Monthly Archives: August 2008

Were the Jewish Partisans Stalinist Dupes?

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[H/t to A.L. for bringing this to my attention. Above image of Jewish Partisans from Vilnius is from the Holocaust Research Project]

Nazi hunter: Lithuania hunts ex-partisans, lets war criminals roam free

By Yossi Melman

A few months ago, Lithuanian policemen and agents from the security service knocked on Rachel Margolis’ door in Vilna. Fortunately she was not home, and was thus saved the humiliation of an interrogation. Margolis, almost 90, was a Jewish partisan during World War II, and is finding it difficult to recover from the trauma even now, when she is living in her daughter’s home in Rehovot.

“My sin in the eyes of the nationalists and the anti-Semites in the Lithuanian government,” she says, “was that I was a partisan and fought against the Nazis and their collaborators.”

The Lithuanian policemen and agents wanted to interrogate her about her memoir, in which she told about her partisan colleagues who in January 1944 attacked the village of Koniuchy (or in Lithuanian, Kaniukai).

The Lithuanian partisans, who operated under the aegis of the Central Partisan Command of the Soviet Union, had information that there was a German garrison in the village. After the fact, it turned out that the Germans had abandoned the place. In the battle that ensued, 38 villagers were killed, including women and children. In independent Lithuania, with a tendency to rewrite history after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, they describe this attack as a “massacre,” and a special prosecutor opened an investigation.

Margolis says she was not even in Lithuania at the time of the attack, and was active in another partisan unit in White Russia.

“I wrote a book about the war, and in it I mentioned in a few lines that I had heard from partisan friends about the attack,” she says.

In the book she mentions another partisan friend who was among the attackers, Fania Brantsovsky, and another partisan, Sara Ginaite, both of whom are also suspects and wanted for interrogation.

“That’s Lithuanian chutzpah,” says Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “To date, Lithuanian governments have not punished a single Lithuanian war criminal. In spite of our considerable efforts and the large amount of information we have given them, they handled three cases with astonishing slowness. Not one of the three served a single day in prison. On the other hand, they’re not ashamed to persecute and harass Lithuanian partisans who fought the Nazis. What is common to all these cases is that they’re all Jews. Instead of punishing Lithuanian criminals who collaborated with the Nazis and murdered Jews, they’re harassing the partisans, Jewish heroes.”

Perhaps the height of chutzpah was the attempt by Lithuania to investigate Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust historian and one-time partisan, a former brigadier general and a chief education officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and the chairman of the board of Yad Vashem.

The Lithuanian claim against Arad was that he served in a Soviet security services, the NKVD, which engaged in murder and looting, and that he was involved in the murder of innocent Lithuanians. In the Lithuanian newspaper, Republika, they even published an article two years ago entitled “The expert with blood on his hands.”

Arad explained that the Lithuanian claims against him were false. The Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem sharply protested the Lithuanian demand, and refused to cooperate with the request.

However, there are some in Israel who believe that neither the Foreign Ministry nor Yad Vashem are acting with the determination expected of them, and are demonstrating weakness. There are voices who believe that Israel should lower its diplomatic contacts with Lithuania if it continues harassing Jewish and Israeli partisans. One of the critics is Zuroff.

“In the State of Israel, they prefer to let Jewish organizations do the dirty work and fight against the rewriting of history in Lithuania,” Zuroff said. “The State of Israel and those involved in the issue should have made it unequivocally clear to the Lithuanian government that it is crossing all the red lines.”

Another harsh critic of Israeli policy is historian Prof. Dov Levin, an expert on Lithuanian Jewry. Levin chronicles in his books how more than 200,00 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, mainly by the Lithuanian collaborators who were eager to engage in murder without the German Nazis having to convince them.

Levin, himself a partisan in Lithuania and a member of the Yad Vashem council, was opposed to the decision about 10 years ago by the Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem to cooperate with Lithuania in the study of the history of World War II. His view was not accepted, and a joint international committee of Israeli, Lithuanian and other historians was established.

The committee, actually two subcommittees, is studying the murder of the Jews in the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as the murder of Lithuanians, during the period of the Soviet occupation of the country from 1940-1941 – as part of the infamous 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – as well as the Soviet period from 1945 until independence in 1991.

By doing so, the committee is unfortunately helping the Lithuanians equate the two historical developments. Levin believes that Yad Vashem should have severed any connection with the Lithuanian government and ended its activity.

