Friday, May 24, 2019

Remembering "Route 66", the landmark early '60s television series about two searchers who traveled America's "flyover" in a Corvette, doing blue-collar jobs, and found a rising counterculture

(To the right, George Maharis as Buzz and Martin Milner as Tod in Route 66)

I was just 12 years old when the idea of a Route 66 first entered my impressionable mind. It was the fall of 1960, and I was sitting on the floor in front of our television as Nelson Riddle’s jazzy moving-down-the-road theme first filled the room and the screen filled with Tod and Buzz making their across America in Tod’s Corvette.

Nothing, to me, was better than the CBS series Route 66, and I was a happy soul the other day when my complete DVD set of all four seasons by the Shout! Factory arrived. This was “the iconic television series of the 1960s,” writes Nat Segaloff in his biography of screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, whose hip, Existential, Zen-like scripts made the show television’s own crossroads between 1950s Beat and late ‘60s Hip.

This was a series that put Yale-educated Tod Stiles, played by Martin Milner, and Hell’s Kitchen survivor Buzz Murdock, played by George Maharis, on the road every week “looking not for adventure but … for meaning,” journalist Michael Ventura has written. “Route 66 was not a television show, it was a promise. A weekly training film. A way out and through and over.”

Tod and Buzz traveled America, that vast, story-rich landscape many New Yorkers and Angelenos dismiss as the “flyover”. They went down the same road Woody Guthrie hitchhiked with his guitar, the same road John Steinbeck’s Okies in The Grapes of Wrath traveled in the Great Depression, the same road yours truly hitchhiked in 1969 and wrote about in a 2009 short story Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine liked enough to submit for an Edgar Award.

This was a working class show. Every week Tod and Buzz would roll their sleeves up to do a job on an oil rig or in a chicken farm or on a shrimp boat. A favorite character actor would usually join them—Keenan Wynn, Janice Rule, Susan Oliver, Robert Duvall, Whit Bissell, Martin Balsam, Nina Foch, Mike Yellin, Lois Nettleton. Occasionally a Sam Peckinpah or Robert Altman would direct. Silliphant’s magic pen, also seen in the earlier landmark TV series Naked City, made sure that plot didn't overrule character and also that the show always had something to say.

The pilot for the series took place way off Route 66 in Mississippi, where a local boss played by Everett Sloan rules his town like a little Mussolini. Another early segment puts Tod and Buzz on a shrimp boat at Grand Isle, Louisiana, where Charlotte Duval, played by Janice Rule, proves herself in a man’s world by saving her suitor’s boat during a hurricane.

Back in those days, the network execs gave Silliphant and producer Bert Leonard total control, a kind of artist’s paradise. Silliphant hit the highway ahead of cast and crew for the on location filming, staying in hotels and motels along “the mother road,” checking out the local hangouts and talking with folks about local stories and legends.

When the gig finally was up—Maharis left halfway through the third season, replaced by Glenn Corbett, and the show never quite recovered—and the last segment aired on March 13, 1964, the execs decided they’d allowed all the artistic license they could stand. “Before long, network executives whose hands-on experience had been limited to changing the channel were demanding to approve not just finished teleplays but story ideas, casting, locations, production crew, and even the costumes and wallpaper,” Segaloff writes. “Focus groups replaced intuition and experience.”

Hardly any life after life followed the end of the road for Route 66. Original negatives were hard to find. Lawyers and corporations tied up opportunities to show it to a new generation. When Shout! Factory came out with the DVD collection in 2012, the media paid little or no attention. “Route 66 represents something of an evolutionary dead end for the TV drama,” writes Todd VanDerWerff. “It was an attempt to blend the closed-off, social-issues-based storytelling of the best anthology series with the recurring characters of a more traditional drama series. It’s an approach that still works in other countries—Doctor Who springs to mind—but has more or less died out in the U.S.”

The show’s fate has been similar to the road that gave it its name. Route 66 was named one of the nation’s most endangered historic places in 2018, a victim both of development and neglect.

