Letters from the Street

Philosophy, theology, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Category: Politics

Do-Re-Mi

I’m working on a one-person play about Karl Marx. It will be a mix of monologue, rap, and old worker’s songs (we need to keep that old stuff alive!)

I’m changing the words of some of the songs so as to make them relevant either to today’s scene, or to the life and ideas of Karl Marx. Here’s one of them, borrowing heavily from Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi (I like John Mellencamp’s version from the tribute album “A Vision Shared.”)

 

Now if you want to get some pay, you’ve got to work the livelong day,

Do what the boss man tells you to and never have your say.

Cuz he owns the whole damn load, all the land and all the roads,

All the judges and the cops and politicians, by the way,

See, he’s got more money than you even know,

And it gives him all the power over how things go, so

If you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,

Why, you never stand a chance against the bosses

As long as they have it all under lock and key.

This whole world could be a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see;

But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot

If you ain’t got the do re mi.

If you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,

Why, you never stand a chance against the bosses

Without having proletarian unity.

This whole world could be a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see;

Yeah your little ass is grass without the whole damn working class

Takin’ over the do re mi.

Russian Revolution: May 7-May 23, 1917

May 7 – 12, 1917 (April 24 – 29, old style)
Seventh All-Russian Conference of the Bolshevik party. Lenin’s April Theses are officially the party’s program. The new slogan is All Power to the Soviets.

May 14, 1917 (May 1, Old Style)
The Petrograd Soviet votes in favor of forming a new, Coalition Government, despite Bolshevik condemnation and in contradiction to the March 1 decision of the Soviet. Weeks earlier, Lenin warned about the dangers of this new Dual Power. Miliukov’s resignation comes on the following day.

May 15, 1917 (May 2, 1917 old style)
Pavel N. Milyukov resigns as foreign minister.

May 17, 1917 (May 4, 1917 old style)
Leon Trotsky arrives from America.

May 18, 1917 (May 5, 1917 old style)
The Second Provisional Government, also called First Coalition Government, is formed. The seats are occupied as follows

Lvov – President and Minister of the Interior
Kerensky – Minister of War and Navy (Socialist Revolutionist)
Chernov – Minister of Agriculture (Socialist Revolutionist)
Pereverzev – Minister of Justice
Tereshehenko – Minister of Foreign Affairs
Shingarev – Minister of Finance
Nekrasov – Minister of Communications
Konovalov – Minister of Commerce
Peshekhonov – Minister of Supplies
Manuilov – Minister of Education
Skobelev – Minister of Labor (Menshevik)
Tsereteli – Minister of Posts and Telegraph (Menshevik)

The First Coalition Government will end on July 15, 1917.

May 23, 1917 (May 10 Old Style)
The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies resolves that only discharged and wounded soldiers can perform as militiamen. Lenin explains his critique.

Russian Revolution: May 1-4, 1917

May 1, 1917 (April 18, old style)
Massive May Day celebrations occur in Russia. Foreign Minister Pavel N. Milyukov (also spelled Miliukov) sends a declaration to the Allies regarding the Russian Government’s war aims. The government’s position is that of being ready to quit the war without any ambitions regarding territorial annexations. However, knowing that the French and the British wouldn’t be happy with that position, Milyukov attaches a note of his own. Milyukov elaborates that Russia is still willing to “continue the war until complete victory” and that Russia is very much interested in expanding her territory.This note is leaked to the press and will cause the Provisional Government’s first crisis. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Miliukov secretly promises the Allies that Russia will continue the war until complete victory and the annexation of new territory is achieved. Miliukov’s secret note prompts armed demonstrations of furious soldiers in the streets for two days. The Bolsheviks resolve that the resignation of Miliukov is not enough; a new Soviet government must be formed, and give party members new instructions.

May 3 – 4, 1917 (April 20 – 21, old style)
The April Days, also called the April Crisis. Mass demonstrations in Petrograd and Moscow against Pavel N. Milyukov’s declaration of war aims.

Individual Rights or Solidarity Rights?

I suppose it goes back to the Enlightenment. The scientific revolution triggered the end of the Middle Ages. Instead of being told what to think, people started to think for themselves. And learn. The old doctrines of church and state began to be replaced by empirical investigation and the rise of reason. Not just in the physical sciences, but also in philosophy, culture — and politics.

The Enlightenment had a huge impact on how people thought about their relationship to government and each other. The revolutions in the US and France were major outcomes of these changes.

One of the things that changed was the concept of what Jefferson called “inalienable rights.” A right is something you’re born with. We all have it. It’s not given or even guaranteed by the government, although it can be taken away by someone stronger than you.

Americans have been raised on the recitation of these rights. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” “Freedom of religion, of assembly, of petition.” “Freedom from unlawful search and seizure.” And so forth.

