(Note: Carl Bloice was not a showy guy. In a world of opportunists and self-seekers – many of them, anyhow – Carl stood out for his modesty, his dignity.”It” wasn’t about him, it was about the bigger picture, challenging the system, coming up with something better. On the bigger picture, his was always, always, among the keenest eyes. The man had depth of character, of analysis and general decency that few possess. In the past 25 years, I’ve seen him once, about five years ago in SF with Jean Damu, like Carl, he too recently stricken down with cancer and Ringo Hallinan.
We talked about evolving U.S. policy in Africa which I was interested in beginning to write about. But we were in touch by email fairly frequently. For all that, Carl Bloice influenced me politically, personally as much as anyone that has crossed my path. And in a good way. To the degree that I can write politically [goal - make a point, have an analysis, avoid rhetoric], it is from having worked with him. He also taught me – for better or worse – a good deal about how to work as a Marxist in these United States. And I know that I am not alone, that there are many of us whose lives he touched in the labor, peace, civil rights and environmental movements with a little bit of Carl mixed into our very beings. What follows are several tributes to Carl which give details to some part of his life journey. To my knowledge, Carl never put together a collection of his writings in book form. I am hoping that such a project will be undertaken and accomplished.)
Carl Bloice Remembered: 1939 – 1975. (reprinted from Portside)
Carl Bloice, a brilliant journalist, political theorist, and teacher who inspired and mentored generations of activists in the U.S. and around the world for more than five decades, died in San Francisco April 12 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
From a courageous stint as what is believed to be the first Northern reporter to cover the 1960s Civil Rights movement in the South to editing the West Coast People’s World newspaper to his years as the People’s Daily World Moscow correspondent during the turbulent final five years of the Soviet Union to stinging commentary as a prominent blogger for left and African American publications, Bloice paved one groundbreaking path after another.
“Carl taught me to be a journalist, that journalism mattered, and that it was the thing that saved us from the humiliation of silence in the face of injustice. His absence creates a vacuum in our world–and my world– that simply cannot be filled,” said longtime University of California Santa Cruz journalism professor Conn Hallinan, who was with Bloice first in the San Francisco civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam war movement at the University of California, Berkeley, and later at the People’s World.
“Brother Carl was a fighter for working people and his writing could be described as advocacy journalism with barbs,” said Peter Gamble, publisher of BlackCommentator.com on whose editorial board Bloice served. “He was a loyal friend to those who had the fortune to know him. We will miss Carl very much, but his soul will live on in our hearts and provide some of the energy needed to continue the struggle.”
Longtime San Francisco peace, labor and community activist Giuliana Milanese, one of Bloice’s oldest and closest friends, recalled him as “a reflective comrade, unfailing in his commitment to justice, and his steadfast vision, not based on leaders who come and go but on ideas that create change. Carl never gave up the fight for a better world.”
Bloice was born January 28, 1939 in Riverside, Ca. As a teenager, living in South Central Los Angeles, he began his own political activism early in civil rights activities as a member of the Liberal Religious Youth, the Unitarian Universalists’ youth organization, in Los Angeles.
For a time, Bloice planned a life in the ministry of the Unitarian Church. But his activism and work with others in the burgeoning civil rights movement led him in another direction.
By the age of 20, Bloice had joined the U.S. Communist Party. This was a time, noted the late Franklin Alexander, one of Bloice’s early friends, and fellow young African-American CP recruit, that it was hard to get in the door with many leaving in the wake of the Red Scare, anti-Communist repression in the U.S., and the post-Stalin revelations in the Soviet Union.
By the early 1960s, Bloice, then a poet and prose writer, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. There he joined the staff of thePeople’s World, beginning a three-decade association that would establish him firmly as a rare journalist who influenced readers and activists around the world.
“I remember going to meetings in L.A. where there was a FBI car parked outside, and agents taking down the license number of every car in the block,” Bloice would later tell the San Francisco Chronicle. “Members were kept under surveillance, and people victimized just because they bought this newspaper.”
Though affiliated with the CP, the People’s World had achieved a broad renown as a voice of the progressive and working class left from its early days as the Western Worker, when it was a leading chronicler of the 1934 San Francisco General Strike, the struggles of West Coast longshore workers and other unions, and the infamous Zoot Suit attacks on Latino youth by off-duty while sailors and Marines in Los Angeles in 1943.
Under Bloice, first as a staff writer, then editorial board member, then editor, that tradition continued. By the 1980s, Bloice would happily display a plaque, the Toronto Globe and Mail would note, from the City of Berkeley in his then Berkeley office at the old Finn Hall recognizing his achievements in “profoundly partisan journalism.”
