Friday, June 13, 2008

Full Citizen Rights For Immigrants- Amnesty Now!


If one remembers back only two years ago to May Day 2006 when there were massive protests led by Hispanics in the West, the Southwest and elsewhere over the question of immigrant rights then one would have thought that we would have some justice on this question by now. That has clearly not been the case and mainstream politicians have fallen all over themselves to distance themselves from the mere thought of justice for such people (who moreover either do not or cannot vote, a mortal sin for any politician). There are political reasons for this, including the conscious policies of Hispanic politicians, and others who represent immigrant constituencies to not rock the boat in this august presidential year. This year the protests were rather muted and, in any case, were placed on the back burner by the overwhelming capacity of the current presidential political campaigns to suck all the political oxygen out of the air.

More ominously, since 2006 there have been any numbers of la Migra (immigration service) raids on factories in the Midwest and the South, including one this spring which netted over 400 immigrants at a meat processing plant and that nearly decimated the life of one town. The only rationale for such governmental actions is to tell those who are here illegally (and some who are here legally but want to in the age old tradition of America get 'uppity"- that is, defend their rights) that it is hunting season and they are the targets. Moreover, such actions graphically tell immigrants not to organize themselves for collective protection in such things as trade unions- or you will wind up back from where you came, one way.

There are a whole lot of issues that need to be resolved on the immigration question but no one, and I mean no one in mainstream politics is proposing any just solution to the question. All one hears about there days the need for more deportations, more walls and more cops. Oh, I forgot this gem- also a return to some form of indenture servitude straight out of the 18th century, as well, if some of the proposed legislation in Congress goes through. What this all tells me is that today militants should be proposing a general amnesty for all immigrants, legal or illegal, who have made it here. If anyone, including one Barack Obama whose life profile includes recent immigrant experiences, should in the great by and by propose such a scheme then we will support it. In the meantime the fight is clear- Full citizenship rights for all who make it here. We will worry about the green cards later.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hands Off The Mormons!


I thought I was done talking about Mormons for a while after the demise of Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign, but apparently not. At that time I spent not a few words on Mr. Romney’s family history, including an admiring comment on the executive ability of his great-grandfather in presiding over a household with five wives. I mentioned at the time that, in the old days, I had my hands full when I has more than one girlfriend. I also have in the past expressed an interest in Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), not for his finding golden tablets, or whatever, out in the wilds of upstate New York in the 1820's but as a Free-Soiler (anti-slavery advocate) and presidential candidate in the mid-1840’s before his murder by the rabble in Illinois. Today, though I have to speak of more serious issues, even though belatedly.

We have all become painfully aware over the past several weeks of the plight of several hundred women (mostly mothers) and children of the separatist Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints as they were hounded and rounded up by a phalanx of Texas legal and social service authorities over some sexual abuse that was allegedly going on at their rural ranch. This sect, which has no direct relationship to Mitt Romney’s mainstream LDS’ers, holds the practice of polygamy as one of their central tenets, a tenet given up by the mainstream Mormons in 1890. Since that roundup which eventually scattered the children all over the state in foster homes and state institutions, a series of Texas court actions, including a successful appeal to the Texas Appeals Court, the state’s highest court, has finally gotten the children back with their kin. There are, however, still rumblings by the state authorities about their self-ordained right to carry out such invasions at will.

But here is the real issue for socialists and just plain civil libertarian types. Why was this sect being so readily prosecuted by the state on what, at best, were flimsy and unsubstantiated charges that proved to be laughable in court? As distant as I am from the beliefs of this seemingly harmless, reclusive and isolated sect and as distant as I am from either wanting to have several wives or being one of several husbands of a woman (polyandry) for that matter, I find it that it is necessary to defend these fundamentalist Mormons against the ravages to their personal lives by the state actions. As long as the question of effective consent is given, the only real criteria that should govern such relationships, it is nobody’s business, especially the state’s what social relationships people enter into. For all those shocked by the notion of so-called "child brides" look to the history of marriage regulation or for that matter the common law of your locale (if in a common law state).

I think that the way that the state of Texas has handled this matter has outraged more people than normally would be the case, unlike the Waco governmental invasion under Bill Clinton, and that is to the good. As the old adage goes- if they can get away with carting off the helpless and reclusive then what about the rights of rest of us- is fully operational here. But this episode should also make us aware, very aware, of why we leftists support the slogan- Government out of the bedrooms! Hands Off The Mormons! And Keep Them Off!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

*Free The Cuban Five Update-In Defense Of The Cuban Revolution

Click on title to link to National Committee To Free The Cuban Five Committee web site for the latest political and legal updates.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sentences of the Five last week (the week of June 1, 2008). As the legendary comic and social commentator Lenny Bruce, no stranger to the American 'justice' system himself, once said- "In the halls of justice, the only justice in the hall". I might only add here, class justice cannot even be found in the halls in this case. Go to the link listed on the right of this page for more details. Remember the defense of the Cuban Five is the concrete manifestation of the defense of the Cuban Revolution. Venceramos! Free The Cuban Five-Ahora!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

*Defend the Evergreen State College (Washington ) 6 !

Click on the title to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.

Markin comment:

This information is passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee. I would note that this is an important student struggle for today at a time when many campuses are very, very quiet. Moreover, the question of suspending leftist student political organizations whatever their political shortcomings is a very serious problems that labor militants must add their voices in protest against. I could not link to the site listed but if you Google the Evergreen 6 Legal Defense Fund you can get information and make a donation.

Defend Activists at Evergreen State College

In "Drop Charges Against Evergreen 6! Reinstate Olympia SDS!" (WVNo. 914, 9 May), we reported that six concertgoers face frame-up charges fol¬lowing the cop riot at a February 14 Dead Prez concert at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Outrageously, as part of this ongoing witchhunt, charges of malicious mischief—a felony—and riot have been filed against three more people, Justin Killing,Kelly Primeaux and Christina Shimizu. The Spartacus Youth Club demands: Drop the charges now! Hands off the concertgoers!

Following the February cop riot, the Olympia branch of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was suspended by the Evergreen State College administration in an act of political censorship. Supporters of SDS have been occupying Evergreen's Seminar I building since May 21, demanding SDS's reinstatement and calling to "build a movement for student power." Cops targeting the protesters have arrested one supporter of SDS, Shyam Khanna, who faces charges of assault and riot for allegedly spitting on a cop at the Olympia May Day demonstration. Six others also face charges following the May Day protest. We say: Drop the charges now! The SYC protests SDS's suspension and defends those occupying the building against any reprisals from the administration or police. At the same time, as revolutionary Marxists, we understand that students do not have the power to fundamentally change society. We seek to win the best radical students over to the side of the working class, which uniquely has both the social power and the objective interest to overthrow the capitalist system and organize society according to human need.

Donations to Evergreen 6 Legal Defense should be made through their PayPal account, accessible from the Evergreen 6 Legal Defense Web site at The address advertised in our last article is no longer in use.

*The Sounds of the 4th of July- From Childhood Times, Circa 1956

Click on the headline to link to a 1950s nostalgia website placed here to give a flavor to the entry below, and only for that purpose.

This is another in that line of questions being asked by my Class of 1964 class committee. I am being nice here and just taking a little trip down memory lane for the old gang.

