15 December 2002
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Our recent mail includes the three items below from co-directors at
Research Center (CEISMA) :
A. an alert from Marc Olivier;
B. a brief observation concerning the mid-term U.S. election results
from Elisabeth Chamorand; and
C. Douglas Dowd's response to the November elections in
the U.S., in which he calls for better organizing within social movements.
Meanwhile, last week nearly 100 people attended our afternoon presentation of the French translation of Howard Zinn's book, People's History of the United States, held at the Political Science Institute in Grenoble. After a two-hour discussion, 20 of us (in five cars) made the 2-hour drive to Geneva to hear Noam Chomsky speak on "The American Media and Human Rights." The total turnout in Geneva was nearly 3,000.
And this week, Radio France has organized a Discussion animated by Dominique Bomberger, in which André Kaspi, professeur d'histoire des Etats-Unis a la Sorbonne, will participate speaking on the theme: "Sommes-nous tous des citoyens de l'empire?" (Some colleagues in Grenoble have suggested the theme be modified to read: "Sommes-nous tous des collaborateurs?"
But first, the following alert from our research associate at the CNRS,
Marc Olivier, on the penetration of American propaganda into French social
sciences. (Readers are invited to visit our Research Center web site to
read Pierre Bourdieu's discussion of François Furet's
American corporate subsidies while writing his revisionist history of the
French Revolution :
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Cher Francis bonjour.
Je te conseille de te procurer auprès d'un collègue du CNRS le dernier
numéro du bulletin du CAES du CNRS (il s'agit d'une sorte de Comité
d'entreprise, géré par des personnels élus sur listes syndicales, et qui
s'occupe de diverses activités culturelles, de vacances, etc...).
Il y a dans ce bulletin, sous la rubrique "controverses", un texte
extraordinaire signé par Condoleeza Rice sous le titre "Les Etats Unis et
leurs alliés, valeurs et intérets communs". Je suis très choqué par la
publication de ce texte de pure propagande politique dans un bulletin qui
engage plus ou moins directement la responsabilité des syndicats du CNRS.
Je ne sais trop comment réagir. Je me demande si nous ne pourrions pas
traduire ce texte en Américain, l'envoyer à Ramsey Clarke et lui demander
d'écrire une réponse de la meme dimension. Nous pourrions ensuite faire
pression sur la rédaction du bulletin pour la publier, afin de montrer aux
lecteurs que beaucoup de citoyens américains combattent la façon dont Mme
Rice et son patron conçoivent la mise en oeuvre concrète de leurs "valeurs".
Qu'en penses tu ?
Francis, Voici un extrait d'un article du Washington Post du 12 octobre 2002:
In 2001, Forune magazine fou!nd that pharmaceutical manufacturers comprised
the nation's most profitable industry, based on return on revenues, assets
and shareholders'equity. The top 14 companies, the magazine found, had
revenues of $215 billion and profits of nearly $38 billion.
Over the last decade, PhRMA and its membert drug companies have spent more
than l billion-far more than any other industry- to influence the
legislative process. In that time they have hired more than 600 Washington
In 2001, a nonelection year, the industry spent $76 million on lobbying
according to the web site Politicalmoneyline.com...By comparison the defense
industry spent less than $59 million.....
Finally, the industry boosted its contribution to Republican candidates from
l.7 million in 1990 to 18.l million in 2000 and nearly $12 million so far in
the current cycle. It ranked 12th among industrial sectors in GOP
conbtributions 10 years ago; now it ranks 4th"
Francis: to use as you please.
