[Marxism] AGITPROP NEWS: 10.16.5

Mike Alewitz alewitzm at mail.ccsu.edu
Sun Oct 16 09:54:14 MDT 2005

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In this issue: 

1.  Brushes and Wrenches
2.  Bush Counts Casualties
3.  A Different Art World
4.  Something Oddly Touching, Even Endearing
5.  A Panda Walks into a Bar
6.  Fun Facts About Child Prisoners
7.  Nobel Prize Winner Harold Pinter on Iraq
8.  We Love Karl Marx
9.  She Grew on Him Like a Colony of E. Coli
10.  Labor Culture Calendar
11.  Hilarious Bush Video
12.  Acts for Art
13.  UFCW Bureaucrats Reach New Lows
14.  Buy a Governator
15.  Common Practice
16.  A Whole Salami in Her Knickers
17.  A Guy Goes into a Supermarket
18.  Feedback


1.  Brushes and Wrenches

The Puffin Cultural Forum Presents:

BRUSHES AND WRENCHES: How Workers and Artists Can Change the World

Activist/muralist Mike Alewitz presents a slide show about his international
solidarity work, painting labor murals with workers around the world.


Monday, October 17, 7:00 p.m.

The Puffin Cultural Forum
20 East Oakdene Ave. in Teaneck, NJ.

On Saturday, September 10th, the Puffin Cultural Forum kicked off its new
season with an exhibition called The Human Element: The Art of Labor, the
Labor of Art, examining the condition of workers in today¹s global economy.
Artists include labor muralist Kathleen Farrell, photographer Robert
Ehrlich, former steel worker James Williams, Brooklyn artist Jeramy Turner,
Mark Anthony Priest, Thomas Germano, and documentary photographer David



2.  Bush Counts Casualties

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying:  "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the president exclaims.  "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the
president sits, head in hands.

Finally, president looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

        Todd at CCSU.EDU


3.  A Different Art World

Interview With Labor Art & Mural Project Artistic Director Mike Alewitz
by Joe Auciello, Socialist Action newspaper

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ------------

€ Could you explain the organizing principles used generally in  the
murals,  the designs, patterns, and geometric figures that draw in the 
viewer's eye? How is your use of color connected to the overall political
themes of your mural?
> Alewitz: The formal qualities of my work are based on my years as a sign
> painter and scenic artist. It is through such crafts, and a more general
> organic process in the entire working class, that innovations occur in visual
> art.
> Art is produced socially in both how we create and how we see, but it is a
> very uneven process. For example: I do most of my drawing on a computer, and
> paint with airbrushes‹departures from traditional mural painting‹but the
> formal qualities of my work are often quite conservative. This is a conscious
> decision based on the utilitarian nature and content of my work.
€ The references to past artists in your work seem more ironic than iconic.
You have "quoted" designs from Matisse, Keith Haring, as well as  "public
art," like Wobbly (International Workers of the World) posters. What purpose
do you intend by these references?
> Alewitz: Our class has been robbed of its history and excluded from
> participating in a rich cultural and spiritual life. Artists have an important
> responsibility to bring this history  back to working people. I try to make
> art that is accessible, yet requires investigation.
> I want viewers to grapple with the art: What does a black cat symbolize? Why
> are the people green? You have to read something to find out.
> Socialists, in particular, need to break out of the cultural shackles imposed
> on us by the ruling class and embrace the creative impulses of humanity in all
> its forms. We need poetry in our meetings and humor in our press. We need to
> sing and dance.
€ The idea that "art is a weapon in the class struggle" has often  resulted
in an art that is overwhelmed by the weapon, an art that is didactic and
dull. How do you achieve a political purpose in your murals and still create
a lively art?
> Alewitz: Artists, especially in the U.S., need to relearn our rich tradition
> in agitprop art. The labor movement has inspired amazing creative activity:
> the culture of the Wobblies, Paterson Silk Strike Pageant, agitprop work from
> the early years of the Russian Revolution‹these movements and events
> revolutionized theater, film, and virtually all media. It was anything but
> dull.
> But you need visionary politics to inspire visionary art. A spineless,
> bureaucratized labor movement will inspire mediocre and tepid art.
€ What reception did "Insurgent Images" receive from the art world?
> Alewitz: The book, and my work, have been completely ignored. While my
> projects are covered extensively in the mainstream press and electronic media,
> they are ignored in the art press.
> I am probably the most censored artist in the country‹but there has never been
> a mention about me in the mainstream art press. I am not invited to be a
> visiting artist or have shows in galleries or museums.
> When you paint for the working class, you are not considered part of the art
> world. But workers proudly carry my banners down streets, and young people
> protect my murals from being tagged. My art is inseparable from the
> international struggle of the working class to create a new world based on
> human need. That is my art world.


