A pro-war Vermont congressman and the struggle against him
The massive U.S./NATO bombing and media propaganda campaign against Yugoslavia continues, with the latest atrocity of "collateral damage" being the awful bombing yesterday of a hapless passenger train caught crossing a bridge in which at least 10 innocent people were killed. See my Web page for twice or thrice daily news updates on this and other news about the war and the antiwar movements: http://www.neravt.com/left/
This past weekend, yours truly along with a small group of other intrepid Vermonters, traveled to New York City to attend the annual Socialist Scholars Conference. As you might expect, there was a great deal of discussion and sometimes heated debate about the war, its nature, and what to do about it. Unfortunately, because the lead sponsoring organization, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is split at the top on the war with one co-chair, Bogdan Denitch, pro-war and the other co-chair, Barbara Ehrenreich, anti-war, the Conference was not allowed to vote to take a position one way or another. However, only a very few people seem to have been of the illusion that the U.S./NATO is acting for the humanitarian reasons alleged; and, regardless of their particular analysis of what the war is about, the vast majority of the several thousand attendees were clearly of the position that the first step towards peace in the region is the immediate halting of the U.S./NATO bombing which is only adding fuel to the flames. As Chomsky has said, if you don't know what to do, at least do no evil.
I went to a number of the different panels on the war. For me, the most poignant moment was listening to a survivor of the Buchenwald Camp, a Jewish Serbian-American today, talk about how the Serbs had helped to defeat the Nazis and to save people like him and how angry it made him today to hear the Serbs demonized. Watching CNN, etc. in the hotel -- we don't have cable TV out here in Marshfield -- gave me a better sense of how distorted the whole U.S. media coverage is and how the warmakers are using the media to engineer a "consensus" around escalating the conflict further by repeating over and over the same, often unsubstantiated stories about "ethnic cleansing", or whatever, that they think will appeal to our hearts and emotions. We do not have to support the Milosevic government -- which I don't -- to see how we are being lied to and manipulated.
Bringing back what we learned, some us us who went to the conference along with others from the Burlington area are putting together a Teach-In at the University of Vermont to be held this Thursday evening, April 15th. If you are in the right geographical area, please attend. More details about the Teach-In follow below, along with a good piece by Chomsky taken from Z Magazine's Web site (http://www.lbbs.org) in which he responds to some of the distortions being perpetrated by "our" media about the war and urges us not to be taken in.
April 27, 1999
Yesterday, April 26, 1999, a rally and march were held in Burlington, Vermont, USA against the U.S. war on Yugoslavia. Approximately 100 people attended the 45 minute rally at the University of Vermont campus and then marched down Main Street. The destination of the march were the local offices of Vermont three congressional members: Senators Leahy (Dem.) and Jeffords (Rep.), and Rep. Bernie Sanders. The purpose of these visits was to present petitions calling for "an immediate end to the bombing, a return to the negotiating table and no introduction of NATO ground forces to the conflict". These 1,000 signatures on these petitions were collected in a little over two weeks time.
At Senator Leahy's office, a small delegation of demonstrators went into the office, presented the petitions and were served cookies. At Senator Jeffords' office, the delegation that went inside asked for and received a conference call with Mr. Jeffords' foreign policy advisor in Washington, D.C.. From there, we headed to Bernie Sanders' office at the top of Burlington's downtown pedestrian mall (Church Street). Once we arrived at the office building , the remaining protestors (approximately 30 in all) headed inside and up the stairs to Sanders' office. We were met by his staff who presented us with a written statement by Mr. Sanders concerning his support of the bombing. Those present read the statement and then asked a member of the staff if we could hold a conference call with Bernie and give him a chance to justify his position. We were told this was not possible because Sanders was on a plane to Washington, D.C. and he did not own a cell phone. So we sat down and informed the staff that we would wait until we could speak with Sanders.
Seattle musician Jim Page happens to be in Burlington this week and he had accompanied us on the march. While we sat in the office, he played guitar and sang songs in between discussions about the war, the killings in Littleton, CO., the arrogance of liberals in power and numerous other subjects took place. As time passed, it became clear that Bernie had no intention of talking to us. After conversations out of our earshot, the primary staffperson informed us that we could meet with Bernie next Tuesday if we made an appointment. This suggestion was rejected out of hand; the reasoning being that hundreds more would die in the interim. Time ticked on.
