Re: [sixties-l] RE: Vietnam retrospective

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: 10/29/00

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    Had I not lived and been an activist in the 60s and for quite a few
    years before, I would get very little sense of what was actually going
    on in the US and around the world from reading this pervasive thread,
    one that seems to make those who went beyond the bounds of what might be
    considered acceptable TODAY in challenging the global criminality of the
    US government at the time, which is scarcely any less today but has not
    produced a similar movement.
    Marty suggests or implies that had we not denigrated the anti-war forces
    within the Democratic Party, we would have been more successful?  In
    doing what? In stopping the war? Was it the movement's fault that these
    potential allies within the Democratic Party, whoever they might have
    been, were silent? Please.
    The Panthers did not confuse theater with reality.  They were responding
    to a reality in which Oakland police, recruited exclusively from the
    South, were shooting and killing young black men on a regular basis.
    With all their shortcomings, they were able to politicize young black
    men and women across the US and their influence carried into the Latino
    and Asian communities as well as abroad. Their success and their real or
    imagined potential, as the government saw it, marked them for
    infiltration and destruction.
    If anything, the movement's problems was not criticizing US behavior but
    not being able to articulate it outside of our own circles in a
    meaningful way.  One of the reasons which was obvious to me at the time
    was a pride in "anti-intellectualism" that ran through much of the
    movement. People didn't need to study, to actually know the details of
    our history; going on one's gut feelings was good enough. Nevertheless,
    they were on the right side of history, and those who supported the war,
    for whatever reason, were not.
    Jeff Blankfort
     Marty Jezer <> wrote:
    > 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
    > Motherfuckers.
    > 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
    > insights.
    > Marty Jezer

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