[Marxism] Some comments on Yoshie's obit for the antiwar movement

andrew c pollack andypollack at juno.com
Tue Jul 20 19:13:37 MDT 2004

Wow! What a beautiful piece of writing! Not only the quality of the
prose, but the substance!  
On Tue, 20 Jul 2004 20:36:45 -0400 "Jose G. Perez"
<elgusanorojo at bellsouth.net> writes:
> I originally posted this reflection provoked by Yoshie's on the
> Solidarity discussion list. I just noticed that she's posted the 
> same
> blog announcement here, and it seemed to fit here as well here, as
> there. Apart from a couple of typos, of course, which I've fixed.
> *  *  *
>         Our comrade Yoshie continues to offer one of the most
> provocative and interesting left experiments with blogging, and a 
> recent
> one raises a question that deserves discussion within this list and 
> next
> week in Atlanta [where Solidarity is having a socialist summer 
> school
> starting July 26 -- y'all come].
>         Titled, "A Postmortem: The Anti-War Movement, September
> 2001-March 2004," she notes that as a coherent national movement in 
> the
> streets, the antiwar movement has pretty much fallen apart, and 
> explains
> why: the pro-Democrat election year pressure. And in doing so she 
> refers
> back to the experience of the late 60's-early 70's movement against 
> the
> Vietnam War, and the role played by a movement some of us now in 
> Soli
> [and others on the Marxism List] were in at the time, the Socialist
> Workers Party and its youth organization, the Young Socialist 
> Alliance.
>         Actually, what Yoshie writes and quotes about the SWP's role 
> in
> the anti-Vietnam war movement somewhat exaggerates its immediate
> tactical successes. It was not, as those of us involved in the SWP 
> side
> of things then saw things, a good thing that there was a division of 
> the
> national coalition between NPAC and PCPJ in the early 1970's, and 
> in
> reality NPAC's ability to maintain a real viable national coalition
> THROUGH a national presidential election cycle was never put to the
> test. 
>         NPAC wasn't formed until around 1970, and the 1972 Vietnam
> accords put an end to direct U.S. combat participation and that 
> meant
> that in 1973, with a supposed cease-fire in place, there was no 
> longer
> an antiwar movement to speak of. 
>         The year 1968, before NPAC emerged, is a much better one to 
> take
> as our reference point. It fractured the left much more thoroughly 
> than
> even the 2004 election-year pressure has done. EVERYONE I knew went
> "clean for Gene," for the "good McCarthy" as someone called him, 
> Eugene
> McCarthy the poet/Senator from the Minnesota Democratic Farmer 
> Labor
> Party. And that was followed by Robert Kennedy launching his 
> campaign. 
>         There was no Nader getting 10% among Blacks and 9% among
> Latinos, as Ralph recently did on a CNN-Gallup poll focused on 
> those
> communities. 
>         Instead comedian Dick Gregory ran for President as a
> "write-me-in" protest/joke, the idea of something outside the 
> two-party
> system was that unthinkable. 
>         Phil Ochs bought a (real) pig who (which? that? -- Yoshie,
> aren't you an English teacher? -- help!!!) the Youth International 
> Party
> ran (very briefly, before it was consumed) for President because 
> they,
> TOO, wanted to run a pig for President, just like the big parties 
> were
> doing.
>         This is how bad things were in 1968: we did not even have a
> David Cobb campaign. 
>         David Cobb would have been progress then.
>         But after 1968 came 1969. What happened in 1969 is that I 
> turned
> 18, left home, went to college.
>         At College the *first*  thing I did ... well, actually, the
> second or third thing I did ... was hook up with the people 
> organizing
> the moratorium. 
>         On October 15 there was a national one-day "moratorium" 
> against
> the war in Vietnam. "No business as usual," was the slogan. Time
> magazine reported six million people took part. THAT was back when
> people viewed TIME a little bit like they view Faux News today. 
>         A month later, on November 15, was the march on Washington, 
> I
> think that was the one where Debby Bustin, a YSA'er who was 
> national
> secretary of the SMC ("student mobe") said, and that night they 
> showed
> her on national TV, "if you keep drafting us, you're not going to 
> win
> the war, you're going to lose the army." 
>         Which they did. Lose the army, I mean. Which is also how 
> they
> lost the war, though it took a couple of more years for them to 
> admit
> it. 
>         The moral of the story is that after winter comes spring.
> Election years in "America" (as unitedstatesians call their country) 
> are
> always the winter of social and protest movements.
>         But after winter comes the spring. And whether Berry or 
> Kush
> wins, whether the Democritans or the Republicrats control the 
> Senate,
> after 1968 you get 1969.
>         The *funny* think about 1969 was that, actually, the October 
> 15
> moratorium was meant to *undermine* the November 15 march on 
> Washington.
> It was meant to channel people to organizing for Democrat House and
> Senate candidates. 
>         And perhaps the *cleverest* "Trotskyite wrecker" trick the
> SWP/YSA'ers pulled during that whole period was simply to claim, 
> despite
> the opposition of most of the moratorium national leadership and 
> most of
> the November 15 national leadership, that actually it wasn't true:
> October 15 and November 15 were both great days to protest the war 
> on.
>         Which was actually what 99% of the people in the antiwar
> movement thought, apart from a few dozen intimately involved in
> negotiations and fights between the groups in New York, Washington 
> and
> San Francisco. 
>         With all respect to Yoshie, I think her post-mortem is a 
> little
> pre-mature. In late 2004 the bourgeoisie will hold its quadrennial
> electoral farce, just as they did in 1968. That will be followed by
> early 2005. 
>         And then the *real* antiwar movement will begin.
>         I think it was Wordsworth writing about the Great French
> Revolution who said, bliss was it to be alive then, but to be young 
> was
> heaven. That is really how I've always felt, since I grew old enough 
> to
> have a little perspective on it, about having had the good fortune 
> of
> having been born in 1951, and to have lived through those years, 
> most of
> all as a young person.
>         As comrade Ricardo Alarcón --President of the National 
> Assembly
> of People's Power, Cuba's legislature--  said at the unveiling of a
> statue of John Lennon in Havana a few years ago: 
>         "The sixties were much more than a period in a century that 
> is
> ending.  Before anything else, they were an attitude toward life 
> that
> profoundly affected culture, society and politics, and crossed all
> borders.  Their renewing impulse rose up, victorious, overwhelming 
> the
> decade, but it had been born before that time and has not stopped 
> even
> up to today.
>         "To these years we turn our sights with the tenderness of 
> first
> love, with the loyalty that all combatants guard for their earliest 
> and
> most distant battle.  Some still denigrate them, with obstinate
> antagonism, those who know that to kill history they must first tear 
> out
> its most luminous and hopeful moment.
>         "This is how it is, and has always been: in favor of or 
> against
> 'the sixties.' "
>         I cannot give comrades any assurance that 2005 will be a
> post-election year in the United States that will surpass 1969. I 
> can't
> even guarantee there will be any sort of upsurge. But that is what 
> I
> believe.
> José
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