6.21.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Smedley Butler, 1933.
2. Jean-Paul Sartre, 1964.
3. U.S. Supreme Court, 1973.
4. John Simkin, 1997.
WWI world war one
Numero Uno“War is just a racket.  A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people.  Only a small inside group knows what it is about.  It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I

believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight.  The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent.  Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers.  There are only two things we should fight for.  One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.  War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to.  It has its ‘finger men’ to point out enemies, its ‘muscle men’ to destroy enemies, its ‘brain men’ to plan war preparations, and a ‘Big Boss’ Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison.  Truthfulness compels me to.  I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps.

I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General.  And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time.  Now I am sure of it.  Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service.  My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups.  This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street.  The record of racketeering is long.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?).  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket.  Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints.  The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts.  I operated on three continents.”      Smedley Butler, from “War Is a Racket;” speech, 1933. 

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Numero Dos“I deeply regret the fact that the incident has become something of a scandal: a prize was awarded, and I refused it.  It happened entirely because I was not informed soon enough of what was under way.  When I read in the October 15 Figaro littéraire, in the Swedish correspondent’s column, that the choice of the Swedish Academy was tending toward me, but that it had not yet been determined, I supposed that by writing a letter to the Academy, which I sent off the following day, I could make matters clear and that there would be no further discussion.I was not aware at the time that the Nobel Prize is awarded without consulting the opinion of the recipient, and I believed there was time to prevent this from happening.  But I now understand that when the Swedish Academy has made a decision it cannot subsequently revoke it.

My reasons for refusing the prize concern neither the Swedish Academy nor the Nobel Prize in itself, as I explained in my letter to the Academy.  In it, I alluded to two kinds of reasons: personal and objective.

The personal reasons are these: my refusal is not an impulsive gesture, I have always declined official honors.  In 1945, after the war, when I was offered the Legion of Honor, I refused it, although I was sympathetic to the government.  Similarly, I have never sought to enter the Collège de France, as several of my friends suggested.

This attitude is based on my conception of the writer’s enterprise. A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own—that is, the written word. All the honors he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable. If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prizewinner.

The writer who accepts an honor of this kind involves as well as himself the association or institution which has honored him. My sympathies for the Venezuelan revolutionists commit only myself, while if Jean-Paul Sartre the Nobel laureate champions the Venezuelan resistance, he also commits the entire Nobel Prize as an institution.

The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances, as in the present case.

This attitude is of course entirely my own, and contains no criticism of those who have already been awarded the prize. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for several of the laureates whom I have the honor to know.

My objective reasons are as follows: The only battle possible today on the cultural front is the battle for the peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, that of the East and that of the West. I do not mean that they must embrace each other—I know that the confrontation of these two cultures must necessarily take the form of a conflict—but this confrontation must occur between men and between cultures, without the intervention of institutions.

I myself am deeply affected by the contradiction between the two cultures: I am made up of such contradictions. My sympathies undeniably go to socialism and to what is called the Eastern bloc, but I was born and brought up in a bourgeois family and a bourgeois culture. This permits me to collaborate with all those who seek to bring the two cultures closer together. I nonetheless hope, of course, that “the best man wins.” That is, socialism.

This is why I cannot accept an honor awarded by cultural authorities, those of the West any more than those of the East, even if I am sympathetic to their existence. Although all my sympathies are on the socialist side. I should thus be quite as unable to accept, for example, the Lenin Prize, if someone wanted to give it to me, which is not the case.

I know that the Nobel Prize in itself is not a literary prize of the Western bloc, but it is what is made of it, and events may occur which are outside the province of the members of the Swedish Academy. This is why, in the present situation, the Nobel Prize stands objectively as a distinction reserved for the writers of the West or the rebels of the East. It has not been awarded, for example, to Neruda, who is one of the greatest South American poets. There has never been serious question of giving it to Louis Aragon, though he certainly deserves it. It is regrettable that the prize was given to Pasternak and not to Sholokhov, and that the only Soviet work thus honored should be one published abroad and banned in its own country. A balance might have been established by a similar gesture in the other direction. During the war in Algeria, when we had signed the “declaration of the 121,” I should have gratefully accepted the prize, because it would have honored not only me, but also the freedom for which we were fighting. But matters did not turn out that way, and it is only after the battle is over that the prize has been awarded me.

In discussing the motives of the Swedish Academy, mention has been made of freedom, a word that suggests many interpretations. In the West, only a general freedom is meant: personally, I mean a more concrete freedom which consists of the right to have more than one pair of shoes and to eat one’s fill. It seems to me less dangerous to decline the prize than to accept it. If I accept it, I offer myself to what I shall call “an objective rehabilitation.” According to the Figaro littéraire article, “a controversial political past would not be held against me.” I know that this article does not express the opinion of the Academy, but it clearly shows how my acceptance would be interpreted by certain rightist circles. I consider this “controversial political past” as still valid, even if I am quite prepared to acknowledge to my comrades certain past errors.

I do not thereby mean that the Nobel Prize is a “bourgeois” prize, but such is the bourgeois interpretation which would inevitably be given by certain circles with which I am very familiar.

Lastly, I come to the question of the money: it is a very heavy burden that the Academy imposes upon the laureate by accompanying its homage with an enormous sum, and this problem has tortured me.  Either one accepts the prize and with the prize money can support organizations or movements one considers important—my own thoughts went to the Apartheid committee in London.  Or else one declines the prize on generous principles, and thereby deprives such a movement of badly needed support.  But I believe this to be a false problem.  I obviously renounce the 250,000 crowns because I do not wish to be institutionalized in either East or West.  But one cannot be asked on the other hand to renounce, for 250,000 crowns, principles which are not only one’s own, but are shared by all one’s comrades.

That is what has made so painful for me both the awarding of the prize and the refusal of it I am obliged to make.

I wish to end this declaration with a message of fellow-feeling for the Swedish public.”       Jean-Paul Sartre, “Sartre on the Nobel Prize;” New York Review of Books, 1964. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1964/12/17/sartre-on-the-nobel-prize/


Numero Tres“Appellant was convicted of mailing unsolicited sexually explicit material in violation of a California statute that approximately incorporated the obscenity test formulated in Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U. S. 413383 U. S. 418(plurality opinion).  The trial court instructed the jury to evaluate the materials by the contemporary community standards of California.  Appellant’s conviction was affirmed on appeal.   In lieu of the obscenity criteria enunciated by the Memoirsplurality, it is held:1. Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment.  Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476, reaffirmed.   A work may be subject to state regulation where that work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex; portrays, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Pp. 413 U. S. 23-24.

2. The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Roth, supra, at 354 U. S. 489, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.  If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.   Pp. 413 U. S. 24-25.

3. The test of ‘utterly without redeeming social value’ articulated in Memoirs, supra, is rejected as a constitutional standard.  Pp. 413 U. S. 24-25.

4. The jury may measure the essentially factual issues of prurient appeal and patent offensiveness by the standard that prevails in the forum community, and need not employ a ‘national standard.’  Pp. 413 U. S. 30-34.

Vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 413 U. S. 37. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 413 U. S. 47.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is one of a group of “obscenity-pornography” cases being reviewed by the Court in a reexamination of standards enunciated in earlier cases involving what Mr. Justice Harlan called “the intractable obscenity problem.” Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, 390 U. S. 676390 U. S. 704 (1968) (concurring and dissenting).

Appellant conducted a mass mailing campaign to advertise the sale of illustrated books, euphemistically called “adult” material.  After a jury trial, he was convicted of violating California Penal Code § 311.2(a), a misdemeanor, by knowingly distributing obscene matter, [Footnote 1] and the Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, County of Orange, summarily affirmed the judgment without opinion.   Appellant’s conviction was specifically based on his conduct in causing five unsolicited advertising brochures to be sent through the mail in an envelope addressed to a restaurant in Newport Beach, California.  The envelope was opened by the manager of the restaurant and his mother.  They had not requested the brochures; they complained to the police.

The brochures advertise four books entitled “Intercourse,” “Man-Woman,” “Sex Orgies Illustrated,” and “An Illustrated History of Pornography,” and a film entitled “Marital Intercourse.” While the brochures contain some descriptive printed material, primarily they consist of pictures and drawings very explicitly depicting men and women in groups of two or more engaging in a variety of sexual activities, with genitals often prominently displayed.

I

This case involves the application of a State’s criminal obscenity statute to a situation in which sexually explicit materials have been thrust by aggressive sales action upon unwilling recipients who had in no way indicated any desire to receive such materials. This Court has recognized that the States have a legitimate interest in prohibiting dissemination or exhibition of obscene material [Footnote 2] when the mode of dissemination carries with it a significant danger of offending the sensibilities of unwilling recipients or of exposure to juveniles. Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U. S. 557394 U. S. 567 (1969); Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U. S. 629390 U. S. 637-643 (1968); Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, supra, at 390 U. S. 690Redrup v. New York, 386 U. S. 767386 U. S. 769 (1967); Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U. S. 184378 U. S. 195 (1964). See Rabe v. Washington, 405 U. S. 313405 U. S. 317 (1972) (BURGER, C.J., concurring); United States v. Reidel, 402 U. S. 351402 U. S. 360-362 (1971) (opinion of MARSHALL, J.); Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U. S. 495343 U. S. 502(1952); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U. S. 622341 U. S. 644 645 (1951); Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U. S. 77336 U. S. 88-89 (1949); Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158321 U. S. 169-170 (1944). Cf. Butler v. Michigan, 352 U. S. 380352 U. S. 382-383 (1957); Public Utilities Comm’n v. Pollak, 343 U. S. 451343 U. S. 464-465 (1952) It is in this context that we are called on to define the standards which must be used to identify obscene material that a State may regulate without infringing on the First Amendment as applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The dissent of MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN reviews the background of the obscenity problem, but since the Court now undertakes to formulate standards more concrete than those in the past, it is useful for us to focus on two of the landmark cases in the somewhat tortured history of the Court’s obscenity decisions. In Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476 (1957), the Court sustained a conviction under a federal statute punishing the mailing of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy . . .” materials. The key to that holding was the Court’s rejection of the claim that obscene materials were protected by the First Amendment. Five Justices joined in the opinion stating:

“All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the [First Amendment] guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests. But implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance. . . . This is the same judgment expressed by this Court in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568315 U. S. 571-572: ”

“. . . There are certain well defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene. . . . It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. . . .”

[Emphasis by Court in Roth opinion.]

“We hold that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press.”

354 U.S. at 354 U. S. 48 85 (footnotes omitted).

Nine years later, in Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U. S. 413 (1966), the Court veered sharply away from the Rothconcept and, with only three Justices in the plurality opinion, articulated a new test of obscenity. The plurality held that, under the Roth definition,

“as elaborated in subsequent cases, three elements must coalesce: it must be established that (a) the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest in sex; (b) the material is patently offensive because it affronts contemporary community standards relating to the description or representation of sexual matters; and (c) the material is utterly without redeeming social value.”

Id. at 383 U. S. 418. The sharpness of the break with Roth, represented by the third element of the Memoirs test and emphasized by MR. JUSTICE WHITE’s dissent, id. at 383 U. S. 460-462, was further underscored when the Memoirsplurality went on to state:

“The Supreme Judicial Court erred in holding that a book need not be ‘unqualifiedly worthless before it can be deemed obscene.’ A book cannot be proscribed unless it is found to be utterly without redeeming social value.”

Id. at 383 U. S. 419 (emphasis in original).

While Roth presumed “obscenity” to be “utterly without redeeming social importance,” Memoirs required

that to prove obscenity it must be affirmatively established that the material is “utterly without redeeming social value.” Thus, even as they repeated the words of Roth, the Memoirs plurality produced a drastically altered test that called on the prosecution to prove a negative, i.e., that the material was “utterly without redeeming social value” — a burden virtually impossible to discharge under our criminal standards of proof. Such considerations caused Mr. Justice Harlan to wonder if the “utterly without redeeming social value” test had any meaning at all. See Memoirs v. Massachusetts, id. at 383 U. S. 459 (Harlan, J., dissenting). See also id. at 383 U. S. 461 (WHITE, J., dissenting); United States v. Groner, 479 F.2d 577, 579581 (CA5 1973).

Apart from the initial formulation in the Roth case, no majority of the Court has at any given time been able to agree on a standard to determine what constitutes obscene, pornographic material subject to regulation under the States’ police power.See, e.g., Redrup v. New York, 386 U.S. at 386 U. S. 770-771. We have seen “a variety of views among the members of the Court unmatched in any other course of constitutional adjudication.” Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, 390 U.S. at 390 U. S. 704-705 (Harlan, J., concurring and dissenting) (footnote omitted). [Footnote 3] This is not remarkable, for in the area of freedom of speech and press the courts must always remain sensitive to any infringement on genuinely serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific expression. This is an area in which there are few eternal verities.

The case we now review was tried on the theory that the California Penal Code § 311 approximately incorporates the three-stage Memoirs test, supra. But now the Memoirs test has been abandoned as unworkable by its author, [Footnote 4] and no Member of the Court today supports the Memoirs formulation.

II

This much has been categorically settled by the Court, that obscene material is unprotected by the First Amendment. Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U. S. 229 (1972); United States v. Reidel, 402 U.S. at 402 U. S. 354Roth v. United States, supra, at354 U. S. 485. [Footnote 5] “The First and Fourteenth Amendments have never been treated as absolutes [footnote omitted].” Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 642, and cases cited. See Times Film Corp. v. Chicago, 365 U. S. 43365 U. S. 47-50 (1961); Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. at 343 U. S. 502. We acknowledge, however, the inherent dangers of undertaking to regulate any form of expression. State statutes designed to regulate obscene materials must be carefully limited. See Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, supra, at 390 U. S. 682-685. As a result, we now confine the permissible scope of such regulation to works which depict or describe sexual conduct. That conduct must be specifically defined by the applicable state law, as written or authoritatively construed. [Footnote 6] A state offense must also be limited to works which, taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest in sex, which portray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and which, taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 408 U. S. 230, quoting Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 489; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. We do not adopt as a constitutional standard the “utterly without redeeming social value” test of Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U.S. at 383 U. S. 419; that concept has never commanded the adherence of more than three Justices at one time. [Footnote 7See supra at 413 U. S. 21. If a state law that regulates obscene material is thus limited, as written or construed, the First Amendment values applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment are adequately protected by the ultimate power of appellate courts to conduct an independent review of constitutional claims when necessary. See Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 408 U. S. 232Memoirs v. Massachusetts, supra, at 383 U. S. 459-460 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. at 204 (Harlan, J., dissenting); New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254376 U. S. 284-285 (1964); Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 497-498 (Harlan, J., concurring and dissenting).

We emphasize that it is not our function to propose regulatory schemes for the States. That must await their concrete legislative efforts. It is possible, however, to give a few plain examples of what a state statute could define for regulation under part (b) of the standard announced in this opinion, supra:

(a) Patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated.

(b) Patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, and lewd exhibition of the genitals.

Sex and nudity may not be exploited without limit by films or pictures exhibited or sold in places of public accommodation any more than live sex and nudity can be exhibited or sold without limit in such public places. [Footnote 8] At a minimum, prurient, patently offensive depiction or description of sexual conduct must have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to merit First Amendment protection. See Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 408 U. S. 230-232; Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 487Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U. S. 88310 U. S. 101-102 (1940). For example, medical books for the education of physicians and related personnel necessarily use graphic illustrations and descriptions of human anatomy. In resolving the inevitably sensitive questions of fact and law, we must continue to rely on the jury system, accompanied by the safeguards that judges, rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, and other protective features provide, as we do with rape, murder, and a host of other offenses against society and its individual members. [Footnote 9]

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, author of the opinions of the Court, or the plurality opinions, in Roth v. United States, supra; Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra; Ginzburg v. United States, 383 U. S. 463 (1966), Mishkin v. New York, 383 U. S. 502 (1966); and Memoirs v. Massachusetts, supra, has abandoned his former position and now maintains that no formulation of this Court, the Congress, or the States can adequately distinguish obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment from protected expression, Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, post, p. 413 U. S. 73 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). Paradoxically, MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN indicates that suppression of unprotected obscene material is permissible to avoid exposure to unconsenting adults, as in this case, and to juveniles, although he gives no indication of how the division between protected and nonprotected materials may be drawn with greater precision for these purposes than for regulation of commercial exposure to consenting adults only. Nor does he indicate where in the Constitution he finds the authority to distinguish between a willing “adult” one month past the state law age of majority and a willing “juvenile” one month younger.

Under the holdings announced today, no one will be subject to prosecution for the sale or exposure of obscene materials unless these materials depict or describe patently offensive “hard core” sexual conduct specifically defined by the regulating state law, as written or construed. We are satisfied that these specific prerequisites will provide fair notice to a dealer in such materials that his public and commercial activities may bring prosecution. See Roth v. United States, supra,at 354 U. S. 491-492. Cf. Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. at 390 U. S. 643. [Footnote 10] If the inability to define regulated materials with ultimate, god-like precision altogether removes the power of the States or the Congress to regulate, then “hard core” pornography may be exposed without limit to the juvenile, the passerby, and the consenting adult alike, as, indeed, MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS contends. As to MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS’ position, see United States v. Thirty-seven Photographs, 402 U. S. 363402 U. S. 379-380 (1971) (Black, J., joined by DOUGLAS, J., dissenting); Ginzburg v. United States, supra, at 383 U. S. 476383 U. S. 491-492 (Black, J., and DOUGLAS, J., dissenting); Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra, at378 U. S. 196 (Black, J., joined by DOUGLAS, J., concurring); Roth, supra, at 354 U. S. 508-514 (DOUGLAS, J., dissenting). In this belief, however, MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS now stands alone.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN also emphasizes “institutional stress” in justification of his change of view. Noting that “[t]he number of obscenity cases on our docket gives ample testimony to the burden that has been placed upon this Court,” he quite rightly remarks that the examination of contested materials “is hardly a source of edification to the members of this Court.” Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, post, at 413 U. S. 92413 U. S. 93. He also notes, and we agree, that “uncertainty of the standards creates a continuing source of tension between state and federal courts. . . .”

“The problem is . . . that one cannot say with certainty that material is obscene until at least five members of this Court, applying inevitably obscure standards, have pronounced it so.”

Id. at 413 U. S. 93413 U. S. 92.

It is certainly true that the absence, since Roth, of a single majority view of this Court as to proper standards for testing obscenity has placed a strain on both state and federal courts. But today, for the first time since Roth was decided in 1957, a majority of this Court has agreed on concrete guidelines to isolate “hard core” pornography from expression protected by the First Amendment. Now we may abandon the casual practice of Redrup v. New York, 386 U. S. 767 (1967), and attempt to provide positive guidance to federal and state courts alike.

This may not be an easy road, free from difficulty. But no amount of “fatigue” should lead us to adopt a convenient “institutional” rationale — an absolutist, “anything goes” view of the First Amendment — because it will lighten our burdens. [Footnote 11] “Such an abnegation of judicial supervision in this field would be inconsistent with our duty to uphold the constitutional guarantees.” Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra, at 378 U. S. 187-188 (opinion of BRENNAN, J.). Nor should we remedy “tension between state and federal courts” by arbitrarily depriving the States of a power reserved to them under the Constitution, a power which they have enjoyed and exercised continuously from before the adoption of the First Amendment to this day. See Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 482-485.

“Our duty admits of no ‘substitute for facing upto the tough individual problems of constitutional judgment involved in every obscenity case.’ [Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 498]; see Manual Enterprises, Inc. v. Day, 370 U. S. 478370 U. S. 488 (opinion of Harlan, J.) [footnote omitted].”

Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra, at 378 U. S. 188 (opinion of BRENNAN, J.).

III

Under a National Constitution, fundamental First Amendment limitations on the powers of the States do not vary from community to community, but this does not mean that there are, or should or can be, fixed, uniform national standards of precisely what appeals to the “prurient interest” or is “patently offensive.” These are essentially questions of fact, and our Nation is simply too big and too diverse for this Court to reasonably expect that such standards could be articulated for all 50 States in a single formulation, even assuming the prerequisite consensus exists. When triers of fact are asked to decide whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would consider certain materials “prurient,” it would be unrealistic to require that the answer be based on some abstract formulation. The adversary system, with lay jurors as the usual ultimate factfinders in criminal prosecutions, has historically permitted triers of fact to draw on the standards of their community, guided always by limiting instructions on the law. To require a State to structure obscenity proceedings around evidence of a national “community standard” would be an exercise in futility.

As noted before, this case was tried on the theory that the California obscenity statute sought to incorporate the tripartite test of Memoirs. This, a “national” standard of First Amendment protection enumerated by a plurality of this Court, was correctly regarded at the time of trial as limiting state prosecution under the controlling case law. The jury, however, was explicitly instructed that, in determining whether the “dominant theme of the material as a whole . . . appeals to the prurient interest,” and, in determining whether the material “goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor and affronts contemporary community standards of decency,” it was to apply “contemporary community standards of the State of California.”

During the trial, both the prosecution and the defense assumed that the relevant “community standards” in making the factual determination of obscenity were those of the State of California, not some hypothetical standard of the entire United States of America. Defense counsel at trial never objected to the testimony of the State’s expert on community standards [Footnote 12] or to the instructions of the trial judge on “state-wide” standards. On appeal to the Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, County of Orange, appellant for the first time contended that application of state, rather than national, standards violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

We conclude that neither the State’s alleged failure to offer evidence of “national standards,” nor the trial court’s charge that the jury consider state community standards, were constitutional errors. Nothing in the First Amendment requires that a jury must consider hypothetical and unascertainable “national standards” when attempting to determine whether certain materials are obscene as a matter of fact. Mr. Chief Justice Warren pointedly commented in his dissent in Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra, at 378 U. S. 200:

“It is my belief that, when the Court said in Roth that obscenity is to be defined by reference to ‘community standards,’ it meant community standards — not a national standard, as is sometimes argued. I believe that there is no provable ‘national standard.’ . . . At all events, this Court has not been able to enunciate one, and it would be unreasonable to expect local courts to divine one.”

It is neither realistic nor constitutionally sound to read the First Amendment as requiring that the people of Maine or Mississippi accept public depiction of conduct found tolerable in Las Vegas, or New York City. [Footnote 13]

See Hoyt v. Minnesota, 399 U.S. at 524-525 (1970) (BLACKMUN, J., dissenting); Walker v. Ohio, 398 U.S. at 434 (1970) (BURGER, C.J., dissenting); id. at 434-435 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Cain v. Kentucky, 397 U. S. 319 (1970) (BURGER, C.J., dissenting); id. at 397 U. S. 319-320 (Harlan, J., dissenting); United States v. Groner, 479 F.2d at 581-583; O’Meara & Shaffer, Obscenity in The Supreme Court: A Note on Jacobellis v. Ohio, 40 Notre Dame Law. 1, 6-7 (1964). See also Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U.S. at 383 U. S. 458 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Jacobellis v. Ohio, supra, at 378 U. S. 203-204 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 505-506 (Harlan, J., concurring and dissenting). People in different States vary in their tastes and attitudes, and this diversity is not to be strangled by the absolutism of imposed uniformity. As the Court made clear in Mishkin v. New York, 383 U.S. at 383 U. S. 508-509, the primary concern with requiring a jury to apply the standard of “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” is to be certain that, so far as material is not aimed at a deviant group, it will be judged by its impact on an average person, rather than a particularly susceptible or sensitive person — or indeed a totally insensitive one. See Roth v. United States, supra,at 354 U. S. 489Cf. the now discredited test in Regina v. Hicklin, [1868] L.R. 3 Q.B. 360. We hold that the requirement that the jury evaluate the materials with reference to “contemporary standards of the State of California” serves this protective purpose and is constitutionally adequate. [Footnote 14]

IV

The dissenting Justices sound the alarm of repression. But, in our view, to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a “misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press. . . .” Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 645. The First Amendment protects works which, taken as a whole, have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, regardless of whether the government or a majority of the people approve of the ideas these works represent.

“The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people,”

Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 484 (emphasis added). See Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U.S. at 408 U. S. 230-232; Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. at 310 U. S. 101-102. But the public portrayal of hard-core sexual conduct for its own sake, and for the ensuing commercial gain, is a different matter. [Footnote 15]

There is no evidence, empirical or historical, that the stern 19th century American censorship of public distribution and display of material relating to sex, see Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 482-485, in any way limited or affected expression of serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific ideas. On the contrary, it is beyond any question that the era following Thomas Jefferson to Theodore Roosevelt was an “extraordinarily vigorous period” not just in economics and politics, but in belles lettres and in “the outlying fields of social and political philosophies.” [Footnote 16] We do not see the harsh hand of censorship of ideas — good or bad, sound or unsound — and “repression” of political liberty lurking in every state regulation of commercial exploitation of human interest in sex.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN finds “it is hard to see how state-ordered regimentation of our minds can ever be forestalled.”Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, post, at 413 U. S. 110 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). These doleful anticipations assume that courts cannot distinguish commerce in ideas, protected by the First Amendment, from commercial exploitation of obscene material. Moreover, state regulation of hard-core pornography so as to make it unavailable to nonadults, a regulation which MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN finds constitutionally permissible, has all the elements of “censorship” for adults; indeed even more rigid enforcement techniques may be called for with such dichotomy of regulation. See Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, 390 U.S. at 390 U. S. 690. [Footnote 17] One can concede that the “sexual revolution” of recent years may have had useful byproducts in striking layers of prudery from a subject long irrationally kept from needed ventilation. But it does not follow that no regulation of patently offensive “hard core” materials is needed or permissible; civilized people do not allow unregulated access to heroin because it is a derivative of medicinal morphlne.

In sum, we (a) reaffirm the Roth holding that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment; (b) hold that such material can be regulated by the States, subject to the specific safeguards enunciated above, without a showing that the material is “utterly without redeeming social value”; and (c) hold that obscenity is to be determined by applying “contemporary community standards,” see Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 408 U. S. 230, and Roth v. United States, supra,at 354 U. S. 489, not “national standards.” The judgment of the Appellate Department of the Superior Court, Orange County, California, is vacated and the case remanded to that court for further proceedings not inconsistent with the First Amendment standards established by this opinion. See United States v. 12 200-ft. Reels of Film, post at 413 U. S. 130 n. 7.

Vacated and remanded.

[Footnote 1]

At the time of the commission of the alleged offense, which was prior to June 25, 1969, §§ 311.2(a) and 311 of the California Penal Code read in relevant part:

“§ 311.2 Sending or bringing into state for sale or distribution; printing, exhibiting, distributing or possessing within state”

“(a) Every person who knowingly: sends or causes to be sent, or brings or causes to be brought, into this state for sale or distribution, or in this state prepares, publishes, prints, exhibits, distributes, or offers to distribute, or has in his possession with intent to distribute or to exhibit or offer to distribute, any obscene matter is guilty of a misdemeanor. . . .”

“§ 311. Definitions”

“As used in this chapter: ”

“(a) ‘Obscene’ means that to the average person, applying contemporary standards, the predominant appeal of the matter, taken as a whole, is to prurient interest, i.e., a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion, which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters and is matter which is utterly without redeeming social importance.”

“(b) ‘Matter’ means any book, magazine, newspaper, or other printed or written material or any picture, drawing, photograph, motion picture, or other pictorial representation or any statue or other figure, or any recording, transcription or mechanical, chemical or electrical reproduction or any other articles, equipment, machines or materials.”

“(c) ‘Person’ means any individual, partnership, firm, association, corporation, or other legal entity.”

“(d) ‘Distribute’ means to transfer possession of, whether with or without consideration.”

“(e) ‘Knowingly’ means having knowledge that the matter is obscene.”

Section 311(e) of the California Penal Code, supra, was amended on June 25, 1969, to read as follows:

“(e) ‘Knowingly’ means being aware of the character of the matter.”

Cal. Amended Stats.1969, c. 249, § 1, p. 598. Despite appellant’s contentions to the contrary, the record indicates that the new § 311(e) was not applied ex post facto to his case, but only the old § 311(e) as construed by state decisions prior to the commission of the alleged offense. See People v. Pinkus, 256 Cal.App.2d 941, 948-950, 63 Cal.Rptr. 680, 685-686 (App. Dept., Superior Ct., Los Angeles, 1967); People v. Campise, 242 Cal.App.2d 905, 914, 51 Cal.Rptr. 815, 821 (App.Dept., Superior Ct., San Diego, 1966). Cf. Bouie v. City of Columbia, 378 U. S. 347 (1964). Nor did § 311.2, supra, as applied, create any “direct, immediate burden on the performance of the postal functions,” or infringe on congressional commerce powers under Art. I, § 8, cl. 3. Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476354 U. S. 494 (1957), quoting Railway Mail Assn. v. Corsi, 326 U. S. 88326 U. S. 96 (1945). See also Mishkin v. New York, 383 U. S. 502383 U. S. 506 (1966); Smith v. California, 361 U. S. 147361 U. S. 150-152 (1959).

[Footnote 2]

This Court has defined “obscene material” as “material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest,” Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 487, but the Roth definition does not reflect the precise meaning of “obscene” as traditionally used in the English language. Derived from the Latin obscaenus ob, to, plus caenum, filth, “obscene” is defined in the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged 1969) as

“1a: disgusting to the senses . . . b: grossly repugnant to the generally accepted notions of what is appropriate . . . 2: offensive or revolting as countering or violating some ideal or principle.”

The Oxford English Dictionary (1933 ed.) gives a similar definition, “[o]ffensive to the senses, or to taste or refinement; disgusting, repulsive, filthy, foul, abominable, loathsome.”

The material we are discussing in this case is more accurately defined as “pornography” or “pornographic material.” “Pornography” derives from the Greek (porne, harlot, and graphos, writing). The word now means

“1: a description of prostitutes or prostitution 2: a depiction (as in writing or painting) of licentiousness or lewdness: a portrayal of erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement.”

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, supra. Pornographic material which is obscene forms a sub-group of all “obscene” expression, but not the whole, at least as the word “obscene” is now used in our language. We note, therefore, that the words “obscene material,” as used in this case, have a specific judicial meaning which derives from the Rothcase, i.e., obscene material “which deals with sex.” Roth, supra, at 354 U. S. 487See also ALI Model Penal Code § 251.4(1) “Obscene Defined.” (Official Draft 1962.)

[Footnote 3]

In the absence of a majority view, this Court was compelled to embark on the practice of summarily reversing convictions for the dissemination of materials that, at least five members of the Court, applying their separate tests, found to be protected by the First Amendment. Redrup v. New York, 386 U. S. 767 (1967). Thirty-one cases have been decided in this manner. Beyond the necessity of circumstances, however, no justification has ever been offered in support of the Redrup“policy.” See Walker v. Ohio, 398 U.S. at 398 U. S. 434-435 (1970) (dissenting opinions of BURGER, C.J., and Harlan, J.). The Redrup procedure has cast us in the role of an unreviewable board of censorship for the 50 States, subjectively judging each piece of material brought before us.

