The Black Panther and The Red Bear
The Black Panther and The Red Bear
Somehow without taking a bullet in the back, I had managed to get through Basic Training and AIT. Even though my blood was purple hazed, I was not red, white and blue by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, nor am I today. I felt then as I do now; red, white and screwed. I have only voted once in a national election, and that was back in the 80’s. I did not cast a ballot for the liberal left (never trust a liberal, only an activist) a liberal will simply bend and blow with the wind and opt for compromise, which is not a solution. I also did not support the over-wrathful holier than though right wing of the predatory American eagle, but at least with the right wing, when they say something like Love it or Leave it, they mean it and there is no compromise. They stand fast and at least you know where they stand.
No, my vote was for Gus Hall and Angela Davis running on the Communist Party ticket. Davis certainly had an activist pedigree that cannot be denied, and voting for her was my way of exercising my “right of free speech” that had been denied to so many voices in the night in this country during the Sixties. The cities were burning, the police were rioting in Chicago and Black Panthers and John Sinclair’s White Panther Party in Detroit were being harassed, arrested and in case of the Black Panthers, murdered for their beliefs and activities. At this point I feel it is important to take a step through the looking glass to examine the people who were the burr under the saddle of the disciples of his holiness, John Wayne.
Minnesota’s Mesabi Kimosabe
What happens in the atomic political reactor when you unscientifically split the atoms of two people who share a nuclear passion for societal change? What’s worse, is that each is from a different end of the socio-ethnic spectrum. The answer? Easy, that is when political isotopes go kaboom! A Big Bang, that’s what happens!
One of these fissionable personages was born of Finnish immigrants who, like many before them, made their home, home on the range, in and on the Mesabi Range. The Mesabi kimosabe, is in northern Minnesota where among other people, stout, workaholic, alcoholic miners reside. They are often proud stock, with shirts of proletarian plaid in all colours of the rainbow and Rockford socks to help fight off the winter freeze. Flapping flags of Finland adorn the working class town and the inevitable company store. It’s a cacophony of the proud heritage of steely, swarthy workers intermingled with doses of liberal amounts of labor friendly leanings.
The other reactor factor: a fiery young black woman with deep southern fried routes in the fertile soil that was also the fiercely racist real estate south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Angela Davis would emerge as an inspiring intellectual and passionate proselytizer of people’s rights, making her one of the most vocal of voices of the purple hazed double dazed Sixties that gave shape to a new generation of questioning activists, who believe me, weren’t proud to be Okie’s from Muskogee. Leave that to the haggard huddled masses that didn’t and still don’t quite understand that dissent is as American as apple pie, baseball and imposing democracy down other nations throat at the point of a bayonet..now, that’s about as American as it gets!
The formidable fornication of socialist philosophy and conviction eventually generated enough politically sexual heat and gravity to bring these two separate orbs into perfect alignment, fusing them together in concise orbits, which in turn, lead to the Communist Party’s Presidential Campaign Ticket that featured the Red Bear and the Black Panther, Gus Hall and Angela Davis.
It was the political equivalent of “Dancing with the Leftist Stars” as the times they are a changin’ times produced the all-American dream team of the Communist Party of the USA. It was the birth of the third party political third rail of American politics where the red star of communism wore a hammer and sickle along with a mountainous skyscraper Afro. In effect, Davis was the party’s stick of dynamite while mucho gusto Gus added a red tinged hue of Bolshevism to a socialist rainbow of radical activism.
A little background if you please Maestro!
Following the no-bullshit Bolsheviks takin’ it to the streets ousting and elimination of the Czar and his family in old imperial Nicholas Russia, the left wing of the Socialist Party of America organized the first American Communists with a determination to build support among American workers, support the Soviet Union and of course, the simple matter of overthrowing capitalism. The gospel according the Marx and Engels.
It had been a long time since the American government was afraid of a portion of its citizenry, (and all governments should be afraid of its citizens and not the the other way around,) so the United States began a not so land of the free campaign to limit its dosage of democracy and instead suggested suppressing the “godless” movement that wanted rights for the working class. The gall of it all. The persecution forced them to go underground like bolshevik ground hogs, hovering in secret cells, which only strengthened their resolve. After a bit of infighting, the new party was unified after a period of ideological constipation and managed to emerge above ground existence with the friction of fractured factions easing. Then as though someone tossed another log onto the campfire, the flames of dissent erupted again in the camp of the comrades, ending in the eventual expulsion of those Hot to Trotskyists.
Gus Hall wasn’t always, well, Gus Hall…in fact his real name was a gusher of a moniker. He came marching proudly from the womb in 1910 as Arvo Kustaa Halberg to parents who at the time were involved in the Industrial Workers of the World..or Wobblies as they were known. They were also early members of the Communist Party of the USA as far back as 1919. It wasn’t unusual, as those madcap Finnish immigrants were often red hued radicals when it came to political preferences. They tended to be extremely active in labor militancy and political activism. Arvos’s father had to pay the political piper the price for his leftists leanings, resulting in his being booted by the bosses from working in the mines when he joined in the IWW strike. This of course resulted in the diminishing returns of whatever income and safety net that capitalism had failed to provide for in just such circumstances. It’s no wonder in those days workers were attracted to communism over capitalism.
