CPR/ Port Huron Statement Discussion (PHS Discuss) 11/4/01
David & Anabel Dwyer
Discussion notes by A. Dwyer: 11/04/01
I.Port Huron Statement:
Whats right, whats wrong, whats missing, whats dated?
(Maggie) Especially important values described in the PHS are 1."[People]
have unrealized potential for self-cultivation, self-direction, self-understanding
and creativity. It is this potential that we regard as crucial and to which
we appeal, not to the human propensity for violence, unreason and submission
to authority." and
2. Root principles of political life in a particpatory democracy.
(Kristina) The Economy section needs to recognize the global environment and respect for all human beings. Corporate power cannot be the sole determining factor. We should expand on, "Work with incentives worthier than money."
(Anabel) PHS was a means of students taking responsibility for needed social change. Consciousness, compassion and imagination are taken as necessary, possible and meaningful.
(Gene) We must be inclusive and we have much more information available to us now. Some people must struggle too much just to survive to have time to organize. I like the question, "Would you show up if you werent getting paid?"
(Lea) The equation of meaningful social change with non-violence is crucial.
Our task too is to identify aspects of culture and social structure that dont
serve people well and how to vision it differently
to serve people and end institutional violence. We need expanded discussion of what violence and non-violence are as well as of environmental justice.
(Charlie) The PHS hope in nuclear power is of course wrong but does say something about lack of understanding of the degree of corporate control in public decision making. (David) We would need to discuss our current energy addiction. I would like to pursue the PHS discussion of what a university should be. Also there is no discussion of media power.
(Dick) The PHS 3rd world discussion is completely out of date. Power and the
post-colonial situation now involves the disintegration of states.
The racism statement is seriously dated confined to white/black/foreigners discussion. The dynamics of inequality are different now then they were then. Vietnam did not yet figure in PHS discussion.
(Maggie) We must deal with race, class, gender issues.
(Kristina) This conflict with Afghanistan may be similar to Vietnam but the philosophy that leads to this conflict is broader. Our responsibility is not only to build an anti-war movement but to present a treatise for a better world.
(Dick) We must be specific now. The key thing is whats going on now in this particular war. That analysis may illustrate broader problems/issues/solutions. This war connects in various ways to ecological problems, racism. Alternative economic systems are not on the agenda.
(Shelby) The current conflict is a microcosm that reflects the whole. We need
very tangible ways to work through this situation. And we must paint a picture
of what it could be like instead. One of the key issues
is lack of imagination and opening vision to what is right.
(Anabel) The post 911 onslaught from the far right is highly dangerous, their agenda pushed through Congress without any opposition. We need a list of what theyve done and what we would advocate instead. The right wants and gets: major corporate tax breaks, CEO support, Star Wars, Price Anderson renewal, Fast track "free trade," destructive appointments to major positions..
(Gene) We need definitions. What is free-market, vested interest?
Do we understand the scale of the current economic system?
(Lea) There is need for both specific and general discussion and broad revision of larger, enduring pervasive issues.
(David) We need a framework to analyze the current situation. A general statement must allow us to analyze a particular situation.
(Gene) In understanding corporate power we can take on specific corporations.
(Dick) More democracy, greater equality, dignity of other societies, corporate power are very abstract values. We can devise specific ways for multi-national capital to be restrained by international institutions.
II. Specific and general questions raised. (Note: I have grouped the questions I heard so that each of us can begin addressing some of them in writing. ALD)
*What would it mean to be committed to international law, international institutions
and control/end threat or use of weapons or tactics of mass destruction (terrorism)?
*What would a fair and just foreign policy look like?
*What is appropriate use of force? What are limits to force?
*How do we get control over capital such as in relation to raping of nature?
*Global inequality has grown to its most extreme forms, how do we address it realistically?
*How do we achieve genuine respect for democratic values here and abroad and
encourage integrity, freedom, democracy and multi-lateralism?
*What is democracy?