In 1962, Bloice with others founded the first chapter of the W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs, a multi-racial, national youth organization, named for the legendary NAACP co-founder, journalist, author and educator. In San Francisco, the DuBois Clubs gained quick notice for leading desegregation fights targeting drive-in restaurant chains, the San Francisco hotel industry and automobile sales rooms that systematically discriminated against African-Americans in hiring. Bloice was also the group’s publications editor.
During that time, the Los Angeles Times cited Bloice as a leader of the University of California Berkeley’s Free Student Union and Vietnam Day Committee, successors to the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement, along with other prominent free speech and anti-Vietnam war activists, including later Yippee prankster Jerry Rubin, Conn Hallinan, Robert Scheer, who went on to become a well-known journalist, and many others.
In the early 1960s, Bloice was also on the ground in the South reporting the upheaval of the Civil Rights freedom movement. On the night of May 11, 1963, he was in the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Al. when it was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to murder Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders.
In 1966, Carl was the campaign manager for Robert Scheer when he challenged a liberal democrat, who supported the war in Vietnam, in the Democratic primary. Scheer received 45% of the vote and the campaign laid a foundation for the later anti-war campaigns for Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy.
In 1972, while editor of the People’s World, Bloice testified in defense of Angela Davis, the internationally famed African-American leader and educator. Davis had been falsely charged in the fatal shooting of a Marin County judge. She was acquitted in a high-profile trial.
Jonathan Jackson, younger brother of George Jackson, one of the Soledad Brothers prison rights activists, was killed in a shoot-out at the courthouse. Bloice testified that Davis was with him in thePeople’s World offices working on a series of articles about the Soledad Brothers at the time she was accused of assisting Jonathan Jackson.
In 1972, Bloice also began a two-year special assignment for thePeople’s World and the New York-based Daily World in Washington, DC, to report on the Watergate scandal, covering not only the break-in, but the full panoply of Nixon administration spying, FBI spying on anti-war protesters and African-American activists, and other illegal actions that ultimately led to the impeachment proceedings and resignation of President Nixon.
After returning to the Bay Area, Bloice played a leading role in the Chicago founding of both the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), an organization created to defend first Angela Davis and then other political prisoners and activists, and the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with African Liberation (NAIMSAL).
During these years, Bloice served on the Central Committee of the CPUSA and its parallel board for California, often serving as a representative to international solidarity meetings. In 1986, he participated in the merger of the People’s World with the Daily World, creating the new People’s Weekly World.
Bloice had a special assignment, serving as the paper’s correspondent in Moscow for the next five years, a first-hand witness and chronicler of changes unleashed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost policies. Bloice reported not just from Moscow, but also from Central Asian and Trans-Caucus Soviet republics, North Korea, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe.
The 1991 collapse of the USSR coincided with upheaval in the CPUSA that had been bubbling up for several years. Bloice was one of more than 1,200 signers of an “Initiative to Unite and Renew the Party” which called for more internal democracy, greater solidarity with women’s, gay rights, environmental, and other progressive movements, as well as more support for national liberation struggles.
At a fractious 1991 CPUSA convention in Cleveland, old line CP leaders, led by Party chairman Gus Hall, refused to seat many initiative signers and removed Bloice, Angela Davis, historian Herbert Aptheker, and many others from all leadership positions. Bloice and other editorial staff of the paper were fired.
Bloice and the others started a new national organization, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, which united former members of the CP with activists from a number of other left and progressive groups. Bloice remained one of three co-chairs of the organization until the time of his death.
After several years in New York, including work in a city hospital and for a local union, Bloice returned to San Francisco where he worked for a decade for the California Nurses Association in the Communications Department and edited its magazine until his retirement in 2005.
Upon his retirement, CNA Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro noted that Bloice was widely “respected as a working class intellectual, a sophisticated thinker adept at translating complex, often obtuse concepts into plain language. And he was much appreciated for his crusading spirit, his enduring zeal for establishing a more humane, just health care system and his humor.” This week DeMoro recalled that Bloice “was a lovable man who loomed very large in the lives of those whom he touched, which were many. Profound grace, Carl Bloice.”
Retirement did not mean inactivity for Bloice. He continued his work as a prolific writer on national and international politics, culture, African American and retirement security issues, and sports.
He helped launch a progressive internet news service, calledPortside, which today, in its 14th year, has thousands of daily readers and subscribers. Bloice served as one of the Portsidemoderators, continuing to post the weekly REWIND feature and other items through the week of his death.
Bloice served on the editorial board of The Black Commentator and was a regular columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus. Writings by Bloice also appeared in Common Dreams, Truthout, LA Progressive, ZNet, and Dollars and Sense. He had a regular blog titled “Left Margin.”
