gone back out West to Utah of all places to work for the Mormons, or to Frisco to hook up with my old flame Madame La Rue running that high-end whorehouse I had staked her to in the old days, or was running around with another old high school pal, Miss Judy Garland, aka Timmy Riley the high priestess of the drag queen set out in that same town whom I also helped stake to  his high-end tourist attraction cabaret. All nonsense, I was working on my memoir up in Maine, up in Olde Saco where Josh grew up and which I fell in love with when he first showed me his hometown and its ocean views.          
If the reader can bear the weight of this final reckoning let me clear the air on all three subjects on the so-called Western trail. Before that though I admit, admit freely that despite all the money I have made, editing, doing a million pieces under various aliases and monikers, ballooning up 3000 word articles to 10,000 and having the publishers fully pay despite the need for editing for the latter in the days before the Guild when you worked by the word, accepting articles which I clearly knew were just ripped of the AP feed and sending them along as gold I had no dough, none when I was dethroned. Reason, perfectly sane reason, although maybe not, three ex-wives with alimony blues and a parcel of kids, a brood if you like who were in thrall to the college tuition vultures.
Tapped out in the East for a lot of reasons I did head west the first time looking for work. Landed in Utah when I ran out of dough, and did, DID, try to get a job on the Salt Lake Star and would have had it too except two things somebody there, some friend of Mitt Romney, heard I was looking for work and nixed the whole thing once they read the articles I had written mocking Mitt and his white underwear world as Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate. So it was with bitter irony when I heard that Greg had retailed the preposterous idea that I would now seek a job shilling for dear white undie Mitt as press agent in his run for the open Utah United States Senate seat. Here is where everybody should gasp though at the whole Utah fantasy-these Mormons stick close together, probably ingrained in them from Joseph Smith days, and don’t hire goddam atheists and radicals, don’t hire outside the religion if they can help it. You probably had to have slept with one of Joseph Smith’s or Brigham Young’s wives to even get one foot in the door. Done.              
The helping Madame La Rue, real name of no interest or need to mention,  running her high-end exclusive whorehouse out in Half Moon Bay at least had some credence since I had staked her to some dough to get started after the downfall of the 1960s sent her back to her real world, the world of a high class hooker who was slumming with “hippies” for a while when it looked like our dreams were going to be deterred in in the ebbtide. We had been hot and heavy lovers, although never married except on some hazed drug-fogged concert night when I think Josh Breslin “married” us and sent us on a “honeymoon” with a fistful of cocaine. Down on dough I hit her up for some which she gave gladly, said it was interest on the “loan: she never repaid and let me stay at her place for a while until I had to move on. Done
The whole drag queen idea tells me that whoever started this damn lie knew nothing about my growing up days and had either seen me in The Totem, Timmy Riley’s aka Miss Judy Garland’s drinking with a few drag queen who worked and drew the wrong conclusions or was out to slander and libel me for some other nefarious reason. See Miss Judy Garland is the very successful drag queen and gay man Timmy Riley from the old neighborhood who fled to Frisco when he could no longer hide his sexual identity and preferences. To our great shock since Timmy had been the out-front gay-basher of our crowd, our working-class corner boy gay-bashing crowd. I had lent, after getting religion rather late on the LGBTQ question, Timmy the money to buy his first drag queen cabaret on Bay Street and Timmy was kind enough to stake me to some money and a roof before I decided I had to head back East. Done.
But enough about me.  This is about two other working- class guys, Sam Eaton and Ralph Morris, met along life’s road one from Carver about fifty miles away from where Seth, Sam, Timmy and a bunch of other guys grew up and learned the “normal” working-class ethos-and broke, tentatively at times, from that same straitjacket and from Troy, New York. Funny Troy, Carver, North Adamsville, and Josh’s old mill town Olde Saco all down-in-the-mouth working class towns still produced in exceptional times a clot of guys who got caught up in the turmoil of their times-and lived to tell the tale. I am proud to introduce this encore presentation and will have plenty more to say about Sam and Ralph in future segments.]