[Footnote 4]

See the dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN in Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, post, p. 413 U. S. 73.

[Footnote 5]

As Mr. Chief Justice Warren stated, dissenting, in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U. S. 184378 U. S. 200 (1964):

“For all the sound and fury that the Roth test has generated, it has not been proved unsound, and I believe that we should try to live with it — at least until a more satisfactory definition is evolved. No government — be it federal, state, or local — should be forced to choose between repressing all material, including that within the realm of decency, and allowing unrestrained license to publish any material, no matter how vile. There must be a rule of reason in this as in other areas of the law, and we have attempted in the Roth case to provide such a rule.”

[Footnote 6]

See, e.g., Oregon Laws 1971, c. 743, Art. 29, §§ 255-262, and Hawaii Penal Code, Tit. 37, §§ 1210-1216, 1972 Hawaii Session Laws, Act 9, c. 12, pt.. II, pp. 126-129, as examples of state laws directed at depiction of defined physical conduct, as opposed to expression. Other state formulations could be equally valid in this respect. In giving the Oregon and Hawaii statutes as examples, we do not wish to be understood as approving of them in all other respects nor as establishing their limits as the extent of state power.

We do not hold, as MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN intimates, that all States other than Oregon must now enact new obscenity statutes. Other existing state statutes, as construed heretofore or hereafter, may well be adequate. See United States v. 12 200-ft. Reel of Film, post, at 413 U. S. 130 n. 7.

[Footnote 7]

“A quotation from Voltaire in the flyleaf of a book will not constitutionally redeem an otherwise obscene publication. . . .”Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U. S. 229408 U. S. 231 (1972). See Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U. S. 413383 U. S. 461(1966) (WHITE, J., dissenting). We also reject, as a constitutional standard, the ambiguous concept of “social importance.”See id. at 383 U. S. 462 (WHITE, J., dissenting).

[Footnote 8]

Although we are not presented here with the problem of regulating lewd public conduct itself, the States have greater power to regulate nonverbal, physical conduct than to suppress depictions or descriptions of the same behavior. In United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367391 U. S. 377 (1968), a case not dealing with obscenity, the Court held a State regulation of conduct which itself embodied both speech and nonspeech elements to be

“sufficiently justified if . . . it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest; if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression; and if the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest.”

See California v. LaRue, 409 U. S. 109409 U. S. 117-118 (1972).

[Footnote 9]

The mere fact juries may reach different conclusions as to the same material does not mean that constitutional rights are abridged. As this Court observed in Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. at 354 U. S. 492 n. 30,

“it is common experience that different juries may reach different results under any criminal statute. That is one of the consequences we accept under our jury system. Cf. Dunlop v. United States, 165 U. S. 486165 U. S. 499-500.”

[Footnote 10]

As MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN stated for the Court in Roth v. United States, supra at 354 U. S. 491-492:

“Many decisions have recognized that these terms of obscenity statutes are not precise. [Footnote omitted.] This Court, however, has consistently held that lack of precision is not itself offensive to the requirements of due process. ‘. . . [T]he Constitution does not require impossible standards;’ all that is required is that the language ‘conveys sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct when measured by common understanding and practices. . . .’ United States v. Petrillo, 332 U. S. 1332 U. S. 7-8. These words, applied according to the proper standard for judging obscenity, already discussed, give adequate warning of the conduct proscribed and mark”

“. . . boundaries sufficiently distinct for judges and juries fairly to administer the law. . . . That there may be marginal cases in which it is difficult to determine the side of the line on which a particular fact situation falls is no sufficient reason to hold the language too ambiguous to define a criminal offense. . . .”

Id. at 332 U. S. 7See also United States v. Harriss, 347 U. S. 612347 U. S. 624, n. 15; Boyce Motor Lines, Inc. v. United States, 342 U. S. 337342 U. S. 340United States v. Ragen, 314 U. S. 513314 U. S. 523-524; United States v. Wurzbach, 280 U. S. 396Hygrade Provision Co. v. Sherman, 266 U. S. 497Fox v. Washington, 236 U. S. 273Nash v. United States, 229 U. S. 373.”

[Footnote 11]

We must note, in addition, that any assumption concerning the relative burdens of the past and the probable burden under the standards now adopted is pure speculation.

[Footnote 12]

The record simply does not support appellant’s contention, belatedly raised on appeal, that the State’s expert was unqualified to give evidence on California “community standards.” The expert, a police officer with many years of specialization in obscenity offenses, had conducted an extensive state-wide survey and had given expert evidence on 26 occasions in the year prior to this trial. Allowing such expert testimony was certainly not constitutional error. Cf. United States v. Augenblick, 393 U. S. 348393 U. S. 356 (1969).

[Footnote 13]

In Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U. S. 184 (1964), two Justices argued that application of “local” community standards would run the risk of preventing dissemination of materials in some places because sellers would be unwilling to risk criminal conviction by testing variations in standards from place to place. Id. at 378 U. S. 193-195 (opinion of BRENNAN, J., joined by Goldberg, J.). The use of “national” standards, however, necessarily implies that materials found tolerable in some places, but not under the “national” criteria, will nevertheless be unavailable where they are acceptable. Thus, in terms of danger to free expression, the potential for suppression seems at least as great in the application of a single nationwide standard as in allowing distribution in accordance with local tastes, a point which Mr. Justice Harlan often emphasized.See Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. at 354 U. S. 506.

Appellant also argues that adherence to a “national standard” is necessary “in order to avoid unconscionable burdens on the free flow of interstate commerce.” As noted supra at 413 U. S. 18 n. 1, the application of domestic state police powers in this case did not intrude on any congressional powers under Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, for there is no indication that appellant’s materials were ever distributed interstate. Appellant’s argument would appear without substance in any event. Obscene material may be validly regulated by a State in the exercise of its traditional local power to protect the general welfare of its population despite some possible incidental effect on the flow of such materials across state lines. See, e.g., Head v. New Mexico Board, 374 U. S. 424 (1963); Huron Portland Cement Co. v. Detroit, 362 U. S. 440 (1960); Breard v. Alexandria,341 U. S. 622 (1951); H. P. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond, 336 U. S. 525 (1949); Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U. S. 761 (1945); Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc., 294 U. S. 511 (1935); Sligh v. Kirkwood, 237 U. S. 52 (1915).

[Footnote 14]

Appellant’s jurisdictional statement contends that he was subjected to “double jeopardy” because a Los Angeles County trial judge dismissed, before trial, a prior prosecution based on the same brochures, but apparently alleging exposures at a different time in a different setting. Appellant argues that, once material has been found not to be obscene in one proceeding, the State is “collaterally estopped” from ever alleging it to be obscene in a different proceeding. It is not clear from the record that appellant properly raised this issue, better regarded as a question of procedural due process than a “double jeopardy” claim, in the state courts below. Appellant failed to address any portion of his brief on the merits to this issue, and appellee contends that the question was waived under California law because it was improperly pleaded at trial. Nor is it totally clear from the record before us what collateral effect the pretrial dismissal might have under state law. The dismissal was based, at least in part, on a failure of the prosecution to present affirmative evidence required by state law, evidence which was apparently presented in this case. Appellant’s contention, therefore, is best left to the California courts for further consideration on remand. The issue is not, in any event, a proper subject for appeal. See Mishkin v. New York,383 U. S. 502383 U. S. 512-514 (1966).

[Footnote 15]

In the apt words of Mr. Chief Justice Warren, appellant in this case was

“plainly engaged in the commercial exploitation of the morbid and shameful craving for materials with prurient effect. I believe that the State and Federal Governments can constitutionally punish such conduct. That is all that these cases present to us, and that is all we need to decide.”

Roth v. United States, supra, at 354 U. S. 496 (concurring opinion).

[Footnote 16]

See 2 V. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought ix et seq. (1930). As to the latter part of the 19th century, Parrington observed

“A new age had come and other dreams — the age and the dreams of a middle-class sovereignty. . . . From the crude and vast romanticisms of that vigorous sovereignty emerged eventually a spirit of realistic criticism, seeking to evaluate the worth of this new America, and discover if possible other philosophies to take the place of those which had gone down in the fierce battles of the Civil War.”

Id. at 474. Cf. 2 S. Morison, H. Commager & W. Leuchtenburg, The Growth of the American Republic 197-233 (6th ed.1969); Paths of American Thought 123-166, 203-290 (A. Schlesinger & M. White ed.1963) (articles of Fleming, Lerner, Morton & Lucia White, E. Rostow, Samuelson, Kazin, Hofstadter); and H. Wish, Society and Thought in Modern America 337-386 (1952).

[Footnote 17]

‘[W]e have indicated . . . that, because of its strong and abiding interest in youth, a State may regulate the dissemination to juveniles of, and their access to, material objectionable as to them, but which a State clearly could not regulate as to adults. Ginsberg v. New York, . . . [390 U.S. 629 (1968)].'”       U.S. Supreme Court, Miller v. California; 1973. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/413/15/case.html


Numero Cuatro“Arthur Miller, the son of Isidore Miller and Augusta Barnett Miller, was born in New York City on 17th October, 1915.  His father was involved in the Manhattan rag trade.  The family moved from Harlem to Brooklyn when Arthur was a child.Isidore Miller’s business was destroyed as a result of the Wall Street Crash.  The theatre critic, Michael Ratcliffe: ‘This first great discord of the American century informs all his work.  Like Dickens and Ibsen, he drew from his father’s financial disaster the lifelong convictions that catastrophe could strike without warning and that the crust of civilised order was perilously thin.’

Miller worked in a warehouse after graduating from high school.  When he saved enough money he attended the University of Michigan, where he began writing plays.  One of these won a $1,250 prize from the Bureau of New Plays run by the New York producers, the Theater Guild.  After graduating in 1938 he joined the Federal Theater Project (FTP).  As he explained in his biography, Timebends – A Life (1987): ‘To join the WPA Theatre Project it was necessary to get on the welfare rolls first, in effect to be homeless and all but penniless… and conniving to get myself a twenty-three-dollar-a-week job.’

The project was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of the New Deal attempt to combat the Depression.  The FTP was an attempt to offer work to theatrical professionals.  Harry Hopkins, hoped it would also provide ‘free, adult, uncensored theatre.’  Elmer Rice was placed in charge of the FTP in New York City.  In 1936 alone, the FTP employed 5,385 people in the city.  Over a three year period over 12 million people attended performances in the city.

In 1939 Miller was offered a contract with Twentieth Century Fox: ‘My purity was still breathtakingly unmarred through the thirties, so much so that… with the Federal Theatre Project, which was already coming to its end, I had no qualms about turning down a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar-a-week offer by a Colonel Joy, representing Twentieth Century Fox, to come to work for them.’

Miller held left-wing opinions and was horrified by the views expressed by Charles E. Coughlin on the radio. “Father Charles E. Coughlin, who by 1940 was confiding to his ten million Depression-battered listeners that the president was a liar controlled by both the Jewish bankers and, astonishingly enough, the Jewish Communists, the same tribe that twenty years earlier had engineered the Russian Revolution… He was arguing… that Hitlerism was the German nation’s innocently defensive response to the threat of Communism, that Hitler was only against ‘bad Jews’, especially those born outside Germany.”

A college football injury kept him from active service in the Second World War. In 1941 he began work on his play, The Man Who Had All the Luck. It became his first professionally produced play when it arrived on Broadway in November 1944. Miller claimed that “it managed to baffle all but two of the critics (New York had seven daily newspapers then, each with its theatre reviewer).” Directed by Joseph Fields, it opened at the Forrest Theatre, where it ran for only 4 performances.

Miller’s next play was All My Sons. Opening at the Coronet Theatre on 29th January, 1947, directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Ed BegleyKarl Malden and Arthur Kennedy. As Michael Ratcliffe pointed out: “A family tale of corrupt profiteering at home that led to the death of US pilots abroad, it exploded in the pause between victory and the attempted press-ganging of show business for Washington’s cold war. From this point on, Miller’s best scenes display a mastery of conversation, a gift for sketching vivid characters on the margins of a play, and a narrative talent for seizing the spectator’s attention from the start.” The play won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and ran for 328 performances.

His next play, Death Of A Salesman, was sent to Elia Kazan. He thought it was “a great play” and that the character of Willy Loman reminded him of his father. Miller later recalled that Kazan was the “first of a great many men – and women – who would tell me that Willy was their father.” The play opened at the Morosco Theatre on 10th February, 1949. It was directed by Kazan and featured Lee J. Cobb (Willy Loman), Mildred Dunnock (Linda), Arthur Kennedy (Biff) and Cameron Mitchell (Happy).

Death Of A Salesman played for 742 performances and won the Tony Award for best play, supporting actor, author, producer and director. It also won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. Miller was himself highly critical of the play: “I knew nothing of Brecht then or of any other theory of theatrical distancing: I simply felt that there was too much identification with Willy, too much weeping, and that the play’s ironies were being dimmed out by all this empathy.”

Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller whileworking on Death of a Salesman (1949)
Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller while
working on Death of a Salesman (1949)

Miller broke with Elia Kazan over his decision to give names of former members of the American Communist Party to the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Miller was himself blacklisted by Hollywood when he refused to testify in front of the HUAC. However, this did not stop his plays being performed on stage as Broadway refused to impose a blacklist.

Miller was distressed by the sight of former friends giving evidence against other former friends as a result of McCarthyism. He decided to write a play about this situation: “What I sought was a metaphor, an image that would spring out of the heart, all-inclusive, full of light, a sonorous instrument whose reverberations would penetrate to the centre of this miasma.”

During this period Miller read The Devil in Massachusetts (1949), a book about the 1692 Salem Witch Trials by Marion Lena Starkey. The book included the previously unpublished verbatim transcriptions of documents and papers on witchcraft in Salem. Miller later recalled: “At first I rejected the idea of a play on the subject…. But gradually, over weeks, a living connection between myself and Salem, and between Salem and Washington, was made in my mind – for whatever else they might be, I saw that the hearings in Washington were profoundly and even avowedly ritualistic. After all, in almost every case the Committee knew in advance what they wanted the witness to give them: the names of his comrades in the Party. The FBI had long since infiltrated the Party, and informers had long ago identified the participants in various meetings. The main point of the hearings, precisely as in seventeenth-century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows – whereupon he was let loose to rejoin the society of extremely decent people.”

The Crucible was first performed at the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway on 22nd January, 1953. The cast included Arthur Kennedy (John Proctor), Walter Hampden (Deputy-Governor Danforth), Beatrice Straight (Elizabeth Proctor), E. G. Marshall(Reverend Hale), Jean Adair (Rebecca Nurse), Joseph Sweeney (Giles Corey) and Madeleine Sherwood (Abigail Williams).

The play was not well received by the critics. As he pointed out in his autobiography, Timebends – A Life (1987): “I have never been surprised by the New York reception of a play… What I had not quite bargained for, however, was the hostility in the New York audience as the theme of the play was revealed; an invisible sheet of ice formed over their heads, thick enough to skate on. In the lobby at the end, people with whom I had some fairly close professional acquaintanceships passed me by as though I were invisible.” Even so, the production won the Tony Award for best play of 1953.

The play was not well received by the critics. As he pointed out in his autobiography, Timebends – A Life (1987): “I have never been surprised by the New York reception of a play… What I had not quite bargained for, however, was the hostility in the New York audience as the theme of the play was revealed; an invisible sheet of ice formed over their heads, thick enough to skate on. In the lobby at the end, people with whom I had some fairly close professional acquaintanceships passed me by as though I were invisible.” Even so, the production won the Tony Award for best play of 1953.

Miller’s next two plays, A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays, were badly received. It is believed that this reaction was mainly due to political reasons. During this period Miller left his first wife Mary Slattery and on 25th June, 1956 married the actress Marilyn Monroe.

In 1956 Miller was called before the House of Un-American Activities Committee.  Miller refused to testy, saying ‘I could not use the name of another person and bring trouble on him.’  In May 1957 he was found guilty of contempt of Congress, sentenced to a $500 fine or thirty days in prison, blacklisted, and had his passport withdrawn.

After the Hollywood Blacklist was lifted in 1960, Miller wrote the screenplay for the movie, The Misfits (1961).  The film starred his wife but later that year they were divorced.  19 months later, Marilyn Monroe died of an apparent drug overdose.  After her death Miller married Inge Morath.

Miller’s next play was After the Fall.  Starring Barbara LodenJason Robards Jr. and Faye Dunaway it opened on 23rd January, 1964 at the Anta Theatre on Washington Square.   It appeared to be based on his relationship with Monroe.  He later admitted that everything he had written was based on somebody he had seen or known.  However, the critics thought it was wrong of him to write about his marriage to a woman who had committed suicide.  His next two plays, Incident at Vichy (1964) and The Price (1968), saw a return to form.

Other plays by Miller included: The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), The Archbishop’s Ceiling (1977) and The American Clock (1980). Miller also wrote an impressive autobiography, Timebends – A Life (1987). Miller continued to write plays and the best of these include The Last Yankee (1991), The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), Broken Glass (1994), Mr Peter’s Connections (1998), Resurrection Blues(2002) and Finishing the Picture (2004), a return to the subject of Marilyn Monroe.

Arthur Miller died on 10th February, 2005, aged 89, at his home in RoxburyLitchfield County.”      John Simkin, “Arthur Miller;” Spartacus Educational, 1997. 

6.21.2017 Daily Links

  A Thought for the Day   

A powerful—and some would say irrefutable—argument exists for insisting on the Golden Rule as a guideline for all prospective human engagement, so much so that any New Ten Commandments or any such other prescription for ethically and efficiently guiding our species must place this ‘do unto others’ thinking atop its listing of requisite behaviors and beliefs; nevertheless, both retrospectively and in the aspect of the here and now today, such ineluctable moral magnificence is not only absent, but also positively abrogated by day-to-day relationships and engagements, which inevitably means that these precepts themselves will necessitate brutal responses to vicious and bloody murderers who expect impunity—in Apartheid South Africa, for example, one could watch the police butcher one’s parents and state without reservation that if one were behaving in similar fashion toward the parents of the White rulers, one would hope and pray that they would respond in kind to protect their elders, thereby mandating taking up the burden of the assassin against one’s oppressors in any such case as an act of necessary kindness toward their inhumanity.

  Quote of the Day  
My dad taught me from my youngest childhood memories through these connections with Aboriginal and tribal people that you must always protect people’s sacred status, regardless of the past.

 This Day in History  

Canada today marks National Aboriginal Day, while around the globe people commemorate World Hydrography Day, International Yoga Day, World Humanist Day, and, on a more whimsical note, International Go-Skateboarding Day; in the far-Eastern Mediterranean where much of the power of imperial Rome had assumed Byzantine forms fourteen hundred eighty-four years ago, a war fleet embarked from Constantinople, soon to visit Greece and Sicily, ultimately destined to attack the Vandals in what is now Libya and Algeria; seven hundred ten years in advance of today, Kulug Khan ascended the Mongol throne as he also celebrated his coronation as the Yuan’s imperial chief; twelve decades forward from that conjunction, in 1527, the philosopher of power and perfidy, Nicola Machiavelli, spent his final day on Earth; a half century and five years later, in 1582, the most potent Japanese potentate of the Sengoku period face the unpleasant task of killing himself under the threatening oversight of his own general, Akechi Mitsuhide;  MORE HERE

     Doc of the Day    

1. Smedley Butler, 1933.
2. Jean-Paul Sartre, 1964.
3. U.S. Supreme Court, 1973.

4. John Simkin, 1997.

Numero Uno“War is just a racket.  A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people.  Only a small inside group knows what it is about.  It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight.  The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent.  Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. MORE HERE

book hor2

SEARCHDAY
journalism OR "mass media" OR broadcasting OR "monopoly media" OR "corporate media" cia OR "central intelligence agency" subversion OR manipulation OR "contract agents" or plants OR infiltration influence OR hegemony OR oversight OR payment OR payroll = 1,410,000 Hits.
 

book hor

 Interesting People Places Things of Note 

People v. Profit A La Welsh

An interesting essay from an always-worthwhile correspondent, who contextualizes various housing crises: “Our society runs on a simple ethic: nothing can be allowed to happen if someone important doesn’t get rich doing it.  Having the government build housing isn’t nearly as profitable as building hi rises for Chinese ex-pats who pay millions per apartment and then, half the time, don’t even live there.

Is profit more important than people? Are property rights more important than whether people are sleeping outside?”

 

 General Media & ‘Intellectual Property’ Issues 

A McClatchy Reinvention

A Poynter post that discusses ways that a media conglomerate is seeking to remain relevant and powerful: “If you are a reporter at one of McClatchy’s 31 papers, you will have this meeting sometime in the next year, or you may have already:

You will be asked to join one of your editors and a member of corporate’s roving “reinvention team.” There will be talk of digital best practices, but the heart of the exercise is a look at how well a collection of your recent stories performed online. Which ones were hits? Which ones bombed?

The team will advise you to spend more time on the kinds of stories digital audiences are looking for in local journalism, especially high-impact enterprise stories. And drop the dull stuff. Lots of boring stories don’t do much for the reader or the company’s bottom line.

So far it’s working, said Tim Grieve, vice president of news for McClatchy, who’s five months into a new program to pick up the pace of digital transformation.”

 Recent Events 

A Sanders Facelift

A WSWS look at the new directions from the erstwhile Sanders presidential bid that seeks to maintain something resembling forward momentum: “These forces are politically motivated by the fear that the crisis of the Democratic Party, particularly its loss of support in the working class, will prevent it from carrying out its traditional role of diverting and dissipating social opposition and subordinating the working class to bourgeois politics. Frightened by the explosive growth of anger against the entire political establishment and increasing interest in socialism among working people and particularly youth, they are seeking to give this party of Wall Street and the CIA a political facelift.”

 General Past & Present Issues 

Explicating Consciousness

A New York Review of Books post that looks at the mysteries of consciousness: “For any materialist vision of consciousness, the crucial stumbling block is the question of free will. A modern, enlightened person tends to feel that he or she has rejected a mystical, immaterial conception of the eternal soul in exchange for a strictly scientific understanding of consciousness and selfhood—as something created by the billions of neurons in our brains with their trillions of synapses and complex chemical and electrical processes. But the fact of our being entirely material, hence subject to the laws of cause and effect, introduces the concern that our lives might be altogether determined. Is it possible that our experience of decision-making—the impression we have of making choices, indeed of having choices to make, sometimes hard ones—is entirely illusory? Is it possible that a chain of physical events in our bodies and brains must cause us to act in the way we do, whatever our experience of the process may be?”

6.21.2017 Day in History

Canada today marks National Aboriginal Day, while around the globe people commemorate World Hydrography Day, International Yoga Day, World Humanist Day, and, on a more whimsical note, International Go-Skateboarding Day; in the far-Eastern Mediterranean where much of the power of imperial Rome had assumed Byzantine forms fourteen hundred eighty-four years ago, a war fleet embarked from Constantinople, soon to visit Greece and Sicily, ultimately destined to attack the Vandals in what is now Libya and Algeria; seven hundred ten years in advance of today, Kulug Khan ascended the Mongol throne as he also celebrated his coronation as the Yuan’s imperial chief; twelve decades forward from that conjunction, in 1527, the philosopher of power and perfidy, Nicola Machiavelli, spent his final day on Earth; a half century and five years later, in 1582, the most potent Japanese potentate of the Sengoku period face the unpleasant task of killing himself under the threatening oversight of his own general, Akechi Mitsuhide; around the world in Prague thirty-nine years further along, in 1621, close to thirty members of the Czech nobility faced their death sentences for their part in the disastrous Battle of White Mountain, where they sought to defend local rights and Protestant beliefs from the Holy Roman Empire at the start of the Thirty Years War; eighteen years onward from that, in 1639, a baby boy was

CC BY by David Flam

born into his Protestant family in England, en route to a life as the preacher and thinker, Increase Mather; precisely ninety-five years thereafter, in 1734, to the West in Montreal, a disaffected slave, who had made good on her threat to burn her owner’s home—and much of the city’s commercial center in the bargain–when the mistress refused Marie Angelique’s freedom hung from a rope till her death for the ‘crime’ of insisting on freedom; just short of three and a half decades more in the general direction of today, in 1768, James Otis offered a different sort of insult in the name of freedom, when he addressed the Massachusetts General Court with a speech that “offended the King and Parliament;” twenty-three years hence, across the wide Atlantic in 1791, an again different sort of drama of freedom unfolded as France’s sixteenth King Louis and his close family sought to flee Paris and its revolutionary ardors and dangers;thirty-five additional years down time’s path, in 1826, to the South in Greece, yet another case of fighting and death and freedom and intrigue unfolded as Egyptian troops of the Ottoman Empire sought to crush an uprising in the Peloponnesian Peninsula in Greece, where the local insurgents drove back the invaders, much to the joy of England and its arms merchants; twenty-two more years toward today, in 1848, Romanian nationalists issued the Proclamation of Islaz, which laid the basis for overthrowing Russian rule temporarily and establishing Wallachian governance for a time; seven hundred thirty days past that rebellious outbreak, in 1850, across Europe and over the sea to North America, a male child looked around for the first time en route to a life as Daniel Carter Beard, whose accomplishments included inaugurating the Boy Scouts of America; one hundred forty years back, after a ‘trial’ in which paid coal company attorneys handled the prosecution and paid coal company ‘detectives’ provided the evidence for conviction, ten so-called Molly Maguires died on gallows in Northeastern Pennsylvania for their ‘crimes,’ without a single doubt primarily as martyrs and victims to coal-company profiteers who would brook no organized labor among their workforces; half a dozen years subsequently, in 1883, the girl child entered our midst in a Vermont family of freed slaves and independent thinkers who would become the prolific and long-lived storyteller and communicator Daisy Turner; sixteen years afterward, in 1898, the United States overran the Spanish forces on Guam and seized control of the islands for ‘manifest destiny;’ two more years along time’s arc toward now, in 1900, China’s collapsing empire’s leaders formally declared war on Japan, the United States, France, and Great Britain as the Boxer Rebellion’s fighting

CC BY by ralphrepo

intensified following the previous day’s placement of the diplomatic district of Beijing under siege; five years yet later on, in 1905, the male infant came along in standard fashion in France who would grow up as the estimable thinker and advocate of liberation, Jean Paul Sartre; seven years farther down the pike, in 1912, the female baby took her first breath who would end up as the redoubtable writer, critic, and thinker, Mary McCarthy; two years after that, in 1914, Bertha von Suttner, the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, the literary laureates, sang her swan song; three hundred sixty-five days nearer to now, in 1915, in its decision in Guinn v. the United States, the Supreme Court held that prohibiting voting among specified groups of citizens was unconstitutional; four years more on time’s inexorable march, to the North in Canada in 1919, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police opened fire on strikers in the General Strike of Winnipeg, killing two; another half decade en route to the here and now, in 1924, a male child in France howled out on his way to a life as the psychoanalytic theorist and interpreter of Freud’s “seduction theory,” Jean Laplanche; five years henceforth, in 1929, in Mexico, a U.S. diplomat ‘brokered’ an agreement in a three-year Christero Rebellion of supporters of the Catholic Church, an institution that had lost much of its power and some of its property as a result of the Mexican Revolution; eleven years subsequent to that moment in space and time, across the Northern border in 1940, the fiery patriot and courageous soldier Smedley Butler merited his own rendition of taps; eight years forward from there, in 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a binding opinion that permitted unions to advocate particular Congressional candidates, which had previously run afoul of a Corrupt Practices Act, and across the ocean in England, the baby boy was born who would become the acclaimed writer and thinker and controversial atheist, Ian McEwan; a mere year later still, in 1949, in Guyana, the male child regarded the world on his first day as he moved along to become the award-winning and multi-talented writer, poet, dramatist, and thinker Ian McEwen; seven years after

CC BY by ky_olsen

that, in 1956, playwright and radical thinker Arthur Miller, accompanied by his new wife, Marilyn Monroe, appeared before the fascistic House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to name any of his ‘comrades,’ whom the leaders of HUAC had promised in advance that he would not need to reveal, for which refusal, soon enough Miller faced an indictment—and the prospect of prison—for ‘contempt’ of Congress; a year even closer to the current context, in 1957, a male infant first howled on he path to becoming a lighthearted and yet controversial cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed; a thousand four hundred sixty-one days thereafter, in 1961, a French infant entered the world in the routine fury of labor and blood, sired by Spanish revolutionary parents, en route to a life as the brilliant and popular musician of people-power and love, Manu Chao; three years following that happy event, back in the U.S. in 1964, a much less sanguine eventuality took place as the Ku Klux Klan orchestrated the murder—fully expecting impunity—of three civil rights workers, two White and one Black, in Mississippi; three hundred sixty-five days forward in time and space, in 1965, the musical group the Byrds released their album, Mr. Tambourine Man, inaugurating a period of years in which listeners regarded musical evolution as ‘a folk-rock revolution;’ half a decade onward from that passage, in 1970, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history to that point transpired when Penn Central went under; a thousand ninety-six days subsequently, in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Miller v. California, establishing a “three-pronged test”—including two necessary components of community standards and one of cultural merit—for determining obscenity; nine years still more proximate

"SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis"
“SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis”

to the present pass, in 1982, a Federal jury found the wealthy would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan John Hinckley not-guilty by reason of insanity; the very next year, in 1983, to the South in North Carolina, the male infant was born whose fate was to become a scion of a Federal family, Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on mass whistle-blowing by the National Security Agency; fourteen years hence, in 1997, upwards of a hundred thousand marchers picketed in favor of the strike by journalists and staff of Detroit Free Pressthree additional years along time’s path, in 2000, across the Atlantic, Scotland’s governing body overwhelmingly repealed that portion of England’s Local Government Act that prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality; three hundred sixty five days past that point on the dot, in 2001, the brilliant and much-loved rocker and lyricist John Lee Hooker lived out his final verse, and a Federal grand Jury in Virginia issued an indictment against thirteen Saudis and one Lebanese for murdering American soldiers in a bombing in the Saudi city of Khobar, a judicial action to which the Sauds responded with the announcement that all the accused were already in prison and that extradition was unnecessary; a further three years on time’s measured moves toward the future, in 2004, the first spacecraft that a commercial venture launched, SpaceShipOne, lifted off and entered orbit; a year even later, in 2005, the White supremacist whom authorities believed had helped to murder James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwermer exactly forty-one years before, faced a judgment of guilty of manslaughter in the reopened case before a Mississippi District Court.

6.20.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Eugene Debs, 1893.
2. Anne Hollander, 1965.
3. Richard Blanton, 1997.

Preparing cheeseburgers work labor aseembly line fast food

Numero Uno — “The Senate of the United States appointed a select committee to  investigate and report to the senate the facts in relation to the employment, for private purposes, of armed bodies of men or detectives in connection with differences between employers and employees.
This select committee has made its report, which shows that the
committee examined fourteen different witnesses on the thug side of the question, including the Pinkertons themselves, and with regard to the Homestead infamy, the part played by the thugs, H. C. Frick, the murderous monster and pimp of Carnegie, and Bob Pinkerton, were examined, and eight other witnesses. The committee, in examining questions directly bearing upon labor and labor strikes, called in 17 witnesses. Four witnesses were examined upon questions relating to the power of the courts to interfere to prevent labor strikes, and fifteen witnesses were examined upon the subject of arbitration and other matters of inquiry proper for the committee to pursue.

