Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Abe Osheroff II

In Feburary I posted an article about the fine old radical and Spanish Civil War Veteran Abe Osheroff. While perusing the web today I found a poem about the shipwreck he survived enroute to Barcelona. Submitted for your approval....

Martín Espada
"The Carpenter Swam to Spain"

For Abe Osheroffand the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The ship hushed the waves to sleep at midnight:
Ciudad de Barcelona, Ciudad de Barceloniz.
In the name of the aristocrat strolling through his garden

Franco's tanks crawled like a plague of smoldering beetles;
in the name of the bishop and his cathedrals
the firing squads sang a stuttering mass with smoke in their throats;
in the name of the exiled king and blueshirts
on the march bombers with swastika fins
sowed an inferno in village market places
and the ribs of the dead.
At Guernica an ancient woman in black stumbled
across a corpse and clawed her hair;
at Víznar, where the spring bubbles,
a poet in white shoes coughed the bullets' blood onto his white shirt,
gypsy sobbing in the cave of his mouth.
Ciudad de Barcelona: The ship plowed the ocean,

and the ocean was a wheatfield of bread.
And the faces at the portholes thinking: Spain.
In España, the carpenters and miners

kneeled with rifles behind a barricade of killed horses,
the peasant boys cradled grenades
like pomegranatesto fling against the plague of tanks,
the hive of helmets.
Elsewhere across the earth, thousands more laid hammers in toolboxes,
holstered drills, promised letters home,
and crowded onto ships for Spain:
volunteers for the Republic,
congregation of berets, fedoras and fist-salutes for the camera,
cigarettes and union songs.
The handle of the hammer became the stock of the rifle.
The ship called Ciudad de Barcelona steamed

across the thumping tide, hull bearded with foam,
the body of Spain slumbering on the horizon.
Another carpenter read the newspapers

by the tunnel-light of the subway in Brooklyn.
Abe Osheroff sailed for Spain.
Because Franco's mustache was stiff as a paintbrush
with his cousins' blood:
because Hitler's iron maw would be a bulldozer,
heaving a downpour of cadavers into common graves.
The ship of volunteers was Ciudad de Barcelona,

Abe the carpenter among them,
and for them the word Barcelona tingled like the aftertaste of a kiss.
Two miles from shore, they saw the prop plane hover
as if a spectre from the last war,
the pilot's hand jab untranslated warning.
Then the thud, a heart kicking in spasm,
the breastbone of the ship punctured by a torpedo
from Mussolini's submarine.
In seven minutes, the ship called Ciudad de Barcelona
tilted and slid into the gushing sea,
at every porthole a face trapped,
mouth round and silent like the porthole.
Eighty mouths round in the high note of silence.

Schultz, captain of the Brooklyn College swim team,
pinned below deck and drowned,
his champion's breaststroke flailing.
Other hands that could swim burst through the wave-walls
and reached for the hands that could not.
The boats of a fishing village crystallized from the foam,
a fleet of saints with salt glistening in their beards,
blankets and rum on the shore.
Abe swam two miles to Spain,

made trowels of his hands to cleave the thickening water.
His fingers learned the rifle's trigger as they knew the hammer's claw.
'At Fuentes de Ebro, armageddon babbled
and wailed above the trenches;
when he bled there, an ocean of shipwreck surged through his body.
Today, his white beard
is a garland of clouds and sea-foam,
and he remembers Schultz, the swimmer.

Now, for Abe, I tap these words like a telegraph operator with news of survivors:
Ciudad de Barcelona, Ciudad de Barcelona.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Now For Something Different

I've felt a little constrained by the theme of my blog lately, and hope you don't mind a few off topic posts. This one concerns one of my favorite musical acts, The Big Smith Hillbilly Band. As you can see from their photo, they defer to no one in anarchist fashion and I think you will enjoy a sample of their lyrics....

(Mark Bilyeu / Jody Bilyeu)
My cousin's got a heartache
But he doesn't have a car
So I'm drivin' down to Texas
Where the biggest heartaches are
But something's goin' wrong 'round here
There's rollers in my rear-view mirror
And those Atoka dogs can smell your very fear
And my plates are out of state
So I get a bit more hell
I tell him I don't wish him harm
But I sure don't wish him well
But he'll use that Okie scare on me
And the highway boys get a show for free
He says do you have something you should let me see
No sir
I want to know what's goin' on
I'm gonna know what's goin' on

The only words in Spanish
On highway forty-four
Say checkpoint straight ahead
So you know who they're lookin' for
So tell me why does not one say
Bienvenidos enjoy your stay
You can't tell me that there's no other way
A half an hour in handcuffs
And a half a pound of sweat
Like minnows just green enough
To shimmy through the net
That's over you and it's over me
And the chain gangs workin' for all to see
Servin' mandatory penitentiary
No sir

