Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Guardian Editorial: Forward or backward?

Published: Guardian, September 27, 1969. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The objective conditions exist for the U.S. left to accomplish a dramatic move forward this coming fall.

The American people are obviously fed up with the Vietnam war. Judging by reports from the military, this sentiment is shared by a considerable number of GIs. The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, a bell-weather of moderate, liberal opposition to the war, has just changed its line, now calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Nixon administration is bumbling on virtually all fronts, particularly in the two most critical areas in America today: Vietnam and racism.

Nixon’s effort to placate public opinion by announcing token troop withdrawals is not succeeding. Washington’s reaction to the NLF cease-fire honoring the death of Ho Chi Minh–the off-again, on-again bomb halt, the statements and retractions–made the U.S. look ridiculous. The blundering of the Saigon puppets in trying to control their own strings has resulted in puppet and puppeteer both losing balance. The President’s latest effort to calm down an increasingly rebellious student population, calling for a minor reduction in the draft, has not worked.

At the same time the Nixon regime is thoroughly alienating the black population in the U.S. as it seeks to build a political base in the white South. The decision to delay school desegregation and the general slow-down in civil rights legislation and implementation will have a profound effect on the black community, perhaps removing with finality the myth that blacks will ever get a fair shake from the capitalist system.

Washington’s problems are increasing abroad. The Vietnamese liberation struggle intensifies, despite Ho’s death. The revolutionary movement is building again in Latin America, regardless of massive U.S. aid to the oligarchs and advice on how to suppress popular movements. The slaying of comrade Inti Peredo in Bolivia will serve as a call to arms. The recent illegal maneuverings for a third term by Washington’s dictator in South Korea, Chung Hee Park, have stripped his regime of any legitimacy. Continued U.S. adventures in Thailand and Laos are provoking world opposition.

This, of course, is only part of the picture. The point here is not to elaborate on the difficulties of American capitalism but to note that objective conditions are ripe for the U.S. left to make an advance which could influence the course of the Vietnam war and build the left. All we need provide are the subjective conditions–the unity (even in diversity) necessary to maximize our impact at a historical moment of great malaise in America. The resources of the entire left are required.

The fall offensive against the war being planned by left and antiwar organizations could be a big contribution toward creating the conditions for a more effective left.

Culminating in a mass action in Washington Nov. 15, the offensive begins with a demonstration in Chicago Sept. 24 when the Conspiracy trial is scheduled to begin This important trial is the government’s attempt to imprison eight antiwar figures, including Black Panther party chairman Bobby Seale and New Mobilization Committee co-chairman Dave Dellinger, on conspiracy and riot charges stemming from last year’s confrontation at the Democratic convention. The entire left must unify around defense of the Conspiracy in actions which will continue throughout the trial.

The Weatherman faction, which controls the national office of SDS, is calling for a national action in Chicago Oct. 8-11 around the slogan “bring the war home.” Unfortunately, the Weatherman tactics are adventurist pure and simple and will contribute neither to unity nor to long-run growth of the radical left. They may, in fact, represent a setback. The RYM-2 opposing faction is also planning demonstrations in Chicago at this time, primarily to demonstrate they are an alternative to Weatherman, but it remains to be seen how large a following it will attract The Weatherman action is shaping up to be either a bad nightmare or a bad joke.

The Oct. 15 nationwide action against the war being called by moderate students–while too compromised to deserve uncritical support from the left–may contribute toward broadening the antiwar base among liberals. A march organized by the Mobilization, opposing the war and supporting the Conspiracy 8, will take place in Chicago Oct. 25.

A number of SDS chapters will organize antiwar protests the week of Nov. 8-15. The Student Mobilization Committee is calling a one-day national student strike Nov. 14. The big action will be Nov. 13-15 in Washington and–depending on how well it’s organized–Nov. 15 in San Francisco, both sponsored by the New Mobilization Committee around the slogan of “immediate withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Vietnam among other demands.

It is of crucial importance at this stage of the Vietnam war that the Nov. 15 mass marches be huge. The U.S. ruling class must be brought to understand that the longer it vacillates on total withdrawal from Vietnam now, the greater the domestic turmoil. Neither major SDS faction has clearly stated yet whether it will build for Nov. 15, presumably for reasons of sectarian purity. This must be deplored. Granted the Mobilization Committee does not share SDS’s revolutionary perspective, it is capable of attracting enormous numbers of people to demand immediate withdrawal of troops. It is this and not the conservative perspective of some Mobilization leaders which counts Nov. I5.

Whether or not the fall offensive contributes toward building the left in a massive way is not entirely clear. This depends to a degree on SDS, the largest white radical organization in the country.

By any standard SDS is in great trouble. Pessimists wonder whether the organization will survive the winter. Optimists at this stage give it six months longer. The Weatherman group has taken bureaucratic control of the national organization and its newspaper. And Weatherman seems intent upon converting SDS into a huge street gang (they call it a “red army”), primarily interested in getting into fights with police and so-called “right-wing” workers. Through such militant confrontations, they hold, sharp polarities occur and the revolutionary force is built. In the process, any radical group which disagrees with them is either counter-revolutionary or liberal. Weatherman supporters now refer to RYM-2 as “running dogs.”

If Weatherman imposes its adventurist politics on the organization as a whole–a disaster which will no doubt be avoided by the good sense of most young radicals–the SDS “red army” will apparently sweep the ruling class from power. If the organization falls apart, Weatherman will emerge with a hard core from whence to launch the struggle from different terrain. In Weatherman’s surrealistic world, this perspective can’t lose.

Neither Weatherman nor RYM-2 can be said at this time to have support from a majority in SDS. But there is very little else in the way of a national focus within the organization. Such tensions could conceivably be too great and SDS may decompose. If this happens, a mass organization with the potential of becoming a base for building a serious revolutionary movement could dissolve into so many antagonistic factions, grabbing for each other’s throats.

If this is what is in store for the left this fall the U.S. left will have once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.