Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bill Ayers Redux

Ed Notes did some stuff on Bill Ayres about a week before the election, which led to howls of protest over our irresponsibility in piling on Ayres, as if this could somehow affect the election. We were more focused on the role Ayres played in the Chicago school reform movement which has so much anti unionism underlying it.

Feeling it's now ok to come out of the deep water, here is some of the latest criticism of Ayers from the left. (I'll be putting up some links on Ed Notes to this and to the previous postings along with the comments.)

Here's an interesting thread on Ayres, Klonsky, Obama and Schmidt on his role in Chicago from the mid 90's.

Michael Fiorillo chipped in with this.

Katha Pollit has an excellent piece on Ayers on The Nation's web site. Although she doesn't discuss his educational work , where his naivete and efforts to redeem himself in public have led to the small school's movement being used as a cat's paw for corporate ed reform, she nails him on his many, and continuing, shortcomings.

Which triggered a response from George Schmidt based on this quote:

Colleagues and friends:

Katha Pollet's piece is as good as anything about Bill Ayers and his privileged petit bourgeois self-indulgent version of "progressive" politics. As many of us know, there were many many prodcutive ways to stop that war, one of the most productive of which was to organize the people -- the working class people-- who were producing that war at the "point of production." Hence, the "GI Movement." And the majority of those of us who were in the GI Movemnet despised
Weatherman and its antics, because we knew what real state violence was and how the monopoly of violence looks at ground level when real people were being cleaned up after one of John McCain's "missions." One conscientious objector in the Air Force (and I helped one guy who was a B-52 pilot become an in-service CO) was worth more than a hundred Weather tantrums. That's the reality of history, and why Weather is now prominent and the ruling class has tried desperately to wipe out from historical memory the general strike of the men and
women in the military (1970 - 1973) that actually helped the Vietnamese end that war.

During those same years that Bill Ayers and his crazed "underground" groupies were planning their pathetic tantrums (including locally here, "Days of Rage") I worked with soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors who stopped the war by actually stopping the war machine.

The best expression of that movement is now found in the movie "Sir No Sir!"-- David Zeiger's 26 years in the making story of the "G.I. Movement." Everyone should see that video for a side of the "anti-war" movement that has been virtually written out of the history books.

The counter narrative to the GI Movement (as outlined best in "The Spitting Image") was beginning with "Rambo" (by that coward Sylvester Stallone, who spent the Vietnam years at a private school in Switzerland) and the massive propaganda that followed from Rambo and in the Rambo model. By 1972, there was not a
major U.S. military installation that didn't have an organized resistance to
the Vietnam War. But the resistance was broader than that. I personally (as a
conscientious objector and legal counselor) spent nights at military bases,
housed by men (and women) who had been in uniform in some cases -- patriots,
totally committed to ending that was -- risked their entire careers against that
war. Fort Carson, Colorado and Iron Mountain. Offut AFT Omaha (SAC Hq.). Fort
Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fort Riley, Kansas. By the early 1970s, we could get
on any military base in the U.S. Empire with the help of our brothers and
sisters in uniform who were organizing to end that war. And the support "we" had
(as part of the "GI Movement") extended all the way "up" in chain of command.

But to us, the Weather people were on the other side -- provacateurs.

The men and women I worked with who renounced the violence that they had been
trained to do (and in many cases had done, sometimes for years, very "successfully") despised those privileged punks who proclaimed that their nail bombs and tantrums and orgies were a part of the same movement we had built.

That's enough for now.

Please, if you want to know the stories of the real heroes of the movement
that ended the Vietnam War, watched "Sir No Sir!" Then read any of the dozen
books that tell the truth about what we did to end that war.

Then, if you want, go back and watch the "Rambo" movies and think about how
Bill Ayers was more in the tradition of Sylverster Stallone and "Rambo" than in
the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of men and women -- risking courts
martial and worse -- who stood up against that imperialist war from inside what Billy and his boys and girls called "the belly of the beast." It was from within the belly of the beast that the movement to end the war emerged and won. Not from privileged poseurs and provacateurs, who later set their sights against the working class from their privileged posts (now) in the universities.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Joan Heymont wrote:

And, we in Progressive Labor still think that’s a really, really good idea. I remember how much the Weathermen/Weather Underground disgusted me when I was in SDS. I hadn’t joined PL yet, but I worked with others to broaden the forces fighting against the war. The Weathermen thought it was a good idea to run the streets trashing people’s cars, ostracizing the very people who we sought to bring into activity against the war and capitalism. What self-focused, childish behavior—and they still defend themselves as leaders of a movement? Certainly not the kind of mass movement needed to change society. Certainly not the broad base needed to build that movement. And, yes, George, their petty anti-working class terror was used by the ruling class to discredit our movement.

Thanks for a good analysis, and thanks, Lisa, for posting the original article.



Anonymous said...

Get over it. Nobody cares about your little quarrel with Ayers.

ed notes online said...

My little quarrel? How about The Nation and a cast of thousands on the left? We're just collating the comments coming in over the transom. As always, I am focused on his role in Chicago school reform.

He shoulda remained quiet like he was in the campaign if he wants things to die down. The more he is out there the more he will face the left who avoided saying things when Ayers was attacked from the right.