Allan Jackson Encore Introduction
Sadly I have nothing to add to Sam Eaton’s great take not only on the 4th of Julys of his recent experiences except that we must update number of years in Afghanistan and Iraq and add Syria, Yemen and a few other places to the drumroll of the American military around the world, Yes, sad and frustrating still.    

A Real Independence Day Walk Through The Streets- A Tale Of Two Parades

From The Pen Of Sam Eaton
Yeah, the streets of the small towns and big cities of this nation were resplendent with red white and blue bunting, the kids filled to the brim with soda, candy and hot dogs and adults coyly sipping their store bought wines and beers in red plastic containers (or at least that seemed the color of choice from a brief but telling visual unscientific poll) as happens every hot summer July Independence Day, the Fourth to short-haul the name of the event I am talking about. As a nice summer holiday nobody, including me, has any quarrel, especially getting the school-stormed kids out of doors and reddened from their prison pallor earned the previous past nine months.
Well, maybe some out there in the hinterlands have a quarrel with celebrating the Fourth as a freedom day after my reading of an archival piece from a re-tweeted blog that my long-time friend and political activist comrade, Ralph Morris (more about him later), send along to me. He had received it via the Internet from our mutual friend living in New York City, Fritz Jasper, a guy who refused to serve in Vietnam after he had been inducted into the Army and his number was called to do 11 Bravo duty (infantryman, grunt, cannon fodder, take your pick) back in the day and did a serious year or more in an Army stockade for his troubles before some smart and savvy civilian lawyer who knew the military law inside out got him sprung on a habeas corpus petition in federal court or he might still be on in the wheat fields of Kansas at Fort Leavenworth along with the heroic Wiki-leaks whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning. [Sentenced commuted in 2017 by President Obama before he left office under his pardoning powers.]  
The gist of the article and that is all I want to do is give the gist since this sketch is about other matters, although 4th of July connected, was penned by a NYU professor who Fritz knows and let’s write on his blog, American Politics Today. The good professor’s argument was that due to the way this country got its freedom from old Mother England as a result of a straight up military victory and the kind of society that was formed afterwards based on the enslavement of black people and later the extermination of Native peoples (although a lot was done well before that “later” to those “collateral damage” peoples) we should be more circumspect about celebrating the event. Unlike say the English, French or Russian revolutions which were hell-bound flat-out social revolutions whatever happened later on to rein them in.
And the good professor from NYU, Jack Kirby I think his name was who has written several books and monograms along that same line, might have a very good point (and Fritz too who agreed with that part of Kirby’s analysis about being circumspect all things considered but disagreed with the “not celebrating” part since he sees it as a legitimate part of the struggle from human freedom even if today we would recoil from what that experience has produced. More on this in a minute when Ralph and I weight in). But what interests today me as an old anti-war campaigner (make that a full-time anti-war campaigner against the now endless wars of the American imperium and other misadventures as well) since the early 1970s after I got “religion” as I like to call it on the issues of war and peace is being able to use the day, and more importantly the thousands of locally organized parades or other commemorations, to get our anti-war message out.
The “got religion” part about war came after some soul-searching when I learned that my best friend, Jeff Mullins, from Carver High was blown away in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1969.  Jeff had sent me a bunch of letters telling me of the horrors of the situation, his desperation in trying to right it, and his total disgust with the ugly abuse that the American government was putting its soldiers, the people of Vietnam (and elsewhere in Southeast Asia as it turns out), and virtually everything it touched a few months before he was killed to tell one and all that the war was totally crazy, totally “off the wall” as he called it. (I was a little sheepish at first since through the vagaries of life I wound up with a military deferment due to being the sole support for my mother and four much younger sisters after my drunken sot of a father passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack in 1965. But I got over that when somebody said the message “from the grave,” Jeff’s grave I had to bring to the table squared things.)
