I came into New York from the wilds of Alberta, by way
of Chatham first to recover from the medical complications inflicted
on me by a northern 'bush' hospital. My then husband, Bob Bates had
gone down to New York first, to settle himself and get some kind of
job. We set up housekeeping in a big room of what had been a hotel
but which was now a sort of tall rooming house with shared kitchens
on each floor. I used to take the laundry up to the roof to hang it
out on the clothslines available there. Hanging laundry in the breeze
up so many stories above west Manhattan gave me the whim whams because
I have some fear of heights. The folks who looked after the hotel/rooming
house in the sense of cleaning and repair and so forth were expatriates
from Fulgencio Batista's Cuba. This was just before the fall of Batista
and the exhilaration of his downfall at the hands of Fidel Castro
and his revolutionaries.
People don't remember too much nowadays but Batista
was a bad guy, especially to Liberal thinking people and leftists.
He was a U.S. supported dictator. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and
the like were the good guys in our eyes.
On January 1, 1959 Batista was overthrown and, thereafter,
various flights out of Camp Colombia took Batista's friends and high
officials to Miami, New York, New Orleans and Jacksonville. Gangster
Meyer Lansky, suffering from ill health, also flew out that night.
On January 7th Fidel Castro arrived in Havana and, at that time, the
U.S. officially recognized the new Cuban government.
The Cubans who were helping to run the building were
refugees from the corrupt Batista regime and they had one heck of
a whompin' party when Castro overthrew Batista. We went to it. Bates
was a Socialist so he'd been talking to them at that level. He was
invited to the party and I went with him. I have never heard people
give so many impromptu speeches in my life It was as if each one in
turn was touched by a magic wand and gave a loud and glorious speech,
and then on to the next one; all in Spanish of course. I only had
a little bit of book Spanish at that time so I only caught a few words
like "Viva La Libertad!!!" and "el socialismo y el hombre en Cuba"
A great exultation and joy was was certainly there. We stayed a short
while and then left because it was their party after all.
The Chatham Public Library was a good source for all
kinds of books, thanks to Louise Schriber the Librarian. I got most
of my real education there. I wanted to know something about everything,
for reasons of my own, so I read just about everything I could get
my hands on - 5 or 6 books a week. I'd see a book and say to myself
"I don't know anything about that", so I'd check it out. This led
me, in mysterious ways to Thorstein Veblin, who coined the phrase
"conspicuous consumption" and wrote 'The Theory of the Leisure Class'
and to Karl Marx, who was very dull and Hitler who was duller.
A humorous British book called "Comrade, 0 Comrade"
had a profound effect on me. The book took potshots on the various
radical movements then current in Britain and the only groups spared
were the Anarchists. The author didn't favour the Socialists too much
and certainly not the Communists but really thought the Anarchists
were kind of o.k. So, when I got to New York I sought out an Anarchist
group and found the Libertarian League. They had the use a a large
room half way to Greenwich Village near St. Mark's Square. The landlord
insisted on labeling his tenants 'The Liberian League which may have
helped to keep the group safe from surveillance by the 'three letter
boys' as we called the FBI, CIA etc.
THE LIBERTARIAN LEAGUE
The Libertarian League was 'led' by two worthy gentlemen
and Sam Dolgoff <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Dolgoff>
Sam favoured Anarcho-Syndicalism. He was in the IWW,
the Industrial Workers of the World, also called the Wobblies.
His famous speech was called "Anarchism and the American Labour Movement",
which was given every time another speaker stood us up at our weekly
meeting. We got to know that speech very, very well.
Russell Blackwell was at first a Communist. He got kicked
out of Mexico for that. He spoke Spanish well. Afterwards he had gone
over to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In Spain he became disillusioned
with the Communists due to their dirty tricks and went over to the
Anarchists. He wandered about there, as was his habit. He would wander
into the damnedest places. In the process of doing that after the
war had ended, he caught the attention of the new authorities and
ended up in Barcelona prison as a spy. He wasn't a spy. He was just
curious. Barcelona prison was apparently in the middle of an artichoke
growing district and that's what the prisoners were fed morning, noon
and night. Russell's wife petitioned the President and the Congress
and so forth and finally, after a long while, got him out - with a
lifelong hatred of artichokes. Somehow or other he ended up with the
Libertarian League. He and Sam put out an Anarchist magazine called,
mundanely, `News & Views".
ON THE PICKET LINE
I don't like picketing. It makes me feel like a professional
martyr but I marched on a few picket lines. I picketed Woolworth's
for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). The Puerto Rican kids who
always followed Russell Blackwell around would march around proudly
with us for a while and then dart into the store to buy a candy bar.
There's no way you could explain to them that was not what it was
all about. I took part in one street march - something about Teacher's
Union. There, I found out that a crowd can turn into a mob and had
a different kind of mind than an individual. A crowd could do some
fairly dangerous things once it got started on that path. This helped
to form my lifelong pledge to stay a way from crowds and, if I saw
one forming, I went in the opposite direction. I had picketed also
down at the New York docks with some real Spanish people from Spain
against a ship that Francesco Franco had sent as a training exercise
for young sailors. The Spanish picketers were very glad to see me
and they were lovely people. This was a rather quiet picket line and
I marched and marched around in a circle, and then I went home. That
was about the end of it when it came to publically doing active radical
Later, when I went to work for Canada's Federal Government
I did not advertise my political beliefs but simply practiced them.
I worked for the whole office and not just my little section. I organized
a computer club and took an active roll in leading events that were
for the benefit of all. I tried to help civilians who came to us for
help. I did not recognize boundaries. When out Union went on Strike
I was made aware that they were using goon tactics to intimidate workers
who did not wish to strike by calling their homes and frightening
their children. I refused to be part of this fascistic approach and
crossed the picket line daily sometimes facing screaming mobs of picketers.
Indeed, their cause was just but their tactics were tainted. They
did not recognize the will of the individual and that went against
my Anarchist principles.