Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 3, 2017

How Columbia students protested Nazis on campus in 1936

Filed under: Academia,Fascism — louisproyect @ 3:24 pm

Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume LX, Number 9, 6 October 1936

250 Students Parade In Torchlight March To Reinstate Burke
Teachers Union Passes Resolution Backing Campus Fight
Wechsler, Will Speak
Demonstrators Walk With Red Flares

Two hundred and fifty paraders demonstrated on the Columbia Campus last night in an attempt to reinstate Robert Burke, ousted Junior Class President. The demonstrators, who marched by the light of 300 Roman torches, paraded about the Campus, held three orderly mass meetings and finally broke up after more than two hours of shouting their feelings in the Burke case. The first mass meeting, which started at 7:45, was addressed by James A. Wechsler, editor of the Student Advocate and former editor of The Spectator, Albert Witt, member of the Student Council at the Heights center of New York University, and Burke. In a resolution made public last night, the Columbia Chapter of the Teachers Union condemned the action of Dean Herbert E. Hawkes in expelling Burke from Columbia College. Declaring that Dean Hawkes’ action was “clearly a violation of the right of students to assemble and to express their convictions on matters of social significance” the Teachers Union urged that the administration reinstate Burke.

Union Urges Burke Return

The resolution passed by the union follows in part: “Whereas, the objectives of the students’ demonstration were in accord with a resolution previously passed by the Columbia Chapter of the Teachers Union, in which the Union declared opposition to Columbia’s participation in the Heidelberg ceremonies because of the ruthless suppression of academic freedom in Heidelberg University and throughout Germany; “Therefore, we, the Columbia Chapter of the Teachers Union urge that the administration immediately reinstate Mr. Burke as a student of Columbia College and by such action affirm the right of student and faculty to free expression of opinion and recognize in practice the right of academic freedom which has long been a tradition on our Campus.” Burke, in appealing for a unified action stated: “The time has come to speak up, The Administration is clamping down! Either the student body will get together and fight as an integrated whole or we will be whipped.” Wechsler Asks Support Calling upon the assembled paraders to conduct an orderly meeting, Wechsler declared that “any disorders come from Dean Hawkes’ pets who get their line from his ‘ office.” Wechsler, scoring the whispering campaign now current on the Campus, urged the “hundreds who are not prepared to quit or run out or accept the flimsy apologetic excuses of the administration” to lend the full strength of their support to Burke.

After Witt spoke, the paraders marched through the Van Am Quadrangle, past South Hall and Furnald and out into Broadway. Shouting invitations to Barnard dormitory residents to join them, the demonstrators marched up Broadway to 120 th Street where they turned east and continued to Morningside Drive. Here the group, preceded by three of the twenty policemen who were on hand to ensure an orderly demonstration, turned South and marched toward the home of Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler. Ceasing their shouts at 117 th Street the paraders filed past the President’s home in absolute silence, raising their hand in imitation of the Nazi salute as they passed the entrance. At 116 th Street, the demonstration returned to the Campus. Entering- upon the Van Quad again, the marchers, still shouting their demands to reinstate Burke and chanting that “Butler Wants Hitler But We Want Burke.” The group responded to the cry of “Water” from numerous dormitory windows with louder chants and demands. Leaving the Library steps, the marchers proceded to form a group at the Sun Dial. Here they were again addressed by Burke and Wechsler.

Wechsler again attacked the supporters of Burke who were afraid to come out in the open and lend him their aid. Burke thanked the crowd for its support and attacked Albert I. Edelman ‘3B Law, and Thomas Bandler ’37 who recently wrote letters to the editor of The Spectator condemning its action in supporting Burke and requesting that the entire incident be forgotten. In a resolution which was passed by the almost unanimous consent of the assembled crowd, Dean Hawkes and the administration were called upon to reinstate Burke. The full text of the resolution follows. “Resolved that this body believes the expulsion of Robert Burke to be a breach of academic freedom on the Columbia Campus.”

