[Marxism] Melee of the Young Republican Berserkers

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Tue Oct 4 06:33:22 MDT 2005

October 3, 2005
Melee of the Young Republican Berserkers
Desperation at Holyoke


... the Boy-Emperor's swagger seems tired. But there is no slackness in 
the will of the warmongers. Recruitment is done for the planetary 
bloodletting. Among the working-class there is now little care for the 
shibboleths of patriotism, when the only thing that seems to matter to 
the political and economic elite is the patriotism of the bottom line. 
The Generals are nervous, and the ante is up.

At Holyoke Community College (HCC), in Holyoke, Massachusetts, one of 
the many educational institutions that cater mainly to the 
working-class, the iron fist flew through the velvet glove. On 
Thursday, September 29, 2005, the Army National Guard sent its 
recruiters to the campus, where the student Anti-War Coalition met 
them. According to a statement by the college authorities, the 
altercation between the recruiters and the anti-war protestors created 
a disruption in the cafeteria and led to "an escalating display of 
emotions." Campus security intervened, and, again according to the 
college authorities, "the anti-war group chose to ignore [a student 
code of conduct] we had established to ensure the safety of all, and 
endangered the safety of the recruiters, students and others present." 
The campus cops hit a student with pepper spray, and the state police 
showed up. Arrests followed, as did the subsequent retaliatory 
punishment against one student, sophomore Charles Peterson.

The college conveniently avoided any mention of the Campus Republicans, 
who came in force to back the recruiters, and according to Peterson, 
who was sprayed by the cops, the Republican Youth went berserk and 
started to assault the anti-war protestors. The authorities also did 
not mention that one of the campus cops (Officer Scott Landry) is an 
advisor to the Young Republicans. When the state cops appeared, they 
came in full battle gear, ready to create Falluja in Holyoke. Some 
students report that the state police pointed guns at them.

Keep in mind that in June 2003, an HCC student, James Lacey committed 
suicide after he returned from his "tour of duty" in Iraq. At the 
memorial service for Lacey, his friend from HCC and fellow veteran, 
Sean Lamory pointed out that the reservists and National Guard are 
bearing the burden of the Iraq War. They "join the military for free 
college and benefits," he said, not because they are especially 
patriotic. (In September 2005, the Educational Policy Institute 
released a report on student debt that showed how much of a burden it 
is for US college students - who pay market rates on their student 
loans. ROTC makes financial, if immoral, sense in this vise). Lamory 
went on, "I see it right here at HCC, a school where a lot of students 
struggle financially and come out of class to see a fancy Hummer, 
surrounded by Marines in full-dress uniforms making all sorts of 
promises." This is the context for the animosity among many students at 
places like HCC against the military recruiters.

The violence is a sign of desperation: a similar incident occurred the 
same day at George Washington University, when the police went after 
Tariq Khan, an air force veteran, who stood before the army recruiting 
station with a sign, "Recruiters tell Lies." He was violently removed 
from the scene. This violence is also visible in the way the recruiters 
went among the refugees of Hurricane Katrina, before FEMA officials. 
They are vultures who feast on tragedy. The recruiters in the Astrodome 
are matched only by the fetid provision in the No Child Left Behind Act 
that automatically collects the names and addresses of under-age 
children for military recruiters.

As consent slips away, we learnt from Gramsci, coercion begins its ugly 
march into the light. We might be at this stage.

But there are still some tasks before us. The Anti-War Coalition, at 
HCC, has produced four unimpeachable demands:

(1) An immediate, unconditional public apology from the college.

(2) A pledge of non-retaliation against the activists involved.

(3) A thorough and impartial investigation into these incidents.

(4) That the military recruiters not be allowed back to our college, as 
their actions and those of the military discriminate against people 
based on their sexual orientation, in violation of Massachusetts law 
and college policy. Furthermore, the military is engaging in an 
economic draft against working class and poor people in an attempt to 
buttress this nation's illegal war against Iraq.

Call Dr. William Messner, President of HCC at 413-552-2222. Show him 
that we can put as much pressure on him as the establishment has 
already done.

Vijay Prashad teaches at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. His latest book 
is Keeping Up with the Dow Joneses: Debt, Prison, Workfare (Boston: 
South End Press). His essay, "Capitalism's Warehouses", appears in 
CounterPunch's new book, Dime's Worth of Difference. He can be reached 
at: vijay.prashad at trincoll.edu


When I was in school, practically nothing took place at community 
colleges. There has been a significant demographic shift. Over half of 
all students now go to college. Instead of thinking of it as a way out 
of the working class and a passport to affluence, it is now accepted as 
the norm. Just as a more elite group of young people in the early 1960s 
thought of college as their god-given right, now the population as a 
whole has this attitude. One of the results may be that college 
students are not the "other." Students at CC campuses are empowered 
because they are expected to be there. It is their environment, and if 
someone invades it they feel free to object.

There is some similarity in this to Berkeley in the early 1960s. 
Students then both objected to and wanted some aspects of the "ivory 
tower." They did not expect that they would have to deal with a 
military presence. And if there was to be a military presence, then the 
military would have to deal with them.

I don't recall all the details, but the Mt. Holyoke CC melee reminds me 
of two events on the UC campus.

Businesses come to campuses in order to interview and recruit 
graduating seniors for positions in their company. This is particularly 
important at large universities, simply because they can reach so many 
more prospects than at small ones.

During the Vietnam War, one of those businesses was Dow Chemical. When 
we found out that Dow and other companies were conducting interviews, 
the Vietnam Day Committee insisted that it be allowed to interview the 
interviewers and challenge Dow Chemical in particular for its 
production of napalm. (I don't believe that we knew about Agent Orange 
at the time.) We did not say that we wanted them off the campus. Our 
argument was that the campus was a place for ideas and that if Dow 
Chemical wanted to come on campus, we had a right to challenge the 
ideas and morality that lay behind their enterprise. It was a very 
successful action. Dow Chemical was unable to conduct its interviews 
and decided not to return the next day. BTW, the action was led by 
Peter Camejo.

On another occasion, the Navy set up some tables in the student union. 
Although we assume today that the victory of the Free Speech Movement 
was completed by the end of 1964, that was not the case. I don't 
believe that campus groups were able to do the same, i.e., set up 
tables to recruit for their interests. Perhaps our objection was that 
the tables were set up in the student union. Again there was a protest 
over the special privileges given to the navy recruiters. This may have 
been the background to the occasion when Mario Savio was finally 
expelled from the campus. And here I can put in a plug for Barry 
Sheppard's "The Sixties: a political memoir", which reproduces one of 
my best photos ever, capturing Mario Savio in ironic joy. It gives you 
a taste of why his personality was so important for us.

Brian Shannon

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