The family then went all from comfortable working class to all out rustic, and moved into a small cabin in the north woods that Gus’s dad built with his own hands. Here Gus lived there as a proletarian version of Davey “The Commie” Crockett. Politically, he was loaded for bear, or “bar” in the frontier parlance of the buckskin and fringe days. With ten in the family to feed, Gus by the age of 15, had to for-go any formal schooling, and instead rolled up his working class sleeves working to help keep the starving family from sinking below the surface of a hungry ocean. The north woods howled a wolf call to him and Gus went to work in lumber camps, as well as working in mines and on the railroad.
Sabotage at the Proletarian Prom
Most young boys are encouraged to join cub scouts or boy scouts but two years before the stock market crash of 1929, Gus was recruited by his father into the Communist Party of the USA, or CPUSA where he proved he had exceptional organizational skills for the Young Communist League. Now that his committee internship was complete, it was time for higher education, so in a 1931 socialist version of the Sorcerers Apprentice, he received an apprenticeship that allowed him to travel to the Soviet Union to study at the International Lenin School in Moscow where he excelled in sabotage (seriously! Sabotage! I wonder who he asked to the Proletarian Prom that year?) He also got straight A’s in guerrilla tactics, all part of the curriculum of Three R’s, Stalin style…Reds, Riots and Revolution!
Meanwhile, back in the States…Hall moved to Minneapolis and became involved in hunger marches, farmers rights and industrial strikes. The whirlwind of progressive politics caught up with him by 1934 when he was jailed for six months for taking part in the Minneapolis Teamster’s Strike, a strike led by that madcap hot to Trotskyite, Farrell Dobbs. Eventually Gus was released and blacklisted which made it impossible for him to get any work under his birth name. So with the flair of creativity with the air of subterfuge, he shed his skin of identification, emerging with his new moniker..Gus Hall…which, by the way, was legalized in 1935.
He moved his activities to Ohio where at one point he ran for Mayor of Youngstown on the Communist Party ticket, and being the patriot he was, or at least ardent anti-fascist, enlisted in the US Navy during WWII and while serving in the Pacific theatre of action he was elected to the Communist Party’s National Committee in 1944.
While Gus was in the Pacific theatre of war, an event was taking place that would eventually put two people on a Communist collision course. Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in January of 1944. A highly educated and passionate individual her name has become synonymous with the fight for civil rights and involvement with the hyper-activism of the Black Panther Party for Self Defence, started in 1966 by Huey “Free Huey” Newton and Bobby “Gag Me Judge Hoffman” Seal. It was group that practiced and perfected militant self-defence of minority communities against the US government and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic , social and political equality across gender and colour lines.
Jailed for bad behaviour in the 50’s only to reemerge onto the scene in the psychedelic 60’s
By 1946, Gus was elected to the Executive Board of the party. He didn’t exactly have any red letter days in 1948, as that was the year that he was convicted under the anti-communist Smith Act and was sentenced to a five year prison term. So, he pulled a Trotsky and headed South of the Border, down Mexico way. While in exile he was elected as the Communist Party’s National Secretary in 1050. He was busted in 1951 and given three additional years of prison time. When released in the psychedelic Sixties he worked to rebuild the party to its former glory after years of decline. In 1968 he tossed his fur hat into the fray and ran for President of the US. Being a liberated soul, he chose a female running mate, Charlene Mitchell, but received a little over a thousand votes. He soon became the red debutante of the new leftist ball and gained a new crop of young activists with the YCL, now known as the W.E.B. DuBois clubs, and among the crop of militants attracted to his orb was a young Angela Davis. Dubois was an intellectual leader of the black community in America fighting racism in the country. He was a scholar, a writer, and was founder and editor of the NAACP’s journal, The Crisis.
Davis whose membership in the Communist party at the time led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the state of California. She was also tried and acquitted of suspected involvement in the Soledad Brothers 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County.
In the 1980’s she and Gus formed the dream team ticket to proletarian paradise twice, both times going down in defeat. By the early 1990’s Davis moved away from party communism to other forms of political commitment and she has identified herself as a democratic socialist.
Hall ran the race four more times and it was during one of his campaigns that he uttered the infamous phrase..People Before Profits. His last race before being put in the proletarian pasture was in 1984, but in 1988 he steered the CP into full support for the Democratic party. He felt confident Jesse Jackson would win. In 1991, he led the anti-Gorbechev-Pro CPSU establishment in the Communist Party. By now his planet was drifting further away in the political galaxy from for allies such as Davis and Mitchell. He did lead the party until his death. He passed away on October 13, 2000. Hall’s family received condolences from as far away as Vietnam.
It was a red banner campaign where the Red Bear ran with the Black Panther through the forest of politics, becoming the political third rail derailed by a two party political system that had no stomach for an upstart third party…especially one that espoused “power to the people” and “People Over Profits”..damn it..that just ain’t American! Once again the Red White and Blue becomes the land of the red white and screwed!