© 2012 Spectator Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Powered by Veridian

The Founder; Joy

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 2:44 pm

Drive-Thru Capitalism: Ray Kroc, Joy Mangano and the American Entrepreneur as Schemer

As briskly paced and entertaining biopics, the 2015 “Joy”, which can now be seen on HBO, and “The Founder”, playing now at multiplexes everywhere, have much in common. They are celebrations of an entrepreneurialism seemingly at odds with the sense of “carnage” alluded to in Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. As rags to riches tales, they hearken back to one of the foundational myths of American capitalism, the Horatio Alger novels of the Gilded Age that would have you believe that perseverance and ambition could overcome any obstacle.

Joy is Joy Mangano, the inventor of the self-cleaning mop that she considered to be the housewife’s savior. She got the idea while wringing out an old-fashioned mop with her hands. After being cut by a glass shard hidden within the mop, the light bulb went on over her head. What if a lever at the top of the mop could accomplish the same task safely by squeezing the cotton strings remotely?

The Founder is none other than Ray Kroc, the man who launched a thousand McDonalds starting in 1954 after discovering the original store in San Bernardino, California that had been started by brothers Richard James “Dick” McDonald and Maurice James “Mac” McDonald. While the film does not mention the word, they had applied Taylorism to the drive-in restaurant business with all its advantages to the employer and imposing all its ills on the employee. In this generally upbeat film, the employees are extras. Fundamentally, the film is about Ray Kroc figuring out ways to push the brothers out of the business while retaining the brand name. At the end of the film, after they have been cheated and cast aside, Dick asks Ray Kroc why he ever felt the need to involve them in a franchise operation. Since he saw the method they were using to turn out burgers and fries as if they were Model-T’s coming off the assembly line, he could have gone ahead without them. Michael Keaton, playing Kroc with considerable flair, tells him that nobody would have gone to a Krocburger restaurant—too Slavic. But McDonalds? That evokes Americana.

The films have a very clever approach. They allow the audience to simultaneously cheer for the lead characters while maintaining a sense of superiority. Much of “Joy” consists of Mangano making a breakthrough at QVC, the predecessor to the Home Shopping Network, a channel that practically defines tackiness.

Making her debut selling her mop on QVC, she freezes up in front of the lights just like Ralph Kramden did in that classic Honeymooners episode when the bus driver stammers helplessly in front of the cameras with the Swiss Army Knife-like Handy Household Helper clutched in his fist. Norton tries to help him out by offering a cue. “Can it core a apple?” (Not a typo!) Poor Ralph Kramden remains frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights and ends up going back to his bus route on Monday morning, the eternal proletarian loser.

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February 2, 2017

Donald Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

Filed under: religion,Trump — louisproyect @ 5:41 pm

(From Steven Salaita on FB)

Here’s a transcript of Donald Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast:

Thank you, thank you everybody, thank you. It’s great to do my first prayer breakfast. We’ve got seven more to go, at least seven more. Who knows. I’m winning so much they may have to change the Constitution. Next time we’re gonna win even bigger. My people have done the calculations, we’ve looked at the polls, we expect 107, 108 percent of the vote. And we’re just getting started. But the reason we’re here is because of Jesus.


I mean, Jesus is great. Some say the greatest. Moses is pretty great, too. Parted the sea. Did it without the EPA, too. I’ll close it down soon, the EPA. Moses would have hated it. Abraham, he was tough. He didn’t cut that kid in half, Isaac I think, or was it Isaiah. Doesn’t matter. I’d do it to Eric or Junior, but Abraham chickened out, blamed it on God. Isaac and Isaiah didn’t grow up to be as successful as Eric and Junior, either, but that’s okay, they didn’t have a strong father figure, like the blacks, who love me more than they love Jesus, by the way. They really love me, okay. And how about Ezekiel. What a name, Ezekiel. Led the NFL in rushing this year. Then there’s Gabriel, who’s totally underrated. I mean, he performed IVF on Mary. Great prophet, that one. Solomon, Joseph, Adam, good prophets. Mohammad, not so much.


