Thursday, July 26, 2012

US Communists salute the Cuban Revolution



As Reposted from:

Greetings on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks

Long live July 26!

Today is the 59th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, Cuba, and thus is a fitting occasion to remind ourselves of what we all owe to the Cuban Revolution.
On July 26, 1953, 140 Cuban patriots stormed the heavens by launching an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, Cuba, in an effort to spark a national uprising to overthrow the odious U.S. supported military dictator, Fulgencio Batista. The attack failed, and many of the patriots became martyrs to their cause, either dying in the fighting or being murdered by Batista's agents in the aftermath. Only because of a national and international pressure campaign were comrades Fidel Castro and Raul Castro amnestied.
The Cuban revolutionaries did not give up, but continued to prepare, within Cuba and from exile, the campaign that eventually ousted Batista on January 1, 1959.
Quickly, Cuban reactionaries and their imperialist allies rallied to try to reverse the verdict expressed by the Cuban people on that date. They tried everything, and continue to do so: Invasions, sabotage, terrorism and assassination, economic strangulation and a vast propaganda campaign designed to dislodge the Cuban Revolution and subject the people of Cuba once again to class oppression and imperialist subjugation.
However Cuba has prevailed, even when the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe struck it such a dangerous blow.
In Cuba, the Revolution has created a better life for working people and the masses. Internationally, the gift of the Cuban Revolution has included.
  • The end of the odious apartheid regime in South Africa.
  • The renovation of the revolutionary movements in Latin America and beyond.
  • The renovation of the communist and workers' parties worldwide, who have learned, by
    Cuba's example, that a commitment to socialism does not entail adherence to ossified
    dogmas and bureaucratic, top down methods.
  • The development of the critique of late imperialism and of neo-liberal economic
    policies, as well as the strategy for combating them through popular mobilization.
  • The increasing unity of Latin America and ultimately of all the poor countries of Asia,
    Africa and Latin America behind a broad program of progressive change.
  • The disinterested provision of high quality health care, education and other services to
    poor countries around the world.
Fifty nine years on, however, imperialism has not given up its idea of reversing the Cuban Revolution. Although there have been some changes in the last couple of years, the United States still maintains the economic blockade of Cuba, and continues to imprison, in the face of worldwide indignation and pressure, four of the "Cuban Five" heroes. U.S. government funds still support propaganda and destabilization efforts.
So the struggle goes on, for Cuba and for Cuba's friends around the world, including here in the United States.
The Communist Party of the USA hereby:
  • Salutes the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban people on the occasion of the 59th
    Anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks.
  • Sends our special greeting to comrades Fidel Castro Ruz and comrade president Raul
    Castro Ruz, thanking them for their long service to the international working class and
    humanity, and wishing them many more years of good health and happiness.
  • Recalls to memory the glorious members of the first generation of the Cuban Revolution
    who are no longer with us physically but whose names will live for ever, including
    especially comrade Ernesto "Che" Guevara and so many others.
  • Pledges ourselves to keep struggling to end the blocade and travel restrictions, to put a
    stop to all harassment and destabilization activities directed against Cuba, and to free the
    Cuban Five.
In Cuban style, we close by saying:
¡Viva el 26 de Julio!
¡Viva el Partido Comunista de Cuba!
¡Viva la Revolución Cubana!
¡Viva el pueblo cubano, heroico y valiente!
¡Patria o muerte! ¡Cuba vencerá!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

VIDEO: Rant on Record Poverty in the US While the Rich Get Richer

YouTube vlogger  recently gave a no-holds barred assessment of the recent AP article reporting that poverty in the US is rising to the highest levels since 1960. The Working Class need more people willing to speak out and boldly say what needs to be said. The article referred to is reposted below the video. - Lupus