What television viewers saw in Route 66 was an “embrace of an American counterculture that was slowly moving into the mainstream eye,” VanDerWerff writes. “Characters on Route 66 did drugs or agitated for political positions that would have been seen as far left even a decade prior.” In other words, Route 66 was shaking things up years before the Sixties became the Sixties. Maybe that’s one reason my 12-year-old self liked it so much.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Highlander officials believe the fascist Iron Guard symbol found outside their burning main building was a declaration of war, yet law authorities won't even yet say whether the fire was an act of arson

Authorities say they are still trying to determine whether arson was the cause of the March 29 fire that destroyed the main office building and a number of historical documents at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, yet the grid-like symbol of Romania’s 1930s fascist Iron Guard was found spray painted on pavement outside the building.

Highlander officials believe the fire is a sign of war on people and institutions that promote social justice in the South and beyond.  The FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and local authorities are investigating. No one was injured in the fire.

For all of its 87-year history, Highlander has had to fight for its existence as a beacon of light against the darkness of fascism in the U.S. South—whether it was the threats of Klansmen, the front-page attacks of Tennessee newspapers, the Tennessee government, or the congressional investigations of U.S. Sen. James O. Eastland of Mississippi.

(Myles Horton)

Founded in 1932 on two hundred acres of land in Monteagle in east Tennessee, Highlander began as a dream made possible by wealthy-but-progressive Memphis belle Lilian Johnson. She leased the land to two visionaries named Myles Horton, a son of sharecroppers who had studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, and Don West, a poet on a motorcycle and somewhat dashing legend of the Southern underground.

Inspired by a Christian vision similar to that of Dorothy Day, they created a labor school and training ground to help poor Southerners gain more control over their lives and achieve social justice in a land ruled by an oligarchy that has changed faces but which still exists in the region today.

Over the years, activists such as Rosa Parks and Christian socialist James Dombrowski spent time as staffers there, while Martin Luther King Jr. and others came to give lectures and hold seminars.

From the very outset Highlander was attacked. Fiery evangelist Billy Sunday called it a “cancer” that was “trying to create a world revolution for the benefit of red Russia and communist ideals.” The Nashville Tennessean newspaper ran a six-day series on it in 1939 that labeled it a school that “spreads Communist doctrines” in Tennessee. In 1960 the state shut it down on some unrelated charges related to the sale of alcohol and mistakes in filing its charter. It reopened as a newly christened research center in New Market, Tennessee, north of Knoxville two years later.

Highlander continues to be a force for social activism and organizing efforts on issues ranging from immigration to racial justice and media justice.

(To the right, Corneliu Zelia Codreanu)

The Iron Guard symbol found outside Highlander’s burning main building raises serious questions about the extent of neo-Nazi, fascist radicalism that might exist in the Southern netherworld.  The roots of the Iron Guard go back to Moldavia in the early decades of the 20th century and Christian zealot Corneliu Zelia Codreanu, whose prison vision of the Archangel Michael inspired his creation of the Legion of the Archangel Michael and other variations of the Iron Guard. A fanatical, murderous group devoted to their image of a vengeful God and to Romanian nationalism, they would carry small bags of Romanian soil around their necks and perform rituals of tasting each other’s blood and vowing a mutual allegiance to death if necessary while dancing and singing ritual songs together. From the mid-1920s to the late 1930s they conducted a series of political assassinations and terrorist attacks.

Their grid-like motto, which resembles the iron bars of a jail cell, was also found on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville 18 months ago, and more recently on a gun that was used in the attack on mosques in New Zealand.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The UAW tries again at VW in Chattanooga, Mississippi's waterboys for ALEC, and old socialist Milwaukee to host Democrats

It’s time for another Labor South roundup, and this go-round we find the United Auto Workers gearing up for another election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This comes at the same time former VW boss Martin Winterkorn faces charges for fraud, much like former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is facing other charges of his own. Meanwhile Mississippi legislators lead the nation as waterboys for ALEC, while the top GOP gubernatorial candidate in that state warns against the threat of Hollywood elitists. This and a peek at old socialist Milwaukee!

Another Union Battle Looming at Volkswagen in Chattanooga

(To the right, the UAW's Walter Reuther--third from right, forefront--at the Battle of the Overpass in 1937--just before Ford goons began swinging their fists at him and other organizers)

 UPDATE - May 5, 2019: No date has been scheduled as of yet for the next vote for union representation at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. However, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has already weighed in in a speech to plant workers last week that was a thinly veiled attack on the union. Par for the course in Tennessee politics. Volkswagen shut down its assembly lines so workers could hear it.)

