A3M 45th Anniversary Reunion
"Preserving Our Legacy" Discussion
Sunday Afternoon, May 18, 2014
Summarized by Dave Ransom
This summary is incomplete. The people in the discussion clearly wanted it to continue and to result in something concrete. Here’s the best of a few people’s recollections. Please contribute your own, and let’s restart the discussion.
Lenny Siegel began by asking whether preserving our legacy in written form was worth doing. Today, who cares what we did?
But people thought it would be important to do—as usable history for current and future times, especially as the movement at Stanford may have been longer lasting than others and Stanford was unusual in the amount of classified and other military contracting on campus, at SRI, and in the Industrial Park.
In that respect, Gerry Foote recalled reading Labor’s Untold Story on coming in contact with the Left at Stanford and finally understanding the importance of her grandfather’s part in the 1933 dock strike in Astoria, Oregon. That meant that when the unions were under attack in Wisconsin recently, she carried a picket sign saying, “My grandfather fought for these rights.” Students today need to know what we did and to value and protect the gains made during our movement.
We agreed that anything we put together would have to be done in the forward-looking way of movements rather than the backward-looking way of reunions. The challenge would be to discover and lay bare the historical continuity, as in the U.S. policy of permanent war that Bruce had discussed the day before. To a certain extent, this was based on an understanding that our movement and what caused it is, in some sense, still happening (hence the continued interest in reunions). We would be focusing on militarism and contradictions in the university.
We debated whether the best way forward might be in the context of the 11-year fiftieth anniversary of the war, especially given the Department of Defense’s attempt to rehabilitate Vietnam as a noble cause.
We discussed writing personal memoirs to be collected in a book. Bart Bernstein argued that what we wrote should be held to serious standards of evidence and reminded us of the flaws of recollection. Others suggested recording oral histories (for eventual transcription) before recollection disappears entirely. There was some enthusiasm for putting an outline of our history up on the web and beginning a process of general recollection and discussion, especially as that seems to be the way we have been operating.
There was agreement that our work had to be self-critical, not simply self-congratulatory.
The discussion was adjourned sine die, but with an understanding that we have eleven more years of the fiftieth anniversary of the war to (re)make our mark.
P.S. For information about the administration’s campaign to rehabilitate the Vietnam War and Vets for Peace’s planned counter-offensive, see Full Disclosure: Toward an Honest Commemoration of the American War in Vietnam (www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org