Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Fell upon the people from the power of blast
The face of Jesus was crumbled into sand
Nearby the gold ring on her hand"
--Phil Ochs, "On Her Hand a Golden Ring" (1963)
Until Justice Rolls Down: The Birmingham Church Bombing Case
It was a time when Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders rallied black youth and adults to march for their civil rights, a time when the Ku Klux Klan was active in cities and throughout the countryside of the Deep South, employing 19th-century tactics to intimidate blacks to stay “in their place.” It was also the year that the worst act of terrorism in the entire civil rights movement occurred just as Birmingham, Alabama, was coming under close national scrutiny.
This book tells the story of one grim Sunday in September 1963 when an intentionally planted cache of dynamite ripped through the walls of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and ended the dreams and the lives of four young black girls. Their deaths spurred the Kennedy administration to send an army of FBI agents to Alabama and led directly to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. When the Justice Department was unable to bring anyone to trial for this heinous crime, a young Alabama attorney general named Bill Baxley began his own investigation to find the perpetrators. In 1977, 14 years after the bombing, Baxley brought one Klansman to trial and, in a courtroom only blocks from the bombed church (now a memorial to the victims), persuaded a jury to return a guilty verdict. More than 20 years later two other perpetrators were tried for the bombing, found guilty, and remanded to prison.
Frank Sikora has used the court records, FBI reports, oral interviews, and newspaper accounts to weave a story of spellbinding proportions. A reporter by profession, Sikora tells this story compellingly, explaining why the civil rights movement had to be successful and how Birmingham had to change.
Friday, 26 December 2008
Marcus Winslow took him in, nobody seemed to want him"
--Phil Ochs, "Jim Dean of Indiana" (1970)
James Dean: A Biography
James Dean died in 1955 at the age of 24, blazing out his position as the 'first American teenager' and destined forever to exemplify the spirit of rebellion and defiance. His film career lasted only sixteen months, but it produced three cinematic greats: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. The titles alone evoke epic visions and even now all three films retain their timeless appeal, constituting a three-part heroic poem on atomic age youth, its beauties and its frustrations.
So much has been written about James Dean that today the myth has become hazy, and he is both revered and puzzled over by generations who never knew him. Yet who really was James Dean, the original 'live fast, die young' icon of the twentieth century? This definitive and balanced study, now fully updated, cuts through all the different legends around James Dean and shows the man behind the myth. John Howlett interviewed many actors, friends and lovers who knew Dean in New York and Hollywood, and for this edition has incorporated fascinating new material about James Dean's sexuality and significant information that has come to light from the opening of the Warner Brothers archives on Dean.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
The phantom ship forever sail the sea
It's all the same"
--Phil Ochs, "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns" (1969)
Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion
What happened to the USS Scorpion? The question has vexed submariners for almost four decades. Now, with meticulous research and incredible attention to detail, Stephen Johnson examines and dissects one of the most tragic and mysterious submarine accidents in U.S. Navy history.
Friday, 19 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
When the fight was being fought?
Oh, where were you in Chicago?
'Cause I was in Detroit"
--Phil Ochs, "Where Were You in Chicago?" (1969)
Chicago '68 reconstructs the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago--an epochal moment in American cultural and political history. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Farber tells the story of the protests in the three different voices of the major protagonists--the Yippies, the National Mobilization to End the War, and Mayor Richard J. Daley and his police. He brilliantly re-creates all the excitement and drama, the violently charged action and language of this period of crisis, giving life to the whole set of cultural experiences we call "the sixties."
Monday, 8 December 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Little Dick Nixon, always the smallest punk on the football team, has finally been sworn in as captain.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was there, and stoned out of my head, I thought I saw Eldridge in the White House, and the choir was singing “Fuck Ronald Reagan.”
We came to Washington to denounce the war and the phony democracy that produced it. There were twelve thousand new style madmen, the kind that flaunt their sanity in public.
The same people who stormed the Pentagon and Richard Daley’s dungeon were back on the streets, and if they were not able to destroy the inauguration, at least they could force it to share TV time with an army of solid freaks.
It started in a weird huge tent more or less at the base of the Washington monument, a day before Nixon put his hand on two Bibles. There was a rally, the usual assortment of Guatemalan priests, Hell No GI’s and Woman Liberationists. And Phil Ochs.
The crowd wearing white Nixon masks and playing kazoos got uptight – some guy shouted “anyone who speaks from a microphone is my enemy,” and 700 Yippies, their purple and pink flag aloft, bolted from the tent and began their march twenty minutes before anyone was supposed to.
When the march officially began it numbered ten thousand. Reversing the route the monsters would take the next day on Pennsylvania Avenue celebrating Nixon, we marched to and not from the Capitol building.
The reviewing stands were already up for the inauguration and we piled into them cheering ourselves as we walked by. The occasional Hungarian refugee was there to remind us we were traitors.
There were occasional incidents with the pigs and some clubbings and arrests, but it was mostly peaceful and the fuzz even faked being polite.
When the night came we had our InHoguration. It was a great rock and light show, and Paul Krassner was on the set to say that he had a post escape interview with Cleaver and that the FBI had already questioned him.
The tent was packed and ripping apart at the seams, the grass was passed around and many of the cats who stay away from all marches were there, really grooving and happy.
The ground was cold and muddy, it reminded people of Resurrection City, but we all stayed close together and warm.
Around midnight a Yippie wearing Earl Warren’s robes stood on top of a parked truck, and using the Reader’s Digest as a bible swore in a pig as President. This time Pigasus was a naked man in a pig’s mask (the real presidential Pig still languishes in a Chicago jail), and he was shot down and assassinated on the spot.
Throughout the evening, plain-clothesed pigs circulated in the crowd, but although they saw pot, made no arrests.
There were some SDS and Youth Against War and Fascism type radicals who wanted to try to create a Chicago type situation out of the power of their own wishful thinking. To have an all out war in the streets it takes a Trujillo type Mayor or Governor but the guy in charge was Attorney General Ramsey Clark and he was very generous in handing out permits.
The government played it clever allowing the organizers to do all the peaceful things they wanted and bringing in an overwhelming police power to crush us. The 82 Airborne, the Secret Service, the National Guard and the Washington Tac Pigs were all there. In this environment street fights were always small and sporadic, and it was impossible to fuck up the inaugural parade.
We will now have to relate to Richard Nixon. He is the first president whose very inauguration was met with organized opposition in the streets on the day he took the oath.
This hard working mediocrity will have no era of good feeling from the New America. The universities and ghettoes will blow up in Nixon’s Bob Hope face, and even the boy scouts won’t be inspired by his Elk’s Club charisma.
The Dream is now officially dead. Without myths no ruling class can survive and what myths are left in America are now the sole property of the movement.
Friday, 5 December 2008
From Lincoln Park the dark was turning"
--Phil Ochs, "William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed" (1969)
No One Was Killed: Documentation and Meditation - Convention Week, Chicago - August 1968
What did happen in Chicago during August 1968 when the Democratic Party staged its Convention to nominate a candidate for President and a series of confrontations -- vital, often raw, at times complex -- erupted between demonstrating citizens and police and Guardsmen, the Democrats among themselves, and the black community and the turbulent Convention melee? Novelist John Schultz, covering the Convention as reporter for Evergreen Review, observed almost every confrontation in the parks, streets, at the Hilton Hotel and the International Ampitheater for ten days and nights. No One Was Killed is his clear, impassioned history of what he saw, felt and found out. This book is tough honest reportage.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
At a New Year’s Eve party in New York the Yippies declared 1969 to be the Year of the Bum Trip. It was universal, the wild-men moved between parties and into the streets, and always came back with a “It was a lot more joyous last year” tale.
We sat around and it was all reminisces about last year’s pipe dreams of both freaking out and making love to America.
The felony indictments are going to come down heavy. If you plan a demonstration it will be conspiracy, and if you go to it it will be assault with a deadly weapon (existing in the pigs minds).
