[sixties-l] Re:Horowitz and "discussion"

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 20:15:04 CUT

  • Next message: Ronald M. Jacobs: "Re: [sixties-l] Re:Vietnam War"

    Ok, against my better judgement, here are a few responses to David's
    response.... The key reasons, in my view, that people unsubscribe(d) is not that
    they disagree with David but that (1) they sense --from your (David's) current
    writings on the list as well as books like "Destructive Generation" and "Radical
    Son", that you are first and foremost a polemicist, convinced you have the Truth,
    and that your writing shows this again and again....and that (2) it becomes
    enormously time-consuming to read through all the verbiage your posts generate
    (responsibility is shared there) so, in combination (1 + 2) it doesn't seem
    worth it.

    Nonetheless, here goes, as briefly as possible
    You say,

    > You agree with Stew Albert but you don't agree -- which is it? Albert says
    > everyone on the left knows the Panthers "turned pure criminal". Are you not
    > on the left? Do you disagree with Stew.

    Yes, I am on the left. I agreed with Stew re. his comment regarding your
    postings on the list, not his comment regarding the Panthers. But I definitely
    disagree with the bit you quote (I assume) that "the Panthers [implying all of
    them, or them collectively] turned pure criminal." Again, my comment was that
    you DEFINED the Panthers by the criminal behavior (etc.) of SOME. I define the
    Panthers as a street-based, collective effort of an abused population (by the
    police, by the economy, etc.) to fight back for their own sense of turf, place, &
    beliefs about what was due them and the inner-city population. There are
    completely legitimate, democratic (grass-roots) strains in that, and some
    Panthers were largely devoted to those objectives, even if they may have used
    flaming rhetoric, or even carried weapons (another issue). I think of Bobby
    Seale, Fred Hampton, among the better known Panthers. Bill Mandel tells other
    stories; others could amplify quite a bit more. The things to remember about
    this grass-roots uprising are: (1) that it was "expressed" in the language &
    experience-based culture of those expressing it --that's not going to be nice &
    polite, white middle-class-ese; (2) that some behaved in an inhumane and
    reprehensible manner, and that behavior is wrong & should not be "excused"
    because of the street-origins (even if in this latter sense it is "understood");
    (3) the prevailing culture provides virtually no avenue for the collective
    empowerment of this inner-city population --then or now. This obviously opens
    the door to a huge discussion about poverty, racism, capitalism, education
    reform, etc. etc. Given time constraints, I'm not going there.

    > I'm glad you agree somewhat with me. But you wouldn't know about any
    > criminal activities of the Panthers if it weren't for my efforts. So don't
    > be so smug.

    I don't know about smug. I give you credit for writing about the horrors you
    have experienced and perhaps feel a degree of responsibility/guilt for --that IS
    one source of information I've found re. the Panthers (especially re. Huey
    Newton). But, c'mon, let's not get too grandiose; you aren't the only person who
    has documented Panther crimes.

    > What your post tells me is that the left has changed very littlie since I
    > left it, probably not all. You don't want to deal with the facts. You don't
    > want to engage in a civil discussion with someone who disagrees with you.
    > You want to demonize them. In other words you want to achieve the same thing:
    > silencing your opposition. Do you wonder that progressives killed so many
    > people in our lifetimes?

    This is precisely the kind of language that makes people feel there's no point in
    talking with you. Apparently you are so prescient that you know my intentions in
    writing what I write; you assert as if you KNOW that I don't want to deal with
    facts, don't want to engage in civil discussion with someone who disagrees with
    me, that I want to demonize and silence my "opposition." Well, I'm afraid you
    are very wrong in your reading of what I do & don't want, and I'm afraid this is
    typical of your writing about people on the left --at least the writing (above)
    that I've encountered. This is what shuts off discussion, one way or another.

    Just to raise one point of "fact" given that you want to deal with facts and
    those of us on the left apparently "don't." In your comment to Mike Klonsky, you
    said the following:

    >I defend the war because it was anti-Communist war but because losing it cost
    the lives
    >of two and a half million poor people in Indo-China whose blood is on your hands
    >Mike, along with all the rest of us who forced America's withdrawal. You
    supported >the Communists (I'm sure you're capable of this level of candor) and
    the Communists
    >slaughtered millions. Surely you've had some second thoughts about this.

    Two fundamental points of factual contention:
    (1). "Losing the war" didn't cost the lives of two and half-million people in
    Indochina," fighting the American war in Indochina cost the lives of three
    million. You are obviously zeroing in on Pol Pot's crimes --they were horrific
    and very real. But (a) you neglect the role, conveniently for your viewpoint, of
    the massive American bombing & destruction of Cambodia prior to the Khmer Rouge
    take-over (including it's contribution to the ability of the KR to succeed in
    seizing power in the horrifically destabilized nation, including in the 2.5
    million the mass starvation that was grounded in the conditions of destruction &
    destabilization prior to the KR seizure of power. And, of course, (b) you neglect
    to mention the American initiative in creating an artifice called South Vietnam,
    establishing a puppet dictator who suppressed his own people with US support, the
    thousands of deaths of SV civilians that resulted --prior to 1965, etc. etc....
    I'm sure you know of these, and have read, for example, Chomsky & Herman's
    Political Economy of Human Rights, for example. In fact, given Destructive
    Generation, I know what you think of Chomsky --you quite inaccurately slam him as
    some kind of authoritarian or worse. And, finally, (c) you don't explain how
    exactly "winning the war" would have prevented the 2.5 million lives you claim
    "losing it" cost, much less the additional lives lost in the process of "winning"
    it. I can't speak for Mike Klonsky, but I have no second thoughts about opposing
    --or refusing to fight in-- the American war in Vietnam.

    So, I don't think this is about the left not wanting to deal with facts at all,
    but either (a) dramatically differing interpretations of facts (e.g., Khmer Rouge
    deaths) or (b) assertions that are not factually-grounded. In my experience,
    this typifies your writing style --hence my earlier comment, Jeff.

    If this could be a civil discussion (and I had endless time), I would be open to
    talking about the guns --there are legitimate questions there re. Panther guns,
    Rt-wing militia guns, NRA-gun-defending, etc. I believe there is a common
    feeling of being powerless underlying all three groups, and the guns help them
    "feel" more "empowered." Beyond that, I think the comparison ends --at least the
    level of violent oppression experienced by NRA members & Rt.-wing militias is in,
    I suspect, virtually all cases, nothing like the well-documented level of
    official violence experienced by young inner-city blacks at the time the Panthers
    were getting underway.... And quite clearly, though there was a reason for the
    gun-carrying in the initial Panther police-tailing practice, they helped draw to
    the Panthers those eager, simply, to use guns. We know where that goes.

    By the way, who exactly were the "progressives" who have "killed millions"? Just
    curious as to your definition.


    Ted Morgan

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