The investigation led’ to the admission, on the part of the Pinkerton brothers, who hire, organize, arm and equip the thugs, and then supply Carnegie, Frick, and others of their ilk, with as many murderers as they demand to kill workingmen, that the presence of these thugs served to unduly inflame the passions of the men who strike against oppression and degradation. There are, it was ascertained, in the ranks of the thugs, trained spies, who, assuming to be mechanics, enter the ranks of the strikers, and, obtaining information, report to employers and thereby enable them to spot and discharge certain men who dare protest against outrages, and thus make it possible for scabs to obtain the places of honest workingmen.

Having obtained such information from the two brother Pinkertons, whose names stand for as much infamy as fell to the lot of Judas Iscariot or Benedict Arnold, or any other villains our corrupt civilization has spread upon society, the committee reached the conclusion that if corporations would discontinue the employment of Pinkerton thugs on occasions of threatened or existing strikes, their interests would be better subserved.

The committee also reached the conclusion that the employment of the Pinkerton thugs at Homestead was ‘unnecessary.’ Prior to the introduction of the thugs by Frick, the committee found that ‘not the slightest damage was done nor attempted to be done to property on the part of the strikers.’ Hence, it may be inferred that the passions of the strikers were inflamed by the introduction of a gang of armed thugs, ready and willing to murder the strikers at the word of command, and that they did not murder hundreds of them in the interest of Carnegie and Frick, is a mystery, unless it is explained by the heroic determination on the part of the strikers to sell their lives as dearly as possible; a resolution that brought the thugs to terms, and sent them, for the first and only time, defeated and crushed, without having accomplished their murderous mission.

The committee, in its deliberations, reached the following conclusions:
1. Rights of employers and workmen are equal.
2. Employers have an undoubted right, provided they fulfill
their agreements, to employ and dismiss men at pleasure.
3. Workmen can legally organize for mutual protection and
improvement.
4. When dissatisfied with wages or hours, they should attempt to arbitrate.
5. Falling in this, they have a right to discontinue work, either
singly or in a body.
6. Having discontinued, they have no right, legal or moral, by
force or intimidation, to keep others from taking their places, or to
attempt to occupy, injure, or destroy the property of their employers.
7. In all controversies, arbitration having failed, reliance
should be placed upon the power and adequacy of the law.
8. Whether assumedly legal or not, the employment of armed
bodies of men for private purposes, either by employers or employees, should not be resorted to, and such use is an assumption of the state’s authority by private citizens.
9. States have undoubted authority to legislate against the
employment of armed bodies of men for private purposes; but
the power of Congress to so legislate is not clear, although it
would seem that Congress ought not to be powerless to prevent
the movement of such bodies from one state to another.

In the foregoing conclusions, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are those which will attract the most attention. The equality stated in No. 1, as matters stand, is totally misleading — the rights of employers and employes, only in a restricted sense, are equal — and this is seen in conclusion No. 2, in which it is glaringly shown that the employe has no rights whatever; the right to hire and the right to discharge an employee is placed absolutely in the hands of the employer, the employe is not consulted at all. He may be discharged for any cause which the whim or malignity of the employer may suggest, and according to this Senate committee, he has no redress; his work, his means of living, are taken from him, and he is forthwith remanded to the ranks of the idle, and he may go to the devil for aught the employer knows or cares; hence, we ask what becomes of conclusion No. 1? Does some one say that conclusion No. 3, which asserts that “workmen can legally organize for mutual protection and improvement,” provide any remedy against conclusion No. 2? We answer, none whatever, because, conceding the absolute right of the employer to discharge an employe, any protest on the part of organized labor to remedy the outrage, would be interfering with a conceded right of the employer.

To illustrate, A. has a legal right to join a labor organization, but for the exercise of this legal right, B., the employer, according to conclusion No. 2, may discharge A. ‘at pleasure,’ and thus it is seen that while the equality of ’employers and employees’ is asserted, the equality is a sham and deception, having no practical existence, so far as the conclusions of the committee are concerned.

To establish conditions in some measure approaching equality, has been the earnest effort of organized labor. As for instance, A., an employee, is discharged. Just here organized labor comes in and asks of the employer, Why? and insists that A. shall not be discharged without a hearing, something in the form of a trial; that he shall not be set adrift to gratify the spleen of some parasite, and made to suffer penalties innocently. If the committee had suggested something of this sort, something to check the meanness or venom of underlings, it would have been far more creditable than the one-sided conclusions the committee reported. The other conclusions are a series of old chestnuts, which it were a waste of time and paper to discuss. There is just one way out of the woods for organized labor to pursue, and that is to go forward pleading the cause of union, federation, united and compact organization and action, to create a bond of union so strong that unity will be secured when there is a conflict between right and wrong, truth and error, and to force the fight into legislative halls and to never cease the struggle until there shall be, in fact, in reality, truth in the declaration, that the ‘Rights of employers and employees are equal.’ Eugene Debs, “Congress, Pinkertons, and Organized Labor;” Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, 1893.

Numero Dos — “Miss Hellman spends her summers in a comfortable white house at the bottom of a sandbank in the town of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.  There is none of old Cape Cod about it; a modern house, newly built with lots of big windows and a wooden deck facing on the harbor.  Miss Hellman observes the ferries of Woods Hole—Martha’s Vineyard—Nantucket Steamship Authority, weighted down with passengers and automobiles, push through the harbor on their midsummer schedule and disgorge ever more visitors upon this teeming, heterogeneous resort.  It is a measure of Miss Hellman’s dedication to her work that she achieves so much in her exposed situation, not half a mile from the ferry dock.  Here she stays with her maid and a big barking poodle that discourages few of the peak-of-the-season visitors who troop through her parlor.Behind this new house and out of view on top of the sandbank is the old one, which Miss Hellman sold after Dashiell Hammett died.  A frame house with yellow painted shingles and climbing roses, plainer and more regional in its architecture, like a Yankee farmhouse of the last century, it had a complex of boxlike rooms where Miss Hellman’s guests thronged.  Removed from these, on the far east wing of the house, stood a tower formed by the shell of an old Cape Cod windmill.  Up in this windmill tower was the room where Dashiell Hammett lived; he always escaped there when company came.  He had been an invalid since the war; he became a recluse, and at the end of his life talked to almost nobody.  Hammett was a thin, finely built man and very tall—when he was seen walking in delicate silence, in the cruel wasting of his illness, down a crowded sidewalk on his way to the library, unrecognized, unknown, forgotten, the proudness of his bearing set him off from the summer people.

Occasionally, a stranger would come in the house uninvited and catch Dashiell Hammett off guard. He might be reading in an easy chair. Miss Hellman would introduce him, and he would elegantly rise and shake hands. Like many a famous writer who detests being disturbed in his private self, a million miles from any social confrontation, he had learned to scare off the intruder with his smile. Here he was luckier than most, for rather than looking pained and fraudulent, rather than a predictable Sam Spade/Humphrey Bogart hard-guy leer, the smile Dashiell Hammett produced on his clear-eyed, lean, aristocratic face was so nearly beatific that it disarmed the intruder long enough for Dashiell Hammett, with no more than a how-do-you-do, to vanish from the room. The armchair or the book gave his only evidence. Even the invited dinner guest coming punctually into the room would know the same ectoplasmic presence, when Miss Hellman, the laughter mingled in her greeting, would immediately explain what Dash had said—what his joking exit line had been on, it seemed, the instant of your entrance. He was elusive but never aloof. Through the medium of Miss Hellman it was possible to carry on a running extrasensory conversation. A question to him, put through to her, on one evening (as how to clean a meerschaum pipe) or a request for an opinion (on somebody’s writing, on something President Eisenhower did) was sure to be answered on another. And five years before the meeting with Miss Hellman, a request had been put in writing for a Paris Review interview. He was by then at the end of his tether, often too weak to take his meals at the table. An answer came: “Sorry. Don’t think it would work. Lilly will explain.” Which she does, though neither by design nor by coincidence, in this interview. On a table in the parlor where she talked was a framed snapshot of Dashiell Hammett as he looked in World War II as a corporal in the Army Service Forces. He is lighting his cigarette on a PX Zippo lighter and looking every inch a soldier in his impeccably creased suntans and overseas cap tilted toward the right of his head of white hair.

Miss Hellman’s voice has a quality, not to be captured on the page, of being at once angry, funny, slyly feminine, sad, affectionate, and harsh.  While talking here she often allowed her laughter, like an antidote to bitterness, to break into her thoughts and give a more generous dimension to her comments, which, in print, may seem at first glance merely captious.  These pages are compiled from three afternoon conversations in the more than usually harrying conditions of the Labor Day weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, while Miss Hellman was driving herself to finish a movie script for Sam Spiegel.  There were many interruptions—telephone calls and people coming and going in the room.  Such circumstances cannot excuse but may in part explain some of the interviewers’ unrehearsed and too eagerly ‘literary’ questions.

INTERVIEWER

Before you wrote plays, did you write anything else?

LILLIAN HELLMAN

Yes, short stories, a few poems.  A couple of the stories were printed in a long-dead magazine called The Paris Comet for which Arthur Kober worked.  Arthur and I were married and living in Paris.  Let’s see, about 1928, 1929, somewhere in there.  They were very lady-writer stories.  I reread them a few years ago.  The kind of stories where the man puts his fork down and the woman knows it’s all over.  You know.

INTERVIEWER

Was it Dashiell Hammett who encouraged you to write plays?

HELLMAN

No.  He disliked the theater.  He always wanted me to write a novel.  I wrote a play before The Children’s Hour with Louis Kronenberger called The Dear Queen.  It was about a royal family.  A royal family who wanted to be bourgeois.  They kept running away to be middle class, and Dash used to say the play was no good because Louis would laugh only at his lines and I would laugh only at mine.

INTERVIEWER

Which of your plays do you like best?

HELLMAN

I don’t like that question. You always like best the last thing you did. You like to think that you got better with time. But you know it isn’t always true. I very seldom reread the plays. The few times I have, I have been pleasantly surprised by things that were better than I had remembered and horrified by other things I had thought were good. But I suppose Autumn Garden. I suppose I think it is the best play, if that is what you mean by “like.”

INTERVIEWER

Somebody who saw you watch the opening night in Paris of Simone Signoret’s adaptation of The Little Foxes said that through the performance you kept leaving your seat and pacing the vestibule.

HELLMAN

I jump up and down through most performances. But that particular night I was shaken by what I was seeing. I like Little Foxes, but I’m tired of it. I don’t think many writers like best their best-known piece of work, particularly when it was written a long time ago.

INTERVIEWER

What prompted you to go back to the theme and the characters of The Little Foxes? Only seven years later you wrote Another Part of the Forest.

HELLMAN

I always intended to do The Little Foxes as a trilogy. Regina in The Little Foxes is about thirty-eight years old, and the year is 1900. I had meant to take up with her again in about 1920 or 1925, in Europe. And her daughter, Alexandra, was to have become maybe a spinsterish social worker, disappointed, a rather angry woman.

INTERVIEWER

In the third act of The Little Foxes is a speech which carries the burden of the play. It says there are people who eat the earth and all the people on it, like the locusts in the Bible. And there are the people who let them do it. “Sometimes I think it ain’t right to stand by and watch them do it.” At the end of this play, Alexandra decides that she is not going to be one of those passive people. She is going to leave her mother.

HELLMAN

Yes, I meant her to leave. But to my great surprise, the ending of the play was taken to be a statement of faith in Alexandra, in her denial of her family. I never meant it that way. She did have courage enough to leave, but she would never have the force or vigor of her mother’s family. That’s what I meant. Or maybe I made it up afterward.

INTERVIEWER

These wheelers and dealers in your plays—the gouging, avaricious Hubbards. Had you known many people like that?

HELLMAN

Lots of people thought it was my mother’s family.

INTERVIEWER

Might you ever write that third play?

HELLMAN

I’m tired of the people in The Little Foxes.

INTERVIEWER

In Regina, the opera Marc Blitzstein based on The Little Foxes, the badness of Regina is most emphatic.

HELLMAN

Marc and I were close friends, but we never collaborated.  I had nothing to do with the opera.  I never saw Regina that way.  You have no right to see your characters as good or bad.  Such words have nothing to do with people you write about.  Other people see them that way.

INTERVIEWER

You say in your introduction that The Children’s Hour is about goodness and badness.”  continued behind paywall       Anne Hollander, “Lillian Hellman, the Art of Theater #1;” Paris Review, 1965. 

Numero Tres — “Now that the Cold War is over, its history has become a growth industry, though in truth there was no great shortage of historical analysis even while the war was going on.  Today, however, one finds a certain generational divide as perhaps the salient characteristic of the enterprise.  Mostly younger scholars clustered around the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center—including James Hershberg, Vladislav Zubok, Chen Jian, Kathryn Weathersby, Mark Kramer, Csaba Bekes, and Hope Harrison—have pioneered the integration of sources from the ‘other side’ of the Cold War into a nuanced, contextual, and truly international version of our recent past.

Acutely aware of the contingent nature of the new sources, these young historians avoid entanglement with any of the old, ideologically divided schools of Cold War history.  To oversimplify drastically, the orthodox school of Herbert Feis and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., blamed the Cold War on the Soviet Union.  The revisionist school of William Appleman Williams blamed American economic expansion for frightening the Soviets.  The ‘postrevisionists,’ typified by John Lewis Gaddis, attempted an empirically based amalgam of the two sides, only to meet with criticism from revisionists who called this approach ‘orthodoxy plus archives.’  The postrevisionist retort was to dub the three schools ‘hawks,’ ‘doves,’ and ‘owls.’

A few senior scholars already established in these debates have also dared to grapple with the new evidence—none to greater effect than the leading owl himself. Gaddis, a historian at Ohio University now moving east to Yale, has produced a fascinating, provocative, and in no small measure endearing revision of Cold War history up through the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The work is endearing because, in exposing the errors of past histories, Gaddis focuses frequently on his own. The careful reader of footnotes may judge this book to be the foundation of a new school of Cold War history: autorevisionism.

Hardly anyone in either the older or younger generation of Cold War scholars will agree with all of Gaddis’s judgments. For example, is it truly explanatory to call Josef Stalin a “brutal romantic” when all Soviet leaders were brutal and Nikita Khrushchev retired the romance trophy? The book’s grand sweep is beyond the reach of this review, but its penultimate chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis may provide a lens through which to glimpse the extraordinary work that is going on in this field—especially when considered in tandem with a remarkable new history of the crisis based on Soviet sources.

The most enduring phrase summing up the Cuban Missile Crisis—the climax of the Cold War and the closest the world ever came to nuclear Armageddon—belongs to Secretary of State Dean Rusk: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” Thus was born the myth of calibrated brinkmanship—the belief that if you stand tough you win, and that nuclear superiority makes the difference in moments of crisis. This myth, midwifed by the Kennedy family and its hagiographers, had untold consequences for the planning of the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race.

A different story began to emerge in 1969, when Thirteen Days, the posthumous memoir of Robert F. Kennedy, revealed that the resolution of the crisis (Khrushchev’s withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba) came after a series of secret meetings in which RFK offered the Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin not threats of nuclear retaliation but an old-fashioned diplomatic deal: a pledge of no U.S. invasion of Cuba, plus the withdrawal of U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey. The terms, according to the memoir, were that this could not be an explicit quid pro quo and that the deal would never be publicly acknowledged by the United States. Further revisions of the myth emerged in the early 1980s, when former Kennedy aides Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, alarmed by what they saw as President Ronald Reagan’s embrace of brinkmanship, warned the public that the Cuban Missile Crisis had not been resolved by America’s nuclear superiority but by its conventional superiority in the Caribbean, which enabled restraint and the quarantine of Cuba.

Next came a trickle of declassified U.S. government documents in the mid-1980s, including notes and transcripts from the meetings of John F. Kennedy’s top advisers, in which the president appears not as the fastest draw at the OK Corral but as a peacenik. As soon as the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that they could not guarantee the destruction through air strikes of all the Soviet missiles in Cuba, JFK decided to do whatever he could to avoid an invasion of Cuba and a war over what he called “some obsolete missiles in Turkey.” In 1987 Rusk himself revealed JFK’s willingness, had the crisis persisted much longer, to propose a public Turkey-Cuba trade through the United Nations—a willingness, in short, to blink.

Since then, the revisions have mounted as the documents have flooded out. Theodore Sorenson has admitted that while editing Thirteen Days he cut references in RFK’s diary to an explicit Turkey-Cuba deal. Despite JFK’s dismissal to reporters of any such deal as a weak-willed option floated by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson, we now know, on the basis of a declassified cable from Dobrynin (published in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin), that RFK made the deal explicit even as he handed back the formal Soviet letter recording it His comment to Dobrynin was that such a document “could cause irreparable harm to my political career in the future.”

Many of these revelations first saw the light of day at a series of conferences organized by James Blight and janet [sic] Lang of the Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Held between 1987 and 1992, these “critical oral history” sessions included Kennedy aides, Soviet participants, and finally Cuban veterans (among them Fidel Castro), and they produced more revelations: that along with intermediate-range missiles, the Soviet arsenal in Cuba included tactical nuclear warheads that might have been used if the United States had invaded; and that Cuba was very much an actor in its own right Castro at one point telling an increasingly alarmed Khrushchev to “use ’em or lose ’em.”

On the Soviet side, the Blight-Lang sessions were forced to rely on the largely uncorroborated memories of aging veterans and their children (such as Khrushchev’s son) rather than on solid documentation. As recently as September 1994, when I presented the Russian archives with a set of Kennedy audiotapes and a 1 5,000-page microfiche of declassified U.S. documents related to the missile crisis, the archives had released only 700 pages on the subject. One may therefore imagine the jubilation among Cold War historians at the appearance of “One Hell of a Gamble,” by the Russian scholar Alexandr A. Fursenko and his Canadian collaborator, Yale University historian Timothy Naftali.

It is a treasure-trove of a book, studded with quotations and citations from still-secret archives in Moscow, woven together with the new U.S. documentation. It is also a dramatic and highly readable narrative, the most authoritative to date, of the six-year period from the Cuban Revolution through the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and the October 1964 coup that ousted Khrushchev. The title comes from a recently declassified Oval Office audiotape in which 1FK told a belligerent congressional delegation that invading Cuba during the crisis would be “one hell of a gamble.” To his everlasting credit, JFK was not willing to roll those dice.

The new Soviet evidence falls into three categories: Soviet intelligence and embassy reporting from Havana to Moscow, a similar flow from Soviet agents and officials in Washington, and internal Politburo and Khrushchev office records. The first category alone makes this book essential reading for any serious analyst of U.S.-Cuban relations. It yields extraordinary insights into the personalities of Castro, his brother Raúl, Che Guevara, and other leaders, as well as abundant information about Cuban military and intelligence capabilities. Perhaps most striking is evidence of the Cubans’ unrelenting fear, before and after the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961, that a U.S. invasion was imminent. The authors’ evocative rendering of the resulting paranoia suggests that when Khrushchev claimed that the missiles were there to defend the Cuban Revolution, he was not just scoring a propaganda point. (He also, as Gaddis points out, succeeded in this aim.)

Equally fascinating is the second category, Soviet reporting from Washington. For example, summaries of reports from a personable military intelligence officer named Georgi Bolshakov reveal that he hit it off with RFK and met with him on a backchannel basis some 51 times during 1961-62. There were also some woeful intelligence failures: the KGB station chief Alexandr Feklisov reported in March 1962 that he had at least three well-placed sources whose names “the Russian government continues to protect.” Yet despite these alleged penetrations, during the October crisis the KGB fell back on (inaccurate) invasion tips from a bartender at the National Press Club.

The Holy Grail for Cold War historians is, of course, the third category of evidence: notes of Politburo meetings, Khrushchev memos, and reports intended for the highest levels of the Kremlin. As cited by Fursenko and Naftali, this evidence adds rich new detail to our understanding of Khrushchev. Perhaps most astonishing is the degree to which the Soviet premier acted as his own intelligence analyst. So closed was Khrushchev’s inner circle that he rarely consulted with the KGB about decisions regarding the United States. Instead, he would summon whatever prominent Americans happened to be in Moscow. On the occasion of his deliberations over whether to place tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, the visitor dropping into Khrushchev’s dacha for a chat was the poet Robert Frost!

As with all such exclusive scholarly arrangements, the strength of Fursenko and Naftali’s book is also its weakness.  Very few of the KGB, Politburo, and military intelligence (GRU) documents cited here are available to other scholars.  Moreover, the authors’ acknowledgments and source notes give little indication of what sorts of conditions were attached to their exclusive access—a discouraging omission, indeed.  Some citations are reassuringly precise, while others read simply ‘spravka (summary), GRU.’  What were those conditions?  Did the authors select the materials they wanted from complete lists and finding aids, or were their searches directed by the staffs of these still-closed archives?  That said, if the authors had not pushed for whatever access they obtained, our understanding of the Cold War would be demonstrably the poorer.  As Gaddis does through his assessment, Fursenko and Naftali through their narrative arrive at a new definition of heroism on the part of national leaders—what Gaddis calls ‘a new profile in courage.’  We now know that the Cuban Missile Crisis arose from a certain degree of adventurism on both sides—Kennedy’s covert actions against Castro and Khrushchev’s secret missile deployment—and that it was resolved only because both men were willing to risk humiliation rather than Armageddon.

In one of the great counterfactuals of history, we might ask, What if Khrushchev had only held out another day or two for a public Turkey-Cuba trade?  Without the ‘Russians blinked’ version of history, might the American officials who planned the Vietnam War have had less faith in their calibrated brinkmanship?  Might Khrushchev have survived the October 1964 coup plot, in which his adventurism in Cuba was one of the indictments?  President Kennedy later estimated the odds of nuclear war during the missile crisis as having been one in three.  Bundy guessed lower, at one in 100.  But as Bundy added, ‘In this apocalyptic matter the risk can be very small indeed and still much too large for comfort.'”Richard Blanton, “Annals of Blinkmanship;” National Security Archive, 1997.  

6.20.2017 Day in History

Today around the globe, quite pertinently, is World Refugee Day; as Roman imperial power declined and imploded fifteen hundred and sixty-six years ago, the fighters of Flavius Aetius grappled with the forces of Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons, in what is now France, the Romans sanguine to declare ‘victory’ when Attila’s troops temporarily withdrew; just three years shy of eight centuries subsequently, in 1248, a first intellectual bastion of a lineal descendant of Roman imprimatur, Oxford University, obtained a Royal Charter in Norman England; in a sort of ‘reverse crusade’ three hundred eighty-six years before this point in time, the Irish town of Baltimore suffered a sacking at the hands of wide ranging Algerian pirates; two years beyond nine decades after that, in 1723, a male child came into our midst in standard fashion who would become the philosopher and thinker, in a sense a kind of ‘grandfather of sociology,’ Adam Ferguson; thirty years more in the direction of today, in 1756, British East India Company military faced the horrors of the black hole of Calcutta when temporarily ascendant Indian forces captured them; twenty-six years later, in 1782, the soon-to-be-victorious colonies adopted the Great Seal of the United States; half a decade beyond that moment, in 1787, in another USA branding exercise, Oliver Ellsworth introduced a resolution to call the new country officially the United States; seven hundred and thirty-one days henceforth, in 1789, across the wide Atlantic in France, a little girl opened her eyes who would rise as the doyenne of Romantic poetry, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, and this infant’s radical countrymen declared their solidarity in regard to a Republican France by taking the Tennis Court oath; thirty years afterward, in 1819, a United States vessel departed North America as the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, albeit most of the trek occurred under sail; twenty-one years henceforth, in 1840, Samuel Morse received his important, if for  only a brief time, patent for telegraphic communications; eighteen years past that exact date, in 1858, a baby boy was born who would mature as the popular and prolific storyteller and writer Charles W. Chesnutt; five years further along time’s march toward the present, in 1863,  western Virginia turned the tables on their seceding confreres and seceded from Virginia to become the state of West Virginia; fourteen years further down the pike, in 1877, Alexander Graham Bell celebrated Morse’s patent by opening the world’s first telephone service in Ontario, Canada; sixteen years thereafter, in 1893, Eugene Debs led the way in the creation of the US’s first industrial union, with the formal establishment of the American Railway Union; two years beyond that precise moment, in 1895,  across the Atlantic in Germany, the world’s busiest canal way opened on the Jutland Peninsula; another half decade subsequent to that, in 1900,  China’s dowager empress gamely declared war on Japan, the United States, and many imperial predators of Europe in the opening stages of the Boxer Rebellion; five more years toward today, in 1905, the female child gave a first cry en route to her life as popular writer and incisive thinker, Lillian Hellman; two additional years along time’s inexorable march, in 1907, a male baby took a first breath ho would grow up as the songwriter and iconic country performer, Jimmy Driftwood; a decade and a half yet later on, in 1920, murderous representatives of capital shot down fourteen

CC BY-ND by PatersonGreatFalls -A Visual Reference for Teacher

striking Wobbly miners in Butte, Montana; a mere three hundred and sixty-five years past that, in 1921, around the world in India, the inherent conflict between labor and capital took the form of an initiation of a months long strike against Buckingham Mills; two additional years along time’s arc, in 1923, in Germany, a male baby first looked around on his way to life as the historian of Freud and a wide swath of intellectual and social life, Peter Gay; three hundred sixty-six days nearer to now, in 1924, across the Atlantic, another baby boy was born who would mature as the iconic singer-songwriter of Country Western music Chet Atkins;three quarters of a century back,  Henry Ford broke his vow and recognized and acceded to a United Auto Workers contract at his company’s factories; seven hundred and thirty days hence, in 1943,  striking Black auto workers at a Ford plant confronted a particularly vicious divide and conquer tactic when Ku Klux Klan and other fascist elements rioted in protest against Black and White workers united in a union, resulting in two daysof mayhem, thirty-four deaths and well over 1,000 arrests; two years even closer to the current context, in 1945, the United States government formally approved bringing Werner von Braun and other Nazi rocket scientists to the United States without any vetting or penalty, and a different sort of emigre, prominent storyteller and writer and anti-Nazi scribe Bruno Frank breathed his last in California; two years later still, in 1947,  Harry Truman, in one of his final moments, rose to the occasion of vetoing the fascistic Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, which were to  fatally undermine union organizing when congress overrode his veto, and notorious gangland dandy Bugsy Siegel died in a hail of bullets while he sat in a stylish Hollywood home; another year along the path to the here and now, in 1948,  network Television premiered one of its most stalwart ‘hits’ with the opening of Toast of the Town,  which would soon enough become the Ed

Braun HF 1
Braun HF 1

Sullivan Show; a dozen years more proximate to the present pass, in 1960, Mali gained nominal independence from France; a thousand ninety-five days past that juncture, in 1963, having learned a lesson from the proximity of annihilation that accompanied the Cuban Missile Crisis, leaders of the United States and Soviet Union inaugurated a communications protocol – the “red hotline” – that would make thermonuclear mass collective suicide slightly less likely; nine years thereafter, in 1972, another Washington occurrence, much different from the telephone to the Soviets, happened when investigators in the Watergate investigation discovered a nearly 20 minute section of a key tape that was blank; the very next year, in 1973, roughly 5,000 miles South in Buenos Aires, fascist snipers, in league with various imperial masters, opened fire on progressive Peronistas, killing 13 or more and wounding hundreds; in a convenient development of mediated culture, two years after that, in 1975, Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece of terror and horrific unstoppable forces of nature, “Jaws,” opened in theaters around the United States; another seven hundred thirty-one days hence, in 1977, oil from the recently completed Alaskan pipeline began to

"Solar panels in Ogiinuur" by Chinneeb - Own work.
“Solar panels in Ogiinuur” by Chinneeb – Own work.

flow; two additional years in the direction of this exact day, in 1979, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter oversaw the final installation of solar voltaic panels at the White House (which Ronald Reagan summarily removed as soon as he got into office), and several thousand miles South in Nicaragua “our good friend in Managua,” mass murderer Anastasio Somoza unleashed his ‘National Guard,’ who proceeded to shoot down and kill an ABC cameraman covering events there; twenty-two years in the future from that point in space and time, in 2001, hyper-medicated, hyper-Christian Houston mother Andrea Yates ‘saved her five children from Satan’ by drowning them one by one; in slightly better news two years subsequently, in 2003, activists in Florida created the Wikimedia Foundation; three years still more proximate to our present passage, in 2006, the iconic and stalwart labor lobbyist for the International Ladies Garments Workers Union and others, Evelyn Dubrow, departed our midst at the ripe old age of 95 years old.

6.20.2017 Daily Links

 

  A Thought for the Day   

We all make contracts—with ourselves, significant and less intimate others, with whatever expression of a godly All-That-Is that most of us hold in our consciousness of things—promises that establish a complex skein of responsibility and transgression that may never be possible fully to evaluate, at the same time that two points of view must form a large part of any appraisal of such matters, number one that the potential must exist, for no reason whatsoever other than firm and clear inclination, for any actor to change his mind, for any participant to alter her beliefs, and number two, and more in tune with rational thought, that an ongoing assessment of the costs and benefits of a particular promissory context must allow an out for any avowal that fundamentally ruins the promiser’s life or otherwise destroys the potential humanity that must form the foundation for honoring commitments in the first place—in regard to the first of these, one might nod at the proliferation and basic justice and decency of no-fault divorce statutes, while in relation to the second, one can clearly see the applicability of these precepts to religious devotees who have discovered a particular partner who invalidates otherwise dearly held, even sacrosanct, vows of celibacy.

