Socialism Art Nature

Amidst the failures of both neo-liberal capitalism and accomodationist social-democracy, the far-right is positioning itself as the “radical solution” to the nation’s woes. The revolutionary left has to step up and boldly put forward an alternative to both the half-measure mediocrity of the pro-capitalist “French Socialist Party” as well as to the vile throw-back nationalism of the far-right.

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Rose Harriet Pastor Stokes (1879–1933)

So little has been written about the seminal American socialist Rose Pastor Stokes that I am seriously tempted to head to NYC and begin research on a piece which would include all of her unpublished works currently stored in the Tamiment library! (http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/tam_053/bioghist.html)

She was a leading member of the Socialist Party; sentenced to prison along with Eugene Debs for antiwar activities during WWI; a founding member of the American Communist Party and
served for a number of years as an elected member of its executive committee; went to Moscow in 1922 along with John Reed as an American delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Comintern; and participated in the Comintern’s special Negro Commission.

Oh yeah, and she also wrote proletarian plays and poetry. “In 1916, she wrote ‘The Women Who Wouldn’t’ which was a play about the rise of a woman labor leader. Rose also contributed numerous poems and articles to such publications as The Masses, Independent, and Century.”

Also see her posthumously-published unfinished autobiography titled, “I Belong to the Working Class,” which begins: “I slipped into the world while my mother was on her knees scrubbing the floor.” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0820313831/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_kwP1sb0X7FGTGKJJ)

And, http://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/stokes/


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Helen Keller article from New York Times, 7 Feb. 1913, “Rich Criticised By Helen Keller in Debut as Public Lecturer” Mont Clair, N. J., Feb. 6. — -Special.- — Helen Keller, the famous blind and deaf and once dumb girl, made her debut as a public speaker in Mont Clair tonight, when, from the platform of the auditorium in the Hillsdale school, she delivered a lecture to an audience that numbered nearly 1,000. Miss Keller spoke under the auspices of the Mont Clair branch of the Socialist party. She is a Socialist herself, and in her talk revealed radical political inclinations. The large audience, particularly those in the rear, understood Miss Keller with difficulty at times, owing to the lack of emphasis in her tones, but she gave a remarkable performance, considering the handicap under which she labored. Trying to Make World Better. “I am going to try to make you feel that no one of us can do anything alone, that we are bound together,” said Miss Keller. “I do not like this world as it is. I am trying to make it a little more as I would like to have it. Perhaps you are thinking how blind I have been. You have your eyes and you behold the sun, and yet you are more blind than I am. “It was the hands of others that made this miracle in me. Without my teacher I should be nothing. Without you I should be nothing. We live by and for each other. We are all blind and deaf until our eyes are open to our fellow men. If we had a penetrating vision we would not endure what we see in the world today. “The lands, the life, and the machinery belong to the few. All the work they do gains for the workers a mere livelihood. It is strange that we do not see it and that when we do we accept the conditions in blind content. We fail to understand that if the workers were adequately paid there would be no rich people. Blames Rich for Conditions. “The rich are willing to do everything for the poor but give them their rights. They say the workers are not thrifty enough. If the workers are not thrifty enough and do not save it is because the greatest part of what they produce goes to some one else who does the saving. It is the labor of the poor and ignorant that makes us refined and comfortable.    “I am no pessimist. The pessimist says that man was born in darkness and for death. I believe that man was intended for the light and shall not die. It is a good world and it will be much better when you help me to make it more as I want it.” [END]

Helen Keller article from New York Times, 7 Feb. 1913, “Rich Criticised By Helen Keller in Debut as Public Lecturer”

Mont Clair, N. J., Feb. 6. — -Special.- — Helen Keller, the famous blind and deaf and once dumb girl, made her debut as a public speaker in Mont Clair tonight, when, from the platform of the auditorium in the Hillsdale school, she delivered a lecture to an audience that numbered nearly 1,000.

Miss Keller spoke under the auspices of the Mont Clair branch of the Socialist party. She is a Socialist herself, and in her talk revealed radical political inclinations.

The large audience, particularly those in the rear, understood Miss Keller with difficulty at times, owing to the lack of emphasis in her tones, but she gave a remarkable performance, considering the handicap under which she labored.