The despair was exaggerated, everybody at the parties knew that, but there were just no beautiful dreams as January 1 became a reality.
A lot of the best struggles have turned sour. There was an attempt to get Bill Graham to give the Lower East Side community a free night at the Fillmore East. Graham gave in for a while and then backed out claiming the insurance companies were threatening to cancel the Fillmore if the free nights continued.
There was a wild semi-riot after an MC 5 rock concert. Graham got his nose bruised by a chain and a couple of ushers were stabbed. The street people went after some of the MC 5 when they caught them leaving the gig in a bourgeois chauffeur-driven limousine.
A couple of days later Graham convinced people that the insurance rate really would ruin him and that there was no way he could give away the Fillmore.
Bill Graham may be a very big cat on the block for us, but for the insurance companies, he is a tiny mouse that can never roar.
I spent a couple of hours with Abbie Hoffman, a one-man global village, all electric and always optimistic. Even Abbie was seeing grey for the future. He hopes Eldridge is in Cuba, setting things up for an exile-dropout community. Hoffman figures we have a year or so and then the trip without a ticket will end.
Back in Berkeley everyone says the movement on the campus is at a ten year low. Telegraph Avenue is applying for status as a police station. The Diggers have gone a hundred ways into hopelessness.
I checked out the Panthers and they are in the needed business of purging crazies and reading Lenin. They are going to stop recruiting for a while, harden their core and be ready for a long cold winter with Richard Nixon.
The revolution has spread out a long way since the FSM. Campuses like Columbia and San Francisco have exploded higher into the sky than Berkeley ever did, and lots of high schools are blowing with them. The psychedelics are taking over TV and some of the best light shows are found in commercials that undermine the products they sell.
But the price is going to be paid. The man has no intention of letting us take over and illuminate his power trip without first trying to build concentration camps around our dreams.
To survive and grow in the next year we are going to have to re-examine every anti-organizational bias in our rebel souls. Everybody just can’t go off and do his own thing. We have to develop a program for winning the majority of American youth to a real thing, social and political revolution. Your own thing has to become our thing.
The FBI agents who have visited me four times since Chicago wake up early in the morning, and through the day exert a ferocious and determined energy in the cause of J. Edgar Hoover’s evil portrait.
Lying around stoned all day isn’t going to make the revolution for us. Those agents will install bars around our pads and leave us there to meditate on our navels and die.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
We've got the police force, they're the ones who break the law"
--Phil Ochs, "I Kill Therefore I Am" (1969)
Our Enemies in Blue
Our Enemies in Blue examines the history of police violence from a radical but pragmatic perspective. Uniting theory and practice, the book provides a resource useful to activists, scholars, and citizens concerned about the encroaching police state. Kristian Williams traces the evolution of modern police forces from slave patrols and protection rackets, critiques "community" policing, explores racism in law enforcement, and suggests strategies for combating police violence. Our Enemies in Blue shows that police misconduct isn't just a matter of "bad apples" but is a function of the very nature of policing in the United States.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
But the decadence of history is looking for a pawn
To a nightmare of knowledge he opens up the gate
A blinding revelation is served upon his plate
That beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate
And God help the critic of the dawn"
--Phil Ochs, "Crucifixion" (1966)
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
At 1:00 P.M. on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead, the victim of a sniper attack during his motorcade ride through Dallas. That may be the only fact generally agreed upon in the vast literature spawned by the assassination. National polls reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans (75 percent) believe that there was a high-level conspiracy behind Lee Harvey Oswald. Many even believe that Oswald was entirely innocent. In this continuously absorbing, powerful, groundbreaking book, Vincent Bugliosi shows how we have come to believe such lies about an event that changed the course of history.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
The lonely in disguise are clinging to the crowd
And the bottle fills the glass, the haze is fast, he's trembling for the taste
Of passions gone to waste, in memories of the past"
--Phil Ochs, "Pleasures of the Harbor" (1966)
The Long Voyage Home
The Long Voyage Home (1940) is an American drama film and directed by John Ford. It features John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Lawson, John Qualen, Mildred Natwick, Ward Bond, among others.
The film was adapted by Dudley Nichols from the plays The Moon of the Caribees, In The Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O'Neill. The original plays by Eugene O'Neill were written around the time of World War I and were among his earliest plays. Ford set the story for the motion picture, however, during World War II.
The film tells the story of the crew aboard an English cargo ship named the SS Glencairn, during World War II, on the long voyage home from the West Indies to Baltimore and then to England. The ship carries a cargo of high-explosives.
On liberty, after a night of drinking in bars in the West Indies, the crew returns to the tramp steamer and set sail for Baltimore.
They're a motley group: a middle-aged Irishman Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), a young Swedish ex-farmer Ole Olsen (John Wayne), the spiteful steward Cocky (Barry Fitzgerald); the brooding Lord Jim-like Englishman Smitty (Ian Hunter), and others.
After the ship picks up a load of dynamite in Baltimore, the rough seas they encounter become nerve-racking to the crew.
They're also concerned that Smitty might be a German spy because he's secretive. After they force Smitty to show them his letters from home it turns out that Smitty is an alcoholic who has run away from his family.
Critic Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, liked the screenplay, the message of the film, and John Ford's direction, and wrote, "John Ford has truly fashioned a modern Odyssey—a stark and tough-fibered motion picture which tells with lean economy the never-ending story of man's wanderings over the waters of the world in search of peace for his soul...it is harsh and relentless and only briefly compassionate in its revelation of man's pathetic shortcomings. But it is one of the most honest pictures ever placed upon the screen; it gives a penetrating glimpse into the hearts of little men and, because it shows that out of human weakness there proceeds some nobility, it is far more gratifying than the fanciest hero-worshiping fare."
Friday, 14 November 2008
They dragged her to the bushes, and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends"
--Phil Ochs, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" (1966)
Twisted Confessions: The True Story Behind the Kitty Genovese and Barbara Kralik Murder Trials
"It didn't seem possible. Kitty Genovese had been viciously stabbed to death in Kew Gardens on March 13, 1964, while her neighbors heard her screams from their apartment windows and looked on passively...Everyone from coast to coast, it seemed, including President Lyndon Johnson, was weighing in on the failure of Kitty's neighbors to respond to her screams for help. The incident opened up a whole new phenomenon for students of social psychology to explore and puzzle over: the Kitty Genovese syndrome."
Friday, 7 November 2008
And the cowards and the whores are peeking through the doors to see who's winning
But the traitors will pretend that it's getting near the end when it's beginning
The Marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo"
--Phil Ochs, "Santo Domingo" (1965)
Rag-Tags, Scum, Riff-Raff and Commies: The U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965-1966
In April 1965, a popular rebellion in the Dominican Republic toppled the remnants of the U.S. backed Trujillo dictatorship setting the stage for the master tinkers of America's Cold War machine. In this groundbreaking study, Eric Thomas Chester carefully reconstructs the events that followed into a thriller of historical sweep, and creates a stunning portrait of how the U.S. government--from President Lyndon Johnson on down--used the Dominican Republic as a tool of its imperial arrogance.
Eric Thomas Chester explains how the U.S. intervention was in the tradition of gunboat diplomacy as well as a consequence of Cold War ideology, and the Cuban Revolution. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Haiti in 1934 and the initiation of Roosevelt's so-called "good neighbor policy," the United States had refrained from sending its own troops to intervene in Latin America. The 1965 invasion broke this pattern and reinitiated an era of direct armed intervention in Latin America. The result was that by early May, with more than thirty thousand troops deployed, there was a greater U.S. military presence in the Dominican Republic than in South Vietnam.
In this fascinating account, Chester makes extensive use of recently declassified diplomatic and intelligence documents to offer a nuanced and textured study of the workings of covert as well as diplomatic initiatives and provides a thorough analysis of U.S. Cold War foreign policy in the region.
