Sun 28 Feb 2016
Beth Lamont and Corliss Lamont
$15. Minimum Wage? Free healthcare? Free education? Equitable income taxation? No longer allowing the US capitalist economic system to dominate the people? Reform the inequitable voting systems? WOW! Bernie! Bless your heart! You have the attention of the distressed American public! We are listening! YES! We, the People, will at last have a say in the governance of our lives! We now have people power! And Bernie is articulating its details! Bernie is feeling our frustration and responding in a marvelously affirmative way!
I would love to see our first woman President, and had long planned to vote for Hillary if she were running. She has been a champion of people’s healthcare even before she was First Lady; I’m proud of her courage. I hear Hillary promoting respect and change for the workers, for education, for health, for all the right things! However both Bernie and Hillary have worrisome baggage to contend with: She, for perhaps being too close to the war machinery and to Wall Street; and He, for inheriting the fearful “Evil Empire” stigma! O my god! Not Socialism! Even prefacing the word with Democratic…hardly lessens the impact to a knee-jerk response!
Come sit by my side and listen to this wise old granny (I’m left-over at 86 because there’s work to be done!) I have a story to tell, and, here’s an innovation! I wish for you good children to check every detail with Google.
I’ll take you way back to a Christmas time in the last century, almost one hundred years ago; it was in 1917. Likely, you’ve never heard this story before. I’m about to describe a pivotal moment in the history of humankind, and the likelihood of your being unaware of its importance, is in itself, part of the problem! You see, at this time, an Earth shaking decision was being made. Humankind has since been the worse-off because of it!
Corliss Lamont, a child of privilege and of Wall Street, can tell you in his own words, the story of a cable announcing his Father’s unexpected return from Europe, by steamship. (No planes in those day, dearies!) This gentleman, Thomas William Lamont, a man of humble upbringing, who put himself through Harvard, and at that time, as a partner of J. Pierpont Morgan, was representing Wall Street in the Reparations Talks that were determining the amount that aggressive Germany would have to pay to it’s victims of World War I. Tom Lamont was not home for Christmas, he was on an urgent errand to see US President Woodrow Wilson.
In as much as war was still raging, talks of Reparations seemed premature. Tattered, freezing Russians were still defending their borders from German assault, and The Red Cross had been bringing life-saving supplies. Tom’s Harvard classmate, William Boyce Thompson, was a deliverer of supplies, and became quite aware of the Russian people’s movement taking place. It became know as the Bolshevik Revolution. He reasoned that more help to them to sustain their defense against German assault would keep German forces divided between Russia and France, and thereby weaken the German war machine. Britain’s Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, agreed that becoming allies would be a good move. He asked Lamont to secure Wilson’s US pledge.
In spite of Winston Churchill’s admonition that we should “strangle the menacing infant of Socialism in its cradle,” Tom attempted to persuade US President Woodrow Wilson that the US should come to the aide of the Bolsheviks. Tom was not allowed to speak with Wilson, however. He apparently was thwarted by Colonel Edward M. House, an aide to Wilson, (who hated those goddamn atheist Commies) and instead, Wilson was persuaded that it was important to send American troops to thwart them. This was, indeed a pivotal moment!
You can even read about our 1918 invasion of Archangel and Vladivostok in a history of the event that was written by General William Graves, entitled “Our Siberian Adventure.” Alas, we made a wrong choice! And, the fact that our US foreign policy chose at that time to make enemies of the Russians, rather than becoming allies, has reverberated ever since, in Earth shaking decisions from which we may not recover. It is still in the balance, and questionable: NATO was created as a bulwark against the USSR. Why was the Ukraine invited to join it? The US practically went ballistic over such an incursion on our Cuban doorstep! Talk about illogic!
Corliss’s father, Thomas W. Lamont, remained adamant in his support of the Russians, and in 1945 both gentlemen appeared on the same Madison Square podium promoting American-Soviet Friendship! Both courageous in their stands, advocating friendship with what had begun to be called “The Evil Empire”, was truly heroic. So, this bit of history from 1917, that is totally unknown to the general public, and was fearfully propagandized ever since, may have a present day gut-level impact upon this Presidential Election.