No, today I will not mention the tattoo of marching drums. Nor will I go on and on about the finale of the Overture of 1812. And I will most assuredly not describe the seemingly supersonic fireworks that boom over the nighttime skyline of Boston. Today I want to go back the quieter streets around Welcome Young Field in the (one-horse) Atlantic section of North Quincy on the Independence Days of my youth.

Probably, like in your neighborhood in the old days, the local older guys and fathers would put together a kitty, collect contributions and seek donations from local merchants to put together a little ‘time’ for the kids on the 4th of July. The details of the organization of this extravaganza are beyond my knowledge but I can surely speak to the results. As these things go it was pretty straight forward, you know; foot races of varying lengths for various age groups, baby contests, some sort of parade, pony rides and so forth. But that is only the frame. Here is the real story of the day. Here is what any self-respecting kid lived and died for that day.

Tonic (you know, soda, pop) and ice cream. And not just one tonic or one ice cream but as much as you could hoard. Twice during the day (I think maybe about 10AM and 1PM) there would be what one can only describe as a free-for-all as we all scrambled to get as many bottles of tonic (you know, soda) and cups of ice cream as we could handle. But here is the secret to the success of my brothers and me in grabbing much more than our fair share of the bounty. Grandma lived right on the corner of Welcome Young Field on Young Street. So, we would sprint with one load of goods over to her house and then go back for more until we filled up the back refrigerator.

Boy, that was work as we panted away, bottles clanking in our pockets. But then, work completed, we could savor our one tonic and one ice cream cup that we showed for public consumption. There were other sounds of the day beyond the cheering, the panting and the hee-haws of the ponies. As the sun went day it went down to the strains of some local pick up band of the era in the tennis court as the dancing started. But that was adult time. Our time was to think about our day 's work, our hoard and the next day’s tonic and ice cream. Ah…

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

*From "Workers Vanguard"- Mormon Polygamists- Leave Them Alone!

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Mormon polygamists.

Workers Vanguard No. 916
6 June 2008

Mormon Polygamists—Leave Them Alone!

On April 3, heavily armed Texas Rangers, police agencies from six counties, the state highway patrol and wildlife officers stormed into a polygamous Mormon community in Eldorado, Texas. A phone call was the pretext for this massive raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a long-established split-off from the mainstream Mormons. Authorities now admit this call by a woman claiming sexual abuse at the ranch was probably a hoax. Over the next seven days, more than 500 children and women were kidnapped in a state onslaught of “collective punishment.”

At least 465 of those kidnapped were under age 18 and were seized by Child Protective Services (CPS). Thirty-one women were pregnant when arrested; two have given birth while in state custody. Several of the “children” in custody are actually mothers who have had their own infants seized. All the parents were separated from their children, many sent hundreds of miles away, while the state conducted humiliating DNA tests to determine parents’ “legitimacy” to visit their children. The outrageous treatment of the Mormon families is the real abuse perpetrated here! It was so bad that even the Texas Supreme Court on May 29 upheld a prior appeals court ruling that the state had no right to seize the children. As we go to press, most of those seized are being returned to their parents.

We Marxists have a longstanding position in defense of polygamous Mormons against state persecution. We stated in “For the Right of Gay Marriage…and Divorce! Marriage and the Capitalist State” (WV No. 824, 16 April 2004): “We believe the Mormons have the right to be left alone, to practice their religion and live their private lives however they see fit. Our position for the right of gay marriage, like the right of Mormons to practice polygamy, stems from our opposition to government interference with the rights of individuals to effect whatever consensual arrangements they wish.” Leave the Mormon polygamists alone!

The raid and the mass kidnapping have sparked outrage, not least in Mormon strongholds such as Salt Lake City, where 50 protested on April 24 outside an NBA playoff game between the Rockets and Jazz. As FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said, “I think every American needs to be very fearful of what Child Protective Services is doing in Texas.” Mental health workers at emergency shelters for the women and children expressed anger toward the state’s child welfare agency for removing the children from their mothers and for the conditions in the shelters, which were so poor that upper respiratory infections and chicken pox spread rapidly. One of the workers said it was a deliberate form of coercion: “The more uncomfortable they were the more CPS thought they would talk.” The entire mental health staff was fired the second week, accused by the authorities of being “too compassionate” (Houston Chronicle, 10 May).

The spiritual leader of the FLDS, Warren Jeffs, is in prison, charged with “rape as an accomplice” for performing a marriage—“rape” because the young woman, who was 14, was underage and the groom was her 19-year-old cousin. In “Feds Hands Off Mormon Fundamentalists!” (WV No. 871, 26 May 2006), we defended Jeffs against the government’s witchhunt before his capture, denouncing the anti-sex hysteria and hypocrisy of the authorities and noting that such early marriages were commonplace only decades ago. New Hampshire, for example, still allows 13-year-old girls to marry with parental consent. In some European countries, the age of consent is 14 years, while in quite a few U.S. states first cousins can legally marry.

The state uses reactionary “age of consent” laws to oppress youth—who are supposed to go against nature and be “sexless,” especially if they’re female—and expand its own powers of repression. We oppose “age of consent,” “squeal rules” and “statutory rape” laws, which strengthen the repressive reach of the state, as well as serving as a diversion from the real brutality of this sick capitalist society. We uphold effective consent as the only guiding principle in sexual relations—i.e., mutual agreement and understanding, as opposed to coercion. As long as those who take part agree to do so at the time, no one, least of all the state, has the right to tell them they can’t do it. Rape and violent abuse are terrible crimes that occur throughout society and in monogamous as well as polygamous families. But the prosecution of Mormons for polygamy can only force possible victims to retreat further underground in legitimate fear of the authorities.

The question of polygamy has a long history in the U.S., and was central to the development of Mormonism in the 19th century. When in 1890 the Mormons officially renounced the practice, preparatory to getting Utah recognized as a U.S. state in 1896, significant breakaway factions continued polygamy, one calling themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Today, an estimated 10,000 FLDS followers live in communities concentrated along the Utah-Arizona border and nearby states. Their presence in Texas dates only from 2003, and the Texas state authorities have been extremely aggressive in their attempts to banish them.

President Abraham Lincoln, though he later signed a bill outlawing plural marriages, made an early statement to a Mormon journalist regarding the Mormons, a model of good sense and tolerance that the rulers of this decaying capitalist society have long since abandoned. When he was a boy on the farm, he said, “Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”

The Family and Organized Religion: Props of Brutal Bourgeois Rule

With revolting hypocrisy, America’s rulers are flexing their muscles against a tiny community in rural Texas while hailing one of the most anti-woman and feudalist forces in the world, the Dalai Lama and the deposed pro-slavery Tibetan “Lamaocracy.” Before the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came to Tibet, it was a hellhole for poor peasants and women, who slaved like oxen as the ruling monks meditated in the temples. In pre-1950s Tibet, polygamy was the norm and intrinsic to the enslavement of women. Its corollary was polyandry among poorer males, who had to share a wife with other men (often brothers) because they could not afford wives themselves. The PLA’s extension to Tibet of the gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, which overthrew capitalist rule in China, broke the lamas’ power and lifted the region from feudal darkness, a leap of several centuries in human development (see “Defend Chinese Deformed Workers State! Counterrevolutionary Riots in Tibet,” WV No. 911, 28 March).

