ORGANIZER 23: FOR AN AMERICAN SOCIALISM [HUNTER GRAY 11/13/02] AND THEN MORE [11/20/02]
This is primarily for Marxism Discussion -- but I'm
a copy to Redbadbear and Marxist and SocUnity.
I moderate those. I'm also sending this to the Solidarity
Apropos of the discussion on Marxism, I have no problem
at all with Solidarity. After many years of
a close relationship with the always excellent Against the
Current -- occasionally writing for it -- I was very glad to formally
join the organization a few weeks ago. I also belong to
SPUSA, CCDS, DSA.
As most on these lists know by now, I'm both Native American --
certainly my primary identity --
and an American Westerner as well. My Native roots from an
essentially full-blooded father could hardly, of course, be more
ancient in this land -- and some of those people, i.e. Mohawk
fur hunters, traveled to the Far West in the early portion of the 19th
century, long pre-dating even the prospectors and cattlemen.
From my Anglo mother's side, my Western origins -- Great Plains
and Rockies -- go as far back as the middle 19th century and
involve everything from land-hungry gun-toting ranchers to
metal mining engineers, to farmer and worker socialists -- many
of those quite Red indeed. That background is all spelled
out in detail in several sections of our large website.
When I started doing discussion lists only a little over two years
ago, I also committed myself to trying to help gently broaden the
horizons of some on these various lists vis-a-vis Native peoples
and cultures -- and very much current Native concerns. I was also
interested in providing some insights into the culture of the
Real West -- and I also began to toss in reflections on an
adopted regional section of mine, the American South, in which
I spent a number of interesting years and with which I still maintain
very close connections. There's no question but that this all has
evoked some genuine interest from some people -- but, from what
I can tell, probably not a great many. In some instances, it's evoked
hostility. Lots of folks have, of course, already understandably
full agendas -- booked-up.
Again, and very fundamentally, when I started list participation, I
was initially drawn into it by a Marxism Discussion of Bert
Cochran's American Socialist and the related American Socialist
Union -- the valiant '50s effort to spearhead a uniquely American
Left socialism. This was a practical, sensible, ecumenical, and
genuinely Left approach.
That appealing vision and comparable variants flicker and flare but
usually seem to wind up being either ignored -- or submerged by
socialist developments in other parts of the world or by intricate
ideological hairsplitting often devoid of warmth or humour. [And,
on some lists -- not Marxism or the other recipients of this! --
it all bogs down in meaningless pro-and-con discussions
about the increasingly pathetic Democratic Party.]
At this moment, the hideous crises being presented to us daily -- if
not hourly -- compel urgent, pragmatic solidarity and leave little
time for the development of intricate black-board socio-gram
formulae. If an outfit you coalition with doesn't function
shoulder-to-shoulder, then cut it loose -- and/or go it alone.
As a much older friend of mine once put it at a union
convention a long, long time ago during the Cold War Red Scare:
"When you are on the picket line and the finks come at you, you
don't take a referendum vote, you beat the living hell out of them.
And the finks are at us from every rat-hole in the United States --
and that's all they are, finks."
And then there's the much deeper challenge:
In his Decline of the I.W.W., [New York: Columbia University Press,
1932], John Gambs noted some characteristics that would also apply
to traditional Debs socialism:
". . .the I.W.W. is an American product. It is democratic, puritanical; it
professes to permit religious freedom. It is good-natured, easy-going,
shrewd, humorous, friendly. . . At the I.W.W. headquarters, casual friendly
interest is evinced. The American posters and the American accent
predominate; the men loafing at the table tell American stories and play
American card games. Except for the French word, "bourgeois," the
vocabulary of the I.W.W. is the vocabulary of the American hobo. Its
peculiar contributions to hobo cant have an American flavor: "dehorn,"
"scissorbill," "fink." [Page 197]
And, in that always egalitarian I.W.W. context, there were certainly
virtually all races and many foreign language groups. At its heyday, it
issued publications in at least a dozen foreign languages. Its basic
grounding lay in the rich cultural mix of its country of
origin: the United States.
If we are ever going to develop a genuinely broad-based and enduring
American Left socialism, it's damn well going to have to be deeply
rooted in the best traditions of Rebel America: democratic, militant,
genuinely radical [not Democratic twaddle and right-wing social
democrat rationalizations and "respectability."] No reason whatsoever
not to read theorists and practical revolutionaries from other settings.