A frequent target of his pointed commentary was repeated threats to cut Social Security and Medicare. One 2012 column, titled “And Now the Catfood Party,” speared the Washington proponents of the Simpson-Bowles budget cutting commission, labeled by critics as the “Catfood Commission,” as Bloice noted “an allusion to the really existing seniors who have resorted to eating pet food when their meager incomes have run out.”
“Some on the Left,” Bloice wrote, “have taken to saying the U.S. has become a `Third World’ country. Sounds catchy, but it’s way off the mark. If the country were really impoverished, there would be some legitimacy to the idea that we really couldn’t afford to properly meet the needs the elderly, people with disabilities and the poor. Yet, ours remains the richest, most powerful nation on the planet, one that spends trillions of dollars on foreign wars and maintains an upper crust that consumes variously and ostentatiously. It’s all a matter of equities and priorities.”
Bloice’s work did not stop at the keyboard. He was a regular participant in the annual Center for Global Justice conference, held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. At home, he was an active member of the Senior Action Network, a progressive San Francisco-based senior organization, taught classes on political economy, foreign and domestic politics, and mentored a new generation of activists.
Carl Bloice was married to fellow activist Karen Werner, a San Francisco union and political activist who died in 1985. He left behind thousands of friends and admirers around the world.
Such a strange title for what amounts to a high security prison for undocumented immigrants being “processed” …ie kicked out of the country,”the Aurora Processing Center.” Just looking at it, the whole structure wreaks of oppression. Do all the security guards there have beer bellies – good corn-fed farm boys – like the three or four I saw from a distance, their stomachs hanging out over their belts?
It is a fortress with high walls, barbed wire, an enormous facility a medieval dungeon in the 21st Century. But I have passed it many times driving down Peoria Street in Aurora and not even noticed it as the facility sits a block off of a main thoroughfare. If you didn’t know what was going on there, it would not be illogical to think it a meat processing center. After all what is a “processing center?” But this processing center processes people and kicks them out of the country. It breaks up families and crushes souls.Colorado “processing center” in Aurora has one of the oppressive records in the country and this country’s president has expelled more immigrants from these United States than anyone in his position in the past. A sorry record indeed and one that continues full steam.
There were about fifty of us out there protesting the treatment of undocumented residents of the United States in an event sponsored by AFSC and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights. A Jewish social justice group (finally!) in Denver, Bend The Arc, is also involved. Many present at the picket – themselves or family members – had been arrested by immigration and are facing deportation. One who had spent eight months inside the Aurora Processing Center was a woman named Kelly. She had been stopped for driving without a license and, her papers not in order, sent to the processing center for deportation. That she was able to get out of the center and remain in the country she credits to the immigration rights movement in Denver that helped her. But it would not have happened unless, as Kelly put it, she “came out of the shadows and into the light, to leave behind the fear”…go public and fight openly for her rights.
Molly, one of our daughters, had gone to these demonstrations several times before and it was about time that I joined in too. Immigration is a personal issue several generations removed. It is both a part of both the heritage of this country and of my own family. Along with many of their relatives, all of my grandparents immigrated to this country from what is today Lithuania, Poland and Belarus in the early years of the 20th century. My maternal grandmother, Sarah Magaziner (name changed to Magazine in the 1930s) was denied entry on her first try as a result of a minor eye infection. For that, – a woman who spoke seven languages fluently (Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Yiddish, Swedish and Hebrew) – eight if English is thrown in – and who had the voice of an opera singer, the daughter of a long line of rabbis and fisherman on the Niemen River – was deemed “eugenically unfit” and sent back to Europe from Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
She found refuge with a relative in Sweden. A few years later, she tried again, but this time her ship landed in Montreal from where she took a train down to New York City. While the Ellis Island entry to New York was as heavily guarded as the Mexican-U.S. border today (actually it is much worse today), there were no customs officers that greeted the trains from Canada to New York. So she slipped in, an illegal, undocumented woman from Bialystok, Poland with her two sons (one of whom died). One who survived, who made both journeys, was my Uncle Lou. Grandma Sarah would have fourteen pregnancies of which seven survived – my uncles Lou, Joe, Hymie, Ira, and Willie, my Aunt Mal (b. Molly changed her name to Malvina because it sounded more exotic as an adult) and the youngest and most pampered of the lot, my mother, Beatrice Magazine, called Beattie by her siblings and friends.
While anti-Semitism is still alive and well in some quarters here in the USA it is nowhere near as virulent today here as it was a century ago. Still it seems to have a life of its own just down the road from us in Colorado Springs both in its born-again mega-churches and, as it has been revealed, there is no small dose of it at the U.S. Air Force Academy as well. There are several bigoted “Christian identity” churches in northern Colorado near the Wyoming state line. Scary places where people preach hate against Jews, Gays, Blacks, immigrants from Latin America.