Friday, 31 October 2008
And he more than played his part
For the songs that he made, he was carefully paid
With a rifle bullet buried in his heart
With a rifle bullet buried in his heart"
--Phil Ochs, "Joe Hill" (1966)
"Joe Hill became symbolic of the kind of individual sacrifice that would make a revolutionary new society possible. Thus labor radicals, communists, and novelists and playwrights such as John Dos Passos, Wallace Stegner, and Barrie Stavis used the circumstances of Hill's convictions and the manner of his death to create a legend that transformed 'just another forgotten migrant worker' into 'The Man Who Never Died,' as the song which Paul Robeson enthralled audiences in the 1930s and 1940s had it . . . Gibbs Smith has served us well by recapturing the memory of a man whose songs, to quote another wobbly, evoked the spirit of radicals who were the 'very epitome of guts and gallantry,' a handful of homeless heroes touched by true romance. Men and women whose spirits were stirred far above their belly-need; men and women inspired by visions of heaven on earth. Now, as then, society needs such men and women."
--Melvyn Dubofsky, The New York Times Book Review
Saturday, 25 October 2008
They've even helped to overthrow the leaders of the land
Now, I wouldn't go so far to say we're also learning how
But when I've got something to say, sir, I'm gonna say it now"
--Phil Ochs, "I'm Going to Say It Now" (1965)
The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s
Were it not for Mario Savio, the book...would never have been written. As a young man, Savio played a key role in leading the Free Speech Movement (FSM) to victory in its struggle to end the restrictions the University of California had placed on campus political activity. He was the Berkeley student rebellion's most eloquent orator, the one who first spoke from atop the police car that his fellow protesters surrounded and immobilized on October 1, 1964, to prevent the arrest of Jack Weinberg, a civil rights activist whose only crime had been to defy the administration's prohibition against political advocacy on University property. Savio's rousing words and the mass protest around the police car on Sproul Plaza (the central campus thoroughfare) helped to launch the Free Speech Movement. And Savio's "operation of the machine" speech, just before the December Sproul Hall sit-in, not only set the tone for the nonviolent occupation of the administration building--which culminated in the largest mass arrest of students in American history--but also became the most famous oration in the early history of the New Left. Savio's daring attempt to speak at an administration-run meeting in Berkeley's Greek Theatre days after the sit-in electrified thousands of students, who were shocked to see campus police drag him from the podium. As both a speak and a symbol, then, Savio helped to make the Berkeley student rebellion a memorable event, one that inspired campus activists across the country and the globe in the 1960s and that still has the power to attract the attention of scholars and writers such as those represented in this book. Savio refused, however, to present himself as the Berkeley rebellion's indispensable leader. Like so many other FSMers, he preferred to see the movement as too democratic to need leaders, stressing instead that its strength came from the moral principles that gave it mass appeal. When, soon after the start of FSM, Savio heard that Dean Arleigh Williams credited him with having "organized" the first Sproul Hall sit-in, he used humor to rebut the dean's claims, quipping that while it was "gratifying" to receive such credit, there had been "little to 'organize.' For students who had shown themselves to be well-apprised of their rights the act of crossing one's legs and reclining was a relatively simple matter." Despite such disclaimers, Mario's organizational skill, intelligence, and oratory helped to breathe life into the FSM; much as he longed to escape the spotlight, he would always be seen as the central figure of the Berkeley rebellion.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
In Chicago, teargas was a very democratic experience. On the last two nights, it impartially choked throats of Yippies, Women for Peace, TV cameramen, and even some delegates to the Democratic Convention.
The moderate forces tried to lead orderly marches on the sidewalk policed by monitors who must have taken a semester of piggery at some academy. Dick Gregory made an appearance, as did Eugene McCarthy, but it served for nothing.
Richard Daley saw every demonstrator in Chicago as Ho Chi Minh with a reefer in his mouth, out to rape his daughter.
The marches were broken up by teargas, rifle-butts (the National Guard occasionally joining the pigs), and nightsticks. We all went back into the streets, breaking store windows, throwing rocks at cops and tossing garbage.
The action centered around the heavily guarded Hilton Hotel, in which the delegates hoped to avoid any contact with Chicago.
It did not work. The teargas seeped through the airconditioning and even Hubert Humphrey got sick and had to take a bath.
The teargas scenes were grotesque – people running, vomiting, burning, choking and praying for some decency that it all stop.
Chicago was a revolutionary wet-dream come true. One night, a thousand longhairs joined at the picket-line of striking black bus-drivers. On the following night, striking cab-drivers left a picket-line to join the march on the Amphitheatre. The white working-class motorcycle gangs did not do the Oakland Border VDC thing; they were either free neutrals or with us in Lincoln Park.
What happened that week was the prototypical formation of the alliance necessary to bring the man down and keep him down. It all happened without a single leaflet being given to anyone and without a single white missionary getting a factory job.
This wasn’t the way I was told it would happen. The catechism of orthodox American Leninism is to shave off your beard, get a haircut and stop smoking pot. A revolutionary act is to give leaflets to dockworkers.
The Progressive Labor Party, for example, sends its best people into factories and they recruit a couple of new members each year – and we are the dropout freaks doing everything we were not supposed to do, out on the same rock-throwing things as the workers, and not a single Freddy in sight.
We must realize that the fragmentation dumb-dumbs of repression fired at us in Chicago finally explode in the paycheck prisons of nine-to-five average America.
The best way we can push the workers into revolution is not by sharing in their factory slavery, but by creating our own liberated communities in every major city.
We will constantly confront the man in the battle for the street, parks and living space needed for us to humanize in. Occasionally we must interrupt the pigs’ highest ceremonies by dumping a huge pile of shit on their best rug.
We did this in Chicago, and maybe we can follow it up at Richard Nixon’s inauguration. It is nothing like going into the man’s churches on his high holy days barefooted and smelly, to make him fire his Madison Avenue front group and show off his southern sheriff soul to NBC.
It is by our example of rebellion that we will steer the workers into realizing their own dreams. We won’t do it by collapsing before the mediocratic cleanshaven alcoholic conformities and telling the prolies to read this after they have read that.
We found out in Chicago that the military man of imperialism might have at least one clay foot. There were 43 soldiers at Fort Hood who refused to come to Chicago. The National Guard obeyed orders, but they had faces and not pig-snouts. We went up and down the line telling them not to let their officers kick them around and to behave with more humanity than the Russians did in Prague. The reaction was one of embarrassed presence and rationalization. There were few true believers in the crowd.
At first, our own reaction was one of terror and frenzied running. Then a more confident move-just-as-far-back-as-you-have-to walk, and finally the discovery that tear gas canisters could be hurled back and a cop-car taken out of action if enough people surrounded it. A lot of manhood emerged in Chicago, and for that we must be ironically grateful to the Democratic party.
Our revolution is going to be a chaotic, funky mud type of thing, not fitting any Germanic isms of somebody else’s historical necessity. It is being made in the streets right now. On its appearance, you laugh with joy at its absolute originality.
In Chicago, it was a street-tough with a swastika tattooed on his arm, waving an NLF flag and giving skin to a Blackstone Ranger who had just called for the overthrow of the government. It was a Cleveland suit-and-tie sociologist belting out a pig.
It was a bloodied NBC photographer telling us the National Guard was coming and where there were rocks to throw at them. It was bearded OM-ing hippies breaking windows of scabbing buses.
And finally, it was a busload of ten-year-old black children exchanging revolutionary fists and victory signs with me, and the proud look on the face of an on-looking, and then saluting, black woman.
Our revolution is a movable feast. You can sup of it wherever you make your scene. All it takes is the guts to be free.
Monday, 20 October 2008
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find
The fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes
The calender is lyin' when it reads the present time"
--Phil Ochs, "Here's to the State of Mississippi" (1964)
We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi
We Are Not Afraid is a story of high drama, indeed, true crime, replete with outsize heroes and villains, as well as a definitive account of the civil rights campaign in Mississippi that stands today in retrospect as a veritable beacon of brotherhood. The authors' meticulous retelling of the murder of civil rights martyrs Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney is a triumph for its sheer readability, for its pace, and for its suspense.
