Tag Archives: History

A Revolutionary Trotskyist Memorial Day – Honoring the Heroes and Martyrs of the Revolutionary Workers Movement

May 30th, 1937:  Memorial Day Massacre during “Little Steel” strike: Chicago Police open fire on striking steelworkers trying to unionize steel plants on Chicago’s south side. 10 workers were murdered (many shot in the back) and 30 seriously injured. Source: Wikipedia, US National Archives

In the United States, Memorial Day is a time for remembering our family members and friends who have passed away;  and for honoring them and sharing  our memories of them with everyone who still remembers them – and for passing on the stories of their lives to our children who either never got to know them or whose memories of them are only faint memories from their earliest years.

It is also a celebration of the lives of the millions of worker-soldiers who died fighting the endless wars fought by US armies, all of which – since the U.S. Civil War – have been imperialist wars fought not in defense of the United States but in pursuit of the profit-mad dreams of the U.S. capitalist class.

The U.S. capitalist class and its owned-and-operated propaganda outlets known to Marxists as “the bourgeois press” cynically “salute” the worker-soldiers who have given their lives in imperialist wars – wars which did not make the workers’ lives one bit easier but only heaped even more wealth into the bank accounts of the top 5% of the population: the U.S. capitalist class. The blood of millions of worker-soldiers around the world has been harvested by the capitalists for the capitalists’ own benefit – they whose own sons and daughters more often than not have found ready-made legal “loopholes” allowing them to escape endangering their own lives on the front lines of the U.S.’ bloody imperialist wars. The capitalist class always makes certain that its bought-and-paid-for politicians provide the sons and daughters of the rich with ways to avoid military service in wartime. Yet they all have the nerve to trumpet their phony patriotism on days like this by wrapping themselves in the flag and disgustingly pretending to “honor” the memories of those they have sent to early graves in pursuit of profits for the wealthiest 5% of US citizens.

Meanwhile, the victims of their bloodthirstiness – the worker-soldiers who have had their bodies and minds battered and broken during their descent into the horrors of modern warfare – are thrown away as so much trash; and tens of thousands are left to suffer from the physical and psychological damage that is the “reward” every soldier receives for military service in shooting wars.

Thousands of homeless veterans are forced to roam the streets of U.S. cities, abused every day by the racist, vicious police thugs of the U.S. capitalist class. The families of worker-soldiers who are on active duty – and even elderly retired vets – are forced to beg for assistance to keep a roof over their heads while dad or mom are off brutalizing U.S. imperialism’s “enemies du jour”. It is disgusting that so many families of active U.S. soldiers must rely on charity for their basic needs, like food and clothing – while mom or dad risk their lives so that the numerically tiny billionaire class of the US can amass even greater wealth.  Why do we allow this to go on?

U.S. parents eagerly encourage their children to accept the Pentagon’s blood money so they can attend college.  “All they ask” is that your kids help murder other workers’ kids overseas for a few years.   Source: US Army

For revolutionary Trotskyists, we respect ALL of the victims of U.S. imperialism and its endless wars, not just the worker-soldiers who are driven into the bloody arms of the U.S. war machine in order to find a job or pay for college. We honor the so-called “enemy” workers who are always the victims of imperialist war, slaughtered in the millions by our own sons and daughters.  Yes it is our own sons and daughters who serve the aims of US bankers and war profiteers by serving in the military of the mortal enemies of all the world’s workers – the U.S. capitalist class.

Arkansas chapter of American Bar Association alludes to massive abuses of legal rights of active-duty, retired and disabled veterans. Source: American Bar Association “Arkansas Access to Justice Commission 2007 Annual Report”

