Re: [sixties-l] RE: Vietnam retrospective

From: Marty Jezer (
Date: 10/29/00

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    To Jeff again, and everyone:
    In my brief writings here, as in my bio of Abbie Hoffman, I am trying to
    clarify the social 
    and political forces affecting the politics of that time; forces that we were
    unaware of or,
    as at times, unwilling or unable to see.  I was in The Resistance, the Yippies,
    and was a founding editor of WIN Magazine, which espoused radical nonviolence
    and was published by the War Resisters League. I am proud of what I did in the
    sixties. Still, we got a lot of stuff wrong. it's important to go over it and
    discuss it not out of a sense of guilt or for revisionist purposes. Call me a
    Pollyanna, but I think a clear understanding of the sixties will help those in
    the forefront in creating a movement in the coming years. 
    What frustrates me is not that people think I'm wrong, but that they refuse to
    step out of their own roles in the sixties and objectively examine what went
    Jeff wrote
    >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 McCarthyites and the Kennedy forces represented a significant portion of
    Democratic Party. By the election of 68, the anti-war forces were in the
    It's true that they wanted negotiations while we, rightly, demanded unilateral
    But the party was moving, fitfully, towards negotiations. The Vietnamese were
    not going to compromise their cause.  The Democrats, already experiencing
    rebellion in their ranks, would have been under pressure to compromise in order
    to find a way out, in order to stop the rebellion in the ranks that would have
    destroyed the party. The Nixonians were under no such pressure.  If fact,
    hawkishness and repressing the left stoked the reaction on which they
    The anti-war sentiment was not just rank and file. Paul Jospeh in his book
    Cracks in the Empire (South End Press) documents the break-up of the corporate
    consensus in support of the war. An influential part of the Establishment, that
    included major funders of the Democratic Party, wanted a way out. True, they
    weren't urging unilateral withdrawal, but realistically they didn't have many
    options in terms of getting out.
    I realize that this analysis runs counter to radical believes about American
    politics, but it's the facts rather than the ideology that, in my opinion,
    count. Indeed. many veteran SDS (Tom Hayden among them) were ready to back
    Kennedy had he lived and won the presidential nomination. Hayden (as well as
    Oglesby and others) glimpsed the changing forces in the Democratic Party. Did
    that make them Democrats? (Hayden's party affiliation came much later).  No! it
    made them keen observers of the politics of the time.  
    The venality of Hubert Humphrey was that he was afraid to openly break with
    official war policy -- at least until the 68 election was at hand.  He worked
    to disguise the fracturing of consensus (that some glimpsed in 1968) that was
    tearing the Democratic Party apart not only in the streets, but in the
    leadership as well.
    Jeff wrote:
    >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.
    I agree with Jeff's analysis, except that if you're going to flaunt guns, you
    sure as hell better
    have the resources to effectively used them. It's a basic guerrilla strategy
    not to attack the enemy where the enemy is strongest. In an urban, domestic
    situation, the police -- and the forces of repression behind them -- have all
    the firepower. The Panther's theater -- in Sacramento -- was based on flaunting
    guns. I've no argument with the righteousness of that theatre or with the idea
    that the Panther's had a right to defend their communities against what,
    especially in Oakland, was a racist police force. But in expressing their power
    with a theatrical display of guns, they were playing directly into "the man's"
    greatest source of power. Some quiet political organizing (like the breakfast
    program) might have gotten them farther. 
    Jeff wrote:
    >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.
    I absolutely agree with Jeff on this one, but there's no guarantee that people
    share the same passion for justice are going to come out of their study with
    the same thoughts, ideas, strategies or plans.
    Marty Jezer
    Marty Jezer . 22 Prospect Street . Brattleboro, VT 05301
    See the film "STEAL THIS MOVIE" and read the book
    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel 
    on which it is based.
    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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    It's free

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