Perhaps in academic circles these historical issues may have been clinically diagnosed, and if one is already interested they can research these 1917 happenings, especially in a book:” Ambassador From Wall Street” by Edward M. Lamont, the Grandson of Thomas, but the significance of this history hasn’t filtered into the realm of general knowledge by our populace. This is especially worrisome to potential voters. This is my biggest scare!
This history needs to be known! We’ve truly been sold a bill-of-goods about the original ideals of the Socialist philosophy, and how it was intended to respect and honor the workers, the farmers, the soldiers, the sailors, the peasants of Russia, specifically against heinous injustices, years of atrocities perpetrated by mounted Cossacks riding down, and slashing with sabers, the throngs of hungry protestors in the streets. Always to be considered is: compared to what! What was going on in their world? If we still know nothing of the Bolshevik Revolution, we have no right to judge it harshly! It was a justified expression of “People Power! Read John Reed’s “Ten Days That Shook The World.” The biggest fear was that it would catch-on like wildfire right here!
You may be old enough to have experienced the Red Scare right here in the good ol’ US of A? No? You haven’t heard of the Ludlow Massacre? The Palmer Raids? How about the Socialists who we re elected into office by New York voters, and who were refused acceptance by the NY legislature, because of their “foreign” beliefs? They were elected by their New York constituents, expressing Socialist convictions at the ballot box. Imagine! How about tales of the “Evil Empire” and fearsome Communism? Totalitarianism? What about the House Un- American Activities Committee dedicated to rooting out the frightening cancer of Communism right here in our own communities, then even worse, Joseph McCarthy, on his rabid rampage, who saw a “Commie” under every bed? And who, in a sneering and contemptuous manner, demanded of Corliss Lamont, and so many other American patriots: “Are you now, or have you ever been a Communist?” This in the “Land of the Free?”
Come sit by my knee, and let me tell you another story. It began, way back in the late 1800s , when at the time, the compassionate scholarship of some important whistle-blowers of their time, saw from their research that the powerful industrial revolution that was going on, didn’t filter down to the workers. The great potential for human betterment was being short-stopped at the paycheck, and was overflowing the coffers of the investors. WOW! What a shocking assertion! The ideas of Karl Marx were gaining traction! Surplus value? This should be shared? “Pay the Workers more? Ha! Certainly not! Preposterous! We Captains of Industry certainly have no obligation to benefit workers, much less, all of humankind. Workers are necessary, but they are completely expendable, interchangeable tools toward that end, and plenty more where they came from. Workers should be grateful for the job. How dare they ask for more? Strike? O my god! Call the police!”
The whole point of investing money was for building and creating progress, but ultimately, in the end, it had to…guess what? It had to make profit for the investors! If there were any altruistic aspects of their investment, these had to be sacrificed upon the alter of profit-making. Powerful corporations had the upper hand! So, naturally, they prevailed in their own best interests, and the interests of the entire capitalist enterprise, They must oppose at all costs this mistaken conspiracy that they’re abusing and neglecting the workers. Indeed, capitalism has held this power, for more than a century, at horrendous cost to humankind…in pain and blood. Ever since, in one form or another, corporations and management attempt to vilify, propagandize, thwart, oppose, deride, any move by the workers to gain respect, ensure their safety, and to obtain a more equitable share of the profit, and to this day they have succeeded. Labor strikes must be thwarted at all costs, even to murdering the strikers. Please read about a strike activist murdered by firing squad: his name was Joe Hill.
I’ll tell you, the powers that be, have really done a number on the concept of equitable treatment of workers and of human beings in general, even respect for planet Earth, in convincing us that we Earthlings are not worthy of better treatment and humane considerations for our own health and well being, or for the safety and happiness of our families, or for fair treatment of all of us humans regardless of our heritage.
Many workers, to this day, might automatically respond negatively to the word “Socialism” This is almost an unconscious knee-jerk reaction, with head shaking, disapproving of any thought of those foreign ideas. Alas, the workers of the world are in desperate need of the best protection of the socialist economic ideals. Workers of the World Unite! That was the battle cry in the 1900s! We weren’t able to unite then. The battle still rages! Particularly because of the misunderstanding of it’s origin and its true meaning.