U.S. Poverty On Track To Rise To Highest Since 1960s

By HOPE YEN 07/22/12 05:47 PM ET AP

WASHINGTON — The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.
Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.
"I grew up going to Hawaii every summer. Now I'm here, applying for assistance because it's hard to make ends meet. It's very hard to adjust," said Laura Fritz, 27, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., describing her slide from rich to poor as she filled out aid forms at a county center. Since 2000, large swaths of Jefferson County just outside Denver have seen poverty nearly double.
Fritz says she grew up wealthy in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, but fortunes turned after her parents lost a significant amount of money in the housing bust. Stuck in a half-million dollar house, her parents began living off food stamps and Fritz's college money evaporated. She tried joining the Army but was injured during basic training.
Now she's living on disability, with an infant daughter and a boyfriend, Garrett Goudeseune, 25, who can't find work as a landscaper. They are struggling to pay their $650 rent on his unemployment checks and don't know how they would get by without the extra help as they hope for the job market to improve.
In an election year dominated by discussion of the middle class, Fritz's case highlights a dim reality for the growing group in poverty. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes.
"The issues aren't just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy," said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.
He pointed to the recent recession but also longer-term changes in the economy such as globalization, automation, outsourcing, immigration, and less unionization that have pushed median household income lower. Even after strong economic growth in the 1990s, poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, launched in 1964, that created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs.
"I'm reluctant to say that we've gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference. The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon," Edelman said.
Stacey Mazer of the National Association of State Budget Officers said states will be watching for poverty increases when figures are released in September as they make decisions about the Medicaid expansion. Most states generally assume poverty levels will hold mostly steady and they will hesitate if the findings show otherwise. "It's a constant tension in the budget," she said.
The predictions for 2011 are based on separate AP interviews, supplemented with research on suburban poverty from Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution and an analysis of federal spending by the Congressional Research Service and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.
The analysts' estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 6, were poor last year. An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965. The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures.
Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew.
Demographers also say:
_Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels – 15 percent to 16 percent – will last at least until 2014, due to expiring unemployment benefits, a jobless rate persistently above 6 percent and weak wage growth.
_Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011.
_Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15 percent poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high.
_Poverty among people 65 and older will remain at historically low levels, buoyed by Social Security cash payments.
_Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010.
Analysts also believe that the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent.
"I've always been the guy who could find a job. Now I'm not," said Dale Szymanski, 56, a Teamsters Union forklift operator and convention hand who lives outside Las Vegas in Clark County. In a state where unemployment ranks highest in the nation, the Las Vegas suburbs have seen a particularly rapid increase in poverty from 9.7 percent in 2007 to 14.7 percent.
Szymanski, who moved from Wisconsin in 2000, said he used to make a decent living of more than $40,000 a year but now doesn't work enough hours to qualify for union health care. He changed apartments several months ago and sold his aging 2001 Chrysler Sebring in April to pay expenses.
"You keep thinking it's going to turn around. But I'm stuck," he said.
The 2010 poverty level was $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership, as well as noncash aid such as food stamps and tax credits, which were expanded substantially under President Barack Obama's stimulus package.
An additional 9 million people in 2010 would have been counted above the poverty line if food stamps and tax credits were taken into account.
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, believes the social safety net has worked and it is now time to cut back. He worries that advocates may use a rising poverty rate to justify additional spending on the poor, when in fact, he says, many live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.
A new census measure accounts for noncash aid, but that supplemental poverty figure isn't expected to be released until after the November election. Since that measure is relatively new, the official rate remains the best gauge of year-to-year changes in poverty dating back to 1959.
Few people advocate cuts in anti-poverty programs. Roughly 79 percent of Americans think the gap between rich and poor has grown in the past two decades, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/RNS Religion News survey from November 2011. The same poll found that about 67 percent oppose "cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor" to help reduce the budget deficit.
Outside of Medicaid, federal spending on major low-income assistance programs such as food stamps, disability aid and tax credits have been mostly flat at roughly 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product from 1975 to the 1990s. Spending spiked higher to 2.3 percent of GDP after Obama's stimulus program in 2009 temporarily expanded unemployment insurance and tax credits for the poor.
The U.S. safety net may soon offer little comfort to people such as Jose Gorrin, 52, who lives in the western Miami suburb of Hialeah Gardens. Arriving from Cuba in 1980, he was able to earn a decent living as a plumber for years, providing for his children and ex-wife. But things turned sour in 2007 and in the past two years he has barely worked, surviving on the occasional odd job.
His unemployment aid has run out, and he's too young to draw Social Security.
Holding a paper bag of still-warm bread he'd just bought for lunch, Gorrin said he hasn't decided whom he'll vote for in November, expressing little confidence the presidential candidates can solve the nation's economic problems. "They all promise to help when they're candidates," Gorrin said, adding, "I hope things turn around. I already left Cuba. I don't know where else I can go."
Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Lakewood, Colo., Ken Ritter and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas, Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami and AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blackshirts & Bats: Chris Nolan’s far right worldview in The Dark Knight Rises

Reprinted from: FightBack! News
Review by Dave Schneider |
July 22, 2012
**Spoiler alert: This review is full of spoilers**

Director Chris Nolan calls it a “revolutionary epic.” I’d call it a counter-revolutionary blockbuster.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Dark Knight Rises is an outstanding film visually, and it’s scintillating to watch on the big screen. Christopher Nolan did not disappoint in delivering an action-packed superhero tour-de-force like the previous two Batman films. He tied the first two installments together to complete a complex and compelling story. And most impressive of all, in my opinion, series-newcomer Anne Hathaway’s role as Catwoman is one of the best performances of the year.

But when I left The Dark Knight Rises at nearly 3:00 a.m. on its opening night, my opinion of the film was decidedly more mixed than my reaction to The Dark Knight four years ago. Sure, after you cut through Heath Ledger’s incredible performance and the mind-blowing special effects, The Dark Knight was an insidious defense of the Bush administration’s war on terror, interestingly timed right before the 2008 election. However, I didn’t pick up on Nolan’s profoundly reactionary worldview when I saw that second Batman film in the summer between high school and college. This time around – after four years of activism, witnessing the rise of both the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movements and seeing the widespread disappointment with President Obama – I couldn’t think of much else.

