Sixties Activists Send Open Salute to Occupy Movement Worldwide
Former ‘60s activists issued an open letter of salute to the Occupy movement, received by PW today, that commends their policies and encourages them to stand their ground. The “first post-WWII generation, raised in the emerging affluence of the ‘50s and growing into adulthood during the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, the heartache of Vietnam, and social recognition of the civil rights of all people,” as the 22 signatories define themselves, call the Occupy movement “an extension and culmination of our own.”
The big difference between the movements, however, lies in the evolution since then. “There has come about an ever-increasing shift in the wealth of this nation, an ever-widening attempt to dominate the affairs of other nations, a fearful erosion of the potential for liberty both here and abroad, a sustained corporate assault on the inalienable right to pursue happiness, and the wholesale profit-driven degradation of a healthy earth for everyone, even for those of the 1 percent,” the salute reads.
Some of the signatories were involved in the mass protest movements at Columbia University and at Kent State University that culminated in the Ohio National Guard shooting and killing four in 1970. Those protests were over segregation, and the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, as well as the report of American troops who massacred hundreds of men, women and children in My Lai, Vietnam.
Johnny Sundstrom, who currently resides in Oregon, was originally part of UAW/MF (Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker), an anarchist collective in New York during the late ’60s. He signed the letter, and gave us a Q & A about the Occupy movement.
I do not think this current movement is losing steam. What I do think is that the onset of winter and the impatience of the police state is causing it to shape-shift into new strategic forms. That is why this salute was written and put forth: to assure the movement that it has support and not to lose momentum, to continue to find outlets for the expression of the deep discontent of the 99 percent and continue to expose the dysfunction and inability of our government to deal with it.
Do you think the ‘60s counter-culture movement was successful, since the Vietnam war ended?
The ’60s movement began with a rather unified two-issue approach: civil rights and anti-Vietnam War. As the society changed to absorb or adapt somewhat to meet these issues, and laws and the end of the war reduced the focus on these two issues, the movement tended to fragment over separate causes such gender equality, anti-nuclear power, environment, workplace rights, et cetera. This fragmentation led to competition for funding, in-fighting between factions within groups, and to a less focused and more diffuse proliferation of organizations and efforts.
The ’60s were characterized by culture wars which pitted working people against hippies, anti-war against veterans, blacks against whites. The lessons from all of this are, the American people nor any part of us is the enemy – this is beautifully embodied in the slogan of the 99 percent; and the anti-movement slogans of the ’60s such as “get a job” and “go home” that were hurled at protesters no longer apply. Both jobs and homes are less available within this economy, with all the foreclosures.
What do you think Occupiers need to do that your generation didn’t?
The key lessons that are mentioned in the salute are not to get corralled into a set of demands which will fragment support and success, to resist to temptation to establish leaders and to rely on shared leadership chosen by ability and commitment, and to avoid the media’s constant attempt to create conflict and “movement stars.”
What do you think they’re up against?
I think this version of the movement is up against a more technically sophisticated and organized government apparatus backed by the power, pressure and evolving desperation of the one percent.
I also think, and this is my personal feeling, that the dichotomy and argument over violence and non-violence is a debate that should instead be presented as a distinction between: offensive violence, as in state-supported police and military forms; and defensive violence, which is the right of self-defense and the need to protect the weak, elderly and outgunned from attacks and harm.
Here’s a full text of the salute. You can open the Google doc and sign here:
A Salute to the Youth of the Occupy Movement –
from Activists of the ‘60s
Let It Be Said: That the first post-WWII generation, raised in the emerging affluence of the ‘50s and growing into adulthood during the birth of Rock’n‘Roll, the heartache of VietNam, and social recognition of the Civil Rights of all people – Let it be said and heard loud and clear that these signed-on activists and others of our generation endorse, support, and offer our own heartfelt passion and the full extent of our abilities and assets to the process and the progress of the OCCUPY MOVEMENT!
Humanity’s struggle for freedom and the evolution of justice-for-all has been characterized by alternating periods of dormancy and punctuated bursts of renewed momentum and change. We view your efforts as an extension and culmination of our own and those who came before us, and recognize the new heights of participatory democracy and idealistic hope to which you are lifting us all. As the decades have passed since we were demonstrating in the streets of this country and challenging its status quo in the corridors of power, there has come about an ever-increasing shift in the wealth of this nation, an ever-widening attempt to dominate the affairs of other nations, a fearful erosion of the potential for liberty both here at home and abroad, a sustained corporate assault on the inalienable right to pursue happiness, and the wholesale profit-driven degradation of a healthy earth for everyone, even for those of the 1%.
We welcome your energy, your clarity, your resolve and your commitment. You truly are the next stage in the quest for a humanity at home on this planet and a safer world cooperating in advancing the betterment of all. You, as the next chapter in these international challenges, are both our children and our mentors. We encourage your refusal to adopt the limitations of a set of demands, for in our experience that strategy brings about divisiveness; we applaud your resistance to the temptation to name leaders, and your embrace of shared leadership as the only valid organizing trajectory aiming toward success; and perhaps above all, we welcome your ability and credo to avoid feeding the frenzy and appetite of a voracious, fickle and ultimately destructive establishment media.
We pledge our resources, our remaining health, our prayers and our dreams to the service of this universal cause. We look forward to the remaining days of our lives being re-energized and nourished by your dedication to the righteousness of the age-old hunger for freedom and the thirst for justice that were at the absolute core of our own days on the front lines, are now at the heart of this momentous Movement, and will always be the focus of an undying vision of life worth living for all people everywhere…All Power to the 99%
Sign-on, City, ‘60s affiliation
Johnny Sundstrom, Deadwood, OR, UAW/MF & SF News
Candy Knox, Eugene, OR, SDS/Kent State/Weatherman
Moon Somers, Various protests
Meredith Sue Willis, South Orange, NJ, VISTA volunteer, Columbia SDS
Dan Leighton, Chicago, IL, Columbia SDS
Hilton Obenzinger, Palo Alto, CA, Columbia 1968, I-Hotel 1977
Roz Payne, Richmond, Vermont, NY Newsreel Film Group, Columbia Take-over
K. A. Rashid, Brooklyn, New York
Arnim Johnson, Chicago, Illinois
River Gibeaut, Pittsburgh PA, Kent State SDS/Weatherman
Julie Greeman, Durham, CTm Flower Fifth Ave. Hospital 1199 strike, numerous marches on Washingtom, including ‘63 led by MLK, vigil at UN against Cuban Missile Crisis.
Mark Rudd, Albuquerque, NM, Columbia SDS, national office SDS, Weather Underground
Peter Coyote, Mill Valley, CA, Grinnell 14, root of the Student Peace Movement; San Francisco Mime Troupe, a founder; The Diggers
Peter Clapp, Richmond, CA, Columbia SDS
Alan Senauke, Berkeley, CA, Columbia 1968
Ken Hammond, Las Cruces, NM, Kent State SDS, Kent 25
Bob Tomashevsky, Archer, FL, SDS
Ralph Bevilaqua, Brookline, MA, Kent State ‘65-’70
Robert M. Jacobs, Eugene, OR, SDS
Jim Wintner, New York, NY, Columbia ‘68
Tchanan Ross, Deadwood OR, SNCC-Univ of Md, SDS, SF Newsreel