Monday, April 15, 2019

`When They Jailed Elizabeth Gurley Flynn' lyrics

A biographical folk song about 20th-century U.S. labor movement organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the response of middle-class liberals and the ACLU to her imprisonment by U.S. government at Alderson federal prison in 1950s.

(verse 1)
When she was sixteen she spoke on a street by Broadway
And urged workers to fight for their freedom
Female equality in the early 20th-century
Could be won, she said, with socialism.
(verse 2)
She joined the Wobblies and fought to speak freely
And for "bread and roses" in Lawrence
Her Irish rebel spirit and words charismatic
Inspired Paterson strikers to risk arrests.

And where were the middle class women'
When they jailed Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?
They joined with anti-communist liberals
To lock her up in Alderson.

(verse 3)
Out West she visited Joe Hill's cell
And her inner and outer beauty sparked a song
And after Joe Hill's death she organized Workers Defense
Of thousands whose imprisonment was wrong.

(verse 4)
In her 40's and 50's she continued to speak out
Against capitalism, fascism and Cold War
And her newspaper column demanded working women rights
And that Jim Crow in the South not be ignored. (chorus)

(verse 5)
Yes, in her 60's she was jailed for "conspiracy"
And deprived of her civil liberties
Yet the ACLU she helped start as a youth
Failed to demand that she be freed. (chorus)

Friday, April 5, 2019

Joan Coxsedge's `Some Facts About Libya'--Part 2

Jamahiriya Museum in Libya
In  Part 2 of her 2018 book, Some Facts About Libya: How the West destroyed this once prosperous nation, long-time Australian antiwar and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--recalls her 1979 visit to Libya in the following way:

Visiting Libya in 1979.

In 1979 I was invited to Libya to take part in a conference on Palestine with the moniker ‘The Conference of Tripoli on Imperialist, Zionist and Reactionary Scenes against the Arab Nation, the Danger of these Schemes to the Vital Interest of All Nations and to the Problems of Peace and Liberation all over the World’. Not the most popular subject in Australia, but of interest to me because I believed the Palestinians got a spectacularly rotten deal when the world salved its conscience by giving away their land after WW2. It took place six years after the Yom Kippur War, a year after the ‘Camp David Agreement’ and a year before the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a new law proclaiming Jerusalem the ‘eternal capital of Israel’. 

The conference was well organised and extraordinarily interesting. Security was tight, for good reason. Palestinian leaders with a price on their heads using aliases flew in from around the world. Many of their colleagues had been assassinated by Israeli hit squads.

Apart from Muammar Qaddafi who opened the conference, I met George Habash, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Vanessa Redgrave, the tall, strikingly handsome British actress. And we all rose to our feet to give a standing ovation of welcome to a delegation from the newly elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua, their debut on the international stage.

At the start of proceedings we were each given a copy of Qaddafi’s The Green Book, Libya’s answer to Mao’s Little Red Book, except the Libyan version was much longer. In it Qaddafi called parliamentary democracy a sham where voters ‘stand in long queues to cast their votes in ballot boxes in the same way as they throw other papers into the dustbin’. Quite a few would agree with that. He preferred direct popular participation in people’s congresses – a notion not too far removed from the slogan of Russia’s 1917 October Revolution, which called for ‘all power to the Soviets’ (local committees) – even though that slogan later bit the dust. On the second day, I gave a paper titled ‘The Impact of US Imperialism on Australia’.

 Thanks to a hostile media, I doubt if many would associate Libya with art and architecture, despite it being an archaeologist’s heaven back then. In the centuries before Christ, when Greek supremacy went down the drain after the sacking of Carthage and Corinth, Rome ruled the region for more than eight centuries before it lost control to the Arabs in the seventh century AD. Despite another thirteen hundred turbulent years, many of the ancient monuments survived. Western Libya in particular was richly endowed as I discovered during my tour of Sabratha and Leptis Magna, birthplace of Emperor Septimus Severus. 

I walked down streets where ruts from ancient chariot wheels were still visible and past the remains of houses where people had lived and worked until the end of the 4th or 5th century. I fingered grooves on a stone counter made by ancient butchers and fishmongers when they sharpened their massive knives and roamed in and out of small shops and stalls that had once sold spices and wines and goods made from leather.

But the building that took the cake was the ‘Hunting Baths’ whose domes and vaults had been buried under sand for fifteen centuries. Inside, a series of warm and hot rooms were lined with hollow tiles where hot air from the furnaces passed through, and most astonishing of all was the discovery that the 2000-year-old bathhouse still worked!

