[sixties-l] re:nationletter

From: Marty Jezer (mjez@sover.net)
Date: Sat Jul 14 2001 - 12:44:48 EDT

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    It was not my intention to bring my argument with Cockburn to sixties-l. My friend, Robert Houriet, asked me for permission to post the copy of the letter I sent to The Nation editors (and cc:ed to him and a few friends). I was away from my computer when he e-mailed me to ask for permission, so he went and posted it anyway. Had I seen his query in time I would have said "no." I've got too many other things to do then chase after Cockburn; on the other hand, when I am misrepresented I need to respond.
     Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:

    > Both Marty Jezer and Todd Gitlin, in retrospect (the former having so
    > written on this list), believe that the anti-war movement made a mistake
    > by not supporting Humphrey in 1968, failing to understand at this
    > distance of years and changed degree of political activity that (1)
    > Humphrey was not an anti-war candidate and (2) what gave the movement
    > its vitality as well as it legitimacy was its recognition that when it
    > came to foreign policy there was and remains no fundamental difference
    > between the Democrat and Republican parties. In other words had the
    > "movement" had such limited consciousness as to support Hube, he never
    > would have been the candidate because Johnson would have had no fear of
    > running for re-election from such a tame mob.

    Jeff, read my book!

    What I said in Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel was framed by "in retrospect." I did not say that the movement should have given up its opposition to the war in order to support Humphrey for President. I did argue that it would have been wiser, in retrospect, if we had at least voted for him because the vote was close and he would have beaten Nixon. I took great care in my Hoffman biography to explain why we in the movement did not and could not back Humphrey, placing part of the blame on our mistaken illusion that we were in a revolutionary situation, but placing the major share of the blame on Humphrey, Johnson and the Democratic leadership for refusing to acknowledge or realize that their war game was up, that they had to get out of Vietnam or lose their party. In making this argument, I described the social forces working at that time (1968), drawing my evidence from Paul Joseph's overlooked but important book Cracks in the Empire. By November 68, important forces within the Democratic Party had come around to the position that the U.S. had to get out of the war. By important forces I mean funders, business people, and important politicians in Congress and in the administration. It was not that they were won over to an anti-imperialist position or even that they were against the war; what they did fear was the social disruption that the movement was creating and they didn't think Vietnam important enough to risk the social peace. All this was said, I repeat, upon reflection, in retrospect. I was not blaming Abbie Hoffman, or the movement, or making a mea culpa for myself -- I did not vote for Humphrey. Political leaders are supposed to be able to look at their times objectively. I was interested, in understanding why Abbie's analysis (and most of ours in the movement was, in retrospect, wrong. Agree with this or not, it doesn't make me a Humphrey-lover or the Democratic hack that Cockburn, at various times, has
    publicly accused me of being. Indeed, in one of his syndicated columns he called me a supporter of every Democratic presidential candidate from Jimmy Carter on. In fact, I was on the steering committee of the Vermont Citizens Party in the early 80s and touted the Citizens Party in the Oct 82 issue of "The Progressive. Cockburn is often very good when he sticks to the issues; but when he trashes people, as he loves to do, he does not do his homework. Using his column as a venue for cheap shots (in which he is protected because he's allowed to respond to anyone who tries to answer back) without any regard for fact is a kind of McCarthyism. Cockburn is welcome to dispute, attack, argue with my thesis. But he's never engaged me on the substance of what I've said.

     Jeff also wrote:

    > That Marty can say today that "I . . . have no judgment on what Bob
    > Kerrey and his SEAL Squadron did in Than Phone." I find, quite frankly,
    > mind-boggling, and certainly justifies Alexander Cockburn's sharp
    > critique.

    First, Cockburn didn't critique what I wrote, he took a few sentences out of context and then, in typical Cockburn fashion, trashed me without engaging my argument.

    Second, what Jeff left out of his quotation of my statement was, "As a public advocate of draft resistance and a participant in nonviolent civil disobedience against the war, I agree with John Kerry and have no judgement on what Bob Kerrey......" What John Kerry (not Bob Kerrey), who was a founder of Vietnam Vets Against the War, said, was "The faults of Vietnam were those of the war, not the warrior," meaning, as I described in my article, the planners and leaders of the war.

    I should add that though I was too old to be drafted, I publicly burned my draft card, turned my new one in twice, refused a federal subpoena to testify at a grand jury on draft resistance (told the feds that they should be subpoenaing Johnson, MacNamara, the Bundys and Rostows instead), and publicized draft resistance actions as an editor of Win Magazine (published by the War Resisters League). My role in The Resistance is described in Alice Lynd's We Won't Go and Mike Ferber and Staughton Lynd's history, The Resistance. I think I've earned the right to pass judgement or not pass judgement on Kerrey without having Cockburn challenge my opposition to the war.

    To read the full text of my column on Kerrey, go to www.sover.net/~mjez and click on the banner for newspaper columns.

    Marty Jezer

    Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words
    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel
    Rachel Carson: Author, Biologist
    The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960

    Visit my web site http://www.sover.net/~mjez
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