Friday, February 01, 2019

When All Hell Broke Out And The Army Half-Mutinied In The Heat Of The Vietnam War-One Generation of ’68 Story On The 50th Anniversary Of His Induction-And Maybe A Cautionary Tale-For The Army

When All Hell Broke Out And The Army Half-Mutinied In The Heat Of The Vietnam War-One Generation of ’68 Story On The 50th Anniversary Of His Induction-And Maybe A Cautionary Tale-For The Army    

By Frank Jackman

Some anniversaries like say the start of the French, American and Russian revolutions are world-historic events and should be given a nod to every five of ten years in a big way complete with updates on where they stand in the up and down of human history. (I remember being somewhat shocked when Zhou-En-Lai  the old Communist foreign minister under Mao who never was on the losing side of a faction fight remarking that the lessons of the French Revolution had not run their course in his time-today either.) Same with specific events related to decisive political events like the establishment (and demise) of the leftist historic Paris Commune of 1871 which gets commemorated in this publication every year hence such awkward designations as 144th and so on. Then there is the purely personal political events commemoration like the one mentioned in the headline to this piece-the also decisive 50th anniversary of my induction into the U.S. Army in January 1969 which in its own way has reverberated unto this day. (Strictly private personal events like birthdays, weddings, and new relationships are found in appropriate places in stories written for this and other publications by me and others some who like myself were “present at the creation” in 1974 when this whole business got started.)

I was, frankly, not going to make any effort to commemorate this personal event since the story has been told several times by various writers here who know what happened, and what by the same token, had happened to them in that unhappy youth time which ravaged this country to the core and we have been fighting a rearguard action ever since for not winning back then when the world was young and we were knee-deep in seeking a newer world.  That cohort of writers among those who I grew up with in the desperately poor Acre section of North Adamsville took different routes than I although we wound up in the same place after the dust was cleared-forevermore hostile to wars, and rumors of war which have plagued our existences since then.

The initial impetus for deciding to “tell all” about that military experience had been oddly in the response by several readers to a recent film review of the 2018 film The Post where I mentioned in passing my own way of opposing the Vietnam War when it counted as did heroic whistle-blower Dan Ellsberg in “leaking” what became The Pentagon Papers  to the public via the major newspapers. The gist of what these readers said is that they were unaware of my experience (a few related their own experiences at the time monotonously familiar) and that I should tell my story on my own hook, as a cautionary tale if nothing else.           

That readership urging would not have been enough though if on an assignment for another publication I had not landed in San Francisco to follow up on that story (and where I am writing this piece). As is not unusual these days San Francisco for me and other old time Acre corner boys like Alex James is flooded with memories of the late Pete Markin, another of the cohort I grew up with, who couldn’t go the distance, who fell down for a lot of reasons including sheer hubris and wound up with a couple of slugs in his head done in not so sunny Sonora, in Mexico when some outlandish drug deal which was going to put him on easy street went very wrong under circumstances which are still shrouded in mystery. Just the way the bastard would have liked it.  I was not thinking so much of Pete’s military service where he was fatefully in more ways than one drafted, also inducted into the U.S. Army about a year before I was but the halcyon days of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he was the first to partake in and dragged the rest of us, most of us I think except Brad Webber, out here to the Western end of the world, to the place where everything goes to the China Seas. 

I won’t go into detail on that 1967 experience, or on what amounted to Markin’s fateful decision to drop out of college to see what was happening out here which in turn led to that induction notice because I have, and others as well, especially when Allan Jackson, also one of the Markinp-dragged crowd was the site manager before being pushed out by the younger writers. The only thing I will say is that Pete was really a prophet when he somehow sensed early in the 1960s when the rest of us were worried about getting a car, getting laid, getting dough all mixed together he kept harping that a new breeze was coming-and then it came. Too bad the silly bastard that we still shed tears over every time we mention his name couldn’t have gotten out of his own way. Yeah, the silly beautiful bastard who has left us here to mourn him fifty years later.

Talking to the guys I am still in touch from back in the Acre as well as the few who write here on occasion, I have been taken aback by how much that whole period of the Vietnam War affected every guy who came of military age. I have mentioned the Acre already and the way the war devastated a lot of us. And not just in the Acre but our generation, our baby-boomer generation, what Sam Lowell was the first in our group to call the Generation of ’68 and that sticks out as the right way to put the matter now with some pride. Most of the stories though from the Acre are like Johnny Blade’s, Sergeant John Richard Rizzo, 1946-1967 whose name is forever on the North Adamsville town hall memorial and down in black granite in Washington. Johnny could hardly wait to get into the Army, wait to get at the commies the government was always talking about who needed some killing and win himself some glory.

Johnny along with the recently departed Jimmy Higgins, who we are still shedding a few tears for our long last youth over, was the “muscle” for our corner boy corner in front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor a valuable asset when trouble was around. Johnny Blade got all he asked for in Vietnam, and then some. Laid his head down, fell down in the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta for no good reason. After I did what I did in the Army which will be described below it took a long time and the intervention of our old corner boy leader Frankie Riley to get Johnny’s parents to even talk to me, to stop disowning and disrespecting me in the neighborhood even after I long ago left the place.  

It is hard even now to overestimate how strong the ethos of the Cold War Red Scare night which gripped the childhoods and neighborhoods of the Generation of ’68 brethren. The Acre and as far as I can tell most neighborhoods in most cities we similarly smitten. We believed in whatever it was our government, mostly when it counted the WWII hero Grandpa Ike, POSTUS during the coldest periods of that freeze. Bought into some murky variation of the need to kill every Red under the bed, to turn in every mommy if she was a commie to keep the Russkies from our humble doors. To keep the satanic beasts from letting us breath the fresh air of so-called democracy and loveless capitalism. Even though we were literally the poorest of the poor with Markin’s family, no, I stand corrected Jimmy Higgin’s family down at the Bottoms section of the Acre near the river at the very bottom in a tiny shack of a house with five brothers and how they moved in the place after a recent visit for his funeral I don’t know.

This in the “golden age of the working man” we hear about now in retrospect, but it never came down to us, no way. Still we believed what we believed about whatever the civics and history books said and whatever our leaders worked out over us. If you don’t believe me ask your parents, grandparents but I hope not great-grandparents what it was like come air raid drill time during the present at the creation nuclear weapons time when we all huddled, worthlessly when you think about it, under desks, trash cans whatever would “protect” us from the blast. Yeah, we had powerful enemies and no quarter was to be given, none asked for either.         

This is the set-up for us, for the corner boys from Tonio’s Pizza Parlor and a million other locations like 125th Street in Harlem, the working-class quarters of Toledo in Ohio, the wide swarths of the barrios of East LA, along the decimated and dishonored Hopi trail of tears out where the states are square. The guys, maybe not the smartest guys or the most well-read but at least not unpatriotic as we knew the term then. When the deal went down, whatever our sympathies, whatever we had intended to do- we went. My case was only slightly more problematic since I had a girlfriend who was adamantly and fervently against the war while I was more lukewarm in my opposition and needed the wake-up call of induction before I figured where I stood. I was in 1968 more interested in the real chance once Lyndon Johnson abandoned the field to get beautiful newer world ruthless Irish Bobby Kennedy elected POSTUS and I could proceed with my childhood dream of being a maker and shaker in the political world, what I would later call bourgeois politics but then my “meal ticket” out of that poverty I knew only too well.        