During my drive to Sabratha I stopped at the Jamahiriya Museum to look at its collection of priceless mosaics and worry whether these magical places and ancient artefacts have managed to survive the savagery and barbarism of the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Excerpt From Engels' 1892 Preface To His 1844 `Condition of Working Class' Book Revisited

"...The cause of the miserable condition of the working-class is to be the capitalistic system itself. The wage-worker sells to the capitalist his labor-force for a certain daily sum. After a few hours' work he has reproduced the value of that sum; but...he has to work another series of hours to complete his working-day; and the value he produces during these additional hours of surplus labor is surplus value; which costs the capitalist nothing, but yet goes into his pocket. That is the basis of the system which tends more and more to split up civilized society into a few Rothschilds and Vanderbilts, the owners of all the means of production and subsistence, on the one hand, and an immense number of wage-workers, the owners of nothing but their labor-force, on the other...

"...So long as the wealthy classes not only do not feel the want of any emancipation, but strenuously oppose the self-emancipation of the working-class, so long the social revolution will have to be prepared and fought out by the working-class alone...And today, the very people who..preach to the workers a Socialism...tending to reconcile...the interests of both the contending classes--these people are either neophytes, who have still to learn a great deal, or they are the worst enemies of the workers--wolves in sheep's clothing...

"...Today there is indeed...Socialism of all shades: Socialism conscious and unconscious and of the middle-class, for, verily, that abomination of abominations, Socialism, has not only become respectable, but has actually donned evening dress and lounges lazily on drawing-room love-seats...What I consider far more important than this momentary fashion among bourgeois circles of affecting a mild dilution of the revival of the East End of London...It has...become the home of...the organization of the great mass of `unskilled' workers..."

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Engels' 1844 Description of Results of Industrialization In English-Speaking Capitalist Countries

As long ago as 1844, Fred Engels indicated what the results of industrialization were under the capitalist economic system in predominantly English-speaking countries, in the following way:

"...Murder has...been committed if society places hundreds of workers in such a position that they inevitably come to premature and unnatural ends. Their death is as violent as if they had been stabbed or shot. Murder has been committed if thousands of workers have been deprived of the necessities of life or if they have been forced into a situation in which it is impossible for them to survive. Murder has been committed if the workers have been forced by the strong arm of the law to go on living under such conditions until death inevitably releases them. Murder has been committed if society knows perfectly well that thousands of workers cannot avoid being sacrificed so long as these conditions are allowed to continue. Murder of this sort is just as culpable as the murder committed by an individual...If a worker dies no one places the responsibility for his death on society, though some would realize that society has failed to take steps to prevent the victim from dying. But it is murder all the same...

"...The workers are...condemned to a lifetime of unremitting toil...Man knows no more degrading or unbearable misery than forced labor. No worse fate can befall a man than to have to work every day from morning to night against his will at a job that he abhors...He works because he must...Because his hours of labor are so long and so dismally monotonous, the worker must surely detest his job after the first few weeks...In most branches of industry the task of the worker is limited to insignificant and purely repetitive tasks which continue minute by minute for every day of the year...There are only two courses open to the worker. He may submit to his fate and become a `good worker'...or he can resist and fight for his rights as far as humanly possible..."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Engels' 1844 Take on English-Speaking Workers Competing With Each Other Under Capitalism Revisited

As long ago as 1844, Fred Engels indicated how the majority of English-speaking workers, living under a capitalist economic system in predominantly English-speaking countries, don't benefit from competing with each other, in the following way:

"Competition is the most extreme expression of that war of all which dominates...society. This struggle for existence--which in extreme cases is a life and death struggle--is waged not only between different classes of society but also between individuals within these social groups. Everybody competes in some way against everyone else and consequently each individual tries to push aside anyone whose existence is a barrier to his own advancement. The workers compete among themselves...Those who are unemployed or poorly paid try to undercut and so destroy the livelihood of those who have work and are earning better wages. This competition of workers among themselves is the worst aspect of the present situation as far as the proletariat is concerned. This is the sharpest weapon...against the working classes. This explains the rise of trade unions, which represent an attempt to eliminate such fratricidal conflict between the workers themselves...

"The worker is helpless; left to himself he cannot survive a single day...In law and in fact the worker is the slave...The worker has no choice but to accept the terms offered...or go hungry and naked like the wild beasts...The bourgeoisie alone...decide the terms of the bargain...