We do not honor or support the cynical memorials for US soldiers that are organized by the professional killers of workers in the Pentagon, or by their capitalist masters. They spend millions of dollars every Memorial Day to fly U.S. flags from every flagpole and to place them on the graves of every soldier they sent to their deaths in pursuit of war profits. But when it comes time to pay for rent for the families of soldiers on active duty or for clothes for their kids or for housing for homeless vets, or for drug treatment centers or medical care for vets who have returned home suffering from effects of the wars they fought in, these phony capitalist “patriots”, wrapped in the flag every Memorial Day, are nowhere to be found!   We do not support the imperialist armed forces of the US capitalist state, whose role is to crush every workers’ rebellion that occurs anywhere in the world so as to “keep the world safe for the U.S. capitalist class and their corporations”.  The soldiers in the armed forces of the US capitalist class, though they are our own sons and daughters – are not “our troops”: they are THEIR troops; the troops of the US capitalist class and their imperialist war machine.  They answer to orders given by the US capitalist class, not to orders given by us.  It is a sad fact that many US workers encourage their own children to join the military forces of the very capitalist class that exploits workers at home and murders them overseas!  Our sons and daughters are being sent all over the world to murder their working class sisters and brothers – and we allow the US capitalist class to do this, while at the same time we shed tears over the thousands of dead US worker-soldiers who have given their lives so a handful of filthy rich US capitalists can continue to live like kings!  This is what happens when workers are so politically ignorant that they can not tell their friends from their mortal enemies.

Memorial Day is a time for those of us in the revolutionary Trotskyist workers movement to remember and honor the lives of the tens of millions of worker-socialists and communists who have died fighting for a world in which no one’s sons or daughters will ever have to fight in an imperialist war again. We honor the memories of these millions of worker-communists who sacrificed their own personal comfort by dedicating their lives not to a cozy but vacuous debt-ridden “middle class” dream but to the emancipation of all of the world’s workers from exploitation at the hands of the capitalists, and who gave their lives fighting not for the 1% but for the benefit of the workers of the entire world. These heroic worker-communists led every successful workers revolution in history – and died fighting in the many unsuccessful revolutions as well. They have been slandered and abused by the capitalists of the world who first sought to drown their struggles for the emancipation of the working class in blood and then falsified the history of what they fought and died for so that workers today don’t even know that these worker-heroes ever lived or what they fought and died for. From the coal mines of Kentucky to the copper mines of Arizona; from the cotton fields of the South to the oil fields of Alaska, courageous workers who fought against slavery and then fought to organize unions to defend the rights of workers were brutally attacked and many killed at the hands of the cops and company gun thugs and hired strikebreakers unleashed against them by the ancestors of today’s U.S. capitalist class.  On every Memorial Day the Trotskyists remember them all!

The U.S. Civil War was the last time the U.S. armed forces were employed in a revolutionary cause that advanced the rights of the working class.

We remember the worker-revolutionaries of the Civil War era who came out of the struggle against slavery and became beacons of freedom to workers and peasants and slaves all over the world: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and John Brown and his brave wife and family. We honor the memory of the ex-slaves, free blacks and abolitionist workers who volunteered to fight in the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War and who did so specifically to overthrow the slave power of the Confederacy, arms in hand!  The U.S. Civil War was the LAST time that the US military fought on the progressive side of a war.  Ever since then every US war has been an imperialist war fought primarily to increase the personal wealth and political and economic power of the U.S. capitalist class!

In Chicago we honor the memories of those brave worker-communists and trades unionists who were shot down in cold blood by the Chicago Police under the orders of the steel bosses at what has become known as “The Memorial Day Massacre” of 1937.  This was the blood-price demanded by the “Little Steel” bosses for the workers daring to organize steel unions here in the “Land of the Free”(TM).

We honor the memories of the Haymarket Martyrs, anarchist and socialist workers executed by the capitalists of Chicago for daring to fight for the rights of workers and an 8-hour day. We honor the memory of Lucy Parsons, who kept the spirit of the Haymarket Martyrs alive to the last day of her life. We honor the memories of the civil rights workers who gave their lives fighting for rights for black workers and who died so often at the hands of the hired killers of the US capitalist class – the cops, the FBI and their Klan and Nazi henchmen.  We remember and honor the memory of Medgar Evers, Robert F. Williams, Viola Liuzzo – and so many others whose names the world will never know.

