Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Breaking Through: Where's Marc in the Media?

Vito Marcantonio continues to reassume his place in the American historical narrative as media outlets take a new interest in radical congressman's work and image.

“Politico,” a nationally distributed online product, recently wrote Marcantonio into a “this day in history” piece.

That day was Dec. 31, 1946. The headline read: “House Panel Upholds Rep. Vito Marcantonio's right to take his seat.”

The article, written by Andrew Glass, introduces Marcantonio to an unaware political readership and focuses on the House Campaign Expenditure Investigating Committee's decision “not to challenge his right to take his seat in the new Congress.”

Opponents were out to deny Marcantonio's hard-fought victory in a year when Republicans had swept the nation, but failed to unseat the American left's national spokesman. The Election Day beating death of a Republican ward-heeler in Marcantonio's district gave them the brush they needed to tar him.

Thereafter, his seat was less secured, his reputation tarnished by purported links to mobsters.

Marcantonio held on for one more election before defeat in 1950.

“Politico” highlighted the intensifying Cold War between the U.S., as a reason for his defeat, but avoids mention of his collaboration with communists.

Marc Drops Buy to Lend Red Friend a Hand.
The Random Radical,” series at Yahoo's “Flickr” was less demure, running a photo of Marcantonio arriving to testify for Communist Party official Eugene Dennis on June 25, 1947.

The uncredited piece discusses Marc's engagement with communists, the American Labor Party and Henry Wallace's Progressive Party, as well as his pioneering work on civil rights at the federal level.

“As one of the most left-wing members ever to serve in Congress, he was never popular with his colleagues,” the article reads. “After his vote to oppose U.S. entry into the Korean War, they painted a target on his back.”

A letter written by New York City “power broker” Robert Moses to Marc's wife Miriam Sanders upon his death, expresses the mixture of personal warmth and political coldness that more likely typified Marcantonio's relationship to his colleagues:

“Mary and I were both very fond of Marc and so were our girls.” wrote Moses in a letter dated Aug. 23, 1954. “We all agreed that he was one of the kindest people we had ever met and, while his philosophy was quite beyond us, we shall miss him.”

(The epistle resides with the “Marcantonio Papers” collection housed at the New York Public Library's main branch on 42nd St.)

In any case, the writer is correct about the target on Marc's back. The piece takes note of the tri-party coalition it took to defeat him in 1950.

Marc stood for Puerto Rican independence.
The piece closes with mention of Marcantonio's intention to run again for Congress on the Good Neighbor Party line when he was struck down by a heart attack, thereby finishing up the rare, detailed thumbprint sketch of the Congressman's forgotten legacy.

And finally, Rick Snyder at “Down with Tyranny” recently composed a post introducing the blog's readers to Marcantonio, simultaneously weaving his politics into the 2016 presidential campaign and present-day argot into the East Harlemite's story.

When Bernie was Growing Up Congress had an Amazing Congressman, A Democratic Socialist from Harlem Named Vito Marcantonio,” notes that Marc was a “champion of Puerto Rican independence, of immigrants and of civil rights for blacks long before that became a thing.”

Taking a hack at Marco Rubio, the blog noted that, in spite of handily winning the Republican primary in Puerto Rico, the callow senator from Florida will never be the kind of friend Puerto Rico had in Marcantonio.

“Rubio is anything but a champion of Puerto Ricans. The last member of Congress who really was, was a Democratic Socialist from Harlem named Vito Marcantonio, one of the most fascinating leftists in the history [of that institution],” wrote Snyder.

That Marcantonio, who died over 60 years ago, was the last congressional friend Puerto Rico had is not good news for the island.

“Down with Tyranny” continues: “My grandfather told me about him when I was a little boy and said he was the best politician in America. He was betrayed by the Democrats when they teamed up with the GOP to run a joint candidate. His kind of principled independence made the rest of them look like the crooked self-serves most of them were.”

After a not-inconsiderable review of Marc's career, “Down With Tyranny,” closes with a further comparison of Marcantonio to Sen. Bernie Sanders (D?), closing with a recent “Seattle Times,” endorsement of the Vermont legislator which, Snyder said, “described him in terms reminiscent of Marcantonio.”

These outlets represent both mainstream packages and niche projects reaching different audiences with varying levels of interest.

Foot-Stompin' Marc.
Gerald Meyer, co-chair, Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF) noted that the piece embeds "Vito Marcantonio: A Synopsis of a Large Life," which was produced by member VMF member David Giglio.

The post, he observed, made considerable use of “I Vote My Conscience: The Speeches, Debates, and Writings of Vito Marcantonio,” edited by Annette T. Rubinstein.

“The Vito Marcantonio Forum is breaking through the wall of silence,” said Meyer in light of the recent coverage on the radical congressman. “Our work is bearing fruit.”

The VMF will do a presentation of author Nelson Denis' “War on All Puerto Ricans,” April 6 at the Mulberry Street Public Library, 10 Jersey Street, New York City, 5 p.m.
 
The event will be moderated by poet Gil Fagiani ("A Blanquito en El Barrio,” “Logos,” “Stone Walls) and feature actor Roberto Ragone performing dramatic readings from the text.

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