[sixties-l] The anti-war 60s all over again? (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 17:54:35 EST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 14:35:08 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: The anti-war 60s all over again?

    The anti-war '60s all over again?


    by Alexander Cockburn
    Creators Syndicate

    If the Okie from Muskogee can speak out, so can we

    First, the big anti-war demonstrations in
    Washington D.C., and San Francisco a couple of
    weeks ago; then, the Election Day sweep by Bush
    and the (prime) party of war and then... in my
    case, a concert by Merle Haggard in my local town
    of Eureka, Calif., Wednesday night.
    When it comes to the big themes of love and war
    and history, nothing concentrates the mind like a
    few songs by Merle, whose 1969 pro-war country
    anthem "Okie from Muskogee" lambasted the
    dope-smoking hippie peaceniks and earned the
    former resident of San Quentin a full pardon from
    Governor Ronald Reagan.
    Merle's political positions have evolved somewhat
    since the late Sixties, as we'll see, but sitting there
    in a mostly white working class audience even a
    tad older than the equally white crowd listening to
    Bob Dylan in Berkeley a few weeks ago, an obvious
    question bulked as large as the Stars and Stripes
    hanging above Merle: Are we seeing the birth of a
    new anti-war movement as potent as the one that
    prompted Merle to riposte with "Muskogee" and
    "The Fighting Side of Me"?
    Now, there's always an intervention movement
    here, usually below the radar screen of mainstream
    reporting. And since, according to the Defense
    Department, pre-9/11, 60,000 U.S. troops were
    conducting temporary operations and exercises in
    about 100 countries, this movement has plenty to
    do. But a full-blown anti-war movement needs a
    full-blown war, and a reasonably protracted war at
    that. Not the notional "war on terror" now merged,
    according to Attorney General John Ashcroft, with
    the war on drugs officially waged since 1982. Not
    the sortie to Afghanistan.
    Look back to the early 1960s. In 1962, a full eight
    years after President Eisenhower had decreed
    secretly that Ho Chi Minh could not be permitted to
    triumph in open elections, the left was just
    beginning to educate itself about Vietnam.
    When President Kennedy was sending the first
    detachments of U.S. troops to South Vietnam and
    setting the stage for the assassination of South
    Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, there was
    scarcely the semblance of an anti-war movement.
    In Oxford, England, in 1962, I remember being
    incredulous when one of my radical mentors, the
    historian Thomas Hodgkin, remarked to me that the
    next big anti-imperial battleground would be
    It wasn't until 1966 and 1967 that the left,
    particularly the Socialist Workers Party, had
    managed to stage the big anti-war rallies that
    broke forever the pro-war consensus and set the
    stage for more radical actions. And by then, there
    was that potent fuel for an anti-war movement,
    the draft, which prompted Stop the Draft Week.
    By 1968, we had a worldwide anti-imperial
    movement; we had the May-June upheavals in
    Paris; we very definitely thought history was on our
    side. Not any more.
    Today? We have the premonition of a big anti-war
    movement. Like the SWP 40 years ago, the
    Workers World Party did much of the organizing of
    the recent demonstrations. This doesn't mean the
    150,000 or so who marched in the Bay Area and in
    Washington D.C. are dupes of Karl Marx, Ramsey
    Clark and Saddam Hussein, as some have alleged
    but merely that organizing big demonstrations takes
    a lot of dedication, energy and experience. I have
    a dream, said Martin Luther King, and so he did, but
    the Communists in the south helped him put flesh
    on that dream, as they did the dreams of Rosa
    But will there be a war with Iraq? No one knows for
    sure, but I'd say the odds are better than ever
    there will be. To judge by the amended U.S.
    resolution lodged with the UN, we can have one
    any time the commander in chief decrees it, with
    February/March 2003 as probably the earliest
    practical slot. A draft? No time soon. A calling up of
    the National Guard? More likely, and already there
    are tens of thousands of reservists on duty, many
    of them no doubt chafing at their condition.
    And if George Bush lets loose the dogs of war on
    the grounds that Saddam wouldn't submit to a full
    personal cavity search, will we see a new age of
    ^A'60s-style protest? Certainly, if the war goes on
    long enough and Americans get killed in large
    numbers. As I said, there already is an intervention
    movement out there, whose senior members cut
    their teeth in the '60s, with more recent recruits
    from America's later forays in Central America and
    other battlegrounds of empire.
    Back to Merle. He's changed, too. "Friends... and
    conservatives," he said to the crowd in the old
    Eureka Theatre, then he made a joke about George
    Bush's colostomy. Elsewhere on tour he's derided
    Ashcroft and the erosion of the Bill of Rights.
    There's a slab of the Right that's denouncing
    America's imperial wars. That wasn't happening in
    the early Sixties. If the Left could ever reach out
    to this Right, which it's almost constitutionally
    incapable of doing, we'd have something.

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