I dissed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in a previous post (and at numerous comments on other blogs) for being Stalinist dupes rather than principled anti-fascists. I stand by that assertion. But this article in Haaretz regarding Jewish communist partisans displays the complexity of these issues. Were the Jewish partisans dupes as well? If not, why not?

I think not. For one thing, the situation of Jews in Lithuania was not analogous to the situation of the volunteers in the U.S. Lithuania was occupied by the Nazis and Lithuanian civilians participated in the Holocaust. Jews had four options in Lithuania. First, resistance; second, collaboration in the hopes of personal and family survival; third, seeking refuge where that was possible; and fourth, deportation to the camps. In the case of Lithuanian resistance, the communist partisan units were the only option.

Jews had choices in other countries. The Jewish Fighting Organization in Poland (more below) is one example and escapees from the Slovakian Novaky labor camp formed an independent Jewish brigade affiliated with the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair.

Regarding Lithuania, the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation notes:

In 1943, Lithuanian Jewish partisans became unified under the direction of Soviet Lithuanian partisan movement. Admission of Jews to the partisans was limited for political and military reasons as well as because of antisemitism. Even in some of the mixed units Jews experienced discrimination. Yet the partisan movement was their only vehicle to actively fight against the Nazis. In some cases, all-Jewish units were formed within the larger organization of Lithuanian partisans.

Poland was a different situation:

Because of the widespread Nazi hunts for escaped Jews, and centuries old antisemitism among some locals, many Polish Jewish partisans sought affiliation with Polish partisan groups. This was a difficult and dangerous task-a Jewish partisan could be robbed of his weapon, or killed for approaching a partisan unit. However, numerous Polish partisan units welcomed Jews, such as the People’s Guard. In the Generalgouvernement area of Poland (divided into four districts Warsaw, Cracow, Radom, and Lublin), hundreds of Jewish partisans belonged to Polish units of the People’s Guard, to the Home Army (AK), and to other groups. Considerable numbers of these Jewish partisans operated in commando units, and dozens of Jews took leadership roles as commanders.

Jews also fought as partisans in all-Jewish units, such as the ZOB (the Jewish Fighting Organization), which was active throughout occupied Poland. Against incredible odds, thousands of Polish Jewish partisans fought back, and most lost their lives. Many did not expect to survive, as reflected in the motto of one Jewish partisan group: “For those who seek life, we are not the address.”

Here is a map describing Jewish partisan activity in ten countries.

For more information on Jewish partisans, click on the image that says “Resist” on the left column of this blog or click here.

Read more about antisemitism in Lithuania here.

Remembering the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia 40 Years On

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“The only defense against Moscow’s imperialism is an alliance with the West. That is the main lesson of August 1968.”–Czech Premier Mirek Topolanek

[Image © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos]

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately. I’m getting ready to head out of town for a few days and have been busy with guests. But I wanted to post something on the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Not only for the event’s historical importance but it seems relevant to what’s happening today in Georgia.

From (VOA):

Forty years ago, on the night of August 20-21, 1968, 2,000 tanks and 200,000 Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia. Failed negotiations in Bratislava over a program of political liberalization known as “Prague Spring” served as the precipitating event.

The 1968 invasion was successful in stopping the partial democratization reforms begun by Czechoslovak Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek. That August night, Eastern bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and East Germany – joined the invasion.

A Czech Perspective

The invasion was followed by a wave of emigrations, about 300,000 in total, typically of highly qualified people. Among those who came to the United States was Jiri Fisher, formerly a broadcaster in VOA’s Czech Service, who was 19 years old at the time. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Fisher says he was returning home after an island vacation in Yugoslavia. He was incredulous when a German family on the ship told him that there was “einen Krieg” [a war] in Czechoslovakia. Together they tuned into Radio Prague on a little transition radio, Fisher says, and they heard that Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Soviet Army and Warsaw Pact and that “people were getting killed.” To this day, he says, it gives him “chills” to remember that night.

Jiri Fisher says he and his friends ended up in the northern port city of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast. Yugoslavia’s President Tito went on TV, Fisher recalls, telling his people that “we have to take care of all Czechs and Slovaks who are trapped in our country” because the Soviet Army had shut down the borders. He says he and his friends then went on to Zagreb, where thousands of people were gathered in front of the consulate, and where people from Zagreb were “fighting for us – for whom they would take home.” Later he made his way to Vienna, and then to his hometown of Brno in the region of Moravia, and ultimately to the United States. Like many of his countryman, Fisher says, his life had been changed forever.