 This Day in History

Today around the globe, quite pertinently, is World Refugee Day; as Roman imperial power declined and imploded fifteen hundred and sixty-six years ago, the fighters of Flavius Aetius grappled with the forces of Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons, in what is now France, the Romans sanguine to declare ‘victory’ when Attila’s troops temporarily withdrew; just three years shy of eight centuries subsequently, in 1248, a first intellectual bastion of a lineal descendant of Roman imprimatur, Oxford University, obtained a Royal Charter in Norman England; in a sort of ‘reverse crusade’ three hundred eighty-six years before this point in time, the Irish town of Baltimore suffered a sacking at the hands of wide ranging Algerian pirates; two years beyond nine decades after that, in 1723, a male child came into our midst in standard fashion who would become the philosopher and thinker, in a sense a kind of ‘grandfather of sociology,’ Adam Ferguson; thirty years more in the direction of today, in 1756, British East India Company military faced the horrors of the black hole of Calcutta when temporarily ascendant Indian forces captured them;  MORE HERE

    Doc of the Day    

1. Eugene Debs, 1893.
2. Anne Hollander, 1965.
3. Richard Blanton, 1997.

Numero Uno — “The Senate of the United States appointed a select committee to  investigate and report to the senate the facts in relation to the employment, for private purposes, of armed bodies of men or detectives in connection with differences between employers and employees.
This select committee has made its report, which shows that the
committee examined fourteen different witnesses on the thug side of the question, including the Pinkertons themselves, and with regard to the Homestead infamy, the part played by the thugs, H. C. Frick, the murderous monster and pimp of Carnegie, and Bob Pinkerton, were examined, and eight other witnesses. The committee, in examining questions directly bearing upon labor and labor strikes, called in 17 witnesses. Four witnesses were examined upon questions relating to the power of the courts to interfere to prevent labor strikes, and fifteen witnesses were examined upon the subject of arbitration and other matters of inquiry proper for the committee to pursue. MORE HERE

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book hor

 

Interesting People Places Things of Note

Manifesting a New Popular Front

A Nation look at the work and motivations of an intriguing activist and intellectual: Even in a world tightly trussed by neoliberal dogma and basted by surges of populist anti-elitism, the role of the left intellectual has lost none of its fascination. … Few figures in the second half of the 20th century fit the romantic version of this profile better than the British historian E.P. Thompson. In the United States, Thompson probably remains best known as the author of The Making of the English Working Class, an indisputable classic of modern historiography and the founding document of a whole school of radical social history in the 1960s and ’70s. But such historical work constituted only one strand of Thompson’s career. No less important were his roles as an activist, polemicist, and writer—though in practice his abundant, restless talents could never be neatly divided or pigeonholed in this way.”

Writers Tools Issues 

Investigative Project Management Tools

A Poynter  post that provides many helpful tools for writers and investigators: “Investigative reporting requires that you create a plan. Typically, it’s a series of four lists of things you need to do, along with an initial schedule. The lists will change — and often grow — and the schedule may change, but you need to start with a plan to keep yourself organized.” 

Recent Events

Southern Baptist White Supremacy Imbroglio

An Atlantic look at some of the longstanding social conflicts inherent in the Southern Baptist Church as they unfold at this time: “The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting turned chaotic in Phoenix this week over a resolution that condemned white supremacy and the alt-right. On Tuesday, leaders initially declined to consider the proposal submitted by a prominent black pastor in Texas, Dwight McKissic, and only changed course after a significant backlash. On Wednesday afternoon, the body passed a revised statement against the alt-right. But the drama over the resolution revealed deep tension lines within a denomination that was explicitly founded to support slavery.”

 General Past & Present Issues 

Math as Biowar Weapon

A Conversation article that examines the role that math and science have on the war against the ravages of disease: “Biological systems are often classified as “complex”. …This biocomplexity has often been mistaken for vitalism, the misconception that biological processes are dependent on a force or principle distinct from the laws of physics and chemistry. Consequently, it has been assumed that complex biological systems are not amenable to mathematical treatment. 

There were some early dissenters. Famous computer scientist and World War II code-breaker Alan Turing was one of the first to suggest that biological phenomena could be studied and understood mathematically. In 1952 he proposed a pair of beautiful mathematical equations which provide an explanation for how pigmentation patterns might form on animals’ coats.”

6.19.2017 Daily Links

 

  A Thought for the Day   

Just as one cannot control or even direct, and certainly will never be able to choose, even one’s closest family—parents and children, their manifestation in the world an obvious aggregate of one’s own and more or less random partners’ potentialities—so too might occasions occur when one can only estrange these intimate relatives from one’s inner circle and cast one’s lot with relative strangers whose proclivities, goals, and values more closely match what one imagines as both productive and sustainable, central and necessary, in one’s own evolving existence.

  Quote of the Day  
“I have been in many countries and I have found there people examining their own love of life, sense of peril, their own common sense.  The one thing they cannot understand is why that same love of life, sense of peril and above all common sense, is not invariably shared among their leaders and rulers.
Then let me use what I suppose is my last minute of worldwide attention to speak not as one of a nation but as one of mankind.  I use it to reach all men and women of power.  Go back.  Step back now.  Agreement between you does not need cleverness, elaboration, manoeuvres.  It needs common sense, and above all, a daring generosity.  Give, give, give!
It would succeed because it would meet with worldwide relief, acclaim and rejoicing: and unborn generations will bless your name.”  William Golding; Nobel Acceptance Speech, excerpt

 This Day in History

Today is World Sickle Cell Day and, in an entirely different vein, World Sauntering Day, as well as being, in the United States, ‘Juneteenth,’ celebrating the acknowledgement of slavery’s end in Texas, in 1865; in France seven hundred forty-eight years ago, a ninth King Louis ordered that any Jew who failed to wear a yellow identification badge would be liable to a ten livres fine, payable in silver; four hundred and thirty-one years prior to today, British colonists on Roanoke Island, trying to stave off complete annihilation, left their homes for parts unknown; one hundred and ninety-six years in advance of this moment in time, Ottoman forces temporarily consolidated their control of Hungarian regions by crushing the Filiki Eteria at Drågåsani; MORE HERE

    Doc of the Day    

1. William Golding, 1983.
2. David Thorburn, 1995.
3. Julian Assange, 1997.
4. Robert McChesney, 1998.
Numero Uno“Those of you who have some knowledge of your present speaker as revealed by the loftier-minded section of the British Press will be resigning yourselves to a half hour of unrelieved gloom.  Indeed, your first view of me, white bearded and ancient, may have turned that gloom into profound dark; dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, irrecoverably dark, total eclipse.  But the case is not as hard as that.  I am among the older of the Nobel Laureates and therefore might well be excused a touch of–let me whisper the word–frivolity.  Pray do not misunderstand me.  I have no dancing girls, alas.  I shall not sing to you or juggle or clown–or shall I juggle?  I wonder!  How can a man who has been defined as a pessimist indulge in anything as frivolous as juggling? MORE HERE

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SEARCHDAY
predation "political economy" taxes OR "rent extraction" "finance capital" contradictions capitalism crisis = 15,600 results
 

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Interesting People Places Things of Note

Hobsbawm Review Essay

A Jacobin article that highlights the work of a fascinating and impactful historian: “A founding member of the legendary British Communist Party Historians’ Group that fashioned “history from below,” Hobsbawm was a titanic figure among the twentieth-century intelligentsia. Prodigiously active as an intellectual, scholar, and, as he put it, “participant observer” in political life, he was, ironically, defined by the time of his death by what he did not do: he was the one who did not leave the Communist Party.

Writers Tools Issues 

Salvaging University Education

A Public Books post that looks at the plight and possible solutions to the crisis in public university education: “It should be worrisome that university bosses and their viziers are applying lessons an idiot could glean from a 1980s movie about the auto industry. Not because it’s unoriginal, but because it is not at all clear that it works. A public university does not sell cars, or phones, or frozen pizzas. Teaching and learning, like performing a string quartet or doing detective work, require real-time virtuosity. They resist automation in this regard, and moreover they offer no real commodity to cheapen. Despite what some mavens of the new economy might spout at a dinner party, the university does not make graduates, or degrees, or knowledge. At best, public universities prepare people to be better commodity-makers after graduation, just as top-tier private schools replicate class privilege. But the productivity fix won’t help make that process more cost-efficient.”

General Media & ‘Intellectual Property’ Issues

Creating Podcasting ‘Careers’

A Nieman Lab post that looks at ways that podcasting can still be a lucrative venture: “Which brings us to an interesting question: Just how much does S-Town’s success actually tell us about the opportunities of the space as a whole? Or is it just a story that only tells us about the strength of This American Life and Serial Productions?”

Recent Events

Continuing Renters Gougefest

A City Lab posting that looks at the current rental markets that never recovered: “Ten years out from the start of the Great Recession, the housing market in the U.S. has finally returned to normal. Home prices in 2016 eclipsed the pre-crisis highs from about a decade ago. The number of homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages continues to plummet. Homeowners are making back some (but not all) of the wealth they lost to the mortgage foreclosure crisis.

The nation may be free of one housing crisis, but it’s still deeply mired in another one. That’s one jarring conclusion from the State of the Nation’s Housing report for 2017. Produced by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the report highlights a rental affordability crisis that shows little sign of abating.”

 General Past & Present Issues 

Ian Welsh on Trump, Hope

Another thoughtful offering from Ian Welsh that contextualizes current reality in a useful way: “After the election of Donald Trump I had an interview with Jay Ackroyd, and he said that as long as he’d known me I’d been more pessimistic than others, but now I was optimistic, and what gives?

Simple, the trends had turned.

Sanders had happened and he had done better than any self-avowed socialist in America in my lifetime. He came very close to winning the nomination, despite the Democratic party fixing it against him.

Corbyn had already happened, in that he had won the leadership of the Labour party and then seen off a coup attept.”

The trends had changed.

6.19.2017 Doc of the Day

1. William Golding, 1983.
2. David Thorburn, 1995.
3. Julian Assange, 1997.
4. Robert McChesney, 1998.
fantasy book story tale myth
Numero Uno“Those of you who have some knowledge of your present speaker as revealed by the loftier-minded section of the British Press will be resigning yourselves to a half hour of unrelieved gloom.  Indeed, your first view of me, white bearded and ancient, may have turned that gloom into profound dark; dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, irrecoverably dark, total eclipse.  But the case is not as hard as that.  I am among the older of the Nobel Laureates and therefore might well be excused a touch of–let me whisper the word–frivolity.  Pray do not misunderstand me.  I have no dancing girls, alas.  I shall not sing to you or juggle or clown–or shall I juggle?  I wonder!  How can a man who has been defined as a pessimist indulge in anything as frivolous as juggling?

You see it is hard enough at any age to address so learned a gathering as this.  The very thought induces a certain solemnity.  Then again, what about the dignity of age?  There is, they say, no fool like an old fool.

Well, there is no fool like a middle-aged fool either.  Twenty-five years ago I accepted the label ‘pessimist’ thoughtlessly without realising that it was going to be tied to my tail, as it were, in something the way that, to take an example from another art, Rachmaninoff’s famous Prelude in C sharp minor was tied to him.  No audience would allow him off the concert platform until he played it.  Similarly critics have dug into my books until they could come up with something that looked hopeless.  I can’t think why.  I don’t feel hopeless myself.  Indeed I tried to reverse the process by explaining myself.  Under some critical interrogation I named myself a universal pessimist but a cosmic optimist.  I should have thought that anyone with an ear for language would understand that I was allowing more connotation than denotation to the word ‘cosmic’ though in derivation universal and cosmic mean the same thing.  I meant, of course, that when I consider a universe which the scientist constructs by a set of rules which stipulate that this construct must be repeatable and identical, then I am a pessimist and bow down before the great god Entropy.  I am optimistic when I consider the spiritual dimension which the scientist’s discipline forces him to ignore.  So worldwide is the fame of the Nobel Prize that people have taken to quoting from my works and I do not see why I should not join in this fashionable pastime.  Twenty years ago I tried to put the difference between the two kinds of experience in the mind of one of my characters, and made a mess of it.  He was in prison.

‘All day long the trains run on rails.  Eclipses are predictable.   Penicillin cures pneumonia and the atom splits to order.  All day long year in year out the daylight explanation drives back the mystery and reveals a reality usable, understandable and detached.  The scalpel and the microscope fail.  The oscilloscope moves closer to behaviour.

But then, all day long action is weighed in the balance and found not opportune nor fortunate nor ill-advised but good or evil.  For this mode which we call the spirit breathes through the universe and does not touch it: touches only the dark things held prisoner, incommunicado, touches, judges, sentences and passes on.  Both worlds are real.  There is no bridge.’

What amuses me is the thought that of course there is a bridge and that if anything it has been thrust out from the side which least expected it, and thrust out since those words were written. For we know now, that the universe had a beginning. (Indeed, as an aside I might say we always did know. I offer you a simple proof and forbid you to examine it. If there was no beginning then infinite time has already passed and we could never have got to the moment where we are.) We also know or it is at least scientifically respectable to postulate that at the centre of a black hole the laws of nature no longer apply. Since most scientists are just a bit religious and most religious are seldom wholly unscientific we find humanity in a comical position. His scientific intellect believes in the possibility of miracles inside a black hole while his religious intellect believes in them outside it. Both, in fact, now believe in miracles, credimus quia absurdum est. Glory be to God in the highest. You will get no reductive pessimism from me.

A greater danger facing you is that an ancient schoolmaster may be carried away and forget he is not addressing a class of pupils. A man in his seventies may be tempted to think he has seen it all and knows it all. He may think that mere length of years is a guarantee of wisdom and a permit for the issuing of admonition and advice. Poor young Shakespeare and Beethoven, he thinks, dead in their youth at a mere fifty-two or three! What could young fellows such as that know about anything? But at midnight perhaps, when the clock strikes and another year has passed he may occasionally brood on the disadvantages of age rather than the advantages. He may regard more thoughtfully a sentence which has been called the poetry of the fact, a sentence that one of those young fellows stumbled across accidentally, as it were, since he was never old enough to have worked the thing out through living. “Men,” he wrote, “must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither.” Such a consideration may modify the essential jollity of an old man’s nature. Is the old man right to be happy? Is there not something unbecoming in his cheerful view of his own end? The words of another English poet seem to rebuke him.

King David and King Solomon
Led merry, merry lives,
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives;
But when old age crept over them,
With many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.

Powerful stuff that, there’s no doubt about it. But there are two views of the matter; and since I have quoted to you some of my prose which are generally regarded as poetic I will not quote to you some of my Goon or McGonagall poetry which may well be regarded as prosaic.

Sophocles the eminent Athenian
Gave as his final opinion
That death of love in the breast
Was like escape from a wild beast.
What better word could you get?
He was eighty when he said that.
But Ninon de L’Enclos
When asked the same question said, no
She was uncommonly matey
At eighty.

Evidently age need not wither us nor custom stale our infinite variety. Let us be, for a while, not serious but considerate. I myself face another danger. I do not speak in a small tribal language as it might be one of the six hundred languages of Nigeria. Of course the value of any language is incalculable. Your Laureate of 1979, the Greek poet Elytis, made quite clear that the relative value of works of literature is not to be decided by counting heads. It is, I think, the greatest tribute one can pay your committees that they have consistently sought for value in a work without heeding how many people can or cannot read it. The young John Keats spoke of Greek poets who “died content on pleasant sward, leaving great verse unto a little clan”. Indeed and indeed, small can be beautiful. To quote yet another poet – prose writer though I am you will have begun to realise where my heart is – Ben Jonson said:

“It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be,
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald and sere:
A lily of a day,
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures, life may perfect be.”

My own language, English, I believe to have a store of poets, of writers that need not fear comparison with those of any other language, ancient or modern. But today that language may suffer from too wide a use rather than too narrow a one – may be an oak rather than a lily. It spreads right round the world as the medium of advertisement, navigation, science, negotiation, conference. A hundred political parties have it daily in their mouths. Perhaps a language subjected to such strains as that may become, here and there, just a little thin. In English a man may think he is addressing a small, distinguished audience, or his family or his friends, perhaps; he is brooding aloud or talking in his sleep. Later he finds that without meaning to he has been addressing a large segment of the world. That is a daunting thought. It is true that this year, surrounded and outnumbered as I am by American laureates, I take a quiet pleasure in the consideration that though variants of my mother tongue may be spoken by a greater number of people than are to be found in an island off the West coast of Europe nevertheless they are speaking dialects of what is still centrally English. Personally I cannot tell whether those many dialects are being rendered mutually incomprehensible by distance faster than they are being unified by television and satellites; but at the moment the English writer faces immediate comprehension or partial comprehension by a good part of a billion people. His critics are limited in number only by the number of the people who can read his work. Nor can he escape from knowing the worst. No matter how obscure the publication that has disembowelled him, some kind correspondent – let us call him “X” – will send the article along together with an indignant assurance that he, “X”, does not agree with a word of it. I think apprehensively of the mark I present, once A Moving Target but now, surely a fixed one, before the serried ranks of those who can shoot at me if they choose. Even my most famous and distinguished fellow laureate and fellow countryman, Winston Churchill, did not escape. A critic remarked with acid wit of his getting the award, “Was it for his poetry or his prose?” Indeed it was considerations such as these which have given me, I suppose, more difficulty in conceiving, let alone writing this lecture than any piece of comparable length since those distant days when I wrote set essays on set subjects at school. The only difference I can find is that today I write at a larger desk and the marks I shall get for my performance will be more widely reported.

Now when, you may say, is the man going to say something about the subject which is alleged to be his own? He should be talking about the novel! Well, I will for a while, but only for a while, and as it were, tangentially. The truth is that though each of the subjects for which the prizes are awarded has its own and unique importance, none can exist wholly to itself. Even the novel, if it climbs into an ivory tower, will find no audience except those with ivory towers of their own. I used to think that the outlook for the novel was poor. Let me quote myself again. I speak of boys growing up – not exceptional boy, but average boy.

“Boys do not evaluate a book. They divide books into categories. There are sexy books, war books, westerns, travel books, science fiction. A boy will accept anything from a section he knows rather than risk another sort. He has to have the label on the bottle to know it is the mixture as before. You must put his detective story in a green paperback or he may suffer the hardship of reading a book in which nobody is murdered at all; – I am thinking of the plodders, the amiable majority of us, not particularly intelligent or gifted; well-disposed, but left high and dry among a mass of undigested facts with their scraps of saleable technology. What chance has literature of competing with the defined categories of entertainment which are laid on for them at every hour of the day? I do not see how literature is to be for them anything but simple, repetitive and a stop-gap for when there are no westerns on the telly. They will have a far less brutish life than their Nineteenth-Century ancestors, no doubt. They will believe less and fear less. But just as bad money drives out good, so inferior culture drives out superior. With any capacity to make value judgements vitiated or undeveloped, what mass future is there, then, for poetry, for belles-lettres, for real fearlessness in the theatre, for the novel which tries to look at life anew – in a word, for intransigence?”

I wrote that some twenty years ago I believe and the process as far as the novel is concerned has developed but not improved. The categories are more and more defined. Competition from other media is fiercer still. Well, after all the novel has no build – it claims on immortality.

“Story” of course is a different matter. We like to hear of succession of events and as an inspection of our press will demonstrate have only a marginal interest in whether the succession of events is minutely true or not. Like the late Mr. Sam Goldwyn who wanted a story which began with an earthquake and worked up to a climax, we like a good lead in but have most pleasure in a succession of events with a satisfactory end-point. Most simply and directly – when children holler and yell because of some infant tragedy or tedium, at once when we take them on our knee and begin shouting if necessary – “once upon a time” they fall silent and attentive. Story will always be with us. But story in a physical book, in a sentence what the West means by “a novel” – what of that? Certainly, if the form fails let it go. We have enough complications in life, in art, in literature without preserving dead forms fossilised, without cluttering ourselves with Byzantine sterilities. Yes, in that case, let the novel go. But what goes with it? Surely something of profound importance to the human spirit! A novel ensures that we can look before and after, take action at whatever pace we choose, read again and again, skip and go back. The story in a book is humble and serviceable, available, friendly, is not switched on and off but taken up and put down, lasts a lifetime.

Put simply the novel stands between us and the hardening concept of statistical man. There is no other medium in which we can live for so long and so intimately with a character. That is the service a novel renders. It performs no less an act than the rescue and the preservation of the individuality and dignity of the single being, be it man, woman or child. No other art, I claim, can so thread in and out of a single mind and body, so live another life. It does ensure that at the very least a human being shall be seen to be more than just one billionth of one billion.

I spoke of the ivory tower and the unique importance of each of our studies. Now I must add, having said my bit about the novel – that those studies converge, literature with the rest. Put bluntly, we face two problems – either we blow ourselves off the face of the earth or we degrade the fertility of the earth bit by bit until we have ruined it. Does it take a writer of fiction to bring you the cold comfort of pointing out that the problems are mutually exclusive? The one problem, the instant catastrophe, is not to be dealt with here. It would be irresponsible of me to turn this platform into a stage for acting out some antiatomic harangue and equally irresponsible at this juncture in history for me to ignore our perils. You know them as well as I do. As so often, when the unspeakable is to be spoken, the unthinkable thought, it is Shakespeare we must turn to; and I can only quote Hamlet with the skull:

“Not one now, to mock your own grinning? Quite chop-fallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.”

I am being rather unfair to the lady, perhaps, for there will be skulls of all shapes and sizes and sexes. I speak tangentially. No other quotation gives the dirt of it all, another kind of poetry of the fact. I must say something of this danger and I have said it for I could do no less. Now as far as this matter is concerned, I have done.

The other danger is more difficult to combat. To quote another laureate, our race may end not with a bang but a whimper. It must be nearer seventy years ago than sixty that I first discovered and engaged myself to a magic place. This was on the west coast of our country. It was on the seashore among rocks. I early became acquainted with the wonderful interplay of earth and moon and sun, enjoying them at the same time as I was assured that scientifically you could not have action influenced at a distance. There was a particular phase of the moon at which the tide sank more than usually far down and revealed to me a small recess which I remember as a cavern. There was plenty of life of one sort or another round all the rocks and in the pools among them. But this pool, farthest down and revealed, it seemed, by an influence from the sky only once or twice during the times when I had the holiday privilege of living near it – this last recess before the even more mysterious deep sea had strange inhabitants which I had found nowhere else. I can now remember and even feel but alas not describe the peculiar engagement, excitement and, no, not sympathy or empathy, but passionate recognition of a living thing in all its secrecy and strangeness. It was or rather they were real as I was. It was as if the centre of our universe was there for my eyes to reach at like hands, to seize on by sight. Only a hand’s breadth away in the last few inches of still water they flowered, grey, green and purple, palpably alive, a discovery, a meeting, more than an interest or pleasure. They were life, we together were delight itself; until the first ripples of returning water blurred and hid them. When the summer holidays were over and I went back again about as far from the sea as you can get in England I carried with me like a private treasure the memory of that cave – no, in some strange way I took the cave with me and its creatures that flowered so strangely. In nights of sleeplessness and fear of the supernatural I would work out the phase of the moon, returning in thought to the slither and clamber among the weeds of the rocks. There were times when, though I was far away, I found myself before the cavern watching the moon-dazzle as the water sank and was comforted somehow by the magical beauty of our common world.

I have been back, since. The recess – for now it seems no more than that – is still there, and at low water springs if you can bend down far enough you can still look inside. Nothing lives there any more. It is all very clean now, ironically so, clean sand, clean water, clean rock. Where the living creatures once clung they have worn two holes like the orbits of eyes, so that you might well sentimentalize yourself into the fancy that you are looking at a skull. No life.

Was it a natural process? Was it fuel oil? Was it sewage or chemicals more deadly that killed my childhood’s bit of magic and mystery? I cannot tell and it does not matter. What matters is that this is only one tiny example among millions of how we are impoverishing the only planet we have to live on.

Well now, what has literature to say to that? We have computers and satellites, we have ingenuities of craft that can land a complex machine on a distant planet and get reports back. And so on. You know it all as well and better than I. Literature has words only, surely a tool as primitive as the flint axe or even the soft copper chisel with which man first carved his own likeness in stone. That tool makes a poor showing one would think among the products of the silicon chip. But remember Churchill. For despite the cynical critic, he got the Nobel Prize neither for poetry nor prose. He got it for about a single page of simple sentences which are neither poetry nor prose but for what, I repeat, has been called finely the poetry of the fact. He got it for those passionate utterances which were the very stuff of human courage and defiance. Those of us who lived through those times know that Churchill’s poetry of the fact changed history.

Perhaps then the soft copper chisel is not so poor a tool after all. Words may, through the devotion, the skill, the passion, and the luck of writers prove to be the most powerful thing in the world. They may move men to speak to each other because some of those words somewhere express not just what the writer is thinking but what a huge segment of the world is thinking. They may allow man to speak to man, the man in the street to speak to his fellow until a ripple becomes a tide running through every nation – of commonsense, of simple healthy caution, a tide that rulers and negotiators cannot ignore so that nation does truly speak unto nation. Then there is hope that we may learn to be temperate, provident, taking no more from nature’s treasury than is our due. It may be by books, stories, poetry, lectures we who have the ear of mankind can move man a little nearer the perilous safety of a warless and provident world. It cannot be done by the mechanical constructs of overt propaganda. I cannot do it myself, cannot now create stories which would help to make man aware of what he is doing; but there are others who can, many others. There always have been. We need more humanity, more care, more love. There are those who expect a political system to produce that; and others who expect the love to produce the system. My own faith is that the truth of the future lies between the two and we shall behave humanly and a bit humanely, stumbling along, haphazardly generous and gallant, foolishly and meanly wise until the rape of our planet is seen to be the preposterous folly that it is.

For we are a marvel of creation.  I think in particular of one of the most extraordinary women, dead now these five hundred years, Juliana of Norwich.  She was caught up in the spirit and shown a thing that might lie in the palm of her hand and in the bigness of a nut.  She was told it was the world.  She was told of the strange and wonderful and awful things that would happen there.  At the last, a voice told her that all things should be well and all manner of things should be well and all things should be very well.

Now we, if not in the spirit, have been caught up to see our earth, our mother, Gaia Mater, set like a jewel in space.  We have no excuse now for supposing her riches inexhaustible nor the area we have to live on limitless because unbounded.  We are the children of that great blue white jewel.  Through our mother we are part of the solar system and part through that of the whole universe.  In the blazing poetry of the fact we are children of the stars.

I had better come down, I think.  Churchill, Juliana of Norwich, let alone Ben Jonson and Shakespeare – Lord, what company we keep!  Reputations grow and dwindle and the brightest of laurels fade.  That very practical man, Julius Caesar–whom I always think of for a reason you may guess at, as Field Marshal Lord Caesar–Julius Caesar is said to have worn a laurel wreath to conceal his baldness.  While it may be proper to praise the idea of a laureate the man himself may very well remember what his laurels will hide and that not only baldness.  In a sentence he must remember not to take himself with unbecoming seriousness.  Fortunately some spirit or other–I do not presume to put a name to it–ensured that I should remember my smallness in the scheme of things.  The very day after I learned that I was the laureate for literature for 1983 I drove into a country town and parked my car where I should not.  I only left the car for a few minutes but when I came back there was a ticket taped to the window.  A traffic warden, a lady of a minatory aspect, stood by the car.   She pointed to a notice on the wall.  ‘Can’t you read?’ she said.  Sheepishly I got into my car and drove very slowly round the corner.  There on the pavement I saw two county policemen.

I stopped opposite them and took my parking ticket out of its plastic envelope.  They crossed to me.  I asked if, as I had pressing business, I could go straight to the Town Hall and pay my fine on the spot.  ‘No, sir,’ said the senior policeman, ‘I’m afraid you can’t do that.’  He smiled the fond smile that such policemen reserve for those people who are clearly harmless if a bit silly.  He indicated a rectangle on the ticket that had the words ‘name and address of sender’ printed above it.  ‘You should write your name and address in that place,’ he said.  ‘You make out a cheque for ten pounds, making it payable to the Clerk to the Justices at this address written here.  Then you write the same address on the outside of the envelope, stick a sixteen penny stamp in the top right hand corner of the envelope, then post it.  And may we congratulate you on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.'”    William Golding, Nobel Literary Laureates Lecture: 1983.

U.S. vs. Julius & Ethel Rosenberg and Martin Sobell, 06/03/1945, Page 1/2

Numero Dos“More than 40 years after their execution, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg remain mythic figures — heroic martyrs to many on the Left; vicious ideologues who betrayed their country, their children, and their own humanity to many on the Right.Until now the Death House Letters of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg has been the primary source for all versions of the Rosenberg mythology.  Written from prison during the three years preceding their death, and first published in the month of their electrocution, these strange and fascinating texts occupy a unique place in the history of the Rosenberg case and in the larger history of American constructions of the Cold War.  They were excoriated at the time of their publication in now-notorious essays by Robert Warshow in the Partisan Review and by Leslie Fiedler in the inaugural issue of Encounter.

Our understanding of this debate and of the Rosenbergs themselves has now been transformed by the publication of The Rosenberg Letters: A Complete Edition of the Prison Correspondence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, edited by Michael Meeropol, the older of the two Rosenberg sons.  Containing an astonishing 568 letters, this new edition demonstrates that the anonymous editors of the Death House Letters did a terrible disservice to their clients.  Seeking to establish the Rosenbergs as popular heroes whose letters would be recognized as ‘world classics of democratic eloquence and inspiration — as the cover blurb of the second edition asserts — the edited versions obliterate nuance, distort sensible sentiments by eliminating their context, and reduce the Rosenbergs to relentless ideologues for whom all topics serve a political agenda.

The Rosenbergs were deeply committed Popular Front communists, and their political principles were an essential part of their character.  Moreover, they knew at an early point in their imprisonment that their letters might be published, and they understood also that every line they wrote to each other, their children, and their lawyer Emanuel Bloch would be closely read by prison authorities and the government.

The contradictions inherent in this situation — the letters are simultaneously personal communications, documents open to their jailers, and a public case for their innocence — are apparent even in the complete edition of their correspondence.  But the Death House Letters intensify these contradictions — through editorial carelessness, ruthless excision, principles of selection that are relentlessly political — making the Rosenbergs appear crudely manipulative and insincere, easy targets for the anti-communist polemics of Warshow and Fiedler.

Warshow’s attack consists primarily of a series of quotations from the Death House Letters, fragmentary selections of material already simplified, shortened, and fragmented. These quotations lead Warshow to speak of “the awkwardness and falsity of the Rosenbergs’ relations to culture, to sports, and to themselves.”6 Warshow’s most damaging argument — the point, really, on which his whole case for the mendacity of the Rosenbergs and their politics rests — centers on a letter from Julius to Ethel, written on July 4, 1951. His discussion of this passage confirms Andrew Ross’s notion that Warshow, like many other Cold War liberals, seized on the Rosenberg case as an occasion to demonstrate his own righteous anticommunism. Warshow writes:

[O]ne is forced to wonder whether the literal truth had not in some way ceased to exist for these people. It is now seventeen years since the Communists told the truth about themselves — the “popular front” was inaugurated during Julius Rosenberg’s student days at City College — and enough time has passed for the symbolic language of Communism to have taken on an independent existence. On July 4, 1951, Julius clipped a copy of the Declaration of Independence from the New York Times and taped it to the wall of his cell. “It is interesting,” he writes to Ethel, “to read these words concerning free speech, freedom of the press and of religion in this setting. These rights our country’s patriots died for can’t be taken from the people even by Congress or the courts.” Does it matter that the Declaration of Independence says nothing about free speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of religion, and that Julius therefore could not have found it “interesting” to read “these words” in that particular document? It does not matter. Julius knew that America is supposed to have freedom of expression and that the Declaration of Independence “stands for” America. Since, therefore, he already “knew” the Declaration, there was no need for him to actually read it in order to find it “interesting,” and it could not have occurred to him that he was being untruthful in implying that he had just been reading it when he had not. He could “see himself” reading it, so to speak, and this dramatic image became reality: he did not know that he had not read it.7

The arrogant ease with which Warshow dismisses the values of the Popular Front and speculates about Julius’s powers of self-deception is characteristic of the anticommunist rhetoric of the 1950s. The duplicity and hypocrisy of communists are so complete, the argument ran, that they are not in the usual sense human. “The implicit moral” of both Fiedler and Warshow’s essays, as Morris Dickstein has written, is that the Rosenbergs “were so empty, so crude, so bereft of style that there was nothing for the electric chair to kill.”8

But Warshow does make an apparently devastating point. Who but a blindly careless propagandist, indifferent to truth and contemptuous of the ordinary people for whom his sermon is intended, would claim to have read the Declaration, even to have attached it to the wall of his cell, only to confuse it with the Bill of Rights?