For all that, there is very little blatant anti-Semitism in the state and the Jewish Community here – especially in Denver and Boulder has thrived and made its mark. Although there always demons in the shadows, being a Jew in the United States today is not so hard as it was a century ago when the Prenskys, Magaziners, Wishejskys and Dubinskys – my relatives on both sides – landed in New York City.
Of course they came green off the boat a century ago…and culturally and religiously I suppose – it feels even longer than that. But it isn’t – just two generations. Jews in the early 20th century were in the forefront of immigration rights, civil rights movements in part because it has always been an integral part of Jewish heritage – Israel aside – in part because of the very real discrimination my relatives, ancestors suffered, here in the USA and in Europe. But then as things happen and time goes by and prosperity set in, memories of past injustices seem to fade. We tend to forget the thorny path on which our ancestors walked.
But I can’t seem to forget. I looked at these young Mexican mothers this evening fighting for their human rights to stay, live and participate in this country, fighting for their children, their husbands, brothers and sisters and I see my grandmother Sarah clinging to my Uncle Lou being forced back to Europe…from whence they made the journey “across the pond” a second and more successful time. I see this highly cultured and beautiful woman, daughter of a rabbi cursed as eugenically unfit, a subhuman by an Ellis Island immigration officer. Grandma Sarah, whose picture I carry in my wallet, speaks to me in her voice of broken English mixed with Yiddish saying…”Robinu, why did you wait so long to join them on this picket line..I’ve been waiting for you.”
Doing Genealogical history. Some Notes
(Note – I would imagine that for other than people in my family line – and perhaps even they, what follows would be extremely boring (other than the first paragraphs). And while I am garnering personal details, actually I am as interested, in probing the social history of the families as finding out detailed facts about the family past. What was the world they left? I know that – it was pretty rough? What was it like for them living in the USA in the first half of the 20th Century?, etc). Anyhow I will continue to write about it.
1. Why do it?
First – what this is not about – I am not trying in any way to find some kind of “pedigree”, pure family line. I consider that racist bullshit and have no interest in it whatsoever. And I might add – as among us Jews one often hears something along the lines “Oh we’re all so smart – it must be genetic”…(not said so often but usually implied – occasionally said by more Orthodox types) …that too is nonsense. Racism has always cut two ways. On the one hand it stigmatizes some as being “inferior”, “lesser”, and as such opens the doors to what amounts to as exploitation up to and including crimes against humanity and genocide.
On the other hand, there is the “flip side”: those who really believe that they are “God’s gift to the world, “chosen people” (one of the more dangerous ideas floating around) – that they are smarter, better mentally or physically or both, have a genetic talent to be rich (that is what Carnegie and Rockefeller – two late 19th century Social Darwinist Robber Barons thought of themselves). Also a bunch of crap – a way to hide a life time of exploiting other human beings under the veil of genetics. So let’s forget that, cross it out, throw it in the garbage can, whatever. I am quite proud of my mongrel roots…broader gene pools = greater genetic diversity = what geneticists used to call “hybrid vigor” – fuck purity – another word for incest and the inheritance of all kinds of mental and physical diseases. Besides somewhere along the way we’re all mongrels.
So this is not what doing genealogy is about for me.
2. Then what is it about?
It’s about connecting with the social history of my families – what was – and it is – although virtually no one in the next generation of my family lines seems to care (ie – daughters, nieces and nephews) – it’s a history – or at least the part of it that I can dig up – that I hope to pass on. I know, I know, it’s hard to connect to the past – much easier, especially when one is young and “becoming” (becoming whatever), to look forward to the future. Understandable. There is also the allusion among many that whatever success they have in life they have done on their own. That is such arrogant bullshit that I don’t even know anymore how to comment on it. We’re all a part of something bigger – of a social network, of a shared history, of a “collective wisdom” whether it has to do with our social or economic practices. Our values and world views are a product of our experiences, our socialization. Nobody makes it on their own, no one – and especially not those who think that they do; we all do so with more than “a little help from our friends” (and relatives) and those who came before us. Of course when you’re young and stupid and think you know everything – real schmucks – it’s hard to see this. But then it is possible to be old and stupid too about such things, especially in this great land of ours. If you are fortunate, lucky, life itself will humble you. Maybe not. Being humbled doesn’t mean being a softy or a coward. It just means realizing that the world doesn’t center around YOU, your desires, needs…and where we live in world where we need each other’s help to keep the whole darned thing going (darned thing = life on earth).