Whereas American Mormons essentially choose their practice, in many regions of the world the legacy of precapitalist social backwardness means that women are held to be little more than property, requiring struggle by communists to abolish institutionalized polygamy, as well as the bride price, female genital mutilation and other such practices. In countries of belated capitalist development, social backwardness is reinforced and manipulated by imperialist domination. For example, the U.S. imperialists prop up reactionary client states like impoverished Afghanistan and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, countries where women are forcibly veiled head-to-toe and denied virtually any rights.

In the United States, the government wields its hypocritical “save the children” card to more thoroughly target those it deems “deviant,” including the Eldorado community. The lie of government concern for mothers and children is worn threadbare, as both Democrats and Republicans have slashed welfare and social programs over the past decades, with a huge toll in malnutrition, disease and death. “Abstinence” programs for teens have only enforced sexual ignorance—and resulted in a recent increase in STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). The reality for many poor and working-class Americans, especially single black mothers, is Child Protective Services hounding them and ripping away their children for “neglect” or “abuse,” often because they don’t have anyone to leave their kids with while they go to work.

Certainly the family is a cesspool of frustration, coercion and abuse—whether the bourgeois “one man on one woman for life” model or that of the Mormon polygamists. But it is almost universally far, far worse to fall into the clutches of this barbaric and brutal government’s institutions. Youth who try to escape their families have nowhere to go—and often end up imprisoned in detention centers where they are more likely to be beaten and raped than “rehabilitated.” We fight for free, 24-hour, quality day-care centers and for safe shelters for youth and teens as well as for free contraceptives and abortion on demand and other quality medical care, and for significantly lowering the “age of adulthood.” These are basic measures to help those most in need escape desperate poverty and the straitjacket of the family, without bringing in the cops and prison system.

Fundamentally, the oppression of women and youth is rooted in the institution of the family, which arose with the advent of private property as the mechanism for passing property from one generation to the next, with the monogamous wife supposedly ensuring the heirs’ paternity. For the masses, the role of the family is to instill respect for authority and to act as a conservatizing force. Together with religion, the institution of the family serves to instill a morality that proscribes anything that deviates from the family ideal—such as premarital and gay sex. It reinforces, as Friedrich Engels put it, “the supremacy of the man over the woman, and the individual family as the economic unit of society” (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State [1884]). Thus, the burden of raising the next generation of workers rests on the family. We wrote in “Free Tom Green! Mormon Polygamists: Leave Them Alone!” (WV No. 764, 14 September 2001):

“The family structure—whether monogamous or polygamous—necessarily oppresses women. However, not everybody understands the source of their oppression, and people do all sorts of things that are undoubtedly bad for them that the state still has no business throwing them in prison for. As Marxists we understand that the family serves a real social purpose and cannot simply be ‘abolished,’ even in a workers state, but must be replaced with alternate social institutions.”

The material basis for women’s liberation can be established only through workers revolutions internationally. In power, the working class would abolish the capitalist private property and inheritance system and socialize the current functions of the family—providing communal kitchens, childcare and health care—thus freeing women from the burden of child-rearing and household slavery.

Regarding religion itself—Mormon or otherwise—our attitude is that it is reactionary superstition counterposed to Marxist materialism. We fight to purge religion from public education and government policy. Religion provides moral justification for exploitation and reactionary prejudices. It deflects workers’ struggles into piety and acquiescence to bourgeois power. But religious beliefs cannot be “abolished” by government decree; they will only wither away when material want is overcome and the oppressed masses no longer feel the need to resort to the supernatural to provide for what is, in capitalist society, unattainable—the hope for a better life, which for billions of people today can only be dreamt of in “heavenly” fantasies.

Persecution by the bourgeois state of religious practices targets smaller, fringe sects or oppressed minorities, reinforcing the moral authority of “mainstream” religions and, more importantly, the bourgeois state itself. We demand the complete separation of church and state, as we seek to relegate religion to the confines of personal belief, and oppose state persecution of religious beliefs. Just as we defend the Church of Scientology against state repression in Germany, we defend the Fundamentalist Mormons, who are being targeted for practices that are nobody’s business but their own.

Given the anti-sex hysteria and ignorance it promulgates, the bourgeois state finds it easy to justify the most barbaric of penalties and intrusions into people’s private lives under the guise of protecting children from sexual abuse. America’s rulers are not interested in protecting children; they are the main oppressors and killers of children, from the black and Latino youth gunned down by cops in the ghettos to the hundreds of thousands of children killed in the predatory wars waged by the American imperialists around the world.

The Eldorado raid is frighteningly reminiscent of the Waco massacre in 1993, when Democratic president Bill Clinton and his attorney general Janet Reno’s thugs ended a three-month siege of the racially integrated Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, by burning alive 86 men, women and children. The guise was alleged “child abuse.” And we do not forget the MOVE massacre in 1985, when the Philadelphia police, led by black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode, and the federal government conspired to firebomb the mainly black back-to-nature MOVE commune, killing eleven people, including five children, and destroying an entire black neighborhood. The Waco and MOVE massacres loom as a reminder of how far the bloody American bourgeois state will go.

While the Eldorado Mormons may be a peculiar sect, they are not the ones wielding the massive apparatus of death that is the bourgeois state, whether administered by the Republicans or Democrats. Just as women’s liberation requires a socialist revolution that expropriates the capitalist class and lays the foundation for the replacement of the family, so the workers and oppressed of this country cannot liberate themselves without understanding that the bourgeois state, with its cops, judges and prisons, must be smashed and replaced by a workers state

*The Rich Are Different From You and I- A Word From Ernest Hemingway

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of "My Man Godfrey", starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. The Hemingway point is in the post a comment section at the bottom of this entry.


My Man Godfrey, William Powell, Carol Lombard, 1936, black and white

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously is reputed to have said that the very rich are different from you and I. Well, hell we knew that. Nevertheless the premise of this little 1930's class comedy seeks to turn that proposition on its head, at least partially. William Powell as 1930's down and out hobo (although in reality just another scion of a rich family looking to find himself and his place in the world during the Great Depression) is singled out to be a reclamation project (as the family butler, of course) for the Mayfair swells, a society family of crazies.

In the process that family learns some lessons about how the other half lives and about the universal proposition that it is nice to be nice in the world. Especially in need of that lesson is a class conscious, ruling class conscious that is, daughter who is the foil for old Godfrey's antics. Add a little off-hand romance by Powell with a batty younger daughter played by Carol Lombard and all's well that ends well. Except, as I recall during the later part of the 1930's, the period when this 'slice of life' film was produced, there were little things like the Little Steel Strike Massacre, the sit-downs in order to organize the automobile industry in Michigan and myriad other actions to `level the playing field' with the rich. But, my friends, that is another story.

William Powell, although always identified in my mind as the 'society' detective Nick Charles (with his lovely Nora, played by Myrna Loy, and the ever-present Asta)plays it straight here. Carol Lombard is, well, Carol Lombard a fine comedic actress. So suspend your disbelief and take this funny look at the class struggle for what it is worth.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tidings From The "Good" War


Stage Door Canteen, All-star cast, black and white,1943

War propaganda comes in all forms, from harsh gung-ho chauvinist to the melodramatic. This film is in the melodramatic form of a patriotic homage to what is now called in the mass media, at least, the "greatest generation", my parents generation during World War II. Here we have a thin story line about three GI's landing at New York's famous Stage Door Canteen to be feted, wined and dined by the toast of the international entertainment world, including Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Ray Bolger (doing a great dance routine), Gypsy Rose Lee, etc. Plus there is a little off-hand romance between the boys and the off-limits hostesses. But love will out in the end.