The new edition of the Rosenberg letters reveals that the propagandist who committed this howler is not Julius Rosenberg but the anonymous editor who prepared his letter for publication. Julius’s version is inelegant and verbose, but it does not mistake the Declaration of Independence for the Bill of Rights. A comparison of the “improved” version with Julius’s original demonstrates in small compass the immense latitude taken by the editors throughout the Death House Letters. First, the DHL version:

My Dearest Ethel,
Fortified by Ossining Manor’s delicious ice cream on this Independence Day, I’m making a celebration of this holiday for freedom. I clipped out a copy of the Declaration of Independence from the New York Times. It is interesting to read these words concerning free speech, freedom of the press and of religion in this setting. These rights our country’s patriots died for can’t be taken from the people even by Congress or the courts.

In RL, we find Julius’ actual words:

My Sweetest Precious Girl,
Fortified by Ossining Manors [sic] delicious ice cream on the occasion of Independence Day my thoughts naturally go to this memorable holiday of freedom in our country. I clipped out a copy of the Delaration [sic] of Independence that appeared in the New York Times. It should be read and studied especially the history surrounding it. The greatness of our country is the heritage of liberty derived from the sacred words of free speech, press and religion. These rights that the forefathers and patriots of our country have fought, bled and died for cannot even by Congress or the courts be taken away from the people.

Nearly every one of the 187 letters in Death House Letters has undergone similar corrective surgery, though this is perhaps the single most disastrous revision if one judges by its impact on the reputation of the Rosenbergs among American intellectuals. Warshow’s essay was widely influential, and his deconstruction of the July 4th letter was recognized as the linchpin of his argument. Here, for example, is Irving Howe, in a 1982 memoir, recalling the Fiedler and Warshow articles, which he describes as “perverse overkill”:

Warshow and Fiedler scored points: who, against the Rosenbergs could not? Julius had written his wife that he had hung the Declaration of Independence on his cell wall so as to “read these words concerning free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion,” whereupon Warshow tartly noted that the Declaration says not a word about any of these matters. Very well, the Rosenbergs were entrapped in Stalinist devices; but surely at the moment what counted much more was that, innocent or guilty, they were waiting to be killed. Was it not heartless to write in this spirit, even if the Rosenbergs were indeed the poor besotted dupes one took them for?9

Howe’s limited sympathy is creditable, I suppose. But, more fundamentally, the passage reflects the damaging afterlife of an arrogant editor’s careless revision.

Many of the Death House Letters were condensed even more radically than that of July 4, 1951. Words and phrases are routinely altered, long paragraphs are excised or reduced to a few sentences, and, as the example of the July 4th letter indicates, even salutatory endearments are censored by editorial commissars apparently reluctant to allow their heroic martyrs to lapse into sentimentality or idiosyncrasy. This last practice is revealing precisely because the intellectual or psychological stakes are so small. Ethel and Julius are rarely permitted to exceed their allotment of one endearment per letter. Here is a sampling chosen from dozens of similar repressions: “Darling” disappears from “My Most Precious Darling Ethel” (August 16, 1951), and “Sweetest” from “My Dearest Sweetest Wife” (August 23, 1951), Ethel’s “Dearest Darling” of February 29, 1952 becomes merely “Darling,” Julius’ playful “Hello Bunny” of October 5, 1952 dwindles to “Hello Dear.”

The impulse to minimize or suppress oddity or emotional display, simple playfulness or high spirits, even verbal or grammatical complexity is linked to the editors’ political motives. The sad irony, of course, is that in their ruling passion to place the political content of the letters in an unimpeded foreground the Rosenberg editors taint the residue of personal material that has escaped excision. Most of what might be called personal or non-political in the Death House Letters — discussions of their sons; remarks on books, songs, radio programs; exchanges about their shared passion for baseball or the sustenance they find in their Jewish heritage; even the couple’s professions of love and longing for one another — all this is so persistently subordinated to the political that it appears not merely secondary but insincere, a set of transparent stratagems aimed at gaining the reader’s sympathy. More ironic still, even the Rosenbergs’ defining political values lose much of their force and credibility — become mere dogmatic abstractions — when they are severed from their human context, from their role in the moral lives of particular individuals.

Here is a representative instance of this pervasive tendency of the Death House Letters to simplify, purify, and thus dehumanize its protagonists — a letter from Ethel to her husband, written on October 4, 1951. First, the unedited version:

Dearest Sweetheart:
Since my last letter to the children in which I described the activities of the trash I have been observing I find it increasingly difficult to sort out my thoughts and feelings concerning them, and to communicate there with some degree of clarity to myself, let alone to attempt to establish an unbroken line of correspondence with them. There is a commingling of resistance and guilt which is most disconcerting indeed. Perhaps I need the stimulus of a visit from Manny [the Rosenberg lawyer, Emanuel Bloch] and from Dr. [Saul] Miller [her psychiatrist], bringing me news of them and the home situation generally to arouse me out of the stupor into which I seem to have sunk. I am most desirous of seeing one of them at least this week end.
My darling, I had never dreamed I could experience such intense hunger such bitter longing; I glow with aliveness the better to savor the ashes of death. [Yet?] can the acrid taste accomplish aught but a fanning of the flame, a fiercer burning, a renewed striving to triumph and to live.
Sweetheart, I find myself regretting that we were unable to “exchange” our individual visits with Lee [Julius’ sister Lena]. Neither of us got around to sharing information the other had received about the kids. For example did she recount for you a certain phone call during which Robby assured her he always gave Michael her regards “but what’s the use, he never pays any attention to what I say anyway!” She also mentioned that “Pop” [Ethel’s affectionate name for Alexander Bloch, Emanuel’s father] had urged her not to forget to tell Ethel that I [that is, “Pop”] am fast becoming acquainted with them and they are very bright children! Incidentally Robby, with that refreshing lack of inhibition common to our emotionally healthy normal child, complained to “POP” about the size of the Hershey bar he had brought him compared it in favorable (and out loud) [terms] to the kind his uncle Dave usually buys!
Oh, darling, what a wave of wanting washes over me for them and for you; it grows more and more difficult for me to put off my natural human desires, to warn myself of the searing destruction of our hopes that may yet be ours to contend with!
Only love me, my dear husband, only love me; I am your wife with all of myself!
Your loving Ethel

Here is the “improved” version, purged not only of its human detail and awkward, sometimes florid prose, but also of Ethel’s confusion and pain, her very identity as a mother and a wife:

Dearest Julie,
I had never dreamed I could experience such intense hunger and such bitter longing; I glow with aliveness the better to savor the ashes of death. No, what is true is that the threat of death only fans the flame in me more fiercely, creating a renewed striving to triumph and to live.
Oh, darling, what a wave of wanting washes over me for the children and for you; it grows more and more difficult to put off my natural maternal and human desires, to warn myself of the searing destruction of our hopes that yet may be ours.
Only love me, my dear husband, I am your wife.
Your loving Ethel

In their son’s edition of the letters, the Rosenbergs appear, perhaps for the first time, as credible human beings, neither monsters nor saints. They are not sources of wisdom, not elegant writers — although they achieve at times a genuine, unforced eloquence that is usually undermined by the editors of the Death House Letters. Their deep anguish over their children’s fate, their intense commitment to one another, their identity as Jews appear now as essential aspects of their character.

It did not take shrewd editing to make politics the defining moral force in the Rosenberg’s lives. They were unswerving communists — though the word they had to use instead is “progressives” — and their political and cultural values were shaped by the eclectic simplicities of Popular Front culture.10 Julius’s letters in particular are full of the unrigorous universalism, the vague mingling of religious, patriotic, and marxist categories embraced by communists and other Leftists nurtured in Popular Front circles. In a representative letter in March 1953, he asserts that “the lessons of the struggle for freedom of the Jewish people from bondage will continue to serve . . . as an example of the endless striving for newer and broader horizons by mankind in every sphere of human endeavor, physical, mental, social, political.” But however vulnerable such perspectives are as history and theory, they provide the moral basis for the Rosenbergs’ political commitment to the powerless, to racial minorities, to the union movement.

“Advocacy of better conditions, social improvements, civil liberties and world peace,” Julius asserts defiantly, “are in the best traditions of the forefathers of our country. It is not necessary to conform with the political hacks who are in the saddle to-day to be a real patriot.” In a similar vein Ethel speaks of the “peace and good will and security all decent humanity so bitterly craves,” of a common “responsibility to our fellow-beings in the daily struggles for the establishment of social justice. Jew and Gentile, black and white, all must stand together in their might, to win the right!” (The awkwardly rhyming final phrase is, characteristically, excised from the version of this sentence in the Death House Letters.) Far more effectively and movingly than the Death House Letters, the new collection serves as an archive of the political and cultural values embraced by many thousands of working class and lower middle class Leftists in the decades before and after World War II.

Those values include many specific items with which few would now quarrel — civil rights, economic justice, free speech, and the right of political dissent. What is troubling in the letters, especially those of Julius who clearly sees himself as theoretically and philosophically enlightened, is their unquestioning belief in the inevitable march of history, in “progress,” “social advancement,” the imminent triumph of the working class. This naive marxist teleology is the governing principle both of politics and of personal life for Julius. Through the agency of “the people” we are moving toward “peace and a better world;” “the fraternal solidarity of mankind” gives him strength to withstand his imprisonment. These terms operate in the letters as a kind of mantra; their repeated invocation is Julius’ form of prayer. Disturbing even to a sympathetic reader because they are so entirely unanalyzed, these professions of faith come to seem a routinized and desperate ritual as the couple’s numerous appeals for clemency fail.

“I am encouraged,” Julius writes in a letter to Ethel less than three months before their electrocution, “and feel strong in the unity that binds us with our brothers all over the world against the tyrants that want to destroy us. Since they have no faith in the people, they fail to understand the elementary historical truth and to recognize the strength of the people.” It would be cruel to mock Julius’ faith in this god that failed, but it would be intellectually irresponsible not to acknowledge its moral and historical blindness.

Yet whatever the limitations of Julius’ simplistic faith in progress and in the people, his interpretation of the case is remarkably exact and persuasive.   In several letters he notes the subtext of anti-semitism that stains public attitudes toward alleged communists; again and again he points to the link between the Korean War and the American government’s impulse to demonize communism; his detailed analyses of the trial record powerfully expose the weakness of the evidence against them and the surreal excess in Judge Kaufman’s rationale for the death penalty.  In letter after letter there is a poignant and terrible power of concentration and will in Julius’ outraged critique of every detail of the trial record and of the anticommunist propaganda and innuendo that saturated mainstream press accounts of their arrest and trial.

Ethel, in contrast, falls into near silence during the last nine months of their lives.  Though she writes occasionally to their lawyer and to the children, she writes nothing to Julius after October 3, 1952. (They were executed eight months later.)  Julius continues to write her two and three times a week, but Ethel never answers.  In her thoughtful biography of Ethel, Ilene Philipson sees this near silence as evidence of clinical depression.  The letters themselves are unreliable clues in this regard, of course, since all were composed at least partly as public documents.  But it is possible to see a change in Ethel’s writing.  During the first year or so of her imprisonment, Ethel’s letters are in part light-hearted, even witty, and some to Julius contain openly passionate expressions of sexual desire.  These personal elements subside over time, and she seems more and more to be addressing posterity, sometimes in tones that hint at suffering and even hysteria.  Here, too, one may say that Ethel was ill-served by her first editors; their changes have a marginally calming effect, but her excesses are surely more emotionally truthful and revealing.  In the following excerpt, from a letter to Emanuel Bloch on February 9, 1953, the italicized material does not appear in the Death House Letters:

So now my life is to be bargained off against my husband’s; I need only grasp the line chivalrously held out to me by the gallant defenders of hearth and home and leave him to drown without a backward glance.  How diabolical, how bestial, how utterly depraved!  Only fiends and perverts could taunt a fastidious woman with so despicable, so degrading a proposition!  A cold fury possesses me and I could retch with horror and revulsion, for these unctuous saviors, these odious swine, are actually proposing to erect a terrifying sepulchre in which I shall live without living and die without dying!

In her first letter from prison, written August 12, 1950, the day after her incarceration in the Women’s House of Detention in New York City, Ethel tells her husband, ‘Darling, we mustn’t lose each other or the children, mustn’t lose our identities.’  They did, of course, lose each other and the children.   But some part of who they really were, surviving the Cold War and the mythmaking of their friends and enemies, is available now in the words they wrote.”     David Thorburn, “The Rosenberg Letters;” Boston Review, 1995


Numero Tres“‘But, how do you *know* it happened like that?’ — Reader

Due of the seamless nature of `Underground‘ this is a reasonable question to ask, although hints can be found at the back of the book in the Bibliography and Endnotes.  The simple answer to this question is that we conducted over a hundred interviews and collected around 40,000 pages of primary documentation; telephone intercepts, data intercepts, log-files, witness statements, confessions, judgements.  Telephone dialog and on-line discussions are drawn directly from the latter.  Every significant hacking incident mentioned in this book has reams of primary documentation behind it.  System X included.

The non-simple answer goes more like this:

In chapter 4, Par, one of the principle subjects of this book, is being watched by the Secret Service.  He’s on the run.  He’s a wanted fugitive.  He’s hiding out with another hacker, Nibbler in a motel chalet, Black Mountain, North Carolina.  The Secret Service move in.  The incident is vital in explaining Par’s life on the run and the nature of his interaction with the Secret Service.  Yet, just before the final edits of this book were to go the publisher, all the pages relating to the Block Mountain incident were about to be pulled.  Why?

Suelette had flown to Tuscon Az where she spent three days interviewing Par. I had spent dozens of hours interviewing Par on the phone and on-line.  Par gave both of us extraordinary access to his life.  While Par displayed a high degree of paranoia about why events had unfolded in the manner they had, he was consistent, detailed and believable as to the events themselves.  He showed very little blurring of these two realities, but we needed to show none at all.

During Par’s time on the run, the international computer underground was a small and strongly connected place. We had already co-incidentally interviewed half a dozen hackers he had communicated with at various times during his zig-zag flight across America. Suelette also spoke at length to his lead lawyer Richard Rosen, who, after getting the all-clear from Par, was kind enough to send us a copy of the legal brief. We had logs of messages Par had written on underground BBS’s. We had data intercepts of other hackers in conversation with Par. We had obtained various Secret Service documents and propriety security reports relating to Par’s activities. I had extensively interviewed his Swiss girlfriend Theorem (who had also been involved with Electron and Pengo), and yes, she did have a melting French accent.

Altogether we had an enormous amount of material on Par’s activities, all of which was consistent with what Par had said during his interviews, but none of it, including Rosen’s file, contained any reference to Black Mountain, NC. Rosen, Theorem and others had heard about a SS raid on the run, yet when the story was traced back, it always led to one source. To Par.

Was Par having us on? Par had said that he had made a telephone call to Theorem in Switzerland from a phone booth outside the motel a day or two before the Secret Service raid. During a storm. Not just any storm. Hurricane Hugo. But archival news reports on Hugo discussed it hitting South Carolina, not North Carolina. And not Black Mountain. Theorem remembered Par calling once during a storm. But not Hugo. And she didn’t remember it in relation to the Black Mountain raid.

Par had destroyed most of his legal documents, in circumstances that become clear in the book, but of the hundreds of pages of documentary material we had obtained from other sources there was wasn’t a single mention of Black Mountain. The Black Mountain Motel didn’t seem to exist. Par said Nibbler had moved and couldn’t be located. Dozens of calls by Suelette to the Secret Service told us what we didn’t want to hear. The agents we thought most likely to have been involved in the the hypothetical Black Mountain incident had either left the Secret Service or were otherwise unreachable. The Secret Service had no idea who would have been involved, because while Par was still listed in the Secret Service central database, his profile, contained three significant annotations:

1. Another agency had “borrowed” parts Par’s file. 2. There were medical “issues” surrounding Par. 3. SS documents covering the time of Black Mountain incident had been destroyed for various reasons that become clear the book. 4. The remaining SS documents had been moved into “deep-storage” and would take two weeks to retrieve.

With only one week before our publisher’s “use it or lose it” dead-line, the chances of obtaining secondary confirmation of the Black Mountain events did not look promising.

While we waited for leads on the long trail of ex, transfered and seconded SS agents who might have been involved in the Black Mountain raid, I turned to resolving the two inconsistencies in Par’s story; Hurricane Hugo and the strange invisibility of the Black Mountain Motel.

Hurricane Hugo had wreathed a path of destruction, but like most most hurricanes heading directly into a continental land-mass it had started out big and ended up small. News reports followed this pattern, with a large amount of material on its initial impact, but little or nothing about subsequent events. Finally I obtained detailed time by velocity weather maps from the National Reconnaissance Office, which showed the remaining Hugo epicentre ripping through Charlotte NC (pop. 400k) before spending itself on the Carolinas. Database searches turned up a report by Natalie, D. & Ball, W, EIS Coordinator, North Carolina Emergency Management, `How North Carolina Managed Hurricane Hugo’ — which was used to flesh out the scenes in Chapter 4 describing Par’s escape to New York via the Charlotte Airport.

Old Fashioned gum-shoe leg-work, calling every motel in Black Mountain and the surrounding area, revealed that the Black Mountain Motel had changed name, ownership and.. all its staff. Par’s story was holding, but in someways I wished it hadn’t. We were back to square one in terms of gaining independent secondary confirmation.

Who else could have been involved?  There must have been a paper-trail outside of Washington.  Perhaps the SS representation in Charlotte had something?  No.  Perhaps there were records of the warrants in the Charlotte courts?  No.  Perhaps NC state police attended the SS raid in support?  Maybe, but finding walm bodies who had been directly involved proved proved futile.  If it was a SS case, they had no indexable records that they were willing to provide.  What about the local coppers?  An SS raid on a fugitive computer hacker holed up at one of the local motels was not the sort of event that would be likely to have passed unnoticed at the Black Mountain county police office, indexable records or not.

Neither however, were international telephone calls from strangely accented foreign-nationals wanting to know about them.  Perhaps the Reds were no-longer under the beds, but in Black Mountain, this could be explained away by the fact they were now hanging out in phone booths.  I waited for a new shift at the Black Mountain county police office, hoping against hope, that the officer I had spoken to wouldn’t contaminate his replacement.  Shamed, I resorted to using that most special of US militia infiltration devices.  An American accent and a woman’s touch.  Suelette weaved her magic.  The Black Mountain raid had taken place.  The county police had supported it.  We had our confirmation.

While this anecdote is a strong account, it’s also representative one.  Every chapter in underground has many tales just like it.  They’re unseen, because a book must not just be true in details, but true in feeling.

True to the visible and the invisible.  A difficult combination.”      Julian Assange, “Researcher’s Introduction;” Underground, 1997: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4686/pg4686-images.html.


Numero Cuatro“The American media system is spinning out of control in a hyper-commercialized frenzy.  Fewer than ten transnational media conglomerates dominate much of our media; fewer than two dozen account for the overwhelming majority of our newspapers, magazines, films, television, radio, and books.  With every aspect of our media culture now fair game for commercial exploitation, we can look forward to the full-scale commercialization of sports, arts, and education, the disappearance of notions of public service from public discourse, and the degeneration of journalism, political coverage, and children’s programming under commercial pressure.

For democrats, this concentration of media power and attendant commercialization of public discourse are a disaster.  An informed, participating citizenry depends on media that play a public service function.  As James Madison once put it, ‘A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.’  But these democratic functions lie beyond the reach of the current American media system.  If we are serious about democracy, then, we need to work aggressively for reform.

What kind of reform?  In broad terms, we need to reduce the current degree of media concentration, and, more immediately, blunt its effects on democracy.  More specifically, we need special incentives for nonprofits, broadcast regulation, public broadcasting, and antitrust.  I present these proposals as the start of a debate about media reform, not as ultimate solutions.  I am sure that spirited discussion will improve these ideas: my immediate concern is to get that discussion started.  I will not dwell here on the weaknesses of the current US media system, beyond summarizing arguments that I (and many others) have made elsewhere.  The point here is to begin answering the natural follow-up to such criticisms: ‘If the status quo is so bad, what do you propose that would be better?’

Media and Democracy

The case for media reform is based on two propositions. First, media perform essential political, social, economic, and cultural functions in modern democracies. In such societies, media are the principal source of political information and access to public debate, and the key to an informed, participating, self-governing citizenry. Democracy requires a media system that provides people with a wide range of opinion and analysis and debate on important issues, reflects the diversity of citizens, and promotes public accountability of the powers-that-be and the powers-that-want-to-be. In short, the media in a democracy must foster deliberation and diversity, and ensure accountability.

Second, media organization-patterns of ownership, management, regulation, and subsidy– i s a central determinant of media content. This proposition is familiar from discussions of media in China and the former Soviet Union. For those countries, the idea that the media could promote deliberation, diversity, and accountability, while being effectively owned and controlled by the Communist Party, was not even worth refuting. Similarly, we are not surprised to hear that when cronies of the Mexican government owned the country’s only TV station, television news coverage was especially favorable to the ruling party.

In the United States, in contrast, analysis of the implications of private ownership and advertising support for media content has been limited. For much of the second half of the twentieth century, Americans have heard that we have no reason to be concerned about corporate ownership of media or dependence on commercial advertising because market competition forces commercial media to “give the people what they want,” and journalistic professionalism protects the news from the biases of owners and advertisers as well as journalists themselves.

Such views now seem very dubious. Consider first the alleged benefits of competition. The main media markets– film, TV, magazines, music, books, cable, newspapers– are all oligopolies or semi-monopolies with severe barriers to new entrants. Moreover, media economics make it virtually impossible for a firm to be dominant in just one sector. Because of opportunities that come with having properties in different media markets, the largest media firms all have rushed to establish conglomerates over the past decade. Time Warner, for example, is one of the top five US or global leaders in film production, TV show production, cable TV channels, cable TV systems, movie theater ownership, book publishing, music, and magazine publishing. It also has amusement parks, retail stores, and professional sport teams. Disney, too, seems to have mastered the logic of conglomeration: its animated films Pocahantas and Hunchback of Notre Dame were only marginal successes at the box office, with roughly $100 million in gross US revenues, but both films will generate close to $500 million in profit for Disney, once it has exploited all other venues: TV shows on its ABC network and cable channels, amusement park rides, comic books, CD-ROMs, CDs, and merchandising (through 600 Disney retail stores). Firms without these options simply cannot compete in this market, which is why animation is the province of only the largest media giants. This example is extreme, but it sharply underscores the fundamental principle.

These observations about conglomeration, however, barely begin to explain just how noncompetitive the media market is-if we take “competitive” in the economics textbook sense. Firms in specific markets do directly compete, at times ferociously. But these firms are also each other’s best customers, as when a film studio sells its product for presentation to a broadcast network’s cable channel. Moreover, to reduce risk and competition, the largest media firms have turned to “equity joint ventures” in the 1990s. Under such arrangements, media giants share the ownership of a specific media project: Fox Sports Net is jointly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and John Malone’s TCI; the Comedy Central cable channel is co-owned by Time Warner and Viacom. Murdoch explains the logic behind joint ventures as only he can: “We can join forces now, or we can kill each other and then join forces.” The nine largest American media firms have, on average, joint ventures with nearly six of the other eight giants. Murdoch’s News Corp. has at least one joint venture with every single one of them.

In such noncompetitive markets, the claim that media firms “give the people what they want” is unconvincing. The firms have enough market power to dictate the content that is most profitable for them. And the easy route to profit comes from increasing commercialism-larger numbers of ads, greater say for advertisers over non-advertising content, programming that lends itself to merchandising, and all sorts of cross promotions with non-media firms. Consumers may not want such hyper-commercialism, but they have little say in the matter. So we have a 50 percent increase in the number of commercials on network TV in the past decade; the development of commercially-saturated kids’ programming as arguably the fastest-growing and most profitable branch of the TV industry in the 1990s; becoming standard in motion pictures. The flip side of this commercialism is the decline of public service-of the notion that there is any purpose to our media except to make money for shareholders.

Under such conditions, journalistic norms can hardly be expected to stem the commercial tide. Contemporary commercial journalism is essentially a mix of crime stories, celebrity profiles, consumer news pitched at the upper middle class, and warmed over press releases. Bookstores are filled with dispirited reports by former editors and journalists bemoaning the brave new world of corporate journalism. Journalist unions are very important in this regard, by protecting journalistic norms from the commercial interests of the owners. But without other measures to weaken corporate media power, unions are not likely to be able to resist pressures from the current media system.

For democrats, then, media competition and journalistic norms do not suffice for deliberation, diversity, and accountability. If media are central to the formation of a participating and informed citizenry, and if media organization influences media performance, then issues about ownership, regulation, and subsidy need to be matters of public debate. But such debate has been almost non-existent in the United States. Even in broadcasting, where the publicly owned airwaves are licensed to private users, the public has never had any meaningful participation in the formation of policy.

Consider the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The law it replaced, the Communications Act of 1934, regulated telephony, radio, and television. The 1996 Act provides the basis for determining the course of radio, television, telephony, the Internet-indeed virtually all aspects of communication as we shift over to digital technologies. Its guiding premise is that the market should rule communication, with government assistance. The politics of the Act consisted largely of powerful corporate communication firms and lobbies fighting behind the scenes to get the most favorable wording. That the corporate sector would control all communication was a given; the only fight was over which sectors and which firms would get the best deals. The public was for the most part unaware of these debates. The drafting and struggles over the Telecommunications Act of 1996 were hardly discussed in the news media, except in the business and trade press, where the legislation was covered as a story of importance to investors and managers, not citizens, or even consumers.

The results of the Telecommunications Act, with its relaxation of ownership restrictions to promote competition across sectors, have been little short of disastrous. Rather then produce competition, a far-fetched notion in view of the concentrated nature of these markets, the law has paved the way for the greatest period of corporate concentration in US media and communication history. The seven Baby Bells are now four-if the SBC Communications purchase of Ameritech goes through-with more deals on the way. In radio, where ownership restrictions were relaxed the most, the entire industry has been in upheaval, with 4,000 of the 11,000 commercial stations being sold since 1996. In the 50 largest markets, three firms now control access to over half the radio audience. In 23 of those 50 markets, the three largest firms control 80 percent of the radio audience. The irony is that radio, which is relatively inexpensive and thus ideally suited to local independent control, has become perhaps the most concentrated and centralized medium in the United States.

No doubt the United States needed a new communications law. Digital technologies are undermining the traditional distinctions between media and communication sectors that formed the basis for earlier communication regulation. But the legislation we ended up with reflects the failed process that produced it.

False Starts

Because corporate control and the role of advertising are effectively off-limits to public discussion, reformers have faced limited options. Hence they have tended to press for mild reforms that do not threaten corporate and advertiser hegemony. And because these mild reforms generate little enthusiasm from the broad public, media activists have put little effort into organizing popular support for their efforts. The result is an “inside-the-beltway,” low-political-stakes style of public interest lobbying. For example, in 1997 some media activists claimed victory when the Federal Communications Commission began requiring broadcasters to do three hours a week of educational programming for kids. The problem with this “victory” was that these educational programs would all remain commercially sponsored with ultimate control in the hands of business interests.

Other reformers have turned to “civic” or “public” journalism, a well- intentioned attempt to reduce the sensationalism and blatant political manipulation of mainstream journalism. Unfortunately, the movement completely ignores the structural factors of ownership and advertising that have led to the attack on journalism. Public journalism, not surprisingly, is averse to “ideological” approaches to the news, and therefore encourages a boringly “balanced” and soporific newsfare. Claiming to give readers news they think is important to their lives, advocates of public journalism may in fact be assisting in the process of converting journalism into the type of consumer news and information that delights the advertising community.

Still others have joined the media literacy movement. The idea here is to educate people to be skeptical and knowledgeable users of the media. Media literacy has considerable potential so long as it involves explaining how the media system actually works, and leads people to work for a better system. But a more conventional wing of the movement implicitly accepts that commercial media “give the people what they want.” So the media literacy crowd’s job is to train people to demand better fare. The resulting strategy may simply help to prop up the existing system. “Hey, don’t blame us for the lousy stuff we provide,” the corporate media giants will say. “We even bankrolled media literacy to train people to demand higher quality fare. The morons simply demanded more of what we are already doing.”

While media literacy has an important role to play in media reform, civic journalism has been at best a mixed blessing. Some observers credit civic journalism, which is widespread in North Carolina, with helping in Jesse Helms’s 1996 re-election. Why? Because civic journalism was ill-equipped to generate tough questions, or press politicians to answer them. So Helms got a cakewalk from the press, barely having to defend his record.

The evidence is clear: if we want a media system that produces fundamentally different results, we need solutions that address the causes of the problems; have to address issues of media ownership, management, regulation, and subsidy. Our goal should be to craft a media system that reduces the power of a handful of enormous corporations and advertisers to dominate the media culture. But no one will press for reform until we have some ideas worth debating. The ultimate trump card of the status quo is the claim that any change in our media system will invariably lead to darkness at noon. The purpose of the balance of this article is to establish that there are indeed several workable proposals for media reform that will expand, not contract, freedom and will energize our culture and democracy.

Media Reform Proposals

Building nonprofit and noncommercial media. The starting point for media reform is to build up a viable nonprofit, noncommercial media sector. Such a sector currently exists in the United States, and produces much of value, but it is woefully small and underfunded. It can be developed independent of changes in laws and regulations. For example, foundations and organized labor could and should contribute far more to the develop of nonprofit and noncommercial media. Labor, in particular, has to be willing to subsidize radio, television, Internet, and print media. Moreover, labor cannot seek to micromanage these media and have them serve as its PR agents. For independent media to flourish, they must have editorial integrity.

Sympathetic government policies could also help foster a nonprofit media sector, and media reform must work to this end. Government subsidies and policies have played a key role in establishing lucrative commercial media. Since the 19th century, for example, the United States has permitted publications to have quality, high speed mailing at relatively low rates. We could extend this principle to lower mailing costs for a wider range of nonprofit media, and/or for media that have little or no advertising. Likewise we could permit all sorts of tax deductions or write-offs for contributions to nonprofit media. Dean Baker of the Economic Policy Institute has developed a plan for permitting taxpayers to take up to $150 off their federal tax bill, if they donate the money to a nonprofit news medium. This would permit almost all Americans to contribute to nonprofit media-not just those with significant disposable incomes-and help create an alternative to the dominant Wall Street/Madison Avenue system.