Things did not work out that way in that endlessly action-packed year where decisions had to be made on the fly or you would get left in the dust.  Sure, when that notice came to take my physical and then the notice to report for induction I had my doubts, had small, very small thoughts of not going like a lot of guys, the draft resisters but I couldn’t quite get there then. Besides, truth be told, where was I to get any support for such a bold step. Not from home, not from the blessed Acre, and not from the now mostly already in the military corner boys who were far from ready to bring down the government if necessary-then. Certainly not in the ethos of the neighborhood with a few guys, including Johnny Blade having already laid down their heads in some godforsaken jungle or rice paddy.

Certainly not in my family filled with veterans including my Marine Corps father having done their duty when called if they hadn’t volunteered out of hand like my father did come Pearl Harbor. It would be many years and much estrangement before my father, and by extension my mother, would finally see for me what I did was right-and honorable even if he, they believed in the war well pass anybody except may Senator Henry Jackson and AF of L-CIO President George Meany. So I went, went one cold winter morning in January very early and dark up to the Boston Army Base for induction.

Inducted and sent not as expected to Fort Dix in New Jersey where all the other corner boys did their basic training but to Fort Jackson down in South Carolina and from there to Fort Gordon in the red clay of Augusta, Georgia home of the Masters golf championship and ex-POSTUS Grandpa Ike’s favorite course, or at least that is where they let him play. That distance from home and some resources would make things harder in the end but let’s back up. Back up to that trip down to Fort Jackson where I stayed for about three days, three days when I realized two things, the obvious one that I had made a mistake by allowing myself to be inducted and there was no way I was going to Vietnam which even then had my name written in blood on it.  

Being in the South being far away from any support system, or advise I went through the basic training and then when I was given AIT as my military career assignment, AIT meaning Advanced Infantry Training down in Alabama I knew the die was cast, that I was up shit’s creek. Guys were being so chewed up and spit out in Vietnam that every AIT guy knew exactly where he was going once the training was completed. Vietnam just then was the only place in need of such services. Fortunately, as I would learn later when I met guys in the stockade, my orders allowed me thirty days leave before reporting to Fort Lewis out in Washington for transport to Vietnam.  Some guys were ordered immediately to Vietnam with not much time to do anything but kiss their asses good-bye, that is what one guy said. He had been sent under guard to Fort Lewis and left there only to go AWOL and a bunch of other stuff once he was released on the base. He went a different route for the same reason and would up as I in the same place-the only virtuous place in the military-the stockade.      
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was somewhat lucky that my number came up in 1969 rather than say 1966, 1967 since the anti-war movement in its radical activist end had expanded from supporting and making counselling available for draft-resisters to include military resisters as the war dragged on with no end in sight despite grand illusion lies by high military commanders that there was some kind of light at the end of the tunnel-and there was when the North Vietnamese pulled the hammer down in, well, 1975 long after what happened to the Acre corner boys happened. Between the citizen soldiers, the rough and tumble eyes at least half opened draftees less and less eager to go to the quagmire as the reports came back to the neighborhood, or as the funeral trains got longer who were being impressed into the military and guys who had come back disillusioned or fucked-up the Army was getting less and less reliable. The anti-war movement began to see that you needed to get to the GIs if the war was going to stop. The government, certainly the Nixon government, was not going to stop the damn thing, not with “peace with honor” their eternal mantra.

That shift helped me personally for when I got back to North Adamsville I immediately contacted the Quakers at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. Well not immediately since I still had enough corner boy in me to check up with whoever was around and have a few drinks to drown my sorrows, and theirs. Also, that pesky anti-war girlfriend turned out to have, and I quote, a new-found respect for me now that I had “gotten religion,” my term, on the war. Was ready to do something and so was very, well very and let’s leave it at that. No, let’s leave it at a variation of the famous photograph of three fetching young women, women dressed for the times with the slogan “girls say yes, to guys who say no-to the draft. So yes, not exactly immediately.)

Funny, being in the heavily student Boston area a hotbed of anti-war sentiment where you could go to an anti-war march, rally or something any day of the week I was not sure where to go, who to see, and my girlfriend while an activist was not sure either. By something like a default I turned to the Quakers since I knew they were historically anti-war and had a vague notion picked up from one of the ubiquitous anti-war posters plastered in Harvard Square that they were offering military counselling to distressed G.I.s., to my situation.       
I do not remember all the details of the first meeting with the counsellor (who was not a Quaker but knew enough about military procedure to be of great service to me and others). Here is the outline of the plan he suggested as to options (“suggested” an important word since other terms might have led to serious legal, and political, repercussions) which should be enough to satisfy those who want to know my military service story. Since I had orders to go to Fort Lewis and wanted to stay in the Boston area to get help and be with connections that mattered, I had to go AWOL, absent without leave, a military crime treated lightly or seriously depending on the length of absence and other factors. Go AWOL for at least thirty days, better given Army bureaucracy, hell, any bureaucracy, in order to be “dropped from the rolls” out in Fort Lewis. Meaning I was essentially a free agent, free for a minute from those orders hanging over me. Then I was to turn myself in for punishment and reassignment. That turning in place by design Fort Devens about forty miles west of Boston and so a good place to work out my plans from.             

After turning myself in I was, beyond whatever paperwork and punishment would accrue from the AWOL charge, to put in paper work for a conscientious objector discharge. That a hard dollar once you were in the military and not based just then on some historic religion training like with Peace Quakers or Mennonites but not impossible. 1969, ,and going forward also turned out to lucky for me since various federal lower court decisions and even an important Supreme Court one which basically set the same standard for military COs as civilian were beginning to force the military to be more serious about such applications. I put in the application although I was too sanguine to expect much since a number of guys who I had met at Devens in the same boat as I were being turned down. As I was, having based my argument on a slight Catholic/ethical axis not what the tight-assed Army standard would regard as a CO. Turned down despite, and this would be important later, being declared by all the line of interrogators to be “sincere” in my beliefs.  That negative result meant I was to prepare myself for a reissue of orders to Fort Lewis and then to Vietnam.

Here is where the Quakers, and I will always love Quakers whatever theological differences we have, came to the rescue-they provided me with a lawyer, a lawyer who was building a reputation for getting military guys out of one kind of trouble or another, a new category of lawyer, a civilian lawyer going up against the Army justice system.  (Rather than depend on some Army JAG, Army lawyer, who was strictly a company man.) Although it was a close thing, a very close thing since there were those in the Army at Devens, lifers who hated me and wanted to take me to Fort Lewis under armed guard that lawyer was able to get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) from a federal judge in Boston which kept me under that court’s jurisdiction while the merits of the case were being heard. Whee! (Those lifers were literally searching the fort for me to handcuff me and sweep me away the very day the TRO was issued before it took effect.)         

That lifer hatred was not just happenstance. You see once I got “religion” I no longer feared what would happen to me, no longer was a soldier, was an anti-war fire-eater. Once the Army breaks its hold on you, that fear of the stockade that very basic training sergeant warned you against anything was possible. One day before that TRO took effect and while I was waiting for something to move on my case I decided to join a Quaker-organized anti-war rally outside the front gate at Fort Devens. In uniform and during duty hours. Result: Special Court-Martial-the max, six months. Since my case was working its way slowly through the federal court system, I actually served that six months minus some good time.

Once I got out of the stockade on that charge I decided to continue my personal resistance and refused to wear the uniform. Result: Special Court-Martial-the max, six months. Toward the end of that second six months (plus pre-trial time in the stockade this time) that writ of habeas corpus came through and a few weeks later I was discharged, honorably discharged if you can believe that since the judge had decided the Army had screwed up not granting my CO application. Otherwise, who knows I might still be doing an endless series of six month sentences. Tough, yes, tough for lots of reasons, political and personal. But know this I would probably not fifty years later still be fighting the good fight against the endless wars of our times if I hadn’t had that baptism of fire. That can be the cautionary tale if you like.           