The dialogue, is to say the least to the modern ear, stilted. I assume, however, that it got its job done by boosting morale on the home front letting one shed a little tear for the boys going off to fight the enemies of the day. If you wanted to know what moved you in your youth or that of your parents or grandparents- what made you or them laugh, cry, sing and dance- then here is a slice of that for you.

Note:I do not usually comment on technical quality of films but, given war rationing, the film seems, well filmy, and somewhat out of focus.

Friday, May 30, 2008

***Free The Cuban Five- Ahora!-In Defense Of The Cuban Revolution

Click on title to link to the National Committee To Free The Cuban Five web site for updates on this important international case.

The following is being passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee (2008). Please note the link to the National Committee to Free the Five below to find more information about the Cuban Five. As always here is a case where defense of the Cuban revolution begins concretely with the defense of the Five- Ahora!

The Cuban Five have now been incarcerated for almost ten years. Three Cuban citizens and two U.S. citizens who infiltrated and monitored violent anti-communist exile groups in Florida in order to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba, these men were arrested in 1998 under the Clinton administration on bogus charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder, as well as lesser charges like failing to register as agents of a foreign power. After being tried in Miami, a den of counterrevolutionary gusano (worm) activities, Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years; Antonio Guerrero and Ram6n Labanino to life plus ten and 18 years, respectively; Fernando Gonzalez to 19 years; and Rene Gonzalez to 15 years. They are held in federal maximum security prisons, separated by hundreds of miles from loved ones, their lawyers and each other. As Marxists, we demand immediate freedom for the Cuban Five, whose heroic actions were in defense of the Cuban Revolution against U.S. imperialism and its counterrevolutionary agents.

From the CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, to the repeated attempts on Fidel Castro's life, to the ongoing starvation embargo, the U.S. imperialists, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, have never ceased in their drive to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. In 2002, Ana Belen Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency officer, was sentenced to 25 years for passing military information to the Cuban government.

In their drive to restore capitalism in Cuba, the U.S. rulers have trained terrorists like Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who engineered the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people. In the 1990s, as the Cuban government began to promote tourism, gusano groups launched a campaign of bombings that targeted hotels and airport buses in an attempt to cripple the economy. Posada has admitted to masterminding bombings of tourist spots in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian businessman. We say: Send Posada and Bosch back to Cuba to be tried by their victims!

It was in the context of such terrorist activity that gusano activities were being monitored by the Cuban Five, three of whom were veterans of Cuba's military campaign in Angola that in the 1970s and '80s fought the U.S.-sponsored invasion by the South African apartheid regime. In June 1998, the Cuban government shared its intelligence on gusano terrorist activity with the FBI. In September of that year, the FBI arrested the Cubans instead of the CIA's "ex"-employees.

The government built its case on "conspiracy to commit espionage" charges, conspiracy charges being the hallmark of political witchhunts when the government has no evidence that an actual crime has been committed. Months after their arrest, "conspiracy to commit murder" was tacked on to the charges against Gerardo Hernandez in connection with the deaths of four pilots from the Brothers to the Rescue gusano outfit. The latter were shot down by the Cuban air force in 1996 after repeatedly and provocatively flying into Cuban airspace in a brazen challenge to the country's air defenses.

Held in Miami, the trial was engulfed in anti-communist hysteria and intimidation of anyone not toeing the gusano line on Cuba. The judge refused five defense requests for a change of venue. During jury selection, potential jurors asked to be excused, fearing the consequences of rendering an "unsatisfactory" verdict. The impaneled jurors' license plates appeared on nightly news broadcasts. The prosecution claimed that Guerrero, who worked as a janitor at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, had endangered secret U.S. military plans by watching aircraft take off and land in training exercises. As Guerrero's lawyer pointed out, the information he gathered "could've been published in the Miami Herald." So inflamed was the atmosphere that the jury even convicted Hernandez of conspiracy murder charges that the prosecution itself had already concluded would be an "insurmountable hurdle" to prove!

In 2005, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out the 2001 convictions and ordered a new trial in a new venue because of the "pervasive community prejudice" in Miami. The Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales appealed for a rehearing by the full court, which reinstated the convictions in August 2006. Last August, another three-judge panel heard oral arguments in the case that this time focused on the bogus murder and espionage charges and the gross prosecutorial misconduct.

The brutality these five men endure in prison is designed to break them and echoes the treatment of other class-war prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Before their trial even started, the Cuban Five spent 17 months in solitary. Between their convictions in June and their sentencing in December 2001, they spent 48 days in the hole. In 2003 as they worked on their first appeal, they were sent to solitary and denied communication with the outside world, even their lawyers.

Every family visit involves an arduous and arbitrary visa process. Sometimes a relative waits out the precious time they are allotted and never gets to see their loved one. Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez, has been repeatedly denied a visa. Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez, was deported on phony spy charges in 2000.

In combatting the degenerate end-products of a decaying capitalism, the Cuban Five have performed a service not only in defense of Cuba but for working people throughout the hemisphere and around the world. Free the Cuban Five! Defend the Cuban Revolution

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Real Smell Of Success


The Sweet Smell of Success, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, 1957

Apparently screenwriters when characterizing Broadway theater critics refuse to touch them with anything less than a cattle prod. At least that has been my recent film review experience after watching All About Eve and its totally cynical critic Addison played superbly by George Saunders. Here we are confronted with the weasel Broadway critic and man about town J.J played by Burt Lancaster ably assisted by press flak Sydney Falco played to a grovelling tee by Tony Curtis.

The story line is a little thin, mainly concerning J.J.'s overweening concern that his very much younger sister does not wind up with some ne'er do well. The tricks, manipulations, and down right skulduggery hatched up by this pair seem all too real to a modern audience who know that fame is fleeting and one better grab it by the neck, fast. More than a few bargains with the devil have been made for that elusive commodity. The tricks played in this film set in 1950's Broadway, however, seem almost like kids stuff compared to the vicious action today. That, my friends, was something of a `golden age' of gentile skulduggery by comparison.

A note on Tony Curtis who on the face of it seems to have been billed as something of a `pretty' boy in his early career. But then you think about the excellent performance here and in Spartacus and in Some Like It Hot and one, including this reviewer, is compelled to start changing one's opinion of the depth of Mr. Curtis's talent.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In the Time of the Rump Parliament


The Rump Parliament, Blair Worden, Cambridge University Press, 1974

Most historians, especially Marxist historians, have recognized the great English Revolution of the mid-17ht century, a revolution associated with the name of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans as the first great modern revolution. Moreover, this writer would argue that as with all great revolutions the fate of the English Revolution had many lessons to impart to later generations of revolutionaries. Professor Worden’s little book on a specific part of that revolution is filled with such lessons concerning the period that has become known as the rule of the Rump Parliament (1648-53). That is the period from Pride’s Purge (the exclusion by the Army of those parliamentarians who wanted to continue to treat with King Charles I despite his various acts of treachery) until the time of the Barebones Parliament and the personal rule of the Army General-in-Chief Cromwell.

