August 31, 2012

'60s Lefties--Did You Sing This?

I found this in part of my ongoing tighten-up of my archives in an old file labelled, prosaically, "songs."

The thing is, I actually remember singing this, around 1971. Trust me, even then it was a little odd, but kind of in the spirit of the Weather songbook. I think a woman I knew then named Claire had a hand in writing it, but I am not sure.

So the question is, Old Bolsheviks: Is this new to you or did it get around beyond NYC? (And if so, how does it compare with your version?)


I'd like to teach the world to speak in perfect Mandarin,
with Uncle Ho and Chairman Mao, Fidel and Madame Binh

I'd like to see the victory of every people's war
I' d like to see the Third World win and even up the score

I'd like to teach the white kids here that there is really hope
if they would only learn to fight instead of blowing dope.

I'd like to see my sisters dig that people's war is right,
'cause people's war is women's war when women lead the fight.

I'd liike to see the prisoners demand to be set free
(be) implemented in the streets by folks like you and me.

I'd like to see this country shake, from the west coast to the east;
I'd like to make some trouble in the belly of the beast.

Note 1: That's an exact copy of the text on the sheet. Missing is the chorus:

Revolution (pause) It's The Real Thing

Note 2: For some reason I honestly didn't remember that third verse being there.

Note 3: Hardasses would substitute Enver for Fidel

Note 4. For those of us in our reclining years, the original is instantly identifiable. It's what Dave Berry calls brain sludge and it won't go away until we die. Do the young'ns reading this know this tune, or should I embed a video?

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August 30, 2012

Libya & Artie Take It To Mittens.

I haven't been particularly eager to write about the election. Still not, in fact. But I saw this picture and felt impelled to learn some more about it. A friend in the know filled me in a bit

Mitt Romney is hardly the first rich man to run for President, but he's almost novel in the way he represents the very top of what we've all learned to call "The 1%."

Though you wouldn't know it from the media coverage, there are some other voices being heard in Tampa this week. The photo comes, it turns out, by way of One Pittsburgh, a vigorous community activist group that has been fighting to tax the rich to fund public services, and -- most recently -- to raise the minimum wage. (If you are a Facebook type you are strongly encouraged to go "Like" One Pittsburgh.)

Here, on the right, among several activists from around the country, are Libya Wilson and Artie Rawls. Both from Pittsburgh, .

Libya works for Dunkin' Donuts, and Artie (who is a Navy veteran) works for Burlington Coat Factory. They were part of a crowd that was blocked from trying to greet Pennsylvania Republican delegates Tuesday. Libya -- whose fiancee also works at Dunkin' Donuts, while they try to raise a family on less than $8 an hour -- said of the Republicans:
They don't know where I'm coming from. I want them to know.
Bain Capital, along with two other "private equity" buyout firms (the Carlyle Group and Thomas Lee Partners) bought Dunkin Brands -- which franchises both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins stores -- in 2006. The company itself ended up with a huge debt load, but the buyout firms did just fine for themselves: In November of 2010, they had Dunkin' Donuts borrow $500 million to pay themselves a dividend, before taking the company back to the stock market in an initial public offering (IPO) in July 2011.

Bain is still a major shareholder in Dunkin' Brands, and they handsomely reward top management at the company. The Dunkin Brands CEO, Nigel Travis, was paid nearly $1.96 million last year, and that wasn't even his best year. At 40 hours a week, that's $941 an hour for Mr. Travis, compared to less than $8 for people like Libya Wilson. (The One Pittsburgh Facebook page, linked above, has a "McJob Creators" file with some more fun graphics like the one of Mr. Travis.)

At first, Mitt Romney thought that his record at Bain Capital was going to be an asset for his political campaign, because it showed he had "business experience" and was a "problem-fixer." Happily -- and in no small part thanks to diligent community activists like Libya Wilson and Artie Rawls -- there are fewer and fewer people in this country who believe mystifications like that anymore.

In economic hard times like these, it's actually kind of a liability -- in most people's minds -- if you're the kind of person who goes around ripping other people off to make yourself a multi-millionaire with multiple houses, a car elevator, and a dressage horse. So Romney has not only been downplaying his record at Bain -- or at least belatedly trying to rehabilitate himself -- but he's been loudly proclaiming that he's no longer associated with the company and its current predatory business decisions.

But that, too, is untrue. Romney still makes millions of dollars a year from at least 22 funds at Bain, His vast personal fortune is augmented by a "retirement fund" that could single-handedly relieve the pension funding problems of your average financially-troubled medium-size city.

We all know that the US government governs on behalf of of the super-rich, but Mitt Romney seems to think that his class ought to take over directly, and that he's the man to head the hostile takeover. The contrast with the vast majority of the people of the United States could not be more plain.

