Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recalling Gen. Jaroslaw Dombrowski

The 140th anniversary of the suicidal death of Gen. Jaroslaw Dombrowski(aka Dabroski) via a knowingly fruitless stand on rue Myrha during the waning moments of the Paris Commune was two weeks ago on May 23, 2011.
For some unknown reason a Polish-French committee observed that occasion on May 25, 2011 in rue Myrha. I came across a reference to that date while doing some casual browsing in preparation of another rewrite of my novel, BEN CONNOLLY. I originally undertook this novel as a fictionalization of the life of Januarius A. MacGahan. I was in love with that project and spent 10 years of writing and research. The end result crashed on take off and was unreadable. I tried to resurrect MacGahan by changing him from a restricting historical character to the imagined Ben Connolly. That turned out not to be much of a novel either.
The best part of the experience was spending 30 days in Paris in 1984 when the dollar loomed like Mount Everest over the franc. I ate in a lot of good restaurants while roaming the scenes of the Paris Commune of 1871.
Getting back to Dombrowski: he became a red hero, a martyr to the cause, celebrated with a Polish biopic in 1975 directed by Bohdan Poreba, in the Spanish Civil War the Dabroski Battalion bore his name, at least one Polish school in Warsaw is named after him, and there are statues of him in the Ukraine.
Although he was a Russian officer, he joined the Polish uprising against the Czar in 1862 and wound up being sentenced to Siberia. He escaped, joined the Parisians—called the Communards--revolting against the French government, and eventually became the commanding general of the Communard forces. He was 34 when he accepted his fate and the hopelessness of escaping from Paris in his charge against the federal force on rue Myrha.
I have two Nineteenth Century biographies of Dombrowski, one in French, the other in German. Back in the 1980s, I flashed through the German version picking out bits of information at the New York Public Library. Recently through the joys of Google I found bookstores with scanned copies of the originals. I purchased both I don’t know if I will ever get around to the painful task of translating them. My German is limited and my French is worse.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fred Gegare’s June Surprise

With the Teamsters 2011 convention a little more than three weeks away, Fred Gegare has come up with a June Surprise: Aaron Belk, the late Ron Carey’s executive assistant, has been added to his Fighting for the Members Slate as a candidate for Southern Region vice president.
Aside from rising from a loading dock in Memphis to the top of the Teamsters’ hierarchy by being elected an international vice president on Carey’s reform slate in 1991, Belk distinguished himself in trying—though unsuccessfully—to block the political contributions in 1996 that resulted in Carey’s downfall. At a 1998 Congressional hearing, Belk testified: “I can hold my head high and I can look at myself in the mirror each morning knowing that I did my job to the best of my ability by turning down these large contribution requests and by refusing to support and condone the actions of the 1996 Carey campaign staff and their consultants.”
At the end of this month, we’ll find out whether Gegare, currently an international vice president, will make the 2011 Teamsters election a three-way race by overcoming the barrier facing all outside candidates of being nominated for president by winning the votes of five percent of the 1,700 or so delegates to the Teamsters convention in Las Vegas.
James P. Hoffa, the incumbent international president, and New York Teamsters Local 805 president Sandy Pope are expected to be the other two candidates in the fall election. Hoffa, barring the unforeseen, certainly will be nominated. Pope has the backing of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the nationwide reform group, whose support was crucial to Carey two elections in 1991 and 1996 to the presidency of the Teamsters. Last month, Pope announced she had enough delegates pledged to be nominated.
Pope is running alone—without a slate—hoping to win the votes of the rank and file by contrasting her history as Teamster over the past 33 years—working as a selector, a truck driver, a local union organizer, an international staffer, and finally elected president of a local—against Hoffa’s scant background with summer jobs as a Teamster while in college and later as a lawyer. He was elected international president in 1998 primarily because he was the son of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa. Gegare—who has 39 years of experience at every level of the Teamsters—split with Hoffa last year proclaiming his leadership was disastrous.

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