Mark Twain wrote that Americans go to war to learn geography. But that can’t be right; we’ve had enough wars in enough places that Americans ought to know the capital city of even the smallest province of Nicaragua by now, and yet most Americans couldn’t tell you on which border Mexico or Canada reside – and we’ve been to war with both of them.
I learned geography, in part, as a political and anti-war activist. The room we used for meetings back in the day was plastered with maps, not surprisingly, of the Middle East. Before Iraq War I, there was the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf (remember that?) and that’s probably the first time I had the occasion to learn a little, and I mean a little, about Oman.
Well here we are again. Another war; this time Iraq War III, or is it V? It’s getting hard to keep count.
Last week we talked with Brad Duncan of the RF Kampfer Revolutionary Literature Archive in the first of a two-part interview (here), next week we’ll post part two. In the mean time here is a collection from the archive of items connected to the Middle East, including a number on Palestine and the revolutionary upsurges in Iran of the 1970s.
Learn your geography in solidarity comrades!
‘Portraits From The Struggle Of Palestinian Women’, General Union of Palestinian Women, printed by Palestine Information Office, Washington, D.C., 1974.
‘Iran: Flames of Revolution’, The Union of Iranian Communists, 1981.
‘In Solidarity With Palestine’, Palestine Information Office, Washington, DC, 1982.
‘The August Program’, Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, printed by Palestine Solidarity Committee, Buffalo, New York, early 1970’s.
‘Political And Armed Struggle’, Palestine National Liberation Movement Fateh, Beirut, Lebanon, early 1970’s.
‘The Women’s Role in the Palestine National Struggle’, Palestine Liberation Organization, 1975.
‘The Arab Dawn’, Canadian Arab Federation, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1978.
‘Documents of the Palestinian Resistance Movement’, Pathfinder Press, Socialist Workers Party, United States, 1971. Includes material from Fatah, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
‘In Solidarity With The Palestinian Revolution’, Iranian Student Association in U.S., Houston/Berkeley, 1975.
‘International KAR’, Organization of Iranian Peoples’ Fedaian – Majority, London, 1983. ‘Forward to the Establishment of the Working Class Party’.
‘The Patriotic Movement In The West Bank’, Palestine Liberation Organization, Beirut, Lebanon, 1975.
‘No Revolution without Women’s Liberation’, Azar Tabari, Campaign For Solidarity With Iran, London, 1979
‘Dialogue With Fateh’, Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fateh), Beirut, Lebanon, 1969.
‘Free Oman’, published and edited by F. Glubb, London, 1964. Photo caption reads “A unit of Omani resistance fighters on pistol training”.
‘FAT’H – Revolution until Victory’, Palestine National Liberation Movement, place unknown, late 1960’s.
‘Intifada – Zionism, Imperialism and Palestinian Resistance’, Phil Marshall, Book Marks, London, 1989.
Promotional card for a May Day event organized by the Confederation of Iranian Students, Chicago, [mid-1970’s].
‘Solidarity with Turkey’s Political Prisoners’, Committee for the Defense of Democratic Rights in Turkey, London, [early 2000’s].
‘Egypt – a people rising’, Abu Hashim, New Park Publications / Labour Review, London, 1953.
‘For A Free And Independent Kurdistan’ in ‘Arm The Spirit – Autonomist/Anti-Imperialist Journal’, Hamilton, Ontario, 1992.
‘Mobareze (Struggle)’, Iranian Students Association in the U.S.A., United States, 1970. First issue.
‘On Kemalism’, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Communist Party of Turkey (Marxist-Leninist), [place unknown], [early 1970’s]. Kayapakkaya (1949-1973) was a founding member of the CPT (M-L) and was tortured and killed by the Turkish government.
List of chants for a demonstration against the Shah of Iran, United States, [late 1970’s].
The very definition of ‘philistine’ is one who thinks that the actor, poet and playwright Harold Pinter was over-rated. They are wrong. Late last night I watched, in a fit of insomnia and for the second gruelling time, Pinter perform in Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. An old man, alone in a room drinking and listening to tapes made of himself many years earlier when he was in his latter thirties (my age now). Staggering. This morning, still staggered, I picked a slim volume of Pinter’s late, overtly political works from the shelf called Death etc. Pinter increasingly worked through poetry toward the end of his life; poems that are as short, sharp and brutish as the deaths, personal and entirely impersonal, that they chronicle.
Now here I am, drinking coffee comfortably on a cloudy morning in quiet Ypsilanti and reading words inspired by cluster bombs, blood-spattered basements and the cheap, anonymous murder specialized in by powers great and small and feeling queasy for doing so. So, in the spirit of solidarity, I thought I would share my discomfort. Most of us will not be confronted with death today, not immediately anyway. Most of us will not be tortured. Most of us will not be murdered. Most of us will not be raped. Most of us will not be beaten. Most of us will not be gagged or tied up or shocked with cattle prods. But some of us will, as will the loved ones of some of us. This very mundane morning there are people getting their teeth kicked in. Four by Pinter then.
Are you ready to order?
No there is nothing to order
No I’m unable to order
No I’m a long way from order
And while there is everything,
And nothing, to order,
Order remains a tall order
And disorder feeds on the belly of order
And order requires the blood of disorder
And ‘freedom’ and ordure and other disordures
Need the odour of order to sweeten their murders
Disorder a beggar in a darkened room
Order a banker in a castiron womb
Disorder an infant in a frozen home
Order a soldier in a poisoned tomb
After Lunch (2002)
And after noon the well-dressed creatures come
To sniff among the dead
And have their lunch
And all the many well-dressed creatures pluck
The swollen avocados from the dust
And stir the minestrone with stray bones
And after lunch
They loll and lounge about
Decanting claret in convenient skulls
God bless America (2003)
Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America’s God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn’t join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who’ve forgotten the tune.
The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America’s God.
Finally, here is Pinter reading 1997’s ‘Death’ from his monumental Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?
Who was the dead body?
Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?
Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?
Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?
What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?
Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body
The great Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky speaks across the decades to our moment. The poem below was written in 1917, in the midst of events that the parlance of today would have called something like #October25Rev. If comrades have not yet had the great pleasure of making Mayakovsky’s acquaintance, though dead now 80 long years, there is no time like the present. He was, after all, a Futurist. The tramp of revolt on the square is echoing these hopeful days. And it is demanding to be taken up to heaven alive!
Beat the tramp of revolt in the square!
Up, row of proud heads!
We will wash every city in the world
With the surging waters
of a second Flood.
The bull of the days is skewbald.
The cart of the years is slow.
Our god is speed.
The heart is our drum.
Is there a gold more heavenly than ours?
Can the wasp of a bullet sting us?
Our songs are our weapons;
Ringing voices — our gold.
Meadows, be covered with grass,
Spread out a ground for the days.
the fast-flying horses of the years.
See, the starry heaven is bored!
We weave our songs without its help.
Hey, you, Great Bear, demand
that they take us up to heaven alive!
Drink joys! Sing!
Spring flows in our veins.
Beat to battle, heart!
Our breast is a copper kettledrum.
The Rustbelt Radical is a personal blog. It is revolutionary, socialist and internationalist. It comes straight from the ravaged middle of the post-industrial American Midwest and yearns for the refounding of the Marxist project. The landscapes of radical history are my main interest, but other topics might include politics, economy, work, culture, war, theory, travel, music and frequent tubthumping for the free association of producers. Let me know of needed or broken links.
"The realm of freedom...can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind force of Nature, and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature..."
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, p. 820.
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