Five years after losing a tight election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennesee, the United Auto Workers is prepping for another vote very soon and the opposition is already gathering forces.

UAW officials say they hope this election will not be marred by the outside interference that contributed to their narrow 712-626 loss on Valentine’s Day in 2014. After pledging to stay away from that fray, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam came in with fists flying against the union. Haslam even threatened a promised $300 million state subsidy to help Volkswagen expand the plant if it went union.

The last election featured "a lot of outside interference," UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran told Mike Pare of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "We hope that doesn't happen like the last time."

Will anti-union forces stay out of this battle? Of course not. The UAW needs a reality check if it even hopes for such a thing. In fact, the National Right to Work Foundation is already up in arms and trying to call attention to recent troubles at the union involving officials misusing union funds. Corker and Haslam will come off the farm to wave a bloody flag, bet on it, and so will old right-wing troglodytes like Grover Norquist.

Volkswagen, with 43 of its 45 plants around the world already unionized, will be fighting the union as well. It challenged a pro-union vote by skilled trades workers at the Chattanooga plant back in 2015, and its public pledges to remain neutral this time around ring hollow. No small irony that former VW boss Martin Winterkorn now faces serious fraud charges over the company’s diesel emissions scandal. If that goes south for him, he’ll find himself in the same kind of pickle that former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is in. Ghosn has been in and out of jail in Japan in recent months due to charges that he misused the company’s cash.

What the UAW and pro-union workers at the plant need to do is be battle-ready and smart. Win the game at getting their message to the public, be more creative in their public relations, their catchy phrases, as well as in their appeals to the workers. Be the cause of social justice that the UAW was back in the 1930s, the UAW of Walter Reuther, not the diminished, vision-lacking UAW of more recent years.

The Waterboys of the Mississippi Legislature

More bills written by outside sources get filed in the Mississippi Legislature than in any other state, according to a recent report by USA Today.

Whether the issue is abortion, gun laws, or reduced regulation, legislators in this state carry more water for corporations and other outside groups than their counterparts elsewhere. The Republican-led legislature is a brooding hotbed of conservatism, fertile ground indeed for the arch-conservative Koch brothers and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Rest assured, with the Koch brothers and ALEC giving marching orders, Mississippi will remain the nation’s poorest state and one with ever-shrinking services to its legions of poor. Politicians like Republican gubernatorial candidate and current state Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves can be expected to do their part. On the campaign trail recently, Reeves touted his low-tax, low-services, pro-school voucher, anti-public education agenda by decrying the growing influence of “the elitist not only in Hollywood on the West Coast but also on the East Coast” who want to destroy Mississippi and its values. Ross Barnett would be proud.

Good news in Milwaukee, let’s hope

(Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1950s)

One bright spot on the horizon has been the selection of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the site of the 2020 Democratic Party National Convention. No city in the country has a stronger leftist tradition than Milwaukee, which elected three socialist mayors between 1910 and 1960. Under their leadership the city became famous for its commitment to social equality and also fiscal soundness.

However, given the ongoing battles within the Democratic Party for its soul, the effort by neoliberal Clintonites to crush the progressive spirit embodied by Bernie Sanders, let’s hope we don’t end up singing that old Jerry Lee Lewis ditty “What Made Milwaukee Famous Made a Fool Out of Me”!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Jazz musician Miles Davis' descent from "Blue In Green" mastery to funk junk, and the existential dilemma facing Democrats

(Miles Davis, center, with saxophonist Charlie Parker, second from left, in 1947)

Jazz musician Miles Davis’ Blue In Green, one of the five tunes on Davis’ classic 1959 album Kind of Blue, is one of the great noir anthems, a lonely walk in the dark that is also a cry, a broken heart maybe in a city full of shadows, but a heart still capable of love. I’ve listened to it countless times—whether Miles’ own version or one of pianist Bill Evans’ solo versions—and it never fails me. It always puts me there on that rain-swept street, alone, introspective, maybe trouble ahead, but still walking.

If you like jazz or noir, you can hardly beat the best of Miles Davis’ trumpet back in the 1950s, those spare, long-held single notes, no grandstanding here, no self-indulgent riffs up and down the keys. Like all great artists, he wasn’t trying to impress you. He wanted to tell you a story.