Public Broadcasting. Establishing a strong nonprofit sector to complement the commercial giants is not enough. The costs of creating a more democratic media system simply are too high. Therefore, it is important to establish and maintain a noncommercial, nonprofit, public radio and television system. The system should include national networks, local stations, public access television, and independent community radio stations. Every community should also have a stratum of low-power television and micropower radio stations.

The United States has never experienced public broadcasting in the manner of Japan, Canada, and Western Europe. In contrast to the US, public broadcasting there has been well funded and commissioned to serve the entire population. In the United States, public broadcasting has always been underfunded, and effectively required to provide only programming that is not commercially viable. As a result, public broadcasters typically provide relatively unattractive programming to fringe audiences, hardly a strategy for institutional success. Moreover, Congress has been a watchdog to see that public broadcasting did not expand the range of ideological discourse beyond that provided by the commercial broadcasters. In sum, public broadcasting in the United States has been handcuffed since its inception. Still, it has developed a devoted following. This following has provided enough vocal political support to keep US public broadcasting from being effectively privatized, but most of this toothpaste is now out of the tube. Public radio and television are increasingly dependent upon corporate grants and “enhanced underwriting,” a euphemism for advertising. The federal subsidy only accounts for some 15 percent of public broadcasting revenues. Indeed, public broadcasting, by the standard international definition, no longer exists in the United States. Instead, we have nonprofit commercial broadcasting, closely linked to the corporate sector, with the constant threat of right-wing political harassment if public stations step out of line.

We need a system of real public broadcasting, with no advertising, that accepts no grants from corporations or private bodies, and that serves the entire population, not merely those who are disaffected from the dominant commercial system and have to contribute during pledge drives. Two hurdles stand in the way of such a system. The first is organizational: How can public broadcasting be structured to make the system accountable and prevent a bureaucracy impervious to popular tastes and wishes, but to give the public broadcasters enough institutional strength to prevent implicit and explicit attempts at censorship by political authorities? The second is fiscal: Where will the funds come from to pay for a viable public broadcasting service? At present, the federal government provides $260 million annually. The public system I envision-which would put per capita US spending in a league with, for example, Britain and Japan-may well cost $5-10 billion annually.

There is no one way to resolve the organizational problem, and perhaps an ideal solution can never be found. But there are better ways, as any comparative survey indicates. One key element in preventing bureaucratic ossification or government meddling will be to establish a pluralistic system, with national networks, local stations, community and public access stations, all controlled independently. In some cases direct election of officers by the public and also by public broadcasting employees may be appropriate, whereas in other cases appointment by elected political bodies may be preferable. As for funding, I have no qualms about drawing the funds for fully public radio and television from general revenues. There is an almost absurd obsession with generating funds for public broadcasting from everywhere but the general budget, on the bogus premise that public broadcasting cannot be justified as a public expense. In view of radio and television’s importance in our lives, it clearly deserves a smidgen of the money we use to build entirely unnecessary weapons systems. We subsidize education, but the government now subsidizes media only on behalf of owners. We should seek to have a stable source of funding, one that cannot be subject to manipulation by politicians with little direct interest in the integrity of the system.

A powerful public radio and television system could have a profound effect on our entire media culture. It could lead the way in providing the type of public service journalism that commercialism is now killing off. This might in turn give commercial journalists the impetus they need to pursue the hard stories they now avoid. It could have a similar effect upon our entertainment culture. A viable public TV system could support a legion of small independent filmmakers. It could do wonders for reducing the reliance of our political campaigns upon expensive commercial advertising. It is essential to ensuring the diversity and deliberation that lie at the heart of a democratic public sphere.

Regulation. A third main plank is to increase regulation of commercial broadcasting in the public interest. Media reformers have long been active in this arena, if only because the public ownership of the airwaves gives the public, through the FCC, a clear legal right to negotiate terms with the chosen few who get broadcast licenses. Still, even this form of media activism has been negligible, and broadcast regulation has been largely toothless, with the desires of powerful corporations and advertisers rarely challenged.

Experience in the United States and abroad indicates that if commercial broadcasters are not held to high public service standards, they will generate the easiest profits by resorting to the crassest commercialism, and will overwhelm the balance of the media culture. Moreover, standard-setting will not work if commercial broadcasters are permitted to “buy” their way out of public service obligations; the record shows that they will eventually find a way to reduce or eliminate these payments. Hence the most successful mixed system of commercial and public broadcasting in the world was found in Britain from the 1950s to the 1980s. It was successful because the commercial broadcasters were held to public service standards comparable to those employed by the BBC; some scholars even argue that the commercial system sometimes outperformed the BBC as a public service broadcaster. The British scheme worked because commercial broadcasters were threatened with loss of their licenses if they did not meet public service standards. (Regrettably, Thatcherism, with its mantra that the market can do no wrong, has undermined the integrity of the British broadcasting system.)

In three particular areas, broadcast regulation can be of great importance. First, advertising should be strictly regulated or even removed from all children’s programming (as in Sweden). We must stop the commercial carpetbombing of our children. Commercial broadcasters should be required to provide several hours per week of ad-free kids’ programming, to be produced by artists and educators, not Madison Avenue hotshots.

Second, television news should be taken away from the corporate chiefs and the advertisers and turned over to journalists. Exactly how to organize independent ad-free children’s and news programming on commercial television so that it is under the control of educators, artists, and journalists will require study and debate. But we should be able to set up something that is effective.

As for funding this public service programming, I subscribe to the principle that it should be subsidized by the beneficiaries of commercialized communication. This principle might be applied in several ways. We could charge commercial broadcasters rent on the electromagnetic spectrum they use to broadcast. Or we could charge them a tax whenever they sell the stations for a profit. In combination these mechanisms could generate well over a billion dollars annually. Or we could tax advertising. Some $200 billion will be spent to advertise in the United States in 1998, $120 billion of which will be in the media. A very small sales tax on this or even only on that portion that goes to radio and television could generate several billion dollars. It might also have the salutary effect of slowing down the commercial onslaught on American social life. And it does not seem like too much to ask of advertisers who are permitted otherwise to marinate most of the publicly owned spectrum in commercialism.

Third, political candidates should receive considerable free airtime on television during electoral campaigns. In addition, paid TV advertising by candidates should either be strictly regulated or banned outright, as the exorbitant cost of these ads (not to mention their lame content) has virtually destroyed the integrity of electoral democracy here. If they cannot be banned, or even reduced by regulation, then perhaps a provision should be made that if a candidate purchases a TV ad, his or her opponents will all be entitled to free ads of the same length on the same station immediately following the paid ad. This would prevent rich candidates from buying elections. I suspect it would pretty much eliminate the practice altogether.

Even in these pro-market times, the corporate media have been unable to rid the public of its notion that commercial broadcasters should be required to serve the public as well as shareholders and advertisers. Hence, when commercial broadcasters were able to force the FCC in 1997 to give them (at no cost) massive amounts of new spectrum so they could begin digital TV broadcasting, the Clinton administration established the Gore Commission to recommend public service requirements to be met by broadcasters in return for this gift. Following the contours of US media politics, the Gore Commission has been little short of a farce, with several industry members stonewalling all but the lamest proposals. But we can hope that the Gore Commission will generate some more serious public service proposals, and provide the basis for a public education campaign and subsequent legislation to give them the force of law.

Antitrust.. The fourth strategy for creating a more democratic media system is to break up the largest firms and establish more competitive markets, thus shifting some control from corporate suppliers to citizen consumers. By all accounts, the current antitrust statutes are not satisfactory, and if antitrust is ever to be applied to media it will require a new statute, similar in tone to the seminal Clayton and Sherman Acts, that lays out the general values to be enforced by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. The objective should be to break up such media conglomerates as Time Warner, News Corporation, and Disney, so that their book publishing, magazine publishing, TV show production, movie production, TV stations, TV networks, amusement parks, retail store chains, cable TV channels, cable TV systems, etc. all become independent firms. With reduced barriers-to-entry in these specific markets, new firms could enter.

The media giants claim that their market power and conglomeration make them more efficient and therefore able to provide a better product at lower prices to the consumer. There is not much evidence for these claims, though it is clear that market power and conglomeration make these firms vastly more profitable. Moreover, even if one accepts that antitrust would lead to a less efficient economic model, perhaps we should pay that price to establish a more open and competitive marketplace. In view of media’s importance for democratic politics and culture, they should not be judged by purely commercial criteria.

Antitrust is the wild card in the media reform platform. It has tremendous appeal across the population and is usually the first idea citizens suggest when they are confronted with the current media scene. But it is unclear whether antitrust legislation could be effectively implemented. And even if it does prove effective, the system would remain commercial, albeit more competitive. It would not, in other words, reduce the need for the first three proposals.

Not to Worry?

The fundamental flaws in our corporate-dominated, commercial media system are widely appreciated. Unfortunately, there is also a rush to assert that the Internet should silence our fears. Because the Internet is open to all at relatively low prices, the hegemony of media giants and advertisers will soon end, to be replaced by a wide-open, decentralized, diverse, fast-changing, and competitive media culture. Best of all, this result is implicit in the Internet’s digital network technology, and will not require government regulation. Indeed, the mainstream consensus-strongly endorsed by the Clinton administration’s Internet policy-is that government regulation alone could prevent the Internet from working its magic.

Though the Internet and digital communication in general are certainly creating a radical change in our media and communication systems, the results may not be a more competitive market or more democratic media. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that as the Internet becomes a commercial medium, the largest media firms are most likely to succeed. The media giants can plug digital programming from their other ventures into the Web at little extra cost. To generate an audience, they can promote their Web sites incessantly on their traditional media holdings. The leading media “brands” have been the first to charge subscription fees for their Web offerings; indeed, they may be the only firms for which this is even an alternative. The media giants can (and do) arrange to have their advertisers agree to advertise on their Web sites. The media giants can also use their market power and brand names to get premier position in Web browser software. The new Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 offers 250 highlighted channels, and the “plum positions” belong to Disney and Time Warner. Netscape and Pointcast are making similar arrangements. Moreover, approximately half the venture capital for Internet content start-up companies comes from established media firms; they want to be able to capitalize on profitable new applications as they emerge. In addition, the evidence suggests that in the commercialized Web, advertisers will have increased leverage over content because of the number of choices before them.

When these market considerations are taken together, it is difficult to imagine the growth of a competitive digital media marketplace in which small suppliers overwhelm corporate giants. Digital communication will cause considerable dislocation, but not a revolution. And in the end, the content of the digital communication world will appear quite similar to the content of the pre-digital world.

Ironically, the most striking feature of digital communication may well be not that it opened up competition in communication markets, but that it has promoted consolidation by undermining traditional distinctions between radio, television, telecommunication, and computer software. In the 1990s, almost all the media giants have entered into joint ventures or strategic alliances with the largest telecom and software firms. Time Warner is connected to several of the US regional (Bell) telephone giants, as well as to AT&T and Oracle. It has a major joint venture with US West. Disney, likewise, is connected to several major US telecommunication companies, as well as to America Online. News Corp. is partially owned by WorldCom (MCI) and has a joint venture with British Telecom. Microsoft, as one analyst noted, seems to be in bed with everyone. In due course the global media cartel may become something of a global communication cartel.

So how does the rise of the Internet alter my proposals for structural media reform? Very little. There are, of course, some specific policy reforms we should seek for the Internet: for example, guaranteeing universal public access at low rates, perhaps for free, and assuring links for nonprofit Web sites on the dominant browsers and commercial sites. But in general terms, we might do better to regard the Internet as the corporate media giants regard it: as part of the emerging media landscape, not its entirety. So when we create more and smaller media firms, when we create public and community radio and television networks and stations, when we create a strong public service component to commercial news and children’s programming, when we use government policies to spawn a nonprofit media sector, all these efforts will have a tremendous effect on the Internet’s development as a mass medium. Why? Because Web sites will not be worth much if they do not have the resources to provide a quality product. And all the new media that result from media reform will have Web sites as a mandatory aspect of their operations, much like the commercial media. By creating a vibrant and more democratic “traditional” media culture, we will go a long way toward doing the same with the Web.

Conclusion

Imagine a world in which scores, even hundreds, of media firms operate in markets competitive enough to permit new entrants. Imagine a world with large numbers of public, community, and public access radio and television stations and networks, with enough funding to produce high quality products. Imagine a world where the public airwaves provide compelling journalism, children’s programming, and political candidate information, with control vested in people dedicated to public service. Imagine a world where creative government fiscal policies enable small nonprofit and noncommercial media to sprout and prosper, providing some semblance of a democratic public sphere.

Though imaginable, this world seems wholly implausible-and not only because of the political muscle of the corporate media and communications lobbies. Over the past generation, “free market” neoliberals have understood the importance of media as an instrument of social control far better than anyone else. The leading conservative foundations have devoted considerable resources to reducing journalistic autonomy and ideological diversity and pushing media in a more explicitly pro-business direction. The pro-market political right understood that if big business dominated the main fora for political education and debate, then public scrutiny of business would be markedly reduced. These same “free market” foundations fight any public interest component to media laws and regulations, oppose any form of noncommercial and nonprofit media, and lead the battle to ensure that public broadcasting stays within narrow ideological boundaries. In short, we had a major political battle over media for the past generation, but only one side showed up. The results are clear, and appalling.

But now there are signs that the battle for the control of our media is about to be joined.  Organizations such as Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media watch group, have boomed in the 1990s, and local media watch/media activism groups have blossomed in Denver, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere since 1995.  In 1998 the Rainbow/PUSH coalition made media reform one of its two major organizing drives, holding regional conferences on the subject across the nation.  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus have agreed to draft and sponsor legislation in each of the areas mentioned earlier.  Organized labor, especially media unions, have shown increased interest in and support for the issue.  All of this would have been unthinkable only five years ago.  It follows the trend around the world in the late 1990s, where media reform has become an indispensable part of democratic political movements.  But we still have a long way to go.  Large sectors of the population that are disadvantaged by the media status quo and who should be among media reform’s strongest advocates-educators, librarians, parents, journalists, small businesses, laborers, artists, kids, political dissidents, progressive religious people, minorities, feminists, environmentalists-are scarcely aware that the issue even exists to be debated.  The corporate media lobby is so strong that victory seems farfetched in the current environment, especially when the corporate news media show little interest in publicizing the issue.

Winning major media reform, then, will require the sort of political strength that comes with a broader social movement to democratize our society.  We need to see that media reform is a staple of all progressive politics, not just a special interest cause.  And media reform may have broad political appeal.  Some ‘cultural conservatives’ may be open to calls to reduce the hyper-commercialism of our media culture.  And strongly pro-market democrats may recognize that media is an area where the crude application of market principles has produced disastrous ‘externalities.’  In sum, the train of media reform is leaving the station.  If we value democracy we have no choice but to climb aboard.”      Robert McChesney, “Making Media Democratic;” Boston Review, 1998.

6.19.2017 Day in History

Today is World Sickle Cell Day and, in an entirely different vein, World Sauntering Day, as well as being, in the United States, ‘Juneteenth,’ celebrating the acknowledgement of slavery’s end in Texas, in 1865; in France seven hundred forty-eight years ago, a ninth King Louis ordered that any Jew who failed to wear a yellow identification badge would be liable to a ten livres fine, payable in silver; four hundred and thirty-one years prior to today, British colonists on Roanoke Island, trying to stave off complete annihilation, left their homes for parts unknown; one hundred and ninety-six years in advance of this moment in time, Ottoman forces temporarily consolidated their control of Hungarian regions by crushing the Filiki Eteria at Drågåsani; four decades and one year subsequently, in 1862, the US. Congress officially outlawed slavery and overturned the Dred Scott decision; fourteen decades and two years back, Herzegovinians rose up against Ottoman rule in an initial rebellion that foretold the coming of World War One; one hundred and four  years before the here and now, South Africa’s White supremacist government passed legislation that laid a foundation for apartheid in the Native Land Act; one year past that juncture, in 1914, roughly seven thousand miles Northwest, a East Tennessee baby boy was born who would sing his way to legendary status as Earl Flatt;  half a decade closer to today, in 1919, a baby girl came along who would mature as the well-known critic and media analyst, Pauline Kael; fifteen years more along time’s arc, in 1934, the U.S. Congress further consolidated monopoly media control with the faux- populist Federal Communications Act; three years later, in 1937, Peter Pan’s creator, J.M. Barrie, made a final exit; eight more years down the road, in 1945, a male child entered our midst who would become the popular short-story writer and memoirist, Tobias Wolff; two more years further on, in 1947, another baby male entered the world as a Subcontinental Muslim, whose fate was to1988_Salman_Rushdie_The_Satanic_Verses become the popular, controversial, and critical composer of fiction and prose, Salman Rushdie; sixty-four years in advance of our present pass, the United States government killed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; twelve years further on, in 1965, in additional ‘Cold War’ barbarity, the United States installed a puppet regime in Vietnam, led by general Nguyen Cao Ky; thirty-nine years ago, in an embodiment of the ironic state of mind and thinking, the comic strip Garfield began publication, soon enough to become the most widely syndicated comic in history; four years henceforth, in 1982, bypassers on the Blackfriars Bridge found the body of Vatican Bank insider Roberto Calvi hanging from the end of a rope; eleven years more proximate to the present instant, in 1993, Nobel Prize winning author William Golding breathed his last; just a year shy of two decades after that conjunction, in 2012, Julian Assange sought and received asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy for protection from extradition for sexual assault charges that would lead to his indictment for starting WikiLeaksjust one year hence, in 2013, folk and country crooner Slim Whitman died. From Wikipedia Day in History

6.16.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Mary Shelley, 1818.
2. Abraham Lincoln, 1858.
3. Eugene Debs, 1918.
4. Daniel Little, 2008
 

Numero Uno—Letter 1

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17—

TO Mrs. Saville, England

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.  I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.

I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight.  Do you understand this feeling?  This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes.  Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid.  I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.  There, Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour.  There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe.  Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes.   What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?  I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever.   I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.  These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.  But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.

These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.  This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years.  I have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole.  You may remember that a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of our good Uncle Thomas’ library.   My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading.  These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.

These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven.  I also became a poet and for one year lived in a paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated.  You are well acquainted with my failure and how heavily I bore the disappointment.  But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.

Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second dignity in the vessel and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services. And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing.

This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach. The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs—a dress which I have already adopted, for there is a great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and Archangel. I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and when shall I return? Ah, dear sister, how can I answer this question? If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never. Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love and kindness.

Your affectionate brother,     R. Walton

Letter 2

Archangel, 28th March, 17—

To Mrs. Saville, England

How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow! Yet a second step is taken towards my enterprise. I have hired a vessel and am occupied in collecting my sailors; those whom I have already engaged appear to be men on whom I can depend and are certainly possessed of dauntless courage.

But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil, I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother! I am too ardent in execution and too impatient of difficulties. But it is a still greater evil to me that I am self-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild on a common and read nothing but our Uncle Thomas’ books of voyages. At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction that I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my native country. Now I am twenty-eight and am in reality more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen. It is true that I have thought more and that my daydreams are more extended and magnificent, but they want (as the painters call it) KEEPING; and I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic, and affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind. Well, these are useless complaints; I shall certainly find no friend on the wide ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen. Yet some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even in these rugged bosoms. My lieutenant, for instance, is a man of wonderful courage and enterprise; he is madly desirous of glory, or rather, to word my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in his profession. He is an Englishman, and in the midst of national and professional prejudices, unsoftened by cultivation, retains some of the noblest endowments of humanity. I first became acquainted with him on board a whale vessel; finding that he was unemployed in this city, I easily engaged him to assist in my enterprise. The master is a person of an excellent disposition and is remarkable in the ship for his gentleness and the mildness of his discipline. This circumstance, added to his well-known integrity and dauntless courage, made me very desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude, my best years spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage, has so refined the groundwork of my character that I cannot overcome an intense distaste to the usual brutality exercised on board ship: I have never believed it to be necessary, and when I heard of a mariner equally noted for his kindliness of heart and the respect and obedience paid to him by his crew, I felt myself peculiarly fortunate in being able to secure his services. I heard of him first in rather a romantic manner, from a lady who owes to him the happiness of her life. This, briefly, is his story. Some years ago he loved a young Russian lady of moderate fortune, and having amassed a considerable sum in prize-money, the father of the girl consented to the match. He saw his mistress once before the destined ceremony; but she was bathed in tears, and throwing herself at his feet, entreated him to spare her, confessing at the same time that she loved another, but that he was poor, and that her father would never consent to the union. My generous friend reassured the suppliant, and on being informed of the name of her lover, instantly abandoned his pursuit. He had already bought a farm with his money, on which he had designed to pass the remainder of his life; but he bestowed the whole on his rival, together with the remains of his prize-money to purchase stock, and then himself solicited the young woman’s father to consent to her marriage with her lover. But the old man decidedly refused, thinking himself bound in honour to my friend, who, when he found the father inexorable, quitted his country, nor returned until he heard that his former mistress was married according to her inclinations. “What a noble fellow!” you will exclaim. He is so; but then he is wholly uneducated: he is as silent as a Turk, and a kind of ignorant carelessness attends him, which, while it renders his conduct the more astonishing, detracts from the interest and sympathy which otherwise he would command.

Yet do not suppose, because I complain a little or because I can conceive a consolation for my toils which I may never know, that I am wavering in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate, and my voyage is only now delayed until the weather shall permit my embarkation. The winter has been dreadfully severe, but the spring promises well, and it is considered as a remarkably early season, so that perhaps I may sail sooner than I expected. I shall do nothing rashly: you know me sufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness whenever the safety of others is committed to my care.

I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow,” but I shall kill no albatross; therefore do not be alarmed for my safety or if I should come back to you as worn and woeful as the “Ancient Mariner.” You will smile at my allusion, but I will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious—painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and labour—but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore. But to return to dearer considerations. Shall I meet you again, after having traversed immense seas, and returned by the most southern cape of Africa or America? I dare not expect such success, yet I cannot bear to look on the reverse of the picture. Continue for the present to write to me by every opportunity: I may receive your letters on some occasions when I need them most to support my spirits. I love you very tenderly. Remember me with affection, should you never hear from me again.

Your affectionate brother, Robert Walton

Letter 3

July 7th, 17—

To Mrs. Saville, England

My dear Sister,

I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe—and well advanced on my voyage. This letter will reach England by a merchantman now on its homeward voyage from Archangel; more fortunate than I, who may not see my native land, perhaps, for many years. I am, however, in good spirits: my men are bold and apparently firm of purpose, nor do the floating sheets of ice that continually pass us, indicating the dangers of the region towards which we are advancing, appear to dismay them. We have already reached a very high latitude; but it is the height of summer, and although not so warm as in England, the southern gales, which blow us speedily towards those shores which I so ardently desire to attain, breathe a degree of renovating warmth which I had not expected.

No incidents have hitherto befallen us that would make a figure in a letter. One or two stiff gales and the springing of a leak are accidents which experienced navigators scarcely remember to record, and I shall be well content if nothing worse happen to us during our voyage.

Adieu, my dear Margaret. Be assured that for my own sake, as well as yours, I will not rashly encounter danger. I will be cool, persevering, and prudent.

But success SHALL crown my endeavours. Wherefore not? Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas, the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not still proceed over the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?

My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. But I must finish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!

R.W.

Letter 4

August 5th, 17—

To Mrs. Saville, England

So strange an accident has happened to us that I cannot forbear recording it, although it is very probable that you will see me before these papers can come into your possession.

Last Monday (July 31st) we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed in the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which she floated. Our situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we were compassed round by a very thick fog. We accordingly lay to, hoping that some change would take place in the atmosphere and weather.

About two o’clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld, stretched out in every direction, vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades groaned, and my own mind began to grow watchful with anxious thoughts, when a strange sight suddenly attracted our attention and diverted our solicitude from our own situation. We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the north, at the distance of half a mile; a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller with our telescopes until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice. This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed, many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in, however, by ice, it was impossible to follow his track, which we had observed with the greatest attention. About two hours after this occurrence we heard the ground sea, and before night the ice broke and freed our ship. We, however, lay to until the morning, fearing to encounter in the dark those large loose masses which float about after the breaking up of the ice. I profited of this time to rest for a few hours.

In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to someone in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a human being within it whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel. He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but a European. When I appeared on deck the master said, “Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to perish on the open sea.”

On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English, although with a foreign accent. “Before I come on board your vessel,” said he, “will you have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?”

You may conceive my astonishment on hearing such a question addressed to me from a man on the brink of destruction and to whom I should have supposed that my vessel would have been a resource which he would not have exchanged for the most precious wealth the earth can afford. I replied, however, that we were on a voyage of discovery towards the northern pole.

Upon hearing this he appeared satisfied and consented to come on board. Good God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated for his safety, your surprise would have been boundless. His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition. We attempted to carry him into the cabin, but as soon as he had quitted the fresh air he fainted. We accordingly brought him back to the deck and restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy and forcing him to swallow a small quantity. As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets and placed him near the chimney of the kitchen stove. By slow degrees he recovered and ate a little soup, which restored him wonderfully.

Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak, and I often feared that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding. When he had in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin and attended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness, but there are moments when, if anyone performs an act of kindness towards him or does him any the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.

When my guest was a little recovered I had great trouble to keep off the men, who wished to ask him a thousand questions; but I would not allow him to be tormented by their idle curiosity, in a state of body and mind whose restoration evidently depended upon entire repose. Once, however, the lieutenant asked why he had come so far upon the ice in so strange a vehicle.

His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom, and he replied, “To seek one who fled from me.”

“And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?”

“Yes.”

“Then I fancy we have seen him, for the day before we picked you up we saw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice.”

This aroused the stranger’s attention, and he asked a multitude of questions concerning the route which the demon, as he called him, had pursued. Soon after, when he was alone with me, he said, “I have, doubtless, excited your curiosity, as well as that of these good people; but you are too considerate to make inquiries.”

“Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman in me to trouble you with any inquisitiveness of mine.”

“And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation; you have benevolently restored me to life.”

Soon after this he inquired if I thought that the breaking up of the ice had destroyed the other sledge. I replied that I could not answer with any degree of certainty, for the ice had not broken until near midnight, and the traveller might have arrived at a place of safety before that time; but of this I could not judge. From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck to watch for the sledge which had before appeared; but I have persuaded him to remain in the cabin, for he is far too weak to sustain the rawness of the atmosphere. I have promised that someone should watch for him and give him instant notice if any new object should appear in sight.

Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence up to the present day. The stranger has gradually improved in health but is very silent and appears uneasy when anyone except myself enters his cabin. Yet his manners are so conciliating and gentle that the sailors are all interested in him, although they have had very little communication with him. For my own part, I begin to love him as a brother, and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion. He must have been a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable. I said in one of my letters, my dear Margaret, that I should find no friend on the wide ocean; yet I have found a man who, before his spirit had been broken by misery, I should have been happy to have possessed as the brother of my heart.

I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals, should I have any fresh incidents to record.

August 13th, 17—

My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noble a creature destroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence. He is now much recovered from his illness and is continually on the deck, apparently watching for the sledge that preceded his own. Yet, although unhappy, he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery but that he interests himself deeply in the projects of others. He has frequently conversed with me on mine, which I have communicated to him without disguise. He entered attentively into all my arguments in favour of my eventual success and into every minute detail of the measures I had taken to secure it. I was easily led by the sympathy which he evinced to use the language of my heart, to give utterance to the burning ardour of my soul and to say, with all the fervour that warmed me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race. As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over my listener’s countenance. At first I perceived that he tried to suppress his emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes, and my voice quivered and failed me as I beheld tears trickle fast from between his fingers; a groan burst from his heaving breast. I paused; at length he spoke, in broken accents: “Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!”

Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity; but the paroxysm of grief that had seized the stranger overcame his weakened powers, and many hours of repose and tranquil conversation were necessary to restore his composure. Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared to despise himself for being the slave of passion; and quelling the dark tyranny of despair, he led me again to converse concerning myself personally. He asked me the history of my earlier years. The tale was quickly told, but it awakened various trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire of finding a friend, of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot, and expressed my conviction that a man could boast of little happiness who did not enjoy this blessing. “I agree with you,” replied the stranger; “we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves—such a friend ought to be—do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty natures. I once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore, to judge respecting friendship. You have hope, and the world before you, and have no cause for despair. But I—I have lost everything and cannot begin life anew.”

As he said this his countenance became expressive of a calm, settled grief that touched me to the heart. But he was silent and presently retired to his cabin.

Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments, yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.

Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divine wanderer? You would not if you saw him. You have been tutored and refined by books and retirement from the world, and you are therefore somewhat fastidious; but this only renders you the more fit to appreciate the extraordinary merits of this wonderful man. Sometimes I have endeavoured to discover what quality it is which he possesses that elevates him so immeasurably above any other person I ever knew. I believe it to be an intuitive discernment, a quick but never-failing power of judgment, a penetration into the causes of things, unequalled for clearness and precision; add to this a facility of expression and a voice whose varied intonations are soul-subduing music.

August 19, 17—

Yesterday the stranger said to me, “You may easily perceive, Captain Walton, that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes. I had determined at one time that the memory of these evils should die with me, but you have won me to alter my determination. You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been. I do not know that the relation of my disasters will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale, one that may direct you if you succeed in your undertaking and console you in case of failure. Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemed marvellous. Were we among the tamer scenes of nature I might fear to encounter your unbelief, perhaps your ridicule; but many things will appear possible in these wild and mysterious regions which would provoke the laughter of those unacquainted with the ever-varied powers of nature; nor can I doubt but that my tale conveys in its series internal evidence of the truth of the events of which it is composed.”

You may easily imagine that I was much gratified by the offered communication, yet I could not endure that he should renew his grief by a recital of his misfortunes. I felt the greatest eagerness to hear the promised narrative, partly from curiosity and partly from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate if it were in my power. I expressed these feelings in my answer.

“I thank you,” he replied, “for your sympathy, but it is useless; my fate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I shall repose in peace. I understand your feeling,” continued he, perceiving that I wished to interrupt him; “but you are mistaken, my friend, if thus you will allow me to name you; nothing can alter my destiny; listen to my history, and you will perceive how irrevocably it is determined.”

He then told me that he would commence his narrative the next day when I should be at leisure. This promise drew from me the warmest thanks. I have resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied by my duties, to record, as nearly as possible in his own words, what he has related during the day. If I should be engaged, I will at least make notes. This manuscript will doubtless afford you the greatest pleasure; but to me, who know him, and who hear it from his own lips—with what interest and sympathy shall I read it in some future day! Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within.

Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it—thus!