Socialism does NOT automatically mean totalitarianism! This is part of the propaganda against it. It does NOT mean government control of everything, as is asserted. Consider “responsibility” as the operant word! To protect the best interests of the people and the planet is a powerful mandate. Let’s consider these apparently opposing ideas? We fear control, but respect the need to take responsibility. Right? These aren’t necessarily two opposing concepts, but a continuum, sort-of an extension of the level of responsibility. First, the ethical consideration of assuming responsibility, but then in execution, becoming necessary or asserted control. A little picture of this could be seen as taking a child’s hand to help her or him to cross the street safely. Clearly, this is taking logical and compassionate responsibility for the child’s protection. But, if instead, a cruel person would angrily snatch a kid around, smack and drag her or him across the street, all the while berating the child for non-obedience, this would clearly have become, instead, a horrible matter of control and punishment!
Taking responsibility to promote one’s best interests and prevent a danger is clearly a concept that is both humanitarian and of benefit to the people. On the other hand, we can readily recognize in the exercise of control, the similarity to police brutality, inequitable incarceration, thwarting of protestors, and even the withholding of health and educational facilities and the badmouthing of those who object to this control. This can even be extended conceptually to include inequitable taxation at home, and promotion of economic and military domination around the world. Do we believe that might makes right?
We’ve been propagandized to fear the control of “The Evil Empire” but it can happen here, as well. It is only when a government is fierce and controlling in protecting ITSELF, and its secret information, rather than protecting the rights of it’s own people, that it BECOMES totalitarian! Why should a would be democracy even HAVE secrets? What is government doing that its people should NOT know? Is the US totalitarian? Horrors!
Because the average American voter, who may not be aware of our own history, or is steeped in the alluring lore of our own oft touted promotion of equality and justice, may therefore not identify with the actual history of the people’s attempt to have a stronger voice in decisions made in this country, we might be vulnerable to a strong backlash surge of militaristic nationalism in an upcoming election, in which the ideals of “America First” might prevail.
This Strangelovian surge could usher us into a world of fascism that could make the Nazi’s look like Boy Scouts in comparison. Never mind dominating Europe; some fanatics in this country envision global domination. There was a US Website that was so shocking and embarrassing that it was eventually removed…called: “US Space Command.gov.”(Google it!) It purported to dominate space; protect the US interests and it’s investments, and..(get this!)..Zap Naughty Nations!
How is it that the US believes itself to be the World’s Policeman? Why does the US have a military finger in every pie on the face of this Earth? Maybe, more truthfully, it’s a finger in the EYE of almost every Human! This is truly a fearful prospect. We need a peaceful Planet Earth; promoting peace should be our aim.
I fear that passionate nationalism with all of its fearful implications will become the official US stance on the world scene, if not properly grounded in some scholarly (and grand motherly) concerned attention to this segment of our United States history.
On this February Day of 2016, amid the televised angry exhortations as to who should lead this land, I’m so painfully aware of the great dichotomy of political opinion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of this great country. We have certainly confused the concepts of democracy and of capitalism. Recognizing that one is a political ideal and the other is an economic system, we are somehow reluctant to consider that they might not even be compatible. Indeed, this incompatibility has give rise to fact that we now have “the best democracy that money can buy.” How shameful! We workers and citizens are realizing that capitalism isn’t what it’s “cracked-up to be: Matter of fact, it has shown to be counter productive to our best interests!
And, of great concern right now, where on Earth does socialism fit in? Regardless s of our heartfelt passions, we might all assert to be “Patriotic Americans.” Of course. Some will point to the “undisputed fact” that “We’re The Good Guys!” Didn’t we defeat the Nazis, and come to the rescue of the world? My own loving son believes that I’m too critical of US foreign policies. I respect and fully understand his point of view, in that he believes in US economic and military power on the world stage, and with his assigned male role as protector, and that role’s perceived extension as protector and defender of the US, he would naturally wish to champion and exercise that power politically. I champion the 3 Rs: Reason, Respect, and Responsibility!
But, from my own assigned alternate female role as nurturer and as a mother, my focus is more on the well being of the whole human family, not just a few sub-segments of it. After all, the United States of America is just one member of this global human family. We assert to be the most powerful, because we hold, and will not relinquish, the power to respond militarily to any asserted threat that our militarily minded leaders may perceive. This literally scares the hell outta me! I favor negotiations! What tha’Hey! Drop Bread not Bombs!