We honor the great worker-revolutionaries who rose from the ranks to become leaders of the workers of the US, and who paid for their honesty, self-sacrifice and dedication to the cause of the working class with long prison terms: Socialist Party leader, opponent of the military draft in WWI and defender of the Russian Revolution Eugene Debs; Trotskyist leader James Cannon;  Marine Corps veteran and Black Panther Party leader Geronimo Pratt; black Communist Party member, movie star, athlete and legendary opera singer Paul Robeson; heroic US Communists Ethel and Julius Rosenberg – to name but a few. How many U.S. workers even know these names? The US capitalist class has made sure that their names are never mentioned in the bourgeois press or memorialized by Hollywood. It is up to the revolutionary socialists to keep their memories alive!

We remember and honor the heroic workers and peasants who fought to overthrow Tsarism and then had the courage to forge ahead and overthrow capitalism as well in the great Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 and the Civil War that followed! Thousands of these brave workers and peasants were butchered at the hands of the counterrevolutionary White Guard armies, sponsored by the United States, Great Britain and other imperialist powers of the “free world”. Many lived through the horrors of the Civil War in Bolshevik Russia only to be later brutalized at the hands of Stalin and, later, Hitler and their executioners. And yet they continued to fight to put the Stalinized Soviet Union back on the road of Lenin and Trotsky to the end of their lives!

Of course we honor the great syndicalist and communist leaders from all over the world who gave their lives fighting for the emancipation of the working class internationally: “Big Bill” HaywoodJohn Reed, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Vladimir Lenin, Abram Leon – and the millions of communist women and men whose names will forever be unknown to the world – who fought for the working class forces in every workers revolution, from the Paris Commune to the failed revolutionary movements in China in 1927, Indonesia in the 1960s, the Philippines, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iran, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, South Africa – to name but a few; we honor the millions of worker-communists and their friends butchered by the US capitalist class in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea and the victims of US imperialism being murdered by our deluded sons and daughters every day in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and so many other countries. We honor the men and women of the Trotskyist Left Opposition imprisoned and executed in the Stalinist USSR, who carried the banner of Lenin and Trotsky in the face of brutal persecution until death closed their eyes forever! Their names will never be known to history but their heroic struggles will never be forgotten so long as there is a revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist workers party in existence!

Capitalism must die so that the working class may live! Workers of the World, Unite!

— IWPCHI

Patriots’ Day 2016: The Battle of Menotomy, 19 April 1775

Patriots' Grave, Old Burying Ground, Arlington, Massachusetts. Burial place of nine of the eleven American colonials killed in the battle at the Jason Russell House during the first day of the American Revolution (April 19, 1775). This battle was the bloodiest skirmish of that first day. The graveyard is behind the Unitarian Church at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Pleasant Street. By Daderot at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18003465

Patriots’ Grave, Old Burying Ground, Arlington, Massachusetts. Burial place of nine of the eleven American colonials killed in the battle at the Jason Russell House during the first day of the American Revolution (April 19, 1775). This battle was the bloodiest skirmish of that first day. The graveyard is behind the Unitarian Church at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Pleasant Street. Photo by Daderot at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18003465

Of course everyone who has read anything about the American Revolution knows about the Battles of Lexington and Concord which took place on 19 April 1775.  But what fewer people are aware of is the fact that after the British troops had finished their bloody work in Lexington and Concord, they had to march all the way back to Boston – a distance of 10 miles.  In getting to Concord these redcoats had already made that hike once on that day; now they would have to do it all over again.  They were tired and hungry and highly stressed out as you can imagine: what had once been a peaceful colonial possession of Great Britain in which British troops were looked upon with respect and honor by the colonists was now transformed into a seething insurrectionary province in which a large percentage of the population saw the British Army as enemies and oppressors.

The British Army in 1775 was the equivalent of the US Army today: the world’s most powerful fighting force.  Equipped with the most modern weaponry and led by the best-trained officers in the world at that time, taking up arms against the British was no trifling matter.  The British generals were supremely confident that they would quickly put an end to the insolent uprising of the rabble-rousing rebels in Boston.  They intended to capture the leaders of the rebellion and hang them as the traitors to the Crown they were.

The British commanders carried out their mission on April 19th with the usual savage professionalism and ruthless efficiency the British Army was known for by its many victims worldwide.  Opposing them was an unprofessional colonial militia loosely organized, poorly armed and led and for the most part by men untrained in the “arts” of 18th century warfare.  This state of affairs had all the hallmarks of a disastrous and foolhardy enterprise on the side of the traitorous rebels.  How could they possibly expect to prevail over the mighty British Army?

