“You need a vanguard organization in order to overcome the dangerous potential brought about by the uneven development of class militancy and class consciousness,” Marxist theorist Ernest Mandel (1923-1995)
Mandel’s point is still true: when workers lack class consciousness, political torpor sets in unless exploited people are stirred into action by vanguard leaders. When I wrote about the United Steelworkers of America District 31 Women’s Caucus that arose during the 1970s as a result of discrimination against women entering the steel work force after the 1974 Consent Decree, I characterized it as a vanguard movement organized by veterans of leftist groups who had joined the labor force because they believed the path to fundamental change lay in strengthening rank-and-file militancy within industrial unions. The Women’s Caucus not only succeeded in obtaining more palatable job conditions for women but also played a prominent role in other fights, including the Bailly Alliance, which prevented the building of a nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Michigan.
An exhibit at Gary’s Gardner Center, entitled “Vanguards: Moving ‘out here’ to Miller,” featured portraits by Chicagoan James Oliphant of African Americans who, beginning in 1964, moved to the previously all-white Miller district. Accompanying the photos were brief excerpts from oral interviews covering where the subjects previously lived, reasons for their move, and reaction by both their old and new neighbors. Marianita Porterfield said she sought better educational opportunities for her children; others wanted a safer environment. One woman, disparaged as uppity by people from her old neighborhood, wished that more whites would have given integration a chance before they moved away. Some white realtors resisted showing houses to black clients, but several “pioneers” praised Bruce Ayers for helping them.
There was a large crowd at the exhibit and good food (especially welcome were the deviled eggs), and I chatted with Nancy Cohen (about the Bulls), George Rogge (about a SALT column Jeff Manes wrote about him), and Cindy Frederick (about some of the vanguard pioneers we both knew). I told Judy Ayers that I enjoyed her Newsletter column about living in Hawaii around the same time Toni and I did; we shared similar experiences, including listening to Hawaiian music coming from nightclubs while on the beach and seeing Don Ho (whose hit song “Tiny Bubbles” came out in 1966) at Duke Kahanamoku’s, named for an Olympic medalist and father of modern surfing. I arrived early and didn’t stay long because James was spending the night. With Dave and Toni in Oklahoma, I had gladly volunteered to take him bowling. After he rolled a 455 series (above my average) we ate at Culver’s, joined by Becca and Angie.
Don Ho and Duke Kahanamoku
Gloria Steinem, 81 years young, appeared on the Bill Maher Show to plug her new book, My Life on the Road,” dedicated to a British abortionist who, after the procedure, told her to go out and have a productive life. Asked why most young women were supporting Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton, Steinem answered that women, unlike men, get more liberal as they age. Then she added that it was also because that’s where the young men are. Maher blurted out, “Had I said that, you’d have slapped me.” Steinem replied something like, “Are you kidding? I thought you knew me better than that.”
In “Andrew Jackson” Sean Wilentz makes the point that “Old Hickory” was very controversial in his own time, then accepted for many years as one of our best presidents, but recently has become a subject of controversy as a slaveowner and ruthless champion of Indian removal. There’s even a movement afoot to remove his image from 20-dollar bills, perhaps in favor of a black woman or Native American. Wilentz asks readers to judge Jackson by the standards of his time, not ours. It is interesting how little, historians know about exactly where Jackson was born (probably in frontier South Carolina but perhaps in nearby North Carolina) or about Jackson’s father, who died when Andrew was two years old, perhaps due to a fatal accident while clearing trees. By all accounts “Young Hickory” was a drunken rake who’d fight or duel at the drop of the hat and loved cards, horse racing, loose women.
I decided to see in “The Revenant” despite knowing I’d be closing my eyes during the bear-mauling scene I’d heard about. As it turned out, that was just one of several gory spots. Leonardo DiCaprio plays 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass whose Indian son disregards his advice to be invisible and keep his mouth shut because white people, “don’t hear your voice. They just see the color of your face.” It was nonetheless an awe-inspiring film that portrayed Native Americans in a positive light, more in harmony with nature than the rapacious interlopers. Tom Hardy as the villainous John Fitzgerald deserves an Oscar, as does Leonardo on this his sixth try, most recently for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Kawaan Short; NWI Times photo by John Luke
In the NWI Times Al Hamnik wrote about Carolina Panther all-star defensive lineman Kawaan Short and Chicago Bulls guard E’Traun Moore as goodwill ambassadors for their hometown East Chicago. The article stated:
Many outsiders think of East Chicago, once a proud, productive city of oil and steel, as crime-ridden and politically corrupt.
They're dead wrong.
Yes, there are problems, just like any other diverse city today. And here is where the torch is passed. East Chicago's youth will have a big say in its future by building a positive image.
Both Short and Moore starred on East Chicago Central’s 2007 state championship basketball team. Friends since childhood, they often sopped at Columbus Drive Gyros after school for something to eat. Owner John Troupis told them if they won state, he’d treat them to all they could eat. Hamnik wrote: “E. C. Central prevailed, 87-83, against Indianapolis North Central, featuring high school phenom Eric Gordon. It wasn’t long after when Moore and Short, holding the trophy, led the Cardinals into Columbus Drive Gyros and said: ‘We’re really hungry!”
I watched the rather boring Superbowl at a party hosted by Marianne Brush. I was rooting for Carolina but wanted Peyton Manning to do well. He didn’t, but Denver’s defense overwhelmed Carolina’s QB Cam Newton. The halftime show was spectacular but the commercials over-hyped and frankly pretty terrible, considering all the time and money wasted on them. One sports jock claimed the highlight of the day was Lady Gaga singing the National Anthem. He had a point.
Missy Brush arrived at the party with vinyl record albums purchased from a record store in Chicago by Lou Reed, Styx, Sex Pistols, and the Velvet Underground (with Andy Warhol’s banana on the cover). I told Missy I had some albums in our garage that she could look through and take what she wanted, and she eagerly took me up on the offer. Our musical tastes are similar and in both cases, eclectic.