Trying to Make World Better.

“I am going to try to make you feel that no one of us can do anything alone, that we are bound together,” said Miss Keller. “I do not like this world as it is. I am trying to make it a little more as I would like to have it. Perhaps you are thinking how blind I have been. You have your eyes and you behold the sun, and yet you are more blind than I am.

“It was the hands of others that made this miracle in me. Without my teacher I should be nothing. Without you I should be nothing. We live by and for each other. We are all blind and deaf until our eyes are open to our fellow men. If we had a penetrating vision we would not endure what we see in the world today.

“The lands, the life, and the machinery belong to the few. All the work they do gains for the workers a mere livelihood. It is strange that we do not see it and that when we do we accept the conditions in blind content. We fail to understand that if the workers were adequately paid there would be no rich people.

Blames Rich for Conditions.

“The rich are willing to do everything for the poor but give them their rights. They say the workers are not thrifty enough. If the workers are not thrifty enough and do not save it is because the greatest part of what they produce goes to some one else who does the saving. It is the labor of the poor and ignorant that makes us refined and comfortable.
 
“I am no pessimist. The pessimist says that man was born in darkness and for death. I believe that man was intended for the light and shall not die. It is a good world and it will be much better when you help me to make it more as I want it.”

[END]


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"I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes

"I slipped into the world while my mother was on her knees scrubbing the floor." So begins inauspiciously on July 18, 1879, the life—and the unfinished autobiography—of Rose Pastor Stokes. An East European Jewish immigrant, Stokes became a member of the American Socialist party, a founding member of the American Communist party, and such an outspoken critic of U.S. policies that she was convicted of seditious activities during World War I. Indeed, Stokes was one of the most deeply committed American radicals in the first decades of this century. In a lengthy introduction the editors provide a detailed outline of Stokes’s life. As a young girl living in the slums of Cleveland, she helped support her family with earnings from her job at a cigar factory. There, Stokes came in contact for the first time with socialism and the hope of a better and more equitable world. Eventually leaving the cigar factory for a job in New York at the Jewish Daily News, she met and married James Graham Phelps Stokes, an outspoken Socialist and a member of a wealthy, aristocratic New York family. Never comfortable with wealth and position, however, Rose remained loyal to her class and dedicated to workers’ causes. Although the marriage lasted nearly twenty years, she became increasingly radical as her husband gradually returned to the safety of conventional politics. Stokes helped organize labor strikes in New York, distributed birth control information to the poor, spoke widely on behalf of the Socialist party, and worked in general to expunge what she perceived as the evils of capitalism. Late in her life, when fighting cancer, she attempted to write an autobiography that she hoped would give final meaning to her life’s work for "a world in which there will be no unemployment, hunger, insecurity, or war." The manuscript was never completed, however, and has never before been published.

"I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes

"I slipped into the world while my mother was on her knees scrubbing the floor." So begins inauspiciously on July 18, 1879, the life—and the unfinished autobiography—of Rose Pastor Stokes. An East European Jewish immigrant, Stokes became a member of the American Socialist party, a founding member of the American Communist party, and such an outspoken critic of U.S. policies that she was convicted of seditious activities during World War I. Indeed, Stokes was one of the most deeply committed American radicals in the first decades of this century. In a lengthy introduction the editors provide a detailed outline of Stokes’s life. As a young girl living in the slums of Cleveland, she helped support her family with earnings from her job at a cigar factory. There, Stokes came in contact for the first time with socialism and the hope of a better and more equitable world. Eventually leaving the cigar factory for a job in New York at the Jewish Daily News, she met and married James Graham Phelps Stokes, an outspoken Socialist and a member of a wealthy, aristocratic New York family. Never comfortable with wealth and position, however, Rose remained loyal to her class and dedicated to workers’ causes. Although the marriage lasted nearly twenty years, she became increasingly radical as her husband gradually returned to the safety of conventional politics. Stokes helped organize labor strikes in New York, distributed birth control information to the poor, spoke widely on behalf of the Socialist party, and worked in general to expunge what she perceived as the evils of capitalism. Late in her life, when fighting cancer, she attempted to write an autobiography that she hoped would give final meaning to her life’s work for "a world in which there will be no unemployment, hunger, insecurity, or war." The manuscript was never completed, however, and has never before been published.


