Archive for the ‘Vietnam & Vietnam War’ Category

The last week of August marked the 50th anniversary of the (in)famous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.  Thousands of people turned up outside the convention to protest the war being waged by the United States, via a Democratic Party administration, on the people of Vietnam.  The Democratic Party mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, turned his cops on the protesters, hundreds of whom were injured in police assaults.  The Illinois National Guard was also turned out, to supplement the armed cops.  This party convention was yet more proof, if any was needed, that the Democratic Party is no vehicle for progressive change in the United States, any more than the Labour Party is in New Zealand (or Britain or Australia).

by The Spark

In 1968, the Democratic Party met in Convention in Chicago to nominate its presidential candidate. This is the Convention that has gone down in history – in the words of Hodding Carter, one of its participants – as the work of “a party that had lost its mind.”

For most people who still remember, the 1968 Convention is associated with the 14-minute live telecast from the streets of Chicago, showing police clubbing and viciously kicking unarmed demonstrators, people who had come to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam and the Democrats who were carrying it out. Some of those people, bloody on the ground, were shown yelling, “the whole world is watching.”

Or people remember from inside the Convention, Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley, yelling “fuck you” to Senator Abraham Ribicoff from Connecticut, who had criticized “Boss Daley’s” cops.

In fact, the 1968 Democratic convention should go down in history as the symbol of the inability of the Democratic Party to respond to the deep problems of this country – even at the very moment when social forces were urgently pushing those problems forward.

A Country on Fire

Opposition inside this country to the U.S. war on Viet Nam had become so strong that (more…)

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Kim Moody, On New Terrain: how capital reshaped the battleground of class war, Chicago, Haymarket Press, 2017, US$18; reviewed by Guy Miller

On November 8, 1954, US (Republican Party) President Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. . . their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid.”

On August 3, 2018, the headline on the New York Times front page blared: “The Downside of Apple’s $1 Trillion Valuation: Income Inequality May Grow as Mega-Firms Dominate Economy.”

How we got from November, 1954 to August, 2018 is the story Kim Moody’s book, On New Terrain, tells well, and in great detail.

The Old Terrain

After being discharged from the U.S. Army, I entered the blue-collar work force in late 1967.  My fellow workers and I started with the basic assumption that decent-paying jobs were our birthright.  We also believed that our standard of living would always be on an unending upward trajectory.

Jobs were plentiful. Quit your job during the lunch hour and there was a chance you would have a new one that afternoon. We were a mixed demographic of Vietnam era veterans, young black nationalists,  counter culture youth, and older workers with the victories of the rise of the CIO still  imprinted in our memory banks.

Fifteen-minute coffee breaks routinely stretched to 25 minutes, a half-hour lunch meant 45 minutes away from work.  Assembly line moving too fast?  Simple solution: stop it by any means necessary.  Two-day weekends often ballooned into three days, thanks to the “bridge”, that is, calling off work on Fridays or Mondays.  With or without a union, we called the shots, or at least many of them.  It was almost too good to last, and it didn’t.

Shifting Terrain

As the war in Vietnam began to wind down, the American capitalist class saw itself besieged on several fronts: (more…)

As we noted here a few weeks ago, 1968 was “the year of revolutions” – revolutions in the Third World, the Second World and the First World.  Throughout this year, we’re running articles commemorating especially important events during 1968 and re-advertising articles already on the blog that cover 1968 events.

During the Tet Offensive the imperialist forces came under attack across much of South Vietnam, including in the US embassy compound in Saigon; it was the beginning of the end for the US and its allies in the war

by The Spark
March 5, 2018

In the night between January 31st and February 1st, 1968, during the holiday of Tet (Vietnamese New Year), fighters of the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese guerrilla organization of the National Liberation Front (NLF), rose up against the U.S. military occupation. They took control of more than 100 towns and cities, including the capital, Saigon.

Although, from a military point of view, the disproportionate level of forces did not allow the Viet Cong to hold these cities for more than a month, the world nevertheless viewed the Tet Offensive as an NLF victory. The NLF had proved that it had the support of the majority of the population, whom the ferocious war waged by the most powerful imperialism on the planet had failed to crush.

At the beginning of 1968, there were 500,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Vietnam. They possessed an ultra-modern military arsenal with an unprecedented capacity for destruction and massacre. There was no comparison between this force and what could be put forward by a small country ravaged by French and Japanese imperialism that had already been through 13 years of war.