Here listen for yourself:

With his Brooks Brothers suits, his quiet assurance on stage, his masterful control of the music and guidance of his fellow band members, Davis was the quintessence of cool. Saxophonist John Coltrane once apologized to an irritated Davis for an endless riff by explaining he simply had a hard time stopping once he really got into the music. Davis sniffed, “How about taking the mouthpiece out of your mouth?”

As cool as Miles was, however, he lost it as the decades passed. The dark suits changed to garish outfits that would’ve embarrassed Elvis. On stage, he would turn his back on the audience, as if he had contempt for it. In interviews he was surly and arrogant. And his music descended into a mindless jazz funk that turned him from innovator into imitator. Now Miles was trying to be cool. He had plenty of fans, but maybe too many of them were white, and he wanted more black people listening to him. Funk and rock were the rage. James Brown had gone from soul greatness to a repetitious funk-and-grunt. Let’s jazz the funk up. The new Miles may have packed stadiums, but something was lost. His art. He forgot all the black fans he’d had back when he wasn’t trying to sell a product to a niche crowd, back when he was simply telling a story you only had to be human to understand.

(To the right, Miles Davis in the 1980s)

People need stories. Maybe they need them as desperately today as they’ve ever needed them. A wealthy demagogue sits in the White House in the wee hours every night tweeting little stories to the world how brown hordes are at the nation’s border threatening its future. Meanwhile he’s put his minions in power across government to do his bidding in destroying public education, diminishing workers’ rights, ignoring the damage being done to the environment, rattling sabers at poor countries that don’t bow to his corporate friends’ greed. His troops in Congress will do all they can to make sure he—and they--stay in power as long as they can.

Meanwhile, his Democratic opposition is still lost in the existential dilemma that the 2016 presidential election exposed. Is their party the party of the Clintons—who tip their hat to the identity politics that qualify as “liberal” in the corporate media’s view but who are as Wall Street bought-and-paid-for as most Republicans—or the party of upstarts like Bernie Sanders, who want to reach beyond the divisions of identity politics to a politics that recognizes class, not race, as this nation’s biggest issue, what it really has always been?

Look at reparations—an issue that rightly or wrongly most Americans see as simply calling for the descendants of non-slaveholders to hand checks to the descendants of slaves. “Liberal” Democratic presidential candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, both of whom are African American but also safely corporate, embrace it. So do Elizabeth Warren and others. Democrats better rename it and redefine it if they want to win in 2020.

Why can’t Democrats be more like the Miles Davis of the 1950s? Embrace a politics, like he embraced a music, that tells a story, one that resonates with people regardless of their “identity”, that connects with their struggles, their fears, the concerns they have that are real, a story that also gives them hope. You know when I finish yet another encounter with Blue In Green, I’m not angry or depressed. I’m impressed. That’s a kind of hope in itself.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Mueller report upends Rachel Maddow and a Democratic Party establishment that paved the way for a demagogue's victory

(Hillary Clinton)

Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, made it clear to New Yorker writer Raffi Khachadourian back in 2017 what he thought of claims his organization was manipulated in a “coordinated propaganda effort” to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections.

Assange “has turned the official assessment—at best, a declaration that he had been used--into a symbol of American failure, establishment mendacity, Democratic hysteria, neo-McCarthyism, and fake news,” Khachadourian wrote.

It was through WikiLeaks that the world learned the Democratic Party leadership had worked to scuttle Bernie Sanders’ candidacy to clear the way for Clinton’s nomination and path to defeat Republican Donald Trump. We all know what happened. Trump won, and the Clinton establishment, desperate for a scapegoat, blamed the Russians, raising the specter of collusion with the Trump campaign.

After two long years, the Mueller Report, named after special counsel Robert Mueller, is out and puts to rest claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in defeating Hillary Clinton. The Russians may have interfered in the campaign but not in direct cahoots with Trump.

Journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow may never recover. Once respected for her insightful commentary, Maddow invested herself nearly totally in the collusion conspiracy theory and hammered away on it night after night for more than two years. She compromised her journalistic integrity, ignoring other important issues to obsess about this one. Once a fan, I stopped watching her long ago.

The Democratic Party establishment deserves much of the blame for the disaster of the Trump Administration, pushing a deeply flawed candidate, undermining a much better one, and paving the road for the victory of a demagogue. Even today, it doesn’t accept its complicity in this tragedy, and that’s why its continued disconnect with reality even after the Mueller Report dashed its conspiracy hopes.