The Rump Parliament, as the derogatory designation implies, has not been treated kindly, at least not before Professor Worden’s book, at the hands of historians. This nevertheless was a period where dear King Charles I lost his head and scared the crowned heads of Europe out of their wits, leaving them ready for armed intervention against the English revolution. Furthermore, this period, despite confusion about what form of executive power to establish, firmly confirmed the rule of parliament supremacy. However, in retrospect it has also been seen as a sluggish period in the revolutionary saga where no serious reforms were implemented; to the relief of many conservatives and the dismay of the radicals- civilian ones like the Levelers and the various religious sects as well as Army ones, especially in the ranks.

Worden does a fine job of analyzing those conflicts and the basis for those claims of sluggishness. In his hands that reputation for sluggishness is exposed to be false as the work done by this body at that time was as good (if that is the correct word in this context) as any 17th English Parliament as far as dealing with the serious questions of religious toleration, land reform, tax reform, political exclusions, army grievances, extension of the political franchise, law reform and finances. Moreover, in the context of that above-mentioned threat of foreign intervention early in this period it held its own against the internal forces that wanted to make a truce with the European powers.

I have argued elsewhere in this space, in reviewing the books of Professors Hill, Underdown and others who have written about this period, that the shadow of the New Model Army hovers over this whole period. Its periodic interventions into the political events of the time are key to understanding how the revolution unfolded, as well as its limitations and its retreats. There is almost no period where this is truer than the rule of the Rump. Pride’s Purge, an army intervention, set the stage for who would govern (and who would not) for the period.

The early period of Rump rule, beset by constant military needs in order to defend the Commonwealth is basically an armed truce between civilian and military forces. In the later period of the Rump’s rule when there are more dramatic clashes between the Army’s needs and attempts to maintain civilian control the balance shifts in the Army’s favor. From that point Army rule is decisive. Some argue that the defeat of the civilian Leveller forces and their army supporters in 1649 was the watershed. I am not so sure now, although certainly the democratic, secular forces represented there were those modern revolutionaries would support.

I believe that there was no question that Army intervention was definitely necessary at the later time (1653). Moreover the New Model Army represented the best of the plebeian classes that fought for and then defended the revolution. It therefore represented the sole force that could consolidate the gains of the revolution. That it could not retain power over the long haul in the face of a conservative counter-revolution is a separate question for another day. For more insights about this period read this little gem of a book.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

*Growing Up Absurd in 1950's Texas- Larry Mc Murtry's "The Last Picture Show"-The Book

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the movie version of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show.


The Last Picture Show, Larry McMurtry, Orion Mass Market Publications, 2000

There has been no shortage of coming of age stories in modern American literature. J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is merely the most famous and probably widely known of the genre. Here Larry McMurtry, the Texas bibliophile, Old West aficionado and pack rat gives us his take on growing up absurd in a faded semi- boom town Texas during the Korean War era in the early 1950's.

Although the locale is different from Catcher in the Rye the issues raised by the teenagers who drive the story and those of their perplexed and clueless parents are the same. And what do those issues entail? Sex, the meaning of existence, sex, what to do on Friday night, sex, what to do on Saturday night, sex- well you get the drift. And those dilemmas of youth and its fight for recognition as presented through the main characters Sonny and Duane are in McMurtry's hands well thought out and, at times, poignant. The attention to detail that McMurtry is noted for is on full display in the interplay between the 'jock' students, the nerds and the 'in' crowd. High school football, the whys and wherefores of the high school classroom and the sheer fight to find one's own identity in this mix all contribute to a very strong trip down memory lane for this reader.

From my own personal experience I know how tough it was to grow up in the 1950's and it is good to see that there are indeed some universal ailments that are common to the 'tribal community' called youth in America. Moreover, read this book because it also has a few things to say about the adults, especially Sonny's lover the older woman and the football coach's wife Ruth, and their dilemmas as well. Damn, McMurtry is singing my song.

The film version of this book strongly evokes visually the points that McMurtry tries to make in the book. It helps that he was the screenwriter in this effort. Fine performances were turned in by the young Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Cybil Sheppard as the object of Sonny and Duane's attentions . Also by Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman, as Sonny's older woman lover.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Battle For Britain?


Foreign Correspondent, Alfred Hitchcock, 1939

This is an early black and white political suspense classic by the master of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock. What makes this film somewhat different from his other later classics like The Birds or Rear Window is its evocation of up front patriotism at a time when Europe was getting set for war in the late 1930's. The Foreign Correspondent Johnny Jones(for an American newspaper, of course) in this case (played by boy next door Joel McCrea) is sent to Europe to get the facts, and nothing but the facts, about what was happening there-namely was war really in the offing or was it merely a European-based imperial ploy.

Along the way he runs into people and organizations (the leader of one played by arch-British gentleman Herbert Marshall) whose sole purpose is to agitate for war -for the benefit of the other (unnamed but we know, right?) side. As McCrea and later a British correspondent (played by George Sanders) dig deeper they figure out the real deal and try to each single-handedly try to crush it.

Of course, along the way there is a little off-hand romance involving McCrea (with Marshall's daughter- the girl next door- Larraine Day) but not to worry `justice' will out in the end. A rather interesting point is that the traitor Marshall in the end finishes up heroically. Well, I guess we have to remember this was still a time when the British Empire, at least formally, held sway in the world so that even scoundrels, as long as they were British scoundrels, had to keep a stiff upper lip and do the right thing for old John Bull. As a thriller this film is interesting. As a political statement it is much too ham-handed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

*Who 'Lost' The Sixties?- The Culture Wars In America Up Close And Personal

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for Students For A Democratic Society (SDS), a central organizational expression of all the theoretical and strategic impulses that made the 1960s "very heaven" and, as well, a fount of confusion in the struggle against American imperialism. For those who are only familiar with the current version of SDS this is your parents' (or grandparents', ouch)SDS. On reflection, those were the days, warts and all.


I recently reviewed a biography of the late social democratic editor of Dissent, Irving Howe (by Professor Gerald Sorin, New York University Press, 2002), in this space. One of the grievous faults that I laid at Professor Howe’s door step was that he and his cohort of “greatest generation” intellectuals, mainly from New York City, had so thoroughly made their peace with bourgeois society that the bulk of the New Left in the 1960’s dismissed their efforts out of hand. Professor Sorin’s biography spent some time on this question and draws the conclusion that Howe and his compatriots were essentially right in their scorn for the confrontational tactics of the New Left. Furthermore, he argues that Howe was correct in his estimation that such New Left efforts would ‘turn people off’ and that a backlash would occur as a result. Thus, the question is posed point blank- who ‘lost’ the Sixties?

I titled my review of Professor Sorin’s biography The Retreat of the “Greatest Generation” Intellectuals for a reason. If nothing else the professor’s narrative of Howe’s political progression (if that is the correct word for such a trajectory) simply confirms that retreat. A quick synopsis of that odyssey is in order here. In the mid-1930’s Howe became an ardent anti-Stalinist socialist drawn to the American Socialist Party in New York City. As elements of that party moved leftward, responding to the labor struggles and general political turmoil of that period, he became a follower of Leon Trotsky. When the international situation heated up and the question of which side of the class divide one was on was unavoidable he slipped out the back door with the anti–Soviet defensist wing of the Trotskyist movement led by Max Shachtman.

Thereafter Howe spent the bulk of the Forties laboring to find a ‘third camp’ in a world that was becoming extremely polarized by the onrushing Cold War. By the early 1950’s he had begun his long-term position of ‘critical support’ to American imperialism. Perhaps out of old sentimental attachments he nevertheless still considered himself a socialist, at least as he understood socialism. The Trotskyist movement had another less kind, but apt, name for his type of politics- “State Department socialism”. Does that profile, and Howe was by no means the worst of the lot in this regard, read as if he was ready to ‘storm heaven’ in the 1960’s? To pose the question is to give the answer.

