james-connolly-starry-ploughA wonderful extract from the great Irish marxist, mass workers’ leader and insurrectionary James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916:

“. . . This will be the rule of the people at last realised. But, says Father Kane, at last showing the cloven foot, ‘the will of the people would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders’. Spoken like a good Tory and staunch friend of despotism!

“What is the political and social record of the mob in history as against the record of the other classes? There was a time, stretching for more than a thousand years, when the mob was without power or influence, when the entire power of the governments of the world was concentrated in the hands of the kings, the nobles and the hierarchy. That was the blackest period in human history. It was the period during which human life was not regarded as being of as much value as the lives of Read the rest of this entry »

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest track athletes of all time was shunned by Hitler and Roosevelt alike

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest track athletes of all time, was shunned by Hitler and Roosevelt alike

by The Spark

The Olympic Games in Brazil are the 31st modern Olympic Games, according to the tradition that was reinvented at the end of the 19th century. If today they supposedly promote peace, equality between people, and between men and women, they are rooted in a history of racism, sexism, nationalism and cheating.

Coubertin: Racist, Colonialist, Sexist

Baron Pierre de Coubertin instigated the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. He wanted to exalt aristocratic ideals, which were exclusively male and white. Coubertin didn’t hide his sexism. In 1912, he was already opposed to the participation of women: “The only true Olympic hero is the male individual. Female Olympics are unthinkable. They would be uninteresting, unathletic and incorrect. In the Olympic Games, their role must above all be, as in the ancient tournaments, to crown the victors.”

The first Olympic Games were reserved for whites. Coubertin, “a fanatical colonialist,” according to his own words, was a racist and open anti- Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Barbara Gregorich and Phil Passen were members of the US Socialist Workers Party from 1965-72, and key figures in the Proletarian Orientation tendency within the SWP and then in the Class Struggle League 1972-74.  While maintaining their anti-capitalist views, Barbara became a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and Phil  is a musician on the hammered dulcimer.  In the interview below they talk about growing up in 1950s America, the winds of change of the 1960s, their politicisation and activity in that era, their involvement in the US SWP an how and why they began questioning its politics and organisational methods, how they came to a parting of the ways with it, their subsequent political activity, the decline of the left and the fate of the original new social movements of that era, and their assessment of politics in the United States today.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell me a bit about your backgrounds?  What was it like growing up in the States in the 1950s and early 1960s?

Barbara Gregorich: I grew up in a small town in Ohio. My mother and father worked in my uncle’s bar as bar tenders until I was ten, then my father worked as a millwright in a steel mill and my mother worked at home. One of my uncles had a dairy farm less than half a mile from our house, and I spent much of my time there, with my cousins. I loved being outdoors and helping with milking and other farm chores. After I graduated from high school I attended Kent State University, which was maybe 35 miles away. I graduated with a degree in American Literature and also one in American History. I received an MA degree from the University of Wisconsin, in Literature, and I did post graduate work at Harvard, in the History of American Civilization.

I worked as an Instructor of English at Kent State University and Cuyahoga Community College while living in Cleveland, Ohio. Then Phil and I moved to Boston and I worked as a typesetter, first for a small job shop, then at the Boston Globe. We moved to Chicago, Illinois, and I worked as a typesetter for the Chicago Tribune, then as a postal letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office. I had always wanted to be either a baseball player or a writer. Baseball is closed to women, so I became a writer. In 1979 I went freelance,  which I’ve been to this day.

download (3)What it was like growing up in the States during the 1950s and 1960s is an interesting question, because of course one doesn’t think, “I’m growing up in the ’50s . . . and now I’ve transitioned to the ’60s!” But a person is definitely aware of the characteristics of the decade he/she grows up in, if not at the moment, then in retrospect, or in contrast to the next decade. Living in the 1950s, I was aware that I didn’t like many things about society. I hated fashion, especially as it applied to girls and women. I hated petticoats and crinolines, the latter “required” for the felted poodle skirts fashion of my junior-high years. I hated popcorn socks and pencil skirts and I refused to put my hair in curlers: torture!

