Liberal imperialist Todd Gitlin witch-hunts antiwar movement on Fresh Air

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at
Fri Jan 24 14:11:41 MST 2003

Terry Gross of  NPR's Fresh Air gave 1/2 hour of air time yesterday to one
Todd Gitlin, who was described as having been president of SDS in 1963-1964
and is now a college professor (as is the case of so many ex radicals, altho
knowing the SDS of those days it was possible to describe them only as
"radicals" in the context of the McCarthy era).

To listen to him was a real throwback to the red baiting bullshit socialists
faced from liberals in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The most significant thing to note about Gitlin and his ilk is that they are
not AGAINST a war with Iraq. Althoguh presented as an opponent of
administration policy, his formulations on air stressed that he was against
a *unilateral* war with Iraq. While there are undoubtedly countless honest,
sincere people who, under the impact of imperialist propaganda about Iraq,
initially express their antiwar sentiments and gut class instinct against
Bush's war drive in terms like letting the inspectors do their job or
whatever, that is not what is involved with Gitlin. If you look him up on
the web, you'll see that this guy has been trading on his "radical"
credentials to basically undermine and sabotage the movement against the
war, and other progressive struggles for years.

Typical is his column dated October 14, published in Mother Jones magazine's
web site:

Two weeks before the big antiwar march, was he building it? Of course not!!!
He was running it down.

He comes out strongly against people who carried placards at an earlier UN
protest with slogans like "NO SANCTIONS! NO BOMBINGS!"

"Now, those same cynics of the hard left have moved to the front of the
current anti-war movement. The sponsors of what's being billed as a national
anti-war demonstration in Washington on October 26, and their eminence
grise, Ramsey Clark, express no displeasure with Saddam Hussein. Their world
is two-toned and, as with the Old Left at its worst, it's always clear who's
wearing the black hats. (Ramsey Clark belongs to the International Committee
to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, after all.)

"This will not play in Peoria. It does not deserve to play in Washington."

Much to Mr. Gitlin's displeasure, I'm sure, it did play in Peoria, and in
Washington, and even more massively all over the country in the protests
just held a week ago.

So yesterday Mr. Gitlin was back on the attack, urging a "nuanced" view that
opposes only "unilateral" war, but devoting most of his time to deriding the
antiwar movement and people participating in it.

ANSWER's steering committee, you see, is made up of "very far left wing
factions that probably total 100 members in America." Crap like that.

Behind Gitlin's red-baiting is SUPPORT to the US War against Iraq, albeit
with some doleful grimmaces.

"The international sanctions against Iraq have been a humanitarian disaster
for the country's civilians," he admits in the October column, laying out
the sucker-bait. "But," he adds, "doesn't Saddam Hussein bear some
responsibility for that disaster?"

A fair question that deserves a fair answer. Did Saddam vote for the
sanctions? Are his warships enforcing it? Are his warplanes patrolling
iraqui skies to detect "contraband"? The answer is, no. Saddam is *not*
responsible for this "humanitarian disaster," he has, on the contrary, been

Gitlin's argument is worthy of an out-of-control 7-year-old boy (a subject
in which I have developed some expertise). "He made me do it," they say
after walloping another child. That's what the liberals say. The children of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki made me do it by having Japanese parents. The
children of Iraq had it coming for having parents who haven't overthrown
Saddam. "Saddam made me do it."

Gitlin  continues: "The bombing -- US and UK attacks in the no-fly zones of
northern and southern Iraq -- are taking place under the auspices of a
mission to protect Iraqi Kurds in the north and Iraqi Shiites in the south.
Again, the Iraqi leader bears responsibility; Washington and London have
made a credible case for the no-fly-zone sorties because and only because
Saddam Hussein has trampled these long-suffering people in more ways than
there is room to describe in this space."

Listen to that -- the anglo-american imperialist oil cabal have "a credible
case" for what he delicately describes as "no fly zone sorties" which are in
fact a continuing, sustained air campaign involving multiple air stirkes
every day on the territory of precisely these very same "long-suffering
people." Or like the second lieutenant said in Vietnam, "We had to destroy
the village in order to save it."

