Re: academia/organizing (multiple posts)

Sun, 17 Aug 1997 14:25:44 EDT

Re. Kevin Cole's

>C'mon Ted, you know nothing is ever 100% right. Actually I was at
>Lehigh during the most prominent of its antiwar activities and had many
>subsequent chances to reevaluate the experience. In terms of
>international politics I think you are closest to being correct -- it
>was an act of national aggression.

I meant 100% right in the sense that it's position --that the war was
immoral US aggression-- was the right, not the wrong position. That, it
seemed to me, was completely obscured by Jim Cummin's remark --also,
coincidentally, by the way the media cover the war in retrospect (it was
either a well-intended mistaken defense against communism or a prematurely
abandoned, or too-pallid, defense against communism (both of which, I would
say, distort the reality of US action to fit a feel-ok-about-ourselves model
of US leaders' motivations --not US actions).

> In terms of domestic politics,
>however, the antiwar movement spawned class warfare quite apart from the
>issues related to Vietnam. Safely ensconced at Lehigh, for example,
>were all the fresh-faced Long Island kids whose parents gave them new
>TR4s or XKEs for their 18th birthdays, none of whom seemed to even know
>the name of a single kid who was drafted or who enlisted. Of course
>there were some of Clinton's erstwhile colleagues in ROTC, but there
>goes that class thing again -- only a few saw any action.

I think your analysis undermines your claim that the "antiwar movement spawned
class warfare," though (1) I concede that the quite a few people in the antiwar
movement behaved in ways that demonstrated a lack of empathy towards the
working class boys who fought the war, or their parents who felt they were
paying the "ultimate price," etc. However, (2) what you're describing isn't
the antiwar movement per se, it's (a) a class-based (consciously intended as
such by policy makers like LBJ who didn't want to draft reservists who were
middle class because they were the sons & daughters of the near-powerful or
politically active) DRAFT system (alot of New Left writing on how the draft
--and the education system generally-- "channeled" kids into class-based
occupations & strata) and (b) Lehigh University, which (to a degree like much
of higher education, only moreso) tends to draw lots of kids of the affluent
who, yes, are far too removed from the realities of everyday life most
Americans face. I'd like to hear more about what the Lehigh "antiwar
movement" was up to... I know a few from the Kent State era.

>I dropped out of Lehigh and enlisted. When I came back it was just in
>time to see Nixon abolish the draft, and to see any trace of anti-war
>fervor disappear within moments afterward. Folks who had been in SDS
>were suddenly selling insurance in their spare time or striking affluent
>poses to amuse the women who'd just arrived on campus. There was lots
>more war to go, but the movement had achieved what appeared to be its
>actual goal, which was to keep "us folks" out of the draft, out of the
>trenches, and out of the way of any real solidarity with those who
>suffered in this country or abroad.

When was this? When did you come back? When did Nixon abolish the draft (as
opposed to shift away from the deferment system to the lottery)? And what was
the American death count at that point (yes, a key motivator for many in the
antiwar movement --of all ages & classes)? And in what ways was the antiwar
movement quiescent --as opposed to the behavior of LU students....? The
antiwar movement continued to remain very active and often increasingly
militant in the 70s right up to the end of the US war ('73) [I recommend Tom
Wells book, The War Within.]

Finally, please appreciate the fact that there is polling evidence that shows
that working class opposition to the war was stronger than upper-middle class
opposition to the war; I can't tell you the dates off the top of my head, but
Noam Chomsky has cited several polls in his writing. This raises the
interested question about who the antiwar movement was (and I suspect most
people have in their heads the wild & crazy youths waving VC flags & chanting
"NLF is going to Win" --thanks to the media & propagandist who've been bashing
the antiwar movement for decades).


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