What I wanted to wear was t-shirts and jeans, clothes I could function in. I also wondered why my fellow students flocked to and embraced each fashion that came along.  I can’t say that I was aware of politics when in junior and senior high, but standing in the early 1960s and looking back on the 1950s, I felt that it was a very conservative, unquestioning decade, and I was glad to be out of it.

Compared to the ’50s, the 1960s were a blast a fresh air, with people my age questioning what was right and wrong in society, and acting to make changes.

download (2)Phil Passen: I grew up in a small town in Michigan. My father, whose father had been a bricklayer who died from a fall on the job, owned a children’s clothing store in Monroe, Michigan, a small town between Detroit and Toledo. My mother’s parents had died when she was an infant, and she was raised by an aunt and uncle. I don’t know what their class background was, but I assume skilled workers or lower petty-bourgeois. My parents declared bankruptcy in 1960, and lost the store and our house primarily because of medical expenses for my mom’s various illnesses. I remember that this was the first time I thought about anything political, even though I didn’t realize at the time that it was a political question. But I wondered how medical expenses could be so great that they could cost people something they had worked so very hard for. My father was an Eisenhower Republican, and my mother was a Stevenson Democrat, and none of that made any sense to me.

passncon2I remember a palpable difference between the ’50s and ’60s. At some point early in the ’60s I realized that the stodgy, uninteresting, unexciting coat-and -tie atmosphere of the ’50s was gone — replaced by rock and roll, the Beatles and Stones, Bob Dylan, beats, greasers, art films, and an air of excitement. Hard to explain, but I remember feeling the change very strongly. And in the background, at least for me, but something I was very conscious of, was the Civil Rights Movement. I knew something was different.

Phil F: What made you first begin to question the existing state of things?

Phil P: Unquestionably, Read the rest of this entry »

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Foxconn’s largest factory is in China and employs several hundred thousand workers (estimates range from 230,000 to 450,000 in this one factory); the western left needs to understand that the centre of gravity of the global working class has moved

by Susil Gupta

Every week over 100,000 people join the ranks of the proletariat.

When Engels wrote The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844, Manchester had a total population of 177,760, or 300,000 if you count all the surrounding borough and towns.  The first figure is estimated on the basis of the 1801 (90,000) and 1861 (338,900) census.

In 1861, the 4 largest English towns had populations of:

London – 2,804,000
Liverpool – 443,900
Manchester – 338,900
Birmingham – 296,000

Today there are:

500 metropolitan areas globally with a population of one million people or more.

Mainland China has Read the rest of this entry »

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by Susanne Kemp

13902626_957554914353194_7538352379459058362_nToday, Palestinian resistance fighter and political prisoner Bilal Kayed enters his 56th day of hunger strike, shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed by the Israeli au
throities.  Bilal was imprisoned in December 2001, at the age of 19, and was due for release this year on June 13.  Instead, he was kept in prison through the me
chanism of administrative detention.  He is now one of 750 Palestinians held without charge or trial under this mechanism.

During his time in Israeli prisons he has been subjected to solitary confinement, disruptions and bans of family visits, and physical assaults, along with punitive prison transfers.  Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, is demanding that he, and the other 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails be released.  Bilal himself has pressed the issue by going on hunger strike.  Now the hunger strike has been joined by 80 other Palestinian prisoners, including Ahmad Sa’adat, the general-secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the organisation to which Bilal belongs.

At present there are daily protests in Palestine in support of Bilal and the new group of hunger strikers.  Around the world, progressive people are also mobilising in solidarity with Bilal and the other hunger strikers and to demand the end of administrative detention and the freeing of all the Palestinian prisoners.  From July 20-30 protests took place in cities in Germany, Sweden, the United States, Britain, Italy, Egypt, Greece, the Philippines, Ireland, Morocco, Belgium and elsewhere.  In Italy, the city council in Naples overwhelmingly passed a otion – there were just two abstentions – to make Bilal an honorary citizen of the city.

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Mural in West Belfast launched by Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association

The annual anti-internment march in Belfast, Ireland, which this year took place on Sunday (August 7) incorporated solidarity with Bilal and his fellow hunger strikers.  The march is organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.  The Irish revolutionary movement éirígí has been organising solidarity events across the island.

More protests are currently taking place and/or planned in different parts of the world, including a big public meeting in Read the rest of this entry »