Poetry for April 10: Zapata/Huerta

Poems for April 10:  Assassination of Zapata and Birth of Huerta

One hundred years ago today, April 10, 1919, government assassins murdered Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.  Here is what Eduardo Galeano wrote about this in his epic Century of the Wind (the third volume of his Memory of Fire trilogy).  Read a review of Century of the Wind here:

1919 Cuautla

This Man Taught Them That Life Is Not Only

Fear of Suffering and Hope of Death

It had to be done by treachery.  Shamming friendship, a government officer leads emiliano-zapata-claudio-osoriohim into the trap. A thousand soldiers are waiting, a thousand rifles tumble him from his horse.

Afterward they haul him to Cuautla and exhibit him face up.

Campesinos from everywhere flock there for the silent march-past, which lasts several days. Approaching the body, they remove their sombreros, look attentively, and shake their heads.  No one believes it.  There’s a wart missing, a scar too many;  that suit isn’t his; this face swollen by so many bullets could be anybody’s.

The campesinos talk in slow whispers, peeling off words like grains of corn:

“They say he went with a compadre to Arabia.”

“Hell, Zapata doesn’t chicken out.”

  He’s been seen on Quilamula heights.”

“I know he’s sleeping in a cave in Cerro Prieto.”

“Last night his horse was drinking in the river.”

The Morelos campesinos don’t now believe, nor will they ever believe, that Emiliano Zapata could have committed the infamy of dying and leaving them all alone.

Ballad of the Death of Zapata

Little star in the night

that rides the sky like a witch,9781568584461

where is our chief Zapata

who was the scourge of the rich?

 

Little flower of the fields

and valley of Morelos,

if they ask for Zapata,

say he’s gone to try on halos.

 

Little bubbling brook,

what did that carnation say to you?

It says that our chief didn’t die.

that Zapata’s on his way to you.

(from Vicente Mendoza, El Corrido Mexicano, Mexico City, FCE, 1976]

 

***************************

Born April 10, 1930:  Dolores Huerta, a “Civil Rights icon,” a living legend and labor activist, this interview was conducted with her in 2017.

Here are the lyrics of the “Corrido de Dolores Huerta” and here is the version with Los Lobos.

En Dawson, Nuevo Mexico
El diez de abril
Nació Dolores HuertaBUSD-Teach-In-with-Dolores-Huerta-0241
Nadie se lo imaginaba
Que ella iría encabezar
Parte del gran movimiento

En Stockton, California
Donde ella se crió
Empezo a ver la injusticia
Que el campesino ha sufrido
Sin la representación
Que una unión le daría

Me acuerdo que allá en Delano
El sesenta y dos
Se asoció con César Chávez
Y entre él y la Dolores
Formularon una unión
Que llegó a cambiar las leyes
Su sentir de mujer
Dirigió por buen camino
Del mejor porvenir
Al humilde campesino
Su sentir de mujer
Le prestó a la unión la fuerza
Te has ganado la flor
De la paz, Dolores Huerta

Después que organizaron
La gente en la unión
Imponieron una huelga
Para hablar de los contratos
También para nagociar
Apuntaron a la Huerta

César Chávez les decía
“Vamos a ganar
Esta huelga sin violencia
La revolución social
Hay que ganarla con la paz
Derramar sangre no es ciencia”https---images.genius.com-ca0eb33dffb6f8ce0110898e1d2158e6.500x500x1

Y un día en Arizona
La gente decía
“Ay Dolores, no se puede!”
La Dolores les contesta
“Esto será nuestro grito
Sí se puede! Sí se puede!”
Su sentir de mujer
Dirigió por buen camino
Del mejor porvenir
Al humilde campesino
Su sentir de mujer
Le prestó a la unión la fuerza
Te has ganado la flor
De la paz, Dolores Huerta

Poem for April 4: In Memoriam, Martin Luther King, Jr. — by June Jordan

th

[On April 4, 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  For April 4, 2019, I choose to read/reprint this poem, by the widely acclaimed, politically engaged poet, June Jordan (1936-2002).  The Poetry Foundation web site biographical page for June Jordan quotes an interview with the poet:  

In an interview with Alternative Radio before her death, Jordan was asked about the role of the poet in society. Jordan replied: “The role of the poet, beginning with my own childhood experience, is to deserve the trust of people who know that what you do is work with words.” She continued: “Always to be as honest as possible and to be as careful about the trust invested in you as you possibly can. Then the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks…I have to get myself together and figure out an angle, a perspective, that is an offering, that other folks can use to pick themselves up, to rally and to continue or, even better, to jump higher, to reach more extensively in solidarity with even more varieties of people to accomplish something. I feel that it’s a spirit task.”