And what a book, the Bible. It’s the second bestseller of all time, a few million copies behind Art of the Deal. People love that book. In Mexico, everybody reads it in sixth grade. They read it in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, that other country over there. It’s like their Bible. But anyway the other Bible. Wonderful book. Amazing book. I really like the story about Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed those sinful places. My friend Rudy did the same thing in Times Square, put in a TGI Fridays, a very successful restaurant. I’m gonna do him one better, though, build the best resort in Israel. Dead Sea water will come out of the faucets. Wonderful for exfoliation. You’ll get the best exfoliation there. Tons of old stones laying around the country, too, almost like they used to be part of houses. We’ll use those to make the place look like old Israel, from the fifties and sixties. And we’ll dress Arabs up as camels and let the kids ride them. It’s gonna be spectacular. They’ll write a new Bible story about it one day.


As everybody knows, I’m a religious man. Pray twenty, thirty times a day. Huge prayers. I even pray for all the losers in the media. Maybe God will convince them to stop with the fake news, am I right? I haven’t been able to do it. But miracles are important, that’s why I have beautiful buildings all over the world, miraculous properties. Maybe we’ll see a miracle. God owes me a few. More than a few, but I’ll settle for two or three. I’ve been negotiating with God all my life. That’s really what prayer is. And I pray to win.


I know you have churches to go to, flocks and stuff, great flocks, terrific flocks. Like my man over here, Jerry Falwell Junior. People know his father, but let me tell you, the son is like that other son we admire so much. Wave to the crowd, Eric. Good boy. Jerry is gonna advise me about college. He’s at Liberty. It’s not as highly rated as Wharton, where I went, by the way, but he really knows what he’s doing. Our universities are gonna be the best in the world. Not just in sports, either. We’re gonna have fantastic universities, very special campuses. Right now they’re terrible. They’re a joke, folks. Filled with communists, women, diversity. We need better universities. It’s terrible, this diversity. We’re gonna make them great again. No more classes that teach useless things like writing and public speaking.


Thank you, everybody. It’s been great. You’re all special to me. God is special to me. Jesus. Very special, Jesus. My son in law doesn’t like him, but we’re working on that. Believe me, we’re working on that. Thank you, God, for being great, and for the food. Amen.

February 1, 2017

Three Documentaries

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 7:40 pm

This Friday “I Am Not Your Negro” opens in three NY theaters: Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Theater, the Film Forum and the Magic Johnson AMC Theater in Harlem. Directed by Raoul Peck, it is based on 30 pages of notes for a book titled “Remember This House” that James Baldwin intended to write about his three friends Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, all of whom were martyred in the struggle for Black Liberation.

The film is a mixture of archival footage of the three men, interviews with Baldwin and excerpts from his books narrated by Samuel L. Jackson that are intended to complete the unfinished project cinematically. Originally from Haiti, Raoul Peck has made both documentaries and narrative films, always with a political focus. A docudrama about Lumumba was favorable to the martyred anti-colonial leader while one on Father Aristide was widely viewed by Haitian activists as a hatchet job. Since Peck was Aristide’s Minister of Culture, one might suspect that something like a family feud had taken place. Peck’s latest project is a film titled “The Young Karl Marx” that will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival next week.

There’s not much new in the portraits of the three martyrs but perhaps unintentionally Peck has succeeded in making a riveting portrait of their admirer James Baldwin. My knowledge of Baldwin is sketchy at best. By the time I joined the radical movement in 1967, Baldwin had been eclipsed politically by Amiri Baraka and other Black Nationalist literary figures coming on the scene. Some Black nationalists disparaged Baldwin because he was gay, including Eldridge Cleaver who wrote a vitriolic and homophobic attack in “Soul on Ice”.

Born in Harlem in 1924, James Baldwin had ample reasons to emigrate from the USA. In 1948, he moved to Paris to begin a highly successful writing career, including a novel “Giovanni’s Room” written in 1956 that was a roman a clef about a gay writer living in Paris.

