Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Wed Nov 13 20:06:47 MST 2002

This is primarily for Marxism Discussion -- but I'm sending
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

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´
and Ohkwari'

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