Tag: SDS

May ’70: 3. May Day & Bobby Seale

Me, I don’t have much memory of Nixon’s April 30, 1970 speech announcing the invasion of Cambodia. It could have been because nothing the bastard did would have surprised me by that point, but more likely it’s just that I was already on my way to New Haven to see about Bobby.

That would be Bobby Seale, chairman of the Black Panther Party, who was facing trial in the case of some Connecticut Panthers accused of murdering a member they thought was a police informant. A national call had gone out for a May Day demonstration to defend Bobby, and thousands of young radicals from around the country and especially the Northeast were en route. We had a couple of dozen from NYU’s Uptown campus with us.

Lemme step back here to set a little context. NYU today is a bigtime, self-promoting academic powerhouse whose relentless pursuit of lower Manhattan real estate for expansion has earned them the hatred of all clear-thinking New Yorkers. Back then, NYU was a bit cheesier, with a campus in Greenwich Village and a satellite one in the Bronx. (The Uptown campus was abandoned by the racist NYU administration later in the 1970s when it found the West Bronx was becoming, let’s say, too colorful, and is now the home of Bronx Community College).

We had a pretty good SDS chapter at NYU Uptown and saw no reason to change anything just because the national organization had imploded the previous summer. (In fact, at one point we decided the chapter head, Lon E. Thud, must be National Secretary of SDS-nobody else was doing it, after all). NYU had given me a “compulsory leave of absence for academic reasons” at the end of the previous school year, a tactical mistake on their part. I was still a registered student and, as such, could not be excluded from the campus.

Port Huron Statement

I would imagine anyone under the age of 40 hasn’t bothered to read the Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962 .  I submit it’s worth a quick read.

Much of the document is outdated, much of it is naive, some of it is foolish, but there’s some meat there and a ‘sense’ that, I think, is too often missing from Left Wing discussion today: Hope.  Hope in what people could do for themselves when they got off their asses and did it.  Hope that is summed-up in the old New Left saying, “Have a little patience.  Have a little faith.”   And I’ll point-out it was when the New Left lost its patience, rejected faith for turgid authoritarian Old Left dogmas that it dwindled into irrelevance.

Anyway, take ten minutes, or so & read the thing.  At worst you’ll get a smug sense of superiority over those dummies who wrote the thing; at best you’ll learn something.

The Revolution That WAS Televised

Way back in the olden days – 1968 – there was a nasty big war going on in a godforsaken little country in southeast Asia called Vietnam. In those days there wasn’t an “All Volunteer Force” full of high school dropouts, petty criminals who bought off jail time by enlisting, way too many hopeless kids from the rust belt and impoverished heartland with no other options, etc.

In those days we Baby Boomers, the largest chunk of humans ever to gift the planet with our presence, were enjoying our youth and our freedom immensely with what our parents who fought World War II at home and abroad were able to buy us with their rewards for suffering through decades of economic depression and war. We were the best educated generation ever, a huge percentage of us went to college because our parents were hell bent on giving us all the opportunities they never had.

So in order to have an ample rotating pool of millions of young men to fight their war, they had a system called “Selective Service.” Conscription. Now, this system and the Last Great Opium War it supported were not very popular with the young Boomers who got to be cannon fodder whether they wanted to or not. As resistance and protest against the war grew among the young and disrupted college campuses all over the country, the huge ‘bubble’ of humans that comprised my generation began looking really dangerous to the Powers That Be who like to run things from some basement in or near Washington, D.C.

The situation looked pretty grim to me too, though I tended to have a lot more faith in my generation than the wigs in D.C. did. I figured it would eventually come down to revolution, but I also figured we’d win. Sheer force of numbers. I joined the local NAACP Youth Council, thinking we were going to need the boomers who weren’t WASPs, as much or more than we needed boomers who were. We also had some luck recruiting Native American kids, which I considered a very hopeful sign. Our revolution would need us all, so I actively went to work rounding up as many “all” as I could find. It being Oklahoma (Muskogee, in fact), they weren’t hard to find.