I have on more than one occasion been at pains to convey the fact that we of the New Left in the 1960’s made every political mistake in the radical/revolutionary handbook. (I have discussed my own political evolution in past entries and will make separate commentary on it in connection with this question in a future entry.) Part of the purpose of this blog site is to discuss and analyze those mistakes. What was not a mistake, because we were under the gun if for no other reason especially those in the black liberation struggle, was bringing our politics out into the street rather than solely relying on the good offices of the imperial state. One would think that those socialists who came of political age in the 1930’s, another great era of extra- parliamentary political struggle, would have taken that lesson as the ABC’s of political organizing.

To buttress my argument here is a graphic case in point. One of the defining issues of the Sixties was the question of the socialist position on the Vietnam War that was raging and tearing up (along with the effects of the black liberation struggle) the fabric of American society. One would think, and here we can use the current apparently never-ending Iraq war as a guidepost, that as an elementary political position that the call for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American forces would be an early driving force behind the anti-war struggle of the times, say in about 1965 when the first mass escalations of troops were occurring. Howe, and not he alone, did not endorse such a slogan until 1968, rather late in the game. Of course, 1968 is one of those defining year in American politics. One of the reasons that it is so is that the North Vietnamese Army and the South Vietnamese Liberation Front also initiated their own version of the immediate, unconditional withdrawal slogan for American troops- it was called the Tet offensive. Frankly, I liked their version better.

Finally, Professor Sorin has favorable comments on Howe’s analysis that the confrontational tactics of the Sixties ‘turned the American people off’. We will put the question of whether socialist politics should be determined by polling the heartbeats of the population at any given moment to one side. We will further let the question of whether Howe’s take on the pulse of the American population was correct. We will even put aside the thorny question of whether, and which, tactics were or were no appropriate on the part of the New Left experience. Professor Howe, in his youth, saw social ills in the 1930’s and did something righteous about it. We of the generation of ‘68 saw social ills and did something righteous about it. There are social ills (mainly the same kind as it turns out) now to be righteously addressed. I think a little more of the Thirties and Sixties spirit is called for. What about you?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Iraq War Budget-Parliamentary Cretinism, Part 37


Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Iraq and Afghanistan!

Okay, let us go by the numbers on the Iraq War budget question again for about the 37th time. On Thursday May 15, 2008, once again the Democratically led (that is with a capital D) House of Representatives put on its periodic display of what has become an embarrassingly familiar scenario. With a little twist this time though to provide gist for the political humorists. The bulk of Democrats, looking to the fall elections, wanted to be put on record as opposing the current Iraq war appropriations. Fair enough. The Republicans, in a fit of pique, decided that they did not like the set-up for various reasons and many of them abstained on the vote. The long and short of the maneuver is that the bill was defeated. Hooray, right? No, no no.

This is just grandstanding for the folks at home. The bill goes to the much more serious Senate next week where the appropriations will pass. Moreover, hovering over all of this, at least until January 20, 2009, and believe me beyond, well beyond that as well, is the presidential veto for any action that limits in any way the executive branch’s authority to wage war anyway it wants to. Thus, we are back to that proverbial square one from five years ago- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal of all American and Allied Troops and Mercenaries. But, I will be damned if these cretins get it yet.

A Legal Victory for Same Sex Marriage in California


Sometimes democratic rights victories come from the streets. Sometimes they come from the picket line. And sometimes, although rarely, they come from .... the courts. Well, these days we cannot be choosy, as we will take our victories, large and small, any way we can get them. That is the import of the 4-3 decision by the California Supreme Court on May 15, 2008 that declares discrimination against same-sex marriage as unconstitutional as a matter of state law. We should cheer, at least for the moment, as an important state court (one that others look to) joins Massachusetts on the East Coast in affirming this elementary democratic right. Of course the blow back has already started, as it appears that an anti-same sex constitutional amendment will be on the state ballot in November trying to deny that right. That is where those above-mentioned streets come into play again. More later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another Side of An Old Militant


Readers of this space over the past year or so have come to know that part of my task at this site is to not only to try to draw the lessons of the history of our struggles for a better world but also to add some personal reflections that highlight these lessons. Without going into detail here (check the archives for the series History and Class Consciousness and Tales From the ‘Hood for those details) that perspective got its start as a result of my returning to the old working class neighborhood where I attended high school.

As part of that trip down memory lane I have been drawn into, by one of my Class of 1964 class officers, what seems to be an endless series of commentaries. I have also run into a few friends from that period, especially my old track mate Bill C. As we have become reacquainted one of the things that we have discussed is why Bill had not been inducted into the school Sports Hall of Fame. Naturally, being an old politico I brought up the idea of starting a campaign around that issue. In order to show that this old militant is not just made up of historical facts and figures and the occasional witty political remark I post some remarks about Bill’s fight here. I also have a little commentary about the some of the responses so far. These commentaries are slightly edited to omit local references.

In the Matter of Bill C. - Runner
Today's Question: Why is the great Class of 1964 cross-country runner and trackman Bill C. not in the school Sports Hall of Fame?

Okay, Okay I am a 'homer' (or to be more contemporary, a 'homeboy') on this question. In the interest of full disclosure the fleet-footed Mr. C. and I have known each other since the mist of time. We go all the way back to being schoolmates at S.H. Elementary School in the old G. housing project. (As did fellow classmate, the lanky linkster, Tom McPartlin. Are there others?). We survived that experience and lived to tell the tale. But enough of that. What I want to discuss today is the fact that this tenuous road warrior's accomplishments, as a cross-country runner and trackman (both indoors and out), have never been truly recognized by the school sports community. (For those who still have their Manet, see page 63 for a youthful photograph of the 'splendid speedster' in full racing regalia.).

And what were those accomplishments? Starting as a wiry, but determined, sophomore Bill began to make his mark as a harrier. Junior year he began to stakeout his claim on the path to Olympus by winning road races on a regular basis. In his senior year Bill broke many cross-country course records, including a very fast time on the storied school course. Moreover, in winter track that senior year Bill was the State Class B 1000-yard champion, pulling out a heart-stopping victory. His anchor of the decisive relay in a duel meet against Somerville's highly touted state sprint champion is the stuff of legends.

Bill also qualified to run with the 'big boys' at the fabled schoolboy National Indoor Championships in Madison Square Garden in New York City. His outdoor track seasons speak for themselves. I will not detain you here with the grandeur of his efforts, for I would be merely repetitive. Needless to say, he was captain of all three teams in his senior year. No one questioned the aptness of those decisions.

Bill and I have just recently gotten reconnected after some thirty years. After finding him, one of the first things that I commented on during one of our 'bull sessions' was that he was really about ten years before his time. In the 1960's runners were 'geeks'. You know -the guys (and then it was mainly guys) who ran in shorts on the roads and mainly got honked at, yelled at and threatened with mayhem by irate motorists. Admit it. That is what you thought then too.