Martin Luther King’s enduring gift to his political descendants is his “work with words.”  LR]

 

In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.

I
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
America
tomorrow yesterday rip rape
exacerbate despoil disfigure
crazy running threat the
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast
the onward tongue
the outward hand

deform the normal rainy

collection_jjordan12016_0

June Jordan

riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing
death by men by more
than you or I can
STOP
       II
They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal
stage direction obvious
like shorewashed shells
we share an afternoon of mourning
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

 

[The poet can be heard reading her poem here.  Her poem “Apologies to All The People Of Lebanon” can be read here (Aja Monet performs the poem here].

The Compromise of 1850: Chris Mahin writes about abolitionism then and now

[People’s Tribune correspondent and independent scholar Chris Mahin writes about history so that we can learn from it.  The fight against slavery has a lot to teach us today about the property relations under which we live.  The article challenges us to think about what being “moderate” in today’s world means.  LR]

The Compromise of 1850:

Learn from the uncompromising spirit of the abolitionists!

BY CHRIS MAHIN

He spoke to a packed chamber, in 100-degree heat, for three hours and 11 minutes, barely using his few notes. Afterward, a leader of the fight against slavery declared that the oration had transformed the man who delivered it from a lion into a spaniel. One of the country’s most talented writers composed a famous poem likening him to Satan. A prominent New England minister compared him to Benedict Arnold.

daniel-webster-wc-9526186-1-402

Daniel Webster, the Senator from Massachusetts, who used his oratory to support the “Compromise of 1850,” and thus was transformed from a lion into a spaniel.

This month marks the anniversary of the day that U.S. Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts gave his notorious “Seventh of March” speech in the U.S. Senate. On March 7, 1850, Webster used his considerable eloquence to support the “Compromise of 1850,” a series of measures designed to appease the slaveholding South. The events of 1850 are worth examining because that political crisis has much to teach us about how the fight against unjust property relations unfolds – and who can be trusted in such crises (and who can’t).

The crisis of 1850 had been brewing for a long time. While the United States was founded on slavery, by the middle 1800s, the population and economic capacity of the free North was surpassing that of the slaveholding South. The defenders of the slave system desperately needed to expand slavery into the West. When the settlers of California petitioned Congress for admission into the Union late in 1849, the stage was set for a showdown. Admitting California to the Union as a free state would tip the balance of power in Congress in favor of the free states. To prevent that, representatives of the slave states threatened to secede from the Union.

In response, Kentucky Senator Henry Clay crafted a series of proposed laws. While described as a “compromise,” they were heavily weighted in the South’s favor. California would be admitted into the Union as a free state, but slavery would not be banned in the rest of the vast territory seized from Mexico in the war of 1846-1848. While the slave trade would be banned in the District of Columbia, slavery itself would remain legal there. The “compromise” also included a new, stronger Fugitive Slave Act requiring the free states to send runaway slaves back to slavery. 

Clay’s “compromise” outraged not just those people who advocated the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the United States, but also those who accepted slavery in

Clay,_Henry

Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, who, since the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had built a reputation as the great compromiser.

the South but were opposed to slavery being spread elsewhere. Daniel Webster had been on record since 1837 as opposing the extension of slavery into the territories. Yet, on March 7, 1850, he vigorously supported Clay’s proposals. Webster argued that preserving the Union was more important than anything else. 

Webster’s speech split the country. Shortly after the speech, the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator published an eight-column analysis refuting Webster’s arguments. Within days of the Massachusetts senator’s appearance on the Senate floor, a mass meeting in Faneuil Hall in Boston condemned Webster’s speech as “unworthy of a wise statesman and a good man,” and resolved that “Constitution or no Constitution, law or no law, we will not allow a fugitive slave to be taken from the state of Massachusetts.”

In his speech, Webster had denounced the abolitionists, referring to them contemptuously as “these agitating people,” and declaring that they had contributed “nothing good or valuable.”

“At the same time,” he declared – with great condescension – “I believe thousands of their members to be honest and good men. … They have excited feelings; … they do not see what else they can do than to contribute to an Abolition press, or to an Abolition society, or to pay an Abolition lecturer.” 

Webster specifically condemned the abolitionists for fighting to convince people that the question of slavery was a moral question. He argued that by posing the slavery question that way, the abolitionists treated morality as if it had the certainty of mathematics and made compromise impossible. 

