[The third in this series of reposts detailing the dramatic events of May 1970. May Day that year turned out to be the first day of the most massive student strike in US history, an upsurge I'm detailing in this series of diaries. It occurs to me that this May Day probably had a greater impact on the American body politic than any between the Great Depression and the immigrant Levantamiento of 2006. Yesterday's entry dealt with Nixon's April 30 announcement of the invasion of Cambodia.]
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 Students for a Democratic Society--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.
[Hold on to your safety bar, Kossacks. This repost is part 2 of a 19 part series (and more to come...someday) on the little remembered campus upsurge which shook this country to its foundations in May, 1970. There's some interest from publishers in the idea of turning this into a book, so your opinions and reminiscences are most welcome.]
I want to continue this review of May, 1970 with a deeper look at Richard Nixon’s speech, broadcast 45 years ago tonight. It was that speech, announcing that US troops were invading Cambodia, which triggered the volcano of protest that was May, 1970. Actually, you could say Tricky Dick predicted it:
My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years. Even here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed.
The US High Command had known for years that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, as the leaked Pentagon Papers later showed. Nixon had been elected in 1968 with the promise that "new leadership will end the war" and giving wink-and-nod, no-comment replies to reports he had a "secret plan” to do so.
I'm heading to Kent State University this weekend. It amazes me that it was five years ago today, on the 40th anniversary, that I initially posted the first episode of this 19 part series (still incomplete!) on the greatest campus explosion this country has ever seen. It is an attempt to reclaim that remarkable upsurge, today mainly remembered for the May 4 murders of four Kent State students by the National Guard, from the great American memory hole.
If you can't wait to read (or reread) the whole thing day by day, it's chainlinked, with illustrations, over at Fire on the Mountain.
MAY '70: 1. FINALLY ON OUR OWN...
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own...
Forty-five years ago, on Thursday, April 30, 1970, Richard Milhouse Nixon, the president of the United States, appeared on television for a special announcement about the Vietnam War. He told us that US troops, tens of thousands of them, had moved into Cambodia, expanding an already prolonged and costly war into another country. He claimed it was a necessary step toward ending the war, and toward insuring that the US would not be perceived in the world as "a pitiful helpless giant."
Nixon's announcement kicked off the most intense wave of campus struggle this country has ever seen, a month of bitter and exhilarating clashes which triggered huge changes that echo to this day. May, 1970 also changed forever the lives of some significant number of the hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of students and others who took part.
I am asking for your help in fighting a nasty bit of repression in Kerala, India.
A couple of friends of mine, Thushar Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, have been in jail for over a month with--so far--no charges and bail refused. They are being held under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a law so brutal that it makes the Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights. You can read more about the case in the report of the Asian Human Rights Commission. For those who indulge such things, there is also a Facebook group for Jaison and Thushar which I helped start.
As a quick way of letting the authorities in Kerala know that eyes outside of India are watching them, we are circulating a letter which we are asking published authors to sign. Signatures have started flowing in. If you want to add yours, or have writer friends who would be willing, please send me a message here at DKos or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can verify the addition.
The text of the letter is below the Orange Ouroboros. And I will paste in the first ten signers as my first comment.
This is the last thing I check on my way out of my apartment. Near the door, it’s where I keep my keys, and as you can see, it has a bunch of pinback buttons in it, currently topical or universally applicable. Thus, I am reminded to grab one and affix it to whatever I happen to be wearing.
I have made a habit of this over the last year or so, because I found my button-wearing went through long erratic cycles, last peaking in the first couple years of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are several important reasons that we should accessorize our duds with a button or two. First, it reminds us who we are, what we are about, where we stand in the world. Second, it reminds neighbors, friends, coworkers, fellow students who we are and what we are about.
[This article is by my friend John Lacny, a Pittsburgh-based labor activist. He wrote it at my request for my blog, Fire on the Mountain. Lacny possesses a pitiless eye for the mechanisms of domination employed by big capital, which make his pieces, like this one, a delight to read.]
One of the first bitter lessons you learn as an activist is the fact that just because people know the truth does not mean that things are going to change. People have to actually do something about it -- and organizing them to do something about it is one of the toughest things in the world, not least because it requires you to inspire people to believe that it is possible to change things.
That said, our adversaries are well aware that mass-based knowledge is a dangerous thing for them, which is why they invest so much effort in obscuring the facts. An especially illuminating example of this can be found in an article that appeared in the house organ of capital, the Wall Street Journal, just before Thanksgiving. It is entitled "The Boss Makes How Much More Than You? Controversial New Rule Would Make Companies Disclose Data," and it is accompanied by an illustration in which the average CEO is represented as a gigantic pig. (The average worker is portrayed as a much smaller piggy bank, but what do you expect from the WSJ.)
The subject is a new rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which would require US companies traded on Wall Street to disclose the ratio of pay between their CEO and their median employee. This rule has been a long time coming, and is the result of 2010's Dodd-Frank financial reform act. Dodd-Frank was a mild financial reform that has more than a few shortcomings, but much like the Affordable Care Act -- which is of similar vintage -- even its mildly progressive features have a way of causing vested interests to break out in hives.
Wall Street was a sight this morning, the 3rd Anniversary of the first day of Occupy Wall Street! Those interlocking metal police barricades were everywhere. So were the po-po, pulling overtime to keep the Sacred Temple of the 1% free from disruptive activities and dissenting opinions.
But OWS! keeps popping up, growing through the cracks in the concrete and pushing them asunder, a living embodiment of the élan vital, the life force.