*How do we insist on collective/open decisions?
*What are criteria for good decisions?
*Unlike Vietnam, our opponents in this war are not concerned with what we are for, how do we keep our opposition to this war from being support for those who rely on mass destruction?
*If a group called Al Qaida did it we need to get Al Qaida? By any means necessary? What is necessary? For whom? What is the evidence?
*What policy to we recommend that really goes after whom, for what?
*How do we track down these people?
What are our alternatives?
*Do we have a policy to deal with events like Sept. 11?
*We can think things through by: "How does it affect_______ if we do ____?
*Is US using a convenient target to fight a war against the Afghan people?
*Is US control of the world acceptable?
*How do we regain security?
What is security?
*If US/world security is threatened by _____, what will we do____?
David Dwyer <email@example.com>
Subject: The verb "to enron" and an edited version of my draft NPHS
Intro from Anabel
Hi again Alan and Odile, I'll e-mail Valerie Newman to find out what's going on re NLG$. Are you getting permission to publish names/e-mails from our little group? What do you propose to do with my draft intro? I would like to talk with you about it and the depth/ ambition of the project, schedule, etc. Thanks, A
Agenda for Generations
We are people determined to address gnawing questions of our times; questions requiring both essential changes and responsibility for making those changes. Many of us participated in the recent movements that sought to end racism, poverty, sexism and environmental degradation and bring about disarmament including nuclear disarmament. While we have made some, currently unconnected progress, we have also reified and reinforced many institutions that cause the problems.
Many of us feel that our youth and privilege give us fresh eyes and strength.
But we take gains for granted even as we have mastered modern technologies without
questioning their flaws. If e-mail can make grassroots organizing more effective,
we must also include face-to-face discussion and trust that can lead us to constructive
change. (We recognize as quaint and dangerous the 1962 PHS hope in nuclear power
but have not helped devise more sensible ways of boiling water, nor protected
either the Western Shoshone or ourselves.)
Together we seek both to heal and to transform through technological and social innovation within genuinely democratic processes by, for and of the people, here and with a worldwide focus. The meaning and direction of changes achieved for social security, civil rights for all, in jobs and environmental programs, in progress toward disarmament, ends to apartheid, colonialism and the war in Vietnam have been undermined and curtailed, recently with alarming suddenness. Complicity in the dire consequences results from lack of effective alternatives.
Those currently in control claim security in imprisonment rather than education, in exploitation rather than development, in military conquest and annihilation rather than good-faith negotiation. Public purpose has become primarily private short-term gain apparently based on two premises: 1)that people are inherently evil, that they will always use publicly entrusted power for private gain, and 2) that violence of the few against the many is inevitable and thus security derives from superior force. This leaves us with the unacceptable realization, truer now perhaps than in the 60s, that through escalating gross violence, we may be the last generation in the experiment with living.
We here articulate a different view and commit ourselves to concerted action
to organize functioning agreements based on premises that replace the myths
of the evil other and primacy of force. Human beings can continue realistically
to love, create and continue only based upon: 1) care for each other and 2)
care for our common environment.
These realistic premises probably spell the end of the state system and require revolution on the scale of the Neolithic. But nothing less can give us a chance for survival as a species. Attempts to reform or democratize the state system have also permitted increasing militarization run amok. Militarism merely hastens crumbling of the pillars of the state system that Leslie White identified as poverty, pestilence, piety and prostitution.
We acknowledge a primary human tension between the we and the I; the tension
between our common responsibility/needs as human beings and that of acting/developing
our talents as individuals or efficiency and creativity of differing roles in
societal structures. But in devising new organizations we already recognize
that the relevant in group has gone from white propertied Protestant
males, to Americans, and now to the human family within a finite ecosystem.
We can live together in common struggle, on a sphere with production,
pragmatics, plenty, peace, and possibility.
