Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 9, 2021

Chemical Warfare In Syria, and Its Corrosiveness Beyond

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 5:27 pm

An article by Manuel Garcia Jr., a retired physicist who debunked 911 Truther claims in CounterPunch. This time he is taking on a new round of conspiracy theories designed to absolve Assad of chemical attacks.


July 6, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, final chapter

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 6:56 pm

A political life after sectarianism

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir
 from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf

(Chapter guide: chap. 1chap 2chap 3chap 4chap 5chap 6chap 7)

The End

July 5, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter six

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 11:15 pm

The turn toward industry and my turn away from the SWP

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir
 from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf

(Chapter guide: chap. 1chap 2chap 3chap 4chap 5chap 6chap 7)

The final chapter appears tomorrow

July 4, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter five

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 9:38 pm

Down in Houston confronting a political slowdown and the KKK

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir
 from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf

(Chapter guide: chap. 1chap 2chap 3chap 4chap 5chap 6chap 7)

To be continued tomorrow

July 3, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter four

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 7:26 pm

Up in Boston with Peter Camejo

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf

(Chapter guide: chap. 1, chap 2, chap 3, chap 4, chap 5, chap 6, chap 7)

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To be continued tomorrow

July 2, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter three

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 5:07 pm

The Unrepentant Marxist chapter three: Paul Boutelle, Arnie Swabeck and me

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf.

(Chapter guide: chap. 1, chap 2, chap 3, chap 4, chap 5, chap 6, chap 7)

To be continued tomorrow

July 1, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter two

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 6:09 pm

The Unrepentant Marxist chapter two: how I became a socialist

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf.

(Chapter guide: chap. 1, chap 2, chap 3, chap 4, chap 5, chap 6, chap 7)

To be continued tomorrow

June 30, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter one

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 4:40 pm

(Chapter guide: chap. 1, chap 2, chap 3, chap 4, chap 5, chap 6, chap 7)

In 2009, I worked with Harvey Pekar to write a comic book memoir titled “The Unrepentant Marxist”. I wrote the dialog based on his guidelines (keep ‘em laughing) and Summer McClinton (one of his best artist collaborators) did the drawings. He had a deal with Random House to have it published but it got dropped after his death from lymphoma in 2010.

I’ve decided to begin serializing it in seven installments this week on my blog. Additionally, you can download it yourself from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf. This was a draft copy that Harvey’s editor never got a chance to work on, so you will notice typos here and there.

My old friend Paul Buhle hooked us up in 2009. Paul had worked with Harvey on some great comic books based on the left, including one about SDS, but maybe did not consider the possibility that Harvey would propose working on my memoir. It just turned out that we had a natural affinity based on being the sons of Jewish shopkeepers, jazz fans, leftist politics and an identification with the beat generation.

Paul volunteered to write a preface to the memoir that captures the two of us quite well. Posted below, it will put the project into context. Following it will be the chapter that covers my birth and growing up in the Borscht Belt. Although I was no radical by any stretch of the imagination, my village was filled with 1930s radicals that gave Woodridge the nickname “Utopia in the Catskills” in a 1947 PM newspaper article. PM was a daily that reflected the POV of Communists but was broad enough not to be mistaken for The Daily Worker.

The World of Pekar and Proyect

By Paul Buhle

The passage of time may have taken some of the luster from Harvey Pekar’s reputation in the world of comic art. We could forget that Helen Mirren quipped, at the San Diego Comicon a year following his death, that Harvey had allowed readers all over the world to look at comic art in a new way.  That he scripted a comic art biography of Lou Proyect, drawn by Summer McClinton, might be described, in a number of dimensions, as the perfect project. Some part of Harvey was Studs Terkel, the famously loquacious oral historian. Another part of Harvey was Lou Proyect, hard-bitten master of arguments and avowed revolutionary

A file clerk at a VA hospital and a life-long resident of blue collar Cleveland, Pekar made his own persona the expression of a philosophy, a way of life, of the American Jewish intellectual-radical-critic. He was already known to the followers of jazz reviews in magazines before he launched his own home-made comic series, sold at little comicons and local bookstores, slowing gaining national attention over the course of the 1980s. A young and troubled Robert Crumb, almost literally saved by the friendship of Pekar, devoted some of his most intimate and touching pages to Harvey’s self-described life.

By the later 1990s, Pekar had been on the Letterman Show repeatedly, complaining aloud about the control exerted from the heights of the military-industrial complex aka General Electric, a Letterman sponsor. Harvey was made to seem clownish, in effect the representative of a failed, post-industrial city. He  refused the role, and achieved his vindication in American Splendor (2002), an awarded biopic, the first and perhaps the only film to include the real live protagonist, the actor playing him, and an animated version of the original.

Pekar happened upon Proyect by a curious incident, or perhaps one more story in the quiet comradeship of aging American leftists. As an occasional visitor to New York while giving history talks or attending events for the non-fictional comics that I was bringing out from 2005 onward, I hung out with Lou and spend the nights on a futon in his condo unit. Harvey Pekar came in front out of town for a shared event, an exhibit at CUNY Graduate Center for the release of a comic, and asked Lou if he could put up Harvey instead of me. Done Deal.

