Mickey Jarvis

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Mickey Jarvis


Mickey Jarvis died of a heart attack on the night of April 10-11, 2005, in Philadelphia in the house he shared with Ginny Jarvis, nee Levin, and the brother-in-law of Steve Levin. He was 56 years old.

He was the son Communist Party USA member Alice Jarvis.

Radical life

Mickey Jarvis was best known as a national leader of the Revolutionary Union and Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) after its founding in 1975.

When the RCP commenced its turn to idealism and metaphysics and away from the Mass Line and the day-to-day struggles of the working class and oppressed soon thereafter, Mickey was one of those who took up the internal struggle against ultra-leftism.

He was a leader of the tendency which eventually adopted the name The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters of the RCP, and, after a bitter split which took upwards of 35% of the RCP, became simply the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters. (Though Mickey's role became decreasingly central from the very start of the split, the RCP honors his memory to this day by referring to the Headquarters as the Jarvis/Bergman clique, arguably reflecting a politics which says that leaders and leaders alone are the real makers of history.)

Mickey Jarvis was a Red Diaper baby, and in fact during his early years, both of his parents, semi-legendary organizers, were sent underground by the Communist Party USA as part of its response to the wave of McCarthyite repression directed at its open structure and leaders. As a result, Mickey spent a great part of his early years apart from his parents and shunted among various comrades who took on the task of caring for him and his sister.

He became active in Party youth work and by the late '60s was organizing inside the Youth Commission of the Party to criticize the Soviet Union, the Party's revisionism and the refusal of its top leaders to take up work inside the huge upsurges of the Black Liberation Movement and the campus rebellions spearheaded by SDS. Most of the Commission agreed with his line. but only Mickey and one other member had the courage to break with the CP in which they had been raised and take a stand for revolution. It was soon thereafter that he became one of the key people who started the Revolutionary Union in NY/NJ in 1970, when the old Bay Area RU went national.

After the split, in the late '70s, Jarvis, who had been a full-timer for the RCP, took a job in the steel mills in Chicago and was active in the reform movement in the USWA at the time and in the struggle against the plant closings which were sweeping the Rust Belt of the Midwest. This became the center of his political life and he formally parted company with the RWHq.

In the mid-'80s, family responsibilities drew Mickey Jarvis and his wife Ginny, who had also been a leader of the RU/RCP, back to the East Coast.

Mickey Jarvis spent the last two decades of his life in declining physical and emotional health, but he never abandoned his deep loyalty to his class, and the generosity of spirit which had shown through earlier, even in some of the bitterest battles against the bourgeoisie and within the left, now became the most striking feature of his character. He worked for, and at the time of his death, ran a small company which trained young working class folks, mostly from communities of color, to become licensed boiler mechanics, stationary engineers and other skilled building maintenance workers.[1]

Split

The present Revolutionary Communist Party factional line-up reflects the RCP’s origins in the New Left. A series of scattered Revolutionary Union collectives was amalgamated in 1975 primarily through the patchwork merger of Avakian’s Bay Area stronghold with the East Coast operation built by Mickey Jarvis out of the crumbling remains of SDS’s RYM II faction. Bob Avakian’s RU was New Left Maoist pure and simple. The clot headed by Jarvis–a red-diaper baby who left the Communist Party USA in 1969 with a pro-China line–has always tended toward a more classic Stalinist coloration based on sycophancy toward the “one country” in which “socialism” was presumably being built. Hence the Jarvis clique is terrified of “isolation” from the Peking regime, while the Avakian wing is more responsive to the old “anti-imperialist” milieu whose admiration for China was badly shaken by Peking’s role in Angola and embrace of NATO against the Soviet “superpower.”[2].

Leaders of RWH

Members of the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters Central Committee and its Political Committee;

Midwest Center for Labor Research

Dan Swinney knew Mickey Jarvis well;

We always said there should have been a movie about Mickey--a totally unique mix of character, principles, commitment, determination, humor, character, politics, culture, and character.
Always a modest soldier in the struggle to change the world, he was an enormous influence on me in my early days as a local steelworker leader in Chicago. He guided me as I tried to weave my way through the competing tensions of vision, politics, practicality, and fun. He was tireless in keeping someone like me connected to those he knew should be working together.
He was truly the co-founder of what was then the Midwest Center for Labor Research, and now the Center for Labor and Community Research, serving on our first Board of Directors. He saw the need for a much deeper analysis of what was going on in companies and the economy as we witnessed hundreds of plant closings, the loss of thousands of jobs, and complex negotiations in the steel industry as the basis for determining what organizers should really do--rather than just follow slogans and formulas from an earlier era. MCLR was one of his creations...
In Solidarity and on behalf of the Board and staff of the Center for Labor and Community Research in Chicago. [4]

Labor Research Review

According to Jack Metzgar;

Mickey was crucial in establishing Labor Research Review in the 1980s and in our early successes. He had such a wide national network of people who trusted his opinion that he was a great salesman and promoter. But more important was his role on our Editorial Committee. At a time when there was so little fightback in the official labor movement, Mickey seemed to know about every creative effort against plant closings and contract concessions at the local level. For our first ten issues Mickey seeded more articles than anybody else on the committee. While, as I found out later, many of our authors were alumni of the Revolutionary Union (RU), as was Mickey, that was because RU alums were involved in so many foundational struggles. Mickey didn't check people's political credentials (though he uniformly knew what they were) if he thought they were doing something productive that others could learn from.
Jack Metzgar, former editor of Labor Research Review.[5]

References

  1. [REMEMBERING MICKEY A MEMORIAL GATHERING FOR MICKEY JARVIS (1949-2005) New York City, May 21, 2005 Dennis O'Neill]
  2. [Workers Vanguard, No. 190, January 27, 1978]
  3. China Advances Along The Socialist Road The Gang of Four Were Counter-Revolutionaries and Revolutionaries Cannot Support Them By the Jarvis-Bergman Headquarters
  4. [REMEMBERING MICKEY A MEMORIAL GATHERING FOR MICKEY JARVIS (1949-2005) New York City, May 21, 2005 Dan Swinney]
  5. [REMEMBERING MICKEY A MEMORIAL GATHERING FOR MICKEY JARVIS (1949-2005) New York City, May 21, 2005 Jack Metzgar]