[And most of us do.] Every reason indeed to link up with global
movements -- from which we can also learn much. But, in the final analysis,
those of us who are Americans are going to have to cut our own trail
over the mountains and far beyond. Forget about p.c. issues like "guns"
and the diversionary detours of militant atheism -- or the well-motivated
Leftist sins of yore of some individual or organization.
If we're really serious, we have far bigger fish to fry and we're going
to have to do it in an American skillet -- over a long-burning fire from
the timber of our own forests.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
SOLIDARITY -- AND A COUPLE
OF OTHER NOTES [HUNTER GRAY 11/20/02]
Posted on several related lists - H.
Thanks for your good comments, Mike [Ballard]. To be cordially frank about
it, I almost responded to you off-list simply because I'm skeptical about
how much interest is held at this moment by most of the verbally active
members [on any lists] regarding homegrown American radicalism, some
lessons for the present via Wobblies and the American Socialist et al. [as
well as Indian issues.] On the good chance, though, that there are
certainly some in the lurking shadows, I'll do this "openly."
Debs, of course, has always been considered a major and explicit founder of
the IWW. Although he was prevented by illness from attending the initially
formal industrial union discussion of two dozen or so persons at Chicago
in January, 1905, he was certainly present at the founding convention
[Industrial Union Congress] at Chicago in June of that year. At that
gathering, 70 delegates were present to install the Western Federation of
Miners [the basic force]; the American Labor Union [largely a WFM creation],
the United Brotherhood of Railway Employees [with which, I would certainly
assume, Debs maintained a formal affiliational relationship], and the
Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance [DeLeon's organization.] There were also
72 delegates without installation power and 61 individual delegates
I would certainly assume that, just as every WFM member became a member of
the IWW, so did all of those [including Debs] who were members of the United
Brotherhood of Railway Employees. How long Debs maintained a formal IWW
membership, I don't know -- but I've drawn the firm impression from the
old-timers of the middle '50s, that he let it quietly lapse after the 1908
convention. He most definitely always maintained a very friendly and
supportive stance regarding the IWW despite the growing influence of the
Yellow Socialists in the SP.
Although the ouster of DeLeon -- [and with him went, I think, at least most
of his followers], from the 1908 convention of the IWW -- was put on the
narrow basis that he came as a member of the Store and Office Workers union
and not as an editor member of the New York City Printing and Publishing
local, the real reasons were certainly both ideological and personal.
[Normal convention flex could have gotten him immediately credentialed via
another group on the scene.] He et al. then launched their "Detroit IWW"
which really went nowhere and formally died in the mid-1920s.
I don't think the personal thing between Haywood and St John and the other
Western miners [and Western migratory workers as well] on the one hand and,
on the other, the arrogantly "Eastern" DeLeon can really be minimized. It
was, I'm convinced, a major dimension. Nearly 50 years later, very early in
'55, the extremely sharp in all respects C.E. Payne at Seattle -- present at
1908 as he had been at the formal founding in 1905 -- wrote DeLeon off in
the most personal sense. When I grinned at "Stumpy" Payne, and said, "He
[DeLeon] sounds like what we in Arizona and New Mexico call a WEB -- a "Wise
Eastern Bastard," he [almost 90] smiled broadly in a grandfatherly fashion
at me [just turned 21], and said, "Well, I really don't use that particular
word, but that is certainly exactly what he was."
The basic point that the post-1908 IWW still retained a fair number with a
politically socialist perspective is well-taken and, as we've noted, always
quite accurate. Butte, as I've said, was certainly a case in point over a
stretch of many years. As William James put it so well [sans any racial
connotations], "It takes only the existence of one white crow to prove all
crows aren't black." There were always political socialists in the old
IWW -- and, again as I've noted, I first encountered copies of the excellent
American Socialist in the Seattle hall which was very much at that point the
Western regional mother church of the anarcho-syndicalists. Many of the
old-timers on hand when I was there had supported the Far Western "Emergency
Program" de-centralizer faction of Jimmy Rowan during the 1924 split -- but
returned to the mainline organization when some of the burning issues were
satisfactorily resolved. On the other hand, the IWW relationship with the
Communist Party was mutually hostile and, unlike the more general socialist
dimension, there were no open CP members in the American IWW after the very
But, as I alluded earlier, the IWW members -- and the very numerous former
Wobblies -- in the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [formerly the WFM] --
consistently supported, all the way through, the dominant Left faction in
Mine-Mill. That faction's pluralistic leadership and staff included some
who had Communist Party backgrounds -- as well as others who were
independent and explicit radicals. Unlike the "other" faction
["boot-lickers"], all of the Left leaders and staff in Mine-Mill were
vigorously committed to militant and visionary unionism -- always
characterized by vigorous rank-and-file democracy and full racial
egalitarianism. This solidarity -- "The Fight for the Union" -- paid off
very well on all fronts. Around the same general time that the Fund for the
Republic characterized Mine-Mill as the most democratic of the United States
unions [along with some other Left unions], pointing not only to very low
salaries for officers and staff but to the heavy use in IUMMSW of the
grassroots referendum vote, Business Week referred to Mine-Mill as " the
leanest and toughest of unions" and "strong, tough and dangerous."