As the redcoats who had skirmished with the rebels at Lexington and Concord rested, ate and were relieved by fresh troops from Boston who had been sent to reinforce them for their long march back through rebel territory, the traitorous militia (remember – in 1775 the term “patriot” was not the usual appellation affixed to those who dared to rebel against the lawful authority of the King and his colonial representatives) prepared to obstruct and harass the British troops as they headed back to Boston along the same road (at that time the only direct route to take) which they had come up on earlier.  Minutemen from all over Massachusetts took up positions in houses and behind the low fieldstone walls that ran along property lines between the farms along the route.

The British undertook to carry out their mission with the customary caution and professionalism of any trained military force at the time.  The main body of their force would march in formation along the road; skirmishers would be sent out into the fields along both sides of the road to protect the British lines, keeping any attackers far enough away from the main body of troops so that any shots they would fire would fall short.  Those flanking parties would also kill or capture any rebels they found in possession of arms along the way.

The Minutemen – led by unprofessional soldiers – were not even aware of the fact that these forces protecting the flanks of the British main force could be expected to be present; so they set up their defense close to the road, leaving their own rear wide open to attack by the flanking parties.

Try to imagine what it must have been like to be a British soldier on that day.  We have actually walked the route taken by the British from Lexington Green along what is called in Massachusetts the “Battle Road”.  It’s a long winding road over low rolling hills and dales with – even to this day – the characteristic stone walls of New England running along it and out across what remains of the farmers’ fields of the 1700s.  Now, much of that terrain is wooded; back in the 1700s it was mostly bereft of trees.  Wearing their trademark bright red coats, the British regulars would have been easy targets as they marched along and over the low rolling dirt road to Boston.

From the time the British troops formed up and began their march until they finally reached Charlestown, the Minutemen intended to obtain their revenge for the blood and lives of the colonials that had been taken in the unprovoked attack by the British in Lexington and Concord.  Hiding behind the stone walls, snipers picked off the redcoats with ease, while the British flanking parties drove the snipers out of hiding and back along the road towards Boston, where they took up new positions and prepared to harass the British again.

As the British entered the town of Menotomy they were faced suddenly with the problem of how to run the gauntlet of houses positioned right on the street on both sides of the road all the way through this town.  Minutemen had taken up positions in the upper floors of these houses and as the British approached they opened fire on the redcoats with deadly accuracy, killing and wounding many.  It turned out that Menotomy – now called Arlington – would be the scene of the most brutal and bloody fighting of the 19th of April.  Enraged by what they perceived to be “cowardly” attacks from cover by the rebels (it was considered to be an improper form of warfare; in the 1700s, massed armies were supposed to meet on an open field of battle and shoot and stab it out bayonet to bayonet) the British stormed into the homes of the rebel colonists, bayonetting and shooting everyone they could find in the buildings – especially those in possession of weapons.  No mercy was shown; men, women and children were viciously bayonetted and shot at point-blank range; many were killed and grievously wounded.

Perhaps the best example of the savagery of the British attack is shown by what happened to heroic rebel patriot Captain Samuel Whittemore.  This aged Menotomy patriarch had been born in England and was a veteran of the British Army who had fought in the French and Indian War on the side of the British as a youth.  But now at age 69 he had “turned traitor” and was armed to defend his fellow citizens from the lawful authority of his native country!  He was no flag-waving worshipper of the status quo such as we see all over the USA today: cowardly nationalists who wrap themselves in the colors of the USA and who attack anyone who dares to oppose the brutal and despotic US government of today which has murdered millions of innocent workers worldwide in its anticommunist wars over the past 1oo years and which has legalized torture and the assassination of US citizens on the President’s orders!  How many of these flag-waving US patriots of today would have been in the ranks of the traitorous rebels of 1775?  Not many!  It is easy to support the American Revolution today; but back then, it took tremendous courage to oppose the lawful governmental authority of Great Britain in words – not to mention opposing it arms in hand!  American Revolutionary leaders claimed after the war was successfully concluded that they never had the stalwart and unwavering support of more than around 30% of the population of the colonies at any time during the revolution.  Of course, the other 70% were either outright supporters of the Crown or were just waiting to see who would come out the winner before they would decide which flag to wrap themselves in.  They probably kept two flags at the ready at all times – one to fly when the British were in the neighborhood and a rebel flag for when the Minutemen were around.  Today’s flag-waving “patriots” in the USA who proclaim the US to be “my country right or wrong” and who tell modern-day US revolutionaries that “if you don’t like the US government, get out of the country!” are the modern equivalent of the hated pro-British Tories of the Revolutionary era.  These knee-jerk flag-waving patriotic worshippers of the US flag and its vicious worker-hating and veteran-abusing government don’t have a rebellious bone in their bodies!