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-*From The Archives Of Bolshevik Anti-War Work- V.I. Lenin On Imperialist War And The Tasks Of Socialists

Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry, dated December 6, 2009, "*From The Front Lines Of The Anti-Afghan War Struggle- On The Slogan- “Down With The Obama Government”- A Commentary."

V. I. Lenin
The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War


Published: Sotsial-Demorkrat No. 43, July 26, 1915. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demorkrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 275-280.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2003 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Other Formats: Text • README
During a reactionary war 9 revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government.

This is axiomatic, and disputed only by conscious partisans or helpless satellites of the social-chauvinists. Among the former, for instance, is Semkovsky of the Organising Committee (No. 2 of its Izvestia), and among the latter, Trotsky and Bukvoyed,[2] and Kautsky in Germany. To desire Russia’s defeat, Trotsky writes, is “an uncalled-for and absolutely unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism, which would replace the revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions causing it, with an orientation—highly arbitrary in the present conditions—towards the lesser evil” (Nashe Slovo No. 105).

This is an instance of high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism. A “revolutionary struggle against the war” is merely an empty and meaning less exclamation, something at which the heroes of the Second International excel, unless it means revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime. One has only to do some thinking in order to understand this. Wartime revolutionary action against one’s own government indubitably means, not only desiring its defeat, but really facilitating such a defeat. ("Discerning reader”: note that this does not mean “blowing up bridges”, organising unsuccessful strikes in the war industries, and ·in general helping the government defeat the revolutionaries.)

The phrase-bandying Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue. It seems to him that to desire Russia’s defeat means desiring the victory of Germany. (Bukvoyed and Semkovsky give more direct expression to the “thought”, or rather want of thought, which they share with Trotsky.) But Trotsky regards this as the “methodology of social-patriotism"! To help people that are unable to think for themselves, the Berne resolution (Sotsial Demokrat No. 40)[1] made it clear, that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government. Bukvoyed and Trotsky preferred to avoid this truth, while Semkovsky (an opportunist who is more useful to the working class than all the others, thanks to his naively frank reiteration of bourgeois wisdom) blurted out the following: “This is nonsense, because either Germany or Russia can win” (Izvestia No. 2).

Take the example of the Paris Commune. France was defeated by Germany but the workers were defeated by Bismarck and Thiers! Had Bukvoyed and Trotsky done a little thinking, they would have realised that they have adopted the viewpoint on the war held by governments and the bourgeoisie, i.e., that they cringe to the “political methodology of social-patriotism”, to use Trotsky’s pretentious language.

A revolution in wartime means civil war; the conversion of a war between governments into a civil war is, on the one hand, facilitated by military reverses ("defeats") of governments; on the other hand, one cannot actually strive for such a conversion without thereby facilitating defeat.

The reason why the chauvinists (including the Organising Committee and the Chkheidze group) repudiate the defeat “slogan” is that this slogan alone implies a consistent call for revolutionary action against one’s own government in wartime. Without such action, millions of ultra-revolutionary phrases such as a war against “the war and the conditions, etc." are not worth a brass farthing.

Anyone who would in all earnest refute the “slogan” of defeat for one’s own government in the imperialist war should prove one of three things: (1) that the war of 1914-15 is not reactionary, or (2) that a revolution stemming from that war is impossible, or (3) that co-ordination and mutual aid are possible between revolutionary movements in all the belligerent countries. The third point is particularly important to Russia, a most backward country, where an immediate socialist revolution is impossible. That is why the Russian Social-Democrats had to be the first to advance the “theory and practice” of the defeat “slogan”. The tsarist government was perfectly right in asserting that the agitation conducted by the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma—the sole instance in the International, not only of parliamentary opposition but of genuine revolutionary anti-government agitation among the masses—that this agitation has weakened Russia’s “military might” and is likely to lead to its defeat. This is a fact to which it is foolish to close one’s eyes.

The opponents of the defeat slogan are simply afraid of themselves when they refuse to recognise the very obvious fact of the inseparable link between revolutionary agitation against the government and helping bring about its defeat.

Are co-ordination and mutual aid possible between the Russian movement, which is revolutionary in the bourgeois- democratic sense, and th socialist movement in the West? No socialist who has publicly spoken on the matter during the last decade has doubted this, the movement among the Austrian proletariat after October 17, 1905,[3] actually proving it possible.

Ask any Social-Democrat who calls himself an internationalist whether or not he approves of an understanding between the Social-Democrats of the various belligerent countries on joint revolutionary action against all belligerent governments. Many of them will reply that it is impossible, as Kautsky has done (Die Neue Zeit, October 2, 1914), thereby fully proving his social-chauvinism. This, on the one hand, is a deliberate and vicious lie, which clashes with the generally known facts and the Basle Manifesto. On the other hand, if it were true, the opportunists would be quite right in many respects!

Many will voice their approval of such an understanding. To this we shall say: if this approval is not hypocritical, it is ridiculous to think that, in wartime and for the conduct of a war, some “formal” understanding is necessary, such as the election of representatives, the arrangement of a meeting, the signing of an agreement, and the choice of the day and hour! Only the Semkovskys are capable of thinking so. An understanding on revolutionary action even in a single country, to say nothing of a number of countries, can be achieved only by the force of the example of serious revolutionary action, by launching such action and developing it. However, such action cannot be launched without desiring the defeat of the government, and without contributing to such a defeat. The conversion of the imperialist war into a civil war cannot be “made”, any more than a revolution can be “made”. It develops out of a number of diverse phenomena, aspects, features, characteristics and consequences of the imperialist war. That development is impossible without a series of military reverses and defeats of governments that receive blows from their own oppressed classes.

To repudiate the defeat slogan means allowing one’s revolutionary ardour to degenerate into an empty phrase, or sheer hypocrisy.

What is the substitute proposed for the defeat slogan? It is that of “neither victory nor defeat” (Semkovsky in Izvestia No. 2; also the entire Organising Committee in No. 1). This, however, is nothing but a paraphrase of the “defence of the fatherland” slogan. It means shifting the issue to the level of a war between governments (who, according to the content of this slogan, are to keep to their old stand, “retain their positions"), and not to the level of the struggle of the oppressed classes against their governments! It means justifying the chauvinism of all the imperialist nations, whose bourgeoisie are always ready to say—and do say to the people—that they are “only” fighting “against defeat”. “The significance of our August 4 vote was that we are not for war but against defeat," David, a leader of the opportunists, writes in his book. The Organising Committee, together with Bukvoyed and Trotsky, stand on fully the same ground as David when they defend the “neither-victory nor-defeat” slogan.

On closer examination, this slogan will be found to mean a “class truce”, the renunciation of the class struggle by the oppressed classes in all belligerent countries, since the class struggle is impossible without dealing blows at one’s “own” bourgeoisie, one’s “own” government, whereas dealing a blow at one’s own government in wartime is (for Bukvoyed’s information) high treason, means contributing to the defeat of one’s own country. Those who accept the “neither victory-nor-defeat” slogan can only be hypocritically in favour of the class struggle, of “disrupting the class truce”; in practice, such people are renouncing an independent proletarian policy because they subordinate the proletariat of all belligerent countries to the absolutely bourgeois task of safeguarding the imperialist governments against defeat. The only policy of actual, not verbal disruption of the “class truce”, of acceptance of the class struggle, is for the proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them. This, however, cannot be achieved or striven for, without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.