I have a rare full file of the second run of the very nicely done IWW
magazine, One Big Union Monthly, which ran from January, 1937 through May,
1938 -- and these political action issues are discussed therein with some
explicit and implicit regularity.
I was extraordinarily fortunate to spend a vast amount of time with these
hardy and sharp old Wobbly vets -- listening to their accounts and analyses.
I did this as a relative kid, barely out of a full Army stretch, at a point
at the beginning of '55 almost a decade before Joe Conlin [with whom I later
had considerable and very friendly contact] and Robert Tyler and Melvyn
Dubofsky and others came from academic bastions to the very fast dwindling
old Red-card survivors. But Native people, even those in their hot-blooded
very early 'twenties, do generally recognize and appreciate the wisdom of
Here's a final DeLeon story:
My wife and I were in the hard-core South, heavily involved in the Southern
Movement, from 1961 to 1967 -- and, for most of that time, I was a full-time
field organizer in mostly rural settings. At various points, we called on
supporters nationally and internationally for support at critical points.
Much of that involved our anti-Klan work in regions where Klan membership
was rising rapidly, its influence in many Dixie political structures at
several levels was becoming pervasive, and the hate atmosphere was
increasingly violent and lethal. In one Klan-infested complex of rural
counties, we made such a call for anti-Klan communications aimed at certain
state and national leaders and we also asked for heavy donations of food and
clothing for the victims of anti-Movement economic reprisals: Black [and
some Native] sharecroppers evicted from the plantations and Black [and some
Native] workers fired. These requests were quickly met by a fine range of
folks over a vast piece of Earth -- and one of the many very effective
supporters was Solon DeLeon. I recognized his name immediately as the son
of the old factionalist. [I still have, here, a carbon copy of one of his
early support letters, and he formally signed the copy with a broadly
And then, much later, I learned that he had come down from the North to
help an ancient, rurally-based private Black college struggling for its
continued existence. This was not far from where I was at that point and I
I found the very old son of Daniel DeLeon, sitting in a large musty room in
an old-red brick library -- surrounded by mountains of books which he was
organizing. We immediately got on well and Then -- the very interesting
chemical reaction commenced: we began to talk with very pleasant intensity
about the 1908 IWW convention. He began to take his father's position --
and I that of Haywood and St John and Stumpy Payne. His eyes glowed -- and
students began to gather. For about three hours, Solon DeLeon and I debated
all of the issues -- and many more -- in front of a large group of
fascinated Black students.
Since many of the kids, through no fault of their own, were not aware of the
mysteries of "anarcho-syndicalism" and related priestly terms, I
interpreted these within the very roughly analogous Southern Movement
framework: direct action -- vs. voter registration etc and litigation.;
and [my view] direct action and voter registration etc. and litigation --
vs. voter registration etc. and litigation only [the regrettably limited
functional view of much of the NAACP national office.] In any event, it was
a great discussion. Then we all went off to the dining hall for some
excellent soul food.
Solon DeLeon and I parted very warmly -- he returning to his mountains of
books, and I to Klan challenges. He may have had the tougher challenge!
To have produced a good man like that, Daniel DeLeon had to have had some
Solidarity -- and Nialetch
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
ORGANIZER 23 [GUNS] HUNTER GRAY 11/01/02
This is posted primarily for ASDnet -- but I am
putting it on a couple of
On other lists on which I find myself, the "gun issue" is occasionally
discussed and, when so, it's in an essentially rational fashion. There seem
to be a couple of reasons for this: it's often seen on those as a basically
class issue -- i.e., the employing class et al. trying to disarm the
working class and others "of the fewest alternatives" [including
minorities] -- a Marxist view, obviously, with which I agree.
