Re: [sixties-l] RE: Vietnam retrospective

From: Marty Jezer (
Date: 10/27/00

  • Next message: Ted Morgan: "[sixties-l] Re. Movement "excesses""

    There are "excesses" and there are excesses. 
     Yes, there'll always be individuals and small groups doing stupid things. The
    excesses at issue 
    here are fundamental flaws in strategic thinking and planning by important
    leaders and organizations; e.g., 
    SDS, the Mobe, the Yippies, and the more sectarian groups: YAWF, etc., and the
    We believed ourselves moving towards, or actually in, a revolutionary
    situation. In retrospect we weren't even close.
    We denigrated and thus didn't understand the fracturing of the pro-war
    consensus within the Democratic Party
    and among its corporate supporters. 
    We confused theater with reality. The Panther's parading into the California
    legislature with guns was great 
    political theater, but the police took it as reality and responded in kind.
    We took provocative actions against the state without preparation for what it
    would do in response.
    We, or at least elements in SDS, greatly misunderstood the youth culture
    I can go on..
    I don't think these errant policies were based entirely on ignorance. They were
    the result of our experience
    (and inexperience). We were caught up in a cauldron that we -- and the state --
    did not anticipate and for which we
    were unprepared. We were also young, and youth creates a political dynamic of
    its own. 
    We didn't create the backlash. Social change creates backlash. Where we erred
    was delighting in it, believing that it would work for us.  It didn't. The left
    (or the progressive movement) does not suffer from a lack of good programs; it
    suffers, first from money-driven politics which denies us a level-playing field
    in the "free market" of ideas; and we suffer from (still!) fall-out from the
    sixties, a political culture that delights in cultural and social provocation
    for the sake of "putting people down," the comfort of seeing ourselves as
    alienated outsiders (since we think we can't win, we don't have to follow the
    rules (customs) of the game (our political culture); a feeling reinforced every
    time we lose or are attacked); and a knee-jerk anti-Americanism that views
    everything American as awful, and thus prevents us from using the positive
    aspects of the American tradition to leverage social change. 
    Each of these sentences deserves an essay of explanation. They form a major
    part of my book, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel.
    Abbie at his best understood a lot of this. At his worst, he undermined his own
    Marty Jezer
    At 01:58 PM 10/26/2000 -0500, you wrote:
    >"Lauter, Paul" wrote:
    >>         Third, I don't buy the theory that anti-Left activity derived mainly
    >> from a reaction to movement excesses in and after 1968.  Yes, that was an
    >> element.
    >There is a fundamental weakness to all arguments that ascribe left weakness to
    >left excesses. There will *always* be excesses (both "sincere" and created by
    >police provocateurs) -- so a left that can't flourish despite any and all
    >excesses is a left that isn't going anyplace. Complaining about left 
    >excesses is
    >like complaining about the weather. Excesses of all kinds are just part of
    >capitalist weather. There's a nice passage in the Anti-Duhring where Engels
    >lists all the hangers-on in any workers' movement.
    >Carrol Cox
    Marty Jezer
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