Thursday, October 31, 2019

Did Boston's Rich White Folks Profit From Slave Trade?

In the 21st-century some of the rich white families that still pretty much control what happens economically and politically in the City of Boston may claim that their families' wealth was not obtained, historically, by profiting from the African slave trade and the enslavement of people of African descent in the USA and elsewhere. But as Russell B. Adams Jr. recalled in his 1977 book, The Boston Money Tree:

"...Peter Faneuil, like most early Bostonians saw nothing amiss in what was later to be termed the `peculiar institution' of the South...Among the effects in Peter's estate at his death were 5 slaves...Peter Faneuil...tried his hand at the slave trade more than once...Not long before his death Faneuil sent a slaving ship, owned half by himself and one quarter each by a neighbor and the captain on an expedition to the coast of Guinea...Ship and slaves were sold at auction, a portion of the proceeds going to the estate of Peter Faneuil."

The Boston Money Tree book also observed that although "it was primarily as slave traders, not slave owners, that Bostonians were to make their mark in the history of human bondage in America," a French visitor to Boston in 1687 "had reported that scarcely any Boston household of consequences didn't have at least one slave..."

According to the same book:

"...Boston's enterprising merchants, always on the lookout for commodities to serve their markets, trading slaves...It took little imagination for these...traders to sail off to Guinea with cargoes of rum to be exchanged for Negroes who were then exchanged for more sugar cane to be turned into more rum...Thomas Amory, one Boston merchant...was big in the slave trade and...succeeded in helping to found one of the city's latter-day first families."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

`On A Highway In Bel Air' (For Ralph Featherstone and `Che' Payne) folk song lyrics

A protest folk song from 2019 about the explosion on Highway 1 in Bel Air, Maryland that killed two SNCC workers, Ralph Featherstone and William "Che" Payne, on March 8, 1970..

(verse 1)
On a highway in Bel Air in March
Of 1970
A car it exploded
Driving toward Washington, D.C.
Ralph Featherstone and "Che" Payne
Two SNCC workers lay dead
So cops claimed they "carried bombs"
On Route 1 in Maryland.

On a highway in Bel Air
Ralph Featherstone's body torn apart
On a highway in Bel Air
"Che" Payne killed in the dark.

(verse 2)
In a courthouse in Bel Air
A trial they did prepare
Of a former SNCC chairman
The government wanted jailed or dead
They assumed H. Rap Brown
Was in the car they targeted
For their COINTELPRO goal
Was the Movement to behead. (chorus)

(verse 3)
In the car driving from Bel Air
H. Rap Brown was not present
But the blast killed Ralph Featherstone
A key witness in Rap Brown's defense
Arranging security
Was Ralph Featherstone's mission
But he was killed on his way back
To his bookstore in Washington. (chrous)

(verse 4)
On a highway in Bel Air
SNCC said: "It was murder!"
From a bomb planted under the seat
In a SNCC car well-known by police
Though they failed to kill Rap Brown then
For life he was later jailed
And no more than 30 were "Che" and "Feather"
When at midnight they were killed. (chorus)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Percy Shelley's Men of England folk song lyrics

A folk song version of early 19th-century poem by Percy Shelley.

"Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?

"Wherefore feed, and clothe, and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat--nay, drink your blood?

"Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?

"Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love's gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?

"The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.

"Sow seed,--but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth,--let no imposter heap;
Weave robes,--let not the idle wear;
Forge arms,--in your defence to bear.

"Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

"With plough and spade, and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre."

Monday, October 7, 2019

Australian Anti-War Movement Activist Joan Coxsedge's September 29, 2019 Letter

The following letter from Australian anti-war and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--originally appeared in an Australian-Cuban solidarity group's newsletter. 

“September 29, 2019

“Dear Comrades,

“Once upon a time I felt OK in saying I was an Australian. But that was back in the era when Australia was one of the most egalitarian nations in the world, when there was vigorous debate about important issues and when our basic commodities were in public hands and jobs gave security and even some satisfaction. My grandfather worked all his life as a train driver (steam) and my father followed him into the railways, a solid career move back then, which was why I was born in Ballarat.

“What a different story today. Counted as full-time even if you only work for a few hours a week, with no sick leave, holiday pay, security, or the other basics unions fought so hard for - when bang, you’re on the scrap heap and have to fight like buggery to get a lousy payout, leaving you to subsist below the poverty line, with no hope of redress. The corporates love our system because they can screw workers into the ground. The crooks and rorters love it because no-one stops their rorting.