4.  Something Oddly Touching, Even Endearing

The Agitprop Murals of Mike Alewitz
by Joe Auciello / July 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
Book Review: Paul Buhle and Mike Alewitz, "Insurgent Images: The Agitprop
Murals of Mike Alewitz" (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002), paper, 160
pp., $27.95.
"Insurgent Images" is a literary and political collaboration between Paul
Buhle, a radical activist and scholar, and Mike Alewitz, a muralist, teacher
and socialist. The text, written by Buhle, is evidently based on interviews
and documents provided by Alewitz and gives a context for and commentary on
the murals.
The chronological structure of the book provides a kind of portrait of the
artist as, first, a young man, then as a politically conscious and mature
one.  The
focus of the book, though, is the art itself, which dominates almost every
page in striking color reproductions.
Full disclosure: I met Mike Alewitz about 25 years ago when we were both
members of the Socialist Workers Party in Boston. (Political disagreements
and a highly factional national leadership eventually led to my resignation
and Alewitz¹s expulsion). Though we were not close friends, I did get to
know him fairly well as we collaborated on various political activities.
Perhaps this experience leads me to feel that though the artist¹s work is
generously displayed throughout "Insurgent Images," the artist himself
remains elusive. Admittedly, this may seem like quibbling.  Alewitz¹s murals
are, after all, intended as public art that makes a political statement, yet
his vivid and many-layered personality is evident in each painting.
The Alewitz I recall was hard working, demandingly honest, and deeply
principled. He was also highly articulate, flinging words like stones,
dropping sarcastic comments, especially whenever some pretension was
available for puncturing. And still, there was something disarmingly naïve
about Alewitz, something oddly touching, even endearing.
Those qualities of irony and humor are characteristic of Alewitz¹s art,
though they may not be the first traits one notices in the otherwise earnest
and even
dramatic subjects of his murals.
The typical Alewitz work continues the tradition of "agitprop"  (agitation
and propaganda) that places art in the service of the class struggle. This
is not art
as decoration or adornment, but art as a weapon, intended to stir the
emotions and deepen the political consciousness of its viewers.
Alewitz¹s murals are readily understandable and direct, though careful
observation shows they are not as simple as they seem at first.  Often, a
central figure is placed prominently in the foreground, balanced on each
side by supporting or explanatory images in the background.
The overall pattern draws a viewer¹s eye to the center of the mural.  For
instance, the mural reproduced on the cover of "Insurgent Images," "The
Worker in the New World Order: Production," consists of three complementary
triangles, with the central figure making up the largest triangle. That
figure, a familiar image of a worker in a cap, is rendered quite unfamiliar
by the unexpected use of purple as the worker¹s skin color.
Complementary and balancing colors heighten the prominence of this purple
figure.  The choice of flesh tone is not purely fanciful, though whimsy is a
characteristic element of Alewitz¹s work. Color, in art as in life, takes on
a political significance. As Alewitz explains, "Agitprop artists need to
experiment and develop a visual language to express the diversity of the
living labor movement without having to rely on clichéd images of Œdiverse
looking¹ groups of people.
"I have often used androgynous looking people painted in purples, greens and
blues. Besides, it¹s much more fun to paint purple people."
That fruitful combination of politics and fun, typical of Alewitz¹s murals,
is one reason why his work never descends to the dreary didacticism that can
political art meaningful but dull. His satire and wit, often expressed
through smaller, background figures, frequently enlivens the paintings.
Ultimately, though, Alewitz¹s art is driven by a deep political commitment
and a radical social consciousness. In the Foreword to "Insurgent Images,"
actor Martin Sheen rightly notes, "Mike¹s work provides an important example
of how an individual, by basing his art on the creative power of the
working-class, can create a body of work which helps to educate, organize
and agitate for a better world. 