3. Finding one’s past.
In any case, every time I stumble upon a new fact in my family history I get genuinely excited. It happened today. It brought new insights, new confusion. It came with a copy of the marriage certificate of Abraham Prensky and Molly Jackson that arrived in the mail today which is printed above. So much information on it that is new to me…like:
1. that Abraham Prensky, in 1911 when he was 24 years of age, lived at 330 E. 120 St, Manhattan, New York. And here I thought he always lived in the Bronx! A google search shows that 330 E. 120 St no longer exists. Must have been torn down at some time and now in its place is Marcus Garvey Park. Once – a hundred years ago – there were Jews living in Harlem and my grandfather Abraham Prensky was one of them. My hunch is that there were a lot of Jews who lived there side by side with Blacks (and Puerto Ricans) who are still there. It makes me want to read a history of Harlem. Was my grandfather, an exception, which I seriously doubt – ie one of the few Jews living among Blacks in Harlem, or more likely there was a strong Jewish immigrant presence there, maybe not as much as in the Lower East Side (where Grandma Molly lived) but still. It’s something I would like to look into
2. that Abraham Prensky’s occupation was a “plaster”…I am pretty certain that means he was a plasterer (as we would say today); this fits. He started out as a construction worker, was able enough to become a contractor who seemed to have been doing rather well until the stock market crash of 1929 hit and he – and the family – his wife, Molly, my Aunt Ruth (Bradspies) and my father, (then) Herb Prensky – suffered a great deal and were driven into poverty. Here again, very interesting in a number of ways. It is out of the construction trades that some Jews became contractors and developers, got into real estate and made their fortunes. Names like Pinsker (Chicago), Loup and Mizel (Colorado), Morganthau (New York City) and many others come to mind. It was not an uncommon path to wealth (among those Jews fortunate enough to take that journey). And Abraham Prensky (and along with him, Herbie Prensky) was on his way to the big time, when – da-dah – capitalism struck again! He got wiped out and never recovered financially. And it certainly – from the little that I have been told – affected the family life of my father and aunt – as they were growing up. My dad was 11 when the stock market crashed and the depression began, Aunt Ruth 14, very impressionable ages. Their lives were thrown into chaos and confusion as well as poverty. Family life deteriorated in other ways as Grandpa Abraham became an alcoholic and treated Grandma Molly …well, let’s simly say – rather poorly.
3. There is Grandpa Abraham’s mother’s- my great grand mother’s (my daughter’s great-great grandmother’s) maiden name – Ida Poirs. That is an interesting name – “Ida” is Jewish enough, plenty of Jewish women of that time and this named Ida…but Poirs? Maybe it was a misspelling? Certainly doesn’t have an early 20th century Eastern European Jewish ring to it…but then neither does Jackson – Grandma Molly’s maiden name. So the first thing here is to see if I can verify that last name, to see if it appears somewhere else in the record. This is what I’ll do – I’ll search all the public records I can – and also look in the wonder “Prensky Genealogy” book that one of my father’s cousins sent me (and my sisters) some ten years ago. Who was Grandpa Abraham’s mom? I don’t know but intend to look into it.
4.Then there is Grandma Molly. This marriage certificate has many interesting details of her life as well. She was 20 at the time of her marriage to Grandpa Abraham. Particularly interesting is the address given at the time of her marriage: 55 Forsyth Street, Manhattan, New York. She too grew up (or at least lived ) in Manhattan but in a quite different area from her husband. She hails from the Lower East Side – the traditional New York City Jewish Ghetto. The exact address, like Grandpa Abraham’s, no longer exists. It is just off of the Manhattan Bridge right next to Canal Street. Sometime, it appears from the photo (Google Maps) that the tenement (I assume) where she lives was torn down. When did that happen? Could have been when the bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn was built. Not sure. Again, I might look into that and at the very least, when I am back in NYC I intend to visit both 55 Forsyth St and 330 E. 120 St. in Manhattan just to “feel the vibes” of both places. And if they lived so far away from one another, how is it that they met…as they were married here in the USA, not in back in Eastern Europe.
5. There is another very curious thing about this marriage certificate – it says that Molly Jackson was the daughter of Julius Jackson and Lea Dubinsky. This has opened up a whole new live of research. I have long wondered about my grandmother’s maiden name – Jackson is not exactly a Jewish name although the name of her mother, Dubinsky certainly is. So did Julius Jackson change his name on coming to the United States? That is what my dad did in 1946, changing our family name from Prensky to Prince for “business reasons,” I was always told. If so from what? And what of Ida Dubinsky? So there are Dubinsky’s in our family tree? (and on my mother’s side Wyshinsky’s)…It’s not all Prenskys and Magaziners. The plot thickens. Now Jackson is a really hard name to trace – there are literally millions of Jacksons and thousands of Julius Jacksons. Very depressing to come up with anything. But, if one puts Julius Jackson together with Ida D. Jackson (presumably the “D” stands for Dubinsky) a precious few names come up and what comes up sounds right – ie – that Ida D. Jackson was born in 1865 (that would be about right), and that a Julius and Ida D. Jackson lived in Kansas City in 1939 and in California in the 1940s. If they are Molly’s parents – they lived to a ripe old age and my hunch is they died on the West Coast. But then why did they leave New York City? Dunno.