Don't Waste Any Time in Mourning: Organize!
by Doug Dowd
Most are familiar with that justly famous
Joe Hill in 1915, made just before he was to be executed by a firing
squad. If things look bleak to us today, thing of how much
bleaker they must have looked to Joe Hill at that terrible
moment. Think, too, of the many-faceted bleakness facing so many in the
decades to follow who, despite and because of fierce
opposition, "organized," no matter what. Had they not, and had they not
won more than a little, today's terrible world would be that much
worse. For those who have spent years trying to move society toward
decency, equality, sanity, and peace, these times could break the heart;
and Joe's words ring more truly than ever. With all the reforms
accomplished in the USA from the 30s on, the education, health care, and
housing for a majority remained disgracefully inadequate in the 1970s;
but not inadequate enough as those in power have seen things: as
the 70s ended, the processes of undoing those reforms began -- along
with a reheated militarism, the cruel disgrace of Vietnam
notwithstanding. Now, in a blitz that seems unstoppable, we and the
world the U.S. dominates are coming face to face with multiple untold
disasters. Maybe it's unstoppable; maybe not.
It is not merely dreaming to believe
there is more than a glimmer of
hope. There are several reasons for thinking so. The first regards
pessimistic predictions: We don't know enough about society -- nor
shall we ever -- to support either optimistic or pessimistic predictions
about the future.
The social process is
an ever more kaleidoscopic mix of
interacting and mutually transforming economic, cultural,
military, political and scientific/technological "variables."
The resulting complexities make it difficult fully to understand even
the past; to predict how all that will work out in the future is so
indeterminate that to anticipate even month-to-month changes of any
substance is hard enough; accurate forecasts for future years are
virtually impossible -- even by the most astute Marxists, let
alone mainstream social "scientists." Consider a variety of
examples from the past: In 1910, nobody anticipated the
Russian revolution of 1917 nor, in 1922, the birth of fascism in Italy
or, even after it had taken hold there, its spread to much of
Europe and to Japan. Closer to home, in the USA as late as 1932,
anyone who had argued there would be what became the post-1935 New
Deal would have been thought a halfwit.
And, some will remember
that the young in the 1950s were
called the "silent generation." Silent they were, on the surface;
but there was an underwater volcano simmering which, even before the
50s ended, had begun to froth near the surface. Not long after, it
produced what became the civil rights movement in the South and
the student movement on campuses. (For an insightful early look at
that "simmering" see the 1958 book by Richard Farina Been Down So Long It
Looks Like Up to Me.) It wasn't long before both adults and
"kids" became very noisy about matters never in the news a few
years earlier --about racism and poverty, nukes and Vietnam and, more than
a few, about South Africa: The young blacks who ordered coffee in the
wrong place in the early 60s didn't spring from nowhere; nor did the
anti-nuke and "peace candidates" in the 1960 elections in New York
and Massachusetts -- with considerable student participation. In
short, the transformation of attitudes and behavior from the 50s
to the 60s did not descend from the heavens; those flowering plants
emerged from no longer dormant seeds.
That particulars of that past
will not be repeated, but for the present
and future there are good grounds for thinking we can do at least as well;
and we'd better to more than that. One basis for thinking so is
as forbidding as it is hopeful: the cherished leftie notion that
worsening times energize people to nchange things for the better. It is
"forbidding" because such times also step up rightwing energies.
Nor are the odds even as good
as 50-50 as between movement to left
or right politically, for those in power normally --
natcherly -- assist those of the right, "lest a worse fate
befall." Nevertheless, these worsening times furnish some basis for hope
-- especially when we join them to the more cheering current reality
that has to do with -- perhaps surprisngly -- the young of today. Of
which, more in a moment. First, a short walk on the
precarious "dialectical" side.
As today's USA
becomes always more dangerous, obscene, and
corrupt, it is entirely likely that hitherto complacent people, as in the
past, will be provoked by anger and/or fear to do more than just vote for
Tweedledee/dum (if that); and that those who have been
politically active will become considerably more so.
In the USA, that has happened
more than once, and in a big way in the
1930s. Being political in those distant days meant taking unaccustomed,
difficult, and often dangerous steps in the
socio-economic realm: For workers, attempts to form
independent -- as distinct from then common company -- unions was
always an uphill and dangerous battle. But struggle up that steep
hill they did, one battle after another -- most prominently struggles in
autos, rubber, coal, and steel -- with innovations such as sit-ins and,
on the waterfront of San Francisco, USA's first general strike.