[read it all and listen to Latham’s report here]

Read More:

BBC: Eyewitness, Prague Spring Crushed

Dubček Jr.: People cannot be blamed for their leaders

IHT: Czechs and Slovaks Remember 1968 Invasion

Czechs and Slovaks held ceremonies Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the liberal reforms of Alexander Dubcek and ended an era known as the “Prague Spring.”

Czech President Vaclav Klaus traveled to the Slovak capital, Bratislava, while Slovak Premier Robert Fico joined his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek in Prague for the commemoration ceremonies.

Symbols of that era such as a Soviet T-54 tank and homemade posters protesting the invasion were on display in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, the main location of clashes between Soviet troops and Prague citizens.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia also marked the anniversary with speeches, conferences and film screenings.

“Communism is beyond reform. Every attempt to liberalize it leads to its destruction,” Topolanek wrote in an opinion piece in Thursday’s Lidove Noviny daily. “The only defense against Moscow’s imperialism is an alliance with the West. That is the main lesson of August 1968.”

More on Georgia and Russia (and a bit re: Poland)

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Since I last posted about Russia’s invasion of Georgia the conflict escalated from South Ossetia to Abkhazia and into central Georgia. Russia has agreed to a cease-fire but the specifics are sketchy at this time. Here are some selections from the web:

Max Boot (Contentions)

I am relieved to hear the Russia has called off its invasion of Georgia, although whether actions on the ground will match the words emanating from Moscow remains to be seen. But I am very, very depressed at the pusillanimous reaction to Russian aggression in what used to be called the Free World. Far too many are rushing to blame the victims. A perfect example of this mindset is this column by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch. He begins, “There is no excusing Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Georgia,” but then he proceeds to offer one excuse after another. “Since the cold war ended,” he writes, “the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.”

and more here.

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): What are friends for?:

Georgia has our attention (or is sharing it with John Edwards). John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have issued assorted statements on the matter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has dashed through the motions of European diplomacy, and President Bush has sent Condoleezza Rice dashing after him. Additionally, American Navy vessels are heading toward the Black Sea–to deliver aid. But a week after Russian tanks and jets set Georgia ablaze–and three days since the announcement of a ceasefire–Russian troops patrol Georgian cities with virtual impunity. No nation has defended Georgia and no Georgian ally has even given her the means to defend herself. Moreover, no agreements have been drafted explicitly securing Georgia’s territorial integrity. In this way, Saakashvili got the West dead wrong.

Victim status doesn’t get you what it used to. There was a time when an American friend or a strategically critical state under attack got more than color commentary from the White House and a boat full of Ace bandages. When Russia rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 we didn’t give Afghans our sympathy; we gave them guns–big ones. When Saddam tried to annex Kuwait, we went in and sent him back home. Today a real invasion will get a symbolic vote, a high profile condemnation, and a Facebook group.

Bob from Brockley has a nice set of links here. Bob takes a critical approach to reports in the Western media here:

Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

I agree with Bob but isn’t this the case in every conflict where reporters on the ground are scare? Western newspapers rely on government reports, interviews with officials, interviews with the opposition, etc. Look at Darfur. There are not many western reporters there. Newspapers report what the government in Khartum claims and what those resisting the government claim and what human rights organizations/NGOs claim. Same with Zimbabwe. We know what we know about these conflicts largely based on propaganda. Even in wars we today consider rather clear-cut, like World War II, most of the information produced by Western media was propaganda.

I also think it is important to make a distinction between “accepting lies” and reporting the position of an official of a government or political movement. If a media outlet notes, “according to Georgian officials 2,000 Georgian civilians were killed” and “according to Russian officials, 2,000 Russian civilians were killed” that is different than claiming “2,000 Georgian civilians and 2,000 Russian civilians were killed.” All of the MSM reports I have read are careful to point out which side is making a particular claim so I do not agree that reporters are accepting the lies of either side.

Pundits (and most bloggers) are a different case. Unless they are reporting facts on the ground (for example, the number and type of military units involved in a particular skirmish) I expect them to have an ideological interpretation of the conflict and communicate that in their opinions.

Kellie Strom (Air Force Amazons): They’re all the bloody same over there:

I’m a lousy chess player, but from what I read it looks to me as though Russia has been advancing its pawns in the hope that one of them would be taken, allowing its main force to attack. Georgia was facing losses either way, whether at the hands of the advancing pawns, or in risking confrontation with the main Russian forces. I’m not yet convinced that Georgian actions were wholly unreasonable. If they hadn’t responded, the Russian reaction to weakness would have undoubtedly have been an even greater buildup of their forces within the contested areas, and a continuation, if not escalation, of actions by its proxy separatist forces.

