ORGANIZER 12

WRITING  JUST AS I FEEL MOVED TO DO -- NOW AND FOREVER [HUNTERBEAR  5/ 23 / 02]      A BRIEF DISCUSSIONAL NOTE [5 /20 /02]    UNIONS AND THE SOUTH [COLLOQUY CONTINUED]   HUNTER GRAY  MAY 10 - 11  2002    [AND A NOTE ON, WHERE'S THE HUMOUR IN THE AMERICAN RADICAL MOVEMENT THESE DAYS? -- HUNTER GRAY  5/16/02]

 

WRITING JUST AS I FEEL MOVED TO DO -- NOW AND FOREVER:

Just a brief and, I'm sure, quite unsurprising personal reiteration from me
on this pleasantly  cold Idaho early morning. [If the Sun were out, the
close-by mountains would be shining with snow.]

I've read through all of the ASDnet mosquito stings tossed [ by a very few]
in my direction.  While the great majority of ASDnet will, I'm sure, make
their own thoughtful assessments about the emotional and [using the word
with care and relativism] "intellectual" quality of those crude and very
transparent bites -- I will certainly, in any case, continue to write and
post things just as I see fit [including pieces well illustrated, in my
opinion, by rich and relevant  personal experience.]

I very much welcome the comparable experiential observations of, say, the
good David McReynolds and the forthright Donald Todd -- and anyone else.

Since I learned to write, I've always written precisely as I have felt moved
to do.  I was doing that long before I ever read the extremely resonant and
eternally appropriate statement by James T. Farrell:

"Neither man nor God is going to tell me what to write."

This, from the '30s, and directed against those particular "radical" honchos
interested in telling writers what to write  -- and also to something which
had some people with the same problem -- the Church.

On May 16, I posted something on ASDnet called, "FWD from Redbadbear:
Various Matters."  Here, in the event it was missed, is a key component of
that post:

"ASDnet is always good for an interesting -- if sometimes  briefly
discouraging -- little twist.  Here is someone taking David [a sensible
supporter of the Palestinian cause, someone who is a sworn foe of
anti-Semitism, and a life-long pacifist] to task because of his posts.  This
on ASDnet where, despite the presence of many good folk,  some so-called
"social democrats" can fire off red-baiting posts like a Gatling Gun at
Ludlow."

I find the several attacks on David McReynolds among the most  shabby and
bizarre exercises I've encountered -- ever, on or off Internet.

I conclude this with the comment that, if anyone -- whoever, wherever --
doesn't like the way I write -- or what I say -- he or she can travel
straight down to Hell and wait there until I change my mind.

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´


NOW, THE BRIEF DISCUSSIONAL NOTE:

It's becoming common for a very few people on ASDnet -- among them, Leo
Casey and Ralph Suter who've each done it once again today [and a few others
as well at different points] -- to complain when I cite rich and solid and
often unique personal experiences, garnered over many decades, to make my
arguments.  I'm not particularly ideological and I'm not a book-radical and
I didn't learn this stuff in college classes. I've been very much privileged
by History and, when It has reached out, I've taken Its hand and gone with
it at the grassroots and at many points over many decades. And I am still trying to -- very much indeed.  I've learned a great deal along the way, mainly
from the grassroots people of many ethnicities with whom I've very
constructively worked  -- but also from mortal and deadly adversaries.
There are at least a few others on ASDnet who can certainly say this.

I'm not responsible for the fact that others may not have done so.  That's
purely their business. If they have done so, it would be interesting to know
some of the grassroots activism in which they've participated, what they've
learned, and what they care to contribute.  There are people on ASDnet --
and other lists -- who've done this and I appreciate it very much.

Much of my stuff is clearly indicated on our large website
www.hunterbear.org  The nicely done Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
carries a bio of me and some other pieces in other of its sections
http://www.crmvet.org/


In the ASDnet discussion of the South and Unions, I made  an obviously
necessary statement of personal credentials --  one that has significantly
upset the ASDnet critics.  This is that statement [a post of May 10] and,
frankly, I find it quite appropriate when one such as myself is establishing
[in the face of concerted opposition] the fact that he very much knows
whereof he speaks:

"I know the South [its many variants and its many "New Souths"] very well
indeed and I have for decades. I went to Mississippi in 1961 for the
Movement and remained in the hard-core South until 1967. I've been in many
of its jails, was sometimes badly and very painfully beaten, almost died
there.  Two of my children were born in the South.  My oldest grandson [20],
here with us, is one-half Mississippi Choctaw [Neshoba and Leake counties.]  My collected papers are held by Mississippi State Department of Archives and
History, I'm a Life Member of Mississippi Historical Society, and I have
discouraged an effort or two to rename a short street in Jackson for me [my
former name of John Salter.]"

