New Orleans, jazz and politics

In response to Katrina, a New Orleans Jazz Funeral Procession was held this past weekend, on September 11 in the West Village (NYC). A number of jazz community events were being announced last week, but I received the press release for this march from at least four different jazz publicists. Unlike the benefit concerts and myriad other events being talked about, this march was organized by an outside group calling itself The World Can’t Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime. It takes mere seconds to ascertain that the people behind this group are affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Maoist sect that runs the store Revolution Books and publishes the newspaper Revolution (formerly Revolutionary Worker).

Let me be clear: I am delighted to see the jazz community’s outpouring of support for New Orleans, and I join that outpouring enthusiastically. But it is troubling to see the jazz community’s righteous anger and grief being corraled and exploited by an unscrupulous, anti-democratic organization such as the RCP, which has had institutional links to Peru’s Shining Path and for many years has defended the indefensible, propagandizing for leftist violence and authoritarianism around the world.

With this Jazz Funeral Procession, the RCP employed a tried-and-true tactic. Knowing most people would balk at an RCP march, they formed a front group and hid their agenda. Then they tapped into the wellspring of anger at Bush in the aftermath of Katrina. They tapped into the considerable people-power of the New York jazz community, which is still roiling with legitimate anger at the loss of jazz’s birth city. By turning out a crowd (I don’t know the figures) on a beautiful afternoon, the RCP managed to legitimize itself, even if by a small margin.

Some in the jazz world, no doubt, have little to no problem serving the RCP’s purposes. But I’m betting that most would have a problem if they knew something about the group. So rather than glossing over the intemperate rhetoric on The World Can’t Wait website, why not let it trip your wires enough to do a Google search on the principal organizers? Do they represent your view? The left prides itself on being more critical and informed than the right. Let’s live up to that notion.

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