But most remarkable, perhaps, is the book's recapturing of those times in 1964. It was an amazing time, when whites, a majority of them northern college students, converged on Mississippi to help blacks win their voting rights and access to public places. Cagin and Dray marvelously re-create the environment and circumstances of the Mississippi Summer Project and freedom summer, the sit-ins, the terrifying encounters between southern blacks and the white police. It meant the opening up, finally, of the last redoubt of prejudice, Mississippi.
The great distinction of their work is its quality of definitiveness, one's sense that the massive research and interviews the authors conducted have eventuated in not only a great story but an essential history. Here is, after all, a story of success, the belated triumph of the American constitutional system to secure for blacks the guarantees of equal protection under the law, due process, the Bill of Rights, and most fundamentally, the ballot.
Friday, 17 October 2008
May 13, 1968
MEMORANDUM FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
RE: JERRY CLYDE RUBIN
SECURITY MATTER - COMMUNIST
Jerry Clyde Rubin traveled to communist Cuba 1964 via Czechoslovakia in violation of a Government ban on travel to Cuba. Thereafter, he was the founder and served as cochairman of the Vietnam Day Committee, Berkeley, California, a vigorous sponsor of antiwar demonstrations and protest rallies between 1965 to 1967 in the San Francisco area. Demonstrations sponsored by this organization under the leadership of Rubin led to numerous arrests and injuries to demonstrators. Rubin, himself, was arrested in August, 1965, in a demonstration which virtually trapped General Maxwell D. Taylor in a hotel office.
Since this period, Rubin became the Project Director for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam in New York, New York. In this capacity, he was the coordinator of demonstrations at the Pentagon and in Washington, D.C., October 20-22,1967. These activities also led to violence and mass arrests, including the arrest of Rubin for refusing to move from a restricted area.
In January, 1968, he was the founder and is now employed as a staff member of the Youth International Party, New York, New York. This group was reportedly organized to promote a "festival of life" demonstration at the National Democratic Convention in Chicago in August, 1968.
With little apparent effort or planning, this organization has already backed two impressive demonstrations. One of these, called a "yip-in," was held at Grand Central Stations in New York City on a late Saturday night for the purpose of celebrating the coming of spring. Violence and mass arrests occurred and the demonstration developed antidraft and antiwar implications. This organization presently plans another demonstration for Macy's Department Store in New York City on June 8, 1968.
Rubin constitutes a danger to the national security as evidenced by revolutionary statements. On the occasion of a public speech June 26, 1965, he stated the following must be included as a part of the peace movement: "massive civil disobedience and picketing," "working in slum areas," "teach-ins against labor unions," and "we must consider treason--deliberate sabotage of the war machine." He ended the speech by stating members of the peace movement must be willing to "put their bodies on the line." Participating in a panel discussion on November 27, 1965, he said the power structure in the United States had to be changed and he wanted demonstrations and civil disobedience rather than liberal means.
Coverage of Rubin's activities at the headquarters of the Youth International Party has been established and efforts are currently being made to increase this coverage. It is to be noted that many of the Youth International Party followers are "hippie types" and such would normally include numerous students. It could reasonably be expected that many of Rubin's contacts and organizational efforts would be made at night from his residence telephone. For this reason, a telephone surveillance of his residence would afford vital information as to organizational plans and the identity of key organizers, which would not be otherwise obtained through coverage of his place of employment.
The history of this individual in the direction of demonstrations which lead to violence has been established. It is recognized that he is capable of creating, through such demonstrations, a major civil disturbance if complete coverage of his activities is not effected.
Accordingly, I recommend the installation of a telephone surveillance on the residence of Jerry Clyde Rubin at 13 East 3rd Street, New York, New York, or any address to which he may move in the future.
Very truly yours,
John Edgar Hoover
Later that year, Rubin caught on to the surveillance:
"Merry Jerry Bugged," Berkeley Barb (December 20-December 26, 1968)
By Stew Albert
“The FBI has been bugging me for years," Jerry Rubin told BARB over a bugged phone from New York. "Now they've admitted it publicly."
"The shit all came out on the appeal of my conviction on the Pentagon bust,” Jerry rapped. “The Supreme Court says the FBI has to admit and tell the judge if any evidence in the case came as a result of electronic tapping.”
"The Justice Department claims they didn’t get any evidence on the Pentagon bust as the result of tapping but they might be bullshitting,” Jerry charged.
"Because I cannot hear any of the tapes and we just have to take their word. The government says they used electronic devices. They might have been either phone tapping or apartment bugging, or maybe both.”
Jerry’s lawyer in New York, Bill Kunstler, has gotten a delay on his New York pot trial.
"He will demand that the judge in the grass case hear the tapes and find out if the prosecution got any of their evidence from bugging,” Rubin continued.
"If that happens we’ll get the case thrown out. Because the pigs have previously claimed they got all their info from a stool pigeon!!
"The Justice Department says they were tapping someone else in the interests of their security, and only accidentally heard me,” Jerry scoffed. “But my lawyer, who was also Rap’s lawyer, says this is what they always claim. They did this in Rap Brown’s case.”
Rubin calls it a “weird feeling to think that the federal pigs have been listening to my phone calls and dinner conversations for the last year.”
He pictures them “drunk and fat, a can of beer in their hands, trying to figure out what half the words I use mean. I hope it drives them crazy,” he said.
Merry Jerry used to be the easiest going guy when it came to wire-tapping. He always thought a lot of people were uptight about Big Brother having his ear to the wall. He has now learned, as we all must, that a bit of paranoia is pure reality.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Dylan: Philip Ochs. I'm gonna change it back when I see it pays.
The press: Was Woody Guthrie your greatest influence?
Dylan: I don't know that I'd say that, but for a spell, the idea of him affected me quite much.
The press: How about Brecht? Read much of him?
Dylan: No. But I've read him.
The press: Rimbaud?
Dylan: I've read his tiny little book 'evil flowers' too.
The press: How about Hank Williams? Do you consider him an influence?
Dylan: Hey look, I consider Hank Williams, Captain Marvel, Marlon Brando, The Tennessee Stud, Clark Kent, Walter Cronkite and J. Carrol Neish all influences. Now what is it - please - what is it exactly you people want to know?
The press: Tell us about your movie.
Dylan: It's gonna be in black and white.
The press: Will it be in the Andy Warhol style?
Dylan: Who's Andy Warhol? Listen, my movie will be - I can say definitely - it will be in the style of the early Puerto Rican films.
The press: Who's writing it?
Dylan: Allen Ginsberg. I'm going to rewrite it.
The press: Who will you play in the film?
Dylan: The hero.
The press: Who is it that you're going to be?
Dylan: My mother.
The press: What about your friends The Beatles? Did you see them when you were there?
Dylan: John Lennon and I came down to the Village early one morning. They wouldn't let us in The Figaro or The Hip Bagel or The Feenjon. This time I'm going to England. This April. I'll see 'em if they're there.
The press: Bob, what about the situation of American poets? Kenneth Roxroth has estimated that since 1900 about thirty American poets have committed suicide.
Dylan: Thirty poets! What about American housewifes, mailmen, street cleaners, miners? Jesus Christ, what's so special about thirty people that are called poets? I've known some very good people that have committed suicide. One didn't do nothing but work in a gas station all his life. Nobody referred to him as poet, but if you're gonna call people like Robert Frost a poet, then I got to say this gas station boy was a poet too.
The press: Bob, to sum up - don't you have any important philosophy for the world?
Dylan: Are you kidding? The world don't need me. Christ, I'm only five feet ten. The world could get along fine without me. Don'cha know, everybody dies. It don't matter how important you think you are. Look at Shakespeare, Napoleon, Edgar Allan Poe, for that matter. They are all dead, right?
