[Marxism] to be or not to be militant...

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat May 5 23:15:43 MDT 2012

Fourth, while the police sweeps and indiscriminate arrests initially posed
a potential public-relations problem for the administration (and Wells
documents the propaganda counteroffensive Nixon’s people pursued),
immediate polling data suggested that public reaction to the May Day
actions was decidedly negative, with Wells citing polls showing 71 percent
of the public disapproving of them.

This relates to one last lesson that we might especially mull on today. The
May Day mobilization turned out to be the last enormous, national
anti-Vietnam War event.
This is from Ken Butigan's piece on Nation of Change. What happened here I
believe is that the Government's brutality of response won the day.  Might
proved for many to be right.  I have seen it before on a much smaller scale
in Queensland in the mid 80s. During the Electricity Workers' strike the
government outlawed picketing near power stations and enforced the new laws
with huge police mobilizations.  I was swept up in much of this and at one
period could not attend a demonstration with out a special branch police
squad moving in to arrest me.

Curiously after one arrest the response among quite a few of my leftist
academic colleagues was to blame me.  The response was in effect that I had
provoked the police and that was not a good idea.    What came into place
was a general feeling that militant responses to Government oppression were
not smart.  A meeting of the organisation I belonged to Queensland
Academics for Human Rights was convened shortly after and two academics
turned up whom I had never met before or since and argued that we academics
should be publishing and not demonstrating because we were not very good at

The general mood emerged that it was better to turn to the ballot and it is
interesting to note that one year after the particular arrest I referred to
the hard right Premier of Qld was forced to resign amid allegations of
corruption and scandal. Three years later a right wing Labor Government
came into office and remained until just recently.

So police brutality and massive state mobilisations can work, but they too
come at a price.  They may isolate the Left and intimidate most but at the
same time they do not win hearts and minds.



More information about the Marxism mailing list