The portrait of Baldwin that emerges in this film is of a man deeply resentful of racism who has not quite established his identity within the Black liberation struggle. Although a prominent spokesman for racial equality, he always tends to couch his critiques within an older vocabulary of the existential movement that was so dominant in Paris in the 1950s as well as that of the Black church that was so influential in his Harlem childhood.

Much of what Baldwin says in the film is a combination of cri de coeur and politics but all of it is compelling. For those who have not seen Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in their prime, that’s additional motivation to see Peck’s film.

This year, I reviewed a couple of documentaries about men with Asperger’s, a form of autism not so serious that it prohibits those with the illness from developing a relatively normal life. On the other side of the autism spectrum we can find Owen Suskind who withdrew from everything and everybody at the age of three in 1994.

His father is Ron Suskind who was sitting on top of the world that year as the senior national affairs writer for the Wall Street Journal and who would win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting a year later. Suskind was distinguished by his 2011 “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President” that captured Barack Obama in his essence:

My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama said. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help. … I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you … I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.

When Suskind discovered that his son was autistic, he did everything he could to break through to him as a father. Nothing seemed to work except a chance discovery one day that the young Owen was utterly obsessed with Walt Disney animated films. This led to him watching films with his son, interacting with him in various ways about the characters, and even imitating them to Owen’s obvious delight.

Much of the film follows the adult Owen as he is on the verge of leaving an institutional setting and living on his own in a supervised apartment complex. The small triumphs throughout the film, including him landing a job as a ticket collector at a local movie theater, are deeply satisfying but obviously nowhere near as satisfying as what his mother, father and older brother felt.

The climax of the film has Owen speaking to a conference of autism experts in Paris that will have you standing and cheering much more than any of the manipulative “inspirational” films that pass through the Cineplex routinely.

To its credit, Democracy Now has had three episodes on Owen Suskind, including one where he summed up his achievements:

AMY GOODMAN: Owen, what does it mean to be autistic?

OWEN SUSKIND: It means you have special talents and skills inside you.

AMY GOODMAN: What are those talents?

OWEN SUSKIND: Oh, god. Being a good artist and a piano player and a good writer, author and storyteller, and possibly a good golfer and a great problem solver.

Released in 2016, “Life, Animated” is now available for free on Amazon Prime and is also available on iTunes, VOD and DVD.

If I told you that “De Palma” consisted of nothing but the 76-year old director sitting in a chair speaking nonstop for 110 minutes about his film career, with nothing visually going on except clips from his movies, home movies of the De Palma clan, and still photos of various people he has worked with over the years, you’d think it might not be that interesting. After all, talking heads are supposed to be the bane of most documentaries.

But if you love film, as I and my regular readers do, this is a film that can’t be topped. Available now on Amazon, ITunes and other VOD platforms, this is more informative about filmmaking than any class you can take at UCLA or NYU. Basically, De Palma is a disciple of Alfred Hitchcock and has dedicated himself to making films in the Hitchcockian mode. Despite emerging as a pop culture figure in the 1940s making what appeared to be conventional mystery films, Hitchcock would become recognized as a cineaste par excellence.

“De Palma” would make a terrific companion piece to “Hitchcock/Truffaut” that can be seen on HBO Go or on Amazon with a seven-day trial membership for HBO. Sitting through both documentaries will go much further than any film school class. Trust me. Been there; done that.

Like Hitchcock, De Palma is a “sensationalist”. He wants to jar people out of their seats even though it is done indirectly. No matter how traumatized you were by the scene in “Psycho”, where Tony Perkins stabs Janet Leigh to death in the shower, you never see the knife approaching the body or flesh wounds. It is the combination of the music and the blood trickling down to the bathtub drain that gives you nightmares. The same thing is true of De Palma’s “Scarface”. In that memorable scene, where the Colombian drug dealer is taking a chain saw to Al Pacino’s partner, you never see any contact taking place, only the blood spattered on the walls and the killer’s clothing. Brilliant stuff.


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