The press: Well, Bob, in your opinion, then, is there one man who can save the world?
Dylan: Al Aronowitz.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
RH: Was it all camaraderie, or was there competition as well?
JI: There was a lot of camaraderie. I don’t mean to gloss over anything, because it was also true that Bob Dylan, for instance, was publicly using Phil Ochs as a whipping boy. There was also some backbiting and jealousy after I had success with “Society’s Child.”
Janis Ian Looks Back At The ’60s
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
And pay their respects to the army
To watch for the hot-blooded leaders
And be prepared for the junta to
crush them like flies"
--Phil Ochs, "United Fruit" (1965)
Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World
"United Fruit was a phenomenon. In its day . . . it was not so much a company as an unrecognized state."
--The Times Literary Supplement
In 1975, Eli Black, the CEO of conglomerate United Brands and an ordained Rabbi, smashed a window on the forty-fourth floor of the Pan Am building in New York and leapt to his death. What he left behind was the bloody history of the United Fruit Company's corporate subterfuge and a Wall Street takeover gone horribly wrong.
In this dramatic exploration of one of the world's most controversial multinational corporations, Financial Times journalist Peter Chapman shows how the banana importer United Fruit created the blueprint for how global corporations wield influence and power at nearly any cost. Bananas is a sharp and lively history of the rise and fall of this infamous company, from the jungles of Costa Rica to the halls of power in Washington D.C. Along the way the company fostered covert links with U.S. power brokers such as Richard Nixon and CIA operative Howard Hunt, manipulated the press, stoked the revolutionary ire of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and inspired the literary mind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
From the groundbreaking national marketing of the banana as the first fast food, to the company's involvement in an invasion of Honduras, the Bay of Pigs crisis, and a deadly coup in Guatemala, Chapman weaves a gripping tale of big business and political deceit, as well as exploring the tenuous ecology of the banana itself. With institutionalized business-bullying practices and cozy relationships with governments throughout the Central American "banana republics," the United Fruit Company story continues to echo in today's world of rapid globalizationl, mutually dependent markets, and peaking natural resources.
Monday, 13 October 2008
CHICAGO (3 AM Thurs Aug. 22, by phone) – Chicago tonite reeks of teargas. It is an ugly gasping fog and it is being inhaled by the entire City.
There is rioting in the streets.
Shop windows are being shattered. Fires are being started. The major sections of midtown Chicago have been in the mobile hands of the new revolutionary people of the street.
The National Guard has been called up and Mayor Daley’s Chicago pig force are running amuck.
The Yippies have asked for UN observers to be sent to Chicago to investigate this latest trampling upon human rights.
I have spent most of my time in Lincoln Park and in the streets. The park is seven miles from the Amphitheater where the Democrats curse and tear at each others throats.
The park was supposed to be where the Yippies would hold their Festival of Life, rejoicing and making love. Now, because Mayor Daley denied us a permit to sleep in the park, Yippie nights are spent in the streets taking on the cops on a block-to-block basis.
The human composition of Lincoln Park during the day is the “what’s happening” of the revolution.
There are the usual middle-class dropouts, but they have been joined by the working class dropouts of the motorcycle gangs, by the black and Puerto Rican dropouts from the Mother country.
They have been joined by the press (who have had their asses beaten like the rest of us) and by Catholic priests (who have been teargassed like the rest of us).
They have been joined by striking black bus drivers wearing Free Huey buttons and by those soldiers at Ft. Hood who would not come to Chicago to beat and kill their brothers.
On Tuesday in the park there was a huge wooden cross, NLF flags, red flags, black flags, Yippie flags. The tear gas drove this symbolic diversity into the streets and into revolutionary brotherhood.
If Daley and the Democrats had been smart, they would have given the park to the Yipipes and allowed a march to the Ampitheater. But the triumphant mood in the backrooms of hack politics is fascism.
They denied us everything and in doing that they pulled us together. Maybe they thought we’d fold up and go home. I guess they had the same opinion of long-hairs as some of the left wing groupings in Berkeley.
Perhaps Daley had the image of the apolitical love-generation hippy who offered America a flower and sixty minutes of cuteness on a TV special.
But we’ve all been beaten on the heads a little too much. We decided to stay and fight, and when we did we were joined by the others who have been beaten on the head too much. The forces were joined, and the battle began.
The motorcycle gangs were dubious of this kind of alliance at first, dubious of the willingness of the children of the suburbs to fight cops; but when the point was proved the new brotherhood was formed. They came to fight for the park in the streets.
We were told that the Blackstone Rangers (an organization of black streetfighters – ed.) were being paid off by the Mayor to drive us out of town. But I stood next to a Ranger speaking from a microphone in the park, and he said that in this battle there were no separations and that the thing to do was to make a revolution.
The Chicago fuzz have an international reputation of sleek, brutal piggery, but what the people have seen in Chicago has blown their minds, and they are scared.
When they see motorcycle gangs doing security for Bobby Seale while he speaks, or bodyguarding Jerry Rubin day and night, they must realize that the balance of forces is undergoing changes.
When we first arrived in Chicago the pigs put 24-hour tails on the Yippie leadership and boasted to the press that everything was under control. They followed us wherever we went, into restaurants and into theatres. They saw to it that our phone service was disconnected and they blocked us from going to meetings in hotel rooms.
But when we started fighting back the […]
Seven of us spent the day in jail for bringing a 200 pound pig into the center of Chicago and calling for his nomination by the Democrat Party. If Americans have unconsciously chosen to be ruled by pigs, they should be awakened and made to see what their leaders really look like. That time the cops were positively sweet to us and insisted they were for Wallace only because he is an honest man.
[…] for us someday and that they are interested in protecting their pensions.
It’s been very rough. One kid was killed when he was stopped on the street for a curfew violation. The pigs claim he had a gun but they have not yet come up with it. My six stitches came soon after that, and then as our revolutionary gangs began to move around town the cops really began to escalate.
Hundreds of young people have been arrested and there has been a special concentration on the most radical of the leadership. Tom Hayden has been arrested three times and beaten up in the station. Rennie Davis has had his head cracked open.
Jerry Rubin has been busted twice and at this writing is still in jail. Wolf Lowenthal, a kind of all-around bodyguard and bringer together of the gang, has been arrested three times and brutally beaten.
Marvin Garson, a visiting journalist from San Francisco, had four stitches put into his head and a charge of aggravated assault laid on him.
The cops have suffered their casualties too. They have had their cars and their faces smashed by bottles and rocks. Estimates are that between 50 and 70 police cars have been put out of commission, and on several occasions the police have been caught in their own tear gas.
I have never felt the essence of American power as I have on those nights leaving Lincoln Park at midnight. Seeing the gas floating up into the sky and the distorted masked faces of the police moving through it. Following as if it was a guru in hell, an electronic monster armored car moving slowly forward with the same contempt that advanced disease has for its victims.
There has been very little rock music in the park. The Miss Yippie contest has been cancelled, as well as Paul Krassner’s Pin the Contraceptive on the Pope game. Ed Sanders of the Fugs said music somehow wasn’t appropriate, and Joe McDonald of the Fish, whose nose was broken in the hotel lobby, left town.
The Yippies have shown themselves to be a two-edged sword. They can lure children away from the mediocrity of suburban supermarkets and graveyards by showing through their own groovy actions the possibility of another and more exciting form of life. Rock music and the dadaist puton is at the center of this approach.
But Chicago has shown that there is another side to this Yippie madness. We have cultivated our courage, we can fight, we can be tough, and we can talk to workers better than any old Marxist owl I ever met on the Cal terrace.
Berkeleyans know a lot about the Yippies media games, but about their clenched fists they know very little.
In the next week’s issue of the BARB, I want to go into the significance of this for the American revolution. I have learned much from Chicago that I never heard out of the mouth of a Hal Draper or a Pete Camejo.