In The Dark Knight [2008], Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), part-time CEO and full-time vigilante, faces off against a villain so one-dimensional and disturbing he could have starred on a Dateline NBC crime special. Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the Joker overshadowed how closely his character mirrored the classic image of terrorists painted by the Bush administration for eight years (“Some men just want to watch the world burn”), with no discernible reasons or motivations for their actions. To protect us from the Joker, Batman takes it on himself to begin torturing prisoners, wiretapping civilians’ cell phones, and lying to the people of Gotham, all ‘for their protection.’ When Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhardt), the tough-on-crime district attorney, becomes a madman and starts offing citizens, Batman subdues him and colludes with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to take the fall for Dent’s crimes. We are told in the first scene of Nolan’s new film that this lie allowed Gotham to pass the Harvey Dent Act, which reduced crime by simultaneously reducing civil liberties. Sounds like a fair trade, right Mr. Bush?

The Dark Knight Rises starts eight years later. Wayne is older, partially crippled and reclusive, having retired from the outside world after the death of his childhood love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in the last movie. Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscular insurrectionist clad in a bulletproof vest and a breathing mask lifted from the Predator movies, shows up in Gotham to bring down the city with a nuclear bomb. By the time Bane gets around to breaking Batman’s back and explaining his master plan – trick the people of Gotham into revolution and then exterminate them – one has to think, “Wait, what?”

It didn’t surprise me that Nolan created a film about class warfare, especially given the times we live in. What surprised me was the side he decided to take. The Dark Knight Rises is a film extolling the virtues of the 1% that tries to explain why working people can’t run society and why a fascist police state is actually a good idea.

In The Dark Knight Rises, the rich have it just as bad as, if not worse, than the rest of us. They lose their entire corporate fortunes – inherited, in the case of Bruce Wayne, or stolen from an unnamed West African country in the case of corporate rival Daggert – to terrorist raids on the stock exchange. They have their homes burglarized by the 99%, first by maids and later by angry anonymous mobs. They lose their cleaning staff and butlers, forcing them to (gasp!) open the front door themselves. The power company even turns off their electricity. Forget flying billionaires dressed as bats; this is the most unrealistic part of the movie.

In an early scene featuring Bane taking the entire Gotham Stock Exchange hostage, a CEO stands nervously outside pressuring the police to breach the door and secure the premises. “It’s not just my money,” he complains. “It’s everyone’s money!” A skeptical police officer tells him he keeps his money under a mattress at home, to which the CEO replies – and I paraphrase – If we don’t stop them, your money under that mattress will be worth a lot less.

Here’s a film so blissfully out of touch with the lives of working Americans that it actually tries to make the argument that poor people should be concerned about the fortunes of Wall Street bankers. Nowhere in this film – or any of Nolan’s films, for that matter – is there any attempt to look at the social roots of crime. What about Wayne Enterprises’ bad investment decisions that cost workers their jobs or pensions? Zilch. How about the jobs lost from corporate outsourcing to neo-colonies in West Africa, explicitly referenced by one CEO in the film? Eh, whatever. What about the steady decline of wages that corporations like Bruce Wayne’s have encouraged for the past three decades? Forget about it! Frankly, Nolan should have directed Romney’s campaign commercials. The former governor certainly has the budget for it in the wake of Citizens United!

The Dark Knight Rises is Hollywood’s rebuke of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the growing discontent with the market system increasingly felt by working Americans. In Nolan’s universe, there’s no difference between protest and terrorism. Ironically, in a world of Obama’s ‘kill list’ and the National Defense Authorization Act, this may be the most realistic aspect of his film.
The masses have no will of their own in Nolan’s series. They are an object to either be manipulated by Bane or saved by Batman. Outlandish scenes of the impoverished masses of Gotham vandalizing mansions and beating up rich people for seemingly no reason reflects the Burkean worldview that informed the founding fathers, the corporate leaders of today and indeed Nolan himself. In the film, the people hold haphazard ‘sentencing tribunals’ with no due process for the wealthy, resulting in sentences of ‘exile’ or ‘death by exile.’ It’s the German Peasant Revolt. It’s the Paris Commune. It’s Occupy Wall Street. It’s every popular movement in history that has ever challenged the will of the ruling class.

Much has been said about the coincidence between the villain’s name, Bane, and the financial management company owned and operated by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Bain Capital. In truth, The Dark Knight Rises more closely reflects Romney’s worldview than that of progressives. In a pivotal scene, Bane confesses to an injured Bruce Wayne that he only intends to ‘inspire hope’ to placate the people while he prepares to exterminate them all. By the time Bane cynically talks about ‘hope’ for the third time, I began wondering if Nolan was giving us a window into the worldview of the world’s most obnoxious, Kool-Aid-drinking, Tea Party scrub – a foreign, charismatic leader promises change to the people while secretly conspiring to destroy them all from within. Bane is a terrorist, not a revolutionary, but Nolan never seems to distinguish between the two.
The film couldn’t be any clearer with its worldview. The main villain is a charismatic atheisto-jihadist from a former Soviet Republic. His army of ‘terrorists’ are cement-layers, linemen, bridge operators, service employees; in other words, working-class people. His reserve troops are freed prison inmates, many who undoubtedly were only serving sentences because of the Big Brother-provisions of the Harvey Dent Act. His shock troops are the unwashed masses of Gotham, who are too busy engaging in wanton acts of anarchic violence and vandalism to realize that they were duped by Bane. By the time la revolucion starts up in the film’s third act, it’s impossible to distinguish between Bane’s League of Shadows cadre, the prisoners they freed from Gotham’s prison and ordinary working people in Gotham caught up in the uprising.

