There’s “a saying in the movement that we don’t trust anyone over 30.” Jack Weinberg (24), Free Speech Movement, University of California at Berkeley, c. 1965. The correct axiom is (or should be): “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-97).
We all come from somewhere else…
In the spring of ’66 I was walking out of Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit with my girlfriend. Coming down the main street were a thousand-or-so demonstrators with antiwar signs.
I held no particular views at the time concerning the war in Vietnam other than generalized support. I was a 23-yr-old veteran of the 101st Airborne Division (1959-61) and as a factory worker made good money on the war.
What surprised me about the demonstration was their non-violent dignity and the fact that they were families…men, women and children. Given media reportage, I expected a group of mad-hatters.
Across the street were a few dozen shouters with a large banner reading, “This is a Communist parade!” I assumed at first that they were all one group. I later learned that the hecklers were right-wing dingdongs.
Within six months, abiding curiosity, and “old left” mentorship from other workers, I joined with and was soon elected chairman of the main group behind that demonstration, the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
In 1967, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) was created. By May of 1970, there were over 50,000 VVAW members (65% were combat vets).
Military veterans had become point to all major antiwar actions from 1967 on. As a co-founder of the Detroit Veterans Against the War, this made perfect sense to me. The foremost victims of the war (after the Vietnamese themselves) should be the natural leaders in such protest.
One of the participants in the recent Chicago actions was World War-II vet Jay Wenk from New York. He and a number of his comrades provided a form of surrounding Honor Guard for those Iraq and Iran vets last Sunday who returned their medals.
Before stepping out on the march from Grant Park, Jay noted a group of Black Bloc anarchists and asked them what their intentions were. One couple responded, “We’re going to attack the police.” Maybe they were joking…after all, standing before them was this 85-yr-old codger…
But Jay’s no shrinking violet. Raised in Brooklyn, he was barely 18 when he found himself in Patton’s 3rd Army breaking out of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. Until the German surrender Jay fought from France to Prague, Czechoslovakia. He earned a Bronze Star, Purple heart, and several campaign ribbons.
Today Jay lives in Woodstock, NY. He’s a cabinet maker and serves on the Town Board.
He told me that organizers at the park advised the vets what to expect (a peaceful protest march and rally at the conclusion which, in agreement with the police, the rally would be over).
Jay described the conclusion of the veteran ceremony (throwing their medals over a fence) with the observation that some 70-or-so youths went running into a police line some distance away, and then rebounded against the police by the stage shouting “Let’s kill a pig today!” A general melee followed.
No doubt other demonstrators at any distance would have witnessed other views…from experience I know how that goes.
Corporatist-fascism versus democracy… I try to use the term carefully; capitalism is a gun to your head…fascism is the trigger being pulled. We’ve got a ways to go, but definitely the foundation is well in the works.
FDR’s Speech to Congress on Curbing Monopolies in April of 1938 might shed some light on today’s context. We were then still very much in the Great Depression (and without Social Security, Medicare, etc. would be so today).
The Hitler-Stalin Pact and their mutual invasion of Poland was still a year and a half away for war in Europe. Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war was more than 3 1/2 years off.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated to Congress:
“…[T]he liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power….Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.”
IRS stats reveal the following figures for 1935: “Ownership of corporate assets: Of all corporations reporting from every part of the Nation, one-tenth of 1 percent of them owned 52 percent of the assets of all of them.”
We can even go back to one of democracy’s founders, Thomas Jefferson: “I hope we shall crush … in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country”.
In fact, Jefferson and Monroe fought for an 11th Amendment to outlaw monopolies and corporate involvement in politics.
We’re all naturally born as squalling individualists. We gradually achieve some measure of social morality and maturity (or not). Some, however, are shaped by psychically twisted entitlement thru the trauma of chronic authoritarian discipline and punitive control.
Then, in classic psychological reaction, they spend their lifetimes preying upon others and seeking personal pleasure, profit, privilege, and power.
Mere free enterprise without the possibility of total political, social and economic-monopoly power, doesn’t interest these disordered mentalities. They are compelled and obsessed to complete control. This they euphemistically frame as private enterprise.
Such criminal predation may assume individualized felonious pursuits or the more advanced criminal stage of corporatist sociopathology. Robbers, rapists and profiteers are all birds of a feather. Their significant differences are usually found only in ethnic or class distinctions.
The task for those who achieve social responsibility is to lift the generally liberal and apolitical masses to radical consciousness. We even find allies from the strangest of circumstances.
For instance, a comrade who started life in a Nazi family, and became a Hitler Youth leader and veteran of Col. Otto Skozeny’s SS Kommando (its last living member), Hans Post, is today the godfather the Australian peace movement.
The challenge before the international corporatists is from the Arab Spring, European anti-austerity and the American democracy and Occupy movements.
The natural enemy of corporatism is democracy (at least any aspect they don’t own). Any tactic that denies democracy and divides unity is a corporate ally.
The fact is, corporatists never cease their single-minded quest for profit and power…they really have to win but once.
And for us? There are no shortcuts.