I have always believed as a matter of DIALECTICAL faith that there would be a revolution in America.
Here in Chicago I know there will be a revolution; because it has begun and I am in the red and black center of it.
Friday, 10 October 2008
WILLIAM CHARLES AYERS, Aka
Michael Joseph Rafferty, Jr.
Julies Michael Taylor,
BILL AYERS is a white male who was born on December 26, 1944, in Oak Park, Illinois. AYERS was one of the authors of the "Weatherman Statement" upon which the WUO was founded in 1969 and has been considered to be one of the leaders of the organization since its founding. Although AYERS was not arrested during the WUO "Days of Rage" he was one of the leaders of these riots. AYERS was also one of the more influential people attending the WUO "Flint, Michigan War Council." AYERS submerged into the underground in early 1970 and remains therein. AYERS' younger brother RICHARD JAMES AYERS, who is presently being sought by the FBI for desertion from the military service, and his former sister-in-law MELODY KAY ERMACHILD have also been active in the WUO underground.
Foreign Travel and/or Contacts
On August 15, 1969, it was learned that AYERS was scheduling himself to depart for Canada that date for the purpose of conferring with a group of thirty individuals who had been in Cuba during the recent past and who were due to arrive by boat on August 16, 1969. (It is noted that among those individuals returning to the United States via Canada at that time were such WUO functionaries as TED GOLD, BERNARDINE DOHRN, DIANA OUGHTON, DIONNE DONGHI and ELEANOR RASKIN.
On July 29, 1969, AYERS made a speech on the campus of the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, during which time he discussed the SDS's role in the Venceremos Brigade and promoted this trip to Cuba. During the course of this speech AYERS commented as follows in response to a question about the Brigade:
"In November and beginning January, SDS was involved in sending 150 people, both times to Cuba to cut cane, to cut sugar, as part of Cuba's program to create, to put out 50 million, or what is it 100 million, 10 million tons of sugar."
AYERS continued as follows:
"They are not being paid because they are not honkeys who need to get paid in order to do something, in order to serve the people, and what they're going to do is, there will be about 75 SDS people on each trip and about 75 people from, recruited from the Black Panther Party and Young (illegible) organizations, and other black and brown organizations that will go to Cuba, are going to live and learn about the country, by going to work to create and help the Cubans create a solid economy in the face of an economic boycott by the United States, in the face of constant threats from the United States, in fact a couple of invasions that didn't work because the Cuban people were too well armed and well educated. The Venceremos Brigade is an idea which is an attempt to show the people of the world that all Americans aren't solid in their nature of Cuba, and that all Americans aren't solid in their support of the economic boycott of Cuba, and so we are going to go and we are going to attempt to, attempt to help the Cubans in their efforts. DAVID JOHNS from the (SDS) National Office is one person who's going on that trip, other people from here who are interested should talk to BILL THOMAS from Portland afterwards because he's got, in Portland, he's got applications. It's a simple matter, if you're under 17 you need your parents' permission. Yes."
After the WUO submerged into an underground status, BILL AYERS and NAOMI JAFFE traveled to Canada for the purpose of meeting with representatives of the Quebec Liberation Front. When the pair returned, AYERS had $2,000 in his possession that he definitely did not have when JAFFE and he went into Canada.
[From an earlier portion of the report:]
No Marxist-Leninist denies the necessity of armed struggle. The centrality of the debate on this issue among revolutionaries is primarily that of timing. Should a revolutionary situation not exist, should the masses not be sufficiently antagonized by the ruling class, the carrying out of armed violence is, within the revolutionary left, adventurism. When Weatherman engaged in sabotage and bombings in their early years they were castigated by the communist left not for having engaged in confrontations against the state but rather for engaging in such activity at a time when they had no chance of encouraging a revolutionary situation. In 1976, however, a more mature WUO makes a similar criticism against the SLA, thusly coming to grips with their own early adventuristic failures. The WUO does not reject armed struggle, however. But the WUO of 1976 recognizes that politics comes first; that violence is subsumed within a recognizable revolutionary ideology, Marxism-Leninism. Their view is summed up in the following document issued in the spring of 1976:
"Politics in Command" by CELIA SOJOURN and BILLY AYERS, Weather Underground Organization
The Necessity of Violent Revolution
There are many on the left who self-righteously condemn all violence of revolutionaries. They are keeping their own hands clean by avoiding the full consequences of revolutionary ideas. For these people, the revolution will happen only some day and hopefully be made by somebody else. But power concedes nothing without a demand. Armed struggle is an extension of political struggle, just as war is politics with bloodshed. Under certain historical conditions political struggle leads necessarily to armed conflict. When a small ruling class maintains itself in power by force and violence, when the masses of people are forced to work and live in brutalized and violent conditions, political struggle both peaceful and violent is the inevitable result.
Reactionary capitalist violence is criminal: revolutionary violence will bring about the new society. Marxism-Leninism holds that 'the fundamental question of every revolution is the question of power.' Marx considered violence as 'the midwife of all old societies about to bring forth a new one.' The capitalist system of private property is protected forcibly by a group of violent, dangerous men. The development of mass revolutionary violence is essential to smash the state of the exploiters and to wrest power from the armed defenders of imperialism.
Politics in Command
Our job is not only to carry out action -- that is comparatively simple. Our job is to succeed in making a revolution. The guerrillas, like all revolutionaries, bear the responsibility of developing full political strategy, and a mistake in military strategy can be deadly. The stakes are high, not only for the people and organizations carrying out military work, but for the course of the revolution. Ho Chi Minh said, 'a military without politics is like a tree without roots -- useless and dangerous.' That is why we use the slogan 'Politics in Command.'
Our goal is to build communist organization toward the stage where armed struggle becomes a mass phenomenon led by a Marxist-Leninist party: a revolutionary stage. Organization is the strongest resource of the people. Organization unites and builds and means that each day's efforts add up. Organization is made up of individuals but is bigger and longer lasting than any one individual. Individuals are precious but organization is decisive. Only organization allows continuity of experience and leadership, and carries the deeds of the individual fighters beyond themselves into the future....
The strategic necessity for this period is to mobilize the oppressed and exploited people against US imperialism. Militarily this is the stage of armed propaganda; the test of action is primarily the ability to win the people....
...But revolutionary violence must be specific, comprehensible to the people, and humane. The violence of the revolution must be clearly distinguished to the oppressed and exploited people from the violence of capitalist society. People do not need us to be fearful, or to create chaos. Chaos prevails. Our task is to show the way out of the madness....
...We must never hesitate to fight, but we must never build any mystification about violence. We must be a force of armed militants, not militarists....
We do not condemn violence that originates from the left, just as we do not condemn violence against the state that originates from the working class. The oppressed peoples and the working class have a right and an obligation to develop armed struggle as a means to liberation.
It is a right wing error to argue that only legal forms of struggle are legitimate. For some, no level of mass struggle will justify armed struggle; these are naive and irresponsible people, never ready to raise the question of violence or of the need to fight and ultimately win state power....
...Our revolution will need both open and clandestine movements, legal and illegal struggle, peaceful and armed struggle -- and we will need harmony and organization among all levels of the struggle toward the goal of a revolutionized and fighting people.
The Weatherman move toward armed struggle was distinctly part of their internationalist approach to revolution firstly, because the Vietnamese needed such support and secondly, because they felt the revolutionary consciousness of the American masses would be heightened by the impending victory of the Third World over American imperialism. The National Action called for the fall of 1969 was deemed to be the major effort which would bring to youth a revolutionary class consciousness. The opening of another front in the international revolutionary struggle under the slogan "Bring The War Home" would both serve to defeat U.S. imperialism in Vietnam and create the conditions for real revolution in the heart of the "monster."
"I think that the national action has to be seen in the context of a strategy that's going to win, that's going to help the NLF concretely, that's going to build Weatherman, and that's going to build a fighting revolutionary youth movement...
