It’s not likely that the New York Times will mark the 40th anniversary of the June 1969 Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] National Convention in Chicago by reprinting excerpts from the position paper of the Weatherman faction of SDS. So following are some excerpts from Part 9 of this historic position paper (that originally appeared in the June 18, 1969 issue of New Left Notes) which might interest U.S. anti-war activists in 2009—during the current U.S. historical era of “endless permanent war abroad and economic depression at home”:
“How do we reach youth; what kinds of struggles do we build; how do we make a revolution? What we have tried to lay out so far is the political content of the consciousness which we want to extend and develop as a mass consciousness…Yet we are faced with a situation in which almost all of the people whose interests are served by these goals, and who should be, or even are, sympathetic to revolution, neither understand the specific tasks involved in making a revolution nor participate in accomplishing them. On the whole, people don’t join revolutions just because revolutionaries tell them to. The oppression of the system affects people in particular ways, and the development of political consciousness and participation begins with particular problems, which turn into issues and struggles. We must transform people’s everyday problems, and the issues and struggles growing out of them, into revolutionary consciousness, active and conscious opposition to racism and imperialism.
“This is directly counter posed to assuming that struggles around immediate issues will lead naturally over time to struggle against imperialism…This error is classical economism…
“On the one hand, if we, as revolutionaries are capable of understanding the necessity to smash imperialism and build socialism, then the masses of people who we want to fight along with us are capable of that understanding. On the other hand, people are brainwashed and at present don’t understand it; if revolution is not raised at every opportunity, then how can we expect people to see it in their interests, or to undertake the burdens of revolution? We need to make it clear from the very beginning that we are about revolution…
“In every case, our aim is to raise anti-imperialist and anti-racist consciousness and tie the struggles of working-class youth (and all working people) to the struggles of Third World people, rather than merely joining fights to improve material conditions, even though these fights are certainly justified. This is not to say that we don’t take immediate fights seriously, or fight hard in them, but that we are always up front with our politics, knowing that people in the course of struggle are open to a class line, ready to move beyond narrow self-interest.
“…What we must stress is the systematic nature of oppression and the way in which a single manifestation of imperialism makes clear its fundamental nature. At Columbia it was not the Gym, in particular, which was important in the struggle, but the way in which the Gym represented, to the people of Harlem and Columbia, Columbia’s imperialist invasion of the black colony. ..And the Richmond Oil Strike was exciting because the militant fight for improvement of material conditions was part and parcel of an attack on international monopoly capital. The numbers and militancy of people mobilized for these struggles has consistently surprised the left, and pointed to the potential power of a class-conscious mass movement…
“The masses will fight for socialism when they understand that reform fights, fights for improvement of material conditions, cannot be won under imperialism. With this understanding, revolutionaries should never put forth a line which fosters the illusion that imperialism will grant significant reforms. We must engage in struggles forthrightly as revolutionaries, so that it will be clear to anyone we help to win gains that the revolution rather than imperialism is responsible for them. This is one of the strengths of the Black Panther Party Breakfast for Children Program…Probably the American Friends Service Committee serves more children breakfast, but it is the symbolic value of the program in demonstrating what socialism will do for people which makes the Black Panther Program worthwhile.” (end of first section of excerpts from part 9)
(New Left Notes 6/18/69)
James and the Twenty-Seven Bicycles
10 years ago