Oral history is much in my cultural traditions -- and I've never claimed to
have anything except a very healthy ego.


As Ever - Hunterbear

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´





UNIONS AND THE SOUTH [COLLOQUY CONTINUED]  HUNTERBEAR

I have only a bit more, at this point at least, on the South and unions.
The topic has generated some very solid input on the Redbadbear list -- and
a helpful comment or two on ASDnet.  But the most impressive characteristic
of ASDnet is its oft-silence.

I know the South [its many variants and its many "New Souths"] very well
indeed and I have for decades. I went to Mississippi in 1961 for the
Movement and remained in the hard-core South until 1967. I've been in many
of its jails, was sometimes badly and very painfully beaten, almost died
there.  Two of my children were born in the South.  My oldest grandson, here
with us, is one-half Mississippi Choctaw [Neshoba and Leake counties.]  My
collected papers are held by Mississippi State Department of Archives and
History, I'm a Life Member of Mississippi Historical Society, and I have
discouraged an effort or two to rename a short street in Jackson for me [my
former name of John Salter.]

I have several basic points on Dixie:

[1] It is not, simply, the "rest of the country exaggerated."  It's
regionally unique and, despite the changes of the past several decades, it
remains unique.  The heritage of chattel slavery, the War and the
Occupation -- all of this and much more continue to function as an effective
skeleton hand to this very moment.  But there is also the grand legacy -- the high courage and the vision -- of the Civil Rights Movement.

[2]  Tough as the South is -- and it can be very brutally tough -- it can
certainly be cracked. It's been  much cracked on other things -- e.g., civil
rights.  You had to be "down there" -- behind the Cotton Curtain -- in, say,
1961 to understand how ostensibly impregnable the "dominant" dimensions of
social geography certainly appeared.

[3]   You start cracking NOW.  To wait until the political landscape of the
United States has changed until you launch Normandy-for-Dixie will, as I
noted a day or so ago,simply be tantamount to waiting until the Ice Age has
melted. [There were many nay-sayers who advised and warned the incipient
Civil Rights Movement to wait -- and wait -- and wait.  The Movement did not
wait.]

[4]   We would all agree that  organizing  every working person into an
effective union is absolutely compelling.  That applies to the South -- as
it does everywhere else.  But there is also a very special reason for
organizing Dixie from one end to the other.  That region, for various and
generally well-known reasons, has exerted a disproportionately negative
influence on the United States as a whole [and well beyond.]  If it isn't
effectively unionized, it'll continue to do so forever.

[5]   Finally, the South can be very surprising.  When it moves, it can move
[for better and worse] with a passion and rapidity unnerving to some
Yankees.  Some of the finest and most committed Anglo union activists that I
know in the Mississippi of today, were once very militant members of the
White Knights and the United Klans and comparable groups.

In my response to the recitation of the standard AFL-CIO "line" -- i.e,
organizing is solely the responsibility of the internationals, the AFL-CIO
itself has limited funds, etc etc -- I made several points yesterday, among
them:


"AFL leadership to some extent, very much that of CIO, and certainly AFL-CIO
and IUD [CIO] at various  points over time have provided funds, technical
and even direct organizing staff, and have stimulated and coordinated
large-scale organizing campaigns.  Never enough, ever -- but in some
situations, some. Point is, almost all dimensions of mainline unionism
backed out of the South in any on-going fashion -- because it is indeed
tough and expensive."