When, before the war, the Italian Social-Democrats raised the question of a mass strike, the bourgeoisie replied, no doubt correctly from their own point of view, that this would be high treason, and that Social-Democrats would be dealt with as traitors. That is true, just as it is true that fraternisation in the trenches is high treason. Those who write against “high treason”, as Bukvoyed does, or against the “disintegration of Russia”, as Semkovsky does, are adopting the bourgeois, not the proletarian point of view. A proletarian cannot deal a class blow at his government or hold out (in fact) a hand to his brother, the proletarian of the “foreign” country which is at war with “our side”, without committing “high treason”, without contributing to the defeat, to the disintegration of his “own”, imperialist “Great” Power.

Whoever is in favour of the slogan of “neither victory nor defeat” is consciously or unconsciously a chauvinist; at best he is a conciliatory petty bourgeois but in any case he is an -enemy to proletarian policy, a partisan of the existing ·governments, of the present-day ruling classes.

Let us look at the question from yet another angle. The war cannot but evoke among the masses the most turbulent sentiments, which upset the usual sluggish state of mass mentality. Revolutionary tactics are impossible if they are not adjusted to these new turbulent sentiments.

What are the main currents of these turbulent sentiments? They are: (1) Horror and despair. Hence, a growth of religious feeling. Again the churches are crowded, the reactionaries joyfully declare. “Wherever there is suffering there is religion," says the arch-reactionary Barr s. He is right, too. (2) Hatred of the “enemy”, a sentiment that is carefully fostered by the bourgeoisie (not so much by the priests), arid is of economic and political value only to the bourgeoisie. (3) Hatred of one’s own government and one’s own bourgeoisie—the sentiment of all class-conscious workers who understand, on the one hand, that war is a “continuation of the politics” of imperialism, which they counter by a “continuation” of their hatred of their class enemy, and, on the other hand, that “a war against war” is a banal phrase unless it means a revolution against their own government. Hatred of one’s own government and one’s own bourgeoisie cannot be aroused unless their defeat is desired; one cannot be a sincere opponent of a civil (i.e., class) truce without arousing hatred of one’s own government and bourgeoisie!

Those who stand for the “neither-victory-nor-defeat” slogan are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they do not believe in the possibility of inter national revolutionary action by the working class against their own governments, and do not wish to help develop such action, which, though undoubtedly difficult, is the only task worthy of a proletarian, the only socialist task. It is the proletariat in the most backward of the belligerent. Great Powers which, through the medium of their party, have had to adopt—especially in view of the shameful treachery of the German and French Social-Democrats— revolutionary tactics that are quite unfeasible unless they “contribute to the defeat” of their own government, but which alone lead to a European revolution, to the permanent peace of socialism, to the liberation of humanity from the horrors, misery, savagery and brutality now prevailing.

[1] See p. 163 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Bukvoyed-D. Ryazanov.

[3] This refers to the tsar’s manifesto promulgated on October 17 (30), 1905. It promised "civil liberties" and a “legislative Duma”. The manifesto was a concession wrested from the tsarist regime by the revolution, but that concession by no means decided the fate of the revolution as the liberals and Mensheviks claimed, The Bolsheviks exposed the real meaning of the Manifesto and called upon the masses to continue the struggle and overthrow the autocracy.

The first Russian revolution exerted a great revolutionising influence on the working-class movement in other countries, in particular in Austria-Hungary. Lenin pointed out that the news about the tsar’s concession and his manifesto, with its promise of “liberties”, “played a decisive part in the final victory of universal suffrage in Austria”.

Mass demonstrations took place in Vienna and other industrial cities in Austria-Hungary. In Prague barricades were put up. As a result, universal suffrage was introduced in Austria.

Love Among The Smart Set-William Powell and Myna Loy’s “The Libeled” (1936) –A Film Review

Love Among The Smart Set-William Powell and Myna Loy’s “The Libeled” (1936) –A Film Review  

DVD Review

By Writer Greg Green

The Libeled Lady, starring Myra Loy, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, 1936

[Those readers who have been following the latest developments about the direction of this American Left History blog site over the past period and have become aware of the conclusions that returning to the old idea of covering all of the American experience and not just hone in on the 1960s experiences of most of the older writers and changing personal know that I have been assigned the job of site administrator which means I will be handing out the assignments and other projects in cooperation with the writers, young and old. I come here from the on-line American Film Gazette where I held basically the same position although there it was called moderator. (Apparently in the “new age” of media, particularly social media, the tradition terms “editor” or “gatekeeper” have fallen out of favor, have fallen in bad odor.)

To get a feel for the job  I have taken up this assignment which Sandy Salmon the film critic thought I might be interested in doing to “test the waters” since I have very little experience with the older films that have been the staple of this site. In the future nevertheless the tilt for films will be much more contemporary which everybody, or almost everybody, has agreed is necessary to lure a younger crowd not formed by the rush of the 1960s when black and white films were like catnip to student audiences. P.S. I will weigh in on whether my predecessor Pete Markin, whom I have known for years by reputation and early on from the time he worked at the American Film Gazette when this site needed a cash infusion, was purged or gently put out to pasture some other time. Greg Green]  

Sam Lowell who was I have heard the main culprit (not my term but Sandy Salmon’s) during his tenure as film critic before he retired to write on occasion, very occasionally who drove the overwhelming preponderance of old-time black and white films. In those days before Alden Riley and a few stringers came on board with Sandy he did all the reviews himself or were done under his guidance. So he was able to feast on the films that he would watch as a young man in high school (that is where it started) on Saturday afternoons at his local movie theater.

I would assume that the film under review, The Libeled Lady, would be one that he watched on those Saturday afternoons but for the life of me I can’t understand why. Certainly it is not the collective talents of the cast Jean Harlow, Myra Loy, William Powell and Spencer Tracy the last one the only one whose work I am familiar with. So it must be the plot, the story line, the screenplay writers because from what I have read this is supposed to be a screw-ball comedy in an age and time when such fare was grist to the mill. Maybe that bill of fare is what got my grandparents and maybe my parents although they were probably too young to appreciate this through the Great Depression that those same grandparents endlessly carped on whenever anybody complained about anything, about not getting this or that unnecessary to them object like that was a talisman to ward off all discussion.     

 Let’s see what you think of this, think of a film that was on the short list for the Oscars in 1936. Mayfair swell (not my term of choice but from Sam since I couldn’t think of a better one when we talked about the upper class which dominates this film), Connie played by Ms. Loy (I got used to following New York Times honorifics at American Film Gazette and will continue to do so here for now) sued some low-rent New York City newspaper for libel over a false allegation that she broke up some happy household. She decided to go big or don’t go at all and claimed five million dollars would make her “whole” to use a legal expression. The newspaper in the person of its managing editor, Warren, played by redoubtable Mr. Tracy panicked and tried to lure ladies’ man and ace reporter Bill,  played by the inestimable Mr. Powell better known according to Sam as the male duo in the Nick and Nora Charles The Thin Man series with Ms. Loy to run a scam on Connie. The idea, pretty lame its seems even for a low-rent up against it urban newspaper was to get Bill alone with Connie and have his “wife” find them together. To blackmail Connie out of the law suit and out of having to hand over those five very big ones.         

I said lame and I meant because there was one little problem with the weasely scheme. Bill was a happily unmarried man with no wife and if anybody was asking, asking at least for public consumption no mistress either. No nonsense the company comes first, freedom of the press even when it lies Warren volunteers his girlfriend something of a goofball flossy if you asked me Gladys, played by the ill-fated Ms. Harlow. Here is where everything gets balled-up not funny. Bill and Gladys marry, a marriage of convenience easily divorced once that onerous court case is over. Problem though those is that while cruising back to America on a luxury liner Bill and Connie fall in love and get married. No problem right since Bill and the hapless Gladys are divorced. Problem Gladys has lost her yen for Warren and wants Bill back. Then through some sleigh-of-hand divorce foul-ups courtesy of the apparently frazzled screenwriters Bill and Gladys are still married. Not to worry though once Bill and Connie put the squeeze play on Gladys runs, no, walks back to her Warren. I hope to high heaven that Sam didn’t spent his hard-earned dollar on this cuckoo of a film. Short-listed for Mr. Oscar or not.       