More than any other single fact, September 11 showed that our defense and intelligence establishments are massive frauds. Our Congressional and Executive rush to use, so they could produce more, weapons and tactics of mass destruction has been exposed as nothing more than theft of taxpayer money for the brass of Lockheed, Boeing, TRW, Raytheon, etc. (It is simply delusional to think that a bomb of any type unleashed from 30,000 feet can be anything other than a weapon of mass destruction or terrorism perpetuated by us.)
Grassroots student and citizen reactions to September 11 attest to far more than apathy or warmongering patriotism. As unorganized, inarticulate as many of us may be, there has been show of genuine caring for victims here and in Afghanistan. We have articulated and urged decent alternatives to bombing and forcing millions of people into Sophies choice between death, terror and starvation and flight. One professor has called reasonably for unconditional generosity as the only true antidote to terror.
As Hannah Arendt says, Violence can be justifiable, but it never will be legitimate. A country whose foreign policy rests on 4 month long expenditure of $17 billion for military destruction and a one time $300 million for aid to Afghanistan, perpetuates terrorism under the long discredited Vietnam era propaganda of destroying in order to save. Such cruel nonsense derives from futile and false attempts to justify bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The current continuing US threats to exterminate everything, to the tune of $349 billion this year, remains the ultimate terror obviously impossible to justify under the rubric of defense.
We here do not confuse false justifications with legitimacy as we devise new systems. For example, securing Afghanistan for an oil pipeline from the former Soviet southern provinces across Afghanistan and Pakistan makes oil corporation (Exxon-Mobil, Unocal?) profits less dependant on Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But it has nothing to do with transforming the US or other countries to sustainable energy supplies and reasonable uses.
Likewise, we do not believe that either heroin production or oil pipelines will heal any bombed country or people. We do not believe that security can be effective or achieved through racial profiling or suppression of ideas. We know that people can destroy each other through weapons, AIDS or environmental contamination. But passive or active destroyers not only become dehumanized but also disappear with those destroyed.
Instead we aim to cultivate for we know also that people can and do create as well as produce and trade in reasonable and sensible necessities and pleasures within participatory political/economic systems.
Positively then, we will continue the struggle for both beauty and the amelioration of hardship and pain. This is in our view the nature of life itself and the nature of our moral responsibility. We Americans cannot stop anothers threat to end our lives or life by threatening or inflicting the same or worse punishment. We can only now renounce and transform our own instruments and institutions of terror and secrecy, precisely because we anticipate their collapse and must have ready replacements. Corruption led to the Enron collapse and likewise leads to the collapse of Pentagon contractors whose books, profits and products are similarly crooked.
As MLK said capitalism is too I-centered and Communism too statist. Stalinistic/communism and military/industrial capitalism are not even now the only two existing alternatives for economic/political organization on this planet. We know we can and that others are already doing better.
Thus, our minds, imaginations, hearts and actions can move beyond the dead-end traps of the current global military/economic/political system. We will address general theoretical problems and elucidate specific projects/actions and ways of organizing that can work and grow.
This can only be done expressly in the context of mutuality and respect outside of the context of violence and militarism.
We are well aware that people in both high and low places can be bought off but we refuse to accept such practice as in the inevitable nature of human beings. As we have said, the face of current reality stands visibly close to exterminating our own species through environmental destruction or escalation of violence. And we cannot stand by and look at the vast, excruciating and wholly unnecessary suffering in which we as Americans have played an inexcusable part either in action or inaction.
The United Nations has many present means to simultaneously develop world-wide sustainable programs for health care, housing, education, clean water, food, energy, travel, sound development for $40 - $50 billion. Rather than accept the militarization and subversion of the equality fundamental to success of an international system, we will devise means to transform the remainder of our military expenditures for true public service, training/education, disaster relief and environmental repair both here and abroad.
We have produced and continue to produce huge amounts of radioactive and chemical contamination, the military the largest culprit. It will take several hundred billion dollars and whole new generation and of physicists, chemists, biologist, social scientists, farmers, teachers, health care and construction workers, for research and job training to cleanup, repair and figure out far better ways to security. We will identify positive work and develop ways to eliminate practices that kill and deform ourselves.