Chapter 1

I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics, and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation. He was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the affairs of his country; a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family.

As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character, I cannot refrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was a merchant who, from a flourishing state, fell, through numerous mischances, into poverty. This man, whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country where he had formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner, he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. My father loved Beaufort with the truest friendship and was deeply grieved by his retreat in these unfortunate circumstances. He bitterly deplored the false pride which led his friend to a conduct so little worthy of the affection that united them. He lost no time in endeavouring to seek him out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the world again through his credit and assistance.

Beaufort had taken effectual measures to conceal himself, and it was ten months before my father discovered his abode. Overjoyed at this discovery, he hastened to the house, which was situated in a mean street near the Reuss. But when he entered, misery and despair alone welcomed him. Beaufort had saved but a very small sum of money from the wreck of his fortunes, but it was sufficient to provide him with sustenance for some months, and in the meantime he hoped to procure some respectable employment in a merchant’s house. The interval was, consequently, spent in inaction; his grief only became more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection, and at length it took so fast hold of his mind that at the end of three months he lay on a bed of sickness, incapable of any exertion.

His daughter attended him with the greatest tenderness, but she saw with despair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing and that there was no other prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufort possessed a mind of an uncommon mould, and her courage rose to support her in her adversity. She procured plain work; she plaited straw and by various means contrived to earn a pittance scarcely sufficient to support life.

Several months passed in this manner. Her father grew worse; her time was more entirely occupied in attending him; her means of subsistence decreased; and in the tenth month her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a beggar. This last blow overcame her, and she knelt by Beaufort’s coffin weeping bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care; and after the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva and placed her under the protection of a relation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife.

There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents, but this circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection. There was a sense of justice in my father’s upright mind which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love strongly. Perhaps during former years he had suffered from the late-discovered unworthiness of one beloved and so was disposed to set a greater value on tried worth. There was a show of gratitude and worship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from the doting fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to his behaviour to her. Everything was made to yield to her wishes and her convenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, and even the tranquillity of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through. During the two years that had elapsed previous to their marriage my father had gradually relinquished all his public functions; and immediately after their union they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, and the change of scene and interest attendant on a tour through that land of wonders, as a restorative for her weakened frame.

From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mother’s tender caresses and my father’s smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something better—their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me. For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desired to have a daughter, but I continued their single offspring. When I was about five years old, while making an excursion beyond the frontiers of Italy, they passed a week on the shores of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother, was more than a duty; it was a necessity, a passion—remembering what she had suffered, and how she had been relieved—for her to act in her turn the guardian angel to the afflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a vale attracted their notice as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of half-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape. One day, when my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanied by me, visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working, bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a different stock. The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little vagrants; this child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness that none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features. The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder and admiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history. She was not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German and had died on giving her birth. The infant had been placed with these good people to nurse: they were better off then. They had not been long married, and their eldest child was but just born. The father of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory of Italy—one among the schiavi ognor frementi, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country. He became the victim of its weakness. Whether he had died or still lingered in the dungeons of Austria was not known. His property was confiscated; his child became an orphan and a beggar. She continued with her foster parents and bloomed in their rude abode, fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles. When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub—a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills. The apparition was soon explained. With his permission my mother prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. They were fond of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them, but it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want when Providence afforded her such powerful protection. They consulted their village priest, and the result was that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents’ house—my more than sister—the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupations and my pleasures.

Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully, “I have a pretty present for my Victor—tomorrow he shall have it.” And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me—my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only.

Chapter 2

We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages. I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but, with all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home —the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers—she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.

On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years, my parents gave up entirely their wandering life and fixed themselves in their native country. We possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive, the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance of rather more than a league from the city. We resided principally in the latter, and the lives of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my school-fellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure. He tried to make us act plays and to enter into masquerades, in which the characters were drawn from the heroes of Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels.

No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the development of filial love.

My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.

Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men were his theme; and his hope and his dream was to become one among those whose names are recorded in story as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species. The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home. Her sympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet glance of her celestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us. She was the living spirit of love to soften and attract; I might have become sullen in my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that she was there to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness. And Clerval—could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval? Yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness of beneficence and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition.

I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self. Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys. Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration, to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science. When I was thirteen years of age we all went on a party of pleasure to the baths near Thonon; the inclemency of the weather obliged us to remain a day confined to the inn. In this house I chanced to find a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa. I opened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts to demonstrate and the wonderful facts which he relates soon changed this feeling into enthusiasm. A new light seemed to dawn upon my mind, and bounding with joy, I communicated my discovery to my father. My father looked carelessly at the title page of my book and said, “Ah! Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.”

If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded and that a modern system of science had been introduced which possessed much greater powers than the ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical, while those of the former were real and practical, under such circumstances I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside and have contented my imagination, warmed as it was, by returning with greater ardour to my former studies. It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by no means assured me that he was acquainted with its contents, and I continued to read with the greatest avidity. When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself. I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors in each branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted appeared even to my boy’s apprehensions as tyros engaged in the same pursuit.

The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect, anatomize, and give names; but, not to speak of a final cause, causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were utterly unknown to him. I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined.

But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple. It may appear strange that such should arise in the eighteenth century; but while I followed the routine of education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree, self-taught with regard to my favourite studies. My father was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a child’s blindness, added to a student’s thirst for knowledge. Under the guidance of my new preceptors I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfilment of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors. And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories and floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge, guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed the current of my ideas. When I was about fifteen years old we had retired to our house near Belrive, when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm. It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura, and the thunder burst at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.

Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity.  On this occasion a man of great research in natural philosophy was with us, and excited by this catastrophe, he entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at once new and astonishing to me.  All that he said threw greatly into the shade Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies.  It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known.  All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable.  By one of those caprices of the mind which we are perhaps most subject to in early youth, I at once gave up my former occupations, set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation, and entertained the greatest disdain for a would-be science which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge.  In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics and the branches of study appertaining to that science as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration.

Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin.   When I look back, it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life—the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars and ready to envelop me.  Her victory was announced by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul which followed the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormenting studies.   It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil with their prosecution, happiness with their disregard.

It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual.  estiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction.”      Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Letters 1-4 & Chapters 1-2, 1818

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Numero Dos—“Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:
If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.  We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation.  Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented.  In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed.  ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing, or all the other.  Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.Have we no tendency to the latter condition?Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision.  Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by state constitutions and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition.  Four days latercommenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition.  This opened all the national territory to slavery and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an endorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of ‘squatter sovereignty,’ otherwise called ‘sacred right of self-government,’ which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.  That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska Bill itself, in the language which follows:

It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into an territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people there-of perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of ‘squatter sovereignty’ and ‘sacred right of self-government.’  ‘But,’ said opposition members, ‘let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.’  ‘Not we,’ said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case, involving the question of a Negro’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then into a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the district of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May 1854.  The Negro’s name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.  Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election.  Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: ‘That is a question for the Supreme Court.’

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The endorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly 400,000 votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the endorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument.

The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the Court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital endorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to endorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not in any just sense made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration, that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle! If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine.

Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding; like the mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back into loose sand; helped to carry an election and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans against the Lecompton constitution involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no Negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any state in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the Negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”

Second, that, “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Third, that whether the holding a Negro in actual slavery in a free state makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the Negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or 1,000 slaves, in Illinois or in any other free state.
Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated.  Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring.  The people were to be left ‘perfectly free,’ ‘subject only to the Constitution.’  What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see.  Plainly enough, now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people voted down?  Plainly enough, now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision.  Why was the Court decision held up?  Why even a senator’s individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election?  Plainly enough, now, the speaking out then would have damaged the ‘perfectly free’ argument upon which the election was to be carried.  Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the endorsement? Why the delay of a reargument?  Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision?  These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall.  And why the hasty after-endorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert.  But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.”      Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided Speech;” at the Illinois State Republican convention, 1858


Numero Tres—“Comrades, friends and fellow-workers, for this very cordial greeting, this very hearty reception, I thank you all with the fullest appreciation of your interest in and your devotion to the cause for which I am to speak to you this afternoon. To speak for labor; to plead the cause of the men and women and children who toil; to serve the working class, has always been to me a high privilege; a duty of love.

I have just returned from a visit over yonder, where three of our most loyal comrades are paying the penalty for their devotion to the cause of the working class.  They have come to realize, as many of us have, that it is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world.

I realize that, in speaking to you this afternoon, there are certain limitations placed upon the right of free speech.  I must be exceedingly careful, prudent, as to what I say, and even more careful and prudent as to how I say it.  I may not be able to say all I think; but I am not going to say anything that I do not think.  I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets.  They may put those boys in jail—and some of the rest of us in jail—but they can not put the Socialist movement in jail.  Those prison bars separate their bodies from ours, but their souls are here this afternoon.  They are simply paying the penalty that all men have paid in all the ages of history for standing erect, and for seeking to pave the way to better conditions for mankind.

If it had not been for the men and women who, in the past, have had the moral courage to go to jail, we would still be in the jungles.

This assemblage is exceedingly good to look upon.  I wish it were possible for me to give you what you are giving me this afternoon.   What I say here amounts to but little; what I see here is exceedingly important.  You workers in Ohio, enlisted in the greatest cause ever organized in the interest of your class, are making history today in the face of threatening opposition of all kinds—history that is going to be read with profound interest by coming generations.

There is but one thing you have to be concerned about, and that is that you keep foursquare with the principles of the international Socialist movement.   It is only when you begin to compromise that trouble begins.  So far as I am concerned, it does not matter what others may say, or think, or do, as long as I am sure that I am right with myself and the cause.   There are so many who seek refuge in the popular side of a great question.  As a Socialist, I have long since learned how to stand alone.  For the last month I have been traveling over the Hoosier State; and, let me say to you, that, in all my connection with the Socialist movement, I have never seen such meetings, such enthusiasm, such unity of purpose; never have I seen such a promising outlook as there is today, notwithstanding the statement published repeatedly that our leaders have deserted us.  Well, for myself, I never had much faith in leaders.  I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader.  I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety.  Give me the rank and file every day in the week.  If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and misrepresentatives of the masses—you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction.  I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself.  I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks.  When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.

When I came away from Indiana, the comrades said: “When you cross the line and get over into the Buckeye State, tell the comrades there that we are on duty and doing duty. Give them for us, a hearty greeting, and tell them that we are going to make a record this fall that will be read around the world.”

ŒThe Socialists of Ohio, it appears, are very much alive this year. The party has been killed recently, which, no doubt, accounts for its extraordinary activity. There is nothing that helps the Socialist Party so much as receiving an occasional deathblow. The oftener it is killed the more active, the more energetic, the more powerful it becomes.

They who have been reading the capitalist newspapers realize what a capacity they have for lying. We have been reading them lately. They know all about the Socialist Party—the Socialist movement, except what is true. Only the other day they took an article that I had written—and most of you have read it—most of you members of the party, at least—and they made it appear that I had undergone a marvelous transformation. I had suddenly become changed—had in fact come to my senses; I had ceased to be a wicked Socialist, and had become a respectable Socialist , a patriotic Socialist—as if I had ever been anything else.

What was the purpose of this deliberate misrepresentation? It is so self-evident that it suggests itself. The purpose was to sow the seeds of dissension in our ranks; to have it appear that we were divided among ourselves; that we were pitted against each other, to our mutual undoing. But Socialists were not born yesterday. They know how to read capitalist newspapers ; and to believe exactly the opposite of what they read.

Why should a Socialist be discouraged on the eve of the greatest triumph in all the history of the Socialist movement? It is true that these are anxious, trying days for us all—testing days for the women and men who are upholding the banner of labor in the struggle of the working class of all the world against the exploiters of all the world; a time in which the weak and cowardly will falter and fail and desert. They lack the fiber to endure the revolutionary test; they fall away; they disappear as if they had never been. On the other hand, they who are animated by the unconquerable spirit of the social revolution; they who have the moral courage to stand erect and assert their convictions; stand by them; fight for them; go to jail or to hell for them, if need be —they are writing their names, in this crucial hour—they are writing their names in faceless letters in the history of mankind.

Those boys over yonder—those comrades of ours—and how I love them! Aye, they are my younger brothers ; their very names throb in my heart, thrill in my veins, and surge in my soul. I am proud of them; they are there for us; and we are here for them. Their lips, though temporarily mute, are more eloquent than ever before; and their voice, though silent, is heard around the world.

Are we opposed to Prussian militarism? Why, we have been fighting it since the day the Socialist movement was born; and we are going to continue to fight it, day and night, until it is wiped from the face of the earth. Between us there is no truce—no compromise.

But, before I proceed along this line, let me recall a little history, in which I think we are all interested.

In 1869 that grand old warrior of the social revolution, the elder Liebknecht, was arrested and sentenced to prison for three months, because of his war, as a Socialist, on the Kaiser and on the Junkers that rule Germany. In the meantime the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Liebknecht and Bebel were the Socialist members in the Reichstag. They were the only two who had the courage to protest against taking Alsace-Lorraine from France and annexing it to Germany. And for this they were sentenced two years to a prison fortress charged with high treason; because, even in that early day, almost fifty years ago, these leaders, these forerunners of the international Socialist movement were fighting the Kaiser and fighting the Junkers of Germany. They have continued to fight them from that day to this. Multiplied thousands of Socialists have languished in the jails of Germany because of their heroic warfare upon the despotic ruling class of that country.

Let us come down the line a little farther. You remember that, at the close of Theodore Roosevelt’s second term as President, he went over to Africa to make war on some of his ancestors. You remember that, at the close of his expedition, he visited the capitals of Europe; and that he was wined and dined, dignified and glorified by all the Kaisers and Czars and Emperors of the Old World. He visited Potsdam while the Kaiser was there; and, according to the accounts published in the American newspapers, he and the Kaiser were soon on the most familiar terms. They were hilariously intimate with each other, and slapped each other on the back. After Roosevelt had reviewed the Kaiser’s troops, according to the same accounts, he became enthusiastic over the Kaiser’s legions and said: “If I had that kind of an army, I could conquer the world.” He knew the Kaiser then just as well as he knows him now. He knew that he was the Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin. And yet, he permitted himself to be entertained by that Beast of Berlin; had his feet under the mahogany of the Beast of Berlin; was cheek by jowl with the Beast of Berlin. And, while Roosevelt was being entertained royally by the German Kaiser, that same Kaiser was putting the leaders of the Socialist Party in jail for fighting the Kaiser and the Junkers of Germany. Roosevelt was the guest of honor in the white house of the Kaiser, while the Socialists were in the jails of the Kaiser for fighting the Kaiser. Who then was fighting for democracy? Roosevelt? Roosevelt, who was honored by the Kaiser, or the Socialists who were in jail by order of the Kaiser?

“Birds of a feather flock together.”

When the newspapers reported that Kaiser Wilhelm and ax-President Theodore recognized each other at sight, were perfectly intimate with each other at the first touch, they made the admission that is fatal to the claim of Theodore Roosevelt, that he is the friend of the common people and the champion of democracy; they admitted that they were kith and kin; that they were very much alike; that their ideas and ideals were about the same. If Theodore Roosevelt is the great champion of democracy —the arch foe of autocracy , what business had he as the guest of honor of the Prussian Kaiser? And when he met the Kaiser, and did honor to the Kaiser, under the terms imputed to him, wasn’t it pretty strong proof that he himself was a Kaiser at heart? Now, after being the guest of Emperor Wilhelm, the Beast of Berlin, he comes back to this country, and wants you to send ten million men over there to kill the Kaiser; to murder his former friend and pal. Rather queer, isn’t it? And yet, he is the patriot, and we are the traitors. I challenge you to find a Socialist anywhere on the face of the earth who was ever the guest of the Beast of Berlin , except as an inmate of his prison—the elder Liebknecht and the younger Liebknecht, the heroic son of his immortal sire.

ŒA little more history along the same line. In 1902 Prince Henry paid a visit to this country. Do you remember him? I do, exceedingly well. Prince Henry is the brother of Emperor Wilhelm. Prince Henry is another Beast of Berlin, an autocrat, an aristocrat, a Junker of Junkers—very much despised by our American patriots. He came over here in 1902 as the representative of Kaiser Wilhelm; he was received by Congress and by several state legislatures—among others, by the state legislature of Massachusetts, then in session. He was invited there by the capitalist captains of that so-called commonwealth. And when Prince Henry arrived, there was one member of that body who kept his self-respect, put on his hat, and as Henry, the Prince, walked in, that member of the body walked out. And that was James F. Carey, the Socialist member of that body. All the rest—all the rest of the representatives in the Massachusetts legislature—all, all of them—joined in doing honor, in the most servile spirit, to the high representative of the autocracy of Europe. And the only man who left that body, was a Socialist. And yet , and yet they have the hardihood to claim that they are fighting autocracy and that we are in the service of the German government.

A little more history along the same line. I have a distinct recollection of it. It occurred fifteen years ago when Prince Henry came here. All of our plutocracy, all of the wealthy representatives living along Fifth Avenue—all, all of them—threw their palace doors wide open and received Prince Henry with open arms. But they were not satisfied with this; they got down and grovelled in the dust at his feet. Our plutocracy—women and men alike—vied with each other to lick the boots of Prince Henry, the brother and representative of the “Beast of Berlin.” And still our plutocracy, our Junkers, would have us believe that all the Junkers are confined to Germany. It is precisely because we refuse to believe this that they brand us as disloyalists. They want our eyes focused on the Junkers in Berlin so that we will not see those within our own borders.

I hate, I loathe, I despise Junkers and junkerdom. I have no earthly use for the Junkers of Germany, and not one particle more use for the Junkers in the United States.

They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing people. This is too much, even for a joke. But it is not a subject for levity; it is an exceedingly serious matter.

To whom do the Wall Street Junkers in our country marry their daughters? After they have wrung their countless millions from your sweat, your agony and your life’s blood, in a time of war as in a time of peace, they invest these untold millions in the purchase of titles of broken-down aristocrats, such as princes, dukes, counts and other parasites and no-accounts. Would they be satisfied to wed their daughters to honest workingmen? To real democrats? Oh, no! They scour the markets of Europe for vampires who are titled and nothing else. And they swap their millions for the titles, so that matrimony with them becomes literally a matter of money.

These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition to Junker rule in the United Sates. No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people.

They would have you believe that the Socialist Party consists in the main of disloyalists and traitors. It is true in a sense not at all to their discredit. We frankly admit that we are disloyalists and traitors to the real traitors of this nation; to the gang that on the Pacific coast are trying to hang Tom Mooney and Warren Billings in spite of their well-known innocence and the protest of practically the whole civilized world.

I know Tom Mooney intimately—as if he were my own brother. He is an absolutely honest man. He had no more to do with the crime with which he was charged and for which he was convicted than I had. And if he ought to go to the gallows, so ought I. If he is guilty every man who belongs to a labor organization or to the Socialist Party is likewise guilty.

What is Tom Mooney guilty of? I will tell you. I am familiar with his record. For years he has been fighting bravely and without compromise the battles of the working class out on the Pacific coast. He refused to be bribed and he could not be browbeaten. In spite of all attempts to intimidate him he continued loyally in the service of the organized workers, and for this he became a marked man. The henchmen of the powerful and corrupt corporations, concluding finally that he could not be bought or bribed or bullied, decided he must therefore be murdered. That is why Tom Mooney is today a life prisoner, and why he would have been hanged as a felon long ago but for the world-wide protest of the working class.

Let us review another bit of history. You remember Francis J. Heney, special investigator of the state of California, who was shot down in cold blood in the courtroom in San Francisco. You remember that dastardly crime, do you not? The United Railways, consisting of a lot of plutocrats and highbinders represented by the Chamber of Commerce, absolutely control the city of San Francisco. The city was and is their private reservation. Their will is the supreme law. Take your stand against them and question their authority, and you are doomed. They do not hesitate a moment to plot murder or any other crime to perpetuate their corrupt and enslaving regime. Tom Mooney was the chief representative of the working class they could not control. They own the railways; they control the great industries; they are the industrial masters and the political rulers of the people. From their decision there is no appeal. They are the autocrats of the Pacific coast—as cruel and infamous as any that ever ruled in Germany or any other country in the old world. When their rule became so corrupt that at last a grand jury indicted them and they were placed on trial, and Francis J. Heney was selected to assist in their prosecution, this gang, represented by the Chamber of Commerce; this gang of plutocrats, autocrats and highbinders, hired an assassin to shoot Heney down in the courtroom. Heney, however, happened to live through it. But that was not their fault. The same identical gang that hired the murderer to kill Heney also hired false witnesses to swear away the fife of Tom Mooney and, foiled in that, they have kept him in a foul prisonhole ever since.

Every solitary one of these aristocratic conspirators and would-be murderers claims to be an arch-patriot; every one of them insists that the war is being waged to make the world safe for democracy. What humbug! What rot! What false pretense! These autocrats, these tyrants, these red-handed robbers and murderers, the “patriots,” while the men who have the courage to stand face to face with them, speak the truth, and fight for their exploited victims—they are the disloyalists and traitors. If this be true, I want to take my place side by side with the traitors in this fight.

The other day they sentenced Kate Richards O’Hare to the penitentiary for five years. Think of sentencing a woman to the penitentiary simply for talking. The United States, under plutocratic rule, is the only country that would send a woman to prison for five years for exercising the right of free speech. If this be treason, let them make the most of it.

Let me review a bit of history in connection with this case. I have known Kate Richards O’Hare intimately for twenty years. I am familiar with her public record. Personally I know her as if she were my own sister. All who know Mrs. O’Hare know her to be a woman of unquestioned integrity.’ And they also know that she is a woman of unimpeachable loyalty to the Socialist movement. When she went out into North Dakota to make her speech, followed by plain-clothes men in the service of the government intent upon effecting her arrest and securing her prosecution and conviction—when she went out there, it was with the full knowledge on her part that sooner or later these detectives would accomplish their purpose. She made her speech, and that speech was deliberately misrepresented for the purpose of securing her conviction. The only testimony against her was that of a hired witness. And when the farmers, the men and women who were in the audience she addressed—when they went to Bismarck where the trial was held to testify in her favor, to swear that she had not used the language she was charged with having used, the judge refused to allow them to go upon the stand. This would seem incredible to me if I had not had some experience of my own with federal courts.

Who appoints our federal judges? The people? In all the history of the country, the working class have never named a federal judge. There are 121 of these judges and every solitary one holds his position, his tenure, through the influence and power of corporate capital. The corporations and trusts dictate their appointment. And when they go to the bench, they go, not to serve, the people, but to serve the interests that place them and keep them where they are.

Why, the other day, by a vote of five to four—a kind of craps game—come seven, come ‘leven —they declared the child labor law unconstitutional—a law secured after twenty years of education and agitation on the part of all kinds of people. And yet, by a majority of one, the Supreme Court a body of corporation lawyers, with just one exception, wiped that law from the statute books, and this in our so-called democracy, so that we may continue to grind the flesh and blood and bones of puny little children into profits for the Junkers of Wall Street. And this in a country that boasts of fighting to make the world safe for democracy! The history of this country is being written in the blood of the childhood the industrial lords have murdered.

These are not palatable truths to them. They do not like to hear them; and what is more they do not want you to hear them. And that is why they brand us as undesirable citizens , and as disloyalists and traitors. If we were actual traitors—traitors to the people and to their welfare and progress, we would be regarded as eminently respectable citizens of the republic; we would hold high office, have princely incomes, and ride in limousines; and we would be pointed out as the elect who have succeeded in life in honorable pursuit, and worthy of emulation by the youth of the land. It is precisely because we are disloyal to the traitors that we are loyal to the people of this nation.

Scott Nearing! You have heard of Scott Nearing. He is the greatest teacher in the United States. He was in the University of Pennsylvania until the Board of Trustees, consisting of great capitalists, captains of industry, found that he was teaching sound economics to the students in his classes. This sealed his fate in that institution. They sneeringly charged—just as the same usurers, money-changers, pharisees, hypocrites charged the Judean Carpenter some twenty centuries ago—that he was a false teacher and that he was stirring up the people.

The Man of Galilee, the Carpenter, the workingman who became the revolutionary agitator of his day soon found himself to be an undesirable citizen in the eyes of the ruling knaves and they had him crucified. And now their lineal descendants say of Scott Nearing, “He is preaching false economics. We cannot crucify him as we did his elder brother but we can deprive him of employment and so cut off his income and starve him to death or into submission. We will not only discharge him but place his name upon the blacklist and make it impossible for him to earn a living. He is a dangerous man for he is teaching the truth and opening the eyes of the people.” And the truth, oh, the truth has always been unpalatable and intolerable to the class who live out of the sweat and misery of the working class.

Max Eastman has been indicted and his paper suppressed, just as the papers with which I have been connected have all been suppressed. What a wonderful compliment they pay us! They are afraid that we may mislead and contaminate you. You are their wards; they are your guardians and they know what is best for you to read and hear and know. They are bound to see to it that our vicious doctrines do not reach your ears. And so in our great democracy, under our free institutions, they flatter our press by suppression; and they ignorantly imagine that they have silenced revolutionary propaganda in the United States. What an awful mistake they make for our benefit! As a matter of justice to them we should respond with resolutions of thanks and gratitude. Thousands of people who had never before heard of our papers are now inquiring for and insisting upon seeing them. They have succeeded only in arousing curiosity in our literature and propaganda. And woe to him who reads Socialist literature from curiosity! He is surely a goner. I have known of a thousand experiments but never one that failed.

John M. Work! You know John, now on the editorial staff of the Milwaukee Leader! When I first knew him he was a lawyer out in Iowa. The capitalists out there became alarmed because of the rapid growth of the Socialist movement. So they said: “We have to find some able fellow to fight this menace.” They concluded that John Work was the man for the job and they said to him: “John, you are a bright young lawyer; you have a brilliant future before you. We want to engage you to find out all you can about socialism and then proceed to counteract its baneful effects and check its further growth.”

John at once provided himself with Socialist literature and began his study of the red menace, with the result that after he had read and digested a few volumes he was a full-fledged Socialist and has been fighting for socialism ever since.

ŒHow stupid and shortsighted the ruling class really is! Cupidity is stone blind. It has no vision. The greedy, profit-seeking exploiter cannot see beyond the end of his nose. He can see a chance for an “opening”; he is cunning enough to know what graft is and where it is, and how it can be secured, but vision he has none—not the slightest. He knows nothing of the great throbbing world that spreads out in all directions. He has no capacity for literature; no appreciation of art; no soul for beauty. That is the penalty the parasites pay for the violation of the laws of life. The Rockefellers are blind. Every move they make in their game of greed but hastens their own doom. Every blow they strike at the Socialist movement reacts upon themselves. Every time they strike at us they hit themselves. It never fails. Every time they strangle a Socialist paper they add a thousand voices proclaiming the truth of the principles of socialism and the ideals of the Socialist movement. They help us in spite of themselves.

Socialism is a growing idea; an expanding philosophy. It is spreading over the entire face of the earth: It is as vain to resist it as it would be to arrest the sunrise on the morrow. It is coming, coming, coming all along the line. Can you not see it? If not, I advise you to consult an oculist. There is certainly something the matter with your vision. It is the mightiest movement in the history of mankind. What a privilege to serve it! I have regretted a thousand times that I can do so little for the movement that has done so much for me. The little that I am, the little that I am hoping to be, I owe to the Socialist movement. It has given me my ideas and ideals; my principles and convictions, and I would not exchange one of them for all of Rockefeller’s bloodstained dollars. It has taught me how to serve—a lesson to me of priceless value. It has taught me the ecstasy in the handclasp of a comrade. It has enabled me to hold high communion with you, and made it possible for me to take my place side by side with you in the great struggle for the better day; to multiply myself over and over again, to thrill with a fresh-born manhood; to feel life truly worthwhile; to open new avenues of vision; to spread out glorious vistas; to know that I am kin to all that throbs; to be class-conscious, and to realize that, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color or sex, every man, every woman who toils, who renders useful service, every member of the working class without an exception, is my comrade, my brother and sister—and that to serve them and their cause is the highest duty of my life.

And in their service I can feel myself expand; I can rise to the stature of a man and claim the right to a place on earth—a place where I can stand and strive to speed the day of industrial freedom and social justice.

Yes, my comrades, my heart is attuned to yours. Aye, all our hearts now throb as one great heart responsive to the battle cry of the social revolution. Here, in this alert and inspiring assemblage our hearts are with the Bolsheviki of Russia. Those heroic men and women, those unconquerable comrades have by their incomparable valor and sacrifice added fresh luster to the fame of the international movement. Those Russian comrades of ours have made greater sacrifices, have suffered more, and have shed more heroic blood than any like number of men and women anywhere on earth; they have laid the foundation of the first real democracy that ever drew the breath of life in this world. And the very first act of the triumphant Russian revolution was to proclaim a state of peace with all mankind, coupled with a fervent moral appeal, not to kings, not to emperors, rulers or diplomats but to the people of all nations. Here we have the very breath of democracy, the quintessence of the dawning freedom. The Russian revolution proclaimed its glorious triumph in its ringing and inspiring appeal to the peoples of all the earth. In a humane and fraternal spirit new Russia, emancipated at last from the curse of the centuries, called upon all nations engaged in the frightful war, the Central Powers as well as the Allies, to send representatives to a conference to lay down terms of peace that should be just and lasting. Here was the supreme opportunity to strike the blow to make the world safe for democracy. Was there any response to that noble appeal that in some day to come will be written in letters of gold in the history of the world? Was there any response whatever to that appeal for universal peace? No, not the slightest attention was paid to it by the Christian nations engaged in the terrible slaughter.

It has been charged that Lenin and Trotsky and the leaders of the revolution were treacherous, that they made a traitorous peace with Germany. Let us consider that proposition briefly. At the time of the revolution Russia had been three years in the war. Under the Czar she had lost more than four million of her ill-clad, poorly-equipped, half-starved soldiers, slain outright or disabled on the field of battle. She was absolutely bankrupt. Her soldiers were mainly without arms. This was what was bequeathed to the revolution by the Czar and his regime; and for this condition Lenin and Trotsky were not responsible, nor the Bolsheviki. For this appalling state of affairs the Czar and his rotten bureaucracy were solely responsible. When the Bolsheviki came into power and went through the archives they found and exposed the secret treaties—the treaties that were made between the Czar and the French government, the British government and the Italian government, proposing, after the victory was achieved, to dismember the German Empire and destroy the Central Powers. These treaties have never been denied nor repudiated. Very little has been said about them in the American press. I have a copy of these treaties, showing that the purpose of the Allies is exactly the purpose of the Central Powers, and that is the conquest and spoilation of the weaker nations that has always been the purpose of war.

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.

And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.

Yours not to reason why;
Yours but to do and die.

That is their motto and we object on the part of the awakening workers of this nation.

If war is right let it be declared by the people. You who have your lives to lose, you certainly above all others have the right to decide the momentous issue of war or peace.

