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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Change of plans.

The New York Times reports: "This week, the nation's largest antiwar coalitions said they were abandoning their plan to disrupt everyday life." But have they? We'll have to watch the next week's worth of protests in San Francisco and New York City to find out.

Meanwhile, make sure to read Michelle Goldberg's article in Salon about the emerging divisions between the "radical" and "moderate" branches of the antiwar movement (you may have to click through a "one day pass" ad before getting to the story). Here's the moderates on the importance of building a mainstream movement:

Todd Gitlin, a former president of Students for a Democratic Society, '60s historian and Columbia University professor, cautions that actions some activists find cathartic may alienate the unconverted. Speaking of the San Francisco protest, he says, "I can only imagine corks popping in Karl Rove's living room at the spectacle of demonstrators disrupting the lives of people in the least Republican city in America. What a gift to them, or at least an amusement."
That doesn't mean he thinks civil disobedience is a bad idea, but, like Cagan, he believes it has to be targeted at places like Halliburton or Clear Channel Radio, not at the city at large. "That just seems like self-indulgence to me," he says.
After all, like fellow '60s historian Paul Berman, he's long argued that, contrary to popular mythology, the radical elements of the Vietnam era only undermined the left's political power. Gitlin calls it the "inauspicious paradox of the late '60s," explaining, "as the war became less popular, so did the antiwar movement. In fact the antiwar movement was hated. That had huge political implications. It basically dismantled the political advantages that had accrued to the antiwar movement and left the left isolated."
The answer to this paradox, Gitlin argues, isn't for war opponents to stay home and shut up — it's for them to get involved in practical as well as symbolic politics. "The political actions that are most necessary over the next years entail the political defeat of George Bush," he says.

The third page of the story discusses the National Council of Churches and MoveOn.org's role in the mainstream movement.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 29 March 2003 at 2:23 PM

Previous: Scared yet?
Next: Protests in Portland.

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