It took courage and imagination to
do all that in the midst of the worst
depression in history, especially in a country whose president (Coolidge)
only a few years earlier had unerringly announced that "The Business
of America is business"; where, until 1938, there was no minimum wage
or maximum hours, no laws
against child labor, no unemployment compensation, paid
vacations, pensions, and employer-financed health care; where, although
unions were "legal," strikes were illegal ("invasions of
property rights") -- and where, even after successful
unionization, throughout the entire 30s -- after protective laws --
their efforts continued to be met by firings, injuries, jailings, and
killings. As late as 1933, and even after, nobody had expected anything
like those displays of determination and ndetermination.
Also, and much to the
shocked surprise of journalists and
politicians, there was a noteworthy quantitative increase and
qualitative shift in electoral efforts on local, state, and national
levels after 1932, producing in 1934 a Congress that was very different
from its predecessors. Soon after, FDR, though a conservative Democrat
when elected, was persuaded that there had better be a "Second New Deal"
before the 1936 election, or he would lose it. It began in 1935
with the enactment of Social Security, and went on from there: not as
far as it could have or should have, but considerably farther than anyone
BUT. In addition to those
and other positive developments of a "left of
center" trend, were the developments of an opposite (though not equal)
trend to the right. Its best-known groups were Father Coughlin's
Silver Shirts in Detroit and Huey Long's "Share the Wealth"
movement (which had begun as left populist but, with help of the major
Louisiana oil companies, became right populist). However, in the USA
in the 1930s -- already the richest country in the world, by far --
neither left nor right movements had either the import or the
strength they had in Europe, severe depression notwithstanding. Thus,
even though by 1933 the U.S. economy's production had fallen by
50 percent -- matching Germany's, the two the worst in the world
-- great though the misery of the unemployed and poor was, they remained
relatively less badly off than their European counterparts.
Moreover, the U.S.
union movement was still very weak; despite the
hopes and efforts of the few small left groups,unions never went
beyond seeking reforms, never constituted a labor movement -- one, that
is, seeking a different socioeconomic system.
In short, U.S. business had no need
to fear anything like a socialist
revolution; and, in that the emergence of fascism was a response to a
socialist threat, no likelihood of fascism. By the same token, if it
was extremely unlikely that the USA would go either way, it was a virtual
certainty that countries like Italy, Germany, France, and Japan would go
either fascist or socialist.
So, with support from their economic and political power
structures, the doors to fascism opened: Italy, 1922, Germany, 1933,
Japan, 1929. (France was more than "halfway" to fascism before the
Today? In the USA there
exists no likelihood of a strong socialist
movement for the foreseeable future; however, times have changed such
that an "americanized" fascism has become a distinct possibility, even
without a socialist threat.
It had begun to seem so already
as the 1970s ended. Then the U.S.
began its evolving lurch toward what Bertram Gross called Friendly
Fascism (in his 1980 book of that title) --"friendly" because,
in the absence of a broad and deep left movement, and
in contrast with the fascisms of the interwar period, the need for
deep and violent repression is limited: Not Auschwitz, but some variations
on the U.S. "relocation camps" for the Japanese and today's Guantanamo; not
the mass executions of a Pinochet, but a "few" prominent
leftists (likely to be called "terrorists") given show trials and then
life or death; not book burnings, but the relegation of critical works to
an undergrond; not mass firings in the universities, but a rebirth and
intensification of earlier repressive programs.
What is above termed "limited"
would not seem so to those directly and
indirectly afflicted. It can be limited because any likelihood of
there being a well-organized and strong left movement in the U.S.
after World War II was seriosly crippled by the systematic and lingering
effects of McCarthyism and the Cold
War. That earlier repression and the rampant selfish
individualism fed by consumerism, have had a devastating effect on the
consciousness and character of the people of the USA and our politicians,
unions, universities and, of course, the media.The present administration
and Supreme Court already have the power and the inclination to
move toward and even beyond those "limited" forms of repression and, as
well, to war(s) and increased socioeconomic injustice. Unless we
develop more than intermittent demos and an always stronger movement
to reverse present trends, we must expect that the both the power and
the inclination of their creators will increase.
