When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die. ~Jean-Paul Sartre
A New York anti-war march down Fifth Avenue, March 26, 1966 with a man in the march carrying a sign that reads, “Support Our Boys-Bring Them Home Now’ (right next to him is a man with a sign declaring, “The USA National Liberation Movement Supports the NLF of Vietnam,” next to who stands a woman with a sign, “Committee to Aid the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.”* (*I was a proud marcher on that day along with 50,000 other people.)
I asked myself as I stood chanting,” Ho, Ho, Ho Che Minh, The NLF Is Gonna Win,” how could I support anything about the war if I was a supporter of the NLF? By this chant we were calling not only for a military but also a political victory for the NLF quite different then the liberal call for a nonviolent solution to the murderous raging of Imperialist amerikkka. Rough questions for a young man of 17 with no college but on the streets, living the revolution. Living and knowing that this americkkka was not for him. That there was just far too many put downs, smack downs and held downs because of his little homo ass.He was a pansy, a sissy, a nervous nelly, a fag and even more. But you know what fuck you he said and lived his life as one big fuck you.
As I continued to talk and ask questions of others it seemed that the Bring the Boys home idea were an appeal to the middle class, to the patriotic among the population telling them that the anti-war folks weren’t all god hating commies, but loved their sons, really loved this country and this land. The appeal as made told them they too could make it right by joining the revolt and bringing their sons home from this misadventure alive and well, not in a pine box. We hate this war and this war only other than that we are good as apple pie amerikkka. Some said it wasn’t the boys fault, as they were drafted to do the bidding of the Johnson regime in Washington, To that some would counter, yes okay but some of the young men went to jail, some to Canada, some fled and went underground, some pretended to be crazy and some said “Yes, I am a homosexual and you don’t like me and I don’t like you.” There were choices beside killing or fighting in an unjust war, hard choices but choices never the less. (1)
So many of us back in those days were just coming out from under the spell of “everything is okay amerikkka,” white working class, climb up the ladder to success, as our fathers and mothers tried hard to offer us what they were told was the good life. We were beginning to see it all differently than our parents had. Myself I was an outcast from my very early childhood so there wasn’t much to casting out the demons of a good society. I learned my lessons early and learned them well lessons that would guide me till this day. My coming out as a homosexual, (we didn’t use the term gay yet) was standing in my underwear in front of some military brass type and saying no I wasn’t just fooling around with other boys that I was the real thing a practicing homosexual. (but as the joke went I really didn’t need much practice.) A 4F unfit for military service was stamped on my draft card. Okay by me, I had better things to do like make art, make love with sexy long hair boys, get stoned and learn a whole new way of living as a long-haired, hippie, commie, homo boy. Make love not war, yes man I was ready. Come to me you sexy thing. Yes somehow we knew that a new day was possible we just had to fight for it however we could.
No War But Class War! (worth fighting for)
Frank Little a IWW organizer, free speech fighter, was a strong opponent of World War I. Little fought hard with the leaders of the IWW to directly proceed with anti-war and anti conscription agitation. Little said at that time, ..the IWW is opposed to all wars, and we must use all our power to prevent the workers from joining the army.” He later called soldiers serving in the war, “Uncle Sam’s scabs in uniforms.” Wars should be left to the capitalists who start the war. “Either we are for their capitalist slaughter fest or against it.”
October 21, 1967 march on the Pentagon. (2)
Pro-War Propaganda, Our Boys, Our Troops, Our GI’s, our Americkkka?
U.S troops are not our armed forces, the army belongs to the ruling class, fights in their interests and as soon as our class boys join and become part of the ruling class military, they become one to carry out the imperialists wars of aggression on poor and working poor people all around the world. Those who position themselves in support of the troops or those who are in the army now, help to strengthen the ruling class puppets in Washington to wage war.
What about this “OUR” I have a very hard time believing that americkkka is our anything. There is such a class-divide in this country that I can say I have nothing in common with what would be called the employing class, the upper middle class and certainly nothing in common with the wealthy. “This country is “ours” in the way a prison cell “belongs” to the prisoner: We live here, but it has never been ours. It is the soil of our suffering, and the cause of suffering for hundreds of millions. We can’t take back that which isn’t ours.” (4)
What can we say about today? The draft is over and men and women join the military freely on their own accord. Once we had an argument around here that the poor boys and girls signed up so they could get an education, “Yeah right,” said Bessie Marie, “as long as they weren’t killed before the bell rang.” So it becomes our responsibility to work hard, fast and furious for the day when young folks do not have to kill just to get an education. The day when the poor can be freely educated along with their rich peers. We like this quote that Queers Against War says, “Some say that we are not considering the fact that working class and poor LGBT people have a right to join the military service in order to go to college. And I say that if we believe that then we uphold centuries of oppression against poor people in stating that only the wealthy are worthy of educating without being asked to risk their very lives to do so.” Let’s think hard about that.