Around 5:30 PM, we were asked again if we wanted to accept the meeting with Bernie next Tuesday. We agreed to the meeting but also insisted on speaking with Sanders that day. Furthermore, we affirmed that we would not leave the office until we spoke with Bernie that evening. We were than told that our choice was to either leave then and meet with Sanders next week or stay until we were removed and not meet with the congressmen at all. At 6:00 PM or so, we were asked once again if we would assent to this arrangement. Once again we said no. At 6:45 PM, Burlington police officers began arresting those protestors who refused to leave when asked. This was done at the request of Congressman Sanders and his staff. The arrests were conducted in an orderly fashion and all were released later in the evening.
This was the first time Sanders office had ever been occupied. One has to wonder if it will be the last, given his continual drift rightward. (For those who live in Vermont-There will be a Vermont town meeting on the war with Sanders in Montpelier, VT. on Monday, May 3, 1999 at the Pavilion. The meeting begins at 7:00 PM. Please come and bring your friends.)
-Ron Jacobs, Burlington, VT.
A brief update: I was one of 14 people arrested yesterday for trespassing in a sit-in at Vermont "progressive" Congressman Bernie Sanders's office. Below is a report by support person Ron Jacobs on what happened. At my Web site, among other new items on the war, please check out Michael Moore's two pieces. A number of people have commented to me that nobody in the mainstream media seems to be making any connection between the horrible events in Littleton, Colorado and the horrible events in Yugoslavia. Moore's more recent piece effectively makes those kinds of connections between violence abroad and violence here at home and takes Clinton to task for his hypocritical comments about how kids need to use words rather than violence to resolve their problems. What a great example he (and Bernie Sanders et al among politicians) are setting!
Best wishes, Jay Moore
Jim F. wrote, "Bernie Sanders is I believe an ex-Trot."
Maybe Bernie recalls it that way to flatter his youthful fling, but at best it's an exaggeration. He was a member of the YPSL as a student at the University of Chicago at the time I was Chicago YPSL organizer (the only title we ever had for the citywide leader). At the time, Chicago was the largest base of the so-called "Labor Party" (Third Camp, anti-Democratic Party) faction, which consisted principally of ex-Shachtmanites loyal to Hal Draper and Julius Jacobson (of New Politics magazine), in opposition to the "Political Realignment" (Pro-NATO, pro-Democratic Party) faction, based mainly in New York, led by Max Shachtman, Irwin Suall, Tom Kahn, Michael Harrington, and the rest.
I was chosen to lead the Chicago YPSL despite, or because of, the fact that I was on the National Committee as a member of Tom Condit's libertarian socialist faction (we were also IWW members as a factional identity), the smallest of the three, and the ultra-left within the YPSL. In the parent Socialist Party, Chicago was home to the Debbie Meier - Saul Mendelson faction (both ex-Shachtmanites also), which opposed both Labor Party and Realignment factions. Though M-and-M were not revolutionary, their program for the SP was similar to the Condit proposal for the YPSL -- forget about DP/LP electoral politics, which wasted enormous resources for zero gain; concentrate instead on mass insurgencies, especially the Southern Freedom Movement, labor militancy, and the like.
At the following SP convention, Realignment won; in the YPSL, Labor Party won in coalition with Conditites. We moved the YPSL office to Chicago to get out from under the right-wing suffocation; the SP promptly expelled the entire YPSL left. At that point, the actual YPSL Trotskyists set up an organization called American Socialist Organizing Committee (not to be confused with Bert Cochran's earlier group, but intending to emulate its style), while the main Labor Party group teamed up with Draper's Independent Socialist Committee to become the International Socialists. Bernie was friendly with the ASOC people, but I'm virtually certain he was not a member. If he was, his affiliation wasn't open. He may have gone with IS.
Most of our Conditite group went into SDS, and some of us also into other formations; myself, into the Facing Reality group of C.L.R. James.
Most of us crossed paths time and again over the years, for example, at the National Conference for New Politics in 1967 and anti-war activities. I never saw Bernie again.
During his earlier days here in Vermont before fame and fortune came his way, I have it on good authority that Bernie actually flirted around with the Larouchites (U.S. Labor Party). His girlfriend at that time (1970s) was a woman named Nancy Kaufman who was a lawyer and who actually left Vermont, not to return again, to work for the Larouchities. Bernie and she broke up before that happened, however, is my understanding. Any information on this aspect of Bernie's background or on the whereabout of Ms. Kaufman today?
Best, Jay Moore