By the end of September 1850, all the different pieces of the “Compromise of 1850” had been passed by the U.S. Congress – but civil war was only postponed, not averted. The new Fugitive Slave Law allowed slave catchers easier access to their prey – even in Boston, the city where the killing of a runaway slave by British troops had begun the American Revolution.

abolitionists-7-638

The Liberator, a preeminent voice of abolition, inscribed on its masthead, “Our Country is the World, Our Countrymen are all Mankind”

For 10 years after the compromise which was supposed to settle the slavery question in the United States “forever,” the abolitionists hammered home their message about the immorality of slavery. It was not Webster’s willingness to compromise his principles that helped push history forward; it was the abolitionists’ unwillingness to compromise theirs. Today, the world needs revolutionaries willing to be as uncompromising as the advocates of the immediate abolition of slavery were in the 19th century, and willing to proclaim their message as forthrightly as those abolitionists did.[

As we fight an unjust set of property relations today, we should strive to use the revolutionary press and the speaker’s platform as skillfully as the abolitionists did then. Like the abolitionists, we should be bold and insist on describing the existence of massive wealth alongside massive poverty as a moral question – because it is one. If we do that, we will pay the best tribute that can possibly be paid to those “agitating people” of the 19th century with their abolition presses and lecturers and societies, people who – Daniel Webster notwithstanding – contributed something very good and valuable to society indeed. 

[This article originally appeared in the March 2000 edition of the People’s Tribune. We encourage reproduction of articles from the People’s Tribune, so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org.
Please donate whatever you can! We are supported by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no advertisements. Donate via PayPal at peoplestribune.org or send to PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.]

 

 

Chicago Elections 2019: Willie Horton Comes to Rogers Park

Willie Horton Comes to Rogers Park

by Lew Rosenbaum

[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page.

The People’s Tribune encourages reproduction articles so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org Please donate whatever you can to the People’s Tribune! We are supported by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no advertisements. Donate via PayPal at peoplestribune.org or send to PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.]

Most of my older friends will know what I am talking about when I ask “Do you remember Willie Horton?’  They may not remember the year, the presidential campaign, and the names of the candidates. They’ll know I’m not talking about a baseball player and his homerun hitting heroics.

The candidates were George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988.  The latter, a Democrat, hailed from Massachusetts and opposed the death penalty. Horton, an African-

181101095914-willie-horton-ad-1988-exlarge-169

Mug shot of Willie Horton from the 1988 G.H.W. Bush campaign ad

American man, had been convicted of murder.  He was on leave from prison under a program in place while Dukakis was governor.  While furloughed, Horton raped a white woman and stabbed her partner.

Bush launched an ad with the mug shot of Horton, and with these words spoken by a narrator and flashing across the screen: “Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison,” and ends with “Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on crime.”

Unless you have forgotten your recent history, you know that Bush I won in a landslide

180px-Willie_Horton_1975

Detroit Tiger Willie Horton, NOT the subject of the campaign ad

over Dukakis, and that this ad was very successful.  It tapped into the long simmering racial schism that has besmirched this country since its inception.  It is the primary way an otherwise out-of-touch elite has been able to divide and conquer, especially after the Civil War (when legal equality between white and Black began to be legislated). It has been all over the map, openly, in the last two years with a federal administration that courts the KKK and the Nazis, while using the one word “wall” to summon up the most vicious myths of people “threatening” our existence. And now Willie Horton has come to Rogers Park.

Today, February 22, the birthday of George Washington (incidentally the wealthiest man in North America at the time of the revolution, a considerable amount of that property in enslaved people), the postal person delivered two mailers. They say substantially the same thing:  “Maria Hadden wants to take police officers from safe neighborhoods.” She “supports moving officers from Rogers Park to other neighborhoods, putting our safety at risk.” Joe is white.  Maria is Black. Pictures of each. In stereotypical fashion, Rogers Park is safe (because it has cops); the South and West sides are unsafe (because they don’t have cops).

First of all, does anybody reading this NOT see: the “Black woman is soft on crime”

Maria soft on crime?

Joe Moore’s “Willie Horton” leaflet

message in this? Does anyone NOT see: residents of Rogers Park, especially white residents, are supposed to protect themselves from the hordes on the South and West Side with this message?  This is a barely clothed appeal for white unity.