February is Black History Month-Honor Historian Carter G. Woodson

February is Black History Month-Honor Historian Carter G. Woodson

By Sam Eaton

Normally, unlike guys like Sam Lowell and Frank Jackman that write here about politics and history, I am not interested in the fate of historians dead or alive. They provide valuable material, mostly, but I just am not attuned to history enough to go crazy over any particular one, or any particular morsel they have to serve up. Not so the man we are honoring here Carter G. Woodson (and on Google’s home page doodle as well which is where I got my prompt from). The reason I am more than happy to make an exception is that the good Doctor did yeoman’s work, no more than that, to bring us young white kids who were involved in the black civil rights movement in the early 1960s plenty of information about the history of early black struggles and personalities. Started journals and programs to study the subject. Stuff that we were clueless about despite our avidity to help in the black liberation struggle. Stuff that was not taught in any high school course, hell, any college courses until well after Black/Afro-American study programs were established. So, yes, hats off the good Doctor.     

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part II-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes” (1939)-A Film Review

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part II-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes” (1939)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Danny Moriarty

(Once again as I did in my initial offering on the bogus Sherlock Holmes legend Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, hah!, in the interest of transparency which has become more of an issue these days when every medium is under scrutiny Danny Moriarty is not my real name. As then and will be discussed again below in my research about the “fake news” legend of Mr. Holmes I have run into a notorious cult-like band of desperadoes known as “The Baker Street Irregulars,” why that name I do not know. This clot of criminals, who I am told have very stylized rituals involving illegal drugs and human blood, and are the bane of the London Bobbies, have been connected with the disappearance of many people who questioned the Sherlock myth, and not a few unsolved murders of people who have washed up on the Thames over the years.

This need for an alias, for cover, is no joke since that first review I have been threatened, threatened with I won’t death, death threats, but some nasty actions which necessitate my keeping very close tabs on my security apparatus as I attempt to deflate this miserable excuse for a detective, a parlor detective at that. I will not be stopped by hoodlums and blood-splattered junkies.)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring Basil Rathbone (if that is his real name which is doubtful although unlike myself he has never been transparent enough to say that he is using an alias), Nigel Bruce (a name which has been confirmed as a British National active in the 1930s and 1940s), 1939 

We live in an age of debunking. An age perhaps borne aloft by cynicism, hubris, sarcasm and above all “fake news,” not the fake news denying some reality that you hear so much about these days, but by the elaborate strategy of public relations cranks and flacks who will put out any swill as long as they are paid and not a minute longer. That hardly started today but has a long pedigree, a pedigree which has included the target of today’s debunking one James Sherlock Holmes out of London, out of the Baker Street section of that town. From the cutesy “elementary my dear Watson” to that condescending attitude toward everybody he encounters, friend or foe, including the hapless Doctor Watson this guy Holmes is nothing but a pure creation of the public relations industrial complex. As I have noted above I have paid the price for exposing this chameleon, this so-called master detective, this dead end junkie, with a barrage of hate mail and threats from his insidious devotees.

Maybe I better refresh for those who may not have read the first review, may be shocked to find their paragon of a private detective has feet of clay, and an addiction problem no twelve step program could curtail in a million years. Here are some excerpts of what I said in that review which I stand by this day no matter the consequences:      

“Today is the day. Today is the day I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Today we tear off the veneer, tear off the mask of the reputation of one Sherlock Holmes as a master detective. Funny how things happen. Greg Green assigned me this film out of the blue, at random he said when I asked him. However this assignment after viewing this film, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (of course he doesn’t face, hadn’t been anywhere near any danger that would put death in his way but that can wait until I finish out defanging the legend) set off many bells, many memories of my childhood when I first instinctively discovered this guy was a fraud, a con artist.

Back then my grandparents and parents hushed me up about the matter when I told them what I thought of the mighty Sherlock. They went nutty and told me never to speak of it again when I mentioned that a hard-boiled real private detective, a guy who did this kind of work for a living, a guy named Sam Spade who worked out in San Francisco and solved, really solved, the case of the missing black bird which people in the profession still talk about, which is still taught in those correspondence course private detection in ten easy lesson things you used to see advertised on matchbook covers when smoking cigarettes was okay, who could run circles around a parlor so-called detective like Mr. Holmes. 

[Even Sam Spade has come in for some debunking of late right here in this space as Phil Larkin and Kenny Jacobs have gone round and round about how little Spade deserved his “rep,” his classic rep for a guy who was picked by some bimbo out of the phone book and who couldn’t even keep his partner alive against that same femme he was skirt-addled over. Kept digging that low-shelf whiskey bottle in the bottom desk drawer out too much when the deal went down. The only guy who is safe is Phillip Marlowe since nobody can call him a “one solved murder wonder” after the string of cold as ice, maybe colder, cases he wrapped up with a bow over the years. They still talk about the Sherwood case out on the Coast even today, talk in hushed tones too. You notice nobody has tried to go after him, not even close. D.M.]            

That was then. Now after some serious research as a result of this film’s impact on my memory I have proof to back up my childhood smothered assertions. Sherlock Holmes (if that is his name which is doubtful since I went to the London telephone directories going back the first ones in the late 1800s and found no such name on Baker Street-ever) was nothing but a stone-cold junkie, cocaine, morphine, lanadum and other exotic concoctions which is the reason that he had a doctor at his side at all times in case he needed “scripts” written up. A doctor who a guy like Sam Spade would have sat on his ass a long time before as so dead weight.

That junkie business would not amount to much if it did not mean that high and mighty Sherlock didn’t have to run his own gang of pimps, hookers, con men, fellow junkies, drag queens, rough trade sailors and the flotsam and jetsam of London, high society and low, to keep him in dough for that nasty set of habits that kept him high as a kite. There are sworn statements (suppressed at the time) by the few felons whom the Bobbies were able to pick up that Sherlock was the guy behind half the burglaries, heists and kidnappings in London. And you wonder why the Baker Street Irregulars want to silence me, show me the silence of the grave….

Of course the Bobbies, looking to wrap up a few cold file cases which Sherlock handed them to keep them off the trail, looked the other way and/or took the graft so who really knows how extensive the whole operation was. In a great sleight of hand he gave them Doctor Moriarty who as it turned out dear Sherlock had framed when one wave of police heat was on and who only got out of prison after Holmes died and one of Holmes’ flunkies told the real story about how Holmes needed a “fall guy” and the wily Doctor took the fall.”             

This The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes cover-up is a classic example of police collision to cover their own dirty tracks. Everybody knows that Sherlock made his name after he beat down some poor mistreated dog who should have been reported as abused to whatever they call the humane animal treatment society in merry old England.

You don’t have to be one of those correspondence course private detection in ten easy lessons that you used to see on matchbook covers when cigarette smoking was okay like I said before to know that these high society cases are inside
jobs. Naturally the luckless and clueless Holmes has his fall guy all set up. A guy like I mentioned before named Professor Moriarty (no relative since if you remember this is my alias) who is a salt of the earth type but whom Holmes has a deep hatred for ever since the good doctor stopped feeding him his drugs, told him to go cold turkey. That good advice and good cheer despite the obvious fact that no twelve step program was going to do anything but drive Holmes to who knows what paranoid delusions. All the good professor did was to clue in a guy whose father had been bamboozled by this high society young woman’s father. Had been murdered by the dame’s old man.