Transformation will occur as it always has. Assuming we desire to continue as a people or a species, essential tasks include environmental protection and cleanup as well as legitimate organizations formulated through negotiation and agreement to meet common human needs with basic fairness and equality.
Whether metaphorically or actually, seeds require nurturing to flourish reproduce and adapt. Seeds can never germinate if they are destroyed nor can we sustain ourselves if we engineer seed so that the next generation cannot reproduce.
The ideas that follow are conscious alternatives through which we will replace our dangerously and rapidly decaying institutions.
Acute/ chronic problems, formulating questions
The Group=the human family and ecosystem
The Rule of Law as Agreement/transforming our legal system Politics/decisions, public/private
Resources public/private Redistribution/debt forgiveness
Responsibility for harms to individuals/ environment/ accidents/ natural disasters who pays, who provides relief
Transforming Violence, Militarism, service/Force/Defense
Facts, information, openness, free press, inquiry, debate
Education/science/research, Schools/University and Social Change
It would be a wonderful potent for a better future if the democratic spirit
of all the work done by so many good people in the 1960's again springs
I just posted to the porthurontokentstate.tripod an analysis of the
importance of the PHS and its connection with Usenet and the Internet.
I thought you especially might find it valuable. It can be seen at:
It is by my son Michael Hauben who sadly died this summer just a bit too
soon to see what we all hope will be a rekindling of the wonderful
motivating spirit of 1962 and the Port Huron Conference.
Take care and warm wishes for success with PHS II.
Yet more on Movement history
I sometimes get the feeling that I'm the youngest person on this list (though that's probably untrue). I make a point of noting my youth, though, because it would seem disingenuous of me not to: I am 26, and I was not even born at the time of the last SDS convention and the emergence of Weatherman. Actually, my parents were preparing to get married around that time. It is because of them, and because of my own current activism, and because of my ongoing belief, deluded though it may be, that there might be something to learn from the past, that I got interested in all this.
In 1969, my father was a professor at Grinnell College. A group of students there had decided to turn the American flag upside down (a la the international symbol of distress) as a protest against the Vietnam war. My father spent a good part of the next two days standing beneath the flag, hand on the halyard, to prevent anyone from doing this again.
My mother told me this story when I was a freshman in high school en route
to a protest against the Persian Gulf war. I pointed out to her that, had I
been there, I probably would have been one of the people trying to turn the
flag upside down. "Yes," she said. "You and
your father would have disagreed about a number of things. Call if you need to be bailed out."
Mostly I tell this as a funny story, but in fact I've been thinking about it for many years--turning a flag upside down may not seem like much, but in Grinnell, Iowa, it's tantamount to a very extreme tactic. As an activist (these days, I mostly work with United Students Against Sweatshops, but I dabble in any number of other related global justice things), I am constantly thinking about how to proceed--about how to make the best strategic decision, about how to be true to yourself and what you believe, about how to reconcile the difference between the Quakers who just want to witness and the ISO who want to print everything in Impact font, and how to do this all in the face of what seem like overwhelming odds--in the face of a system--call it global capitalism, call it what you will--that seems relentlessly determined to walk all over most of what I consider precious in the world.
A couple years ago, I decided to start reading all the movement history I could
get my hands on. I thought, rather grandiosely, that it was my responsibility
learn from history so that the terrible mistakes of the past would not be repeated.