Captain Sam Whittemore was not a knee-jerk patriot; he was a heroic man who dared to put his life on the line against the tyranny of what had once been, in his mind and the minds of his fellow rebels,  “their” government!  Cowards like today’s flag-waving worshippers of the disgusting, racist and murderous US capitalist status quo who lived in British colonial America lie in their graves – unknown to history. This granite monument in Menotomy, Massachusetts to American Revolutionary war hero Captain Sam Whittemore tells of a man who dared to challenge – not worship – despotic government:

Monument to one of the heroic "Old Men of Menotomy" Samuel Whittemore in Menotomy (now Arlington) Massachusetts. By Bhenricksen at English Wikipedia - Own work by the original uploader, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29116756

Monument to one of the heroic “Old Men of Menotomy” Samuel Whittemore in Menotomy (now Arlington) Massachusetts.   Photo by Bhenricksen at English Wikipedia – Own work by the original uploader, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29116756

Sam selected a position that gave him an excellent view of the road from Lexington, and sat down to wait. His fellow minuteman from Menotomy pleaded for him to find a safer position, but he choose to ignore them.

“His fellow minuteman started firing at the oncoming British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot, falling back to reload, then firing again. Sam waited. Finally, when the column was directly in front of him, he stood and fired his musket. A grenadier fell dead. He drew his two pistols, firing both at almost point blank range. Another grenadier fell dead, a third fell mortally wounded. The British soldiers were on top of him, he had not the time to reload his musket or pistols, so drawing his sword, he . started flailing away at the bayonet wielding soldiers. A soldier leveled his Brown Bess musket, at point blank range and fired. The .69 calibre ball struck Sam in the cheek, tearing away part of his face and throwing him to the ground. Sam valiantly tried to rise, fending off bayonet thrusts with his sword, but he was overpowered. Struck in the head with a musket butt, he went down again, then was bayoneted thirteen times and left for dead.

Using a door as a makeshift stretcher, Sam was carried to Cooper Tavern, which was being used as a emergency hospital. Doctor Nathaniel Tufts of Medford attended to Sam. He cut off his bloody clothes, and exposed the gaping bayonet wounds. Sam’s face was horribly injured. Doctor Tufts knew the injuries were fatal, stating it wouldn’t do any good to even dress the wounds. Sam’s family and friends insisted and Dr. Tufts did the best he could. He tried to make the old man as comfortable as possible. After his wounds were attended to Sam was carried to his home, to die surrounded by his family. To everyone’s utter amazement Captain Sam Whittemore lived! He recovered and remained active for the next eighteen years. He was terribly scarred, but always was proud of what he had done for his adopted country. He is quoted as having stated that he would take the same chances again.”  [Source: ““Never Too Old: The Story of Captain Samuel Whittemore” by Donald N. Moran]

By the time the British had fought their way through Menotomy, they had the bodies of an additional 40 dead and eighty wounded redcoats to add to their burden from Lexington and Concord to carry back to their ships in Boston Harbor.

When the workers socialist revolution in the United States finally gets underway to overthrow OUR despotic and ruthless government, it will be led not by today’s cowardly flag-waving worshippers of the powerful and wealthy; it will be led by man and women like Captain Samuel Whittemore who have the courage to fight to the death if necessary against tyranny – especially when it comes from “our own” government!

— IWPCHI