Sultan Knish: Pat Buchanan, the Kremlin’s New Whore

Lastly, within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland agreed to serve as a base for a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Do you blame them?

C-SPAN: “Three Years Later,” Conversations with Iraq War Veterans

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Regular readers know I am a C-SPAN junkie. I watch Washington Journal every morning (M-Fr), Book TV on a semi-regular basis, and try to catch Bryan Lamb‘s interviews on Q&A and Booknotes as often as I can. For anyone interested in politics, especially American politics, it is a fantastic resource. Many people don’t realize C-SPAN is funded by the cable companies. It never ceases to amuse me when a rabid leftist will call in to the Washington Journal to complain about the horrors of corporate media ownership and then proceed to thank C-SPAN for its excellent, balanced coverage only to have the host remind them that C-SPAN is funded by the cable industry.

I’ve been watching the program “Three Years Later: Conversations with Iraq War Veterans” and it is excellent. In 2005, C-SPAN interviewed four returning Iraq war soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. They were recuperating from injuries they received in Iraq. Each of the soldiers had lost on appendage; some were double amputees. C-SPAN located all four and visited their homes to interview them a second time. The resulting series is a side by side comparison of these two sets of interviews.

Soldiers featured in the series include:

  • Cpl. Michael Oreskovic, Creswell, OR
  • Major Tammy Duckworth, (and her husband, Major Bryan Bowlsbey), Hoffman Estates, IL
  • Lt. Erasmo Valles, San Antonio, TX
  • Sgt. Manuel Mendoza Valencia, San Ramon, CA

C-SPAN provides biographical information on the four soldiers:

Michael Oreskovic was born in Medford, Oregon in 1981. He attended high school in Eugene, Oregon, graduating in 2000. He joined the Army in 2001. As part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, he fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq. On his last mission in Iraq, he was injured when a car bomb went off while he was on patrol in a stryker vehicle. He lost his left arm. Michael Oreskovic recuperated at Walter Reed for 13 months before returning to his home in Oregon. He retired from the Army in November 2005. He is currently attending Lane Community College working towards a master’s degree in education. He plans to become a middle school history teacher.

Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand and grew up in several different Asian countries while her father worked for a U.S. refugee program. At age 16, her family moved to Hawaii where she got her masters degree in political science. She joined ROTC in 1990 and was commissioned in the Army Reserve in Illinois in 1992. At the time of her deployment to Iraq in March 2004, she was working at Rotary, International. On November 12, 2004, she was piloting a Black Hawk helicopter north of Baghdad when it was hit by enemy fire. She lost both legs, one at the hip and one below the knee. Her left arm was also badly injured. After recuperating at Walter Reed, she returned home to Illinois and ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District seat in the U.S. Congress. Following her defeat, she was named by the Governor as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She is still active in the Illinois Army National Guard. Her husband, Brian Bowlsbey, is also a major in the Illinois Army National Guard and returned from a tour in Iraq earlier this year.

Erasmo Valles was born in southeast New Mexico where he worked in the crop fields as a kid. After graduating from high school, he joined the Marine Corps where he spent two years as a non-commissioned officer. After leaving the Marine Corps, he went to college in New Mexico and joined the Marines as a non commissioned officer in the 2nd Battalion at Twentynine Palms, California. In his first mission to Iraq in 2004, his humvee ran over an anti-tank mine, severely injuring both legs. He fought to save his left leg but finally made the decision to have it amputated in January 2005. He retired from the Marines and moved with his family to San Antonio, Texas. They are in the process of moving to League City, Texas near Houston where the local builder’s association is building them a home. He married Sandra Trujillo in 2000. They have three children. Ty is 17. Lorenzo is 3 years old and Tatianna is 1.

Manny Mendoza Valencia was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at a young age. He grew up in Booneville, California. His Army career as part of the 58th Engineer Company, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment included three years at Fort Irwin in New York and one year in Korea. In October 2004, while deployed to Iraq, the armored personnel carrier in which he was riding hit a I.E.D. planted on the side of the road. He lost both legs. Upon arriving at Walter Reed hospital, he told officials that his green card had expired while he was in Iraq. In December, he was given U.S. citizenship. Manny Mendoza Valencia now lives in San Ramon, California where he is a project manager for AT&&T.