There are a number of classic examples of top-level money and other
resources coming "down" directly from top-level "federation" sources into
the grassroots to supplement and stimulate efforts by the internationals --
even to the point of sometimes engaging in its own direct organizing.
Certain "federal local" structures emanating directly from AFL -- in time,
turned over to the appropriate internationals -- come immediately to mind as
does the classic matter of Lewis and other top CIO activists directly hiring
and utilizing a myriad of bright young Left-wingers [ socialists and
communists] to not only,  in its very springtime,  launch the initial
momentum of CIO but also to continue that momentum at various points in a
feathering-out sense.  Examples of this top-level-oriented grassroots
activism faded [but not completely] during the the Cold War period -- and the
increasing retreats by mainline labor's leadership-- and beyond.

There are also, of course, examples of one well-established international
organizing workers for another: e.g., Mine-Mill organizing teachers for AFT
in such settings as Montana and Arizona-- before the top AFT leadership
panicked-- and then turning them over to AFT.

But, even if all of these precedents and more of related nature did not
exist, there's every reason for the AFL-CIO from its "federation peak" to
pour money and staff and all other appropriate resources into intensive and
long-term grassroots union organizing.

I  made the point yesterday, "AFL-CIO  certainly has a great deal of
money -- as witness its many very substantial non-organizing project
expenditures."

As simply just one of many examples --  a fiscally mountainous one -- each
major election has seen  AFL-CIO channel 30 or 40 million dollars into
various Democratic party campaign coffers.  While the Wellstones may be well
worth it, there are many others who are not.

And, without discounting the importance of work with Congress and state
legislatures -- to a point and only to a point -- it's obvious that anytime
those settings become the key "organizing arena" for Labor, Labor is in the
Okeefenokee [Swamp.]

Grassroots organizing at the point of production is Genesis and, until
American Labor genuinely goes back to that and takes the initiative with
creativity and militancy and vision and long-term endurance, the Bosses will
continue to call the basic shots.

We can and must -- and will -- return to that Genesis.

Fraternally [if hastily] --

Hunterbear

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

 

A BIT MORE:

FROM HUNTERBEAR:

Yours is a very good question, Christopher.  This response of mine is not
organized sociology -- but just some rather hasty thoughts.

A quick answer -- and one not meant to be either curt or snide -- is that a
person really has to live in the South to understand its still-continuing
and very substantial distinctiveness. I mean live in it, not just travel
through it a time or two, or read academically about it -- or see GWTW.  I
ought to add that the first adult book that I ever read, in the third grade,
was my parents' copy of GWTW and I read every single word of it, especially
liking the burning of Atlanta and the shooting of the Yankee and Rhett's use
of "damn."  But I did every word of The Great Fantasy -- and it may have
helped me understand the very strange region I entered in 1961 as Adversary
and to which I now often return.

And I don't mean DC or Maryland or Delaware, for example, or Miami as far
as that goes. I'm talking about the Real South -- from East Texas across and
'way up well into Virginia, most of Kentucky to the Gulf Coast [and most of
Florida, for sure].  That's how the South -- Deep and Middle and Border and
Urban and Rural -- stands today.

Much cotton / tobacco / other crops -- and relatively pervasive chattel
slavery -- made up the economic basis of the South for centuries.  This was
not the case in the Southern mountains and adjoining hills -- but it was the
general situation.  Much of that agricultural base still continues and, even
today, the sharecropper system [which replaced outright slavery] is still
frequently found despite automation.  And even now, it is not uncommon to find many rural Southerners of various races whose geographical identity is not that of the "state" or "the nation" but their county [or, in the case of
Louisiana, parish.]  Some still rarely travel beyond their county or parish
borders.

The use of chattel slaves in the Northeast never came even remotely close to
the Southern System in numbers, economic significance,  and socio-cultural
influence, and longevity-of-practice.  And both the North and the South --
and all the other sections of the country of course -- feature pervasive and
continuing wage slavery.  But open feudalism in the classic agrarian sense
is still much around much of the Deep South and class distinctions are
extremely sharp -- and economic inequities are certainly most profound in all of Dixie. One could certainly argue, sadly and convincingly, that the "new industries" entering the Southern context or developing therein do so with very uniquely [industrial] feudal dimensions!

The South, as I've alluded, is still very provincial   And it's extremely
religious -- the most generally fundamentalist region by far. It's also
extremely violent, often pervasively so.  Examples:  So-called "lawmen" at
all levels can still be quite violent -- often very much in the case of union
organizers in rural and small town settings.  Grade school and high school
kids throughout the South are currently subjected to even more corporal
punishment  -- a practice I strongly oppose -- than, say, we were in small
town Northern Arizona.