On the other hand, we have a slate of heroes straight out of a Glenn Beck novel: an eccentric billionaire recluse who becomes a vigilante to save the wayward people of Gotham from themselves; a police commissioner who lies to the people to preserve ‘order’; a petty cat-burglar who only becomes a hero by renouncing class warfare and hooking up with the lead male; and an incorruptible rookie cop whose Boy Scout-demeanor would make Captain America blush. Bane may have a mob army, but Batman has an army of cops, who march into battle to put down the malevolent…people of Gotham?

In the same year of Trayvon Martin’s shooting by a self-appointed vigilante, the ensuing police cover-up and countless instances of police brutality taking place every day, The Dark Knight Rises’ glorification of police militarism seems bizarre, if not sinister. Similarly, Nolan’s final Batman film and its condemnation of mass political action comes amidst mass uprisings across the Arab world, Europe, Latin America, Africa and even the United States. Maybe Nolan had an agenda, or maybe he didn’t. The point is that a film as anticipated and publicized as The Dark Knight Rises pushes a very particular world view at odds with working Americans and oppressed people.

The message of The Dark Knight Rises is clear: Today’s discontent underclasses are tomorrow’s insurgent army, and all it takes is one charismatic leader to dupe the masses into suicide and destruction. The people need to be ruled by a powerful class of benevolent one-percenters. Lying and violating constitutional rights to ‘clean up the streets’ is generally justifiable. And above all else, never let the people take power.

Even as an activist, you can enjoy The Dark Knight Rises as a film. I certainly did. It’s important, though, that any and every activist combats the worldview and message put forward by Nolan, which itself reflects the larger trend of criminalizing dissent and protest in this country. All too often, protesters are portrayed in the media as parasites, criminals, degenerates, or terrorists for raising serious concerns about inequalities and injustices in our society.

I left the film last night satisfied as a movie-goer and more riled up than ever to fight the criminalization of protest and dissent in this country. Nolan’s film made me remember the words of a famous revolutionary: “It is right to rebel.”
Indeed it is.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Of Civil Disobedience and Sacrifice

By Daniel Lee

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty…in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

On November 2, 2011, I and a group of 13 others stood on a small strip of grass in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, refusing the orders to leave the park being barked over bullhorn while being surrounded by more than 50 officers leveling riot suppression weapons at us, and were arrested, taken downtown, and booked in jail. I came back to the park the next night, and the night after that, for over 2 weeks, receiving two more citations, and facing off with the boys in blue each night as we sang the national anthem, union songs, and recited passages from the bill of rights,  Martin Luther King Jr., and OWS’ Declaration of Occupation.  I watched fellow protesters being sprayed in the face at point blank range with pepper spray for doing nothing more than sitting peacefully in protest, and I suffered minor nerve damage which still occasionally flares up every so often from the excessively tight zip cords they bound my hands with as they carried me away. I stood before city council the night after I was released from jail to plead for our rights only to be immediately shut down. I stood in the cold, in the rain and sleet, shoulder to shoulder with other compatriots, facing the full and terrible force of a belligerent militarized police force suppressing civil liberties, and I would gladly do it again.

Why did I risk my liberty and freedom to stand on a strip of grass after 11:01 pm? I did it because I believed, and still do, that the freedoms our country supposedly stands for is an illusion. True democracy does not exist – elections are rigged and controlled by wealthy corporate elites who use politicians as puppets to expand their profits and strip workers and citizens of their rights. Free speech is only free to those who can pay for it. All but the wealthiest who can hire an army of attorneys are subject to unreasonable search and seizure. Our civil and human rights are trampled on a daily basis, and yet we take it, day in and day out. We fly our flags and vote at election time, and unless we are directly bearing the brunt of injustice, we tend to turn a blind eye to the outrages against justice that are meted out on the poor, the minorities, and the plain unlucky.

I stood on that grass after curfew, in direct violation of a law which requires legal bribery by the payment of outrageous fees and insurance bonds to circumvent, a law which is designed to abridge citizen’s rights of free speech unless they have enough money to pay to get around it, and I made a stand. I could have moved two feet over to the sidewalk and completely avoided violating the law, but I chose to break it as a direct act of civil disobedience.