5.  A Panda Walks into a Bar

A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich.  He eats pulls
out a gun and shoots the waiter dead.

As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, "Hey! Where are you
going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for the food."

The panda yells back, "Hey, man, I'm a panda.  Look it up!"

The bartender opens his dictionary to panda:  "A tree-climbing mammal of
Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring.  Eats
shoots and leaves.


6.  Fun Facts About Child Prisoners

America Has 2,000 Young Offenders Serving Life Terms in Jail

Two leading human rights organisations have accused the
United States of in effect throwing away the lives of more
than 2,000 juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole - a punishment out of step
with international law but one increasingly popular with
tough-on-crime US legislators.

According to a report being published today by Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, the United States is
the only country to punish juveniles so severely on a routine
basis. They counted 2,225 child offenders locked up for life
across 42 American states. In the rest of the world, they
found only a dozen other cases, restricted to three countries
- Israel, South Africa and Tanzania.

Sentencing children to life without parole is forbidden under
the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which has been ratified by every member state except the US
and Somalia. Out of 154 countries surveyed in the report, 13
were found to have laws on their books permitting life
sentences for minors, but nine of these had never actually
imposed one.


October 12, 2005, The Independent / UK


7. Nobel Prize Winner Harold Pinter on Iraq

[Adapted by Harold Pinter, who yesterday won the Nobel Prize
for Literature,  from a speech he delivered on winning the
Wilfred Owen Award earlier this year]

An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi
civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates
that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the
UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of
US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium,
innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to
the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy
to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been
welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed
is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections?
Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he
said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic
elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I
had to read that statement twice before I realised that he
was talking about Lebanon and Syria.

What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at
themselves in the mirror?

I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our
revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and
the actions of the American and British governments.

October 13, 2005, The Independent/UK


8. We Love Karl Marx

The BBC program website still has details of this vote and can be found at:


The results were:
1. Karl Marx, 27.93%
2. David Hume, 12.67%
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein, 6.80%
4. Friedrich Nietzsche, 6.49%
5. Plato, 5.65%
6. Immanuel Kant, 5.61
7. St. Thomas Aquinas, 4.83%
8. Socrates, 4.82%
9. Aristotle, 4.52%
10. Karl Popper, 4.20%

dave at article.co.uk 
via <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>


9.  She Grew on Him Like a Colony of E. Coli

Actual Analogies and Metaphors Found in High School Essays

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently
compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like
underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy
who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high
schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was
room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just
before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of
his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly
surcharge-free ATM.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling
ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled
with vegetable soup.


10. Labor Culture Calendar

The Labor Heritage Foundation has a Calendar of Labor Cultural Events at
http://www.laborheritage.org/calendar.html .  This is a time of year when
there is a lot going on.  Please take a look at the website and if you are
aware of other events taking place, please let me know.