 The very Southern vocabulary often, as a 19th century observer remarked
then, "drips with manslaughter."  A very dear friend for now more than forty
years, and an extremely close colleague in the hottest of the Movement
struggles, recently commented to me about another very dear lady and mutual
acquaintance:  "I'd like to ram my .38 right down  her [Miss L___'s]
Goddamned throat."  Both of these ladies are in their eighties.

That was just friendly talk -- but the homicide and aggravated assault rate
is indeed extremely high.


The South is also an area where, to use the Mississippi expression, "Black,
White, Chinese, and Choctaw [and, of course, by extension other ethnicities]
usually know a great deal about one another and where, despite the various
shadings of racism and ethnocentrism, there are frequently very close ties
across racial lines -- especially in the rural, small town, small city
[gemeinschaft] settings. [Some of those ties, though not formally recorded
necessarily, are by blood.]  You don't find this kind of closeness, say, in
much of the broadly urban/industrial Northeast or even in many other areas.
In some ways, the whole State of Mississippi, say, is still one big small
town. And that applies to much of the rest of the South at least.

And the South continues to be heavily shaped by the legacy of the Civil War
and the Long Occupation [Reconstruction.]  No other Euro-American section of
the 'States, big or small, ever even remotely had that experience.  As
someone so accurately tagged it all, it's still the "Blazing Scar."

The traditional flag of Mississippi contains the flag of the Southern
Confederacy.  There was a very heavy vote a year or so ago in
Mississippi on the matter of replacing the old flag with an attractive new
one -- sans the Stars & Bars.  The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated --
large numbers of Blacks, including many of very strong civil rights bent,
voting against the proffered change.  For better or worse, the old flag
still flies high.

The Civil Rights Movement is a grand and glorious legacy -- and it also,
still, involves a great deal of continuing activism.  That tradition, and its
continuing vital and living pieces and on-going thrust, offers much to union
organizers and union organization. Low-income poor Whites -- and they abound in the South, as elsewhere -- are quite reachable with the Union Gospel. And now, much more than ever before, they're willing to work with all of the others in the  world of the "Black, White, Chinese and Choctaw."

The South is colorful and exciting -- and I like it.  Especially the Deep
South.  I could tell a million stories about it -- as it was then and as it
is now.  And it's still very much the South.

Where else could I have a long and congenial supper with a former [and by
then vastly changed] top leader of the Mississippi White Knights of the KKK
who, with his equally zealous father,  had once put out a nicely printed
mass leaflet-style death list across the South with my name and photo [and
that of a few others]?

Or, where else could I go into a small grocery store one night, and ask the
old White man and his kid for "a dozen eggs" -- and, this is what
transpired.  The old man was puzzled. "What did y'all say?" he asked.  

"I'd like a dozen eggs . . . sir" said I.

His face darkened.  "What?" he asked.  I started again --

The kid suddenly beamed, brightened.  "Oh, he means Ay-yegs, Pa! He wants a
box of Ay-yegs."

The old man beamed happily.  "Ay-yegs!" said he.  "Ay-yegs!"   And he got me
a "box."

I don't have a Yankee accent.  I have a soft, rural Arizona accent.  But we
don't say, Y'all -- we say You-all.  And we do say Eggs.

Yours - Hunter [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

----- Original Message -----
From: "Christopher Rhoades Dÿkema" <crdbronx@erols.com>
To: <asdnet@igc.topica.com>
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2002 10:47 AM
Subject: RE: [ASDnet] Unions and the South [a bit more]

Hunter --

I'm curious about this point:


"  I have several basic points on Dixie:

[1] It is not, simply, the "rest of the country exaggerated."  It's
regionally unique and, despite the changes of the past several decades, it
remains unique.  The heritage of chattel slavery, the War and the
Occupation -- all of this and much more continue to function as an effective
skeleton hand to this very moment.
"

I wonder how true this is. After all, chattel slavery did exist in the North
too, and was quite significant in New York State and Pennsylvania until well
into the 19th century. Ira Berlin argues that a nationally significant
abolitionism that was important enough to challenge the
core (really the cores) of slavery in the various regions of the South had
to wait until slavery had sufficiently receded in the northern states.