You never talk to me
You just put a lock on me
He's out there and I'm in here
For reasons that don't seem quite clear
If you'll let me close I'll whisper in your ear

No sir

Sunday, May 21, 2006


John Silas Reed was born October 22, 1887 above the present day Zupan’s Market at 23rd and Burnside in Portland, Oregon. His father C.J. Reed was a dealer in agricultural equipment and his mother an heiress of the wealthy Green Family of Portland. Sickly as a child, Reed immersed himself, as children poor in health often do, in a rigorous reading of books, particularly stories of men of action, of romantic ideals and heroic countenance. His childhood was also greatly influenced by his mother’s brother who used his share of the family fortune to become a freebooter in Central America, dabbling in coffee plantations and local revolutionary politics and filled John’s head with tales of adventure and intrigue. In his teenage years his father became a major figure in local politics, appointed a U.S. Marshall by a man he admired greatly, Teddy Roosevelt, to investigate a major case of fraud in the timber industry. The juries C.J. Reed impaneled returned many indictments and the case eventually led to the fall of a U.S. Senator from Oregon.
And so the die was cast; an uncle who regaled him with stories of foreign adventure and revolution and a father who led a crusade against industrial and political corruption. Before leaving the Northwest John Reed’s life was framed.
Upon graduation from High School Reed traveled the breadth of the country to attend Harvard. There he was a diligent scholar, serving on the editorial boards of the Harvard Monthly and Lampoon and athlete competing with the Swim and Water polo teams. The writer John Dos Passos, who knew Reed during his Harvard days wrote of him: “Reed was a westerner and words meant what they said; when he said something standing with a classmate at the Harvard Club bar; he meant what he said from the soles of his feet to the waves of his untidy hair…Jack Reed was the best American writer of his time.”
Descending upon Manhattan with his newly minted degree, Reed joined the vibrant leftist community that thrived there before the First World War. He became friends with Max Eastman and Emma Goldman and covered the numerous Textile Worker’s strikes that convulsed and furthered the labor movement on the East coast for various Radical Magazines. He met the legendary “Big Bill Haywood” leader of the Industrial Workers of the World or “Wobblies. He also made the acquaintance of Eugene Debs. During this period he embraced not only the cause of exploited workers but also other tenants of the insurgent left including Emma Goldman’s call for “free love” and anti-militarism. Of his growing radicalism and associations Howard Zinn wrote: “What was worse was that they refused to remain mere writers and intellectuals, assailing the system with words; they walked picket lines, loved freely, defied government committees, went to jail. They declared for revolution in their actions as well as their art, ignoring those cautions against commitment offered, in any generation, by the voyeurs of social movements.”
In 1914 Reed traveled to Mexico to continue his education under the tutelage of the border raider and revolutionary Pancho Villa who nicknamed him “Chatito” or “Pug nose”. Despite his progressive views reed was very much a man of his times and fell under the spell of the macho Mexican whom he describe as "the most natural human being I ever saw -- natural in the sense of being nearest a wild animal." Reed also found the comradeship of Villa”s Army intoxicating:. “After draining a bottle of tequila to impress the soldiers, Reed says: "I am very fond of Mexico. I like Mexicans too. And I like sotol, aguardiente, mezcal, tequila, pulque, and other Mexican customs!" They shouted with laughter.
Captain Fernando leaned over and patted my arm. "Now you are with the men (los hombres). When we win the revolución it will be government by the men, not by the rich. We are riding over the lands of the men. They used to belong to the rich, but now they belong to me and the compañeros." "And you will be the army?" I asked. "When the revolución is won," was the astonishing reply, "there will be no more army. The men are sick of armies."
Returning to New York he was sent to cover the onset of WWI. For the next two years he traveled back and forth from Europe and Russia to the States reporting on the war and speaking out against it when in New York. He lost his journalistic objectivity in the killing fields and was not ashamed - "War means an ugly mob-madness, crucifying the truth-tellers, choking the artists.... It is not our war." He testified before Congress against conscription: "I do not believe in this war...I would not serve in it."
In 1916, back in Portland, he met the woman who would spend the rest of his short life with him, Louise Bryant. She was herself a writer and an anarchist of sorts. In 1917 the two made their way, through Finland, to Russia and the flowering Bolkshevik Revolution. There he met Lenin and Trotsky and witnessed the historic events of the workers revolt. Particularly impressive to him was the storming of the Tsar’s Winter Palace by the workers’ “Army”. He returned to New York to produce, after a battle with the State Department for his confiscated notes his most important work Ten Days That Shook The World. This short excerpt conveys the excitement of the times: "Up the Nevsky, in the sour twilight, crowds were battling for the latest papers.... On every corner, in every open space, thick groups were clustered; arguing soldiers and students...The Petrograd Soviet was meeting continuously at Smolny, a centre of storm, delegates falling down asleep on the floor and rising again to take part in the debate, Trotsky, Kamenev, Volodarsky speaking six, eight, twelve hours a day..."
Reed helped to form the Communist Party in America and returned to Russia as a delegate to the first Communist International. While at a conference in Baku on the Black Sea he contracted Typhus and quickly took to his deathbed. Louise remained at his side until the end. Reed died in a Moscow Hospital at the age of 33. Although Reed did not live to see the Spanish Civil War we can be sure that his heart and soul would have been with the Spanish worker’s. After his death Louise Bryant wrote to friends in the states…
“But I have been in Red Square since then — since that day all those people came to bury in all honor our dear Jack Reed. I have been there in the busy afternoon when all Russia hurries by, horses and sleighs and bells and peasants carrying bundles, soldiers singing on their way to the front. Once some of the soldiers came over to the grave. They took off their hats and spoke reverently. “what a good fellow he was!” said one. “he came all the way across the world for us.” “he was one of ours” In another moment they shouldered their guns and went on again.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sorry all, I know I've been promising a new post but life gotten interesting all of a sudden. I started a new job Monday and my older sister has been ill, just no time to do John Reed the justice he deserves. Check back Saturday night, and if you care to leave suggestions for future posts inside. Please do not grow disgusted and abandon me :( . If you care to leave a comment or question I do have time for those :) . Thanks.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Sorry, what, no time to write, Reed will have to wait. I chose to do Joe D.'s suggestion as it was quick. Just a little amalgamation of images plus a song and a quote from the founder of the band "The Durruti Column." At top, as I couldn't find the image of "Gala on The Halfshell" is "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate, A Second Before Waking Up" by Dali 1944. Explanation: "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee" was painted, using oil on canvas, in 1944, while Dali and Gala were living in America. The full title explains the subject and content of the painting, which was taken from a dream that Gala reported to Dali. He announced that this painting was the first illustration of Freud's discovery, that external stimuli could be the cause of a dream. The catalyst for the dream, which is the pomegranate, hangs in the air with the bee flying toward it. Behind the pomegranate Gala's dream unfolds over a sea of brilliant blue. A naked Gala lies asleep as she hovers over a stone; an illusion to the common floating feeling that can occur in dreams. To the left of Gala is a huge pomegranate that spills seeds on to the sea below. Out of the pomegranate an angry, pink fish is emerging with a wide open mouth. A snarling tiger leaps out of the fish. From this tiger another emerges, its tail in the mouth of the previous one. The tigers are rushing toward Gala, their claws at the ready, but it is the bayonet, mirroring the sting of the bee, that will wake her.
Second down, a colorful "Durriti Column" album cover.
Third a contribution of Joe D, a nightmarish vision of the cloning of W.
Lastly a better look at my "Durutti" profile pic.