Dutch Hegemony Time line
785 A.D. – Charlemagne conquers the lowlands and adds them to his European Empire
800-1200 A.D. – Charlemagne’s empire collapsed – as series of small kingdoms – dukedoms take form – some with German other with French nobles in charge
1000 AD – major work begins on building dykes – land reclamation
1100 AD – work begins in the region around Amsterdam.
1217 – Middelburg Charter – due process for all. local charters establish the limits to which a noble can bring charges against, arrest citizens of towns. An attempt to limit arbitrary violence against townspeople from the crown. Includes the following:
- sets up a series of laws for fighting, disputes,
- insists that everyone from nobility to homeless must go before the law (courts called “schepens”)
- people accused of crimes will be tried in the town where they are accused”
1275 – trade between England and Holland, which had proceeded for centuries was interrupted by a ten-year trade war in which both sides engaged in piracy against the merchant ships of the other. Trade with the Mediterranean organized largely through the city of Bruges.
1275 – formal date for founding of Amsterdam
1386-1389 – The lowland cities “thus advancing, in wealth and importance were no longer satisfied with being governed according to the law, and began to participate, not only in their own but in the general government.” – Assemblies of provincial estates are formed made up of both nobility and merchant classes. Went on for the following century with the six chief cities of Holland (Amsterdam, Gouda, Leyden, Dort, Haarlem, Delft) having the right to send representatives to regional assembly. Same was true of Flanders – ie …beginning of a strong regional democracy…with elected representatives.
1400s-1500s – Until the 16th century, the Low Countries–roughly now corresponding to Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg–consisted of a number of duchies, counties and bishoprics, almost all of which were under the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of the county of Flanders which was under the of the Kingdom of France.
1500 – Michael Angelo was beginning his David and Copernicus was getting serious about astronomy; Amsterdam was both a lively shipping center and one of the most intensely Catholic cities in Europe
1517 – Martin Luther pins his 95 Theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Thus begins the Protestant Reformation. In 1521 Luther is excommunicated.
1533 – William of Orange born
1534 – “The Naked Truth” march through Amsterdam by Anabaptists…soon thereafter tortured and burnt at the stake by the Inquisition; Similar event happened the next year, 1535.
1549 – In 1549 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Pragmatic Sanction, which further unified the Seventeen Provinces under his rule. It centralized the Dutch provinces and towns and took away their hereditary rights.
1555 – Abdication of Charles V; Philip II comes to power.
1559 - Philip II signs truce with France, the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, the secret clauses of which seal a French-Spanish united policy against Protestantism. It will lead directly to the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands and St. Bartholomew Massacre in France. Then he announces he is leaving the Low Countries: Beginning of an intensified Spanish Inquisition in the Low Countries.
1564 – Cardinal Granville – executor of the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands is relieved of his post. A temporary victory for the Dutch.
1566 – The “Compromise” Document put together by the lower nobles and some bourgeois elements – some 2000 signed it – all agree to oppose the Inquisition in the Low Countries. By then, according to Motley by then some 50,000 people in the region had been burnt to death since 1559.
1566 – April 9 – Beggars’ Dinner, mass Protestant outside rallies; Outbreak of the “Iconoclastic Fury”, known in Dutch as “the Beeldenstorm” – the mass desecration of Catholic Churches in response to the excesses of the Inquisition.
1566-7 – Two waves of mass repression against the Protestants.
1567 – In August, 1567 the Duke of Alba, with a highly trained army of 12,000 sets up a military occupation of the Low Lands. Establishment of the “Council of Troubles” – or “Blood Council” as it came to be known.
1568 – The execution of Counts Egmond and Horn. On June 5 of that year, they are executed in a plan conceived by Philip II, executed by the Duke of Alva.
1572 – On April 1, “Sea Beggars” under the leadership of Dutch pirate de la Marck seize the Dutch port town of Brill. It marked a turn in the Dutch war against Spanish control
1572 – St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. Between August 23-24 of that year somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 French Protestants were slaughtered by Charles IX egged on by his mama, Catherine de Medici. This was a blow to the Dutch Protestant cause…as France had offered much material support which evaporated over night.
1572 – Haarlem holds out against Alva for six months before it falls; Naaden, Zütphen fall the same year to Alva; the entire populations of all towns are massacred.