So when you get right down to it, Gitlin *supports* the sanctions,
*supports* the bombing, and --although he is too clever or embarrassed to
say so openly on fresh air, laying it instead between the lines, he
*supports* the war against Irak and his differences with Bush are strictly
tactical over HOW to wage that war, not WHETHER to do so.

This is a good illustration of  the rhetoric of pro-imperialist "antiwar"
liberals, for there is no way to separate the policy of the imperialists
from their wars. When in the Marxist classic you see polemics against
"pacifism" and so on, this is *precisely* the kind of "antiwar" stance being
attacked. A policy of complete adherence and support to your "own"
imperialism (and not insignificantly, adherence to the privileges a white,
male college professor derives THANKS TO the the rape of the third world by
his imperialism), while trying to *cover up* that war in general and this
war in particular are an inescapable part of the whole imperialist package.
You can no more have imperialism without war than you can have a tree
without roots. The nourishment of the former comes from the latter.

Imperialism IS war, permanent war against the people of the Third World as
can be so transparently seen in the case of Iraq. And liberal imperialists
like Mr. Gitlin will in the end support imperialist war, even while making
some regretful noises about the "humanitarian disaster" they themselves
helped bring about.

The answer to this is exactly what Fred Feldman raised in relation to
another outbreak of red-baiting, in the pages of the NY Times, I think it
was. And that is to categorically *reject* all attempts to divide the
antiwar movement, pit one section against another, and instead to strengthen
the unity of the movement by building the broadest possible coalitions on
the basis of the principle of non-exclusion. And adopting a policy of
"affirmative action" in relation to the groups targetted by the red baiters.
Going out of our way to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

We should recognize red-baiting for what it is: not liberals taking
advantage of some mistake on some secondary thing a group of comrades may
have made, but rather a recognition, a tribute to these comrades'
effectiveness by representatives of the class enemy. People like Gitlin are
the recon units; they probe to see whether weaknesses can be found in the
enemy's front lines, and if so, then all sorts of provocateurs and agents
from the FBI and CIA will deploy to exploit them. That's why Fred's
recommendation is absolutely on the mark. This red-baiting sortie should be
met with a hail of bullets from every direction, it should be repelled in

Part of this counterattack  is making sure every one understandands that
these "antiwar" liberals are really shame-faced *supporters* of the
imperialst rape of Iraq and and the imperialist war against Iraq, and
explain that THIS --not deeply felt differences about the Hungarian events
of 1956 and Sam Marcy's literary style-- is really what is behind the red

OF COURSE these people don't want to get up and say openly they support the
imperialist UN security council resolutions against Iraq, the imperialist UN
blockade, the imperialist UN bombing raids, the imperialist UN inspectors
and the threatened war if Iraq doesn't surrender and allow the imperialists
to occupy it. No, you see, it's all about Tien an men square or the invasion
of Czechoslovakia or Hungary. Bullshit.

They attack the antiwar movement because they are against what it stands
for, even if some demonstration don't have the clearest slogans, and even if
some speakers or signs give unwarranted co THEIR slogan isn't "no to war on
Iraq," but "yes to the anglo-american imperialist war on Irak provided it is
okay with the franco-german imperialists, too."

But you can imagine what the reaction from people would have been to signs
like "yes to the sanctions! Yes to the bombing!" "Saddam is guilty" and "No
war on Iraq without France and Germany". So instead they justify their
boycott by red-baiting diatribes against Ramsey Clark, by claiming a speaker
at an antiwar rally can't talk about Mumia or the genocide against the
Indians, and all sorts of other diversionary attacks. It is a coverup by the
liberals of their own support to imperialism including, if it comes to it, a
full-scale war against Iraq.

That's what the red-baiting is about.

Red-baiters are pro-imperialist liberals trying to sabotage the antiwar
movement so that Bush can go ahead and do what he wants to more easily. They
play foosie with the antiwar movement in order to pressure the
administration to adopting tactics more to their liking, and then stab the
movement in the back every time.

Of course not *every* red baiter is a liberal imperialist pig. Some are
cops, agents provocateurs.


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