[sixties-l] Todd Gitlin Does the Boss Man's Work (fwd)

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Date: Sat Nov 09 2002 - 22:22:53 EST

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    Date: Wed, 06 Nov 2002 14:35:57 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Todd Gitlin Does the Boss Man's Work

    Todd Gitlin Does the Boss Man's Work

    Redbaiting the Antiwar Movement

    October 17, 2002

    Recently Todd Gitlin, one of the establishment media's "experts" on the
    Sixties, was extensively quoted in an article by Michelle Goldberg in the
    online magazine Salon. The gist of Gitlin's comments (and the article) was
    that the participants in the growing movement against Washington's drive
    towards war on Iraq were, in essence, communist dupes. The article attacked
    some of the more leftist organizers of the Not In Our Name project (Refuse
    and Resist) and the bicoastal marches planned for October 26th
    (International Answer) as apologists for despotic regimes and extremist
    Latin American guerrilla organizations like Peru's Shining Path. In doing
    so, the author (and Gitlin) ignore the broad base of the movement and the
    two umbrella organizations currently coordinating most national actions and

    Gitlin, who continues to move further to the right with each public
    utterance, states that with groups like Refuse and Resist and ANSWER behind
    the scenes, the antiwar movement will face the same fate as that against
    the Vietnam War which, according to Gitlin disintegrated mostly because,
    "As war became less popular, so did the antiwar movement," he says. "People
    saw the antiwar movement as a scrod of would-be revolutionaries who wanted
    to tear up everything orderly and promising about America...." To say the
    least, his analysis ignores the very real fact that the antiwar movement
    was under attack by the establishment media, the LBJ and Nixon White House,
    and the FBI and numerous other police agencies-all of which probably had
    more to do with the movement's apparent foundering than the angry rants of
    the revolutionary wing of the movement. It also ignores the massive
    mobilizations against the war that took place in May 1970 and for two weeks
    in late April-early May of 1971 as veterans, then peaceniks, and finally
    direct action protestors took over the streets of Washington, DC. In
    addition, by making such a claim, Gitlin ignores the fact that the antiwar
    movement in the United States and around the world had a good deal to do
    with the war ending in 1975 with independence for the Vietnamese
    people-their original goal.

    As an historian of the Sixties, Mr. Gitlin should remember that it was
    another leftist group, the May 2nd Movement (M2M)-a nationwide student
    movement against US intervention in Vietnam that was organized by the
    Maoist Progressive Labor Party in early 1965-that was the first national
    organization opposed to US intervention in Vietnam. After the movement
    developed its own momentum, M2M fell by the wayside and numerous groups and
    coalitions representing diverse politics, philosophies, classes and
    interests took part in every subsequent mobilization against the US
    misadventure in Southeast Asia. For Gitlin to make this acknowledgement
    however, would nullify his perception of the Sixties. This perception
    divides the social movements of that decade into two phases: the "good
    Sixties" and the "bad Sixties," with the former being when Gitlin and his
    friends ran the primary radical student group-Students for a Democratic
    Society (SDS)-and the latter being after this group of leaders moved on. Of
    course, the lines are not as clear as Gitlin remembers them. Indeed, many
    of the very same folks who were in the early SDS did not leave the
    organization as it became more radical in nature, they grew more radical

    This is not said to disparage the early SDS. Without the foresight and
    vision this group provided with its words and its organizing against racism
    and war, it is likely that the people and countryside of Vietnam would have
    been nuked and the struggle against systemic racism in all sections of the
    US would have been ignored. Ironically, in light of Gitlin's "redbaiting"
    comments in this article and over the past few years, it is important to
    note that one of SDS' founding principles was to allow any individuals who
    shared the organization's left-leaning philosophy to participate fully in
    SDS activities and membership. Why ironic? Because in the late Fifties and
    early Sixties it was the trend among the liberal establishment to ban
    anybody associated with Communist organizations from taking part in their
    coalitions and groups. Now, Mr. Gitlin and his compatriots, who whether
    they like it or not, are today's liberal establishment, are replicating the
    sins of their fathers in their rebuke of any group with a red tinge in the
    antiwar movement. By doing so, they are doing Messrs. Rumsfeld and
    Ashcroft's work.

    There are serious questions regarding the umbrella organizations currently
    coordinating the various national actions against Washington's drive
    towards war. These are questions which should and are being debated by
    activists new and old throughout the country. If. Mr. Gitlin wishes to join
    these debates in a serious way, without waving his flag and his credentials
    in front of us, he is more than welcome. It is not up to him and those
    liberals who are offended by the more radical thoughts of those of us who
    have learned different lessons from history than they to decide what the
    antiwar movement will be. It is up to those who participate in it. If
    history is any indication, this means the new movement against US wars on
    the world will have as many ideological hues participating in it as the
    movement against the US war in Vietnam did. Indeed, it already does.
    Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather

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