Re: [sixties-l] response to Cox and Blankfort

From: Marty Jezer (
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 11:06:12 EST

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    I don't know where Carroll Cox is coming from but he certainly turned what I wrote -- and what I consistently write and say -- totally around.

    I've always stood for an inclusive movement --
    Trotskyists, pacifists, Democrats, socialists, anarchists, even Republicans, as long as they are willing to accept the agreed upon discipline of any demonstration. (I do agree with Jeff Blankfort however that the sectarians in A.N.S.W.E.R. -- who deserve our thanks for organizing the first of the anti-Iraqi War demonstrations should not be allowed to control the planning of future demonstrations.)What's needed is a broader coalition that reflects the diverse politics of all the participants -- and that welcomes Jeff, Gitlin, and me.

    In the controversy that Cox is writing about, I was initially responding to Blankfort's sentiment of excluding Gitlin from the movement for his "incorrect" politics. In that vein Blankfort wrote:

    "I'm not surprised that Marty Jezer decides that the involvement of Gitlin or anyone else in the anti-war movement is not to be questioned. A couple of years back he joined Gitlin in criticizing the 60s anti-war movement for not having had the sense to endorse Humphrey for president in 1968, not being able to understand, apparently, that had the movement's consciousness been at that low level, Johnson would not have withdrawn his candidacy in the first place...."

    I would thus like to (sarcastically) apologize to Blankfort riding an all-night bus from Vermont to Washington,D.C. to protest the war. Obviously, because I hold positions that aren't those of Blankfort's, I have no right to be in his anti-war movement.

    More to the point, Blankfort misrepresents my position on the 1968 election that I wrote in 1992, independent of Gitlin's position, in Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, pp. 128,174-176.

    By the summer of 68, I wrote, the anti-war movement had "won the battle within the Democratic Party." I then go on to describe how we (I was one of those who was in the streets of Chicago and who opposed Humphrey's candidacy) were so infatuated with our own revolutionary image that we got the political analysis of 1968 all wrong. We believed a Nixon victory would, as the cliche goes, "heighten the contradictions." In repressing the movement he would revolutionize the country. At the time it looked like that was possible, but in retrospect it wasn't even close. Nixon took power, escalated the war, and we were helpless to stop him. I continue: Humphrey as President would have had to end the war (whether he wanted to or not) because to continue the war would have totally destroyed the Democratic Party (and his chance for re-election. The equation, which we didn't fully understand) was that Nixon, to appeal to his base, had to move right, which he did. HHH, to secure his base, i.e., to survive as President, would have had to move left; the political reality of the time was that he had no choice. Further more, the cultural aspects of the movement, feminism, gay lib, and many other parts of it would have prospered under the greater tolerance of a Humphrey presidency. In opposition to Jeff's critique, my analysis was based on the strength of the movement, not its weaknesses. We misunderstood our strength. We had rallied the country against the war and not towards our agenda of cultural and political revolution. At a time when we were strongest, we upped the ante and our demands. Instead of settling for reforms that would have ended the war, we decided to go for revolution, which was a fantasy based on, among other things, taking too much LSD and/or reading too much Mao and Fanon.

    Agree with that analysis or not, it's an attempt to think critically about that time. My take is that we blew it. That doesn't mean I'm trashing what I was part of. I just don't want to repeat those mistakes again.

    In the current situation, there is widespread opposition towards going to war in Iraq from the right as well as the left. We need to guard against the revolutionary illusions and exclusionary politics that, in the past, did us in.

    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel -- which Martin Duberman called "by far the best account we have of Abbie Hoffman's remarkable life...deeply sympathetic and scrupulously detached -- a triumph of judicious empathy," and of which Anita Hoffman wrote "Here's the Abbie I knew and loved!" -- can be ordered from books stores or ordered direct from me for $15 postpaid.

    Marty Jezer
    Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words
    (Softcover edition hot off the press. See
    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel
    Rachel Carson: Author, Biologist
    The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960
    Visit my web site
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