I respect Jeff Blankfort's disagreement with my analysis of the 1968 election.
My analysis was that by 1968, the most important power bases of the Democratic
Party, including important business and corporate funders, had turned
against the war.
Their opposition was pragmatic, rather than moral or ideological. They saw
that the price
of victory would be too high and continuing it in any way would seriously
American society and what business needs more than anything else is stability.
I pretty much agree with Jeff's analysis of the Democrats as a "war party,"
but the situation in
1968 was unique because liberal Democrats had moved to an anti-war position
moderate their demands) and that continuing the war would have totally
destroyed the Democratic Party.
In other words, the anti-war movement was winning and just as we were about
to achieve our strategic goal of
forcing an end to the war, we upped the ante and abandoned the goal of
ending the war for an unreachable fantasy
of creating a revolution (I harbored revolutionary fantasies at that time
and they were reinforced by the mainstream
media that also thought (or feared) we were entering a revolutionary
situation -- but we were not).
That's the argument. You can accept my data and still come to the
conclusion that Jeff did. The argument is important, I think,
because the question of when to push forward and when to compromise comes
up time and again. In addition, the need to be objective in analysis has
often been compromised by ideology, wishful thinking, and too much
attention to cultural imagery; i.e., confusing nonconformist in-your-face
dress, music and attitude with revolutionary politics.
An aside: a writer named David Horowitz wrote a wonderful book in 1962
called Free World Colossus that I used as a source in my history of the
postwar, The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1962. Horowitz, drawing
inspiration from historian William Appleman Williams, was one of the first
historians to describe American complicity in the Cold War and
interventions in the third world. Is this "our" David Horowitz, the same DH
who has joined the Republican right in advocating U.S. intervention in the
third world and, if so, does he now renounce his first book, Free World
A second aside. I don't like Jeff's put-down of Todd Gitlin. Todd shares
our history and experience. He took the same risks we did in the sixties,
wrote for the same underground papers, that didn't pay him anything. Now
he's a success because he's written books about the new left experience.
It's not his fault the media seeks out his opinion. That Jeff opposes some
of the positions he's taken
should be food for debate, not dismissal. We all want justice but disagree
how to achieve it.
For all that we did in the 1960s (and we were right about the war) our
movement is essentially marginalized. For example, the only choice we will
have in the 2000 presidential election is Ralph Nader (or other more
marginal left-wing candidates). We need to ask ourselves why this happened
and not read anyone, e.g. Gitlin, out of the movement on the basis of
There are reasons other than own flaws that caused us to become marginal.
The power of the media, capitalisms ability to co-opt culture and make a
profit (and render meaningless) the symbols of revolution (dress, language,
music, etc.), and our campaign finance system which makes it impossible for
candidates who don't have personal wealth or corporate money to compete
effectively for public office have made movement-building a challenge. (And
there are other challenges as well).
One small sign of hope: In Vermont, Anthony Pollina, a Progressive running
for governor, has qualified for full public financing in the November
election. That means he will compete on a financially level-playing field
with the Democratic incumbent and the Repulican challenger. Vermont, Maine,
Arizona, and Massachusetts have new Clean Money Election Laws that give
serious candidates the possibility of full public financing. Oregon and
other states are pushing the idea. The model bill on which the clean money
reform is based was conceived and drafted by veterans of the sixties
movements, including folks from the anti-war movement and SNCC.
At 11:59 PM 6/15/2000 -0700, Jeff Blankford wrote:
>I respectfully disagree with Marty's analysis, which also happens to be
>that now being peddled by the media's "official historian of the
>Sixties," Todd Gitlin (who was shown on national television at the start
>of the Gulf bombardment, donating blood for "our boys over there."
>I have not read the book that Marty refers to but I know enough of US
>history and the role of the Democratic Party in the post-WW2 world to
>say, with a certainty, that Humphrey was not about to end the war in
>Vietnam, and to now say, in hindsight, that the anti-war movement made a
>mistake and extended the war by not supporting him, is the same kind of
>rationalizations that we are subject to every four years when the issue
>of "the lesser of two evils" is thrust upon us. SNIP
>With few exceptions, the Democratic Party, has and continues to be a
>"war party," constantly running scared from the charges that it was
>"soft on communism," and "soft" on military spending. That neither of
>there charges was true was inconsequential. The Republicans were always
>forcing the issue, and Humphrey, a premier Cold Warrior, was not about
>to change the party's direction. In fact, he might have escalated the
>war far beyond what Nixon went on to do SNIP
>>In sum, I find the kind of revisionist thinking expressed in the post, a
>blueprint for supporting Al Gore and rendering the political movement
>that we need to build, stillborn.
>> Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 17:55:11 -0400
>> From: Marty Jezer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> Subject: Re: [sixties-l] Re:Vietnam War (DH not mentioned)
>> The interesting question (a real difficult one), as I wrote in an earlier
>> post, (lost in the DH furor) was whether the anti-war movement made a
>> strategic mistake by taking a revolutionary turn in 1968 just when the
>> mainstream population was opposing the war. I didn't understand then, but
>> I do now, but had Humphrey become President (a sure thing with only token
>> movement support), he would have been compelled to end the war on
>> essentially the same terms Kissinger got a few years later. To continue the
>> war would have destroyed his presidency and with it the Democratic Party.
>> As Paul Joseph in his fine South End Press book, Cracks in the Empire,
>> documents, the major elements of the Democratic Party, including its
>> corporate financial backers, were ready to quit the war in 1968. The
>> so-called "wise men" (that's a yuk) organized by Clark Clifford told LBJ
>> the game was up. That's why he resigned. The anti-war movement, in my
>> opinion, was about to achieve its goal of ending the war after the 68
>> election when it took a revolutionary (violent and nonviolent) path. We
>> bear some responsibility for electing Nixon President and for the war's
>> continuation. I don't think we are morally to blame. We didn't order
>> strategic bombing, Operation Phoenix, destroying villages to save them and
>> other actions which, I believe, represent war crimes. But in our
>> inexperience, enthusiasm, and misguided politics, we let an opportunity for
>> peace to pass. Of course if Humphrey had had the courage to do what LBJ was
>> too much of a coward to do and say the war had to be ended, he would have
>> had our support and been elected. Then he would have had to produce if only
>> to save his party. (As for the defense industry and it's support for the
>> war, spending would have been high even without the war -- high defense
>> spending in a stable domestic political situation is better for them than
>> higher spending in a situation of political turmoil -- a point Paul Goodman
>> and others made in 68. Ending the war would have been unpopular on the
>> right, but the defense industry wouldn't have been desperate and many
>> corporations, craving domestic stability, would have been happy to can it).
>> Marty Jezer
-- Marty Jezer * 22 Prospect St. * Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f 802 257-5644
Author: Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books) Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press) The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press) Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House) Check out my web page: http://www.sover.net/~mjez To subscribe to my Friday commentary, simply request to be put on my mailing list. It's free!
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