THE OLD GUARD, YOUTH, SYNTHESIS, SOUTHERN MOVEMENT, EVENTS TODAY

Note by Hunterbear, January 31, 2002:

Initially, I posted this piece of mine, "The Old Guard, Youth, Synthesis,
Southern Movement, Events Today," on several discussion lists last summer --
as a result of the ensuing debate about the nature and role of anarchists in
the Genoa and other related protest movements.  It was quite well received
from a number of genuinely radical perspectives -- though not, of course,
from those jaded or tired or who place a high premium on ostensible
"respectability."  Now, with the WEF situation in New York at hand, the
discussions about anarchists and anarchism and related things are once again
to the fore.  Since this  piece of mine [now on our website] preceded the
organization of the RedBadBear discussion list, I post it here  -- as well
as, once again, on several other lists.

Hunter [Hunterbear]

[This was initially posted by myself -- Hunter Gray -- on Marxism Discussion List and other lists on August 1 2001]

 

There are some other examples -- American -- that relate to our  key current
List controversy and that haven't been indicated.  But first --

I very much respect the basic currents of Left ideology and I have my own
firm views.  I  do have my set of Lenin -- and Stalin, too, but somewhat
segregated -- and much more from many who look to the Red Dawn and beyond. But, at this point,  I'm stepping into another dimension vis-a-vis the
current focus of heavy and high dispute.

As I've indicated earlier at various points, I'm a  life-long Left socialist
and, with no false modesty at all, a great deal of experience in systematic
grassroots organization and local leadership development -- much of it under
extremely repressive and otherwise challenging circumstances. And I know
demonstrations -- all kinds of them -- very well indeed. No pacifist, I'm
committed to tactical non-violence with the qualification that I certainly
support principled and sensible self-defense [and have personally practiced
that, myself, on occasion.]

And, as I've said earlier, there is no way in hell that I can or would ever
criticize -- let alone condemn -- any sincere and bona fide protest
demonstrator [nonviolent or otherwise] in the Genoa or comparable situations
or in any social justice campaign.  The hammers and the hatchets and the
stilettos of an increasingly overt  fascism are exactly what we should all
be damning -- once and again and many thousands of times over -- and
organizing to effectively crash through and destroy.  I've seen a lot of
violence.  When I see a kid -- or anyone -- who has been  killed  or injured
by the police and their capitalist bosses, I see many dead people from my
own past and many, many more  who were seriously injured.  I need no one's
book to tell me whose side I'm on.  And I think Lenin -- and all the other
great revolutionaries -- would damn well agree.

At the very beginning of the 1960s, much of the old guard in and around the
developing Southern Civil Rights Movement was increasingly disturbed about
the "younger people."  The old guard, committed to litigation and voter
registration and much worried about the longevity of its own leadership
primacy, often publicly denounced the civil rights sit-ins as "illegal" and
frequently condemned mass demonstrations as incendiary and
violence-provoking.  Younger people  pointed out that litigation was not
only a consistently  prolonged and time-consuming process [whose few civil
rights victories at that point were often blatantly ignored by the
segregationists] but, very often, was completely blocked by segregationist
courts in both state and local Federal jurisdictions.  And they pointed out
that voter registration efforts could often get nowhere in the context of
spurious "literacy" and "interpretation" tests, blatant economic reprisals,
and an atmosphere of terrorism which often featured murder.  The emergent
Kennedy administration was frightened as hell by civil rights direct action,
was paranoid about "Communism," and never at any point especially supportive of civil rights. The Kennedy -- and Johnson -- administrations were never anything except opposed to the cutting edge of the Movement and frequently worked, through FBI et al. and other finks, to undercut and subvert it.

Both civil rights generational sides were, in this situation, committed to
nonviolence -- generally from a tactical perspective.  The cops were almost
consistently brutal toward any civil right demonstrators.