The hard fact is that in the year 2015 despite almost fourteen years of endless war from that first bombing raids on Kabul by Bush II in the aftermath of the horrendous unspeakable criminal actions in New York on 9/11 until the latest (Spring, 2015) announced Obama third wave, or is it fourth,  “creeping troop escalation” in Iraq the streets of America have been abandoned as a way to get our message out by those who previously knew (if only for a minute in the later part of  2002 and early 2003) that you need to get the anti-war message out via the streets, raise hell about the situation, since the media has blocked any coverage out otherwise as yesterday’s news.
So the 4th of July is an excellent place to bring the message home to a war-weary (and wary) people without an “in your face” confrontation. (How are you going to, on either side, get red-faced angry when soda-hot dog-candy filled kids and ordinary everyday citizens out to get some well-deserved time off and have a few red cup brews are looking your way with not unkindly feelings.)  Now, full disclosure, Ralph Morris as a Vietnam veteran like the fallen Jeff Mullins (and not Vietnam-era either since he served eighteen months “in-country” as he calls it) and I who have worked with him since we “met” at the RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on May Day 1971 are both members of an organization dedicated to the principle of peace, Veterans For Peace (VFP), and have been for a number of years (he as a full member and I as an associate since I am not a veteran, a least a war veteran although Ralph always says that I am a “veteran” in his book since being peace veterans is really what is important about what we have, or have not, done with our lives).
VFP likes to, maybe lives to, use any reasonable occasion to get the peace message out. So these days events like 4th of July parades, Memorial Day Peace remembrances, ditto Veterans Day/Armistice Day (the real and original reason for the holiday going back to end of World War I times), Saint Patrick’s Day in Boston, Gay Pride parades, you name it you are very likely to find the white flags with the black-outlined doves of peace embossed on them fluttering in the wind at some such occasion. And this Fourth of July was no exception. Ralph who lives in Troy, New York when we are not off somewhere spreading as best we can these days the good news of peace came to Boston and joined the local VFP chapter, the Smedley Butler Brigade (named in honor of the famous much decorated Marine Corps general who coined the phrase “war is a racket” in a speech you can read if you Google his name or go to Wikipedia). We marched on the evening of July 3rd in the annual parade in historic Gloucester (of the famed fishermen going down to the sea, those battling our home land the sea for its bounty) and in the adjacent town of Rockport the next evening.
Late on 4th of July evening after having walked our legs off the previous two early evenings we headed to Johnny’s Olde Wagon Wheel Diner over on Thornton Street (Rockport) for a meal (Johnny’s providing the best meatloaf dinner around and both Ralph and I in our hitchhiking days in the early 1970s either on our own or through the kindness of friendly truckers know many, many diners to compare the bills of fare on that subject and that accolade is thus deserved) and a few drinks of high-shelf whisky (although our favorite watering hole for that purpose when Ralph is in Boston is Jack’s Grille down by the Financial District in the downtown area but that place that day would be a zoo with the huge crowds that attend the well-known concert on the Esplanade and fireworks after) in order to “evaluate” what our takes on the two events were.
Now you have to know a little something about VFP’s past participation in these Fourth of July parades in Gloucester and Rockport. VFP started about twenty years to participate in the two parades via the efforts of VFP members in both towns to get us in (at the barbeque this year before the Rockport parade that fact was honored with a short speech and, well, a cake). The first few years in the second Clinton administration were rocky since a key component to any of this American spirit holidays are groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion posts who put a lock on patriotism of a certain kind, mainly of the unthinking or wrong-thinking “my country, right or wrong” kind, and that is that. Moreover the other key organizers for such events are the town police and fire departments whose memberships overlap with the veterans’ groups many times. Those combinations are used to organizing such events and normally set the agenda. So the first few years were tough with the local organizers taking a stance out of the playbook of the Allied War Council (AWC) in Boston which for five years now has excluded VFP from its Saint Patrick’s Day parade held over in South Boston in March of each year under the rubric, as one AWC-er put it-“we don’t want the words “veterans” and “peace” put together in our (private) parade. Small towns and cities are however under pressure, or if not should be, to see that the whole community is represented and so VFP found a spot in each parade. Of course another hard pressed time was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when even Ralph and I were afraid to go on the streets with the peace message at a time when the average citizen who generally is indifferent to our presence had daggers in their eyes at the sight of peace signs or symbols (although we did, we did go out among the hostile populace, at least in Boston that year, but with the most trepidation that either of us had faced in our long anti-war careers) and then with the war drums beating in the lead-up to the so-called slam-dunk 2003 Iraq War.
