Pro protest

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

To the editor, The history I embrace is the history of protest in America. From slave rebellions and native resistance to white advancement. From the abolitionist and underground railroad (anti-slavery) to the civil rights movement following the Civil War. From Radical labor unions and strikes to socialist and anarchist movements at the end of the 1800s

Coming to America from Europe to work in industry many immigrant groups brought with them their own native traditions. Then following the Western Rebellion of the Populist Movement of the 1890’s merged with this tradition to form the Socialist Party of America in 1900 and the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. With this came a working-class culture with its own language, traditions, art forms or sticker posters, music of old-time church hymns with a workingclass revolutionary message. Hopping freights organizing mines, mills, factories, farm labor, docks and railroads they were a distinct historical tradition. Street corners, union halls, city parks, soapboxes became the center of a distinct and dynamic culture.

In 1919 the Communist Party was founded and from 1929 till the end of the depression during both the third period and Popular Front they were central to union organizing, civil rights, women’s rights, and cultural awareness of working people. In the 1930’s they were central to the folk music revival recording traditional ballads of immigrant and local American working groups in urban area and remote county communities. They were central to the rising popularity to rural southern blues and reaching both Black audiences in race records and white supporters in the “Movement.” They developed their own art form called social realism. The debate between propaganda and expressions of resistance was an internal debate using the same language. The U.S. government reacted to this during the Cold War with federal support for art programs. Particularly abstract expressionism. Art rebelling against restrictive form and structure and was apolitical. The Left response to this assault was every art piece is a political statement and apolitical is a reaction against realism. Social realism was crushed during the Cold War, for political reasons. But, not for long!

During the 1960s the Old Left became the shepherds of a new folk revival modeled after that of the 1930s, Chicago Blues drawing heavily from rural delta blues many of the names were the same. Then the rise of protest art again modeled on social realism of the 1930’s. Urban blues was closely connected to the folk tradition of the rural south. Then there was the rise of both Jazz and free forms of music raising to the level of classical music i.e., apolitical thus a clear political statement, to crush the art of resistance. Thus, the Old Left is a living and distinct culture with its own history, traditions, music, and art made a comeback based political rebellion. The of last year Martin Luther King’s life he moved from civil rights based upon race, to civil rights based upon class. Like all socialists he moved in his protest from me as part of that group, to we as unity in solidarity to the “Movement,” to them.

Michael Joseph Francisconi Dillon

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