Peter Jones <pjones at aflcio.org>


11.  Hilarious Bush Video



dbachmozart at aol.com


12.  Acts for Art

Acts of Art invites you to join us and participate in the Brooklyn Peace
Saturday, October 22nd, as well as, a Musicians' Healthcare Meet & Greet.
www.brooklynpeace.org <http://www.brooklynpeace.org/> .
The Brooklyn Peace Fair is going to be a very exciting day. Cindy Sheehan
will be speaking; Nathaniel Siegel will continue his piece "painting to end
the war now"; and Acts of Art will have a table in the arts activies room
where we will assist people in making their own Peace-Posters.
The Peace Fair is supplying us with materials, but they don't have anything
too fancy. Please come and join in the fun, be creative and bring what you
want to add to your poster!!
We also invite you to join our List-Serve! Our initial focus for this
is to reach out to the Gulf Coast artistic community and offer them support.
Please pass the word on and feel free to post a message if you can offer
support in whatever form: musical instrument, gigs, books, paint-supplies,
clothes, gas-cards, etc. Go to www.actart.org <http://www.actart.org/> .
Once again, thank you for all your enthusiastic support and for being part
of a growing community to create the world!!

Susan Brennan <actsart at gmail.com>


13.  UFCW Bureaucrats Reach New Lows

Picketers for Hire 

The strange business of protesting jobs that may be better than yours

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon;
still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the
dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They're walking five-hour
shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in
Henderson-anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep
suntans on their faces and arms-with two 15-minute breaks to run across the
street and use the washroom at a gas station.

Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade
under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic
rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled,
"assholes!" but mostly, they're ignored.

They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied
Forces/Labor Express by the union-United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're
protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

"It don't make no sense, does it?" says James Greer, the line foreman and
the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk,
picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting
sunflower seeds. "We're sacrificing for the people who work in there, and
they don't even know it."

The group has no transportation to go elsewhere-they are dropped off by a
union van and picked up later. On weekends, they have to find their own
transportation, Greer said...

...Rivera removes his watch to show the dark tan his arm has gotten working
in the sun; he talks about how he takes three buses to get to this work site
on weekends; it takes two hours to get there and two hours to get home-a
nine-hour day including that transportation for a gross pay of $35.

"I asked him (union organizer Hornbrook), I said, 'How come we're working
here for $6 an hour? I need you to help us find a better job. I want
information on the union,'" Rivera said.

He was told, he says, to secure his own job with a grocery store, and then
the union would help him to be sure the store paid him appropriate wages.

"This is an informational picket line only," Hornbrook said. "We're paying
these people. They were out of work before (joining their picket lines).
This is an in-between-jobs stop. Picketing isn't a career. But we did hire
one of the picketers, she's now working for us for $11 an hour (as a driver)
and we pay for gasoline."

The UFCW's website concludes, "Every person working hard for a living earns
the right to a decent wage, affordable health care and a voice on the job.
But Wal-Mart's greed provides other companies a license to chip away at the
rights of working America, influencing everything from wages to working



14.  Buy a Governator

California Nurses Association Places Schwarzenegger for Sale on E-Bay
The California Nurses Association today posted an E-Bay sales page offering
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for sale, presenting regular people the
chance to compete with wealthy individuals and big corporations to own the
world¹s best known celebrity politician.
During the time of the auction, Schwarzenegger generated great interest from
buyers. By mid-afternoon, the top bid reached $2 million placing this high
roller in the ballpark with such well-heeled donors as Ameriquest, the
controversial mortgage firm, Newscorp (Fox), and San Diego Chargers owner
Alex Spanos.
The auction was pulled by eBay (a major Schwarzenegger donor) after several
hours, but the page is still viewable at:
Noting the initial bids were in a smaller range, CNA Executive Director Rose
Ann DeMoro noted, ³we¹re pleased to make Arnold available to the general
public. Why should only millionaires and the corporate executives who have
filled his pockets and benefited from his policies have a chance to buy off
this governor?² 

Helen Lee <hlee at calnurses.org>


15.  Common Practice

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President
George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work
along the battered Gulf Coast.  One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is
Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick
Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.

Bechtel National Inc., a unit of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., has also
been selected by FEMA to provide short-term housing for people displaced by
the hurricane. Bush named Bechtel's CEO to his Export Council and put the
former CEO of Bechtel Energy in charge of the Overseas Private Investment

Experts say it has been common practice in both Republican and Democratic
administrations for policy makers to take lobbying jobs once they leave
office, and many of the same companies seeking contracts in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina have already received billions of dollars for work in
Iraq. Halliburton alone has earned more than $9 billion. Pentagon audits
released by Democrats in June showed $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and
$422 million in "unsupported" costs for Halliburton's work in Iraq.



