[sixties-l] More on 'Fugitive Days' (fwd)

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Date: Sat Feb 16 2002 - 17:51:27 EST

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    Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 12:59:43 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: More on 'Fugitive Days'

     From Portside

    More on 'Fugitive Days'

    Interesting discussion but who wrote this nonsense (unsigned) below? It is
    disgusting. It's as obtuse and as jigoistic as David Horowitz. )Worse than
    Todd Gitlin who sounds more and more like David Horowitz these days.) He
    writes, " Never has freedom and prosperity been so widely spread as in our
    country today." Boy he gone a long way down since his days in the
    "resistance." It seems he lost his brain altogether since his SDS days.
         The author evidently regards junk food, ecological degradation, the Oprah
    Show, and McDonald's as evidence of US's cultural superiority!
          No wonder he does not sign this garbage.

    Seth Farber
    More on 'Fugitive Days'

    From: Jack Zylman
    Subject: RE: 'Fugitive Days' -- an exchange

    I have followed the exchange begun by "Fugitive Days"
    with interest. I was active in those days, both in the
    South, my home, and in Chicago, where I was in school,
    and then in Boston, where I was an activist-minister.

    It seems clear that the left continues to struggle with
    difficulty with the subject of violence. I had to deal
    with that early on, in the 50s, when I was facing the
    KKK and Bull Connor in B'ham, and then a KKK chapter at
    Columbia Theological School in Decatur, GA, where it
    was organized due to my activities in the civil rights
    movement. I used a non-violent 45 automatic (it was
    never fired in anger, but pulled in defense) to good
    purpose, until a series of discussions with Dr. King
    convinced me that it was counter-productive to the
    movement and I abandoned it.

    I look back on the days of struggle with interest in
    the subject of non-violence. When one notes how few
    people were actually killed in the movement in those
    days, particularly in the directly non-violent portions
    of it, it is remarkable. One person killed in the
    Selma struggle. One on the road to Montgomery. Very
    few in Birmingham - the 4 little girls were after the

    The killings were notable, of course, but actually few
    in number, when there could have been a slaughter. I do
    not discard them at all - my personal friend Rev. Jim
    Reeb was killed and I and many others were beaten and
    jailed. But the violence of the state and the right
    were seriously limited.

    I have come to believe that non-violence is powerful,
    and that it can make tremendous differences in limiting
    the violence of the other side, in winning the people
    to our side, and in achieving victories such as we won
    in the South in those days.

    I think also, looking at the evidence in the world,
    that righteous revolutions won violently carry that
    violence into their revolutionary states and
    institutions, and it seems to poison them.

    I don't have time to go on, but I think that violence
    is a dysfunctional tool for a movement for social
    change, and for a revolution.

    Finally, having known the student and New Left movement
    those days, I suggest that violence is either a
    spontaneous self-defense tool (or for others), or is a
    tool of ego-enhancement such as that of the
    Weatherpeople. It's a high, and I think that when we
    bring our egos into the movement, and try to use the
    movement to enhance our own egos - and the Weatherfolks
    weren't the only ones to do this, that it pollutes the
    movement. We can poison it very easily.


    From: John Crawford
    Subject: Re: 'Fugitive Days'

    I have nothing but praise for Ethan Young's response to
    my criticism of his earlier introduction to Cathy
    Wilkerson's review of "Fugitive Days" by Bill Ayers:
    his clarity of response, his honesty about the past,
    and the lessons he draws from that time. Taken
    together, in fact, the Wilkerson review and Young's
    comments are helpful to those of us who observed rather
    than participated in the actions of this particular
    group. It's particularly helpful to show how initial
    mistakes spiralled out of control in an atmosphere of
    increasing violence and provocation, coming
    unfortunately from both the police and the Weathermen.
    And one can only agree that the first consideration of
    any movement should be not only who will be put at risk
    but who will be served by its actions.

    I'd like to address a question to the creators of and
    subscribers to portside, who've made it such a useful
    source of information in recent years. Since the end of
    the 1960's many of us, alone and together, have
    experienced the successes and heartbreaks of working
    within the movement for social change in America. Many
    of us too have attempted to record some of the stories
    and thoughts of our predecessors, the generation born
    between 1900 and 1920 who became leaders and fighters
    during the depression and the events of World War II
    and the McCarthy period. There were some notable
    successes of documentation. Now another generation has
    passed, and sadly many "old timers" are gone. Those of
    us born in the 30's and 40's are aging, and those who
    participated in the movement of the late 60's through
    the 80's have seen a lot of history go by.

    What I'm leading up to is this: Isn't it time to
    perform the service of documentation again, on a large
    scale? Some institutions around the country are doing
    just this: labor history societies, libraries of social
    research and the like. But book and serial publication
    lags behind the collection of resources, partly because
    of the debacle of the late 80's and partly because of
    the economic restructuring of the country which has
    wiped out many means of dissemination of information
    that were present several decades ago: alternative
    bookstores, publishers, and distributors, non-profit
    social change organizations with literature
    concentrations, and so on.