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Among other things, this article provides a very interesting/important consideration of Antonio Gramsci’s 1926 essay criticizing the the racist chauvinism of the reformist Italian Socialist Party in tailing — and even perpetuating — capitalist attempts to pit northern workers against southern workers along the most bigoted and oppressive lines …

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Gramsci: “It is well known what kind of ideology has been disseminated in myriad ways among the masses in the North, by the propagandists of the bourgeoisie: the South is the ball and chain which prevents the social development of Italy from progressing more rapidly; the Southerners are biologically inferior beings, semi-barbarians or total barbarians, by natural destiny; if the South is backward, the fault does not lie with the capitalist system or with any other historical cause, but with Nature, which has made the Southerners lazy, incapable, criminal and barbaric—only tempering this harsh fate with the purely individual explosion of a few great geniuses, like isolated palm-trees in an arid and barren desert. The Socialist Party was to a great extent the vehicle for this bourgeois ideology within the Northern proletariat. The Socialist Party gave its blessing to all the “Southernist” literature of the clique of writers who made up the so-called positive school: the Ferri’s, Sergi’s, Niceforo’s, Orano’s and their lesser followers, who in articles, tales, short stories, novels, impressions and memoirs, in a variety of forms, reiterated one single refrain. Once again, “science” was used to crush the wretched and exploited; but this time it was dressed in socialist colours, and claimed to be the science of the proletariat.”


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Anti-imperialist author and journalist Vijay Prashad sets military intervention in Mali in the context of French colonialism, in an article written for NewsClick.in.

IN AN early French film on the colonies, Enfants annamites ramassant des sépèques devant la Pagode des dames (Lumière Brothers, 1897), two French women smile condescendingly as they scatter coins to a group of Vietnamese children, who scramble to gather them. Little has changed in the French attitude to its former colonies in more than a century.

The “Socialist” president François Hollande’s deceitful claim that France is in Mali to protect the country from Islamism is shallow: there are other motivations that linger so close to the surface, such as France’s desire to project itself into an increasingly restive Francophone Africa since its 2011 intervention into Cote d’Ivoire, as well as France’s need for nearby Niger’s uranium for its nuclear energy and for Mali’s gold. Like the two women in 1897, Hollande stands at the Élysée Palace, dripping with hypocrisy.

The French “socialists” have always been keen colonizers, and strikingly, they have found willing collaborators in the wider French left. In 1956, at the height of the Algerian struggle for national self-determination, the French communist delegates voted in favor of the Socialist Prime Minister Guy Mollet’s government to grant “special powers” to its colonial security services in Algeria. Mollet was committed to anti-colonialism before he became the head of the government, with his volte-face treated to tomatoes during a visit to Algiers (la journée des tomates, it is called).

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a stinging attack on the left’s position on Algeria in 1957. “They talk of Algeria,” he wrote, “but in moderate terms.” No protests against the war, no days of action. “Its activists are grumbling,” he wrote, and “as for the working class, the result, and perhaps the aim, of this policy is that it is entirely demobilized…The [left] is reaping what it has sown: when it needs the masses, it will no longer find them.”

Sartre was right. Eighteen months later, when the Fourth Republic collapsed, the left could not seize the situation. It lost a million and a half votes in the elections, ushering Charles de Gaulle back to power and inaugurating the Fifth Republic.

The French left has learned no lessons….


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All workers can be organized regardless of race or color, as soon as their minds are cleared of the patriotic notion that there is any reason of being proud of having been born of a certain shade of skin or in an arbitrarily fenced off portion of the earth…. If the American workers need fear any “yellow peril” it is from the yellow [i.e., cowardly] socialists.
1907, Industrial Workers of the World newspaper editorial in response to statement by leading right-wing member of the Socialist Party, Morris Hillquit, who said that the Asian immigrant worker “threatens the native born with dangerous competition and usually provides a pool of unconscious strikebreakers. Chinese and Japanese workers play that role today, as does the yellow race in general.”