Second, the source for the smear is an answer that Maria gave on the IVI-IPO questionnaire to aldermanic candidates.  The question (#82) is: “Do you support reallocating police services from high-crime to low-crime neighborhoods?”  There is no sane person who would answer that question “No.”  Moore himself “reallocates police services” within his ward from one neighborhood to the next depending on the crime rate.  It is bogus.  But it is sensationalized in this mailer.

Third, if we are going to talk about soft on crime:  what about Moore destabilizing the community by advocating with the Mayor to close half the mental health clinics in the city (there were only 12 at the time; now there are six) including one in the 49th ward?  What about lying to the community that they could find the services they need in the privatized sector?  The reality is that Cook County Jail has become the largest provider of mental health services in the County.  Thanks Joe.

And what about public schools, the anchors of the neighborhoods?  Maria has always championed the neighborhood school, while Joe has led the fight to privatize education — he has brought two charter schools into this community, stealing resources from both the elementary schools and the high school. He advocated for a third charter to which  community residents expressed such opposition that the plan fell through. Joe supported efforts to close two neighborhood schools (parents and teachers resisted this and embarrassed him so badly he could not complete that plan);  he ignored legitimate and documented claims of lead paint in Gale School, thus delaying remediation — he claimed that he did not know of a study CPS had done a decade earlier that revealed the lead paint, and that CPS (in typical Daley-Emanuel style) had simply neglected to correct.  Community residents had to embarrass him at a meeting on violence in the ward that he called to welcome a new police commander. We pointed out that lead paint in the schools does a violence to our community. We also pointed out that the school had been

Maria soft on crime? 1

Maria Hadden’s plan addresses the root causes of crime

asking CPS to fix a fire alarm that was out of order and got no response from his office nor from CPS. In a school named after Stephen Gale, who from 1844-47 served as the chief engineer of the Fire Department, Moore failed to advocate for fire safety. In a city that early in its existence almost completely burned down! If he wanted to reduce violence he should pay a little attention to that kind of violence.

And then there is the little matter of housing and services. Diana and I moved into Rogers Park a few years after Joe became alderman. One could find affordable housing here still, but the winds of change were blowing.  The Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN) had its hands full doing the research and confronting the alderman about prospective TIFS and redevelopment plans that were created sub rosa, without community input, while continuing to disinvest in the area north of Howard, the most poverty stricken area of the ward.  At one point, the alderman denied that plans to redevelop were in existence, only to find RPCAN had found them and made copies to distribute among activists.  Complete plans, in fact, with extensive implications for community residents such as displacement at least by rapidly increasing rents. You can see how Moore had learned the business of denial, which he employed in his stonewalling Gale’s lead paint, early on in his administration. Development with displacement has become the rule in this ward as affordable units are converted to luxury units;  and only with tremendous resistance are affordable units maintained.

Joe Moore:  a friend to private developers, privatization of public mental health services, privatization of public schools.

So who mailed this flyer smearing Maria Hadden with Willie Horton claims?  “Paid for,” it says, “by INCS Action Independent Committee.”  Further, the INCS AIC is not authorized by Joe, nor did Joe authorize the content of this communication. In Crook County, are we to believe the emperor has a tuxedo?  INCS is the acronym for the “Illinois Network of Charter Schools,” and the “Action Independent Committee” is a PAC that supports candidates that support charter schools. Joe has been THE pivotal person on city council to block an advisory referendum from coming before the entire city electorate on an elected school board.  And, as mentioned above, he has been actively soliciting charter schools to his ward to the detriment of the public neighborhood schools in the ward.  Joe is clearly acting in their interest, a mainstay on the city council at a time when nearly every mayoral candidate now has expressed a concern about proliferating charters and declared a willingness to invoke a moratorium on charter expansion. Incidentally, the INCS PAC has contributed heavily to Moore’s campaign.

The history of the 49th ward is an important one.  In 1983,organizers in this ward were on the front lines organizing on the North Side for Harold Washington.  While Alderman O’Connor (just south of the 49th in the 40th ward) joined with “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and Ed Burke to lead the pernicious Council Wars against newly elected Mayor Washington, David Orr from this ward took a leadership role in organizing to support the Mayor. The election of 1983 was a partisan election — that is contested by Republicans and Democrats.  Washington won the Democratic primary by a plurality among the three major candidates.  Winning a Democratic primary was the expected prelude to a guarantee to occupy the mayor’s office — at least for the entire 50 years prior to 1983. O’Connor et al were shocked by Washington’s stunning victory and deserted the Democratic Party to endorse the Republican candidate. But once Washington won, the Vrdolyak 29 engineered changing the primary system so that never again, they thought, could a radical emerge as a winner.  Thus came about the “non-partisan” mayoral and aldermanic elections we have today. The form of this was a racist attack on Washington. The content, however, was an attack on the movement that Washington symbolized, a movement of the disenfranchised, the working class of the city in all its hues. Momentarily a movement emerged that began to recognize that there was no demand that the African-American working class could make that would not benefit the entire class.