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August 27, 2012

Poem of the Week: Sandinista Avioncitas

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The little airplanes of the heart
with their brave little propellers
What can they do
against the winds of darkness
even as butterflies are beaten back
by hurricanes
yet do not die
They lie in wait wherever
they can hide and hang
their fine wings folded
and when the killer-wind dies
they flutter forth again
into the new-blown light
live as leaves

from These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993

[This was posted briefly in the late '90s on NYC subway car cards as part of the Poetry In Motion series. I waited, virtuously, until they started changing over to a new poem and snatched one. I got it signed by Ferlinghetti at City Lights on a trip to SF and now it adorns my wall.]

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August 25, 2012

Liberate Everything: The Story of the Victor Martinez People's Library (So Far)

[Fire on the Mountain is most pleased to present this photo essay on the ongoing struggle to build a library and community garden in spaces that the city of Oakland has abandoned. It is also scheduled for posting at the website of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/OrganizaciĆ³n Socialista del Camino para la Libertad.]

by Tom Attaway

Signs of the history of people’s struggles in East Oakland are all around for those who have eyes to see them...

Middle class white residents who once lived in these lowland neighborhoods have fled up to the Oakland hills, leaving this part of town to its multinational working class residents...

In the Chican@/Mexican@ neighborhood around International Blvd and 23rd Avenue, those signs of history can be seen in the building at 1449 Miller Ave. 
Originally a Carnegie-funded library built in this working-class neighborhood in 1910s, the building represented the city’s commitment to provide amenities for all of its residents.  After the library closed in the 1970s, the building housed the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy.  This institution, which grew out of the revolutionary national movements which erupted in Oakland in the 1960s and 70s, was an alternative high school for Chicano students in the neighborhood.  The Academy closed its doors in the late 1980s and after brief use as a church and a social services center, the building was left vacant. A space gifted to the people of Oakland for their benefit became an urban blight, slowly filling with refuse from sporadic squatters.

That was until earlier this month, when Oakland activists, coming together from Occupy Oakland and other radical projects in the East Bay, opened the space .... 
And cleaned it up...

And filled the shelves with books again...

They named the space the Victor Martinez People’s Library (Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez), in honor of the Bay-area Chicano writer and poet who died last year.

A casual observer might think that the city of Oakland was paying no attention to this neighborhood given the violence, drug use, prostitution and other social ills which flourish in plain sight nearby.  But there are certain things that simply

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August 20, 2012

Poem of the Week: For Hire

by Morris Rosenfeld 
(translated by Rose Pastor Stokes and Helena Frank)

Work with might and main,
  Or with hand and heart,
Work with soul and brain,
  Or with holy art,
Thread, or genius’ fire—
  Make a vest, or verse—
 If ’tis done for hire,
  It is done the worse.


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August 13, 2012

Poem of the Week: Blues For Cisco Houston

by Thomas McGrath

More than nine hundred miles from home now Cisco --
Poor boy, gone underground to the final proletariat,
Old Blue following possum in the new ground corn
In the blaze of your death, by the light of your incendiary guitar.

Vessel of light, that black gut-box you carried!
Transport of insurrectionary calendars between Spain and Cuba
Bringing to rebels the hot Word, the machine guns of flowers and
    humming birds
Through the money-talking loaves and fishes of the God-blessed
    corporate sea.

In season the moth wing frosts the lamp with incandescent
Mortality. And beyond the frets and freights, half steps,
Stops, changes of time and times -- this train don't carry no
Rustlers, whores nor tin horn hustlers
. Gone. Glory train. Blazing

But here was a man come with a miracle in his bindle!
Winter multitudes warmed at the electric bread of your song,
The butterfly slept secure at the center of the Bomb,
And the Revolution caught fire wherever you came to town.

Movie at the End of the World 
(Swallow Press, 1972)

[With all the observances this year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Woody Guthrie, it seems fitting to tip the hat to his running buddy, comrade and fellow singer, Cisco Houston, especially this week--he would have been 96 on Saturday, the 18th. I highly recommend the splendid Cisco Houston website, to those who know his work as much as to those new to it, as well as to anyone interested in working class culture in the US. The video features a song from the very first record album I ever bought with my own money.]

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August 6, 2012

PotW: Booker T. and W. E. B.


by Dudley Randall

"It seems to me," said Booker T.,
"It shows a mighty lot of cheek
To study chemistry and Greek
When Mister Charlie needs a hand
To hoe the cotton on his land,
And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
Why stick your nose inside a book?"
"I don't agree," said W.E.B.,
"If I should have the drive to seek
Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
I'll do it. Charles and Miss can look
Another place for hand or cook.
Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
And some in cultivating land,
But there are others who maintain
The right to cultivate the brain."
"It seems to me," said Booker T.,
"That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house."
"I don't agree," said W.E.B.,
"For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They'll steal your house with
trumped-up clause.
A rope's as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you've got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I'll be a man."
"It seems to me," said Booker T.—
"I don't agree,"
Said W.E.B.

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