Remember and be warned:
In Germany, as things went from very bad in
the early 30s through indescribable horrors by theirend, its "free"
population came to earn the ironic title of "The Good Germans" --
those who had not been Nazi enthusiasts, and might have very much
disliked some of its doings, but who kept their misgivings
to themselves (and, who, after the war, told themselves and others that
had they only known, they would have behaved differently).
We of USA we have
long been habituated to being "Good Americans"
-- looking the other way as regards slavery, racism, the exploitation
of workers (including that of children) and of nature, and,
among much else, as concerns our many repugnant political and military
interventions abroad. To go from that to becoming "Friendly Fascist
Americans" would not be a great leap.
In sum, though
richer and more powerful than ever, as concerns
matters just noted we are not as different from other countries as we
were in the 1930s. That is, even though the dour hope contains some
hopeful possibilities, by itself the hope that depends upon bad times
leading to a better politics remains at best problematic for the USA.
Fortunately, there is
that still that sweeter side to consider.
is also problematic, but by no means as scary. I
refer to the young people of today, those between about 15 and 30. In
my experience and observation they are sharply different from their
counter-parts in the years since World War II. First some personal
background: I started teaching in 1949 in the San Francisco Bay Area,
thence to New York for many years, then back to the Bay Area until now;
meanwhile, beginning in the 1960s, I began also to teach in Italy. I still
teach both in the Bay Area and in Italy, half the year in each
country. All along the way I have been much involved with students in the
classroom, in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam struggles up into the
1970s and, more recently, in globalization and war/peace controversies.
Now I say this
about today's young people: They are
something else, very different from earlier generations and very probably
for the better as regards the possibilities of a growing movement. "What?"
it will be said. "The young of the 60s -- at least some of them -- were
wonderful: lively, irreverent, daring, courageous, funny,
freaky: Chicago, storming the Pentagon, Woodstock, cool!" I agree;
some of my best friends then -- when I was old enough to be their
father -- are among my best friends
still. But what universally marked that generation was
disillusionment. And it marks them still, along with, now as parents,
endless worries about "kids."
As anyone can see, today's
young are freaky too, very often in a
non-attractive way: Those goddamned rings in their noses, bellybuttons,
and who knows where else; that blaring, banging music; those grungy
clothes, those low-hanging jeans: "You can see the ring in the
bellybuttons!"; their ways of speaking; other irritants. That's the surface.
Under the surface is something
very hopeful and reassuring
for a distinct minority, enigmatic for the rest. In that
distinct minority, those I have observed up close are just as
decent as earlier generations, at least as intelligent and informed
as their elders, and more likely to join a demo. But they do so with a
big and hopeful difference.
Being idealistic seems to go with the territory of being young; my
"youth generation" in the 30s was, those in the 60s
were, today's are. But, and very much unlike those of 1930s and 1960s,
the young people I know now are totally without illusions: The
corruption, the lies, the cruelty, the irrationality, the
obscene twinned existences of extreme wealth and extreme poverty and of
the poor health of our people and the wasting away of our
environment: That's this system, man; normal.
But they don't like it; they are
angry and very much so; at the same time,
they are eager for something much better. That's what sends those of the
attractive minority to all those demos in goodly amounts
in the USA and elsewhere, where they always outnumber their
elders. You can't help but notice how they predominate, whether in
S.F. or D.C., Genoa or Florence, London or Paris, wherever; nor, behind
that anger, can you fail to see how friendly, how decent, they seem;
how internationalist, and
"interracial" they and their banners and slogans are.
bunch is of course a minority of today's
young. There is also the "skinhead" minority and a large and seemingly
apathetic middle. Taken together, they are pretty frightening in
appearance and, a few, in behavior. Virtually all the young people today
strike me as feeling lost, adrift but, at the same time, trapped in a
dull, senseless, dangerous, and stupid society; and angry at pretty much
the same matters as the left-leaning minority. And some of the
skinheads, it has been noted, are rebels waiting for a good
cause, rather than a dirty fight.