And now, 36 years after the Harold Washington election, the Bush-Trump-and-Vrydolyak-like Democrat in office in the 49th ward conducts a racist smear campaign against a candidate I have no hesitance in comparing with Harold Washington. Joe should be ashamed of himself.  But then Joe, after 28 years feeding from the trough of the privatizers, has no shame.  I hope that the good voters of the 49th ward will resist the politics of division and embrace the politics that has long characterized our ward: the politics of a multicultural, diverse class unity.  I’m casting my vote for Maria.

Chicago Elections 2019: The Four Aldermen of the Apocalypse

[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page by Lew Rosenbaum.  This is a tale of four aldermen embroiled in the kind of corruption Chicago is known for — and the challengers who are bringing the demands of the people to the polls on February 26.

The People’s Tribune encourages reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org Please donate whatever you can to the People’s Tribune! We are supported by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no advertisements. Donate via PayPal at peoplestribune.org or send to PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.]

Chicago Elections 2019: The Four Aldermen of the Apocalypse

by Lew Rosenbaum

In this election season, the truth is clear now: Chicago lies at the corruption center of Crook County.  Retiring Alderman Solis (25thward) wore an FBI wire for two years and, in the wake of revelations about his trading sexual favors, was stripped of his Zoning Commission chairmanship (it’s now obvious why he decided not to seek re-election); Ed Burke (still running in the 14thward) has been indicted for extortion and stripped of his chairmanship of the Finance Committee.  These two most powerful chairs, allies of Mayor Emanuel, have been replaced by two more staunch cronies of the Mayor (Cappleman from the 46th, O’Connor from the 40th).  These four wards are shaping up as key battlegrounds in the February elections. As Chicagoans bring their demands to a political elite wallowing at the public trough—an elite who refuse to hear their constituents – insurgent candidates are fighting to become the representatives of a program of the people.

25-sigcho-lopez

Byron Sigcho-Lopez

Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who ran for the office of alderman in the 25th ward in 2015, is running again.  He has supported the People’s Tribune and has the endorsement of the CTU and the Pilsen Alliance, and has fought in the 25thward for education and housing for all. He also signed on to the five point program advocated by the Concerned Puerto Rican Voters, a program of what we-the-people need to survive.

In Burke’s ward Tanya Patino is striving to win against long odds, but this year, because of the indictments, Burke may be vulnerable.  Patino  has been endorsed by Chuy Garcia (who also endorsed Hilario Dominguez in the 25thWard). Patino told the Chicago Tribune that this is these are her top priorities: “The top campaign issues I am advocating for are; equitable education and social services funding, funding housing improvements and security to improve residents homes and facilitate them remaining in the community, increasing opportunities for and access to good jobs which will also require more frequent and reliable transportation services in the neighborhood, and a greater focus on safety in our neighborhoods. To accomplish that I intend to work to pass legislation such as an Elected Representative School Board, TIF Reform, a reformed property tax system, rent control, a $15 minimum wage, Fair Workweek Ordinance, a welcoming ordinance with no carve-

tanyaportrait-300x261

Taanya Patino

outs, abolishing the gang database and new activities for our youth.”

Hopefully, O’Connor and Cappleman will not be around to enjoy their new chairmanships for long.  In both wards, at least three worthy opponents are vying for their seats.  In the 46th, activists Erika Wozniak Francis, Angela Clay and Marianne Lalonde have challenged the incumbent.  The 46thward is where the city evicted an encampment of people who were homeless from a sheltered area under the Lawrence and Wilson viaducts.  Cappleman lied when he promised to find homes for the people living in the encampment.  Public housing,  education, and sufficient social services are among the chief concerns of the ward. Erika recently spoke at a United Working Families and People’s Tribune joint fundraiser and was interviewed by Eric Allen Yankee for the People’s Tribune. Her full interview is available on this pageHere is a snapshot of  two other challengers:

46-lalondeMarianne Lalonde (46th Ward) “We need to ensure housing stays affordable – meaning we must preserve each and every unit of affordable housing in our ward, and also add more. As we’re adding additional units, we should add family-sized affordable housing where parents can raise their children and send them to 46th ward schools, creating a long-term investment in our community.”