I have now read more theories on
the expulsion of whites from SNCC, the failure or success of ERAP/the Worker Student Alliance/the Mississippi Summer project/you name it, the demise of SDS, the rise of women's liberation, etc., etc. than I can count. I am a wealth of trivia about things that
happened in the decade before I was born. My conclusion (though I'm still engaged in this project) has been, both sadly and oddly comfortingly, that we study history to learn that history repeats itself, willy-nilly. This past summer I was at the USAS national gathering in Chicago and was actually at some point amused by a group of people running around handing out leaflets and (depending on whom you talk to) either trying to subvert the conference or trying to restore it to its true guiding principles. They were all from the Progressive Labor party. The last night of the conference, we got dinner donated by the Heartland Café. The last plenary went on for a very, very long time, and I didn't think there'd be any food left by the time we got there, but Mike James had saved stuff for us. "How'd the voting go?" he asked me as he handed me a sandwich. I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, I remember some of those SDS plenaries," he said, and we nodded, and
thanked him for the dinner, and moved on.
I don't know where I would have stood on that flag at Grinnell in 1969, or
what exactly I would have thought of the Weatherfolks, though I doubt very much
I would have joined them. In truth, when I contemplate the events, I am always
so amazed by anyone in the movement
who made it through the late '60s with their faculties intact. I don't know that I would have been so lucky.
I do think, though, that this country is deeply haunted, and wounded, by a lingering and ongoing racism (and perhaps a number of other isms as well, but I'll stick to one) and that the wounds it still inflicts manifest themselves in kinds of violence that are hard to comprehend, whether that's the 1981 Brinks robbery or the shooting of Amadou Diallou. I generally feel contempt for the cops who shot Diallou and pity for those in prison from the Brinks action, which doesn't make much sense--I could here make a number of arguments about class and privilege and those who should know better. I could also be criticized, quite rightly, for laying blame entirely on the system, for refusing to recognize the importance of personal accountability, for trying to see everyone as a victim.
But I also think that we need to make a very carefuldistinction between the action and the people behind that action, and we need to try to understand the ways in which the systems which surround that person have led to the kinds of actions they've taken. A number of posters to this discussion have talked about the need to pass on certain kinds of knowledge--about organizing, coalition-building, practical, workable tactics, what have you--to younger activists now. I think that's true--it's one of the reasons I read so much history, and why I try to talk to older activists when I have the chance.
But I think another thing we need to try to understand, respect, and deal with, is the terrible toll that living in this world and to resist and change itssystems can take on us. I know kids now who are involved in Black Bloc stuff. I don't join them. When I can, I try to persuade them that smashing up the windows of Star$$$$, while satisfying in a certain way, is not going to help--and that undoubtedly that destruction will have to be cleaned up low-wage laborers--the very people whose side (I'd like to think) we are on. But I know also that there are days when I want to smash things, as much as there are days when I want to move to the mountains, become a hermit, and pray, though to me neither of these is a strategically viable way to build a movement or a better world. I think what we owe one another is some attempt at understanding, and some attempt at forgiveness, and at reconciliation.
I hope that this discussion can continue, and perhaps even move in that direction.
Laura E. Crossett
Nonfiction Writing Program
University of Iowa
I think there should be more discussion of not only race issues, but also those of gender (women's rights here and around the world), socioeconomic class, and sexuality. I also agree that we should state a firm commitment to non-violent social change, and a belief that we have the power to effect that non-violent social change.
The parts about the American political situation are obviously outdated, but those that talk about the "two-party stalemate" ring surprisingly true.
An emphasis that we should not "depend significantly on private enterprise to do the job" of "creating a world where hunger, poverty, disease, ignorance, violence, and exploitation are replaced as central features by abundance, reason, love, and international cooperation" is extremely important.
The parts on the military-industrial complex are still quite current.
I think that while many universities and colleges are engaging in specious arrangements with the gov't and private corporations, we should not assume that all do, but rather encourge them to not do so.
The section on war should be updated with the perspective of Vietnam and the anti-communist raids in the 80s to the present. It should state a firm commitment to all other diplomatic processes and agencies, short of war. It should encourage the United States to become a more active participant in the United Nations and (as it already does) in humanitarian activities around the world.
The "Alternatives to Helplessness" is the most imporant part of the entire document, and should be of ours, as well. It should, of course be updated, but much of it can be adapted to answer some of the most frequent questions and concerns by average people with the peace and social rights movements.