Some tell me that they can’t get a job. The economy is bad, there are no jobs so they think, “Why not join the military. It is all that is opened to me.” So let me get this right, you think that if you can’t find a job that you might as well go and blow up others. Doesn’t make any sense. Your little no jobie thing is baby talk to the murder and mayhem that you will cause others. How many who use that excuse could possibly look a mother in the face whose children have been killed by an US Drone attack? Oh Mrs., “I am sorry about your kids but I didn’t have a job back home so I came thousands of miles landed here with a job to kill your family and anyone else who gets in the way of my good old Uncle Scam.”
Can we ever get to the day when we never allow any leaders to use our sons and daughters as cannon fodder, can we not demand that these leaders stop this “invade the world policies “of the present and past administrations in D.C.? Can we ever stop loving the masters and joining with the enemy? The enemy right here in Americkkka, who is taking away our freedoms, one by one, who tries and many times succeeds in making americkkkans belive that the monster terrorist is trying to get under our beds, and we must go half way around the world destroying civilizations in finding him, all the while filling us with the phony puffed up patriotism of flag lapel pins, and yellow ribbons and love for those doing the bidding of the elite wiping out folks as they go.
I have never believed that we on the left or those who are fighting to revolutionize amerikkka need anyone to legitimize our cause. It’s odd when men who have helped to spread amerikkkan imperialism, fighting in unjust wars, killing people who have done nothing to them can come home and see the light and become star lights in the movement against the war. I have often wondered where these people are really coming from. Maybe it is good and welcomed that ex-soldiers come out against the war, that way others who oppose it do not look like a bunch of peacenicks or are thought of as dirty hippies, or revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the government in the eyes of the rest of amerikkka. See here, we shine so nice, G.I John Boy standing right next to Code Pink, is an ex-army man and now he stands with us. So we are legit in the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Jones Amerikkka. Before we can do this, before we can stand arm in arm, let us go to the bombed out village let us ask the people who are still living from G.I John Boy’s dirty deeds what they think. Yes that is important, we are internationalists. (5) Something is lost in that, maybe that radical edge that is so needed to keep us away from reform and on the right road to liberation and freedom from the ruling class ruling us and making folks think that what they want is what we want when really again we are used, used, used. If we believe in revolution we do not need an ex-anything, or a liberal to speak for us. Let’s break free and break free now from those chains that bind us.
I remember once I carried a sign right before I was thrown off the Yale Campus in New Haven Ct. for being a out-side agitator. The sign was made up of army green tarp material, splashed with red paint, and had a couple of those biting minks that woman wore in the 1950s on it. The wording said, “Poor Man’s Blood Buys Rich Women’s Furs.” Isn’t that about the size of it, even if it isn’t furs we are buying for them with our blood it’s all the same.
Oh Say Can You See, the truth behind the mess.
Fuck this shit. Burn Baby Burn
“But let me give some quotes from Black Panther leader David Hilliard’s speech to an antiwar demo in San Francisco in the fall of 1969. It says something that by ’69 and ’70 the speakers at these mass marches included a Black Panther and the Democratic mayor of SF. Hilliard says he had been warned by the BPP leadership not to curse and not to get mad because that would alienate the white liberals, but as you can see he did both. Like Hilliard, I usually try not to curse in speeches, but I will read this quote as it appeared in Phil Foner’s The Black Panthers Speak (1995):
“There’s too many American flags out here and our Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, says that the American flag and the American eagle are the true symbols of fascism.…
“So then, we would like to ask the American people do they want peace in Vietnam. Well, do you? (audience) ‘Yes.’ Do you want peace in the Black communities? (audience) ‘Yes.’ Well you goddamned sure can’t get it with no guitars, you sure can’t get it demonstrating. The only way you’re going to get peace in Vietnam is to withdraw the oppressive forces from the Black communities right here in Babylon.”
As the crowd became restive and some started to boo, Hilliard got mad:
“We say down with the American fascist society. Later for Richard Milhous Nixon, the m—–f—-r. Later for all the pigs of the power structure. Later for all the people out here that don’t want to hear me curse.… Because Richard Nixon is an evil man. This is the m—–f—-r that unleashed the counter-insurgent teams upon the BPP.… This is the man that sends his vicious murderous dogs out into the Black community.… We will kill Richard Nixon. We will kill any m—–f—-r that stands in the way of our freedom. We ain’t here for no goddamned peace, because we know that we can’t have no peace because this country was built on war. And if you want peace you got to fight for it.”
While the liberals were booing, my friends and I were cheering his opposition to pacifism. The Panthers had become broadly popular. There was a real convergence between the white left and the black left. Black people are not a separate nation but an integral part of American class society while at the same time forcibly segregated at the bottom as a race-color caste. Hilliard was subsequently brought up on charges for threatening the life of the president. Later the charges were dropped—perhaps because it was obvious that no one plans an assassination attempt in a speech in front of upward of 150,000 people in Golden Gate Park!” ( 6 )
Hey Queers What’s Up?