1572 – 1579 – A Spanish Fury was a vindictive or rampant bloody pillage of cities in the Low Countries by Spanish regular or mutinous troops that occurred in the years 1572–1579 during the Dutch Revolt. The most famous ‘Spanish Fury’ was the sack of Antwerp in 1576. Sometimes this singular expression refers to the entire mutinous campaign of 1576, to the city punishments of 1572.
1573 – December 18 – The Duke of Alva leaves the Netherlands, never to return. Number of casualties of his six-year rule will never be known – probably in the hundreds of thousands
1576 – The Sacking of Antwerp – On 4 November 1576, mutinying Spanish tercios began the sack of Antwerp, leading to three days of horror among the population of the city, which was the cultural, economic and financial center of the Netherlands. The savagery of the sack led the provinces of the Low Countries to unite against the Spanish crown. The devastation also caused Antwerp’s decline as the leading city in the region and paved the way for Amsterdam’s rise.
1579 – In 1579 a number of the northern provinces of the Low Countries signed the Union of Utrecht, in which they promised to support each other in their defense against the Spanish army.
1581 – This was followed in 1581 by the Act of Abjuration, the declaration of independence of the provinces from Philip II
1584 – William of Orange assassinated in Delft by Balthazar Gérard, a Frenchman sympathetic to Philip II. Gérard was caught before he could flee Delft, and imprisoned. He was tortured before his trial on 13 July, where he was sentenced to be brutally – even by the standards of that time – killed. The magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off
1585 – The Scheldt River trade closes down, eliminating Antwerp as the main maritime port in N. Europe.
1585 – Dutch put an embargo and general prohibition on trade with Antwerp to weaken the Spanish ability to launch military offenses against their positions. There is a formal Dutch and English prohibition on trade with Antwerp but it resulted in opening of a vibrant black market trade which could not be stopped.
1594 – Compagnie Van Verre is formed (The Company of Trade With Distant Lands)
1595 – Compagnie Van Verre organizes a four ship fleet for the Orient. It arrives near Jakarta on July 22, 1596.
1598 – Compagnie Van Verre dissolved; new companies formed. 22 ships leave for the Orient of which eight returned loaded with spices to turn a profit of 400%
1601 – Now 65 ships left…of those 11 were completely lost with a great number of crew perishing. Portuguese competition essentially crushed.
1618 – Johan van Oldenbarnevelt placed on trail for treason in Amsterdam
1661- 2 – The Dutch loss of the Formosa outpost to Koxinga (Chinese military leader and Ming Dynasty supporter) brought an end to the profitable silk trade for the V.O.C. Profitable silk trade with China ends in 1666.
1670 – The highly profitable trade with Japan started to decline. The cause of this are rather complex…and is associated with role of precious metals (gold and silver). Most of Europe’s trade with Asia – it is Europeans buying Asian products and paying for them in gold.
- result: gold flows moved heavily from Europe to Asia…and trade was dependent upon the ability of the Europeans to extract New World gold and silver in order to pay for Asian goods (spices, silk, Indian textiles, Chinese porcelain, etc).
- as the flow of New World gold diminished, the Dutch established a relationship with the Japanese that in exchange for Indian textiles and Indonesian textiles – whose markets the Dutch came to control, that the Japanese would pay the Dutch in gold, with which the latter could then make more purchases..
- but Japan cut off these relations in 1670 cut off selling gold to the Dutch somewhat disrupting the trade.
1672-3 – Third Anglo-Dutch War – British navy joins France in its attack on the United Provinces.
- this war temporarily interrupted the flow of pepper to NW Europe as a result of the naval battles. As a result of a reduction of supply the price of pepper spiked, which in turn induced the English East Indies Company to enter the market for pepper after 1672, cutting into the Dutch monopoly on the product.
- a price war over pepper followed between the V.O.C. and the English, but because the V.O.C. had far greater resources it was able to out-last the British.
- still soon, after the war ended, other European countries enter into the competition for pepper – including the French East Indies Company, the Danes, breaking the Dutch monopoly.
- as went pepper so went other spices in time. The Dutch tried to suppress the French-English entry into the pepper trade; they were temporarily successful but not for long.
Waterboarding. Turns out it is nothing new, not “invented” by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the lot of neo-conservatives who pushed the United States into an unending war against the Third World – from Afghanistan to Iraq and would like to see wars extended to Iran, Syria…and of late, Russia.
It was standard fare for the U.S. military in a Third World Country even 115 years ago: the torture of rebels, in this case waterboarding in the Philippines, 1902. The image on the left is a “Life” Magazine cover from May 22, 1902, on the website “Executed Today” in history, (today being April 5th). The website, which I discovered about a week ago, includes fascinating information concerning human inhumanity to its fellow beings through history.