--Ivan Boothe, Swarthmore College
"Towards American Democracy," Point 4 in the Port Huron Statement,
calls for the strengthening of civil society (the creation and expansion of
many single-issue and multi-issue groups). In recent years we did see the growth
and proliferation of such groups, but lately they seem to be withering on the
vine. Post-9/11, it's been hard for folks to get past the "need" for
vengeance and to revert to an oppositional mode. This needs to change, and I
have every expectation that it will with the worsening of the economy, with
all the layoffs an evictions that entails. The movement for social change must
move beyond a small number of people arguing with each other. If we can make
and maintain contact with large numbers of people, starting with our coworkers,
neighbors and friends, those of us who are being affected by the downturn, then
we can move beyond "a small circle of friends." We need to do just
that if we are to radically democratize this society. We should not only bu!
ild alternative parties like the Greens. We should also attend local ward committee meetings, even if it's just to make contacts, and not get ourselves elected as delegates. We should take part in our local neighborhood councils or community development corporations, and work toward more fiscal and political responsibility devolving toward them. Then we can gradually have more of a participatory democracy
I agree that it is way past time for a comprehensive, cohesive statement of vision for progressives, liberals, activists and reformers. This is particularly true since the Democratic Party is totally directionless and cannot bring itself to talk about the only issue: total concentration of wealth in a U.S. plutocratic class of about 1% of the population.
The statement should confine itself to those issues about which there is broad consensus on what passes for a left in the United States:
Maintenance of a sound system of public education
Universal health care
Restoration of workers' rights to organize unions
Equal pay for equal work - gender equity
Restoration and protection for the right to vote
Protection of the environment; more public lands
Jobs for people, including expanded public employment
A fair tax structure that discourages concentration of wealth in a few hands
I was really pleasantly surprised to get the message about the Kent State
conference. I'm part of a small core of leftist activists at Towson
University in Maryland. One of the things we've really been discussing lately is the need for an organization like the old SDS to coordinate the
various leftist movements like SDS did in the sixties, especially on college campuses. We've just started going over old SDS documents (of course, mainly the Port Huron statement) in order to try and figure out what was the same, what was new, and what we could learn from the past to help our current struggles.
So, I'm very interested in attending the conference and in helping in any way possible, and I just forwarded the message about it to the list for our group, and I'm sure that others will be as excited as I am.
From the dearth of responses either pro or con, it seems to me that there's not much interest in a PHS2. One could interpret this lack of interest as the lot of those in the vanguard of social and political change, but I wouldn't count on that.
Within eight years of its publication, the authors of PHS1 and founders of SDS had been usurped by the Weather Undergound and various splinter factions. Ever since, the Port Huron Statement and SDS have been linked to the end product: terrorists. No amount of eloquence or sincerity will overcome the historical baggage a document named "PHS2" would carry. As the founder of Chicago's most popular underground paper in the 60s said to me some years ago when I suggested he resurrect the paper, "There's a history of perceptions and emotions against its [revival]. . . ."
Well, I'm beginning to see why I never read it all the way through back in
the day either. I entered college in 1964, Brooklyn Coillege in NY, and jumped
rather quickly feet first into the student movement and have been moving ever
since. But what moved me were the concretes and the people. All I got from the
"Port Huron Statement" was the slogan for "participatory democracy."
Going to a commuter college, coming
from a working class immigrant family, dealing with gender and sexuality identity issues, hating the scene around me that sent kids off to either vietnam (draftees) or Israel (settlers and volunteers), i got a lot more out of NLN and "the Movement" and the Black Panther paper than PHS. trying to read it now it seems too dated and culture bound to be worth the time. I was moved to respond by the line about "beers and a girl or two" which is too outrageous for words.
Quick general comment:
Interesting effort! Will make time to work with this, somehow.
Currently busy in Berlin, Germany. Earlier in Austin, Texas.
Anyone else involved currently "abroad"?
For then, for now, and for the future