In this -- alas! -- the latter
may be seen as similar to a significant
number of the German Nazis -- those murdered on "the
night of the long knives," taken in by what the acronym Nazi stood
for: National Socialist German Workers' Party.
In all the foregoing respects (except
"illusions") the young
of today stand in significant resemblance to their 60s
predecessors. And is it not entirely probable that their
irritating ways of dressing and acting are their means for giving the
finger to the complacency of both their parents and other "grown-ups"
who, with few exceptions, rarely lift their fingers to reverse the USA
from its descent into the slime?
Moreover, if we take visible
opposition as a measure, the young today
constitute a higher percentage than than their counterpart elders at
similar times of need. If and when the non-young activists increase in
numbers, so too will the young; but, as was suggested above and will be
further pursued below, the vital need is for the
non-young very soon to involve
themselves/ourselves considerably more, both numerically and
creatively -- if hope is not to be snuffed out by the building repression.
In support of that, it
is important to remember that when the young of
the 1960s came to be politically formidable, whether for civil rights or
against poverty, the draft, and the Vietnam war, they were joining already
existent movements whose roots had been planted and nourished for many years.
A seeming exception was
the civil rights movement, which came to be
symbolized by young blacks illegally ordering a cup of coffee. The young
blacks did outnumber their elders from the 60s on, but they had been
brought to that point by at least two prior sources: 1) a
long, recognized and, among them, well-known pre- and post-Civil War
history of struggle and sacrifice by their forebears up
through the 1930s, and 2) the added and vital impetus provided by
black GIs back from a war that was publicized as meant to end oppression
abroad -- with never a reference to the oppression "at home" -- and the
associated and simultaneously energized resentments of a whole people who
refused to go to the back of the bus anymore or to put up with the
murders of theirleaders, let alone of little girls in church. And, as
those young blacks were joined by (mostly) young whites, new and
charismatic leaders emerged -- along with always more victims.
Driven as much by shame as by decency
-- a century after the Civil War --
the nation answered with modest reform legislation. But for the past 25
years or so we have been moving back to where we were before the 60s, and
at an always accelerating rate. Just as the civil rights movement did not
just sprout out of
the ground in the 60s, neither did the antiwar movement.
Unbeknownst to most, during World
War II, and in conjunction with
cooperative war efforts with Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese in
Vietnam, FDR agreed that the Vietnamese would become independent
after the war. Soon after his death in April, 1945, that agreement
was broken: Already in the late fall of 1945 (and I witnessed this)
U.S. ships were transporting British and Dutch troops (newly-freed
from Japanese prisons) from Manila to Hanoi to hold the fort until
the French could arrive in 1946. (See Marilyn Blatt Young, The Vietnam
The few who knew about that
and similar developments began already
in the early 1950s to protest, not in demos (for there was too little
awareness), but through writing and teaching. By the early 60s that
produced the Inter-University Committee for a Debate on Foreign Policy
(the campus "teach-ins"): a prof vs. the U.S. interventions in Vietnam,
arguing with a CIA or State or "Defense" Department person for.
When those teach-ins
started, the students were either indifferent or
supportive of the government. By the end of 1965 that was in dramatic
reversal, because 1) government reps, by then being boo-ed off the
stage, became "no-shows," and 2) to be drafted to fight in what was
becoming a well-publicized dirty war served as an educational force
in its own right. So the organizers of the teach-ins,
in coalition with civil rights, anti-nuke, and a sprinkling of left
groups, concluded that it was time for what became numerous and always
larger demos and created
"the Mobe," (Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam); a
substantial majority of whose marchers and participants from 1966 on were
The same may be said for today's
demos: The information and
spirit behind the "no global" and antiwar demos have been underway for
many years, organized by Global Exchange, Food First, "peace and
justice" and other such groups dating back to the late 50s and early 60s.