The civil rights youth, of course, continued the sit-ins  with vigour and
determination and moved increasingly toward larger scale direct action.
Media took notice.  Many older civil rights folk then  even more vigorously
condemned the youth -- wrote them off as "publicity-seeking troublemakers,
violence promoters, etc etc."  But there were other "older people" -- e.g.,
Miss Ella J. Baker [whom I'm convinced had been born a splendid,
full-feathered all-around agitator] who reached out from her old NAACP staff
background, and her then  executive director position at SCLC,  to the youth
and then  -- frequently in the face of virulent criticism from the Old
Guard -- assisted the youth in the formation of the  historic Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  Other critical "bridge people" entered
the fray constructively  -- people who, if from the older side, were
empathetic with the young -- and then many from the youth themselves who
respected the wisdom and experience of the older fighters. [I came into the
Deep South situation at 27 in 1961 from a Native rights and student activist
and radical labor background, was there  well into 1967, and worked very
closely with all active and potential civil rights community components --
but certainly very much with the youth, always.]

I watched the ultimately to be martyred Medgar W. Evers, a very close
colleague to the very night of his murder on June 11, 1963, grow steadily
from the initial and official NAACP skepticism about militant youth to a
deep appreciation of them as individuals  and colleagues and as a critical
fighting force.  [The National NAACP, however,  could  never reach that
point.]

Ella Baker, a very old and dear personal friend and colleague of mine over
a great many years, was one of many -- older and younger bridge people  --
who  helped the young people bring the direct action approach together with
new voter registration and political action strategies and thrusts.  New
lawyers entered the civil rights battleground --  Guild people  such as Ben
Smith,  Arthur Kinoy, Morton Stavis, many others indeed  such as Bill
Kunstler  --  all of whom developed creative and cunning legal approaches,
[often, as a bitter but admiring legal antagonist from the other side  once
said, "making  new law." ]

Eventually, most "older people" in the civil rights world came along on this
Great River -- essentially a synthesis of generations and traditions and
youthful spring-time vision and energy.  People learned  vastly  much from
each other in a developing atmosphere of mutual respect -- however often
grudgingly given, especially in the earlier stages -- and, in the end, a
great deal was accomplished.

And  a  hell of a vast amount remains to be accomplished and won -- a Great
Trail to blaze across many mountains and many canyons:  a whole wide world
to build and get.

It's going to take all of us -- across all of the generations.  The youth
are going to move and move again with militancy and sometimes with
violence -- no matter what some "older people" may say one way or the other.
Big things are happening -- Big  Left Radical Things -- and, while they may
not always be happening the way we expect them to [or even  always want them to] , they're happening and they are going to keep right on happening.  No movement has ever been an erector set creation -- there's always confusion
and chaos.  The question is, does it have effective and enduring
direction -- and the critical factor is always functional solidarity.

Not all youth in the developing '60s reached and stayed on an effective
trail.  I had friends in the Weatherman -- liked them much -- but they
functioned in another dimension that had no grassroots focus or
connotations.

But eventually, most of us who are today committed to one or another version
of the Red Dawn and the building of the New World Over The Mountains Yonder, are going to be forced -- by our own reason and by History and by the
vicious and relentless recalcitrance of the capitalist class -- into
functional  and very effective unity.  In that pragmatic context we'll find
ourselves beginning to appreciate one another!

And someday, the young people of "anarchist Genoa" etc et al. will look at
their own children and grandchildren and will fuss and fret.   And then,
hopefully -- like many of us "somewhat older" persons of today with our own
youth memories  -- they'll remember Genoa.  And they'll reach out to  the
kids in supportive and collegial capacities.  We must do it now.

As I write this, an excellent and substantial bust of Lenin [which I rescued
from oblivion] looks across my room to the other wall at a picture of Frank
H. Little -- Indian, metal miner, IWW organizer -- lynched at Butte on
August 1, 1917,  by Anaconda thugs.  They both look at the old sketch which
was mine from my father just as soon as I was born and which now hangs on
another wall:  the Mohawk leader, Thayendanegea [Joseph Brant], watching his warriors burning out the Anglo settlers in the Cherry Valley section of New
York State.

They may not always agree on everything -- but they know damn well they're
on the same side.

Solidarity -

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Hunter Gray
www.hunterbear.org

 

previous

index

continue