So I pled “No Contest” and was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of breaking park curfew, and given a fine, which the judge graciously reduced on account of being improperly represented at the beginning (a problem which I remedied by hiring a very able and competent attorney). I could have chosen to fight the charges as I’m sure some of the others arrested that night - and the night before and the nights of the two weeks which followed - might do. But to me, it is illogical and dishonest to commit an act of civil disobedience and then try to plead innocent. I freely acknowledge that I broke the law, and I have paid the price. The price however, is minuscule compared to the toll which is exacted upon the people in the name of freedom. Many more acts, and many more sacrifices will have to be made to balance back the scales of justice in our favor.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Woody Guthrie Today, and Woody Guthrie the Communist

Re-posted from Selecting Stones
by L. W. Denton
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary folk musician Woody Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma.  Guthrie has long been a controversial figure in Oklahoma and elsewhere for the simple reason that he was a communist.

Woody Guthrie with his Guitar

Woody Guthrie with his Guitar:
“This Machine Kills Fascists”

Woody Guthrie is most famous for two things: First, that he wrote the song “This Land is Your Land”, and second, that he once said, “The best thing that I did in 1936 was to sign up with the Communist Party.”  It is widely known that Guthrie was exaggerating with the words “sign up”, as he was not a full member of the Communist Party.  However, he did work with the Communist Party extensively, writing regularly for The Daily Worker.  No wonder, then, that today’s direct descendant of the old Daily Worker, the People’s World, ran an article yesterday on Okemah’s most famous Marxist son.  Another indirect scion of the Daily Worker, the Oklahoma Workers’ Monthly, took a moment to celebrate Woody Guthrie, too.  And even though over the past 50 years “This Land is Your Land” has been stolen by right-wing nationalists and mistaken for a celebration of American chauvinism, the original version of the song penned by Guthrie makes its Marxist viewpoint loud and clear.  A verse that is always omitted today shows that Guthrie proudly stood, as any communist would, for the ultimate abolition of private property:
“As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, it said ‘Private Property’
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.”
Fascists, of course, have always stood for Private Property every bit as much as anti-Semitism or anything else, and so it makes sense why Guthrie would use his guitar as a machine to kill them.
Again, it seems today that everyone misses the original point of “This Land is Your Land”.  After all, most of us have been indoctrinated since the third grade to believe that the song is sending the same message as “God Bless America” when it is, in fact, doing quite the opposite.  The tragic fate of the song, however, serves to demonstrate the greater tragic fate of Woody Guthrie’s legacy as a whole.  No doubt Woody is rolling in his grave at a large part of the way he is received today.  As a deeply political man, Guthrie would surely be upset to know that his politics have been essentially whitewashed out of his life’s story.
Each year since 1998, the town of Okemah has hosted the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.  The event’s website is careful not to mention anything political.  In the recollection of Woody Guthrie’s life story, it seems that in reality everyone knows he was a communist.  But in order to make Guthrie an “acceptable” figure, history has been rewritten to deny Guthrie’s communism, or simply not talk about the issue.  There is a huge elephant in the room, and everyone prefers to stay quiet.  An Oklahoma entertainment monthly, The Current, recently ran an article on this year’s milestone WoodyFest in Okemah.  Since the event coincides this year with Guthrie’s centenary, the article — by Dale Ann Deffer — took the time to include a lengthy biographical sketch.  Deffer mentions over and over again that Guthrie passionately followed the cause of the working class (and that he didn’t care about making money), but chooses to sidestep the obvious implications of these facts about the singer.  The stated cause of the Communist Party has always been the objective best interests of the working class.  And just incidentally, communists tend as a general rule not to care too much about making money, either.  At the tail end of the article, Deffer writes of Woody’s 92-year-old sister Mary Jo, who still lives in Okemah:
“She is said to have worked tirelessly for years to wipe out some of the verbal attacks on Guthrie due to his unusual lifestyle and the fact that he wrote a weekly column for The Sunday Worker which was a Communist publication.  He was said to espouse socialism at a time when it was very unpopular.  Currently, several townspeople in Okemah when asked about this association believe those attacks were unjustified.”
Woody Guthrie
Why is it an attack to call Woody Guthrie a “socialist”?  Woody Guthrie would have called himself a socialist with no reservation.  Why does everyone speak in shame that Woody Guthrie wrote a column in the Communist Party’s newspaper?  Woody Guthrie was presumably quite proud of his work for the Communist Party, or else, why would he have done it?  Why would Guthrie have bragged that he signed up with the Communist Party in 1936 — when he had, in fact, not done so — unless he was quite proud to call himself a communist?  And why is there a need to falsify history and say that socialism was unpopular during the Dust Bowl years?  Socialism and communism were extremely popular during the Dust Bowl years, as any historian of any political persuasion would readily tell you.  The real history, therefore, is quite different.  Instead, “socialism” is “unpopular” today, not when Woody Guthrie was alive.  Since that time, and specifically since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 (look it up), the working class political movement has suffered decade after decade of defeat at the hands of big business and big capital, along with a subtle, clever, and yet relentless campaign to make everyone forget how working class politics and communism used to be one and the same thing.
As a part of this long process, the true story of Woody Guthrie became a taboo that nobody could talk about.  And so the dangerous verses of “This Land is Your Land” had to be removed in order to make the song palatable for a world in which big capital rules uncontested — the same world in which we are now politely asked to mistake the openly anti-worker position of somebody like Ron Paul for a path to liberation.  The Red Scare and McCarthyism, therefore, never really ended, and Woody Guthrie became another victim of the falsification of history.  The only difference is that now “red-baiting” has been replaced by a blanket of silence, one designed to keep working men and women from ever daring to ask why capitalist America gives them so little of its extraordinary riches.
Oklahomans should be proud of Woody Guthrie, and proud of their state’s great Marxist heritage.  Guthrie, after all, is only one of many communists to come out of Oklahoma.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


