7 comments on “Lester Rodney: The Long Ball Hitter

  1. Actuiallly the quote was “ain’t nothin’ gonna’ change till the workers seize the means of production” and it was attributed to WEB DuBois although I think he said to Richard Pryor (Bingo Long).

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  2. It would be interesting to find out the political sympathies of the Black ballplayers who participated in the Negro Leagues. You would think that that the players who came from Northern industrial cities would have been in some way, shape or form, influenced by both the workers struggles of the 1930s and/or the Garveyite nationalist movement of the post-WWI period that preceded them. Does anyone remember the scene in “Bingo Long” when the James Earl Jones caharcter tells a hooker that “WEB DuBois says that nothing is going to change until the dictatorship of the proletariat?” If that was in a Hollywood movie, it must have reflected something from the real world. Or was I just imagining that scene?

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  3. Sports and sports associations played a crucial role in organizing the first international. Its seems that it was the New left that moved away from interacting with working people through sports. which I am sure people have lots of theories why.

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  4. It’s true that a lot of ball people followed were in the regional and local leagues. before television created national teams (or radio created regional markets) most ball was played semi-pro in pick-up leagues. in the depression these teams were like bands of hobos, crossing the country, picking up games at small towns for food. Left groups and unions had teams as well. there were big markets back then for sure, but my guess is that if you looked at the public sympathies of a lot of ball players in the other leagues, including the Negro Leagues, you’d get a different picture. There are some lefties in ball today, mostly from Latin America (the Tigers Maglio Ordonez is one), but the last far out lefty I can think of was Bill Lee from the Red Sox and Montreal 30 years ago. I just watched a documentary of him playing in Cuba, he says they play the game the way its meant to be played down there. its proof that you don’t need capitalism to be at the top of the sport. I’d love to be able to follow Cuban teams. Agree with MN Roy’s critique. Even if revolution is impossible today, it’s guaranteed to be tomorrow if folks aren’t working towards one. And the CP certainly wasn’t working for one.

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  5. Just for the record, I meant to say that there were only 16 major league teams at the time, i.e., 8 in each league.

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  6. RE MN Roy’s comment, I would add that while the ball players of this period were not paid badly compared to most workers at the time, they were generally paid small amounts compared to today in terms of financial security. Furthermore they could be blacklisted -so to speak- far more easily than today.

    In other words, it is very possible that players with more leftist sympathies would have been worried that speaking out would mean the end of their playing career.

    Musicians, on the other hand, had more varied sources of income and thus might not have worried about offending a particular individual.

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  7. So, because there was only one major league baseball player sympathetic to the “left,” that proves that “the radical movement may have romanticized…the response of American society to the crisis of the 1930S” and that “if society, especially the working class, had been looking for radical options, this would have expressed itself in the popular world of professional sports.”

    Let’s not forget that there were only 8 major teams at the time. That’s about 400 ballplayers, all of them white, and as Rodney pointed out, most of them from small, rural, southern towns where Jim Crow was the law of the land. Even if you add professional football into the equation, your’e still taking about less people than were in the SWP (before the split with Schactman), let alone, the CP and the SP, not to mention militant workers not in any political party, but who took part in the struggles that created the CIO.

    Or to put it another way, because there was such a large radical presence in the movie industry and amongst musicians and artists at the same time, perhaps radicals were, if anything, underestimating the potential for radical social change in that period. Most of these people were from large cities and thus more familiar with, and sympathetic to, the plight of the working class and radical ideas concerning them. Obviously, this was a reflection of, and a response to, the depression decade and the massive radicalization of the working class that took place, above all the formation of the CIO through militant mass actions like sit-down strikes and even the post-WWII strike wave that included many city-wide general strikes.

    Obviously there was not a socialist revolution and probably there was little chance for one. However it was the reformist policies of the CP, above all, that made sure that whatever potential there was for even independent working class politics, i.e., the formation a labor party based on the unions, never saw the light of day, something we have been paying a high price for ever since. And I don’t think that it was the lack of a radical vision on the part of the working class, at least its most militant sections, that was responsible for this development. When UAW militants were clamouring for a labor party, it was the CP that used its influence to make sure that it didn’t happen. Likewise, rank and file militants were willing to take on the no-strike pledge while the CP was ready to support piece-work! And let’s not forget that when coal miners went out on strike, the CP was supporting calling out the armed forces to break the strike.

    Unfortunately, the author’s seeing revolutionary Marxism as an obstacle to a more “democratic,” ie, less radical, left, prevents him from seeing what potentials for radical change existed in the 1930s and 40s and what helped to derail them, since it appears that he has made his peace with those same politics of the possible today.

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