Rose Pastor Stokes! And when I mention her name I take off my hat. Here we have another heroic and inspiring comrade. She had her millions of dollars at command. Did her wealth restrain her an instant? On the contrary her supreme devotion to the cause outweighed all considerations of a financial or social nature. She went out boldly to plead the cause of the working class and they rewarded her high courage with a ten years’ sentence to the penitentiary. Think of it! Ten years! What atrocious crime had she committed? What frightful things had she said? Let me answer candidly. She said nothing more than I have said here this afternoon. I want to admit—I want to admit without reservation that if Rose Pastor Stokes is guilty of crime, so am I. If she is guilty for the brave part she has taken in this testing time of human souls I would not be cowardly enough to plead my innocence. And if she ought to be sent to the penitentiary for ten years, so ought I without a doubt.

What did Rose Pastor Stokes say? Why, she said that a government could not at the same time serve both the profiteers and the victims of the profiteers. Is it not true? Certainly it is and no one can successfully dispute it.

Roosevelt said a thousand times more in the very same paper, the Kansas City Star. Roosevelt said vauntingly the other day that he would be heard if he went to jail. He knows very well that he is taking no risk of going to jail. He is shrewdly laying his wires for the Republican nomination in 1920 and he is an adept in making the appeal of the demagogue. He would do anything to discredit the Wilson administration that he may give himself and his party all credit. That is the only rivalry there is between the two old capitalist parties—the Republican Party and the Democratic Party—the political twins of the master class. They are not going to have any friction between them this fall. They are all patriots in this campaign, and they are going to combine to prevent the election of any disloyal Socialist. I have never heard anyone tell of any difference between these corrupt capitalist parties. Do you know of any? I certainly do not. The situation is that one is in and the other trying to break in, and that is substantially the only difference between them.

Rose Pastor Stokes never uttered a word she did not have a legal, constitutional right to utter. But her message to the people, the message that stirred their thoughts and opened their eyes—that must be suppressed; her voice must be silenced. And so she was promptly subjected to a mock trial and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. Her conviction was a foregone conclusion. The trial of a Socialist in a capitalist court is at best a farcical affair. What ghost of a chance had she in a court with a packed jury and a corporation tool on the bench? Not the least in the world. And so she goes to the penitentiary for ten years if they carry out their brutal and disgraceful graceful program. For my part I do not think they will. In fact I feel sure they will not. If the war were over tomorrow the prison doors would open to our people. They simply mean to silence the voice of protest during the war.

What a compliment it is to the Socialist movement to be thus persecuted for the sake of the truth! The truth alone will make the people free. And for this reason the truth must not be permitted to reach the people. The truth has always been dangerous to the rule of the rogue, the exploiter, the robber. So the truth must be ruthlessly suppressed. That is why they are trying to destroy the Socialist movement; and every time they strike a blow they add a thousand new voices to the hosts proclaiming that socialism is the hope of humanity and has come to emancipate the people from their final form of servitude.

How good this sip of cool water from the hand of a comrade! It is as refreshing as if it were out on the desert waste. And how good it is to look into your glowing faces this afternoon! You are really good looking to me, I assure you. And I am glad there are so many of you. Your tribe has increased amazingly since first I came here. You used to be so few and far between. A few years ago when you struck a town the first thing you had to do was to see if you could locate a Socialist; and you were pretty lucky if you struck the trail of one before you left town. If he happened to be the only one and he is still living, he is now regarded as a pioneer and pathfinder; he holds a place of honor in your esteem, and he has lodgment in the hearts of all who have come after him. It is far different now. You can hardly throw a stone in the dark without hitting a Socialist. They are everywhere in increasing numbers; and what marvelous changes are taking place in the people!

Some years ago I was to speak at Warren in this state. It happened to be at the time that President McKinley was assassinated. In common with all others I deplored that tragic event. There is not a Socialist who would have been guilty of that crime. We do not attack individuals. We do not seek to avenge ourselves upon those opposed to our faith. We have no fight with individuals as such. We are capable of pitying those who hate us. We do not hate them; we know better; we would freely give them a cup of water if they needed it. There is no room in our hearts for hate, except for the system, the social system in which it is possible for one man to amass a stupendous fortune doing nothing, while millions of others suffer and struggle and agonize and die for the bare necessities of existence.

President McKinley, as I have said, had been assassinated. I was first to speak at Portsmouth, having been booked there some time before the assassination. Promptly the Christian ministers of Portsmouth met in special session and passed a resolution declaring that “Debs, more than any other person, was responsible for the assassination of our beloved President.” It was due to the doctrine that Debs was preaching that this crime was committed, according to these patriotic parsons, and so this pious gentry, the followers of the meek and lowly Nazarene, concluded that I must not be permitted to enter the city. And they had the mayor issue an order to that effect. I went there soon after, however. I was to speak at Warren, where President McKinley’s double-cousin was postmaster. I went there and registered. I was soon afterward invited to leave the hotel. I was exceedingly undesirable that day. I was served with notice that the hall would not be opened and that I would not be permitted to speak. I sent back word to the mayor by the only Socialist left in town—and he only remained because they did not know he was there—I sent word to the mayor that I would speak in Warren that night, according to schedule, or I would leave there in a box for the return turn trip.

The Grand Army of the Republic called a special meeting and then marched to the hall in full uniform and occupied the front seats in order to silence me if my speech did not suit them. I went to the hall, however, found it open, and made my speech. There was no interruption. I told the audience frankly who was responsible for the President’s assassination. I said: “As long as there is misery caused by robbery at the bottom there will be assassination at the top.” I showed them, evidently to their satisfaction, that it was their own capitalist system that was responsible; the system that had impoverished and brutalized the ancestors of the poor witless boy who had murdered the President. Yes, I made my speech that night and it was well received but when I left there I was still an “undesirable citizen.”

Some years later I returned to Warren. It seemed that the whole population was out for the occasion. I was received with open arms. I was no longer a demagogue; no longer a fanatic or an undesirable citizen. I had become exceedingly respectable simply because the Socialists had increased in numbers and socialism had grown in influence and power. If ever I become entirely respectable I shall be quite sure that I have outlived myself.

It is the minorities who have made the history of this world. It is the few who have had the courage to take their places at the front; who have been true enough to themselves to speak the truth that was in them; who have dared oppose the established order of things; who have espoused the cause of the suffering, struggling poor; who have upheld without regard to personal consequences the cause of freedom and righteousness. It is they, the heroic, self-sacrificing few who have made the history of the race and who have paved the way from barbarism to civilization. The many prefer to remain upon the popular side. They lack the courage and vision to join a despised minority that stands for a principle; they have not the moral fiber that withstands, endures and finally conquers. They are to be pitied and not treated with contempt for they cannot help their cowardice. But, thank God, in every age and in every nation there have been the brave and self-reliant few, and they have been sufficient to their historic task; and we, who are here today, are under infinite obligations to them because they suffered, they sacrificed, they went to jail, they had their bones broken upon the wheel, they were burned at the stake and their ashes scattered to the winds by the hands of hate and revenge in their struggle to leave the world better for us than they found it for themselves. We are under eternal obligations to them because of what they did and what they suffered for us and the only way we can discharge that obligation is by doing the best we can for those who are to come after us. And this is the high purpose of every Socialist on earth. Everywhere they are animated by the same lofty principles; everywhere they have the same noble ideals; everywhere they are clasping hands across national boundary lines; everywhere they are calling one another Comrade, the blessed word that springs from the heart of unity and bursts into blossom upon the lips. Each passing day they are getting into closer touch all along the battle line, wagig the holy war of the working class of the world against the ruling and exploiting class of the world. They make many mistakes and they profit by them all. They encounter numerous defeats, and grow stronger through them all. They never take a backward step. Œ

The heart of the international Socialist never beats a retreat.

They are pressing forward, here, there and everywhere, in all the zones that girdle the globe. Everywhere these awakening workers, these class-conscious proletarians, these hardy sons and daughters of honest toil are proclaiming the glad tidings of the coming emancipation, everywhere their hearts are attuned to the most sacred cause that ever challenged men and women to action in all the history of the world. Everywhere they are moving toward democracy and the dawn; marching toward the sunrise, their faces all aglow with the light of the coming day. These are the Socialists, the most zealous and enthusiastic crusaders the world has ever known. They are making history that will light up the horizon of coming generations, for their mission is the emancipation of the human race. They have been reviled; they have been ridiculed, persecuted, imprisoned and have suffered death, but they have been sufficient to themselves and their cause, and their final triumph is but a question of time.

Do you wish to hasten the day of victory? Join the Socialist Party! Don’t wait for the morrow. Join now! Enroll your name without fear and take your place where you belong. You cannot do your duty by proxy. You have got to do it yourself and do it squarely and then as you look yourself in the face you will have no occasion to blush. You will know what it is to be a real man or woman. You will lose nothing; you will gain everything. Not only will you lose nothing but you will find something of infinite value, and that something will be yourself. And that is your supreme need—to find yourself—to really know yourself and your purpose in life.

You need at this time especially to know that you are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder. You need to know that you were not created to work and produce and impoverish yourself to enrich an idle exploiter. You need to know that you have a mind to improve, a soul to develop, and a manhood to sustain.

You need to know that it is your duty to rise above the animal plane of existence. You need to know that it is for you to know something about literature and science and art. You need to know that you are verging on the edge of a great new world. You need to get in touch with your comrades and fellow workers and to become conscious of your interests, your powers and your possibilities as a class. You need to know that you belong to the great majority of mankind. You need to know that as long as you are ignorant, as long as you are indifferent, as long as you are apathetic, unorganized and content, you will remain exactly where you are. You will be exploited; you will be degraded, and you will have to beg for a job. You will get just enough for your slavish toil to keep you in working order, and you will be looked down upon with scorn and contempt by the very parasites that live and luxuriate out of your sweat and unpaid labor.

If you would be respected you have got to begin by respecting yourself. Stand up squarely and look yourself in the face and see a man! Do not allow yourself to fall into the predicament of the poor fellow who, after he had heard a Socialist speech concluded that he too ought to be a Socialist. The argument he had heard was unanswerable. “Yes,” he said to himself, “all the speaker said was true and I certainly ought to join the party.” But after a while he allowed his ardor to cool and he soberly concluded that by joining the party he might anger his boss and lose his job. He then concluded: “I can’t take the chance.” That night he slept alone. There was something on his conscience and it resulted in a dreadful dream. Men always have such dreams when they betray themselves. A Socialist is free to go to bed with a clear conscience. He goes to sleep with his manhood and he awakens and walks forth in the morning with his self-respect. He is unafraid and he can look the whole world in the face, without a tremor and without a blush. But this poor weakling who lacked the courage to do the bidding of his reason and conscience was haunted by a startling dream and at midnight he awoke in terror, bounded from his bed and exclaimed: “My God, there is nobody in this room.” He was absolutely right. There was nobody in that room.

How would you like to sleep in a room that had nobody in it? It is an awful thing to be nobody. That is certainly a state of mind to get out of, the sooner the better.

There is a great deal of hope for Baker, Ruthenberg and Wagenknecht who are in jail for their convictions; but for the fellow that is nobody there is no pardoning power. He is “in” for life. Anybody can be nobody; but it takes a man to be somebody.

To turn your back on the corrupt Republican Party and the still more corrupt Democratic Party—the gold-dust lackeys of the ruling class counts for still more after you have stepped out of those popular and corrupt capitalist parties to join a minority party that has an ideal, that stands for a principle, and fights for a cause. This will be the most important change you have ever made and the time will come when you will thank me for having made the suggestion. It was the day of days for me. I remember it well. It was like passing from midnight darkness to the noontide light of day. It came almost like a flash and found me ready. It must have been in such a flash that great, seething, throbbing Russia, prepared by centuries of slavery and tears and martyrdom, was transformed from a dark continent to a land of living light.

There is something splendid, something sustaining and inspiring in the prompting of the heart to be true to yourself and to the best you know, especially in a crucial hour of your life. You are in the crucible today, my Socialist comrades! You are going to be tried by fire, to what extent no one knows. If you are weak-fibered and fainthearted you will be lost to the Socialist movement. We will have to bid you goodbye. You are not the stuff of which revolutions are made. We are sorry for you unless you chance to be an “intellectual.” The “intellectuals,” many of them, are already gone. No loss on our side nor gain on the other.

I am always amused in the discussion of the “intellectual” phase of this question. It is the same old standard under which the rank and file are judged. What would become of the sheep if they had no shepherd to lead them out of the wilderness into the land of milk and honey?

Oh, yes, “I am your shepherd and ye are my mutton.”

They would have us believe that if we had no “intellectuals” we would have no movement. They would have our party, the rank and file, controlled by the “intellectual” bosses as the Republican and Democratic parties are controlled. These capitalist parties are managed by “intellectual” leaders and the rank and file are sheep that follow the bellwether to the shambles.

In the Republican and Democratic parties you of the common herd are not expected to think. That is not only unnecessary but might lead you astray. That is what the “intellectual” leaders are for. They do the thinking and you do the voting. They ride in carriages at the front where the band plays and you tramp in the mud, bringing up the rear with great enthusiasm.

The capitalist system affects to have great regard and reward for intellect, and the capitalists give themselves full credit for having superior brains. When we have ventured to say that the time would come when the working class would rule they have bluntly answered “Never! it requires brains to rule.” The workers of course have none. And they certainly try hard to prove it by proudly supporting the political parties of their masters under whose administration they are kept in poverty and servitude.

The government is now operating its railroads for the more effective prosecution of the war. Private ownership has broken down utterly and the government has had to come to the rescue. We have always said that the people ought to own the railroads and operate them for the benefit of the people. We advocated that twenty years ago. But the capitalists and their henchmen emphatically objected. “You have got to have brains to run the railroads,” they tauntingly retorted. Well, the other day McAdoo, the governor-general of the railroads under government operation; discharged all the high-salaried presidents and other supernumeraries. In other words, he fired the “brains” bodily and yet all the trains have been coming and going on schedule time. Have you noticed any change for the worse since the “brains” are gone? It is a brainless system now, being operated by “hands.” But a good deal more efficiently than it had been operated by so-called “brains” before. And this determines infallibly the quality of their vaunted, high-priced capitalist “brains.” It is the kind you can get at a reasonable figure at the market place. They have always given themselves credit for having superior brains and given this as the reason for the supremacy of their class. It is true that they have the brains that indicates the cunning of the fox, the wolf, but as for brains denoting real intelligence and the measure of intellectual capacity they are the most woefully ignorant people on earth. Give me a hundred capitalists just as you find them here in Ohio and let me ask them a dozen simple questions about the history of their own country and I will prove to you that they are as ignorant and unlettered as any you may find in the so-called lower class. They know little of history; they are strangers to science; they are ignorant of sociology and blind to art but they know how to exploit, how to gouge, how to rob, and do it with legal sanction. They always proceed legally for the reaon that the class which has the power to rob upon a large scale has also the power to control the government and legalize their robbery. I regret that lack of time prevents me from discussing this phase of the question more at length.

They are continually talking about your patriotic duty. It is not their but your patriotic duty that they are concerned about. There is a decided difference. Their patriotic duty never takes them to the firing line or chucks them into the trenches.

And now among other things they are urging you to “cultivate” war gardens, while at the same time a government war report just issued shows that practically 52 percent of the arable, tillable soil is held out of use by the landlords, speculators and profiteers. They themselves do not cultivate the soil. They could not if they would. Nor do they allow others to cultivate it. They keep it idle to enrich themselves, to pocket the millions of dollars of unearned increment. Who is it that makes this land valuable while it is fenced in and kept out of use? It is the people. Who pockets this tremendous accumulation of value? The landlords. And these landlords who toil not and spin not are supreme among American “patriots.”

In passing I suggest that we stop a moment to think about the term “landlord.” “LANDLORD!” Lord of the Land! The lord of the land is indeed a superpatriot. This lord who practically owns the earth tells you that we are fighting this war to make the world safe for democracy—he who shuts out all humanity from his private domain; he who profiteers at the expense of the people who have been slain and mutilated by multiplied thousands, under pretense of being the great American patriot. It is he, this identical patriot who is in fact the archenemy of the people; it is he that you need to wipe from power. It is he who is a far greater menace to your liberty and your well-being than the Prussian Junkers on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

Fifty-two percent of the land kept out of use, according to their own figures! They tell you that there is an alarming shortage of flour and that you need to produce more. They tell you further that you have got to save wheat so that more can be exported for the soldiers who are fighting on the other side, while half of your tillable soil is held out of use by the landlords and profiteers. What do you think of that?

Again, they tell you there is a coal famine now in the state of Ohio. The state of Indiana, where I live, is largely underlaid with coal. There is practically an inexhaustible supply. The coal is banked beneath our very feet. It is within touch all about us—all we can possibly use and more. And here are the miners, ready to enter the mines. Here is the machinery ready to be put into operation to increase the output to any desired capacity. And three weeks ago a national officer of the United Mine Workers issued and published a statement to the Labor Department of the United States government to the effect that the 600,000 coal miners in the United States at this time, when they talk about a coal famine, are not permitted to work more than half time. I have been around over Indiana for many years. I have often been in the coal fields; again and again I have seen the miners idle while at the same time there was a scarcity of coal.

They tell you that you ought to buy your coal right away; that you may freeze next winter if you do not. At the same time they charge you three prices for your coat Oh, yes, this ought to suit you perfectly if you vote the Republican or Democratic ticket and believe in the private ownership of the coal mines and their operation for private profit.

The coal mines now being privately owned, the operators want a scarcity of coal so they can boost their prices and enrich themselves accordingly. If an abundance of coal were mined there would be lower prices and this would not suit the mine owners. Prices soar and profits increase when there is a scarcity of coal.

It is also apparent that there is collusion between the mine owners and the railroads. The mine owners declare there are no cars while the railroad men insist that there is no coal. And between them they delude, defraud and rob the people.

Let us illustrate a vital point. Here is the coal in great deposits all about us; here are the miners and the machinery of production. Why should there be a coal famine upon the one hand and an army of idle and hungry miners on the other hand? Is it not an incredibly stupid situation, an almost idiotic if not criminal state of affairs?

We Socialists say: “Take possession of the mines in the name of the people.” Set the miners at work and give every miner the equivalent of all the coal he produces. Reduce the work day in proportion to the development of productive machinery. That would at once settle the matter of a coal famine and of idle miners. But that is too simple a proposition and the people will have none of it. The time will come, however, when the people will be driven to take such action for there is no other efficient and permanent solution of the problem.

In the present system the miner, a wage slave, gets down into a pit 300 or 400 feet deep. He works hard and produces a ton of coal. But he does not own an ounce of it. That coal belongs to some mine-owning plutocrat who may be in New York or sailing the high seas in his private yacht; or he may be hobnobbing with royalty in the capitals of Europe, and that is where most of them were before the war was declared. The industrial captain, so- called, who lives in Paris, London, Vienna or some other center of gaiety does not have to work to revel in luxury. He owns the mines and he might as well own the miners.

That is where you workers are and where you will remain as long as you give your support to the political parties of your masters and exploiters. You vote these miners out of a job and reduce them to corporation vassals and paupers.

We Socialists say: “Take possession of the mines; call the miner to work and return to him the equivalent of the value of his product.” He can then build himself a comfortable home; live in it; enjoy it with his family. He can provide himself and his wife and children with clothes—good clothes—not shoddy; wholesome food in abundance, education for the children, and the chance to live the lives of civilized human beings, while at the same time the people will get coal at just what it costs to mine it.

Of course that would be socialism as far as it goes. But you are not in favor of that program. It is too visionary because it is so simple and practical. So you will have to continue to wait until winter is upon you before you get your coal and then pay three prices for it because you insist upon voting a capitalist ticket and giving your support to the present wage-slave system. The trouble with you is that you are still in a capitalist state of mind.

Lincoln said: “If you want that thing that is the thing you want”; and you will get it to your heart’s content. But some good day you will wake up and realize that a change is needed and wonder why you did not know it long before. Yes, a change is certainly needed, not merely a change of party but a change of system; a change from slavery to freedom and from despotism to democracy, wide as the world. When this change comes at last, we shall rise from brutehood to brotherhood, and to accomplish it we have to educate and organize the workers industrially and politically, but not along the zigzag craft lines laid down by Gompers, who through all of his career has favored the master class. You never hear the capitalist press speak of him nowadays except in praise and adulation. He has recently come into great prominence as a patriot. You never find him on the unpopular side of a great issue. He is always conservative, satisfied to leave the labor problem to be settled finally at the banqueting board with Elihu Root, Andrew Carnegie and the rest of the plutocratic civic federationists. When they drink wine and smoke scab cigars together the labor question is settled so far as they are concerned.

And while they are praising Gompers they are denouncing the I.W.W. There are few men who have the courage to say a word in favor of the I.W.W. I have. Let me say here that I have great respect for the I.W.W. Far greater than I have for their infamous detractors.

Listen! There has just been published a pamphlet called “The Truth About the I.W.W.” It has been issued after long and thorough investigation by five men of unquestioned standing in the capitalist world. At the head of these investigators was Professor John Graham Brooks of Harvard University, and next to him John A. Fish of the Survey of the Religious Organizations of Pittsburgh, and Mr. Bruere, the government investigator. Five of these prominent men conducted an impartial examination of the I.W.W. To quote their own words they “followed its trail.” They examined into its doings beginning at Bisbee where the “patriots,” the cowardly business men, the arch-criminals, made up the mob that deported 1,200 workingmen under the most brutal conditions, charging them with being members of the I.W.W. when they knew it to be false.

It is only necessary to label a man “I.W.W.” to have him lynched as they did Praeger, an absolutely innocent man. He was a Socialist and bore a German name, and that was his crime. A rumor was started that he was disloyal and he was promptly seized and lynched by the cowardly mob of so-called “patriots.”

War makes possible all such crimes and outrages. And war comes in spite of the people. When Wall Street says war the press says war and the pulpit promptly follows with its Amen. In every age the pulpit has been on the side of the rulers and not on the side of the people. That is one reason why the preachers so fiercely denounce the I.W.W.

Take the time to read this pamphlet about the I.W.W. Don’t take the word of Wall Street and its press as final. Read this report by five impartial and highly reputable men who made their investigation to know the truth, and that they might tell the truth to the American people. They declare that the I.W.W. in all its career never committed as much violence against the ruling class as the ruling class has committed against the I.W.W.

You are not now reading any reports in the daily press about the trial at Chicago, are you? They used to publish extensive reports when the trial first began, and to prate about what they proposed to prove against the I.W.W. as a gigantic conspiracy against the government. The trial has continued until they have exhausted all their testimony and they have not yet proven violence in a single instance. No, not one! They are utterly without incriminating testimony and yet 112 men are in the dock after lying in jail for months without the shadow of a crime upon them save that of belonging to the I.W.W. That is enough it would seem to convict any man of any crime and send his body to prison and his soul to hell. Just whisper the name of the I.W.W. and you are branded as a disloyalist. And the reason for this is wholly to the credit of the I.W.W., for whatever may be charged against it the I.W.W. has always fought for the bottom dog. And that is why Haywood is despised and prosecuted while Gompers is lauded and glorified by the same gang.

Now what you workers need is to organize, not along craft lines but along revolutionary industrial lines. All of you workers in a given industry, regardless of your trade or occupation, should belong to one and the same union.

Political action and industrial action must supplement and sustain each other. You will never vote the Socialist republic into existence. You will have to lay its foundations in industrial organization. The industrial union is the forerunner of industrial democracy. In the shop where the workers are associated is where industrial democracy has its beginning. Organize according to your industries! Get together in every department of industrial service! United and acting together for the common good your power is invincible.

When you have organized industrially you will soon learn that you can manage as well as operate industry. You will soon realize that you do not need the idle masters and exploiters. They are simply parasites. They do not employ you as you imagine but you employ them to take from you what you produce, and that is how they function in industry. You can certainly dispense with them in that capacity. You do not need them to depend upon for your jobs. You can never be free while you work and live by their sufferance. You must own your own tools and then you will control your own jobs, enjoy the products of your own labor and be free men instead of industrial slaves.

Organize industrially and make your organization complete. Then unite in the Socialist Party. Vote as you strike and strike as you vote.

Your union and your party embrace the working class. The Socialist Party expresses the interests, hopes and aspirations of the toilers of all the world.

Get your fellow workers into the industrial union and the political party to which they rightly belong, especially this year, this historic year in which the forces of labor will assert themselves as they never have before. This is the year that calls for men and women who have courage, the manhood and womanhood to do their duty.

Get into the Socialist Party and take your place in its ranks; help to inspire the weak and strengthen the faltering, and do your share to speed the coming of the brighter and better day for us all.

When we unite and act together on the industrial field and when we vote together on election day we shall develop the supreme power of the one class that can and will bring permanent peace to the world. We shall then have the intelligence, the courage and the power for our great task. In due time industry will be organized on a cooperative basis. We shall conquer the public power. We shall then transfer the title deeds of the railroads, the telegraph lines, the mines, mills and great industries to the people in their collective capacity; we shall take possession of all these social utilities in the name of the people. We shall then have industrial democracy. We shall be a free nation whose government is of and by and for the people.

And now for all of us to do our duty!  The clarion call is ringing in our ears and we cannot falter without being convicted of treason to ourselves and to our great cause.

Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves.  Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth.

Yes, in good time we are going to sweep into power in this nation and throughout the world.  We are going to destroy all enslaving and degrading capitalist institutions and re-create them as free and humanizing institutions.  The world is daily changing before our eyes.  The sun of capitalism is setting; the sun of socialism is rising.  It is our duty to build the new nation and the free republic.  We need industrial and social builders.  We Socialists are the builders of the beautiful world that is to be.  We are all pledged to do our part.  We are inviting—aye challenging you this afternoon in the name of your own manhood and womanhood to join us and do your part.

In due time the hour will strike and this great cause triumphant—the greatest in history—will proclaim the emancipation of the working class and the brotherhood of all mankind.”       Eugene Debs, “The Canton Ohio Speech, Anti-War Speech;” The Call, 1918

CC BY-SA by Tomathon
CC BY-SA by Tomathon


Numero Cuatro—“One of the historians whom I most admire is Marc Bloch.  He was one of France’s most important medieval historians in the first half of the twentieth century, and he died at the hands of the Gestapo while serving in the Resistance in Paris in 1944.  (Carole Fink’s biography is an outstanding treatment of his thought and life; Marc Bloch: A Life in History; also important is Marc Bloch, l’historien et la cite.)

Here I am primarily interested in the substantive contributions Bloch brought to the writing of history.  Bloch was one of the founders of the Annales school of history, along with Lucien Febvre, and he left a deep impression on subsequent historical imagination later in the twentieth century.  In particular, he gave a strong impetus to social and sociological history, and he brought a non-Marxist materialism into the writing of history that represented a very important angle of view.   The largest impact of the Annales school — Febvre, Bloch, Ladurie, Braudel, Le Goff — is the set of perspectives it forged for the understanding of social and cultural history — looking at the structures and experiences of ordinary people as one foundation for the formation of history.  This required the invention of new historical vocabulary and new sources of data. And Bloch was central in each area.

A couple of Bloch’s books are most significant.  Feudal Society is a very important contribution to our understanding of the institutions and social relations of feudalism — the manorial system, vassalage, and kingship.  And his writings about French agricultural history are of special interest (French Rural History: An Essay on Its Basic Characteristics).  These books document quite a few important aspects of French rural social life — both high and low.  But even more importantly, Bloch brought several distinctive ideas into historical writing that continue to serve as illuminating models about how to understand the past.  One is a version of materialist historical investigation — Bloch provides great insight into the forces and relations of production in rural medieval France and the material culture of the middle ages.  A second is an adept ability to single out and scrutinize some of the forms of political structure and power that defined French feudal society.  And a third is a subtle way of characterizing the social whole of medieval society and mentality that owed much to Durkheim. I n a curious way, then, Bloch’s work picked up some of the themes that constituted modern social theory in Marx, Weber, and Durkheim.

Bloch’s materialism is most evident in French Rural History. Here Bloch gives a detailed and scholarly treatment of the social and community consequences of the diffusion of the heavy wheeled plough. He provides a careful technical analysis of the advantages and exigencies of the heavy plough, which was most suited to the heavy soil of northern France. And he works out the social prerequisites of this technology — basically, a degree of community organization that could successfully coordinate land use consistent with ownership and the turning radius of the heavy implement and its team of horses. The technical requirements of the plough required certain social arrangements. And the social structure of the northern French village satisfied these conditions — in striking contrast to the looser coordination found in southern French villages. “Only a society of great compactness, composed of men who thought instinctively in terms of the community, could have created such a regime. The land itself was the fruit of collective labour” (French Rural History, 45).

This is materialism; but it is not especially Marxist materialism. It doesn’t give primacy to class relations. And it doesn’t support any kind of teleology in historical development. But the central point was clear. Bloch sought to demonstrate that a major technology — for example, cultivation with the heavy plough — incorporates and implicates a whole complex social and cultural system. And a major part of social history is to discover the sequence of adjustments through which the technology system is incorporated.

The Durkheim part of the story is also an important one.  Durkheim was a major influence on French social thought in the teens and twenties, and the vector to Bloch was particularly direct.  The journal Annales d’Histoire Economique et Sociale was created by Bloch and Febvre as a vehicle for inviting a more sociological approach to economic history and to encourage interdisciplinary research in this field, and Bloch and Febvre were deeply influenced by the debate that surrounded history and Durkheimian sociology in the period 1890-1910.  R. Colbert Rhodes has written a good essay on Durkheim’s influence on Bloch.  Rhodes writes: ‘Bloch’s essentially sociological approach to historical writing is responsible for some of the most distinctive and useful features of his work.  Bloch reflects the Durkheimian social realist metaphysic by reaching behind individuals to the social group considered in its broadest aspect, the collective mentality.  Bloch acknowledges in the Historian’s Craft his dominant interest in the study of man integrated into the social group.  In the Craft, Bloch borrows a citation from Lucien Febvre to state his own interest as ‘not man, again, never man.’  We are interested in ‘human societies, organized groups.’

The final feature of Bloch’s thought I want to highlight is his vocabulary of structure and power in his treatment of French feudalism.  There is a parallel with Weber in this body of thinking.  Bloch spent a year studying in Germany and was presumably aware of Weber’s thought, but there is no clear evidence of direct influence. But there are several ways in which some of Bloch’s thought parallels Weber’s.   One is in his use of ideas about historical concepts that are similar to Weber’s concept of ideal types.  And the other is his careful analysis of the historical realities of relations of power and social structures that embody power.

Bloch’s writings repay a careful reading — both for their importance as first-rate historical scholarship and for the light they shed on the problem of historical knowledge and conceptualization.  And it is highly relevant to find that all the strands of classical sociological theory find a counterpart in his thought.”    Daniel Little, “Marc Bloch’s History;” Understanding Society, 2008

for World Organization of Writers