A friendship followed and the project that they worked on together. Harvey was a master of biography, and relished writing about a personality so much like his own, avowedly leftwing and irascible, unyielding. In the end, and working with one of the most talented comic artists on hand, a creation emerged. Every reader will have a unique response, based on generation, personal experiences and narrative tastes. There is something here for all. But what I wish to emphasize is the meeting of spirits or souls. The intimacy of the telling holds the charm to this book.

The Unrepentant Marxist chapter one, an escape from the Borscht Belt to Bard College

To be continued tomorrow

June 27, 2021

Deadly Collapse Of Illusions In Miami

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 3:02 pm

By now it is clear that the cause of the collapse was the softening of the ground under the building by the infiltration of seawater over the years since the building’s construction. Because such a large building is very heavy, especially in comparison to a simple beachside bungalow, the weight of the structure put tremendously higher downward pressure on the ground below its foundation, diminishing the integrity of the increasingly soaked soil, and thus speeding its ultimate loss of cohesion.

Continue reading: https://manuelgarciajr.com/2021/06/26/deadly-collapse-of-illusions-in-miami/

June 26, 2021

The Genocidal Canadian residential schools

Filed under: Canada,indigenous — louisproyect @ 4:48 pm

On May 18, 2021, With help from investigators using ground-penetrating radar, the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation discovered the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school near the town of Kamloops in the interior of southern British Columbia.

As horrifying as this was, it almost dwarfed a new discovery a month later. Investigators working with the Cowessess First Nation using the same kind of radar came across another 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School residential school run by the Catholic Church.

Twenty years ago, I was deeply involved with research about these genocidal crimes and working to get the word out about indigenous people’s efforts to achieve justice. About five percent of Canadian citizens are indigenous so they have more social weight to challenge the racist establishment.

Around that time I reviewed Roland Chrisjohn’s “The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada”, a ground-breaking book written by a Haudenausaunee (Mohawk) Indian. Keep in mind that the Haudenausaunee were driven into Canada by General John Sullivan for siding with the British. That John Sullivan was the same man my Borscht Belt county upstate was named after, an irony considering that the county’s large Jewish population including many Holocaust survivors.

Just 20 years ago, I attended a tribunal on residential schools at the Blackfoot reservation in Calgary. Beneath you can read the report I wrote for my Columbia University website at the time. This was long before blogs had been developed. It will give you an idea of the fighting spirit other First Nations will deploy when they go up against the Canadian ruling class.

Blackfoot Tribunal

The Blackfoot tribunal on genocide–focusing on residential school abuses in Canada–was held at the home of Sikapii (White Horse) and his wife, Yellow Dust Woman, over July 2-4, 2001. They live a few miles from Brocket, Alberta, which is on a native reserve encompassing some of the most beautiful and resource-rich land in Canada, just as is the case for their US based brothers and sisters in Browning, Montana just across the border. Before the white capitalist conquest of the Blackfoot people, their territory included much of Alberta and Montana. As a fierce and proud bison-hunting people, they viewed their territory as sacrosanct. When Lewis and Clark tried to exchange trinkets with them, the two explorers were sent unceremoniously packing.

While the United States and Canada have no qualms about deploying their full military prowess on behalf of “nation-building” in Korea in the 50s, the thought of Blackfoot people trying to re-create their historic homeland across the Canadian and US border sends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the FBI into a panic.

Sikapii, born George Yellow Horn, is the grandson of Red Crow who was forced to sign Treaty Seven in Canada in 1877 in much the same way that all such treaties were signed–at the point of a gun. When I spoke to the Blackfoot people assembled at Sikapii’s home, you felt as if this treaty was signed last week since the pain was so palpable. They spoke uniformly about the cannons lined up near the fort where the treaty was signed, which fired off volleys each morning to remind them of who was boss.

In 1990, Alberta Indian “leaders” presented Queen Elizabeth with a petition complaining that the federal government was not living up to the intent of Treaty 7, signed in 1877 in the name of Queen Victoria. Meanwhile, only the Blackfoot refused to participate in the meeting because they said doing so would make them look like “Hollywood Indians or tokens,” according to the June 30, 1990 Toronto Star.

Sikapii’s life story encapsulates many of the themes common to the members of this First Nation. Born in 1938, he was sent to a residential school with the understanding that refusal would lead to the arrest of his father. In testimony to the tribunal, he described how native children were lined up day after day in military fashion by the priests. Individual children were then ordered to step forward to be beaten with a cane. He tried to escape from the school on five different occasions.

After leaving school, Sikapii took one back-breaking job after another, both on and off the reserve. In the 1950s he worked as a lumberjack for a white-owned company that was–like many others–systematically denuding the reserve of valuable timber, thus combining ecological with economic super-exploitation. Sikapii showed us cancelled checks from the period in which native wages ranged from $5 to $8 per week, while a typical white worker’s wage was $45. He also had receipts from the local company store whose weekly totals equaled or surpassed Indian wages. This pattern of combined class and national oppression was virtually identical to that suffered by Chiapas lumberjacks before 1910 as dramatized in B. Traven’s “Jungle” novels.

