Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hillary's Top Strategist Once Called for Violent Revolution

Not to worry, Hillfans, he wasn't black at the time.

Yesterday I heard Geoffrey Garin, Hillary's new strategist, on MSNBC, using the Rev. Wright controversy to question whether Obama is out of touch. (The link's not up yet, or I'd quote him). He made similar comments in the Times re Pennsylvania voters.

I knew Garin in college more than 30 years ago when we worked at the Harvard Crimson newspaper. He was a special guy--softspoken, funny, brilliant. He was also a radical. In 1973, on an anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Garin called for violent revolution in the United States:

To commemorate the symbolic significance of the Tea party without acknowledging the significance of the commitment to violence is to miss the point altogether. Boston did not win its "Cradle of Liberty" name because of a special intellectual quality of its leaders but because of a special leaders were willing to resort to violence under conditions they thought to be oppressive... Samuel Adams and the South End Mob were the first to understand Tom Paine's admonition, "Moderation in principle is always a vice."

...America and much of the world is living dangerously close to oppression. ... Whether Americans will soon become steadfast in their resistance to oppression depends on their coming to understand what resistance is all about. The way we celebrate the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party will gauge the depth of that understanding....Freedom is on the wane in this country and repression is on the rise all over the world. We can no longer sit back and swap stories about the good old revolution. We have to start worrying about the present. On this anniversary we must recognize that the patriots of Boston acted wisely in overthrowing their oppressors and the time is come to express our confidence in what our forefathers did by doing it ourselves.

Here, following Agnew's resignation in 1973, he says that the government will fall, and again spoke of revolution:

The government in Washington can not survive under these circumstances, and under these circumstances the government should not survive.... America will be governed in any case, but the question is by whom. If not by the people, then by a strong executive. These are revolutionary times, and we must decide now whom we want to win the revolution.

Yes, Geoff Garin was 20 years old when he wrote these pieces. (A mature 20, I must say). I'm sure he stopped calling for revolution after college, probably because he grew out of the ideas-- maybe too because you can't make a living as a leftist. But I knew Garin well enough to be sure that his political impulses, ones of fairness, respect for oppressed peoples, live on somewhere in his thinking to this day. Those impulses once made him call for violent revolution.

It is helpful to read his writings because they demonstrate: how much people grow, how common revolutionary statements have been in the left (even in the Jewish meritocracy, of which Garin and I are members). But mostly because they show that the continuum of left-center ideas, which are now coming back into American life, includes Wright, Garin, and Obama.

I will be "looping," to use Rev. Wright's words, more of Garin's firebrand writings later.

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