As Khatchadourian wrote, Assange saw Clinton as “corrupt, pathetically driven by personal ambition, a neoliberal interventionist destined to take the United States into war—the epitome of a political establishment that deserved to be permanently ousted.”

He was right.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Embattled Trump rattling sabers at Venezuela in a classic demagogic distraction while Venezuelans are saying "Yankee Go Home!"

(Photo from Frogsprog, 2007)

President Trump is feeling pressure. Plans for his wall across the U.S.-Mexican border are stalling. His former lawyer told members of Congress and the nation that he is a racist and a cheat. His party lost the U.S. House in the last election, and a growing number of Republicans are bucking his rule. His poll numbers are down.

So what’s a demagogue to do to get back on the public’s good side? Let’s rattle some sabers and talk about war, of course! Why not Venezuela? It’s what George W. Bush did with the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, what Reagan did in Grenada in 1983, and what other presidents have done before them.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “days (are) numbered.” With other warmongers like John Bolton and Elliott Abrams close to the President’s ear, Trump has to be wondering how he can best pull this off despite the American public’s weariness of war after nearly two decades of it in Iraq and Afghanistan. We live in a nation that’s permanently at war. Why not a third one?

Here’s what National Security Advisor Bolton told Fox News in January: “We’re in conversations with major American companies now. … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Bolton said the Trump Administration is closely watching not only Venezuela but also its fellow “troika of tyranny” members Cuba and Nicaragua.

The horrible economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is partly of Maduro’s making, he and his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez. For an  example, they failed to diversify Venezuela’s oil-centered economy, and when oil prices dropped so did the nation’s economic well-being. However, Chavez was indeed “the poor people’s president,” as the National Catholic Reporter’s Bart Jones called him back in 2013. He was bound and determined to refocus Venezuela’s energies back on its legions of poor, and in doing so, he “offended people in high places and was a threat to the established order,” Jones wrote.

That “established order” included the United States and Wall Street with their long history of exploiting Latin America’s resources and upholding murderous right-wing dictatorships so long as they didn’t challenge the power of the U.S. oil industry or corporations like the United Fruit Company, later called Chiquita. Chavez nationalized banks, declaring the banking industry as a “public service” and he passed legislation declaring that 5 percent of their profits go toward community building. He won election after election, and so did his successor in 2016.

U.S. tentacles are all over Latin America these days, helping to turn left-leaning governments in Honduras, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere to the right, and they’re closing in on Venezuela. The Trump Administration even has its own puppet in line to take over once Maduro is gone, National Assembly head and self-declared president Juan Guaido. U.S. troops indeed have been sent to the Caribbean in anticipation of another coup in Venezuela such as the one the United States helped orchestrate against Chavez in 2002. After Chavez’s kidnapping in that coup, his thousands of supporters filled the streets of Caracas and demanded his return. The anti-Chavez media “showed Hollywood movies” instead of reporting on the demonstrations, reporter Bart Jones said.

U.S. media haven’t been much different in their treatment of Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” (after Venezuelan-born independence hero Simón Bolívar), Maduro and Venezuela.  Even the liberal New Yorker headlined Jon Lee Anderson’s 2013 piece on Chavez, “Slumlord”. There’s little on television or in the print media in the United States that has detailed the devastating effects of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy and people.

Still some writers have written effectively on this and related issues. Writer Michael Fox described the sad and tragic tradition of U.S. presidential meddling and Trump’s potential complicity in it in a recent piece for Salon and The Progressive Populist.

Back in September 2018, Labor South described at some length the sordid history of U.S. interference in the affairs of other nations, particularly Latin America. It looks like Trump would like to repeat that history, but this time Americans may be so weary of war that they’ll joined countless generations of Latin Americans who’ve loudly cried “Yankee Go Home”, and maybe the American Yankee this time will.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The neo-liberals want to remove Eva Peron's image from the Buenos Aires skyline, but her image and legacy can never be removed from the hearts of workers and the poor

(To the right, Eva Perón, in 1952, greeting her followers but in such ill health her husband Juan  Perón has to brace her)

Eva Duarte Perón, also known as Evita, still hovers over the city skyline of Buenos Aires as well as in the minds of millions of the porteños who live there. The former actress, born out of wedlock in a poor, remote village, who became the First Lady of Argentina during the reign of Juan Perón from 1946 to 1955, was “more Peronist than Perón himself,” as writer Joseph A. Page once said.