These freedoms, coming as they did on the heels of millennia of authoritarian government (tribal rulers, kings, princes, emperors, popes and caliphs, etc.), were truly revolutionary in their impact. As the power of the hereditary aristocracy gave way to the power of business tycoons, some of whom like Andrew Carnegie rose from very humble beginnings to the very peaks of success, and as the divine right of kings gave way to the Declaration of the Rights of Man (sic), at last it was possible for individuals to make their own decisions, based not on who their parents were, but on what they could learn, make, think and do.

It was truly liberating. It was an entirely necessary development to create the kind of material wealth that so many of us enjoy today. By “so many of us,” I don’t just mean the 1%. People in the working class in all advanced industrial nations enjoy a standard of living that a king in a dark, dank castle could not have dreamed of. (Except, of course, when it comes to the power to rule.)

Many still consider these rights, these individual rights, to be the height and summation of all that humans can aspire to. Liberty forever! (Equality and fraternity, not so much.)

I’m not writing this to discount the importance of these rights. They are still of the utmost importance to our lives, and will remain so indefinitely. But that is not the end of the story of the development of the concept of rights. There is something else happening. The idea of rights is still expanding. Here’s where I think it is leading.

As important as these individual rights are, they leave large gaps in our ability to provide all people with security, good health, shelter, good nutrition, good education, etc. All of those things remain commodities to be bought and sold on the market. Take health care: you pay for it like you pay to go to a movie or for a Louis Vuitton handbag. But health care is not a luxury, it is something that everyone needs.

Under our concept of individual rights, healthcare will always be a commodity to be bought and sold. Why? Because under individual rights, one person has the right to ask for as much money as the market will bear, and to keep all of it for him or herself, regardless of how that affects anyone else.

Let me repeat that: regardless of how that affects anyone else.

That’s how pollution gets poured into our streams and air. That’s how poor people are evicted from their homes so that some developer can make even more money on the property.

We need another kind of rights, in addition to the individual rights that have done so much for us. We need solidarity rights. These are rights that we hold in common, not ones that each of us has separately. The right to decent shelter, clothing, food or health care is not a personal right. You can’t take these things away from someone else, under our current system, because they own and control them.

Within solidarity rights, things change. The individual doesn’t own something like health care. They can’t use it to extort money out of other people. Same with housing, food, or education. These are rights we have, not rights that have. In sharing good food, for instance, we’re not taking something away from someone else, because it never belonged to them in the first place. They still have a right to be compensated for their labor in producing it, they just don’t get to set the highest rate they can and pocket the profit that they exploited from people who need good food.

When Bernie talks about doing away with college tuition, he’s not talking about “free tuition” as his critics say. He is talking about how we all own education, in common with each other. We’re not trying to take something away from anyone else. That something was taken away from us, when it was made a commodity that someone else could get rich from. Rich off of your back. Rich off of the work you do to provide for yourself and your family. Rich off the choices you have to make, whether to have the good insurance or the car that doesn’t break down.

This idea of solidarity rights will continue to evolve. 50 or 100 years from now, we may realize that there are other solidarity rights that at this time we would not be able to recognize, because in the grand scheme of things, we are still barely out of medieval times and we don’t have the perspective yet.

The expansion of solidarity rights will go hand in hand with the expansion of socialism in our economic and political lives. Without greater economic justice, there will be no development of solidarity rights, and without solidarity rights, economic justice will not last.

Workers of the world, you have your chains to lose and a world to gain — for each other!

Transition to Socialism: Peaceful if Possible, Says Engels

I’ve been posting historical information from the Russian Revolution. At times, the revolution was violent. In nearly every case, this was provoked by the reactionary forces, either of those who were loyal to the Tsar and the old order, or other countries such as Germany, England, and the United States.

The question comes up, must a socialist revolution be violent?

It’s important to remember that the Russian Revolution happened in a particular place, at a particular time, under particular conditions. Those conditions never existed before and never will again. It is not a model for how a revolution has to happen. There are lessons to be learned, for sure, from the failures, from the successes, from the excesses.

Let’s not forget this: while much of the world speaks out in condemnation when the left commits a violent act, or even talks about it (such as the opposition to the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos, or the Black Panther Party in the 60s and 70s), the ruling class uses violence against the 99% all the time. Every time they kill a black person on the street, every time they shoot an innocent person on a no-knock warrant, every time they fire someone without cause, every time they use dogs or fire hoses on peaceful protesters such as at the Standing Rock encampment, every time they dump toxic waste in a community, every time they use fake emissions testing, every time they arrest and deport a hard-working immigrant, they assert the ability and will to use violence against us. And every time they do, the rest of us know that we could be next, and that innocence is no shield. So this whole topic is rife with hypocrisy and double standards.

Remember this?

Elian Gonzalex

Deadly enemy of the state right there, requiring the deployment of (I kid you not) over 100 federal agents to bring him down.

Just keep that in mind.

Here’s what Friedrich Engels had to say on the topic, from “The Principles of Communism”, published in 1847, the year before he and Karl Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto.” I believe that they are as valuable now as they were then:

“Will the peaceful abolition of private property be possible?

