Re: [sixties-l] Value of street demos

From: doug norberg (
Date: Sun Aug 06 2000 - 04:28:36 CUT

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    I don't think there has ever been a road to power that was not marked with street
    demonstrations and all kinds of imaginative and very controversial actions. That
    is not the entire road but it's a lot of it, and the effectiveness cannot be
    measured by how greatly activists turn to electoral politics or to lawyers, for
    that matter. In fact, electoral politics and lawsuits have more often than not
    marked the end of significant movements by requiring an abdication of both
    political principles and of independence from the powers that be.

    Strong, militant actions like Stop the Draft Week, or the land-grant activists of
    Tierra Amarillo, NM taking over the courthouse, or the Puerto Rican independence
    fighters seizing the Statue of Liberty, all ignited broader movements that all
    led to major changes. "Mainstreaming" advocates have always condemned the more
    controversial actions in every movement. But it is often those very actions that
    convinced many of the wavering that the principles were right, the activists were
    very determined, and others should finally get off their butts and join in. And
    so movements gain the kind of strength that, almost as a by-product, creates
    counter-maneuvering by legislators, attempts to coopt issues, and remedial,
    stop-gap legislation (which some call reform). In time, that contributes, in no
    small measure, to American flight from Vietnam, in one case, and to, today,
    stronger movements to force the Navy from Vieques. Take heart in this.

    Marty Jezer wrote:

    > William is right in part. Street demonstrations were -- and are -- not the
    > road to power.
    > But they were and are a means of building a movement. Where the left has
    > always failed is translating protest energy into a means of vying for power
    > or of shaping public policy. Slogans aren't enough. And the best of
    > political theater is useless if there is no larger strategy to advance
    > specific programs or compete for power. In the sixties, there was little
    > faith in the electoral process. There still isn't and unless we have true
    > campaign finance reform -- i mean full public funding as in the clean money
    > reform -- the electoral process, as a means of gaining political power, is
    > pretty hollow. (But useful and necessary for minor reforms and as a means
    > of stopping bad stuff happening).
    > Marty Jezer
    > At 08:56 PM 8/4/2000 -0700, you wrote:
    > >The rapid decline of the Sixties left was due to its assumption that the
    > >capitalist
    > >state would yield to what were essentially street parades and a few broken
    > >windows and
    > >turned-over cars. When that state resorted to the guns of the National Guard
    > >at Kent
    > >State and Jackson State it became clear that street theater was not the road
    > >to power.
    > --
    > 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:
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