[Marxism] Kerry, the VVAW and FBI files

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 1 14:38:07 MST 2004

Mark Lause wrote:
> I was in Kansas City and working with some of the VVAW people there in
> 1970-71.

You should never underestimate the appeal that socialism had in this 
period for ordinary working people. Despite the genuinely offputting 
aspects of branch life, there were several people in the Kansas City 
branch (my last stop in my 11 year career in the Trotskyist movement) 
who were the real deal. One was a retired electrician in his seventies 
whose father remembered reading Jim Cannon before WWI. The other was a 
guy named Bill who worked in the local GM plant and brought his son, 
whom he called "honey", around to headquarters. These were people with 
genuine roots in the working class. All of the people who had 
transferred in were working in various plants but had no connections to 
the real lives of the workers around them. They couldn't even get them 
to a forum.

This passage from the NY Times Magazine profile on New Paltz's Green 
Party mayor Jason West caught my eye:

 >>West grew up in Latham, N.Y., a suburban town just north of Albany. 
His earliest memories include the blast furnace he saw when his mother 
took him to pick up his father at the steel mill where he worked. The 
stories his parents tell include his boycott of McDonald's as a child 
(he opposed the plastic foam containers that held Big Macs) and the time 
as a teenager when he felt that Christmas was too commercial and asked 
that he receive no gifts. The parents of the man who speaks so 
poetically about the institution of marriage -- ''Marriage is the act of 
making public what is already written in two people's hearts,'' he said 
as he was arraigned -- are divorced. They separated when West was young, 
and he and his sister grew up shuttling between two homes. When West 
talks about marriage, it's very personal. As his sister puts it, ''It 
just makes it really true when he says that marriage is something that 
is just between two people and not about anyone else.''

After being a member of the steelworkers' union and then the Teamsters, 
Jason's father, Ron, was a house painter for 15 years, until recently, 
when after completing his college degree, he became an elementary-school 
teacher on the South Side of Albany. ''When I was getting my degree, 
Jason brought over 'A People's History of the United States,' and he 
said, 'Dad, I think you need to read this if you're going to teach,' and 
then he took home one of my books, 'Detroit, I Do Mind Dying: A Study in 
Urban Revolution,''' Ron West said. ''I was a rebel without a clue, but 
Jason, he is a rebel with a vision.''<<

The next time there is a radicalization in the USA we have to find out a 
way to reach people such as Jason West's father (and, of course, Jason 
himself) and those who came around the radical movement in the 1960s and 
70s but were driven away by the hothouse sectarian atmosphere of these 
groups. In the long march to socialism, our greatest asset is human 
beings who decide to break with the system--especially those who belong 
to the working class.


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