Until recently, all such efforts
were moving slowly uphill;
it's still uphill, but now with considerably more momentum.
However, if today's patterns and procedures do not go beyond
those of the 60s, whether as regards domestic or overseas concerns,
our and the world's future will continue to plunge "to the bottom." Why?
The reasons are several, and can only be barely touched upon
here. First, in all cases in the past the efforts made were adequate
enough to gain certain domestic reforms or to help stop a war, but were
both qualitatively and quantitatively inadequate
to bring about sufficient or lasting changes.
The fault did not lie with any age
group, old or young, but in the past
and present limitations of "lib/left" politics in the
USA (and, by now, not only in the USA). This is not the place to propose
"plans for a new movement." But a suggestion can be made: We need
broad-based, deep, and continuous discussions among all participant groups
of a potential movement if our weaknesses are to be overcome.
A good beginning would be see to
it that an integral part of all
planning meetings for demos will be serious discussions and plans
integrating short-term and long-term strategy and
tactics: What will we
be doing "the day after"? It is unquestionable that demos serve
vital educational and energizing purposes; they are essential for the
long-term as well as for immediate purposes. But they are
something like exercise and health: a demo now and then with nothing
in between is like a bike ride every Sunday, with no exercise and a
foolish diet the rest of the week.
Our "exercise and
diet" must consist of steady self-education
and reaching out to others -- at work, with friends,
family and neighbors, in our various civic or other
organizations, etc. There is so much that we and they must learn and
unlearn, so much that is wrong but that we have been socialized to see
as OK or better; so much apathy, so much baseless fear, so much
learned ignorance.., and so little time.
Is all this a backdoor way of saying
that we need is a third party? The
answer is "Yes, but." Having been a third party
candidate and having managed campaigns on both the local and the
national level in the past, what follows is based on harsh
experience: Of course a third party is essential. But since at least
World War II, its history has been something like demos: lots
of activity building up to elections, and damn little in between.
A third party can only be meaningful
insofar as it is part of a an
always building movement; and where still weak, seeing elections as
mainly educational opportunities, until never-ending political work
has made it into a movement with breadth, depth, and muscle. That
does not exclude the real possibility of third party victories on
the local and even the state levels; the need, however, is to create
a national movement: What profiteth a movment if it wins on
the local level while the rest of the nation violates civil
liberties, allows millions to be deathly ill, goes to war...?
We cannot displace
the existing fortress of political, economic, and
cultural power with appeals for decency, equality, peace, and
sanity; quite apart from any other consideration, those who rule
from that fortress are either scornful of such appeals, and/or define
those words in ways that allow them to see themselves as their
benefactors: Does Ashcroft see himself as against civil
liberties? Bush see himself as against equality,
or adequate medical care, or for war? Do the media see
themselves as corrupted and corrupting? Do the economists touting
"free markets" see themselves as capitalist ideologues? We can't change
them; but we can change ourselves; indeed we must change ourselves if
we are to change the many inactive others we need to have join us
-- not just in our and their political behavior, but in how we think
and feel. For we, too, have been captivated in some degree by
our country's standards; we too have been less concerned than we need be
about past and
continuing inequalities, violations of human rights and of
Enough already. Born
in 1919, I have lived through many scary periods;
this one is the scariest, and gets more so each day. Those of us who
see that must reach out to one another and to others we don't yet
know, and get to work. In doing so, we will almost inevitabily undergo
some very unpleasant moments and find ourselves working with people not
entirely endearing to us; nor we to all of them: that has to be taken as
given. What is also true, but not so obvious, is that working hard for a
better society, whatever its bumps and scratches, is a fulfilling
process -- not in some foolish ecstasy, but in the realization
of one's humanity, and that of others. Those who have done so, know
that; those who haven't will find it so.
Time is running out.
In the ancient saying, "If not me, who? If not
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Center for the Advanced Study of American
Institutions and Social Movements
University of Grenoble-3