Vini explained the recording methods he employed making the album in a 1995 interview with Mark Prendergast for the US Magazine 'Keyboard': "I remember recording a thunderstorm outside my French window at five o'clock one morning, and overdubbing by playing a Strat straight into a Lexicon, pulling that onto another DAT, and then bringing the whole lot into the studio to use as a backing track for a Spanish guitar lead. Three or four pieces were done in that kind of a way. Peter Hook lives around the corner, so he'd pop in occasionally too."

Evening is unreal
When morning leaves the moon
Approaching most in tears
He dances draped and new [?]
Armed with many warnings
We face the ancient mode[?]
If God battles over
Just one of many roads
Forgotten dream
Peace will come and with it sleep
I clear my mind
Peace will come and with it sleep
Forgotten dreams
I clear my mind and
Peace will come and with it sleep
Forgotten dream
Peace will come and with it sleep
I clear my mind
Peace will come and with it sleep
Forgotten dream
I clear my mind
Peace will come and with it sleep

Take two of those Kid, and mail me in the morning :) ....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


"To the International Soldier Fallen in Spain"

If there are men who contain a soul without frontiers,
a brow scattered with universal hair,
covered with horizons, ships, and mountain chains,
with sand and with snow,
then you are one of those.
Fatherlands called to you with all their banners,
so that your breath filled with beautiful movements.
You wanted to quench the thirst of panthers
and fluttered full against their abuses.
With a taste of all suns and seas,
Spain beckons you because in her you realize
your majesty like a tree that embraces a continent.
Around your bones, the olive groves will grow,
unfolding their iron roots in the ground,
embracing men universally, faithfully.
Miguel Hernandez