"...The...difference between the old-fashioned slavery and the new is that while the former was openly acknowledged the latter is disguised. The worker appears to be free, because he is not bought and sold outright. He is sold piecemeal by the day, the week, or the year. Moreover he is not sold by one owner to another, but he is forced to sell himself in this fashion. He is not the slave of a single individual, but of the whole capitalist class. As far as the worker is concerned...there can be no doubt as to his servile status...His real masters, the...capitalists, can discard him at any moment and leave him to starve, if they have no further use for his services and no further interest in his survival...They can now get rid of their workers whenever it pleases them without losing any of their capital...

"...Wages fall owing to competition between the unemployed...The workers suffer great distress. The small savings of the individual workers are soon spent and charitable organizations are overwhelmed with appeals for help...The number of those who are starving increases...The `superfluous' workers may or may not survive...

"...English industry must always have a reserve of unemployed workers, except during the short period when the boom is at its height. The existence of such a reserve is essential in order that labor may be available to produce the great quantities of goods which are needed during the few months when the business boom reaches its climax...The size of this reserve varies with the state of trade....During a slump the reserve of unemployed swells to formidable dimensions. Even when trade is moderately active--in between the extremes of boom and depression--there are still many workers who are unemployed. This pool of unemployed is the `surplus population.'...When they are out of work, these people eke out a miserable existence...If these people can find no work and are not prepared to rebel against society, what else can they do but beg? No wonder that there exists a great army of beggars, mostly able-bodied men..."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Engels' 1844 Summary Of Condition Of English-Speaking Workers Under Capitalism Revisited

As long ago as 1844, Fred Engels summarized how the majority of English-speaking workers were forced to live under a capitalist economic system in predominantly English-speaking countries, in the following way:

"The vast majority of the inhabitants of the great towns are workers...The workers...nearly all live from hand to mouth on their wages. Society having degenerated into a collection of selfish individuals, no one bothers about the workers and their families. The workers are not given the means whereby they can make satisfactory and permanent provision for their families. Even the most highly-skilled worker is therefore continually threatened with the loss of...livelihood and that means death by starvation. And many do indeed die in this way. The working-class quarters of the towns are always badly laid out. Their houses are...kept in a bad state of repair. They are badly ventilated, damp and unhealthy. The workers are herded into the smallest possible space...The clothing of the workers is also normally inadequate. The workers' diet is generally poor...From time to time many workers' families actually go short of food and in exceptional cases they actually die of hunger.

"The working classes of the great cities exhibit a variety of standards of living. In favorable circumstances some of them enjoy, at least temporarily, a modest prosperity. Sometimes high wages can be earned...In bad times, however, the unlucky worker may sink into the deepest poverty, actually culminating in homelessness and death from starvation. On the average the condition of the worker approximates much more closely to the worst we have described than to the best...While it is true that particular groups of workers have an advantage over their fellows and are relatively well off, nevertheless the condition of all workers is liable to fluctuate so violently that every single workers is faced with the possibility of passing through the stages that lead from relative comfort to extreme poverty and even death from starvation..."

Monday, February 18, 2019

`Murder of Fannie Sellins' labor song lyrics

A labor song and protest folk song about the murder of U.S. labor movement union organizer Fannie Sellins and steelworker Joe Starzelski by Allegheny Steel gunmen in August 1919, nearly 100 years ago.
(verse 1)
"I worked in the steel mill twelve hours a day
With no time for play and very low pay
So I went out on strike in 1919
And let me now tell of the murder I seen."
Fannie Sellins she worked for the United Mine Workers
She went `round the country and built-up the union
In three U.S. Steel mills, she did organize
And thousands of steelworkers were soon mobilized.

Faithful to labor's cause
She fought against greed and gain
Not flinching when the bullets came
Workers recall her name.

(verse 2)
"I saw Fannie Sellins outside the millyard
Of Allegheny Steel in West Natoma
The company gunmen, now deputies,
With their guns were beating Old Worker Starzelski.
I saw Fannie Sellins beg the gunmen to cease
Their merciless beating of Old Man Starzelski
Then a company manager knocked Fannie Sellins to the ground
And I saw her try to flee to a nearby friend." (chorus)

(verse 3)
"`Kill the Red woman!', the gunmen did shout
While they threw Starzelski's body in a truck
I then saw the gunmen drag Fannie Sellins to the truck
Where one deputy beat her to death.
In front of my eyes and a crowd of people
Allegheny Steel's deputies crushed Fannie
Her Killer we named again and again
But no one was punished for Fannie Sellins' death." (chorus)