Well, Darío Lopérfido, longtime cultural arbiter, artistic director at the Teatro Colón and the nation’s former Secretary of Culture and Communications, has called for the removal of Evita’s image from the high-rise Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works building) in the heart of Buenos Aires.

(Eva's image on the Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas in Buenos Aires. A photograph I took during a visit in 2015)

“It is a fascist symbol,” Lopérfido proclaimed in television interviews and elsewhere. “It is comparable to Stalinism. Peronism is a political travesty.”

Certainly Lopérfido’s campaign brings a smile to the face of Mauricio Macri, Argentine’s neo-liberal, Big Business-loving, union-baiting leader since 2015, a darling of Trump-world regime-changers whose minions have done their best to put his predecessor, Peronist Christina Fernández de Kirchner in prison. This is classic Latin American right-wing politics—win election and then get your rival behind bars, kind of like what presidential candidate Donald Trump wanted to do to Hillary Clinton once elected.

Eva Perón remains an unforgettable presence in Argentine history and one of the most dynamic women on the world political stage in her time, and perhaps any time. From her humble origins, she rose to be a major power behind the throne of her husband, an affable-but-politically unreliable colonel who had studied and served in Mussolini’s fascist Italy but rose to power in Argentina as a pro-union hero of the working class. Evita loved her husband desperately but made sure he kept his commitments to the workers, the “descamisados” (shirtless ones) who had rarely had much of a voice in Argentine politics with its ruling oligarchy of wealthy industrialists and cattle barons.

“I love the descamisados, the women, the workers of my people too much,” she wrote in her book and deathbed testimonial Mi Mensaje (My Message), “and, by extension, I love all the world’s exploited people, condemned to death by imperialisms and the privileges of land ownership, too much. The suffering of the poor, the humble, the great pain of so much of humanity without sun and without sky hurts me too much to keep quiet.”

She put action to her words. She established a foundation that helped build 12 hospitals, a thousand schools, medical centers, clinics, transit homes for the homeless, homes for abandoned children, homes for the elderly. She helped secure the vote for the women of Argentina. Days on end, she personally met with endless lines of the poor who came to her with their cries and pleas. They called her “The Workers Plentipotentiary”,  “The Lady of Hope”, and, though childless herself, the “Mother of the Innocents”.

Beautiful but frail in health, she was destined for a short life, but she never gave up her fight and her ferocious war against the “oligarchy”, a term that became a curse word in her mouth, and she could indeed be ferocious and authoritarian in her attacks on her enemies. She died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 33. Her body was later stolen and not return to her husband until many years later.

Peronism remains a strong political force in Argentina today, and its pro-working class ideals owe more to Evita’s legacy than that of her husband.

Still, her enemies, both in Argentina and beyond, would love to destroy her memory. It’s an old story. 

Argentina’s most famous writer, the aristocratic, conservative, virulently anti-Peronist Jorge Luis Borges, called Evita a “common prostitute,” echoing the widespread mantra of the anti-Peronists that the literati all too readily embraced. “She was the macho’s ideal victim-woman—don’t those red lips still speak to the Argentine macho of her reputed skill in fellatio?” V.S. Naipaul once wrote from his Olympian heights in the world of distinguished writers.

She was the woman “who tamed El Presidente with sexual skills learned on her knees in a hundred waterfront bars,” reads the back cover of Paul L. Montgomery’s 1979 biography Eva, Evita: The Life of Eva Perón. Even Mike Wallace, the USA’s premier investigative TV reporter-celebrity, skewered her as having “the ruthlessness of a demagogue” in an ill-informed, distorted broadcast decades ago that surely won a stamp of approval from the CIA and Republican establishment in Washington, D.C. The 1996 film Evita starring Madonna bought into this image of Eva Perón.

If the real-life image of Evita does indeed come down from the Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas, the neo-liberals undoubtedly will uncork their champagne and celebrate, but the poor and the working class of Argentina will know she lives on in their hearts. That’s something beyond the power of the oligarchy’s cranes and bulldozers.