is blowing in the wind”
Dedicated to the memory of my friend Tom Hayden 2016
Someone once said to me that if you’re not a Communist in your
youth and a conservative in your middle age something is dreadfully wrong.
Well, I suppose one out of two ain’t bad.
I had just turned 13 when I began an
adventure in radical politics. My first exposure to Socialist thought was when
I would go to the Los Angeles County Museum at Exposition Park. Tied to a lamp
post was the Weekly People, “The Official Organ of the Socialist Labor
Party.” I would buy it and sneak it home like a Playboy magazine. I was very
taken by the seemingly obvious rightness of Marxism. Seeing for the first time
racism and economic serfdom in parts of America seemed to me the evils of a
system gone terribly wrong. In the news were reports of uprisings against
colonial rule. In what is now called, The Third World, revolution was taking
place. They were grasping at their destiny and it was in Socialist solidarity
that these movements were born, nurtured and carried out. The wars of National
Liberation were taking place.
I was thrilled by my personal hero, Che Guevera.
He was to me the embodiment of revolution and struggle against Capitalism –
which in my mind was the father of racism and most of what was wrong with the
world. At 13 I was dealing in only two colors, black and white. Oddly my
parents did not seem to care or know whose pictures I had on my bedroom walls;
it was most often the great pantheon of the Communist-Socialist world. To this
day I have never asked my parents if they had a clue. Or perhaps my parents
were too afraid to ask! Cleaning my room must have been an empty headed
activity for my mom. Proudly displayed on my book shelves were all the
Communist-Socialist basics, plus “Marxism Today,” World Marxist Review,” and an
assortment of other magazines. On my coffee table in my sitting room was “New
Albania,” Sputnik,” and “Poland” magazines.
What was my
mom thinking? “Oh, look at that nice red dress on that East German girl.” Oh my
God she was all Junior League, Navy Club of Beverly Hills.
magazines at a Hollywood news rack off Hollywood Blvd. down from the notorious
Gold Cup coffee shop. Even today I break out in a smile thinking about “New
Albania” magazine. I figured in the silly spot of my brain Albania as filled
with Red Vampires. Sort of a Dracula goes Communist thought.
At 15 I
joined the Communist Party WEB duBois Club in Venice, California. It was an organization
dedicated to fighting against racism and imperialistic
wars. It was staffed by
the young idealistic and by some older Los Angeles New Left School people. I
was the youngest member and sort of a club poster child of the New Left. I
participated in anti-war and anti-segregation-racism demonstrations.
ever more distinct was the fact I was also a surfer. It all seemed to come
together in my mind and these two very important parts of my life lived side by
side, not in combination.
political meeting in Venice I met a really handsome, strong, young student from
Guatemala, Carlos. He was 21, and was attending UCLA with studies in economics
and languages. He was a bit different from what I thought Central Americans
looked like. He was tall, with blue eyes. Come to find out his father was from
Northern Germany. I suppose we can guess when Carlos’ father landed in Central
America. I was very attracted to Carlos and showed it by spending a lot of my
time at the meetings talking to him. He always wore a red armband at the
meetings and greeted me with a hug. After a few months we started doing things
together that were apart from Radical politics. He would ask me out for coffee,
and we would sit and talk for hours. I finally let him into my circle of
friends at the beach, and I tried to teach him how to surf, with little success.
The fact I had an older friend gave me status with my friends.
little about his family except that they were well off and that his dad was
very strict while he was growing up. Otherwise he said little except for the
depressing oppression and poverty of most people in Guatemala.
finally took me to his small Westwood Village apartment on Westwood Blvd. He
was nervous about my age and said so. It was a late Sunday afternoon, and we
had just come from a very hot beach. I was supposed to be home for a family
in a big oversized chair, I sat on his couch. He smiled and said, “Come here,
Donnie.” I moved slowly across the floor to the chair. He stood up grabbing me
and holding me in his arms. He kissed me on the forehead. “Nothing can come of
this, nothing. So we will be good friends.” He kissed my cheek. He tugged at
me, and I followed him into the bedroom thinking “good friends” meant sex. My
hormones were crushing in on me. He laid on the bed and gestured for me to lay
next to him. I did. He put his arms around me and held me. I made moves to have
sex but Carlos tenderly moved my hand away and said, “No Donnie, friends.”
We fell asleep together, arms interlaced. I woke up a couple hours later with a
kiss from Carlos. I looked at the clock and knew I had to get home fast, I was
late for dinner. I kissed Carlos good-bye and said I’d call later.
passed and Carlos and I remained close friends. We went together on
demonstrations and to many political meetings.
But time for
him was coming to an end at UCLA, he was graduating. He told me at a meeting
one night he was planning to return to Guatemala and wanted to take me out to
dinner. He drove us down Venice Blvd. to Vermont where in a little storefront
was a small Guatemalan restaurant. Carlos knew the family so we had a feast. We
sat for hours talking. And as good friend do, we were swearing faithfulness in
friendship and “be sure to write me” promises. I gave him a school picture of
me. He smiled and took his red armband off and handed it to me. “You will
always be a comrade, my comrade,” he said smiling broadly.
Carlos’ apartment after dinner. All his bags were packed and ready. As we did
many times, he took me by the hand and led me into the bedroom to lay together,
“to embrace,” as Carlos called it. This time Carlos kissed me on the lips. Then
he said, “I’ll always remember you, no matter where I am, I’ll remember you.”
He kissed me again on the lips and held me tightly. We stayed that way for a
long time. “You must go now or I’ll never leave.” He gave me his address, 213
Calle Roosevelt, Guatemala City. We both had tears rolling down our cheeks. I
took his hand in mine, turned it up and kissed his open hand. I’m not sure what
possessed me to do that, but somehow it seemed right.
wrote letters to one another over the next few months. One night I received a
call from Carlos. “Where are you?” I asked, thinking he might be back in Los
Guatemala City.” There was a long pause, then, “I’m calling to tell you not to
write me anymore.”
going to fight with the revolution. I can’t say anymore. I’ll write when I can.
I’m holding your picture right now, but I hold you with me always. Bye.” And he
hung the phone up. He did not wait for any response from me.
heard from Carlos again. I never wrote him out of fear for his and his family’s
safety. Life went on. I still have his address. We lost the war in Vietnam.
Americans gained civil rights, but not without great losses and profound
tragedy to the national psyche. The wars of national liberation have mostly
ended. Capitalism won most of the battles. Modified Socialism lives on in the
Northern European democracies. Communism and with it the Soviet Union have
crashed and burned; the sole holdout being little Cuba. The last of the Central
American revolutionaries in the 1990’s came out of the mountains and hills of a
number of countries, have stopped fighting, and now vote. There are still revolutionaries
fighting in Columbia.
I wonder if Carlos
made it out?
of 2015 much we fought for has reverted back to war, capitalism, and horrible greed. Issues of "National Liberation"
have moved to the Middle East. The American Military - Industrial Complex is alive and presently feeding.
I loved Carlos.