Despite all this, in one night, some tens of thousands of Viet Cong fighters were able to rattle the most powerful army in the world, deep within its own strongholds in the cities. They went so far as to (more…)

“A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.” – New York Times

by Don Franks

In the present climate it’s easy to forget the fact, but United States history is extremely rich in democratic and radical traditions. Along with giant landmarks such as the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam war movement and Stonewall there’s the legacy of a radical US labour movement. The heroism of the IWW, where countless organisers were hounded and several of them tortured to death and the struggles of farmworkers, rail workers, miners, eruptions like the Great Flint sit down strike of the 1930s.

In terms of selfless devotion to other human beings, many thousands of working class Americans have a record second to none.

Today, our constant image of the United States is of a deranged people mindlessly and viciously at war with each other.

It has been sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the US government has maintained a   (more…)

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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, (more…)

The Black Power slogan of the 1960s was replaced with empowerment for the black American middle class and burgeoning capitalist layers

The Black Power slogan of the 1960s was replaced with empowerment for the black American middle class and burgeoning capitalist layers

The reign of the first black president in the United States is coming to an end.  Obama, or O’Bomber as he is known to chunks of the US left, has been very much a capitalist manager.  In that sense he is also a representative of the upwardly mobile black middle class, a class which owes its openings in American society in no small measure to the liberation movement of the 1960s.  While the black middle class is happy to have aspects of black history taught in schools and universities, it says that the ‘bad old days’ are basically over so 60s-style militancy – not to mention opposition  to capitalism – is no longer needed, is in fact counter-productive.  The following article was produced by an American Marxist group, The Spark, back in 1987, towards the end of the Reagan period.  The black movement had already ended by this time and one after another black radical was being either incorporated into mainstream capitalist politics or giving up in despair, with a few notable exceptions.  There were no new Malcolm Xs or Martin Luther Kings, no new Black Panthers or SNCCs or Freedom Now parties.

The article looks at the strengths and gains of the 1960s movement and its weaknesses, arguing that it never went outside capitalist limits and this, ultimately, we what destroyed it.  While this underestimates Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and their political direction at the time of their assassination, there is much in the article that is useful in understanding what happened in the United States and also what happened to radical Maori and Pacific Island politics here in roughly the same period.

by The Spark

The movement of black people, which was so dominant a part of American political life for the better part of thirty years, has receded to the point that we are now marking its last important anniversaries as historic events. The prison revolt at Attica, which attested to the potential the black movement had to pull after it the poor, Hispanics, all the oppressed was also an announcement of the beginning of the end of that movement. Attica was 1971, more than fifteen years ago.

By the time of Attica, this black movement had accomplished what might have seemed impossible in 1947, when returning veterans of World War II were lynched because they no longer had the acquiescent manner demanded of black people in the South. Such a movement would have seemed impossible even as late as 1955, when a black man was lynched in Mississippi because he had registered to vote and 21 others were killed by racists in that same state. Within a few years the black struggle had torn down the legal recognition of segregation in the South and the worst aspects of its more insidious, institutionalized version in the North. Black people showed that when the rulers of this society fear a social movement sufficiently, they can be brought to overturn long-standing social ills, to change the face of society.

The impact the struggle of black people had on their own place in this society can be measured in stark terms. The number of black people (more…)

images (1)We were saddened to hear that Richard Levins died on January 19.  An outstanding scientist and veteran Marxist, Richard would have been 86 in June this year.  We were delighted to notice some time back that Richard sometimes looked at material on Redline and even commented on a couple of articles.  Below we reprint a short tribute to him and his life well-lived that appeared on facebook.

by Rob Wallace

imagesRichard Levins, the dialectical biologist extraordinaire, has passed. He revolutionized population biology multiple times, making foundational contributions to modeling evolution in changing environments, the theory of biological control, the philosophy of biology, modeling complex systems, mathematical biology, disease ecology, public health, and agroecology. He coined the term “metapopulation”.

His thinking remains profound enough to keep us busy for many decades to come. So much so, I think, that he reads like a traveler from another timeline. Imagine a working class Charles Darwin showing up in King Arthur’s court. He collaborated with evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin to develop, via a series of beautifully written essays, a modern-day dialectical (more…)