“It would be desirable if this could happen, and the communists would certainly be the last to oppose it. Communists know only too well that all conspiracies are not only useless, but even harmful. They know all too well that revolutions are not made intentionally and arbitrarily, but that, everywhere and always, they have been the necessary consequence of conditions which were wholly independent of the will and direction of individual parties and entire classes.

“But they also see that the development of the proletariat in nearly all civilized countries has been violently suppressed, and that in this way the opponents of communism have been working [against] a revolution with all their strength. If the oppressed proletariat is finally driven to revolution, then we communists will defend the interests of the proletarians with deeds as we now defend them with words.”

As a lifelong pacifist, I struggle with this issue as much as anyone. There is so much that can be done with nonviolent direct action, as proved by Gandhi, King, and many others. And yet, in the face of extreme injustice, my own moral purity is not what’s at stake.

Russian Revolution March 14

March 14, 1917 (March 1,1917 old style)
The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies issues Order No. 1, commanding the Russian armed forces to exclusively obey orders that have been approved by the Soviet. The Provisional Government is too weak to do anything about it and tries to look as unruffled as possible for a sitting duck.

Order No. 1 reads as follows.

Order No. 1 of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
to the Petrograd District Garrison

To be immediately and fully executed by all men in the Guards, army, artillery and navy and to be made known to the Petrograd workers.

The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has resolved:

1. In all companies, battalions, regiments, batteries, squadrons and separate services of various military departments and on board naval ships committees shall be immediately elected from among representatives of the rankers of the foregoing units.

2. In all units which have not yet elected their representatives to the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, one representative from each company shall be elected. All representatives, carrying appropriate identity cards, are to arrive at the building of the State Duma by 10 a. m., March 2, 1917.

3. In all their political actions, units are subordinated to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and their own committees.

4. All orders issued by the Military Commission of the State Duma shall be carried out, except those which run counter to the orders and decrees issued by the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

5. All kinds of weapons, namely rifles, machine-guns, armoured cars and so forth, shall be placed at the disposal and under the control of the company and battalion committees and shall by no means be issued to the officers, not even at their insistence.

6. In formation and on duty, soldiers shall strictly observe military discipline; however, off duty and formation, in their political, civic and private life, soldiers shall fully enjoy the rights granted to all citizens.

In particular, standing to attention and obligatory saluting off duty shall be cancelled.

7. Likewise, officers shall be addressed as Mr. General, Mr. Colonel, etc., instead of Your Excellency, Your Honor, etc.

Rudeness towards soldiers of all ranks and, in particular, addressing them as `thou’ shall be forbidden. Any violation of this rule and all cases of misunderstanding between officers and soldiers shall be reported by the latter to the company committees.

This order shall be read out in all companies, battalions, regiments, ship crews, batteries and other combat and non-combat detachments.

Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

There are 2 Kinds of Strikes

Benjamin Studebaker in fine form:

Source: There are 2 Kinds of Strikes

Unity Rally: We’re Not Going Back

(Angela Davis was a key figure in the CPUSA in the 70s and 80s. Glad to see her taking part in this Unity Rally.)

Join the Communist Party and the People Before Profits Education Fund Saturday evening on March 4th. We are gathering to promote a higher level of united mass struggle against racism, sexism, relig…

Source: Unity Rally: We’re Not Going Back

We Need Love More Than Ever

I’ve been having these conversations with friends who, like myself, are very concerned about the current social/political situation.

One of them remarked that an acquaintance had said that it would be OK to just run over protesters if they were blocking the street. This caused despair for my friend, who then generalized to “Trump voters.”

Well, you know what? Nearly 63 million people voted for Trump. Most of them people not that different from me. Same worries about jobs and kids and all that. They saw a solution being offered by Trump. I think they were mistaken, gravely and dangerously mistaken, but not evil.

They will regret their choice, and perhaps before too very long at the pace things are going.

Out of 63 million voters, were some of them racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic? Yes. Trump brought those folks out of the woodwork and made them feel stronger. I’m not talking about them. They may be redeemable. I’m not counting on it. A lot of that hate is dyed in the wool. They just need to be opposed.

But I know from the depths of my soul that those mean-spirited types were not the majority. And so there’s the majority, regular working stiffs like you and me, who have been fooled by a con artist, and we don’t need to shame or blame them. We need to win them back.

They are our friends, our neighbors, the parents of the kids our kids sit next to in school. We need them. And so, as strong as I am in opposition to the 1% and the way they treat the rest of us, “the rest of us” is us.  All of us. Let’s act like it. Without giving up our resistance to the train wreck that is taking place in Washington, DC and in statehouses all over the country, let’s act like it.

Moral March in Raleigh, NC draws thousands

RALEIGH, N.C. — On a lovely, sunny mid-February day, thousands of people came to Raleigh Feb. 11 to let their voices be heard in the 11th Annual Moral March on Raleigh.

Source: Moral March in Raleigh, NC draws thousands

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