Angela ClayAngela Clay (46th Ward) “Uptown’s history and core values of community, family, opportunity, and affordability are all currently under attack. Many of my neighbors, longtime residents who built this community, are being displaced because they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood that made them. Without investing in our schools, affordable housing & resources, our neighborhood will continue to push us out – which is why this matters. Uptown matters! Affordability matters! Your vote matters!”

 

The nearby 40thward also boasts three challengers all of whom are responding to concerns that the incumbent refuses to heed.  Here Diane  Daleiden, Andre Vasquez and Ugo Ukere all express that housing is the major issue (Daleiden, whose experience is as a teacher, also speaks authoritatively about what needs to be done in the public schools).  In both the 40thand 46thwards, the sometimes unspoken fundamental issue that strides forth is privatization on steroids: unbridled corporate development without any attempt at affordable housing and encouragement of charter schools.  Here are thumbnail 40-daleidensketches of what the 4oth ward challengers are saying:

Dianne Daleiden (40th Ward) “My number one priority to help traditional neighborhood schools. We are building a two-tiered education system in Chicago, with privatized charter schools and some elite schools getting the resources they need, while other schools suffer. If we really want to improve educational outcomes, we have to invest in traditional attendance based neighborhood schools.”

40-vasquez

Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) “On a public policy level, affordable housing is the number one issue that I hear from neighbors who are being priced out of this ward every day when I knock doors. I support the creation of affordable housing in my ward and across the city in a lot of different ways: rent control, greater investment of public dollars in housing stock and rent subsidy, and protection of existing affordable housing.”

40-okereUgo Okere (40th Ward) “I have been a vocal opponent of the Cop Academy because the issue of crime and violence in this city is an issue of austerity. Instead of further investments in the carceral and repressive functions of the city, money needs to go into public schools, the re-opening of expansive mental health clinics, and community centers to tackle the root causes of violence – poverty and youth who are given no path to a better future. Ending gun and intra-community violence means properly compensating and supporting teachers in CPS, by hiring social workers, nurses and teachers in every school.”

There is a golden thread which ties all these ward struggles together – it is indeed the golden thread of bribery and corruption and subversion of democracy that the corporate control of the electoral process has.  The not-so-veiled hand of the Democratic Party machine is fighting to maintain its power through the city-hall-connected incumbents.  Meanwhile the people are seeing an opportunity to take to these elections the demands they have not been able to have resolved by the miscreants who have occupied these offices for decades. In the wake of the turmoil grass roots leaders are stepping forward in a bid to take on the machine. February 26 can lead one step away from the apocalypse and toward achieving the program of the disenfranchised.  Let’s get prepared for new battles in City Council.

 

John Brown: Lessons for Today on the Anniversary of the Attack on Harper’s Ferry

 

The anniversary of the attack on Harper’s Ferry: October 16

What can today’s fighters learn from John Brown? 

BY CHRIS MAHIN

“I think that for once the Sharpe’s rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them.”

Those defiant words were spoken by the writer Henry David Thoreau in 1859, just days after John Brown and a small band of abolitionists attacked the town of Harper’s Ferry.

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John Brown

Because October marks the anniversary of that milestone in the struggle against slavery, it is important that we remember what took place there and examine what lessons it contains for today.

On the night of October 16, 1859, 22 armed men attempted to take control of the town of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. (It was in a region that would become the U.S. state of West Virginia in 1863.) Seventeen were white; five were free African Americans. All were deeply committed opponents of slavery. Their plan was to seize the federal arsenal in the town — which contained more than 100,000 firearms — and use the weapons to spark a slave rebellion. Due to a number of tactical mistakes made by the raiders, their plan failed. The group was quickly surrounded by Virginia militia forces and a contingent of U.S. Marines. Four townspeople and a marine died in the fighting. Ten of the raiders (including two of Brown’s sons) were also killed. After 36 hours, John Brown and several of his comrades were captured.

The raid on Harper’s Ferry was the culmination of decades of struggle against slavery. For almost 30 years, decent people in the North had denounced slavery and appealed to the South to end the practice. Their appeals fell on deaf ears. Opponents of slavery were physically assaulted and even murdered. As the defenders of slavery became more and more arrogant and violent, the movement against slavery began to polarize. Out of the bitter, armed conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers in Kansas in the 1850s emerged John Brown, a leader who advocated physical resistance to slavery. Brown ultimately came to believe that abolitionists should “take the war to Africa” — that is, arm the slaves.