Why do you want to stand with the enemy of the people of the world? That is how folks see America. Enemy of the people and of all the planet that we stand on? Why, again we ask you,why? I am queer and don’t believe you when you say that your discrimination is worse than what you are doing to those who you set about to kill and maim. No Mary, we are not wrong and we know it. We know it again and again we have known it for years and we will know it to our graves. There is so much more that we believed in back when we were young and a part of the great revolutionary change that was sweeping americka. We named ourselves after the National Liberation Front in Vietnam, we were in the business of liberating homosexuals to the many possibilities that were blooming all around. We were at that time a multi-issue force who knew we had to be since we were here there and everywhere. As a young gay man out as out could be, I burned my draft card along with many of my straight brothers. My war was here, in americka not thousands of miles away to attack folks who did nothing to me. Hell it wasn’t any Vietnamese that made my life miserable, that called me a sissy, that pushed my and my good friend Eddie into the mud puddles, that punched me so hard in the face that I fell to the ground, meanwhile giving me a kick in the side. Nope those where good old amerikkkan boys out to get the sissy fag and his ni!#er friend. Why the hell would I want to protect them? Why would I want to be like them? And why in the world would I want to die for them? I must add as a 65-year-old queer freedom fighter that I never ever thought that the “gay” movement would come to this. We were so much against the military and against war when we were young and fighting for what was right and good. Oh for the day before that was lost.
There is a very good new book out from the folks at Against Equality, the book, Against Equality: Don’t Ask To Fight Their Wars is edited by Ryan Conrad with an introduction by our queer comrade writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. This book can be ordered from AK Press. A real queer perspective on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the US military. This book gathers together pieces by contemporary radical voices critical of the mainstream gay community’s uncritical approach to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. What I love about the book is that as the editor says it, “challenges the mainstream left to question its signing on to the damaging militarism of contemporary gay politics. (7 ) To the mainstream left we can only say:
Straight Liberals and Leftists out of queer politics!!!!!
I am not sure that this essay set out as it is does what I wanted it to do. It has been changed so many times in my head and on the page that I have lost track of it. I do hope I can inspire some folks, good folks to think about these issues and then to act and add.
A few notable quotes on war.
What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder one another in cold blood. ~Aldous Huxley
Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out… and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel…. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man” – with his mouth. ~Mark Twain
The pioneers of a warless world are the [youth] who refuse military service. ~Albert Einstein
The aim of military training is not just to prepare men for battle, but to make them long for it. ~Louis Simpson
Don’t dare surrender, don’t throw away your life. Don’t back the leader’s wars, don’t believe their lies. Dare to struggle, and break off your chains. No War but Class War. No War but Class War……Czolgosz
(1) Two other important movements that I would like to explore or would love it if someone out there in reader land explored them is the idea “if drafted radicals should go into the army. In a position paper put forward to the SDS the Spartacist League argued that the voluntary purging of radical from the army would only strengthen the ideological purity and political reliability of the army. It was stated that young radicals should go with the working-class and minority youth and continue their political agitation in the army.(see From 1960s New Left to Trotskyism, Recollections of a Participant, Workers Vanguard, Vol.# 991) This is part two of an excellent article.
Another view was the organizing work done by the American Servicemen Union. Basically, the ASU fights for an end to all forms of discrimination in the service, whether by race or by rank, and for the realization of the Constitutional rights of all GI’s. For more on the ASU see: GI’s Fight Back, and Sir! No Sir! -break the chains.
(2) Photo by Brain Shannon, from OUT NOW, Fred Halstead
(3) Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home Now.”
Is this antiwar message too hot for Crawford, Texas?
That’s what four billboard companies have decided, by refusing to run an advertisement containing the message on billboards in the Texas town near President Bush’s ranch.
Working Assets, a socially progressive telecommunications company that has contributed more than $200,000 to antiwar efforts, has placed advertisements with the message on billboards in New York, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. In the ads, the pro-peace slogan is flanked by a yellow ribbon and a solicitation for donations to pay for more ads. So far, the company has raised more than $60,000 in donations from its own customers and supportive viewers of the billboard. Another one will go up in Detroit this Friday.
But the slogan, which seeks to deflect the impression that being antiwar means being against the American troops serving in Iraq, won’t be seen in Crawford. Four different companies — Lamar Outdoor Advertising, Bressler Outdoor Advertising, Star Outdoor and Outdoor Network Media — have rejected it.
Two of them, Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Star Outdoor, both in Waco, Texas, went so far as to receive the vinyl for the 14-by-48-foot ad, and then decided not to run it.
(4). Mike Ely, The Kasama Project.
(5 ) Mr. and Mrs. Jones be damned, You know let me be honest here, I never liked those two fuckers, and would rather kill them than keep up with them.
(6) This excerpt from the speech by David Hillard as found in The Workers Vanguard, No. 991, 25 November 2011.