But each year since as the endless wars have continued to meander their endless sun-less rivers the patriotic bounce has stopped driving sneers, ugly remarks, old-time out of touch anti-commie slurs and the like that every protestor from neophyte to veteran knows is at least hidden in some quarters when you work “street” politics. Both Ralph and I made that same observation this year (as well as our traditional one about how those old yellow ribbons festooned on the back bumpers of cars and trucks have faded to pale white). That absence of malice rather than the notable increased cheering as the VFP contingent of white flag dove of peace –embossed limply-walking older wars veterans, jauntily-walking younger Afghan and Iraq war veterans and assorted peace group supporters approached their vantage points is the most striking difference over the years. We both noted in Rockport there was plenty of genuine cheering to overthrow any uncivil remarks (although one guy, an old duffer who looked like he might have been a mess sergeant in 1958, told us to “go back to Moscow” and another in that same old duffer category to “just stay at home” apparently to not offend his starry eyes. Jesus, where have these guys been since about 1991.)
Here is our dilemma though, and not just Ralph, mine or VFP’s but for any “peaceniks” working the streets these days. We could palpably see the war-weariness in the remarks headed our way, especially in Gloucester an old working-class town that has provided more than its share of soldiers and sailors as the city memorials, especially the latter, to the fallen of that place readily testifies, those remarks made from many a flatbed working man’s truck that dotted the route of the parade. Trucks, more than either of us thought existed in a town that size (and missing for the most part from the more upscale Rockport parade with its average Audi or BMW) complete with whole families in the bed taking in the sights, having a little something to eat or drink, and probably trying to figure out how to calm down the sugar-laden kids before bedtime after such a hectic day of sights and sounds.
Here is where Ralph and I have racked our brains in sullen frustration-how do you turn that obvious war-weariness into some kind of protest movement beyond the kind words and rousing applause sent our way on parade days. We did not solve that dilemma that night maybe because we were tired, maybe we were too sated from Johnny’s meatloaf, maybe a few too many high-shelf whiskeys or maybe like the kids too many sights and sounds. All I know is that we will be back next year, hopefully with more people joining our efforts to spread the good words of peace around. You can bet on that.                                                            
[Oops, before I forget since whenever I mention how Ralph and I met down in D.C. on May Day 1971 people want to know how that happened in a professional football stadium in May when the football season is long past. Ralph wrote up his version in 2011 and I added a few pithy comments (his term) for that American Politics Today our friend Fritz runs for the fortieth anniversary of the event. I will give a short wrap-up here to show why we have been amigos since that strange day in May. You already know my reasons for turning anti-war but Ralph’s came like Jeff’s from actual hard rock service in that benighted country. In short as Ralph says when he is giving talks- “he grew disenchanted with what he had to do as a soldier (as an 11 Bravo cannon-fodder like Jeff), what his Army buddies getting blown away and mangled had to do, and what the damn American government was making of them-nothing but animals (always said with a sneer). So when he got out in late 1969, early 1970 he wound up working with a predecessor of VFP, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). By 1971 with no end of the war in sight a lot of us, radicals, frustrated liberals, ex-G.I.s upped the ante- decided to as the slogan went-“if the government would not shut down the war, we would shut down the government.”
As thousands descended on Washington including Ralph with New York VVAW and me then living in Cambridge with some radicals I knew we really thought we had enough to change history. For that illusion many of us, Ralph and me among them, wound upon the football field at RFK being used that May as a holding area for those arrested. He noticed I was wearing a VVAW supporter button in honor of Jeff and that started our friendship. If you need more info on that day just check Wikipedia because I have to move on.