Brown’s view was a minority position. When news of the violence committed by his band at Harper’s Ferry first reached the North, the raid was condemned even by opponents of slavery. But when the state of Virginia put Brown on trial just one week after the raid — before his wounds had healed or his volunteer attorneys had arrived from Boston — public opinion in the North began to change. As his trial proceeded, even Brown’s enemies had to acknowledge the great dignity, courage, and sincere religious conviction that the anti-slavery fighter displayed in court.

On October 30, 1859, a Virginia jury found Brown guilty of murder, treason, and inciting slave insurrection. On November 2, Brown defended his conduct, saying that his actions had been in defense of God’s “despised poor,” and were “not wrong, but right.” Then he defiantly told the court: “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country … I submit; so let it be done!” Then Judge Richard Parker sentenced him to be hanged.

Public meetings were called all over the North to denounce the sentence. In Boston, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson told a cheering crowd that Brown was “this new saint” whose hanging “would make the gallows as glorious as the cross.”

On December 2, 1859, Brown rode to his execution ground in a wagon, seated on his own

John Brown - Charles White (1949)

John Brown, drawing by Charles White

coffin, commenting on the beauty of the countryside. Fifteen hundred soldiers were present to guard the field where Virginia executed this old man, a farmer who faced death with courage and serenity. Church bells rang out throughout the North.

While the attack on Harper’s Ferry was a defeat in the military sense, it achieved its political goal of helping to end slavery. The North’s sympathy for John Brown outraged the defenders of slavery and helped push the South to secede, making the Civil War inevitable.

Today, there is much we can learn from the boldness of those who raided Harper’s Ferry. Those 22 men lived at a time when society was in crisis; so do we. They had a vision: Mobilize the “despised poor.” Obtain weapons and place them in the hands of the victims of a terribly unjust economic system. Have faith in the militancy of the poorest section of society, for when it moves, the very best elements of all of progressive humanity will then be free to move too. Thoreau captured the spirit of the Harper’s Ferry raid with his comment that finally the weapons were to be in the hands of those who could use them.

Today, we live in a world where weapons need to be placed in the hands of the “despised poor” once again. But here we should remember another of Thoreau’s comments about John Brown. Thoreau observed that the Virginia authorities did not gain much when they took Brown’s rifle away from him when they captured him at Harper’s Ferry. After all, Thoreau pointed out, Brown still retained “his faculty of speech, a Sharpe’s rifle of infinitely surer and longer range.” Today, there is an arsenal which needs to be seized by revolutionaries — the arsenal of political science. There is a weapon inside that arsenal that revolutionaries need to grab and distribute to anyone willing to receive it — the weapon of political clarity.

Today, we honor John Brown and his comrades-in-arms best when we use our “Sharpe’s rifle of infinitely surer and longer range” — our “faculty of speech” — to speak and write and agitate against a system where a tiny handful of millionaires rules society and, every day, creates more of the poor that John Brown strove to defend. If we do that, history will truly be able to say that while John Brown’s body is buried in his family plot in North Elba, New York, his soul really does go marching on.

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This article originated in the People’s Tribune,Vol. 26 No. 10 /October, 1999; P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, http://www.peoplestribune.org.

 

 

 

Remember Antietam! A Civil War battle contains lessons for today

Remember Antietam!

A Civil War battle contains lessons for today

BY CHRIS MAHIN

It was the bloodiest single day of fighting ever to take place in North America. On that day, more than 2,000 men gave their lives to halt a slaveholders’ army. Within days of their sacrifice, the first step was taken to abolish slavery in the United States. The Civil

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Confederate soldiers lie dead on the battlefield.  “The whole landscape turned slightly red.”  Over 2,000 Union solders were killed

War’s Battle of Antietam deserves to be commemorated by all those fighting to transform society today.

In a sense, the process of abolishing unjust property relations in this country began on September 17, 1862 on a battlefield near Antietam Creek in western Maryland. Twelve hours of hard fighting by brave soldiers that day gave the Union Army a victory of sorts. That gave Abraham Lincoln the political protection he needed to begin steps that would transform the Civil War from a defensive war to save the Union into a revolutionary war to abolish slavery.

Five days after Antietam, Lincoln convened his Cabinet and announced that, if the Confederate states were still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, he would free all their slaves. Lincoln was true to his word and, on New Year’s Day in 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order freed only the slaves in those states or parts of states that were in rebellion. It did not abolish slavery throughout the United States. However, it transformed the nature of the war, and unleashed a process that led inexorably to the

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Abraham Lincoln recognized that Antietam gave him the rationale for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. This portrait of Lincoln was drawn by Charles White.

Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which did abolish slavery throughout the United States.

By the time of the Civil War, slavery in the United States was dominated by wealthy capitalists, most of whom owned thousands of slaves. This tiny elite represented about one percent of the population of the United States. They sold their cotton and other commodities on the world market and were an important part of the world capitalist system. Since the average price of a slave was $1,000 and there were 4 million slaves in the United States, emancipation removed $4 billion in value from the hands of capitalists.

At its time, the abolition of slavery in the United States was the greatest blow to a form of capitalist private property which had ever taken place in history. (That remained true until the Soviet Revolution of 1917.)

So, in a sense, the process of abolishing unjust property relations in this country began on the Antietam battlefield. The stage for the battle was set in early September 1862. Emboldened by several recent victories, General Robert E. Lee moved the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland, a slave state that had remained in the Union. A major Confederate victory inside Union territory would strengthen pro-Confederate sentiment in the North right before the fall 1862 Congressional elections. It might also convince some European powers to intervene in the war on the side of the Confederacy.

Lee believed that the commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac – General George B. McClellan – was cautious to the point of cowardice. Lee also thought that McClellan’s army would be demoralized from recent defeats. As historian Stephen W. Sears has pointed out, these assessments were “only half right.”

McClellan was a supporter of slavery who constantly made excuses for why he would not

McClellan

General George McClellan: his conduct fully justified Lee’s contempt for him.

fight the Confederate Army. At the Battle of Antietam, McClellan’s conduct fully justified Lee’s contempt for him. McClellan had learned Lee’s plans and had more troops at his disposal than Lee did. Still, he refused to move decisively against Lee, and allowed Lee’s army to escape after the battle.

But if McClellan violated all the principles of warfare at Antietam, the same cannot be said for his soldiers. Forced to attack in “driblets” (as one Union general put it), the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac fought bravely.

The courage of the Union troops was vividly demonstrated in the struggle to take “The Sunken Road” – a small depression at the edge of a farm. After several attacks against this strategic position failed, the task of capturing it fell to one of the Union Army’s most celebrated units – the Irish Brigade. This unit was known for marching into combat behind emerald green battle flags bearing gold shamrocks and harps. Shouting its battle cry (“Clear the way!”) in Irish, the Irish Brigade advanced across an open field. Intense enemy cannon and rifle fire “cut lanes” into its ranks. Within minutes, hundreds of its soldiers were killed or wounded. Ever since, the Sunken Road has been known as the “Bloody Lane.”

In all, 2,108 Union soldiers were killed at Antietam; 9,549 were wounded; and 753 ended up missing. The carnage that day was so terrible that – as one Union soldier put it – “the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red.” This sacrifice saved the day for the Union; Lee was forced to retreat back into Virginia.

There are moments in history when the future of humanity rests on what a relatively

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The battlefield at Antietam

few people are willing to endure. September 17, 1862 was such a moment. The bravery of the Union soldiers that day did not end the Civil War. Lee’s army would invade Union territory again, and the war would drag on for two more long years.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, the fruit of Antietam, did not guarantee equality for African Americans or a just society. Eventually, the post-Civil War Reconstruction governments would be overthrown and the South plunged into a reign of terror which rivaled slavery. But acknowledging those grim facts should not blind us to the reality that, in a sense, the fight for a new America began at Antietam. The Union victory there transformed the Civil War into a revolutionary war to abolish one specific form of capitalist private property: chattel slavery.

The finest tribute we can pay to those who died at Antietam is to finish their work. At Antietam, every soldier knew he risked his life if he drew enemy fire upon himself by picking up a flag dropped by a slain flag bearer. But battle flags in motion were absolutely necessary to signal the motion of troops, and so, time after time, a Union soldier picked up the fallen standard and raised it high again. In the Irish Brigade’s attempt to take the “Bloody Lane,” 16 of its flag bearers were shot dead, one after another. Today, “picking up the flag” means fighting to end the rule of all capitalists, just as those who served in the Union Army helped end the rule of one kind of capitalist, the slave-owning capitalist. When we fight that good fight, we pay our best homage to those who bled for freedom’s cause years ago beside a winding creek, on a day when the very landscape itself seemed to turn red.

                              

This article originally appeared in the September 1999 edition of the People’s Tribune. For more information about the People’s Tribune, go to: www.peoplestribune.org

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