    We need a progressive, democratic organization or group
    of organizations in the future that could establish an
    initiative where history is recreated and disseminated,
    whether in the form of books, on-line materials, or
    serial publications, and where attention is paid to the
    movements of the latter half of the twentieth century,
    both its successes and the failures: civil rights, the
    labor movement, the anti-war movement, people's
    culture, and the organized left. The challenges to
    doing this as a concerted activity are, of course,
    immense. Sectarianism has not vanished, suppression of
    information is still practiced by our government, and
    the economics of support are even worse than they were
    in the 70's and 80's. But the need to tap our
    collective living memory is great. How could the
    organizations dedicated to change work with allies such
    as independent publishers, university publishers and
    others to produce such a broad-based program? Where
    would such a discussion even begin?

    (For the record, I was a working journalist on the left
    during the 70's and have been the publisher of West End
    Press, an independent publishing company, since 1976.
    We've published, among others, the works of Don West,
    Thomas McGrath, Meridel Le Sueur, Pablo Neruda, poems
    from the workshops of Nicaragua, working class
    litrature, and many contemporary writers, especially
    women of color. In recent years I've stayed in touch
    with a number of friends and colleagues in the progress
    academic and publishing areas.)

    That's my contribution to what I hope would be an
    ongoing discussion.


    "You don't need a Weatherman to know which way the Wind blows" Bob Dylan

    I was there too, joined some SDS meetings, though I'm not a "Joiner",
    marched for Civil Rights and against the Viet Nam War (even as my Dad worked
    at Martin -Marietta to design Missile systems). I am disgusted with the
    Democrats' impotency and abhor the Right-wing Coup. I'd love to see a
    viable third party, probably the Greens, make it, but am convinced that
    until we re-structure the Two-Party voting system, probably by having an
    "active NO vote", this won't be feasable, and who wants their vote to
    "default" to what you wanted LEAST! . It will probably take a major
    citizens' petition and referendum to effectively demand this. Let's get

    Bia Winter


    I wrote this three years ago but it touches on aspects of SDS that have not
    been emphasized in present discussion. (I was a latecomer--I went to SDS
    final convention in 1969 as a high school activist.)

    I looked at Kirk Sale's book on SDS the other day to see how his analysis
    compared to my own which angered at least one person because of my highly
    critical remarks about SDS activists in the late 1960s-- who I charged had
    destroyed the student movement by repudiating their original libertarian
    vision and uncritically embracing Third World versions of "Marxist-Leninism"
    and engaging in an increasingly undemocratic and authoritarian praxis. This
    is also Kirkpatrick Sale's conclusion. Although he tries to avoid
    editorializing, the last few chapters of the book document how SDS' s
    "revolutionary" jargon and embrace of Maoist-Leninist-Stalinist theory led to
    their estrangement from a larger student movement that was genuinely
    discontented with American capitalism but did not resonate to the
    "revolutionary" theories of SDS. Sale says on p555:" The shapers and movers
    of SDS no longer cared particularly for students--or for a democratic
    society. Something new was wanted, a new kind of organization[i.e.a "vanguard
    party"] for the new revolutionary kind of job at hand...This, combined with
    repression from above, the deflections from below, and the factionalism from
    within, wrote the death sentence for SDS." Sale also quotes Carl
    Oglesby(whom I cited).."The attempt to reduce the New Left's inchoate vision
    to the Old Left's perfected remembrance produced a layer of bewilderment and
    demoralization which no cop with his club or senator with his committee could
    ever have induced." (Sale ends the book on a note of optimism, implying that
    despite the demise of SDS it had succeeded in effecting a permanent
    radicalization of university students in the US. That was written in 1974--it
    seems sadly dated today.)
         Because I made criticisms of the student left in the late 1960s (and of
    the Black Panthers, who incidentally sent a spokesman to the SDS 1969
    convention who denounced feminism and called for "pussy power" --I emphasize
    that is a quote, not my words) I provoked at least several hostile and ad
    hominem responses. One (I'll avoid names) person said it was obvious that I
    "hated" the sixties and everything they stood for, an egregious
    mischaracterization, particularly perplexing in light of the fact that I had
    cited in support of my argument several radicals, including no less a
    counter-cultural figure than Allen Ginsberg. (Someone is bound to respond
    here that Ginsberg was a misogynist--that is completely irrelevant to my
    point.) My argument was in defense of the original student activism and
    vision, and in support of the counter-culture--not a Norman Podhoretz
    neo-conservative attack on the 1960s as the debacle of Western civilization.
    Because a reader disliked my argument--confirmed it turns out (at least re.
    the student revolutionaries by leftist and historian Kirk Sale)--I was said
    to have "an overly inflated opinion of my grasp" of the left in the 1960s,
    and to be "pompous." (This statement was made incidentally by someone who
    never met me.)I can only assume that to have strong convictions, and to be
    critical of aspects of the theories and practices of the left is to risk ad
    hominem attacks.
         I noticed the same phenomena when I went to a colloquium on the 60s
    sponsored by The Nation a few years ago. It seemed like a reunion
    celebrating "the good ol days"--there was no attempt at anything resembling
    critical analysis. A couple persons in the audience who attempted to push
    things in this direction (not me, I did not speak) were treated hostilely.
    But as Santayana said "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to
    repeat it."

    Sincerely, Seth Farber

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