Monday, May 08, 2006

Orwell Flees Spain

I suppose I have failed to convey more than a little of what those months in Spain meant to me. I have recorded some of the outward events, but I cannot record the feeling they have left me with. It is all mixed up with sights, smells, and sounds that cannot be conveyed in writing: the smell of the trenches, the mountain dawns stretching away into inconceivable distances, the frosty crackle of bullets, the roar and glare of bombs; the clear cold light of the Barcelona mornings, and the stamp of boots in the barrack yard, back in December when people still believed in the revolution; and the food-queues and the red and black flags and the faces of Spanish militiamen; above all the faces of militiamen--men whom I knew in the line and who are now scattered Lord knows where, some killed in battle, some maimed, some in prison--most of them, I hope, still safe and sound. Good luck to them all; I hope they win their war and drive all the foreigners out of Spain, Germans, Russians, and Italians alike. This war, in which I played so ineffectual a part, has left me with memories that are mostly evil, and yet I do not wish that I had missed it. When you have had a glimpse of such a disaster as this--and however it ends the Spanish war will turn out to have been an appalling disaster, quite apart from the slaughter and physical suffering--the result is not necessarily disillusionment and cynicism. Curiously enough the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings. And I hope the account I have given is not too misleading. I believe that on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan. In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. And beware of exactly the same things when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish war.

And then England--southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from sea-sickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage under your bum, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don't worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday. The industrial towns were far away, a smudge of smoke and misery hidden by the curve of the earth's surface. Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wild flowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen--all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


(Photo from Durruti's funeral)

Durruti's interview with Pierre van Paasen

In September, after the liberation of Aragon from Franco's forces, Durruti was interviewed by Pierre van Paasen of the Toronto Star. In this interview he gives his views on Fascism, government and social revolution despite the fact that his remarks have only been reported in English-and were never actually written down by him in his native Spanish-they are worth repeating here.
"For us", said Durruti, "it is a matter of crushing Fascism once and for all. Yes; and in spite of the Government".
"No government in the world fights Fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to Fascism to maintain itself. The Liberal Government of Spain could have rendered the Fascist elements powerless long ago. Instead it compromised and dallied. Even now at this moment, there are men in this Government who want to go easy on the rebels."
And here Durruti laughed. "You can never tell, you know, the present Government might yet need these rebellious forces to crush the workers' movement . . ."
"We know what we want. To us it means nothing that there is a Soviet Union somewhere in the world, for the sake of whose peace and tranquillity the workers of Germany and China were sacrificed to Fascist barbarians by Stalin. We want revolution here in Spain, right now, not maybe after the next European war. We are giving Hitler and Mussolini far more worry with our revolution than the whole Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and Italian working class on how to deal with Fascism."
"I do not expect any help for a libertarian revolution from any Government in the world. . . . We expect no help, not even from our own Government, in the last analysis."
"But", interjected van Paasen, "You will be sitting on a pile of ruins."
Durruti answered: "We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, you must not forget, we can also build. It is we the workers who built these palaces and cities here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute."

Monday, May 01, 2006


Greetings General Sir,I gotta admit Geneal this whole Horowitz business had my head spinnin'like Rosie O'Donnell's bathroom scale on black friday until I saw your painting today of little David sittin' at that commie bastard Lenin's knee. I mean sir, it didn't make sense sir, why would a guy go to a fancy frenchified school like that Columbia in Jew York City, become a communist hiself and work with the Black Panthers, establishing all his tree-huggin', America hatin' bon-a-fides, only to turn around accuse the Panthers of an unsolved murder, turn into Simon Legree overnight and start sidin' up with people who think like you and me do General, sir?

He got a phone call.

That's right sir it's the Manchoorian Candidate all over again.As your picture proves sir, little David did hid toddlerin' in the Kremlin.And I figured out who his Daddy was, how else can you explain Horowitz's resemblence to Leon Trotsky?

See sir, the way I got it figgered is little David Trotsky was kinda of a pet around the Kremlin - Lenin and hell, even old Uncle Joe became right fond of him. But after the big guy died and Stalin had to have poor ole Leon clawhammered down in Mexico he didn't rightly know what to do the tyke. Now the Roosians, I figure was working on them cryonics so when all them Stormtroopers come a marchin' in, why they could just lie in them snowbanks for hours waitin' to ambush 'em. So old Joe had little David frozen stiffer than a frat boy inna room fulla goats. And held prankated into a snow bank somewheres in Siberia till it was time to unleash him on an unsuspecting world. Sir. And I recon when the time's right, after he's got hiself all chummy with the right thinkin' crowd, he'll get another call and turn on us sir. This is all just a Roosian plot to drive us good American's and those frenchified ones too, Batshit crazy (sorry Bruce). I means how else can you explain it sir?


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