The dispute had been over dough money which the guy should have gotten as inheritance but didn’t and wound up on skid road. While this young heiress and her ne’er do well a con artist and card shark from the word around town brother lived high off the hog. The stuff you heard about the good professor trying to take the Crown jewels is nothing but fake news. They were never in danger of being stolen but our man Sherlock raised a big hue and cry after smoking too much hashish and thought he saw them floating over the Thames. Called copper for them to nab favorite fall guy the hapless professor. You never hear about this of course since the coppers kept it hush-hush but that was the night in a drug frenzy Sherlock tried to murder the good professor. Kill him dead. RIP, Professor, RIP. Didn’t happen but the good professor got the slammer anyway and it was only Sherlock’s overdose death that sprung him after “Five Fingers” Benny Boren gave the real story.   

Like I said last time, a fake, fake all the way. Unless that Irregular crowd of thugs and blood-stained aficionados get to me this is not the last you will hear about this campaign of mine to dethrone this pompous junked-up imposter. I am just getting into second gear now.      

For Black History Month-Artists’ Corner-The Work Of Jacob Lawrence

For Black History Month-Artists’ Corner-The Work Of Jacob Lawrence  

Jacob Lawrence first came to widespread public attention for his series of paintings chronicling the historically significant migration of blacks out of the Mister James Crow South toward the north which became a flood after World War I-mainly the industrial towns of the Midwest then. Going up the Mississippi. Later Lawrence came to evoke the northern urban scene of the black diaspora. Those later paintings evoke in a dramatic manner the visual search via iconic Jazz among the folk for the high white note that every musician worth his or her salt was looking for. Pictured are the workman, the hipster, the street persona and the respectable too. Thanks Brother Lawrence-there is a very strong reason that some of your work is enshrined in the Afro-American History Museum down in Washington fast by the Washington Monument. 

"Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series" at The Phillips Collection

from the migration series 


Will The Real James Bond Stand Up –Part VI-Timothy Dalton’s “License To Kill” (1989)-A Film Review

Will The Real James Bond Stand Up –Part VI-Timothy Dalton’s “License To Kill” (1989)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Alden Riley and Sandy Salmon

License to Kill, Timothy Dalton, Cary Lowell, 1989

The knowledgeable reader is probably wondering what the hell is going on when two film reviewers who are allegedly fighting a “mock heroic” battle over the merits their chosen “real” James Bonds, Sean Connery for Sandy Salmon and Pierce Brosnan for Alden Riley are jointly contributing to a review of yet a third Bond, James Bond player Timothy Dalton in License To Kill. But perhaps that knowledgeable reader missed something a while back when this “fight to the death” started after Sandy had given Sean Connery top billing as the “real” James Bond and Alden had asked the new site manager Greg Green to give him space to tout Pierce Brosnan. Both reviewers agreed that those two were the only real candidates for number one and so they agreed, half-heartedly agreed since they are in another dispute over what is happening to the site currently now that any talk about the internal struggle that roiled the blog last year and mention of the previous leadership is verboten, to collectively trash Timothy Dalton’s pathetic excuse of a Bond player.

Alden had put that Brosnan request in the form of “blackmail” of a new kind when he threatened a “vote of confidence” showdown among the writers when Greg first balked at the request. That vote of no confidence doing in the previous unmentionable leadership. Greg the beneficiary of Alden’s leadership of the purge of the previous site manager in order to gain his job took the hint immediately and granted Alden’s wish. Initially Greg’s idea in resurrecting the seemingly never-ending Bond series for review at this site was the great success that such reviews had among the younger readers over at his previous job as site manager at American Film Gazette when the films came out. He thought such efforts might help stem the declining youth readership here as well. (That was the basis for the ill-fated although not completely abandoned run of comic book-derived super-heroes as well.) Greg had only expected to have Sandy, formerly the Senior Film Critic under the old regime, do a quick run through of the Connery films to see what would happen. Alden, formerly the Associate Film Critic under that same old regime then threw his complaint in the mix and the “battle” was joined.

That “battle” a little heated at times, at around the “water cooler” times, not necessarily reflected in the reviews themselves got a boost when Alden started to complain out loud about his “demotion” along with everybody else to just writer status and about the new rule that the old site manager should essentially become a non-person after that internal struggle purge. Sandy, who had actually supported the old regime manager tried to cool Alden down. Greg stepped in with the Dalton suggestion as a means to lower the temperature. We shall see.             
No question that the long running seemingly never-ending series of Bond films are run by a very defined formula from the opening camera eye agent shooting at us scene through the inevitable song reflecting the film title through the obligatory “Bond, James Bond” tip of the hat and through the equally obligatory Cold War-tinged thrilling action a minute involving improbable feats and almost equally implausible high tech gadgetry. And of course the inevitable string of foxy women ready to get down under the silky sheets with a Bond merely at the sight of him. Although there has been a welcome trend, reflecting the reality of the women’s movement in the Western world at least, away from that passive foxy female role and a more active role, for good or evil, along with that downy billows stuff (“downy billows” courtesy of the writer Tom Wolfe). So the real comparison is between the attributes and demerits of the stable of Bond players. As demonstrated in this his last film as Bond young Timothy Dalton did not make the cut.    

Here’s why. The bad guys in this one are south of the border, meaning Hispanic, Latino drug dealers (the Cold War tip being their working at least in transit via Cuba). Meaning they are serious bad asses lead by psychotic sadist Sanchez in the world of high end drug trade. A thorn in the side of DEA and maybe the CIA if not exactly MI6 material which is to knock out high tech blow up the world stuff by some evil forces and save the West or at least Britain. Way out of mission statement sluggard seriously understated and poker-faced Timothy Dalton’s starts off his cinematic journey on the way to a wedding where he is to be best man or something. WTF neither Connery or Brosnan would be caught dead within a hundred miles of a wedding chapel except maybe to exercise some lordly feudal right of first night with the bride, blushing or not.

Not so Timmy boy. See he is buddy-buddy with the local CIA chief and his lovely bride. Shortly after the wedding those bad ass drug traffickers throw the agent through the grinder, the shark tank grinder to show how sadistic that crowd is and kill his bride for kicks. So Timmy is on a mission not for Queen and country but personal revenge. How the mighty have fallen. So despite being warned off by M, and later loaded up with gizmos by Q also Bond series standard stuff Timmy is off to kill bad guys- no prisoners here, after all he has a license to kill in case you have not been paying attention to all this secret agent stuff of late.

He starts working his way up the food chain and along the way while trying to see how the cartel operates he comes across the head bad guy Sanchez’s mistress who is on a boat used to transfer drugs for cash. Naturally a drop dead beauty, a hot-blooded Spanish beauty whom he does not go under the sheets with right there and then. Connery or Brosnan would have had her for lunch and had time for a nap afterward. Maybe Timmy, is as they used to say in Sandy’s old neighborhood before everybody got okay with having gay guys out of the closet, ‘light on his feet” or something. They crossed paths a couple of times and no go. Something is definitely wrong here.        