In the 1970's and 1980's runners (of both sexes) became living gods and goddesses to a significant segment of the population. Money, school scholarships, endorsements, you name it. Then you were more than willing to share the road with a runner. Admit that too. You even got out on the road yourselves with your spiffy designer jogging attire and high-tech footwear. You ran the beach, Castle Island, the Charles River, Falmouth, LaJolla, and Golden Gate Park. Wherever. Until the old knees gave out. But that is a story for another day. By then though, Bill had missed his time.

Now there is no question that a legendary football player like Bill Cu. from our Class of 1964 should be, and I assume is, in the Sports Hall of Fame. On many a granite gray autumn afternoon old "Bullwinkle" thrilled us with his gridiron prowess. But on other days, as the sun went down highlighting the brightly-colored falling leaves, did you see that skinny kid running down East Street toward the beach for another five mile jaunt? No, I did not think so. I have now, frankly, run out of my store of sport's spiel in making my case. Know this though; friendship aside, Bill belongs in the Hall. That said, what about making a place in the Hall for the kid with the silky stride who worked his heart out, rain or shine, not only for his own glory but the glory of the school. Add your name to mine. Classmates, let us 'storm heaven' on this one.

Of course we are dealing with an aging population here that, apparently, has plenty of time on its hands and is on the brink of going over the edge so some elements have taken the opportunity to reach out and ‘touch’ someone. Hence the next commentary.

Once again, on Bill C.

What kind of madness have I unleashed? What kinds of monsters have I let loose? Recently, as a simple act of friendship, I wrote a commentary in this space arguing that my old friend and our classmate Bill C. from 1964 should be inducted into the school Sports Hall of Fame (See In the Matter Of Bill C.-Runner). Now my e-mail message center is clogged with requests from every dingbat with some kind of special pleading on his or her mind. A few examples should suffice, although as a matter of conscience (mine) they shall remain nameless.

One request argued for recognition based on finishing 23rd in the Senior Division of the Squantum Fourth of July Fun Run. Well, what of it? Another, arguing for inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, touted her near perfect imitation of Mick Jagger on Gimme Shelter. Please!! A third sought a testimonial from me for an employment opportunity, including a resume that made me truly wonder where she had been all these years. Here is my favorite. A fellow classmate wants me to get in on the ground floor, as a financial backer of course, for his idea of putting the ubiquitous teenage cell phone use and the Internet together. Hello! Jack (oops, I forgot, no names) I believe they call that Sidekick, or some such thing. As so it goes.

Listen up- I hear MySpace and YouTube calling all and sundry such untapped talents. Please leave the Class of 1964 site for serious business. You know, this writer’s musings on the meaning of existence, the lessons of history and the fight against mortality. That said, at the moment that serious business entails getting the gracefully gaited Mr. C. his shot at immortality by induction into the Sports Hall of Fame. Let us keep our eyes on the prize here. Join me in that effort. Enough said.

Friday, May 09, 2008

*From The Pages Of “Workers Vanguard”-For the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!

Click on the headline to link to the article from “Workers Vanguard” described in the title.

Markin comment:

As almost always these historical articles and polemics are purposefully helpful to clarify the issues in the struggle against world imperialism, particularly the “monster” here in America.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

####Electoral Follies- Musings on "Operation Chaos"-The Presidential Campaign of 2008


Periodically I return to edit older blogs for spelling problems, technical glitches and to correct artless prose. Yesterday I was in the throes of such a process when I came upon a blog entitled Musings on Presidential Campaign 2008, dated March 7, 2008. The gist of that commentary, a response to a reader’s question, was to answer why I had reduced the amount of time and energy I had been spending writing on the mind-boggling but essentially trivial American presidential campaign. As described then I have kept on that track pretty faithfully, except I went off the wagon once when there was a tempest in a teapot controversy over the relationship between Obama and ex-Weatherpeople Professors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. That is until I read a little article about the doings of one ex-drug addict (I assume) and drafter dodger (Vietnam) radio ‘talk jock’ Rush Limbaugh and his role in the just concluded Indiana Democratic primary.

In the real world it has not been a good spring. Fighting continues to rage in Baghdad. There are no timetables for troop withdrawals in sight, much less the necessary immediate, unconditional withdrawal that we fight for. The escalating war budgets, despite harmless Democratic parliamentary antics, keep getting funded. Fuel prices have skyrocketed. Previously ample and cheap food staples are starting to give the world economy the feel of Paris or Petrograd in their revolutionary days. Homeowners, their tenants and others are going to the wall during the relentless mortgage foreclosure crisis. And those are the good days. Into this mix comes one Rush Limbaugh who has presented a very simple idea. In order to give his beloved Republican Party at least the semblance of a fighting chance to win the presidency in November he has decided to muddy the waters of the Democratic Party nominating process by having Republicans, in states where it is permissible, vote in those primaries for Senator Hillary Clinton.

Well, nobody that I know, and that includes some very committed liberal Democrats, would have thought much of this sophomoric tactic except that in Indiana on Tuesday May 6, 2008 it is very possible that the tactic worked. At least the Obama campaign is acting like the small Clinton margin of victory was essentially based on this crossover vote. Of course, for the Obama campaign this meant something. It meant, in the coin of the realm of bourgeois politics, that they could not close the deal on the nomination.

But what about those of us outside and to the left of this process? That brings me back to my original point above from that March blog. Don’t look for relief from those quarters. This whole process now is about mudslinging and some antics that we would not accept from twelve year olds. But it also brings me back to the litany of problems that I presented above. If you want to address the real problems of this sorry old world then back away, way away from the Democratic and Republican Parties, their agents, apologists and hangers-on and come over and help us build a workers party we can call our own. Join us.

Monday, May 05, 2008

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Down with the Reactionary Anti-Porn Crusade!

Click on the headline to link to a Website featuring the paintings, nude and non-nude of the great artist, Titian. Close your eyes if you are offended by the nudes. Okay.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1985 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Down with the Reactionary Anti-Porn Crusade!
Granddaughters of Carry Nation in Bed with Jerry Falwell

Reprinted from Young Spartacus No. 123, December 1984/January 1985

MADISON— Formerly a hotbed of campus protest, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's "radical" reputation has given way in large part to smug, "me generation" liberalism. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), scabs on the anti-Vietnam War movement, carry a lot of weight in city and county government. With prudery that suits Madison's Protestant environs, "alternative" lifestylism has been institutionalized. You will live a wholesome life. Some manifestations are just plain silly: Madison was declared a "nuclear-free zone" and sandwiches come with beansprouts whether you order them or not. Some are absolutely infuriating: liquor stores close, at 9:00 p.m. and you can't buy cigarettes anywhere on the huge UW campus.

The latest target for moral uplift of the community is pornography—Penthouse and Playboy have been pulled from the Student Union newsstand on the dubious grounds of "low circulation." DSAer Kathleen Nichols, a Dane County supervisor, is proposing legislation modeled on Andrea Dworkin's Minneapolis ordinance to make pornography a civil rights violation. Material in which "people" are "reduced to body parts," "presented in postures of sexual submission" or "presented as whores by nature" would be outlawed (Badger-Herald, 8 November 1984)! Under this law, you can't consent to buy, sell, photograph or pose for pornographic pictures. As the Badger-Herald commented, "Groups normally in solidarity, such as pseudo-feminists and homosexuals, are at odds. Groups normally in opposition, such as pseudo-feminists and the local fundamentalist ministers, support the ordinance." Talk about obscene!

We print below a slightly edited version of the Spartacus Youth League statement submitted to the Madison Isthmus and UW Daily Cardinal. It appeared in a shortened version in the Isthmus (16 November 1984) while the Cardinal has refused to publish it.