It was during this time that Sikapii spent six months in jail for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. He and a fellow Indian had stopped at a bar in nearby Fort McCloud to slake their thirst after a day cutting logs. After the hulking bartender treated them with disrespect, words were exchanged. Sikapii, who had been an amateur boxer, decked the bartender with one punch, breaking his nose.

This incident was fairly typical of the kind of hardscrabble existence he led for the next twenty five years or so. He picked fruit in California. He rode the rails looking for one job after another until coming back to the reserve. He was stabbed in the gut after another fight. He had also become an alcoholic.

Things began to change in the 1980s, when the patterns of economic and racial discrimination reached such a level of intensity that he was forced to come to grips with them. Like Malcolm X, he put his rowdy past behind him. An important factor in his development was the Wounded Knee occupation of the 1970s that he joined in an act of solidarity. As soon as he discovered that it was taking place, he and a group of other Blackfoot men jumped in their car and took off to Pine Ridge.

It was also in this period that Sikapii became a rancher, which is generally the occupation Blackfoot men gravitate to. He had a herd of 55 steers that had grown rapidly on account of loans that a local bank had pressured him to take out when cattle prices were rising. In 1996, when prices took a sharp nosedive, the bank demanded immediate payment of his debt. When he pleaded for an extension of the deadline, in hope that prices would rise, they sent out a convoy of cattle trucks guarded by the RCMP and seized his herd. Now he subsists on welfare.

Blackfoot men all have bitter tales to tell about how they are cheated by white businesses in league with the sell-out tribal council. Wallace Yellow Face told the tribunal about cattle being rustled by tribal council henchmen, and not being paid for logs he had chopped. The excuse was that he lacked the proper “permit” which is awarded arbitrarily by the tribal council to their lackeys. John Chief Moon, one of the most respected elders, had all his horses impounded because he supposedly was guilty of abusing them. If you spend one minute with this dignified and spiritually-endowed man, you could not take the accusation seriously. Horses were key to Blackfoot culture and economic survival. The notion that a Blackfoot traditionalist would neglect them defies logic.

One of the high points of my visit was listening to John Chief Moon and Yellow Dust Woman conversing in the Blackfoot language. This beautiful language, like all other native languages, is endangered. Despite all attempts by the residential schools to obliterate the language, many younger Blackfoot–including economics professor and activist James Michael Craven–are studying it now. A 3 part series on “endangered tongues” in the Los Angeles Times in January, 2000 described the challenge:

California once had the densest concentration of indigenous languages in North America. Today, almost every one of its 50 or so surviving native languages is on its deathbed. Indeed, the last fluent speaker of Chumash, a family of six languages once heard throughout Southern California and the West, is a professional linguist at UC Santa Barbara.

More people in California speak Mongolian at home than speak any of the state’s most endangered indigenous languages.

“Not one of them is spoken by children at home,” said UC Berkeley linguist Leanne Hinton.

None of this happened by accident.

All Native American languages, as well as Hawaiian, were for a century the target of government policies designed to eradicate them in public and in private, to ensure that they were not passed from parent to child.

Until 1987, it was illegal to teach Hawaiian in the islands’ public schools except as a foreign language. The language that once claimed the highest literacy rate in the world was banned even from the islands’ private schools.

Indeed, there may be no more powerful testimony to the visceral importance of language than the government’s systematic efforts to destroy all the indigenous languages in the United States and replace them with English.

No language in memory, except Spanish, has sought so forcefully to colonize the mind. Of an estimated 300 languages spoken in the territorial United States when Columbus made landfall in 1492, only 175 are still spoken. Of those, only 20 are being passed on to children.

In 1868, a federal commission on Indian affairs concluded: “In the difference of language today lies two-thirds of our trouble. . . . Their barbarous dialect should be blotted out and the English language substituted.” The commission reasoned that “through sameness of language is produced sameness of sentiment, and thought. . . . In process of time the differences producing trouble would have been gradually obliterated.”

The drive to wipe out a language goes hand in hand with the drive to wipe out a people, something that activists like John Chief Moon, Sikapii and Yellow Dust Woman are determined to resist.

These questions are not abstract to Sikapii. Seven close relations have committed suicide, including his son who hung himself in prison, as well as Andrew Small Legs, whose grave I happened across at the top of a hill across the road from Sikapii’s home. In 1970 Andrew shot himself to death after reaching the same state of economic destitution suffered by many Blackfoot people. He left behind a suicide note calling attention to his own plight and that of his kinsmen. When I reached the top of the hill, I saw the grave which was only distinguished by a small metal marker.

A short walk beyond the grave I came across a dream-like scene. About 20 horses and their colts were grazing peacefully in a pasture. For that moment, all sounds seemed to stop including the chattering of the birds and the rustling of the leaves. The horses, a symbol of traditional Blackfoot culture and self-reliance, seemed completely at peace in their beautiful surroundings. I then walked downhill filled with the hope that the traditional ways of the Blackfoot people can be restored. If it takes destruction of the system that is destroying them, so be it.

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