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"We Are Many: An Autobiography," by Ella Reeve Bloor
Introduction by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Very interesting woman with an interesting history: Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor (July 8, 1862–August 10, 1951) was an American labor organizer and long-time activist in the socialist and communist movements. She helped found the American Socialist Party in 1901 as well as the American Communist Party in 1921.  American delegate to the Comintern in 1921-22. Member of the central committee of the CP from 1932-48.

"We Are Many: An Autobiography," by Ella Reeve Bloor

Introduction by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Very interesting woman with an interesting history:

Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor (July 8, 1862–August 10, 1951) was an American labor organizer and long-time activist in the socialist and communist movements. She helped found the American Socialist Party in 1901 as well as the American Communist Party in 1921.

American delegate to the Comintern in 1921-22. Member of the central committee of the CP from 1932-48.


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I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author contends in this piece, but I nonetheless appreciate the attempt to bring nuance and novelty to the question of how we increase the size and influence of the organized socialist movement in the U.S.

If nothing else, it is an important conversation that needs to happen …

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This piece is my attempt to stimulate critical thinking about the way forward for the U.S. socialist movement. I hope that it will be of interest to practicing socialists as well as other progressive activists, because I think that a healthy, attractive socialist movement can help contribute to the rebuilding of a broader and more powerful left. I realize I am not the first person to say what is written below, and there is much that remains unexplored and unanswered. But I hope it will lead to a productive and collaborative discussion that might open new possibilities for anti-capitalist organizing.

 … There is no magic formula for the constitution of a more effective American socialist movement. It will likely involve a variety of different types of organizational efforts, combined with a growth in struggles by workers and youth on any number of issues. I am putting forward all these ideas because I think they hold potential for building a sounder foundation for this process.


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socialismartnature:

The strongest argument that can be made as to why all radical activists should study the life and works of Lucy Parsons is that the FBI wants you to know nothing about her.

Lucy Parsons died in 1942, at the age of 89, in a house-fire in Chicago — the city in which she lived most of her life. The ashes had hardly cooled before the Chicago police raided the remains of her home, confiscated all 3,000 volumes of literature and writings on “sex, socialism, and anarchy,” which constituted her personal library, and turned it over to the FBI. Tragically, and despite her comrades’ repeated inquiries, this treasure trove of revolutionary material was never again to see the light of day.

Indeed, the Chicago police had ample reason to want to bury Parsons’ legacy as quickly as possible. In their own words, she was “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.” For virtually the entirety of the last 40 years of her life, the Chicago police tried to bar her from making any public speeches, and routinely arrested her for the ‘crime’ of handing out revolutionary pamphlets on the street. Famed labor historian Studs Terkel even noted how rare of a privilege it was to hear Parsons address a large audience in her later years, owing to the constant police harassment.

Overlooked by History

Partially because so much of her own writings were ‘disappeared’ by the government, and partially because she was a revolutionary woman of color speaking out against the injustices of a capitalist society run by white men, Lucy Parsons is one of the least known of the major figures in the history of revolutionary socialism in the U.S. Much like her long-time comrades and friends, Eugene Debs, William “Big Bill” Haywood, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Lucy Parsons made a tremendous contribution to the birth of America’s turn-of-the-century, revolutionary working-class movement; a movement which continues to this day to shape the character of class struggle and revolutionary politics in this country.

Historian Robin Kelley argues that Lucy Parsons was not only “the most prominent black woman radical of the late nineteenth century,” but was also “one of the brightest lights in the history of revolutionary socialism.” Historian John McClendon writes that she is notable for being the “first black activist to associate with the revolutionary left in America.”

More often than not, however, if Lucy Parsons is mentioned as an historical figure, she is noted merely as the “wife of Albert Parsons,” a man who had gained international notoriety after he was executed in 1887 by the state of Illinois for his revolutionary activities.

Unfortunately, this slight extends beyond solely ‘mainstream’ historians, including supposedly left-wing intellectuals as well. For instance, in the 1960s, the feminist editors of Radcliffe College’s three-volume work, Notable American Women, decided to leave Parsons out of their study on the grounds that she was “largely propelled by her husband’s fate” and was a “pathetic figure, living in the past and crying injustice” after her husband’s execution.