I think people should push out this slogan 'Bring The War Home.' We're not just saying bring the troops home, bring the US troops home and deploy them some place some other time, we're saying bring the war home...
I think people understand how this kind of action at this time, given the whole thing in Paris and the situation the Vietnamese are in now, can concretely aid the Vietnamese. The other thing that people have to get confident about is that we can build a revolutionary youth movement."
Bill Ayers, Educational Secretary, SDS; National Action Conference, Cleveland, Ohio, August 29-September 1, 1969
New Left Notes; September 12, 1969
Read more of the FBI report
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Those moderates are back in power
They'll listen close with open ears
They'll help us out in a couple of hundred years"
--Phil Ochs, "Talking Birmingham Jam" (1963)
Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama - The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
"The year of Birmingham," 1963, was a cataclysmic turning point in America's long civil rights struggle. Child demonstrators faced down police dogs and fire hoses in huge nonviolent marches for desegregation. Ku Klux Klansmen retaliated by bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young black girls. Diane McWhorter, daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI documents, interviews with black activists and former Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the personalities and events that brought about America's second emancipation.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
'Be brave, my son, the Lord is waiting there'
Oh, murder is so wrong, you see
Both the Bible and the courts agree
That the state's allowed to murder in the chair"
--Phil Ochs, "Iron Lady" (1964)
Rebel and a Cause: Caryl Chessman and the Politics of the Death Penalty in Postwar California, 1948-1974
Theodore Hamm uses the 1960 execution of Caryl Chessman as a springboard for examining how politics and debates about criminal justice became a volatile mix that ignited postwar California. The effects of those years continue to be felt as the state's three-strikes law and expanding prison-construction program spark heated arguments over rehabilitation and punishment.
Known as the "red light bandit," Chessman stalked lovers' lanes in Los Angeles. Eventually convicted of rape and kidnapping, he was sentenced to death in 1948. In prison he gained significant notoriety as a writer, beginning with his autobiographical Cell 2455 Death Row (1954). In the following years Chessman presented himself not only as an innocent man but also as one rehabilitated from his prior life of crime. He acquired an enthusiastic audience among leading criminologists, liberal intellectuals, and ordinary citizens, many of whom engaged in protests to halt Chessman's execution. Hamm analyzes how Chessman convinced thousands of Californians to support him and why Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, who opopsed the death penalty, allowed the execution to go forward. He also demonstrates the intrinsic limits of the popular commitment to the rehabilitative ideal--limits based on race, type of crime, and perceptions of public safety.
Hamm places the Chessman case in a broad cultural and historical context, relating it to histories of prison reform, the anti-death penalty movement, the popularization of psychology, and the successive rise and decline of the New Left and the more enduring rise of the New Right. His persuasive analysis is valuable in understanding the symbolic politics behind "law and order" movements not only in California but throughout the United States.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
There are greater things I'll never understand
How a man so filled with life even death was caught off guard
That was the President and that was the man"
--Phil Ochs, "That Was the President" (1963)
An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
In a tale that stretches back to Ireland, An Unfinished Life describes the birth of the Kennedy dynasty, the complexity of Jack's early years, and the mixture of adulation and resentment that tangled his relationships with his mother, Rose, and his father, Joseph. Forced into the shadow of his older brother, Joe, Jack struggled to find a place for himself until World War II, when he became a national hero and launched his career. Dallek reveals for the first time the full story of Kennedy's wartime actions--including the machinations that got him into the war despite severe disabilities--and the true details of how Joe was killed, opening the door to Jack's ascendancy.
Here is the gripping story of Jack's first political campaigns and his transformation from an awkward speaker to a brilliant politician with irresistible charm. An Unfinished Life explores Jack's work as a senator from Massachusetts, carries us through the fiercely contested 1960 campaign against Nixon, and takes us on to the White House itself. We learn for the first time how and why Bobby was chosen to serve as attorney general, how JFK selected Lyndon Johnson to be vice president, and how they and the rest of Kennedy's team--Bundy, McNamara, Schlesinger, Sorensen, Rusk, and others--faced the Bay of Pigs, threats against civil rights activists in the South, the conflict in Laos, the Cuban missile crisis, the struggle for a test ban treaty, and the assassination of Diem. Dallek reveals fascinating new details about each of these challenges and many more, and gives us a picture of Kennedy as a man very much in command of his times--able, soon after arriving in the Oval Office, to wage a secret war against his own generals when they advocated first use of atomic bombs in situations Kennedy felt certain would lead to an all-out nuclear war.
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Sarge, give 'em hell
Yeh, kill me 'thousand or so
And if you ever get a war
Without blood and gore
Well, I'll be the first to go"
--Phil Ochs, "Draft Dodger Rag" (1964)
Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War
Shedding light on a misunderstood form of opposition to the Vietnam War, Michael Foley tells the story of draft resistance, the cutting edge of the antiwar movement at the height of the war's escalation. Unlike so-called draft dodgers, who left the country or manipulated deferments, draft resisters openly defied draft laws by burning or turning in their draft cards. Like civil rights activists before them, draft resisters invited prosecution and imprisonment.
Through a close study of draft resistance in Boston, one of the movement's most prominent centers, Foley documents the crucial role of draft resisters in shifting antiwar sentiment from the margins of society to the center of American politics. Their bold decision to return or destroy their draft cards inspired other draft-age men opposed to the war--especially college students--to reconsider their place of privilege in a draft system that offered them protections and sent disproportionate numbers of working-class and minority men to Vietnam. This recognition sparked the change of tactics from legal protest to mass civil disobedience, drawing the Johnson administration into a confrontation with activists who were largely suburban, liberal, young, and middle class--the core of Johnson's Democratic constituency.
Draft resisters frequently faced hostility from their fellow citizens, family, friends, teachers, and employers. But they also succeeded in building a community to sustain them. Most important, they forced a government that had previously ignored the antiwar movement into taking their actions seriously. Examining the day-to-day struggle of antiwar organizing carried out by ordinary Americans at the local level, Confronting the War Machine argues for a more complex view of citizenship and patriotism during a time of war.
Monday, 15 September 2008
Between 1965 and 1972, political activists around the globe prepared to mount a revolution. While the Vietnam War raged, calls for black power grew louder and liberation movements erupted everywhere from Berkeley, Detroit, and Newark, to Paris, Berlin, Ghana, and Peking.
Rock and soul music fueled the revolutionary movement with anthems and iconic imagery. Soon the musicians themselves, from John Lennon to Bob Dylan to James Brown and Fela Kuti, were being dragged into the fray. Some joined the protestors on the barricades, some were persecuted for their political activism, and some abandoned the cause and were dismissed as counterrevolutionaries.
Scrutinizing the ways in which musicians reacted to the movement, Doggett exposes the myths behind their involvement to show that, contrary to belief, many were actually reluctant figureheads, while others merely paraded as revolutionaries, acting with a bourgeois curiosity that negated the ideas of peace that musicians proselytized and that their lyrics idealized.
From Mick Jagger's legendary appearance in Grosvenor Square standing on the sidelines and snapping pictures, to the infamous incident during the Woodstock Festival when Pete Townshend kicked Yippie Abbie Hoffman off the stage while he tried to make a speech about an imprisoned comrade, to Lennon's display of self-publicity when he auctioned off his hair on top of the Black House, Doggett unravels the truth about how these were not the "Street Fighting Men" they saw themselves as and how the increasing corporatization of the music industry played an integral role in derailing the cultural dream.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
And the shame was replacing the anger
So wrong, so wrong, but we've been down so long
And we had to make somebody listen"
--Phil Ochs, "In the Heat of the Summer" (1964)
Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles
American society has been long plagued by cycles of racial violence, most dramatically in the 1960s when hundreds of ghetto uprisings erupted across American cities. Though the larger, underlying causes of contentious race relations have remained the same, the lethality, intensity, and outcomes of these urban rebellions have varied widely. What accounts for these differences? And what lessons can be learned that might reduce the destructive effects of riots and move race relations forward? This impressive, meticulously detailed study is the first attempt to compare six major race riots that occurred in the three largest American urban areas during the course of the twentieth century: in Chicago in 1919 and 1968; in New York in 1935/1943 and 1964; and in Los Angeles in 1965 and 1992.
Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles weaves together detailed narratives of each riot, placing them in their changing historical contexts and showing how urban space, political regimes, and economic conditions--not simply an abstract "race conflict"--have structured the nature and extent of urban rebellions. Building on her previous groundbreaking comparative history of these three cities, Janet Abu-Lughod draws upon archival research, primary sources, case studies, and personal observations to reconstruct events--especially for the 1964 Harlem uprising and Chicago's 1968 riots where no documented studies are available. By focusing on the similarities and differences in each city, identifying the unique and persisting issues, and evaluating the ways political leaders, law enforcement, and the local political culture have either defused or exacerbated urban violence, this book points the way toward alleviating long-standing ethnic and racial tensions.
A masterful analysis from a renowned urbanist, Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles offers a deeper understanding of past--and future--urban race relations while emphasizing that until persistent racial and economic inequalities are meaningfully resolved, the tensions leading to racial violence will continue to exist in America's cities and betray our professed democratic values.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
All that they are doin' is all that you have showed
That you gotta strike, you gotta fight to get what you are owed"
--Phil Ochs, "Links on the Chain" (1964)
Conflict of Interests: Organized Labor and the Civil Rights Movement in the South, 1954-1968
Alan Draper illuminates the role organized labor played in the southern civil rights movement. He documents the substantial support the AFL-CIO and its southern state councils gave to the struggle for black equality, suggesting that labor's political leadership recognized an opportunity in the civil rights movement. Frustrated in their efforts to organize the South, labor leaders understood the potential of newly enfranchised blacks to challenge conservative southern Democrats.
At the same time, white union members in the South were more interested in defending their racial privileges than in allying themselves with blacks. An explosive tension developed between labor's political leadership, desperate to create a party system in the South that included blacks, and a rank and file determined to preserve southern Democracy by excluding blacks. This book looks at the ways that tension was expressed and ultimately resolved within the southern labor movement.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
But all of the bullets of Mexico cannot undo all the work that he's done."
--Phil Ochs, "Bullets of Mexico" (1962)
Struggles of a Campesino Leader: Ruben Jaramillo
With the presidential election of Manuel Avila Camacho in 1940, the era of land reform and support for social change ended suddenly and the revolution veered sharply rightward. The politics of class struggle quickly gave way to a state-directed campaign to achieve the goals, and inculcate the values, of modern capitalist development within a postwar world of united, anticommunist nations...Jaramillo was born in Tlaquiltenango, Morelos, in 1900. He joined Zapata's army at the age of 15, and became a lifelong adherent of the Zapatista causes of land and liberty for the rural poor. By the end of the 1920s he had emerged as a prominent agrarian leader. He strongly supported the Cardenas presidency, and Cardenas returned the favor by supporting Jaramillo's project, the cooperatively run sugar complex of Zacatepec, which was inaugurated in 1938. Jaramillo was elected to the mill's first Council of Administrations and Vigilance. He immediately entered into conflict with the mill's federally appointed administrators when he uncompromisingly advocated many reforms in favor of the mill's workers. These conflicts turned more violent with the advent of the Avila Camacho era, as we see in the excerpt below.
Jaramillo would spend much of his life trying to elude death threats from corrupt local powers supported by the federal government. While underground, he remained active in organizing peasants and workers; occasionally, he managed to emerge from hiding long enough to found legal, above-ground organizations. In 1958 President Adolfo Lopez Mateos named him psecial delegate of the National Peasant Confederation. Frustration with the funereal pace of the government's land reform led Jaramillo to support land invasions and the formation of a socialist collective in 1960, inviting fresh reprisals from his enemies. On May 23, 1962, judicial police and soldiers captured Jaramillo and assassinated him along with his pregnant wife and three sons. No one was ever brought to trial for the crime, which proved to be one of several high-profile episodes that darkened the reputation of the PRI int he post-war era.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
The President and his military minds
But me, I stood behind a bar
Dreamin' of a spaceship getaway car"
--Phil Ochs, "Talking Cuban Crisis" (1963)
The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban missile crisis was the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War and the most perilous moment in American history. In this dramatic new narrative written especially for students and general readers, Sheldon M. Stern, longtime historian at the John F. Kennedy Library, enables the reader to follow the often harrowing twists and turns of the crisis.
Based on the author's authoritative transcriptions of the secretly recorded ExComm meetings, the book conveys the emotional ambiance of the meetings by capturing striking moments of tension and anger as well as occasional humorous intervals. Unlike today's readers, the participants did not have the luxury of knowing how this potentially catastrophic showdown would turn out, and their uncertainty often gives their discussions the nerve-wracking quality of a fictional thriller. As President Kennedy told his advisers, "What we are doing is throwing down a card on the table in a game which we don't know the ending of."
Stern documents that JFK and his administration bore a substantial share of the responsibility for the crisis. Covert operations in Cuba, including efforts to kill Fidel Castro, had convinced Nikita Khrushchev that only the deployment of nuclear weapons could protect Cuba from imminent attack. However, President Kennedy, a seasoned Cold Warrior in public, was deeply suspicious of military solutions to political problems and appalled by the prospect of nuclear war. He consistently steered policy makers away from an apocalyptic nuclear conflict, measuring each move and countermove with an eye to averting what he called, with stark eloquence, "the final failure."
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
But so few remember what he was fightin' for
Oh why sing the songs and forget about the aim?
He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same"
--Phil Ochs, "Bound for Glory" (1963)
Bound for Glory: The Hard-Driving, Truth-Telling Autobiography of America's Great Poet-Folk Singer
He was a hard traveler before there were any easy riders
Woody Guthrie was born in Oklahoma and traveled this whole country over--not by jet or motorcycle, but by boxcar, thumb, and foot. During the journey of discovery that was his life, he composed and sang words and music that have become a national heritage. His songs, however, are but part of his legacy. Behind him Woody Guthrie left a remarkable autobiography that vividly brings to life both his vibrant personality and a vision of America we cannot afford to let die.
"Even readers who never heard Woody or his songs will understand the current esteem in which he's held after reading just a few pages...Always shockingly immediate and real, as if Woody were telling it out loud...A book to make novelists and sociologists jealous."
Thursday, 14 August 2008
He went down to the Cuban land, the nearest place to hell
He'd been there many times before, but now the law does say
The only way to Cuba is with the CIA"
--Phil Ochs, "Ballad of William Worthy" (1963)
Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
William Worthy stood trial in Miami, with both his professional career and his personal freedom in jeopardy. Worthy's individual plight triggered collective acts of defiance. Events surrounding his trial on charges of violating the McCarran Act inspired widespread support, including the satirical "Ballad of William Worthy" by the folk singer Phil Ochs. Worthy turned his legal troubles into a political struggle that embarrassed the attorney general and pushed black protest into uncharted waters. Failing to receive a change of venue despite pleas from his lawyers, he was found guilty of violating the McCarran Act. At a time when leading civil rights groups were at odds with one another over the movement's political direction, Worthy's case provided a rare moment of unity. It also helped open the Cold War's Pandora's box, hurling America's racial hypocrisy in the face of a government already anxious about its interests in the Third World. Convicted after a bench trial in August 1962, he offered no apologies. "Travel control is thought control and intellectual control. Free men, thinking men, concerned men want none of it."
[Art] Ferrier's attitude toward his photography pops up in his classroom. Pay attention to what you see on the streets every day, he said he tells his students. Yes, the news focuses on the ugly stuff, but "all around us is also beauty."
He quotes a line from legendary folk singer Phil Ochs: "Ah, but in such an ugly time, the true protest is beauty."
That quote, he said, "has never left me."