The other reason is that, on those other lists, there are people with direct
personal experience as firearms owners and users.
Only on ASDnet has there been, with the exception of Issodhos, no visible
evidence that anyone other then myself knows much of a substantive nature
about firearms. For the most part, the anti-gun voices on ASDnet are coming
essentially from a Democratic Party perspective -- hardly a genuinely
socialist one in the remotest sense -- and one which swims in the tepid
Rivers of [shallow] Political Correctness [while the really heavy
and historically demanding sanguinary Rivers of No Return press in on us
from the very Four Directions.]
For those of us who have grown up with firearms, a gun is literally "no
better or worse than the person who uses it." To many others, guns are
something they can at least discuss objectively. To the anti-gun folk on
ASDnet -- and to at least some of the New York DSAers et al. especially --
these mechanisms of which they have no direct and personal knowledge are seen as
inherently evil and threatening. Obviously, in addition to missing the many
benefits [primarily good meat and skill-testing] from hunting, none of them
have ever had to defend themselves and their family and their people with
firearms. And, with the exception of genuinely principled pacifists [who
never turn and run away], these anti-gunners [I don't mean just non-gunners]
are certainly not people with whom I'd ever be comfortable next to me in
any physical -- and especially lethal -- confrontation.
Ever see a picket line against which the copper bosses are aiming scabs and
thugs -- and suddenly several dozen deer rifles appear in the hands of the hard-rock
miners? And the bosses and their lackeys back away -- pronto. That's
effective self-defense. The Southern Movement functioned primarily not in a
Gandhian sense -- but in a tactically non-violent one. But, like community
organizing in Southside Chicago and a vast number of other crucibles,
there were/are certainly countless examples of principled, individual
self-defense against racist and related elements.
In that context, I should add that I see, for example, Michael Moore as an
increasingly irrelevant factor.Obviously, he and his groupies are still
clinging to the fast fading Clinton/Gore/Lieberman tradition of endeavouring
to build anti-gun capital in any sick fashion possible. Remember how, after
a gun-related tragedy, Clinton/Gore would gather family survivors around
them in the Rose Garden to make their sanctimoniously self-serving prattle?
They used the "issue" in precisely the same fashion as the old Southern
racists used race in Dixie -- to divert attention away from the really
fundamental issues confronting Humanity. ["Asked why the Mississippi highway
development program has virtually slowed to a stop, Governor Barnett shifted the
discussion to Communist efforts to register colored voters in the state and
the possibility of a Gulf Coast invasion from Cuba." From the Jackson Daily
In the meantime, Clinton/Gore et al. were joining Republicans in gutting
welfare and strengthening the death penalty and bombing Yugoslavia for 90
days -- as well as Iraq and Sudan and much more. It's not surprising that
Moore's anti-gun pieces find resonance among his kindred souls on ASDnet.
Here are a couple of historical pieces which some may have seen, others not.
As an Indian, I am in the soul, very much a traditionalist. And remember, that
great Chiricahua/Mescalero freedom fighter, Geronimo, during his wild and
free days, never failed to include -- in any photos taken of him -- his
45/70 Springfield and then, in keeping with technological movement, his Winchester
40/60 WCF 1876 lever action.
These are from our website:
John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha], great/great/great grandfather of Hunter
"Gray -- Ross had described him the year before as "a turbulent blackguard,
a damned rascal" -- then launched into a denunciation of the policies of HBC
in general and the men of the Columbia Department in particular: ". . .the
greatest Villains in the World & if they were here this day I would shoot
them . . ." John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha], Mohawk, fighting leader
of the Iroquois fur-hunters in the Far West, to Peter Skene Ogden et al. of
the Hudson's Bay Company, on May 24 1825, at the point John Gray and his
Native band struck Ogden's camp -- near the present northeastern
Utah/southeastern Idaho border -- and successfully ended a viciously
exploitative pricing system and quasi-indentured servitude over the whole,
entire wide region.
Cited from: Don Berry, A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the
Rocky Mountain Fur Company [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961], page 97.
The Western Federation of Miners -- founder of IWW and later rechristened as
the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers -- responds to the
cruel and viciously sanguinary repression initiated by the Mine Owners'
Association and its lackeys in the Rocky Mountain and environs region.