As Timmy gets to the top of the food chain, gets to the country (fake named but based on real drug route Panama in the old days maybe now too) where the bad hombres are headquartered he runs into a dish, a good looking young woman, Pam, played by Cary Lowell, who also has abilities like being able to fly a plane (and later drive a heavy duty truck). They hit the sheets quickly after a little repartee so that question about Timmy sexual preferences gets answered seemingly he is just a shy boy or something. Working together they start moving in on the bad guys, start taking names and numbers and not asking questions until the big finale when after blowing up the bad guys’ cocaine laboratory among other things the bad guys head on the road to deliver their goods via oil trucks (through the marvels of modern chemistry cocaine could be dissolved in oil for easy and safe delivery-nice ploy). The final confrontation shows a lot of trucks being blown up and the bulk of the bad guys including the head bad guy Sanchez burned-literally.

Work finished, revenge taken, Timmy and Pam go to a party where the head bad guy’s now ex-girlfriend although not dressed in mourning black courtesy of Timmy makes a play for him leaving Pam blue, very blue. Except Timmy, and this will tell the tale as well as any about why this James Bond is not up to snuff, rebuts the senorita and goes to that very blue Pam. Yeah, true blue Timmy that kind of says it all about this fake news Bond, James Bond. Fortunately Pierce will follow Timmy in the role and all will be back to jump street again.           

The Hills And Hollas Of Home- In Honor Of The Late Hazel Dickens-The “Queen” Of The Appalachia Hills And Saturday Night Red Barn Dance

The Hills And Hollas Of Home- In Honor Of The Late Hazel Dickens-The “Queen” Of The Appalachia Hills And Saturday Night Red Barn Dance

By Sam Lowell

This is the fourth and final installment (the first dated January 13, 2018, the second dated January 19, 2018, and the third January 24, 2018) set as an introduction to the history of the American Left History blog. Initially I believed that this would be a several part series and now it looks like with this final section about the massive internal in-fighting and resultant shake-up that brought the original leader of all of these publications down, brought in a new regime with my help and whatever direction the new leadership is heading we are finally done with a task a lot harder than I thought it would be. For a final time as I have been at pains to mention before this task came to me because I am one of the few people, more importantly one of the few writers, who has taken part in almost all of the key junctures in this forty something year history including the latest flare-up which has brought about a new regime, again partially with my help, so I am well-placed to tell the tale.

As part of the “truce” arranged with current site manager Greg Green I will tell the story and will elicit comments from a couple of other Editorial Board members. The first installment dealt with the genesis of this blog with hard copy predecessors going back to the late 1960s when a number of the older writers still standing came on board, many through long friendships with the previous site manager going back to high school days, those including myself. The second dealt with the dog days of the hard copy version of this blog and the greying of its staff. The third dealt with the transfer to the on-line version and some preliminary observations about how the just completed internal struggle came to such a fiery conclusion and explain how I became a member of the opposition. This final section as I said will deal with the food fight of 2017.

All four parts of the now completed project will appear as one unit on February 10th.

In a sense this last section is a bit anti-climactic since I have laid out the history leading up to the split, my part in it, and the result with the removal of the former site manager Alan Jackson in what I have described truly as a purge. (Some “fragile” types on both sides have backed off from that designation saying it is too rough but Allan knows, just as well as I do both of us veterans of many old-time political struggles in radical circles, that he had been purged.) That elevated Greg Green who had originally come over from the American Film Gazette to run the day to day operations to site manager. As part of the post-Allan regime Greg decided that he would create an Editorial Board to oversee everything and back up his decisions. For transparency reasons I should note that I sit on that board. I should also note that although it has only been in existence the past few months that there has been gripping about it being a rubber-stamp, a group of Greg toadies, and other derogatory remarks from young and older writers alike. Greg has also hired a couple of younger writers, really twenty something out of journalism schools and English majors. Brought on Josh Breslin’s former companion, Leslie Dumont, who many years ago worked here as a stringer but getting nowhere with Alan’s regime left and finally wound up with a big by-line at New York Monthly. Brought on my long-time companion Laura Perkins who also worked as a stringer and got nowhere with Alan and left for an academic and high tech career. Still no soap on getting any black writers, or more generically “writers of color.”

Those are the results thus far not without controversy and some hard feelings especially by the older writers who have been stripped of their titles, younger writers too who had worked for titles. Worse and which almost caused another explosion every writer now can be assigned any topic on any subject to as Greg says “broaden their horizons.” But enough of the current doings and back to the spring of 2017 and the genesis of the in-fighting that has brought these changes.

It almost seems like some twisted kiss of fate that Alex James, Zack’s oldest brother (who by the way is about ten years older than Zack showing a good example of the relative sense of “younger” writers Allan was bringing in. Certainly nobody as young as twenty something Kenny Jacobs), an old friend of ours from the old neighborhood, who went on to become a successful lawyer, went on a business trip to San Francisco last spring (2017). While there out of the blue Alex saw an advertisement on the side of a bus for something called The Summer of Love Experience, 1967 at the de Young Museum in famous Golden Gate Park. Sneaking (according to Alex) out one afternoon he saw the exhibition and was positively floored by the experience. See, he, we, under the “guidance” of the late Peter Paul Markin had been in the thick of the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” mantra which all of that experience went under. When he got back to Boston Alex called or e-mailed everybody he knew from back in the days who was still standing and who had gone out there to see what was happening, to see as Markin had called it “the world turned upside down.” He gathered a number of us, including Zack who had gone to journalism school and was a veteran of various workshop programs, together in order to propose that in honor of our fallen brother Markin each write our “memoirs” of those times with Zack as editor and publisher. Those who agreed included old friend Allan Jackson who had also gone out there with us. The venture was a great success and various portions were posted last summer on the ALH blog as well as in booklet form.     

That seemingly small exercise in 1960s nostalgia apparently snapped something in Allan’s head. I have already mentioned the drift of the blog on the part of the older writers who were allowed by Allan to pick whatever subject they wanted (with the left-overs to the younger writers). Last summer right after the memorial booklet was published and articles posted Allan decided to do a massive blanket coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love by assigning a million topics related to that time. If you couldn’t link the Summer of Love, or the 1960s “hippie” experience, into your article he would red-pencil what you had written. (Allan liked to use a red pencil to “edit” something about his radical red youth he said when asked why he didn’t use the usual blue pencil.) This was no joke on Allan’s part. I was doing a little piece on figure skating after reviewing a Sonja Henny 1930s film. Allan asked me why I didn’t bring up the ice skating rink at Fillmore and Pacific where “hippies” would go to skate during 1967 when we were out there. WTF.

All of this came to a head when young Alden Riley, a new hire for the film department to help Sandy Salmon out with the increased load of films that were projected by Greg on the site. He was “assigned” by Allan, over Sandy’s head, to do a review on a bio/pic about Janis Joplin, a key musical figure in the heady days of the Monterey Pops Festival. Reason? After Sandy had done a review of D. A Pennebaker’s documentary about the first Monterey Festival he mentioned Ms. Joplin’s name and Alan said he did not know who she was. Allan heard about that blunder and ordered the assignment as “punishment’ is what he told Si Lannon, another of our old friends. Things only got worse from there as Allan double-downed on the Summer of Love connection for each article.

I am not quite sure who called the first meeting of essentially the whole rank of younger writers (average age somebody figured out about forty-five years old) to see what they would do about Allan’s manic behavior and their dubious assignments which to a man they could give f - -k about to quote Zack. Maybe it was Zack since he Lance Lawrence and Bradley Fox were the three ringleaders of the uprising who in water cooler legend were dubbed the “Young Turks.” They decided to go to Allan and put their cards on the table. He rebuffed them out of hand. That is when I came in, came to one of their meetings being invited by Alden, to see if I could reason with Allan. I proposed to Allan that we get Greg Green from American Film Gazette to come in to do the day to day operations leaving Allan time to write some stuff on his own or think about future assignments. He bought my argument once I explained that we might lose the whole cohort if things didn’t change. They didn’t as Allan pressed Greg to hand out these never-ending freaking 1960s world assignments.