Even contemporaries of Lucy Parsons, such as the popular anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman (with whom Lucy Parsons became a life-long political opponent), accused Parsons of being an otherwise unimportant opportunist who simply rode upon the cape of her husband’s martyrdom, describing her as nothing more than one of those wives of “anarchists who marry women who are millions of miles removed from their ideas.”

None of this, however, is to diminish the historical importance of Albert Parsons and the events leading up to his execution; and while it is true that Lucy Parsons spent much of her life addressing the crime that was her husband’s murder at the hands of the capitalist state, nonetheless, her political activity and impact on history extend far beyond the scope of that single tragedy. In fact, the work that she lent her energies to in the years following Albert’s execution are of equal (if not greater) importance than anything he had been able to add to the fight for workers’ emancipation in the course of a life that was sadly cut short.


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imageThe strongest argument that can be made as to why all radical activists should study the life and works of Lucy Parsons is that the FBI wants you to know nothing about her.

Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons died in 1942, at the age of 89, in a house-fire in Chicago — the city in which she lived most of her life. The ashes had hardly cooled before the Chicago police raided the remains of her home, confiscated all 3,000 volumes of literature and writings on “sex, socialism, and anarchy,” which constituted her personal library, and turned it over to the FBI. Tragically, and despite her comrades’ repeated inquiries, this treasure trove of revolutionary material was never again to see the light of day.

Indeed, the Chicago police had ample reason to want to bury Parsons’ legacy as quickly as possible. In their own words, she was “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.” For virtually the entirety of the last 40 years of her life, the Chicago police tried to bar her from making any public speeches, and routinely arrested her for the ‘crime’ of handing out revolutionary pamphlets on the street. Famed labor historian Studs Terkel even noted how rare of a privilege it was to hear Parsons address a large audience in her later years, owing to the constant police harassment.

Overlooked by History

Partially because so much of her own writings were ‘disappeared’ by the government, and partially because she was a revolutionary woman of color speaking out against the injustices of a capitalist society run by white men, Lucy Parsons is one of the least known of the major figures in the history of revolutionary socialism in the U.S. Much like her long-time comrades and friends, Eugene Debs, William “Big Bill” Haywood, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Lucy Parsons made a tremendous contribution to the birth of America’s turn-of-the-century, revolutionary working-class movement; a movement which continues to this day to shape the character of class struggle and revolutionary politics in this country.

Historian Robin Kelley argues that Lucy Parsons was not only “the most prominent black woman radical of the late nineteenth century,” but was also “one of the brightest lights in the history of revolutionary socialism.” Historian John McClendon writes that she is notable for being the “first black activist to associate with the revolutionary left in America.”

More often than not, however, if Lucy Parsons is mentioned as an historical figure, she is noted merely as the “wife of Albert Parsons,” a man who had gained international notoriety after he was executed in 1887 by the state of Illinois for his revolutionary activities.

Unfortunately, this slight extends beyond solely ‘mainstream’ historians, including supposedly left-wing intellectuals as well. For instance, in the 1960s, the feminist editors of Radcliffe College’s three-volume work, Notable American Women, decided to leave Parsons out of their study on the grounds that she was “largely propelled by her husband’s fate” and was a “pathetic figure, living in the past and crying injustice” after her husband’s execution.

Even contemporaries of Lucy Parsons, such as the popular anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman (with whom Lucy Parsons became a life-long political opponent), accused Parsons of being an otherwise unimportant opportunist who simply rode upon the cape of her husband’s martyrdom, describing her as nothing more than one of those wives of “anarchists who marry women who are millions of miles removed from their ideas.”

None of this, however, is to diminish the historical importance of Albert Parsons and the events leading up to his execution; and while it is true that Lucy Parsons spent much of her life addressing the crime that was her husband’s murder at the hands of the capitalist state, nonetheless, her political activity and impact on history extend far beyond the scope of that single tragedy. In fact, the work that she lent her energies to in the years following Albert’s execution are of equal (if not greater) importance than anything he had been able to add to the fight for workers’ emancipation in the course of a life that was sadly cut short.


READ FULL ARTICLE»


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