16.  A Whole Salami in Her Knickers

Snippets from British News

1) Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, spokesman for North West Gas said, "We agree it was rather high for
the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used
up during the explosion that destroyed his house." (The Daily Telegraph)

2) Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in
her knickers. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her
Italian boyfriend. (The Manchester Evening News)

3) Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because
they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they
don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)

4) A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was
rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented,
"This sort of thing is all too common". (The Times)

5) At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard and
asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't
have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land
Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

6) Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with
her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do
her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945. She recalled "He'd aways
seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of
our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out "Heil Hitler." (Bournemouth
Evening Echo) 


17.  A Guy Goes into a Supermarket

A guy goes into a supermarket and buys:

· One can of beans
· One bag of potato chips
· One pack of burgers
· One tub of ice cream
· One cake
· One yogurt
· One pint of milk
· One carrot
· One loaf of bread

He takes them over to the checkout where the really pretty
checkout girl looks at him, smiles and says,

"You're single, aren't you."

Pleased at the attention he smiles back and says,

"Why yes, how did you know?"

The girl replies: "Because you're one ugly bastard."


18.  Feedback

Editors Note:  Everything in Agitprop News is true.  If not, it should be.

On ³Funny:²

> As always, I enjoyed the latest news. And while the bricklayer story is
> undoubtedly humorous, it is most definitely not a "true story" as you claim.
> Verify, then post, comrade! See, for example:
> http://www.snopes.com/humor/letters/bricks.asp
> - - -
> I was extra interested in the "funny" item. I heard it narrated on the BBC by
> a jester called Gerard Hoffnung more than 40 years ago. See  Google -- "Gerard
> Hoffnung   A Barrel of Bricks"
> - - -

On ³The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:²

> Really great stuff ... in the latest Agitprop News.
> I beg to differ about the Arabian horses, however,
> whom you think would be saved just because they would
> be expensive to lose and because the head of FEMA once
> handled expensive horses.
> ... the one thing that WOULD NOT HAPPEN is to save
> any animal insured as these horses must be.  Their
> fate is just as dismal as all the other animals in New
> Orleans (and elsewhere) who couldn't make it on the
> buses with their human companions.  Sadly, animal
> "ownership" is part of the capitalist scene, too.
> In solidarity - with the animals, too!
> - - -
> This is a brilliant piece of writing- massive and comprehensive and somehow
> manages to get through the despair to the essential rage. I'm sending what you
> wrote to as many friends as i can think of . Thank you for taking the time to
> do this. We have to connect the catastrophe we have caused in Iraq with the
> catastrophe our people are suffering here if we are to get any consciousness
> raised in the American population... i know people will trash you for what
> you've written so I have to let you know that I think it's just what I said
> before- brilliant and humane and wise and outraged. i think i feel my
> political activism resurfacing after all these years.
> - - -
> I do not generally comment on emails, but this is absolutely wonderful. Thanks
> for the information and education.
> - - -
> good luck, and yes i agree ... socially conscious art is returning, more and
> more each year !!
> - - -
> ... It is near inspirational and makes me despair even more that labor will
> have to begin anew from the ashes of the present frame-work. Not quite sure
> that a massive march of Washington would succeed at this point - so much
> splintering of the working class that has been swayed by the right; whose
> anger has been manipulated by the right and fundamental Christianity. I just
> wish that leaders were bold enough to say that no one has the answer for
> American workers right now - our economy has been so de-constructed - workers
> have to realize that in this global economy, they and their children are on
> their way to being in the same boat as workers around the world - exploited,
> disenfranchised and more impoverished every day.
> - - -
> As always, a brilliant piece of writing and an opinion I not only share but
> preach in my classes...




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Additional comments:

Reply to alewitzm at ccsu.edu

c/o Department of Art
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, Connecticut 06050

Phone: 860.832.2359

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