Contrary to prevailing liberal opinion, Madison is part of Reagan's USA, albeit with a twist. Witness the New Right's drive to "clean up America." It's going strong in Madison. There's legislation to ban dirty pictures. On 19 October 1984, demonstrators picketed at a State Street porno store; someone stenciled "Burn Me Down" on the wall—and they mean it. Rampaging fundamentalists? Nope. This particular anti-sex crusade is led by Madison's "alternative" to the Army of God— the "radical" feminists.
Finding Robin Morgan in bed with Jerry Falwell may surprise some who thought feminism had something to do with women's liberation. After all, the '60s feminists posed as right-on revolutionaries. They rejected "male-defined" sex roles, denounced "family values" as scams to keep women isolated, dependent, condemned to domestic servitude. They worried about racism and poor people. But the feminists never opposed the oppressive capitalist system itself: their "program" consists of escapist lifestylism, "consciousness raising," "women's" vegetarian co-ops. That's why the feminist "movement" didn't move. It remained confined to rarefied microcosms like Madison, lily-white and middle-class.

What's left of the "movement" no longer even worries about real human oppression. While the feminists are busy trying to stamp out fishnet stockings and high heels, genuine assaults on women's rights go unanswered. Legalized abortion is seriously threatened; abortion clinics get firebombed, their patients harassed, but you don't hear a peep from the feminists. Then there's the case of Patricia Ridge—a single, black, working mother. Last year her five-year-old son was shot pointblank in her bedroom in a Los Angeles-area housing project by a white cop. The cop got off, but a grand jury tried to charge her with everything from child neglect to Murder Two. The Marxist Spartacist League came to her defense. But the organized feminists did nothing. For them, "women's oppression" equals nude photos: they're blind to real class and race oppression facing working-class and black women.

This "Take Back the Night" crusade is a slice of middle America at its worst—about as progressive as forbidding sex education. It dovetails with the current incitement of every backward, sexist, racist, jingoistic prejudice of American society in preparation for war against the USSR. The Democrats and Republicans have been humming "Onward Christian Soldiers" since Cold War II began under born-again Jimmy Carter; with Reagan the crusade has reached new lows. They both want a "prepared" society with social relations straight out of "Leave It To Beaver." No "extramarital" sex, no porn, no abortion, no gays.

The feminists even share Cold War/Moral Majority terminology (e.g., "Porn is the new terrorism"). And there's a certain ideological congruence. The feminists basically buy the Moral Majority's "me Tarzan, you Jane" view of human sexuality: women are gentle nurturers, children are "innocent" and asexual, while men are sexual aggressors. That's what "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice" boils down to: men are barely controlled rapists—all it takes is a little leg to set 'em off. In that case, why stop with censoring Penthouse? According to Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor of the Feminist Connection, Rubens and Titian can go too: they painted women ravished by swans! (Perhaps when Gaylor leaves the Connection, she can get a job at the Elvehjem Museum chiseling the genitals off classical statues.)

Then there's the touchy question of First Amendment rights. With the exception of the rabid crackpot Andrea Dworkin, most feminists try to squeak past it by making a snooty differentiation between pornography and "erotica." It works like this. "Erotica" is printed on expensive paper with "tasteful" hand-drawn illustrations; "pornography" goes for $2.50, with tacky overexposed photos. As the saying goes, "perversion" is what you aren't into.

As Marxists, the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth League oppose all attempts at puritanical censorship, whether launched by outright reactionaries or feminist ayatollahs. You can't legislate sexuality. We defend the right of consenting individuals in any combination of age, race, sex, in any number, to engage in the sexual activity of their choice—or look at the photos of their choice—without state intervention.

Pornography is not violence: it's fantasy. Rape is a form of violent criminal assault. Among other things, we advocate the repeal of gun control laws: women should have the right to carry arms and use them in self-defense. To argue that "porn is rape" or, like Robin Morgan, that any sex not initiated by a woman is rape, is—aside from being pretty damned presumptuous— to trivialize and confuse the issue. Capitalist society— its forced poverty, rigid family structure, hypocritical straitjacket morality—breeds the poisonous frustrations that explode in violence. The liberation of women requires getting rid of the repressive constraints imposed on women by the nuclear family, thus creating the possibility of new relationships based on social equality—free from compulsion and stultifying "moral" restrictions. In short, women's liberation requires socialist revolution.

While the feminist anti-porn crusaders rely on candlelight vigils, their Reaganite allies have access to systematic state repression and vigilante terror. And Reagan has launched a full-scale attack on democratic rights. Political opposition becomes "terrorism." Cop/ media hysteria about child abuse at daycare centers carries the message that the only safe place for kids is locked up at home with a non-working mom. If your sexual preference doesn't suit Jerry Falwell, you could be locked up for life.

That's no idle threat. The campaign for "decency" has been viciously anti-gay from the start. Vanessa Williams lost her crown not least because those photos were of lesbian sex. Boston-area photographer George Jacobs got 20 years for the "crime" of having consensual sex with his 14-year-old roommate. Jacobs was tested to determine if he was a "sexually dangerous person" and could have been put away in a mental hospital permanently. The cops and press went wild over NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association), an organization for the defense of civil rights of "men and boys involved in consensual sexual and other relationships with each other." NAMBLA members were beaten, framed and sent to psychiatric institutions. And that's nothing compared with the Justice Department's plan to research "behavior modification, chemical treatments, physiological stud¬ies of those suspected of psychosexual dysfunction—as evidenced by...their divorces or homosexuality" (Village Voice, 7 August 1984)!

The reactionary nature of anti-porn legislation masquerading as protection of "civil rights" is spelled out in a new law pending in Suffolk County, New York. The bill is identical to Dworkin's Minneapolis anti-porn law, minus feminist verbiage. It's sponsored by groups like the National Federation for Decency (an actual organization!) explicitly to "wipe out sodomy" and, according-to one supporter, "pornography [that] could cause social decay leading to a possible communist takeover"!

It's not like the feminists can't smell this anti-gay stench; far from it. Kathleen Nichols, lesbian activist member of the "Democratic" Socialists of America, is the Dane County supervisor behind the Madison censorship. This bigot told OUT! magazine that if the ordinance closes adult bookstores where gay men meet, all the better to stop AIDS because "that kind of anonymous sexual congress has resulted in 5500 cases of AIDS" (OUT!, September 1984). For this anti-democratic liberal, male gay sex is a health hazard. This is vile anti-gay bigotry. Do lesbians active in the anti-porn movement believe that once they outlaw everyone else's sexual practices, their own will be protected? They're on mighty thin ice. Check out Khomeini's Iran: no porn there—and they stone homosexuals to death.

Pornography reflects, and only reflects, some human behavior. In this violent, irrational society, those reflections sometimes aren't pretty: but you can't change society by changing its images on a screen. "Positive images" won't materially advance the cause of women's equality any more than those movies with Sidney Poitier as the black neurosurgeon changed the harsh reality of racist oppression. Socialist revolution alone can create the economic basis to replace the nuclear family and liberate women. We don't pretend to know what human relations in socialist society will be like. But we assume that, liberated from the artificial constraints currently imposed on human expression, sexuality under socialism will be more free, more open, more tolerant, more rich and more diverse. May the day come soon.

Carla Norris
for the Spartacus Youth League