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Carl Bloice – Goodbye to a friend

May 12, 2014

Carl Bloice – Good bye to a friend

Carl Bloice in Moscow - July 1988

Carl Bloice in Moscow – July 1988

APRIL 13, 2014

(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. What follows are several tributes to Carl)

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Obit for Carl Bloice

Dispatches From The Edge

Conn Hallinan

April 20, 2014

“One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.”

James Baldwin

“The Fire Next Time”

Carl Bloice, Foreign Policy In Focus columnist and blogger, and long-time African-American journalist, negotiated that journey with power and grace. Right up to the moment when he lost his long battle with cancer, he was contributing to the website Portside and struggling to complete a column on the Middle East. He died in San Francisco April 12 at age 75.

He was a journalist his whole life, although he began his love of words as a poet. Born Jan. 28, 1939 in Riverside, Ca., he grew up in South Central Los Angeles at a time when racism and discrimination were as ubiquitous there as palm trees and beaches. He was one of those people who could not bear the humiliation of silence in the face of injustice and that simple—if occasionally difficult—philosophy was at the center of who he was. Civil rights, free speech, the war in Southeast Asia (and later Central America, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq), women’s rights, homophobia, and the environmental crisis: wherever the dispossessed were voiceless, Carl Bloice spoke for them.

He was also my friend, for 44 years my colleague and co-conspirator, and the person who taught me how to write and think.  I say this because this is less an obituary about an accomplished African-American journalist than a friend’s funerary oration, something we Irish think is important.

Carl sold me on James Baldwin—and many other essayists, thinkers, novelists and poets—by convincing me that words mattered. He was utterly certain that a well-written piece of prose could tumble a government, shame the mighty, or shelter the powerless.

He was a member of the Communist Party much of his life, finally leaving over that organization’s resistance to internal democracy and it’s reluctance to embrace women’s and gay rights, and the defense of the environment.

In 1962 Carl was one of the first northern journalists to cover the southern civil rights movement, and he was staying at the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Al. when the Ku Klux Klan tried to murder Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a bomb. It blew Carl out of his bed.

He recognized Watergate for what it was months before the mainstream press caught on to the profound corruption at the heart of the scandal and covered it for two years. He reported from Moscow, Central Asia, North Korea, Mongolia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He was on the editorial board of the Black Commentator and wrote columns for FPIF on Israel, Libya, Argentina, Afghanistan, Cuba, and the growing and disturbing U.S. military presence in Africa.

He was also a very funny man who loved to eat, drink and gossip. Indeed, the two of us decided that we had stumbled into a profession that gave us the perfect cover to engage in our favorite past time. Yes, yes, we talked politics—mainly foreign policy—but if the antics of the Kardashian clan slipped into the conversation, well, that was okay.

We dearly enjoyed spotting linguistic slights of hand. In the April 19 edition of the New York Times a reporter was going on about German-Russian tensions over Ukraine, and how Berlin is more comfortable with diplomacy—specifically the upcoming Ukraine-Russia-U.S.-European Union talks in Geneva—as opposed to some of the Cold War-type rhetoric that has been flying around:

She wrote, “…diplomacy at last had a chance. Germany was back on familiar terrain—represented in Geneva, notably not by its own diplomat but by Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the 28-nation European Union, a partnership often gently mocked in Washington, but hallowed in Berlin as the real, if cumbersome, governing body of Europe.”

I love those words “gently mocked.”

They made me recall a conversation this past February between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, and the American Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The two were plotting how to overthrow the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych and install their handpicked guy in Kiev, and Nuland said, “Fuck the EU.”

Who knew the Times considered “fuck” gentle mocking?

Two weeks ago I would have phoned Carl and we’d have had a good laugh, but today there is no one to pick up the phone. The hardest thing about death is the silence it brings into our lives.

Carl believed that words could empower the majority of humanity to reclaim their world from the 1 percent. In this he was much like his fellow poet, Percy Shelley, who penned these words of outrage in the aftermath of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre when cavalry charged into a Manchester crowd that was demanding democracy, killing 15 and wounding hundreds:

“Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number—

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you—

Ye are many—they are few”

Good night sweet poet. This harp shall ever praise thee.

—Conn Hallinan

________________________

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.

A compendium of some of his recent writings can be found at http://leftmargin.wordpress.com/
and https://portside.org/search/node/Carl%20Bloice

Posted by Portside on April 17, 2014

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(note – I came a day late to SF to this celebration,which turned into a memorial and missed it. RJP)

Yesterday more than 50 friends and comrades of Carl came together in San Francisco to celebrate his life.

However, Carl was not able to participate in the celebration which was planned with his involvement. The day before, Carl moved from his apartment to an assisted care facility that he helped select. In the morning when friends went to pick him up to take part in the celebration of his life, he was semi-consciousness, running a fever and was rushed to the hospital. Overnight he had developed an infection. He never regained consciousness.

Carl was a fighter his whole life, including the past three years in which he was battling cancer, first lymphoma, and then skin cancer which later metastasized.

Carl made a unique contribution to the socialist and progressive movement in our country and the world. He was active as a teenager in Los Angeles, in the Unitarian youth movement. He was attracted to the ideas of socialism, joining the Communist Party in 1959. He was a founding member of the W.E. B. Du Bois Clubs.

Later, he was editor of the People’s World on the west coast, and late a co-editor of the People’s Daily World. He helped found and was one of the national co-chairs of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, He was one of the founding moderators of Portside, and remained so up until his death.

Carl was a deep insightful thinker and writer, and helped popularize the cause of democracy, peace, justice, equality and socialism. Portside kept Carl going, he loved working on it, on the quotes and toons of the day, and his work as a moderator. When we last spoke on Wednesday, he was fully involved in following the back-and-forth exchanges that we were having on the Portside moderators’ list.

Carl was a close friend and co-worker of mine for the past nearly 25 years.

Carl was happy to have been able to participate in the 50 year reunion of DuBois Clubs-YWLL members that we had last June.

Carl you will be missed, Carl Bloice Presente!

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