This seems more than a purely technical point. I would certainly agree that
the South has always been the repository of the most regressive and
anti-democratic American trends, and that that makes it distinctive. But
that fact might also be consistent with it being "rest of the country
exaggerated."

And the strategic consequences for the left are potentially significant
according to whether or not the South is the one or the other kind of thing
in relation to other regions.

Christopher Rhoades Dÿkema

 

AND A NOTE ON, WHERE'S THE HUMOUR IN THE AMERICAN RADICAL MOVEMENT THESE DAYS? - HUNTERBEAR  5/16/02

ASDnet is always good for an interesting -- if sometimes  briefly
discouraging -- little twist.  Here is someone taking David [a sensible
supporter of the Palestinian cause, a guy who is a sworn foe of
anti-Semitism, and a life-long pacifist] to task because of his posts.  This
on ASDnet where, despite the presence of many good folk,  some so-called
"social democrats" can fire off red-baiting posts like a Gatling Gun at
Ludlow.  Anyway, here is my response on that matter.

I conclude this comment about Dave's posts with something that happened --
and almost happened --  to me when I was extremely little. It has a humorous
twist -- Now.  It really didn't at all Then.  I added it a few hours ago in
the very early morning in this ASDnet context -- where humour is as rare as

peach trees in North Dakota.

Which brings up a troubling point:  Where the Hell is humour these days in
what we call the Radical Movement?  Where's the sardonic humour of a Joe
Hill or a Matt Valentine Huhta ["T-Bone Slim"]  that sparkled and bubbled in
the Old-Time Wobbly Songbooks: "Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent?"

Where's the kind of stuff that my old friend, Claude Weaver, great SNCC
cartoonist [as well as great activist] used to generate day and night.  Ever
see his "Super Snick" depiction consistently followed by "J.D." -- the
portly little man from the Justice Department with his omnipresent Note Pad?

Or, again from SNCC -- Julian and his ditty:  "Watch that gal shake that

thing!  We can't all be Martin Luther King."

The contemporary IWW has some good, earthy humour for sure.  YPSL -- Young Peoples' Socialist League certainly does -- and it comes through often on its RedYouth discussion list.  But grade school and high schoolers -- and
college/university youth -- and others in that Bright Springtime -- always
come through very well.

And the current Native discussion lists are full of Indian humour -- which
not all Anglos grasp that quickly.  Humour has always kept us "Skins"
keeping on, keeping on.

But, generally. . .Contemporary American Radicalism -- at least in the adult
quarters -- has about as much cheerfulness as you'd find in the court of
Hanging Judge Jeffries and Titus Oates [and sometimes even Torquemada.]

Let's try, folks.  And try Hard.       Hunterbear



From Hunterbear:  [ASDnet, very early morn, May 16, 2002]

David has been known to post plentifully, Itzhak, but so have -- and do -- a
number of us on various sides of various issues. Sometimes, more often than
not on ASDnet, it's all in a crucible context and, if we agree with the
frequent poster, obviously we have no beef.  And, if we disagree, well. . .
And there are others who simply post  what they see as helpful info -- and
do it very much indeed.

I like Dave's posts -- and you perhaps may not.

In any case, better [in my opinion, anyway]  to open all the doors to
Truth -- whether It's absolute or simply relative.  And it doesn't take long
for any of us to delete anything we wish.

And there certainly are instances where the identities of individuals have
to be judiciously protected. I'm sure we all agree on that one.

I didn't like Second Grade -- so I just didn't talk.  Not a word.  The
teacher and the principal  each had just completed a Summer "course" focused
on how to spot "mentally retarded" kids.  They figured they'd caught one --
my ethnicity may have stimulated them -- and they informed my parents [each
well educated from both practical and academic perspectives] that I should
be institutionally committed pronto.  Although personally sympathetic to me,
my generally permissive parents quickly ended my "strike."  For my part,
I've been talking ever since -- always concerned that, if I stop, They'll
put me away.

That's my reason.

Dave has many that are far more solidly altruistic.



Solidarity - Hunterbear

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

 





                                                                                                                             
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