Why is negotiation and seeking non-military solutions considered wimpish and subject to criticism? I am so concerned that, in the absence of, or the ineffective presentation of a coherent model of world power that is non-military, we Americans will fall prey (let-us-prey?) to the “Military Industrial Complex” of which Dwight Eisenhower warned us, and in the din of electoral politics, in this “best democracy that money can buy,” might choose to confront adversity, as-in: “the Christians against the Muslims” with insanity. I’m hearing screams of: “Go Kill ISIS!” with stabbing upraised fists! This totally denies the fact that Isis is certainly a “blowback” product of our “Shock and Awe” intrusion into Iraq, a war based on lies. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, I fear that Dr. Strangelove might be convincingly more powerful. The basic primitive response to perceived aggression is “us against them,” wholly disregarding the truths of our thousands of years of human history and of the sadly earned, but totally ignored, wisdom gained, thereby. We Earthlings All are “us!”
Corliss Lamont, a patriotic champion of civil liberties, wrote in 1952, pamphlets discussing US foreign policies, and titled one pamphlet: “Are We Being Talked Into War?” This man saw , way back then, the dangers of commitment to military “solutions” in response to perceived or imagined threats as insanity!
Let’s consider the progress brought to us by technology. Human creativity and ingenuity have brought us to an amazing never before moment in our human evolution. We now have the power to cause the extinction of this whole human experience! Poof! In a series of nuclear blasts, you know…the “mushroom shaped cloud” bit! Nothing left but, maybe the cockroaches. ON THE OTHER HAND…..tada! We now have, PEOPLE POWER! Thanks to technology, We human beings can communicate with EACH OTHER! Maybe , we can get it together, in the best interest of human survival? If we are truly evolving, and becoming less primitive and more suitably adapted, wouldn’t this be the beautiful and ironic “happily-ever-after” solution to hatred and militarism! YES!
More History: In the 1930s, in Germany, the ideals of socialism and of communism were in opposition, and with adherents of each party competing fiercely, rather than articulating and presenting a coherent and even comprehensive vision, to appeal to the workers and the voters of Germany. They were pretty much rejected as a source of wisdom and power, almost like “You trouble making foreigners go home to the USSR!” It was into this absence of a coherent articulation of the positive ideals of a socialist society, that the powerful surge of German nationalism arose. “Germany Uber Alles!” This led to the promotion and exercise of Nazi power.
It will be coming up soon: Mother’s Day 2016. I worry about all the kids on the face of this Earth who are in danger, and who will benefit from a socialistic and humanistic approach to the complex problems on this planet. Military power will not bring safety, respect, equality, civil liberties, healthcare, education, food and shelter. Our realistic human concerns are more closely aligned with the societal aspects of the all embracing and universal humanist philosophy as promoted by Corliss Lamont and other humanists! The concept, when translated into political terms, is actually pronounced: O my god – Socialism! It must not be feared! We’re very sSocial beings, and we’ve evolved from some of the most compassionate of ancestors: MOTHERS!
If the concept of Social is a good, as in Social Security, then adding those 3 letters…I-S-M…should not be a frightening spectacle! Socialism can mean what we citizens wish for it to mean, by exercising our People Power! Hooray for Bernie Sanders! He is the most courageous man on Earth at this time! His vision and his rousing passion for the plight of the people is the greatest remedy for the woes of the world…for the painful ills of humankind that fear and greed and hate have brought us. May his message prevail and catch fire in the hearts of all American voters! I warily approve of Hillary Clinton and would want for her “negotiating experience” to prevail. I’ve been joking for some time now about him teaching her, and teaming up. This would be powerful!
Here’s my little limerick with that suggestion:
Hey, Hillary! Bernie’s eating your lunch!
You’d better invite him to dinner!
Party at Madison Square!
Discuss issues there!
I have a Hunch………that You’ll BOTH come off Winners!
Beth K. Lamont, Humanist Chaplain and widow of Corliss Lamont.
Note: This essay was originally published on Portside on February 24, 2016.