To make a long story short the “Young Turks” (and me) had another meeting, an ultimatum meeting with me as the emissary to Allan again. The proposal of the group was either Allan “retire” or they collectively would quit. The decision to be determined by a majority vote-for or against. For some reason even I don’t understand to this day Allan agreed. You know the rest including my “traitorous” vote with the “Young Turks.” My decisive vote since we won by one vote. What you may not know is that while the split was almost directly along generational lines there were several abstentions among the older writers from the tallies. Any one of them casting a vote for Allan would have shifted the totals the other way and I would have been the one “purged” and working in Kansas someplace. So some of the older guys had also doubts about the wisdom of going back to the past. Now that you have the whole story this episode should be at rest. (With the exception of any articles still in the pipeline before the truce with Greg was negotiated.)          


Kenny Jackman heard the late Hazel Dickens (d. 2011) for the very first time on her CD album It’s Hard To Tell The Singer From The Song some years back, maybe 2005, when he was in thrall to mountain music after being hit hard by Reese Witherspoon’s role as June Carter in the film Walk The Line. At that time he got into all things Carter Family unto the nth generation. A friend, a Vermont mountain boy, hipped him to Hazel during his frenzy and he picked up the CD second-hand in Harvard Square. (Really at Sandy’s located between Harvard and Central Squares, a folk institution around town where until recently Sandy had held forth since the early 1960s folk minute when everybody was desperately looking for roots music and that was the place to look first. Hazel’s You’ll Get No More Of Me, A Few Old Memories and the classic Hills of Home knocked him out. The latter, moreover, seemed kind of familiar and later, a couple of months later, he finally figured out why. He had really first heard Hazel back in 1970 when he was down in the those very hills and hollows that are a constant theme in her work, and that of the mountain mist winds music coming down the crevices. What was going on though? Was it 2005 when he first heard Hazel or that 1970 time? Let me go back and tell that 1970 story.

Kenny Jackman like many of his generation of ’68 was feeling foot loose and fancy free, especially after he had been mercifully declared 4-F by his friendly neighbors at the local draft board in old hometown North Adamsville (declared 4-F in those high draft days because he had a seriously abnormal foot problem which precluded walking very far, a skill that the army likes its soldiers to be able to do). So Kenny, every now and again, took to the hitchhike road, not like his mad man friend Peter Paul Markin with some heavy message purpose a la Jack Kerouac and his beat brothers (and a few sisters) but just to see the country while he, and it, were still in one piece no pun intended Kenny told me since the country was in about fifteen pieces then).

On one of these trips he found himself stranded just outside Norfolk, Virginia at a road-side campsite. Feeling kind of hungry one afternoon, and tired, tired unto death of camp-side gruel and stews he stopped at a diner, Billy Bob McGee’s, an old-time truck stop diner a few hundred yards up the road from his camp for some real food, maybe meatloaf or some pot roast like grandma used to make or that was how it was advertised. When he entered the mid-afternoon half-empty diner he sat down at one of the single stool counter seats that always accompany the vinyl-covered side booths in such places. But all of this was so much descriptive noise that could describe a million, maybe more, such eateries. What really caught his attention though was a waitress serving them “off the arm” that he knew immediately he had to “hit” on (although that is not the word used in those days but “hit on” conveys what he was up to in the universal boy meets girl world). As it turned out she, sweetly named Fiona Fay, and, well let’s just call her fetching, Kenny weary-eyed fetching, was young, footloose and fancy free herself and had drawn a bead on him as he entered the place, and, …well this story is about Hazel, so let us just leave it as one thing led to another and let it go at that.

Well, not quite let’s let it go at that because when Kenny left Norfolk a few days later one ex-waitress Fiona Fay was standing by his side on the road south. And the road south was leading nowhere, nowhere at all except to Podunk, really Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and really, really a dink town named Pottsville, just down the road from big town Prestonsburg, down in the hills and hollows of Appalachia, wind-swept green, green, mountain mist, time forgotten . And the reason two footloose and fancy free young people were heading to Podunk is that a close cousin of Fiona’s lived there with her husband and child and wanted Fiona to come visit (visit “for a spell” is how she put it but I will spare the reader the localisms). So they were on that hell-bend road but Kenny, Kenny was dreading this trip and only doing it because, well because Fiona was the kind of young woman, footloose and fancy free or not, that you followed, at least you followed if you were Kenny Jackson and hoped things would work out okay.

What Kenny dreaded that day was that he was afraid to confront his past. And that past just then entailed having to go to his father’s home territory just up the road in Hazard. See Kenny saw himself as strictly a Yankee, a hard “we fought to free the slaves and incidentally save the union” Yankee for one and all to see back in old North Adamsville. And denied, denied to the high heavens, that he had any connection with the south, especially the hillbilly south that everybody was making a fuse about trying to bring into the 20th century around that time. And here he was with a father with Hazard, Kentucky, the poorest of the poor hillbillies, right on his birth certificate although Kenny had never been there before. Yeah, Fiona had better be worth it.

Kenny had to admit, as they picked up one lonely truck driver ride after another (it did not hurt in those days to have a comely lass standing on the road with you in the back road South, or anywhere else, especially if you had longish hair and a wisp of a beard), that the country was beautiful. As they entered coal country though and the shacks got crummier and crummier he got caught up in that 1960s Michael Harrington Other America no running water, outhouse, open door, one window and a million kids and dogs running around half-naked, the kids that is vision. But they got to Pottsville okay and Fiona’s cousin and husband (Laura and Stu) turned out to be good hosts. So good that they made sure that Kenny and Fiona stayed in town long enough to attend the weekly dance at the old town barn (red of course, run down and in need of paint to keep red of course) that had seen such dances going back to the 1920s when the Carter Family had actually come through Pottsville on their way back to Clinch Mountain.

Kenny buckled at the thought, the mere thought, of going to some Podunk Saturday night “hoe-down” and tried to convince Fiona that they should leave before Saturday. Fiona would have none of it and so Kenny was stuck. Actually the dance started out pretty well, helped tremendously by some local “white lightning” that Stu provided and which he failed to mention should be sipped, sipped sparingly. Not only that but the several fiddles, mandolins, guitars, washboards and whatnot made pretty good music. Music like Anchored in Love and Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies, stuff that he had heard in the folk clubs in Harvard Square when he used to hang out there in the early 1960s. And music that even Kenny, old two left-feet, one way out of whack, draft-free out of whack, Kenny, could dance to with Fiona.

So Kenny was sipping, well more than sipping, and dancing and all until maybe about midnight when this woman, this local woman came out of nowhere and began to sing, sing like some quick, rushing wind sound coming down from the hills and hollas (hollows for Yankees, okay, please). Kenny began to toss and turn a little, not from the liquor but from some strange feeling, some strange womb-like feeling that this woman’s voice was a call from up on top of these deep green hills, now mist-filled awaiting day. And then she started into a long, mournful version of Hills of Home, and he sensed, sensed strongly if not anything he could articulate that he was home. Yes, Kenny Jackson, Yankee, city boy, corner boy-bred was “home,” hillbilly home. So Kenny did really hear Hazel Dickens for first time in 1970, see.

[As for Fiona Fay she stayed on the road with Kenny until they headed toward the Midwest where she veered off home to Valparaiso in Indiana, her hometown as Kenny headed west to California, to Big Sur and a different mountain ethos. They were supposed to meet out there a couple of months later after she finished up some family business. They never did, a not unusual occurrence of the time when people met and faded along the way, but Kenny thought about her and that wind-swept mountain dance night for a long time after that.]