At the WFM convention of 1897, held at Salt Lake City, president Ed Boyce
delivered a famous speech:
"I deem it important to direct your attention to Article 2 of the
Constitutional Amendments of the United States -- "the right of the people
to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." This you should comply with
immediately. Every [local] union should have a rifle club. I strongly
advise you to provide every member with the latest improved rifle, which can
be obtained from the factory at a nominal price. I entreat you to take
action on this important question, so that in two years we can hear the
inspiring music of the martial tread of 25,000 armed men in the ranks of
labor." [Cited in, among others, Vernon H. Jensen, Heritage of Conflict:
Labor Relations In The Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Up To 1930 (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1950) page 67.]
And few of my many experiences -- under my former name of
John R. Salter, Jr. [from an early 1990s essay by David Koepel]:
"In the 1950s and 1960s, a new civil rights movement began in the South.
White supremacist tactics were just as violent as they had been during
Reconstruction. Blacks and civil rights workers armed for self-defense.
John Salter, a professor at Tougaloo College and chief organizer of the
N.A.A.C.P.'s Jackson Movement during the early 1960s, wrote, "No one knows
what kind of massive racist retaliation would have been directed against
grass-roots black people had the black community not had a healthy measure
of firearms within it." Salter personally had to defend his home and family
several times against attacks by night riders. After Salter fired back, the
night riders fled.
The unburned Ku Klux Klan cross in the Smithsonian Institution was donated
by a civil rights worker whose shotgun blast drove Klansmen away from her
State or federal assistance sometimes came not when disorder began but when
blacks reacted by arming themselves. In North Carolina, Governor Terry
Sanford refused to command state police to protect a civil rights march from
Klan attacks. When Salter warned Governor Sanford that if there were no
police, the marchers would be armed for self-defense, the Governor provided
police protection." [From an essay, "Trust the People" by David Koepel]
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] [formerly John R Salter, Jr]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
GUN NOTE: MY NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ON COMPULSORY GUN OWNERSHIP [HUNTER GRAY 10/31/02]
Note by Hunterbear:
A good ASDnet friend, in writing off-list yesterday, suggested that I use
as a pro-gun argument the Swiss policy of requiring gun ownership by
all able-bodied men -- which appears to play a role in maintaining a
low crime rate in that country. It's a point well taken -- but a policy
with which I disagree. I use as an example my great grandfather,
Michael Senn, a Swiss immigrant who played a major role in Kansas
radical history [Clay, Dickinson, Riley counties] and whose daughter,
Marie Barbara Senn, was my maternal grandmother, the first woman to get
a Masters degree in Kansas, a leader in the suffrage movement, and
-- as far as all involved historians know -- the first full time female
college prof in the history of North Dakota [in the '90s, at ND
Agricultural College -- now NDSU -- Fargo. She married my
grandfather, a ND rancher's son, and they went to North Idaho and
then to Everett and Seattle, Washington. Lots of guns in that
family -- as well as in all of my other family lines. But I can't imagine
any of those folks anywhere forcing firearms ownership on anyone.
Anyway, my post on compulsory firearms ownership:
Without getting into some of the other facets of this discussional morass --
from which I really am trying to extricate myself gracefully -- let me
comment only on the Swiss thing. To a large extent you are quite right, and
I'm familiar with the situation. My late Anglo mother [died recently at
95] was mostly Scottish but she did have a Swiss grandfather who left there
in the 1840s because he was opposed to universal military training and the
compulsory firearms situation. He landed in what became Kansas Territory in
the 1850s, became a prominent Abolitionist, joined the Union Army and was
wounded several times at Gettysburg -- and later founded the Knights of
Labor in Kansas, was a leader in the Populist Party, and then eventually
became a Socialist. I never knew him since he died more than a decade
before I was hatched -- but I heard often from his wife [my GGM, who lived
to be almost 100] and from others about his staunch and life-long
opposition to the compulsory piece of it. I share those views. Obviously,
I yield to no one in my commitment to the right to sensibly bear arms -- but
I would oppose any effort to make it mandatory.
About ten years ago, the
small town of Reserve, NM, in the rather strange county of Catron, tried to
make all adults carry guns. I found that bizarre and, of course, it was
found to be quite unconstitutional.
Take care, amigo - All best
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´