Today it took the form of a gent named Peter, who asserted he was acting on his own. He was passing out leaflets to the pedestrians of the area. Follow me below the cheetoh for the text:
[This is the best damn thing I've read on Ferguson yet, and I've read a lot, trying to keep up with and squeeze meaning out of the most important US urban rebellion of the 21st century. I'm sure not alone, as the dominance of Ferguson-related diaries on the Rec List shows.
Many Kossacks know, or know of, Bill Fletcher, Jr. for his work in the labor movement and in electoral politics, for his commentaries on US and global politics, for his activism for racial justice. I obtained his permission to repost his whole incisive article, which originally appeared at ZNet.]
SUSPECTED FOR BEING BLACK
by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Each time there is a police or extra-judicial killing of an African American I have two immediate responses. One is intense anger at the absence of legitimate democratic rule in the USA exemplified by the ability of the State as well as hate groups, to snuff out the life of African Americans at will. The second response is the recognition that this is an experience of terror that envelopes every person who is identifiably Black and, for that matter, other peoples who are of the ‘darker races.’
Two recent killings, one of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, speak to a very different reality experienced by African Americans compared with whites in the USA. Without going through the details, there are certain questions that can be asked to anyone in the USA and, depending on the answer, one can ascertain what I would call the ‘racial terror index.’ Here are a few examples:
I look forward to surviving. If I don't, remember that I wasn't Hamas or a militant, nor was I used as a human shield. I was at home.
Twitter message by Gaza resident Mohammed Suliman
This title may seem snarky, but it is deadly serious. What the Israeli Defense Forces call Operation Protective Edge, the deadly assault on the population of Gaza, is the most important war so far in the social media era. And this is being forcefully brought to our attention in ways that are both political and personal, but in any case increasingly difficult to avoid.
And the part about a report from the battlefront? That's because I don't pretend this is a definitive or even a deep analysis. It is a quick battlefield bulletin that I hope will get other people to think about this and chip in their own thoughts and experiences.
From the personal
I have been in half a dozen conversations, actual voice to voice conversations, over the last two plus weeks which all centered around a single shared experience. Some friend--an old and dear comrade, or a high school classmate rediscovered in recent years through the magic of the intertubes, an in-law or maybe just some amusing Facebook "friend"--suddenly, unexpectedly, turns out to be a zionist, or perhaps an I’m-not-really-a-zionist equivocator who tut-tuts po-faced over Israel's slaughter of the innocents and suggests that it's really all Hamas's fault.
[This diaries a book that many might consider falls into the So Bad It's Good category. Imagine the original Hardy Boys in Western Pennsylvania during a million-strong steel walkout except with Hungarian and Slovak strikers as the heavies. Strikers, I hasten to add, armed to the teeth and plotting plant occupations.
Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.]
It's a dream come true. You know how there's a book you know exists but somehow you can never find it? Well, I am thrilled to say that thanks to the magic of Teh Intertubes and the vagaries of US copyright law, I have finally been able to read The Boy Troopers On Strike Duty, and it's a corker.
Let me back up and take a running start. Have you ever read any of the old Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books, the originals I mean, not the weak tea retreads from the '60s and later? You may recall that the villains were generally swarthy "Dagos" or perhaps sinister Slavs, and our plucky WASP protagonists would best them with grit, strength and ingenuity.
There were scads of similar series, some a bit more proletarian in flavor, I have before me here as I type a copy of one of the volumes in Allen Chapman's Railroad Series, which starts with the delightfully titled RALPH OF THE ROUNDHOUSE Or, Bound to Become a Railroad Man.
Me, I generally get a little cranky amid the festival of national self-congratulation and consumerism that is the Fourth of July.
So an hour ago, I lost it. I had posted a perfectly innocuous little "status" on Facebook about how, when we read about grownups launching attacks on young kids on buses, it's never radicals or liberals doing it, it's always reactionaries. White reactionaries doing it to kids of color, to be exact, whether in Lamar, SC during the Civil Rights Movement, Southie in the '70s or Murrieta, CA this week.
A young woman "friend," whom I actually rather like, tried to argue that this time it's different:
I think there is some racism, but most of it has to do with the undocumented status of the people and the fact that they keep on coming with no repercussion.
My dad was an immigrant and he did it legally. So should everyone.
Like you, I've heard that a time or two too many, so I went into rant mode.
The latest episode in the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl story has provided a stunning look at the hypocrisy of the right wing toward US Prisoners of War.
But this isn’t the first time flag-waving reactionaries have turned on actual POWs after bloviating about how much they love ‘em. Betrayal of POWs by the government and their subsequent denigration by the US media rest, it seems, at the heart of the hidden history of the Korean war.
First, come with me in the WABAC machine to the height of the McCarthy-era Red Scare. We’ll set the dials for Benham, Kentucky, September 12, 1953. Staff Sergeant Jack Flanary was returning to his hometown, population 3,500, from the Korean War. He had just been released in the massive Korean War–ending prisoner exchange after three years in a Chinese prison camp. A big parade was laid on and the governor was to address a “Welcome Home” rally of 5000. The VFW and American Legion vied for his affections with the latter promising him a $50 savings bond.
As the event was getting started, something unexpected happened. A rumor rippled through the crowd, and when it reached the speakers’ platform the organizers stepped down and went into a huddle. The tale was so troubling that they decided to halt presentations on the spot. The word was that while in prison camp, the sergeant had buddied up to the Chinese communists. He was a collaborator. The town leaders decided they could not risk honoring someone who might have given aid and comfort to the enemy. The governor’s staff may have prompted the decision—a town leader explained to the New York Times that “we just couldn’t take a chance on embarrassing the governor.” No one seemed to know where the rumor started, but the honor guard was sent home, the savings bond rescinded, and Flanary’s membership in the VFW put on hold.