Tag: Woody Guthrie

Just a Little Peace Song

A lot of you might not be too familiar with the Woody Guthrie song, My Peace, mostly because Woody never got to sing it. It was one of the many songs he wrote during his years of hospitalization for Huntington Disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to mental decline and …

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“!No Pasaran!” – The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Fight against Fascism in Spain, Part I

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Part II of this diary will be posted on Wednesday, July 27th.

In July 1936, the Spanish Army staged a military uprising against the democratically-elected Republican government of Spain, which had been in power for less than six months. The revolt started in the Protectorate of Morocco under the leadership of General Francisco Franco and by the next day, had spread to the mainland. The rebels had badly miscalculated and not anticipated that several army units would side with the government nor expected that the working classes in towns and cities would be quickly mobilized and armed in a popular resistance against the rebellion.  In what would become a dress rehearsal for World War II, the struggle that ensued between Republican and Nationalist forces to determine the future direction of the country would rage on for the next three years.

In 1937, Bill Bailey (a son of Irish immigrants to America) wrote a letter from Spain to his mother in New Jersey.  Unbeknownst to her and defying a travel embargo imposed by his own government, he had secretly traveled to that country to become one of almost 2,800 American volunteers to eventually fight on the Republican side in a brutal war against the defenders of authoritarian conservatism

You see, Mom, there are things that one must do in this life that are a little more than just living.  In Spain there are thousands of mothers like yourself who never had a fair shake in life.  They got together and elected a government that really gave meaning to their life.  But a bunch of bullies decided to crush this wonderful thing.  That’s why I went to Spain, Mom, to help these poor people win this battle, then one day it would be easier for you and the mothers of the future.  Don’t let anyone mislead you by telling you that all this had something to do with Communism.  The Hitlers and Mussolinis of this world are killing Spanish people who don’t know the difference between Communism and rheumatism.  And it’s not to set up some Communist government either.  The only thing the Communists did here was show the people how to fight and try to win what is rightfully theirs.

You should be proud that you have a son whose heart, soul and energy were directed toward helping the poor people of the world get back what was taken from them.  When the horrible conditions of this world are eventually made right, you can look with pride at those who will be here to enjoy it and say, “My son gave his life to help make things better, and for that I am grateful.”

If it will make my departure from the world of the living a little easier for you, just remember this, Mom: I love you dearly and warmly, and there was never a moment when I didn’t feel that way.  

I was always grateful and proud that you were my mom.

Bill Bailey’s letter to his mother explaining why he was fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Photograph Source: Spartacus Educational, U.K.  Sketch Source: GMT Games

Happy Labor Day

It may not be the real Worker’s Day, but it’s what we’ve got, and we just need to learn to make the most of the things we have if we’re ever going to change things for real, change things for ourselves.

Happy Labor Day!

Both Sides of the River

(Cross-posted at Wild Wild Left)

In the aftermath of a tragedy 50 years ago, Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the deaths of migrant workers in a plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon.  They were being deported, and when they died, the newspapers didn’t consider it necessary to mention their names.  They’d been born on the other side of the Rio Grande River, which rendered them inferior to white, church-attending Americans and negated the need for any respect.  

The skyplane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,

A fireball of lightning that shook all our hills.

Who were all these friends all scattered like dry leaves?

The radio said they were just deportees . . .

Woody Guthrie didn’t consider them to be just deportees.  They were human beings, their lives mattered, so he honored them with a eulogy, he said goodbye to them.  

He knew a river runs through this land of capitalism.  The wealthiest one-percent of Americans live on one side of that river.  The rest of us live on the other side.  To the wealthiest one-percent, we have no names.  Our lives don’t matter, we’re just migrant workers in their fields, we’re just miners in their mines, we’re just numbers on a balance sheet, and unless we cross that river and scatter them like dry leaves on the wind, workers in their fields and miners in their mines is all our children will ever be.


An Idiot’s Guide to Handling Radical Right Hate

We old codgers have to smile at the surprise and near panic on the Left generated by some recently publicized instances of Radical Right hate and violence directed at supporters of the health care bill.  Radical Right terrorism is older than the horseless carriage, and so is a media and government response that emphasizes looking the other way.

There’s another thing that’s been around as long as Radical Right violence, and that’s Left Wing courage.  If we’re going to do our ideological ancestors proud, people ranging from Eugene Debs to W.E.B. DuBois to Walter Reuther to Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to follow a little four-step plan to counter this hate with the firm love of Leftist solidarity.

Four steps is all it takes, and you can begin today:

1) Know the history.

2) Build your courage.

3) Demand justice.

4) Organize.

Details after the break.

What America Can Be

During the Great Depression, Woody Guthrie traveled across America and saw the injustice, poverty, and despair of a nation suffering the consequences of Republican misrule.  In the city square, in the shadow of the steeple, by the relief office he saw his people.  They were hungry, out of work, out of hope.  But he never stopped hoping that someday, for their sake, for the sake of their children and grandchildren, America would become a land of economic and social justice.

As he was walking that ribbon of highway,

He saw what America was, but he also saw what America can be.

He saw above him that endless skyway,

He saw below him, that golden valley,

He never lost his faith that this land was made for you and me,

and wrote an anthem that still touches the heart of every American who hears it . . .


The Ol’ Socialist Steals the Show!