TULSA, Okla. - This year marks the centennial of the birth of Woody Guthrie, who many have argued is perhaps one of the most influential songwriters and performers of the 20th century. Guthrie's name is synonymous with a style of music that people through the years have called "country," "folk," "hillbilly" to name a few, but that is distinctly American. And though his career was as turbulent as his life and times, his music reflected the best in the man and his world. Today, the name Woody Guthrie resonates with musicians and music lovers, as well as among many of the working people whom Woody's music championed.

While Woody Guthrie is a beloved figure in much of the world, he continues to be a source of controversy in his home state of Oklahoma because of his Communist sympathies. Few will forget the signs placed in bank windows in Okemah, Okla., Woody's hometown, reading, "Woody is no son of ours!" - a message to those who made the pilgrimage for the annual Woody Guthrie music festival there.

But many more Oklahomans are proud to call Woody one of their own, as recently erected roadside billboards boast, "OKLAHOMA: HOME OF WOODY GUTHRIE!"

This year, in an ironic twist, the Woody Guthrie archives, currently stored in New York City, are being moved to a permanent location here in Tulsa, after what Woody's daughter describes as "a fortuitous meeting with the folks at the George Kaiser Foundation." While many Oklahomans are delighted that Woody's archive will become accessible to the many Okies too poor to travel to New York, some are dismayed over the fact that the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, representing one of the wealthiest billionaires in the world, has been instrumental in moving the archive.

The proposed home for the archive is known in Tulsa as "the Brady District" - named after the notorious Tulsa politician and business mogul with well-established ties to the Ku Klux Klan. But even African Americans here see the move as an overall positive. One Tulsa resident said, "What better way to start moving our local culture away from the dominant reactionary narrative and start reasserting our progressive history. And who better to usher in that change than our own Woody Guthrie."

Woody has been claimed as the inspiration of many now-great artists like Bruce Springsteen and The Clash's Joe Strummer who openly admired Guthrie's devotion to real stories about real working people. Bob Dylan was so enamored with Guthrie's mystique that he pretended to have been born in Oklahoma. But unlike Dylan, Woody's music was never contrived and spoke to the authentic heart of the Dust Bowl experience.

Many are aware that popular music owes a great debt to Woody's influence, but few know much about what inspired Woody. Certainly his music was shaped by his experiences as he traveled with Oklahoma's migrant workers attempting to escape the desolation and poverty of the 1930s. But Woody was more than just a singer and songwriter. He was a true "organic intellectual." He not only sang about social problems, injustices, the struggle against fascism during the Second World War - he also studied these problems deeply and worked as a sort of people's journalist.

Woody's work was regularly featured in the Communist Party's newspaper the Daily Worker under a column titled, "Woody Sez." During the Depression, Woody performed for Communist Party events throughout California and, after the onset of the Second World War, was an unapologetic supporter of the united front against fascism. He felt so strongly about the need to unite against Nazi Germany and the ultra-right forces of fascism that he wrote and recorded a classic workers' anthem titled "All You Fascists Bound to Lose."

Woody's sympathy for working-class movements, unions and the Communist Party is also apparent in his most famous song, "This Land is Your Land." The song was written in 1944 as a direct response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which Woody criticized as being nationalistic and against the spirit of the anti-fascist united front. As a testament to Woody's sympathies for a Marxist critique of capitalism he included a verse in "This Land is Your Land" that is often omitted in popular renditions of this classic:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.

While many have attempted to revise and reinterpret Woody's controversial legacy since his death, Woody himself was never afraid to let his true colors shine. In addition to writing for the Communist Party's newspaper, he openly fraternized with Communists and attended Communist Party events. Although there is some debate over whether or not Woody was ever a "card-carrying member" of the Communist Party, there is little doubt about his sympathies and support for the work of the party. As Guthrie himself once said, "The best thing that I did in 1936 was to sign up with the Communist Party."

By J. Shepherd


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Early this morning, SWAT Teams from Seattle PD launched a violent raid on the apartment of Red Spark Collective and Occupy Seattle organizers, ransacking the residence looking for "anarchist materials" and clothing supposedly in connection with the Seattle May Day incident in which Black Bloc anarchist protesters vandalized store fronts and cars near Westlake Park.
The police forced their way in the apartment with a battering ram and flashbang grenades, entering with automatic weapons drawn. From a report posted on

The neighbor Natalio Perez heard the attack from downstairs: “Suddenly we heard the bang of their grenade, and the crashing as police entered the apartment. The crashing and stomping continued for a long time as they tore the place apart.”
This action targets well known activists from Occupy Seattle and the Red Spark Collective (part of the national Kasama network).
This apartment has been a hub for organizing the Everything 4 Everyone festival in August – to bring together West Coast forces for a cultural and political event building on the year of Occupy.