Regardless of your perspective on the war, you should check it out. Click on the video camera icons on the left side to watch the 2005 interviews and on the right side to watch the 2008 interviews.

The Oneness Movement

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As regular readers know, I am interested in cults, especially political cults but religious ones as well. I’m not sure how I discovered the Oneness Movement or O.M. I must have been looking for something on Youtube. If you are not familiar with these nuts, here is what they are all about.

Their leader Sri Bhagavan (original name Vijaykumar Naidu), claims he is Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu and can “enlighten” us mere mortals through his touch or gaze. The cult is also known as Kalki Deeksha movement. He and his wife, Sri Amma (Padmini), offer classes (level 1 and level 2) for thousands of dollars to facilitate the “enlightenment” process. It is an old scam that never ends to bring in new suckers.

Loved and worshipped by millions, Sri Amma Bhagavan are avatars for enlightenment and God realisation. They are one single avataric consciousness in two bodies. They represent the Divine feminine and the Divine masculine. Together Amma and Bhagavan power the process of enlightenment of the individual seeker as Yin and Yang, stillness and movement, Prakruti and Purusha.

The new twist for this cult is claiming spiritual awakening or deeksha is a “neurobiological process” and adding strange accoutrements like a golden orb to the standard Hindu cosmology:

The phenomenon of the Oneness Blessing/Oneness Deeksha is sourced in the descent of the “Golden Ball of Divine Grace”, a mystical golden orb of light, into which Sri Amma Bhagavan had impregnated their divine consciousness since early childhood through a very esoteric process. In July 1989, this Golden Ball of divine grace descended into many children of the Jeevashram School founded by Sri Amma & Bhagavan. With the descent of the Golden Ball these children were instantly transported into deep mystical states of consciousness and experienced profound transformation, thus heralding the birth of a phenomenon Sri Amma Bhagavan had been waiting for over nearly four decades.

The Golden Ball of Divine grace embodies the divine intent of Sri Amma Bhagavan, namely ‘to set man totally and unconditionally free’ and it is this intent that powers the Oneness Blessings/Oneness Deekshas worldwide. Oneness Blessing/Oneness Deeksha is essentially the process of facilitating the descent of this Golden Ball, which naturally activates a neurobiological process in the receiver’s brain, thus culminating in a spiritual awakening. In addition, it also activates the seven energy centers (chakras) in the subtle body and the dormant spiritual energy (kundalini), which constitutes the basis of every form of transformation in life, mundane as well as spiritual.

How people fall for this nonsense is actually rather sad. In one devotee’s words:

‘Diksha’, or baptism as we know it in the West, is a hands-on transference of Divine energy that brings about a state of oneness, or enlightenment. In the past, only a very few have been blessed with this state. Now, for the first time in human history, enlightenment is being made available to everyone through the grace if Sri Bhagavan (See picture). Sri Bhagavan, or Kalki as he is often called, is an Avatar who has the mission of bringing enlightenment to the world at this critical time.

Bhagavan says that you cannot attain a full state of enlightenment through your own efforts, although you can get close. Full enlightenment is a state that must be given to you!

What happens to us when we receive Diksha probably cannot be understood by the human mind, but it can best be described as a neuro-biological shift in the brain. We become detached or de-clutched from our mind. We are still able to feel feelings and have old thoughts, but there is no charge there anymore, and we start to experience permanent peace and joy. It is not about becoming mindless, but rather ‘mindful’ and being totally present with reality as it is.

If you were a native African, for example, you could probably become enlightened after receiving only one Diksha. However, we in the West are holding onto so many emotional blocks and concepts about life, that it is not as easy for us to attain this state.

Here is a different perspective:

I am having a hard time getting my money refunded from the people at the Oneness Movement. They have been extremely “nice” but they are basically charging me in order to refund the money. God, I wish I never gave them the fucking money in the first place. It’s another expensive lesson, but the same one over and over – listen to myself, not any one else who claims to have some kind of “answer”.

It seemed so appealing, the thought of all my Issues dissolving after three weeks of deeksha. But the warning signs were there. Signing the waiver saying I could withstand sleep and food deprivation, the high fee and the inability to leave the ashram, being told everyone has the same questions as me so I should just go with the flow and ignore what my inner voice was saying…I am grateful for my rational over-thinking mind coming in to save the day!

