Comparing two movements
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 22 11:44:13 MST 2003
On the Progressive Sociologists Network mailing list, Alan Spector
posted a thoughtful comparison between the antiwar movement of today and
that of the 1960s:
I want to put forward some of my own thoughts on the subject.
1. IF THERE WAS ANY DOUBT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INTERNET for
radical organizing today, the peace demonstrations of the past year or
so should have dispelled that. Indeed, I would argue that it is as
important for the movement of today as the mimeograph machine was to
that of the 1960s. (It would also seem to relegate wheat pasting of
posters, a burdensome chore I participated in countless times on cold,
rainy nights to the ashbin of history.)
Internet Stokes Anti-War Movement
By Leander Kahney 02:00 AM Jan. 21, 2003 PT
This weekend's anti-war protests were the first mass demonstrations in
memory to occur before a conflict, a testimony to the organizing power
of the Internet, observers say.
While the Vietnam-era anti-war movement took years to gather momentum,
hundreds of thousands of protestors turned out in dozens of U.S. cities
on Saturday to protest a possible war in Iraq.
The two biggest gatherings took place in San Francisco and Washington,
D.C. Estimates of the turnout are contentious -- authorities cited
100,000 for both cities, while organizers say crowds topped 850,000 --
but it's probably safe to say the marches were the biggest since the
anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s.
The rallies attracted a broad spectrum of protestors, from campus
firebrands to elderly Republicans. Many religious groups were involved
("Who Would Jesus Bomb?" read one banner), as well as trade unions, a
wide range of political groups and a lot of ordinary citizens.
The disparity of protestors is a sign the anti-war movement has gone
mainstream, observers said, and it's thanks not to the media, but to
hundreds of anti-war websites and mailing lists
2. THE PROTESTS TAKE PLACE WITHIN A CONTEXT OF DECLINING ECONOMIC
EXPECTATIONS. During the 1960s, one of our biggest battles was to win
workers to the antiwar movement in the face of an inflationary wartime
boom, distorted as it was. Today, workers are facing the biggest decline
in jobs in many years. This would explain polls indicating blue-collar
opposition to the war and votes against it by the Chicago City Council
and other venues with a strong working class constituency.
3. THE STUDENT MOVEMENT IS FAR MORE SOPHISTICATED TODAY, despite the
weakness of the organized radical movement and the popularity of radical
ideas in general in the 1960s. Specifically, I refer to the
unwillingness of young people to engage in fruitless adventures such as
the kind associated with the black block. Even a black block sympathizer
like Thomas Seay was forced to admit on Henwood's list that the
demonstrations are useful, while of course reserving the need to heave
bricks through Starbucks' windows:
"We should continue going to their events, but also organize our own. I
take back my earlier statements that these protests are worthless. They
are good for people who want to demonstrate at some level their anti-war
sentiments. I took my baby to the demo, knowing that I wouldn't have to
worry about engaging in a street brawl while pushing a baby carriage.
However, at the same time, we need to organize other types of more
radical subversion outside of these marches."
4. THERE ARE FAR FEWER TEMPTATIONS TO SUPPORT PEACE CANIDATES, the main
weakness in many ways of the 1960s movement. With the ascendancy of the
Democratic Leadership Council, you are unlikely to find somebody like
Eugene McCarthy emerging. With the rightward shift of bourgeois politics
in general, the radical movement has less of a task convincing people of
the need to demonstrate in the streets. (This of course is not to say
that such elements are out there, especially in the Moving On coalition.
It is rather to say that the relationship of forces is much stronger on
5. THE JOB IS HARDER GIVEN THE UNSAVORY CHARACTER OF SADDEM HUSSEIN.
That being said, it is noteworthy that attacks from our friends in the
liberal and social democratic press seem to have eased up lately on the
Ramsey Clark bashing--and it is about time.
6. MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE LEFT IS UNITED AROUND THE CENTRAL DEMANDS OF NO
WAR AND NO SANCTIONS. Although many of us would like to see a national
coalition that is accountable to grass roots organizations reflective of
the *entire* movement, we should be grateful that we can unite in the
streets over the central demands. In the 1960s we had to battle
constantly until 1970 or so about the need to call for immediate
withdrawal from Vietnam. Today, we are in a much stronger position. From
David McReynolds to Ramsey Clark; from Medea Benjamin to Clark
Kissinger, there is total unanimity on the need to prevent war and to
lift the sanctions that have caused such suffering in Iraq.
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