“Capitalism’s terrific if you’re rich and crooked and stupid, but it needs growth and growth is killing our world and killing our animals and birds and trees and flowers that make it so special. We should all be shouting from the rooftops like gutsy 16-year old Greta Thunberg who told the UN with passion and integrity. ‘People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth…I want you to act as if the house is on fire’. 

“And our house is on fire. But miserable sods like our Pentecostal PM didn’t speak at the UN forum because he had nothing to say, preferring to hob-nob with slimy Uncle Sam, a war-mongering dud on the cusp of impeachment. When Morrieson spoke at a lesser gathering he made a gig of himself, pushing us even further down the plughole.

“In Hong Kong the protests are getting nastier and more violent. A slice of history might help. Hong Kong was part of China since the Qin Dynasty in about 220 BC before morphing into an international financial center. Trade kicked in with the arrival of the ruthless East India Tea Company in 1711, when the Brits refused to pay for tea in silver, smuggling in opium as a means of exchange. By 1787, the Company was illegally sending in 4.000 chests of opium every year, causing massive addiction and corruption.

“Back in 1820, China’s economy was still the largest in the world - until the Opium Wars - but by the end of the second war, its share of global GDP had halved, and sovereignty over its territory had been seriously compromised. In 1841 a defeated China was forced to cede Hong Kong Island to the Brits as part of the Treaty of Nanjing, to lease the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 in perpetuity and the New Territories in 1898 for 99 years, areas that make up present-day Hong Kong.

“At the end of Japan’s occupation during WW2, HK reverted back to Britain, which was then forced to transfer sovereignty back to China after the lease expired in 1997 when they negotiated a transition period called  the Sino-British Joint Declaration designating HK as a ‘special administrative region’. China reluctantly agreed to extend semi-autonomy until 2047. This is the genesis of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ rule at the heart of today’s conflict, highlighting that China and Hong Kong have been on two distinct and intersecting paths of development.

“It’s now 22 years since the British left after an agreement stipulating that all interventions and colonial claims would end with full sovereignty returning to China. Calling for secession from China would be like calling for Manhattan to secede from the US. Can you imagine Washington ever agreeing to that? Hardly.

“And times have changed. In 1997, HK’s domestic product was 27% of China’s GDP. Today it’s 3%. Shenzhen and other major cities are now China’s financial hub and threaten Western hegemony. China, Russia, India and Pakistan, plus a few others, are members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) comprising about half the world’s population and controlling about one-third of its economic output, and are moving out of the dollar economy.

“And what do you reckon western reaction would be if it was confronted by marauding gangs of protesters dressed in ninja outfits holding metal bars, with black scarves covering their faces and backpacks churning out the Star Spangled Banner, smashing up Heathrow, JFK or Melbourne Airports? You’d be beaten up and thrown into gaol. The gangs also smashed up HK’s MTR, its public Mass Transit Railway and attacked passengers.

“Fighting for democracy? My foot. Leaderless? Not. There’s tycoon Jimmy Lai, who owns a local tabloid and who’s met US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, and politician/barrister Martin Lee, founding chair of the local Democratic Party. ‘Protest organiser’, politician-in-waiting, Joshua Wong flies around the world, hobnobbing with far-right US Congressmen like Marco Rubio and the head of the notorious White Helmets outfit, Raed Al Saleh.

“What, I ask, would a ‘grassroots leader’ in China have in common with a belligerent Syrian propaganda war mob? Because both have links to the CIA’s National Endowment for Democracy, infamous for subverting and manipulating democratically-elected governments, which has admitted funding HK dissidents for more than two decades in the name of ‘Freedom’.

“In Washington, Trump and Co. have just announced sanctions against Raul Castro and his four children for ‘gross violations of human rights in support of the Venezuelan government’ - for ‘freedom’, of course.

“In today’s society, tell the truth if you dare, like Julian Assange who, with Edward Snowden (exiled in Russia) and Chelsea Manning (detained indefinitely), exposed massive crimes and corruption by the US government and its allies, and remains locked up in Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in appalling conditions. ‘Wherever America goes, terror follows’.

“Viva Cuba!

“Joan Coxsedge”