Rules of the road

Kasama

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July 27, 2005

Comments

Frank

I’m interested in hearing about the experience of the Weather underground but the semi-glorification of them in certain circles is becoming disturbing. You know Gitlin kind has a point with his admittingly over obsessive Weathermen bashing. Dohrn’s and her comrade’s in arms decision to “go underground” wasn’t just one choice among many, but a symbol of utter disorientation and isolation of one section of the self-proclaimed New Left. The New Left’s uncritical adulation of bizarre Stalinist regimes, overheated and meaningless rhetoric and self-isolating choices, whether that be “going underground” or deciding to start your own Mao-style Communist Party should not be seen as just a slight error in the heat of the moment but gross mistakes that functionally destroyed the New Left and made it irrelevant to the majority of the nation. The New Left and the New Right went to bat in the 70’s and the New Right came out on top big time. While the New Right was taking over school boards and winning state referendums, Dohrn was out making her phone calls from pay phones and sending out the occasional mimeographed glory statement.

The identification of some sections of todays far left with the Weather underground is more of identification with a similarly self-isolating and self-defeating political trend than any kind of learning experience.

Jed Brandt

I wrote a piece exactly about Weatherman's problematic method a while back for the Indypendent. It's linked here to Portland Indymedia, as there was some interesting back and forth with young militants.

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/11/274189.shtml

All that said, Dohrn is a smart woman and an urepentant revolutionary. Your dismissal of what Weather did, and total avoidance of the murderous violence the state was deploying against the left at the time, means you have a different political point to make: join the system.

The right wasn't just "playing by the rules," they were "owning the game."

Here's the secret of American politics: When liberals ran the country like the Republicans do now, the nation was so racist that almost every major city burned to the ground in righteous revolt. That wasn't just "self-isolating and self-defeating" political groups doing it. Millions were moving towards revolutionary politics and pretending otherwise is b.s.

"The New Left’s uncritical adulation of bizarre Stalinist regimes, overheated and meaningless rhetoric and self-isolating choices, whether that be “going underground” or deciding to start your own Mao-style Communist Party should not be seen as just a slight error in the heat of the moment but gross mistakes that functionally destroyed the New Left and made it irrelevant to the majority of the nation."

I think by "majority" you mean you and those who agree with you. Last I checked, liberalism isn't exactly inspiring "the masses."

Frank

Your right, there were thousands who were moving towards revolutionary ideas, if not actual organized revolutionary politics. However history has pretty much shown that actual smash the state, seize the palace revolutionary politics was throughly outside what was historically possible at the time.

One can understand why some people made such an error at the time; to glorify it with historically hindsight is replacing fantasy with the politics of the possible.

"Here's the secret of American politics: When liberals ran the country like the Republicans do now, the nation was so racist that almost every major city burned to the ground in righteous revolt."

Lyndson Johnson, the tricky old Texas dixicrat, passed the civil rights bill with the result being the smashing of his own politcal coaltion. One the first things he did when he got into office was to call up King to offer him his support. Who was backing the classic liberal RFK in 1968? It was too little too late it turns out, and liberalism's failure in Vietnam, the slow pace of progress, and racial resistance among white communities (backlash) blocked further progress, but do you think Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan were the same side of the coin as a JBJ or Humphrey ? Sit downs and freedom rides would have fallen on dead ears if "liberals" weren't in power. Liberalism sadly died by 1968 replaced with Reaganism. That the New Left saw liberalism as the main enemy might have made sense from a narrow perspective, but in the long term we can see its joy in its death as greatly misplaced.

illiberal education

Liberals made themselves the "main enemy" by conducting imperial wars and acting as the stewards of white supremacy. JFK showed his willingness to incinerate the world in a nuclear holocaust over the right of the USA to dominate the world. Some of us notice these things.

In Victor Navasky's "Naming Names," there is quite a bit on how liberals used McCarthyism to position themselves within the imperial hegemony. Fast forward to Hillary Clinton and we can see the same shit.

Mme. Clinton proposes we condemn the "tragedy of abortion," and is preparing to roll over on the Supreme Court. She wants more troops in the Middle East and throws body blows at the Bill of Rights with all the gusto of Trent Lott in a skirt.

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