The raid is a heavy-handed threat delivered by armed police aimed at intimidating specific people – but also st suppressing the work to continue the Occupy movement in Seattle, and create E4E as a space for radical gathering.
The SPD Posted in their blotter:
Early this morning, SWAT and detectives served a search warrant to a residence as part of the ongoing May Day investigation. Just before 6:00 am, detectives contacted four individuals inside the residence in the 1100 Block of 29th Avenue South. The search resulted in evidence that will be useful in the investigation. The detectives are continuing to work toward identifying suspects in the May Day riot. There may be more search warrants in the future. The four individuals contacted inside the residence this morning were cooperative with investigators and after being interviewed, were released from the scene. The May Day investigation continues.
These heavy-handed tactics continue a wave of repressive crackdowns that have been seen across the nation, targeting activists' homes and centers of activity. Fellow workers concerned with upholding their rights of free speech and freedom from unlawful search and seizure as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, are urged to contact the Seattle Police Department at their non-emergency line at: (206) 625-5011, or the offices of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn at (206) 684-2489 and protest the SPD's
Stormtrooper actions.

UPDATE: Further developments to the story -

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Founding Fathers: An American Legacy of Exploitation and Oppression

by Lupus

A lot of people, from Democrats to Republicans, Tea Party to Occupiers, talk about “taking America back” and “returning the nation to its founding principles.” Clearly, there must be some confusion about what those “founding principles” are, to be so widely claimed by so divergent ideologies. Each sees within the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence their own primitive utopia of tricorn-hatted supermen who omnisciently had all the answers for all time. Such reactionary thought is ingrained into us as children in school , learning the myths of our country’s founding in order to instill in us the backwards pride of American Exceptionalism, and a blindness to our nation’s imperialist actions around the world. 
I’ve even heard Progressives talk about the problems of social and economic inequality we face today, and “if we could only get things back to the way things were” and “we never had this level of inequality from the period between the civil war and the great depression.”
Really? So, Segregation, Poll Taxes, Women being unable to vote, child labor (yes, made illegal in the latter part of that period, but extremely pervasive), no social security, vast amounts of illiteracy, the continuing genocide of native American peoples, and the rise of the robber barons of oil, railways, textiles, and manufacturing with working conditions that prompted Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle” – all of this is somehow better than the conditions we face today?
And what of our “great founding fathers” and their incredibly wise magical document, the Constitution?  Let’s talk about them, shall we? Why not start with the “great” George Washington – a rich, white, slave-owning, patriarchal, intolerant, racist miser who had little regard for human life other than that of other rich, white, slave-owning men.  The following quotes are from an article by Peter Henriques, “The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret": George Washington and Slavery  ( ):