But now I have to deal with these mo-fo’s to get the money back. And I am learning about cults and mind-control as I try to navigate through their system of niceties and bullshit. They have me by the balls. I want to write an expose on them before they get much larger, but who the hell has heard of deeksha? Or, as they call it now, Oneness Deeksha or Oneness Prayer. That edict came down from on high last week – maybe the authorities are getting on to the deeksha name.

It turns out many of the early devotees were likely dosed with hallucinogenic leyham without their consent, leading to the extraordinary experiences they shared together. After leaving the Oneness University many of the devotees experience withdrawals and psychosis. Some have committed suicide.

As to where all the money is going. Part of it is going to build this temple:

The rest is being invested in personal properties and businesses owned by cult leadership.

Read more:

Website of the Global Oneness Commitment, “Co-creating a happy world.”

Guruphiliac:

Deeksha is a Sanskrit word meaning “benediction;” one “Deeksha giver” explains that deeksha “initiates a neurobiological change in the brain that when complete enables the senses to be free from the interference of the mind. When the senses are unclouded by the mind’s interpretations, a natural clarity of perception occurs with accompanying spontaneous feelings of joy, inner calmness and connection to the Oneness in everything.” Ahh, smell the bliss!

[Comments are now closed. This post is five years old.]

Agnostic Front

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A post at Bob’s contained a link to an article by Howard Husock in the City Journal that got me thinking about politics and music. Husock contends Johnny Cash (one of the few country artists I have recordings of) has received more accolades from the music industry than Merle Haggard because of Cash’s popularity among the protest music crowd. Haggard, by contrast, was “aggressive in denouncing the political and cultural Left”:

[A] major part of Cash’s appeal to the Left Coast and elite culture in general is political: almost alone among prominent country singers, Cash incorporated 1960s protest politics into his songs. That stance helped revive and sustain his career and brought disproportionate praise for his music—which pales beside that of other big country stars, particularly his contemporary Merle Haggard.

I think this bias can be observed in other musical forms as well. In the punk music scene, anti-American acts are viewed in a much more favorable light than patriotic bands. For example, the SF Bay Area punk band the Dead Kennedys is lauded by progressives for the leftist political stance of former singer Jello Biafra. Granted, Biafra has moved much closer to the politics of the Moveon.org crowd over time and away from his causticity towards politicians on the left and right that exemplified the DKs music.

Compare this to the treatment afforded NYC band, Agnostic Front. Denounced as skinheads and fascists by leftist critics, Agnostic Front, like Haggard, are proud, critical Americans, thankful of the freedoms this country provides.

Agnostic Front was formed in 1982 in NYC. I found out about them in the mid-1980s and finally had the opportunity to hear them play live in 1991 at the Omni Ballroom on Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, CA. Despite a few stumbles here and there, AF continues to produce true New York Hardcore music.

Some live footage and interview (1986):

Interviewer: Agnostic Front is a skinhead band?

“No…Agnostic Front is not a skinhead band…we first started off as a unity band and that’s what we’ll always be, uniting everybody together…we don’t need any more barriers, we gotta all unite and be together.”—Roger Miret


“…It’s called Unity; Blacks, Whites, Punks, Skins, that’s what Agnostic Front is about. Not what you fuckin’ hear in Maximum Rock n’ Roll….”

Maligned, greatly misunderstood, Agnostic Front stand as a testament to the hardcore way of life.

“Society Sucker”, with “Your Mistake” and “With Time” (1988 )

Blind Justice (1991). I really miss these shows. If you experienced it, there is nothing like it.

Interview with Roger, vocals and Vinnie, guitar (1986):

Al: You say you’re a unity band, so if everybody united what would that be for?

Vinnie: We’re out of step with society. Basically that’s what it is. That’s what I’m doing right now. I live in a van, day and night. Everyday is Friday & Saturday. I play for the kids. I play for them, not against them.

Roger: Tell the kids not to fight against each other, (but) unite to fight against the outside world, (and) people that hate us. We’re all in it together now for the same reason, or almost the same reason.

Al: What do you want to fight the outside world about?

Vinnie: Discrimination. That’s a big word right there. Discrimination. That says it all in one word. Why should I be discriminated against because I have a mohawk, or a skinhead, or a tattoo, or whatever. If I walk out of step with society why should I be discriminated against? I’m a human being too. We fly the flag of America because we believe in America. We travel the country, I see America, and it is a beautiful country.

Roger: We’re fighting for what the flag stands for. What it should stand for. Land of the free, the glory, and justice for all.

Vinnie: Democracy.

UNITED AND STRONG (album version, 1984)