Some entries are of a personal nature – so and so murdered so and so, etc, but many are distinctly political which interest me more admittedly. It’s not that I ignore such things – it has long given me the chills how people mistreat one another on an individual level. It’s just when states get involved – state sanctioned torture, murder – otherwise known as war – that things get even uglier.
There were two othe entries on the website though – besides the killing of Filipinos by torture – that especially caught my attention this April 5 – the guillotining of French revolutionary leader Georges Danton in 1794 and the execution of two Arab nationalists opposed to Ottoman rule in 1916, one in Beirut, the other in Damascus.
Concerning the U.S. invasion of the Philippines…If the occupation of Hawaii is discounted (the Hawaii-ans don’t discount it), or the many invasions of Mexico in the 19th Century (the Mexicans don’t discount them) the U.S. military invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba as a result of the Spanish American War is considered the first foreign military intervention of the 20th century (even though they started in 1898). In the end a secret deal was cut between the Spanish and United States governments that rather than abandon these former colonies to their own people – punish the very thought of it!) that there would be a change of colonial rulers from Spain to the United States.
All three military occupations were messy, bloody affairs, but the one in the Philippines went on the longest and was probably the bloodiest. Some 200,000 Filipinos died opposing the U.S. military intervention. The intervention itself was overseen by U.S. General Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame (and Korean War infamy – he was itching to using nuclear weapons against the Chinese and was removed from command by President Truman). Having honed his skills killing Indians on the Great Plains for decades, Arthur MacArthur went on to outdo himself in the Philippines where virtually everything that moved became target practice for the U.S. army.
According to one explanation for why the United States would invade the Philippines (that I recall reading a long, long time ago), then President McKinley – soon to be assassinated) explained that he made the decision to invade the Philippines at “God’s direction.” McKinley claimed to be undecided and was walking the White House floors agonizing over what to do when he heard a voice and the voice was God. Not having at the time the convenience of using t weapons of mass destruction nor military intervention for humanitarian reasons as pretexts, McKinley needed another line of reasoning to plunder a far away, Asian country. It was also a problem that there were not communist countries at the time that McKinley could argue were a threat to world peace intent on taking over the world.
A genuine dilemma!
But when all else fails, American presidents – from McKinley to George W. Bush can always take the Crusader logic of old, dust it off a bit, and go for it. McKinley would tell the American public, of all things, that God told him to invade the Philippines, and being a good Christian, how could he do otherwise? It is possible that besides consulting God, McKinley also conferred with some of the country’s main financial and corporate leaders of the day anxious to increase U.S. commercial ties with Asia, China especially, for which the Philippines would provide an excellent springboard. It was/is also a place extraordinarily rich in natural resources, a potential market in and of itself for the burgeoning U.S. manufacturing sector.
God told Arthur MacArthur to use waterboarding on Filipinos as he (it is a “he” usually, isn’t it?) instructed George W. Bush to do likewise on Iraqis, Afghans and who knows how many other Third World rebels. Blaming God for U.S. military intervention didn’t work so well for McKinley and the Philippine intervention also triggered one of the country’s great pacifist and anti-war movements. Calling a spade a spade, this peace movement called itself “The Anti-Imperialist League” whose prominent members included mega-capitalist Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, John Dewey, William Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, William Graham Sumner, David Starr Jordan and former U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Unlike McKinley, apparently God had not spoken directly to these late 19th century American luminaries, either that or God was speaking in more than one voice – one to McKinley, a very different voice to Mark Twain and company.
The Ludlow Series – 1 KGNU-Boulder, Colorado “It’s The Economy” Interview with Bob Butero – United Mine Workers of America Representative and Jonathan Rees, Author of “The Rockefeller Plan At Colorado Fuel and Iron Company: 1914-1942
On March 27, 2014 – the weekly program “It’s The Economy” on KGNU-Boulder interviews Bob Butero, United Mine Workers of America representative – and a former coal miner – along with Colorado State University prof and author Jonathan Rees, author of The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company: 1914-1942. The interview runs about an hour.
In a few weeks, the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre will be marked by events all over the Front Range of Colorado. Most of them will take place south of Denver – in the Pueblo-Walsenburg-Trinidad region. Like the Triangle Fire Tragedy in New York City (March 25, 1911), the Ludlow Massacre of miners’ families working for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) to provide coal and iron for the Pueblo, Colorado steel mill was a “watershed event” in the history of both the state and the nation. I will be posting a series of articles and writing up commentaries to commemorate this event and go into its implications over the course of the next few months.
The CF&I Steel Mill still exists. For a time it was the largest producer of steel between St. Louis and California. It has changed hands many, many times. The photo on the left is of the mill in the mid 1970s when it still employed – if I remember correctly – more than 6000 workers, then as in 1914 when the Ludlow Massacre took place, these workers coming from all over the world, with diverse backgrounds.