During the pre-Revolutionary years, Washington's views toward slavery were [as far as the record reveals] conventional, reflecting those of a typical Virginia planter of his time. He undoubtedly shared the "engrained sense of racial superiority" so common among white Virginians and did not emotionally identify with the slaves' plight. There is an extant letter from Washington [1766] that leaves a flavor of the nature of the institution and his rather routine acceptance of it."Sir: With this letter comes a Negro (Tom) which I beg the favour of you to sell, in any of the Islands you may go to, for whatever he will fetch, and bring me in return for him: one hhd [sic] of best molasses, one of best Rum, one barrel of Lymes if good and cheap, … and the residue, much or little in good ole spirits…That this Fellow is both a rogue and a Runaway…I shall not pretend to deny. But . . . he is exceedingly healthy, strong and good at the Hoe… which gives me reason to hope he may, with your good management sell well (if kept clean and trim'd up a little when offered for sale… [I] must beg the favor of you (lest he should attempt his escape) to keep him hand-cuffed till you get to Sea."
Washington tended to view slavery as a commercial enterprise. It was simply an integral part of his desire to make profits from tobacco and grain cultivation and keep debts to a minimum. In this sense, MV slaves were his chattels, his human property. The language he used in buying them might be applicable to livestock. He wished "all of them to be strait limbed, & in every respect strong and healthy with good Teeth." As the historian John Ferling notes in his often perceptive but essentially critical study of GW, "He was not moved to express hatred or love or empathy for his chattel. They were simply business propositions, and his comments regarding these unfortunate people were recorded with about as much passion as were his remarks on wheat rust or the efficacy of a new fertilizer."
GW unquestionably assumed that his slaves would "be at their work, as soon as it was light, [and] work till it was dark." Each bondsman "must be made to do a sufficient day's work." GW's goal for his bondsmen and women was explicit: "that every laborer (male and female) does as much in 24 hours as their strength, without endangering their health or constitution, will allow." Or again: "It has always been my aim to feed & cloath them well, & be careful of them in sickness - in return, I expect such labour as they ought[!] to render."…
He lamented, "Lost labour can never be regained," and overseers were urged to be constantly vigilant and to always remember that the slaves were working for GW. In his words, "I expect to reap the benefit of the labour myself." [He complained that Peter who was responsible for riding around the plantation to check on the stock was usually engaged "in pursuits of other objects… more advancive of his own pleasure than my benefit." Again the interesting point is that GW can complain about this while most of us would sympathize with Peter's actions.]
Washington, however, to his constant and growing frustration, found it was not easy in fact to reap the benefits of their labor. Indeed, he increasingly viewed the system of slave labor as inherently inefficient. He noted, "Every place where I have been there are many workmen, and little work." [It might be mentioned in passing that GW was a hard man to work for and he makes constant complaints about the quality of his laborers - white as well as black] He had lots of complaints. Slaves feigned illness, destroyed equipment, were often idle and regularly stole his corn, meat, apples, and liquor. GW lamented that unless watched the slaves would get 2 glasses of wine for every one served in the mansion. Everything not nailed down was in danger of being stolen. And how could it be nailed down when even the nails were disappearing? "I cannot conceive how it is possible for 6,000 12 penny nails could be used in the Corn house at River Plantation, but of one thing I have no great doubt and that is, if they can be applied to other uses, or converted into cash, rum, or other things, there will be no scruple in doing it." [from Jean Lee]
There is some dispute about the living conditions of the slaves at Mount Vernon as the evidence and testimony are in conflict. Certainly, they did not live well. One visitor to Mount Vernon [a Polish nobleman] was shocked by the living quarters of Washington's slaves referring to them as "huts," adding "for one can not call them by the name of houses. They are more miserable than the most miserable of the cottages of our peasants. The husband and wife sleep on a mean pallet, the children on the ground; a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking." GW himself seemed to acknowledge their very rudimentary condition, for when he later sought Europeans to work Mount Vernon's fields, he admitted that the slave quarters at MV "might not be thought good enough for the workmen or day laborers" of England. Clothing and blankets were carefully rationed. A woman would receive an extra blanket if she had a child, but if the child died, the woman would not get a new blanket for herself but was to use the one given to her child. On clothing for the children, another French nobleman declared, the Negro quarters "swarm with pickaninnies in rags that our beggars would scorn to wear." [This might be from 19th century] The slaves' rations, consisting chiefly of maize, herring, and occasionally salt meat, must have been at least on occasion rather meager, for GW's slaves at least once took the extraordinary step of petitioning their master, claiming they received an inadequate supply of food.
Why do we revere this man? In modern times, he would be viewed as despicable as the Grand Dragon of the KKK, or decried for his abusive labor practices and boycotted by concerned citizens groups. Does the excuse that “it was a different time” condone the attitudes and actions of those involved? Nineteen-thirty nine was a “different time,” does that excuse the holocaust?
The other “founding fathers” were just as elitist and reactionary. John Adams, a Neo-Monarchist, “declared that the distinction between gentlemen and commoners was the "most ancient and universal of all Divisions of People" — conceived of the Senate as a direct parallel to the British House of Lords, maintaining the interests of the gentry as a counterweight to the common people's representatives in the House of Representatives.” (Budiansky, ) Alexander Hamilton wrote in a letter to Theodore Sedgwick: “"... our real Disease ... is Democracy, the poison of which by a subdivision will only be the more concentrated in each part, and consequently the more virulent." ( ). Even Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, spoke of a “natural aristocracy” of people through merit. This probably should not be surprising coming from a man who, like the others (with the exception of John Adams), owned many slaves, and sexually exploited his personal concubine, Sally Hemmings. This charge of course is vigorously denied by Neo-cons today, but the circumstantial evidence together with the DNA evidence (which does not rule the possibility out) paints a clear enough picture – ( ).
America was built on the backs of slaves, the genocide of native nations, and the exploitation of immigrants and the working class. Today, it is a repressive oligarchy of bourgeoisie elites, feeding off the working people and nurturing and exporting Imperialist terrorism at home and abroad. This must be recognized and publicly acknowledged before we can hope to create the kind of nation we claim to aspire to be; one of justice, freedom, and equality. We cannot build a future on a foundation of lies about the past. Rather than reach back for a rosy history which never existed, let us rise up and take the power into our own hands and end once and for all the system of slavery to which we are bound with real and imaginary chains, and work to create a better future.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Carpenters Union Demonstrates at University of Oklahoma

Students at the University of Oklahoma Main campus have become accustomed to a sight which has greeted them whenever entering the loop since early this spring—a large banner held by members of the Carpenters Union No. 329 who have been engaged in a lengthy labor dispute with the University over hiring Green Country Interiors, Inc. which only hires non-union workers, and pays its workers substandard wages with no benefits. The Carpenters Union has demonstrated against Green Country before in 2009 when it was contracted by the University of Tulsa. Green Country has engaged in threatening and abusive tactics to union members and underbidding on contracts to keep out union contractors. Call 405-239-2792 for more information and to voice your solidarity with their struggle.