My sister who was a year older had joined the SDS while away for her first year of college in Kalamazoo. She wasn’t at all shy of trying to recruit me into the fold every time she came home on holiday. She too was convinced that a revolution by our generation was inevitable, and despite serious inborn intellect (she was Valedictorian in high school, eventually got a PhD in plant physiology), seemed totally under some kind of spell cast by some older people – pre-WW2-born Beatnik generation – who were trying really hard to manage the great desire for change and a better world for their own purposes. By manipulating us.

Snow? Pfui! The Iraq Moratorium Rocked…

Yesterday marked the 16th Third Friday observance of the Iraq Moratorium, a locally-based, grassroots-powered, monthly anti-war protest.

Heavy snow blanketed much of the Northeast and Midwest and definitely caused some cancellations of Moratorium Day events.

Although reports have just started coming in to the website this morning, I don’t mind declaring the day a triumph.

And that’s not movement bravado. Two events–one national and blogospheric, one local and on the ground–that just happened to take place on the Third Friday of December show the growing importance of this campaign.

First, the MoveOn.org crew announced the results of their members’ vote on this year’s priorities, with hundreds of thousands of members weighing in. The process was supposed to produce three national priorities for the group for 2009. Close voting resulted in the adoption of four. Along with national healthcare, rescuing the economy and global warming, MoveOn promises to prioritize the fight to “End the War in Iraq” in 2009. Unless current trends are suddenly reversed, this will require MoveOn organizers to challenge, directly and actively, major parts of the Iraq policy of the incoming administration. Mobilizing the MoveOn base will provide a real boost to the struggle to end this unjust and unjustifiable war.

Here in NYC, the hundred-plus students who had occupied the New School “suspended” their takeover at 3 AM on Friday after a sudden victory. The administration said it would give in to most of their immediate demands! (The seizure was diaried here with an interesting and contentious comments thread.)

How is this connected to the Iraq Moratorium? Among the demands still on the table are the resignations of university president Bob Kerrey, a “liberal” advocate of the Iraq war from the start, and the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, a gent named Robert B. Millard. Millard is a top exec at a company called L-3 Communications.

New School SDS discovered that part of what falls under L-3’s definition of “communications” is providing torturers to the US military at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib! They launched their campaign against L-3 place a year ago on Moratorium Day. They have continued to dog Millard and observe Moratorium Day since. (Their website has detailed dirt on L-3.)

Add to this the fact that just a week ago the largest anti-war coalition in the US, United For Peace & Justice, adopted the Iraq Moratorium as a project at their National Assembly. Going into 2009, the Iraq Moratorium is on a roll!

Me, I’ve already got January 16 marked on my calendar, and can only urge, “Go, thou, and do likewise.”

Crossposted at Daily Kos.

‘How I spent spring break: Stopping the war’

Instead of “Where the Boys Are,” the old-time spring breaks that used to bring waves of partying college students to Florida beaches, the theme for some students this spring will be “Bring the Boys Home.”  (It’s not just boys at war any more, of course; that just fit better.) Our Spring Break invites students and young people to Washington DC for a wide range of antiwar actions in March.

Meanwhile, Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, is sponsoring Iraq Action Camp, three days of education, training and action for students March 15-17 in Washington. It’s free for college students, but they should register now.

Says Robin Markle of Drew University SDS in New Jersey:

“I don’t think we can rely on the government to stop the war, despite what politicians may say when they’re on the campaign trail. I’m really excited about the Iraq Moratorium campaign, which invites anti-war activists to hold actions the third Friday of every month in their communities. I think that locally-based grassroots actions like these, with people talking to their friends, co-workers and neighbors, is our best strategy for steadily growing the movement until it’s something that politicians can’t simply pay lip service to.”

Is antiwar action and energy being transferred to the presidential campaign?

Says Kati Kesh of UNC-Asheville:

From my perspective … it seems that although some students are very much swept up in the election process most students remember what happened in 2006 when they put their faith in the Democrats–the Democrats failed to do anything about the war. Because it’s an election year it seems that the student body is becoming more politicized and wanting to be more active about issues such as the war in Iraq.

More on what students are thinking and doing in this CounterPunch article.