Welcome Bill Zimmerman, and Host Richard Flacks.

Troublemaker – A  Memoir From the Front Lines of the Sixties

Host, Richard Flacks:

Bill Zimmerman’s memoir of the sixties is a terrific book to read—and at the same it gets us to see the happenings and outcomes of that period in new ways. I say that as someone who lived through the time (and indeed I’m a minor character in Bill’s story). And some of those fresh insights may affect our understanding of the times we are in now.

One distinctive thing about Zimmerman’s personal story is the fact that he chose to live his life as a full time ‘troublemaker’ (committed leftwing activist), abandoning his extremely promising career as a creative and recognized scientist. He got his PhD in psychology at the University of Chicago in 1967, based on path breaking research on brain function in sleep, and gave up his academic career even though he had every expectation of continuing achievement. Why and how he made this life change reveals a lot about the society of that time—and now—so I hope we can delve into this dimension of his experience.

In the late sixties, Bill found himself strongly attracted to the ideas of political and cultural revolution that circulated widely among young black and white activists. We learn a lot from his account about why these perspectives had powerful appeal at that time. Bill’s vivid depiction of episodes of mass direct action that he participated in—such as the largely forgotten but dramatic May Day protests in Washington in 1971 against the war—help us see such protest as more than chaotic outburst. The thousands involved had a strategy they hoped to implement and tactics that they bet might successfully challenge the war government. What Bill and others learned from the failure of such efforts, and how antiwar protest was transformed as a result is a largely untold story of that period.

Troublemaker is therefore an important political history—but it is a fascinating personal story as well. Bill Zimmerman was one of thousands of young men and women whose experience in the Sixties made them intensely concerned about the meaning of their lives and driven to take control of their destinies. He came to want to live as a ‘troublemaker’—but this self-labeling doesn’t describe the strong sense of purpose, direction and fulfillment he was able to find. But that seriousness of purpose was fused with an appetite for adventure and daring.

Along the way, Bill Zimmerman learned to skillfully fly a plane. His status as a licensed pilot became a resource—most dramatically when he parachuted about a ton of food to the Indian rebels blockaded at Wounded Knee by the FBI and federal marshals. Bill helped bring medical supplies to North Vietnam during the period of mass US bombardment of Hanoi and other cities. These were dramatic acts of troublemaking, to be sure, but also helped awaken moral concern among many Americans.

Alongside the derring-do, Bill became engaged in an ‘inside’ strategy to end the war. He led an effort to lobby congress to restrict appropriation for the war effort. This campaign bore fruit—war budgets were cut and the US gave up trying to buttress its faltering South Vietnamese client state which collapsed in April 1975.

For veterans of the new left like Bill Zimmerman, the success of this foray into the arena of mainstream politics became a springboard for what became a long career in the creative use of electoral politics for social change. Bill briefly recounts his achievements in helping progressive candidates, in winning many initiative campaigns and in advancing landmark organizations including MoveOn. How one time revolutionists became engaged in day to day politics and how they changed those politics—and how the simultaneous resurgence of the American Right was linked to the movements of the sixties—are topics intriguingly raised as the book comes to a conclusion.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. -bev]

107 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bill Zimmerman, Troublemaker – A Memoir From the Front Lines of the Sixties”

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Bill—Why publish this memoir now—40 years after the time you depict?

BevW June 26th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Bill, Welcome to the Lake.

Dick, Welcome and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 2

Thanks, glad to be here.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:01 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 1

I had four reasons for writing Troublemaker. First, the Sixties are remembered more for the sex, drugs and rock roll than the sit-ins and antiwar protests. But without the political movements of the Sixties revealing serious flaws in American society, there would have been insufficient alienation to create a true counter-culture, which was based, tellingly, on the slogan, ‘make love, not war.’ I wanted to describe that political activism.

Second, I thought a memoir of my life during those years would help young people understand what it felt like to be swept into a moral crusade of that magnitude, and how that moral crusade then altered the lives of the people within it.

Third, many of my experiences were unique and became genuine adventures. By pushing the limits of legal political behavior, they raise interesting questions about morality and patriotism. I wanted to provoke readers to re-examine the responsibilities of citizenship when one’s own government acts immorally.

Finally, the second half of the antiwar movement has gotten too little attention. After SDS collapsed in 1969 and the big protests ended in 1971, the antiwar movement reconstituted itself into numerous small, task-oriented, and professionally run organizations, until we finally all coalesced into the Coalition to Stop Funding the War. That story has been given short shrift in the history books.

I wanted to use my story to tell a larger story about how young people in the Sixties responded when the United States went wrong, much as it is going wrong today.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

me too–Bill–see above for the first question

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

2. One of the compelling features of your life story is your decision to abandon your very promising career as a research psychologist. What motivated this self-transformation?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:04 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 6

I was working on brain science. I soon discovered that the US Army was using research very similar to mine to develop a new nerve gas, presumably for use in Viet Nam. This was at a time when I was a faculty advisor to the campus SDS chapter. I felt compelled to withhold such knowledge from those who would use it for such purposes.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

This was a decision you made that other scientists were alsao making–not a well remembered aspect of the sixties. Can you talk a little more about that?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I came to see that many scientists had been victimized in ways I had avoided, simply because scientists have no control over the uses to which their work is put. Arthur Galston discovered plant growth hormones that were used to increase crop yields in the Third World, much to his satisfaction. Then Dow Chemical added a little dioxin and it became Agent Orange.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 8

Knowing of the example of Galston and others, not the least of which were Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard who regretted the research they did on nuclear energy that ultimately led to the Bomb, I joined with others and organized Science for the People, which tried to raise these issues on a national basis, and with some success.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Do you think this moral concern of scientists at that time has had a lasting effect?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 11

No. It did encourage many young scientists to rethink their work, and in many cases to alter their work into more humanitarian directions, but overall, the system marched on, the universities became more and more dependent on government grants, and scientific research continued and continues to be the captive of society’s larger priorities.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

With exceptions, of course! Moving on:

You tell how you were strongly drawn to the ‘revolutionary’ perspectives and forms of action that were so present in the anti-war movement in the late sixties and early seventies. How did this square with your nature as a rational actor concerned with making effective change?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 13

Like many activists in the 1968 to 1969 period, I grew increasingly pessimistic that we would be able to stop the war using conventional means. The assassinations of King and Kennedy in 1968, the urban rioting that spring, the nonviolent rebellion in Paris in May, and the violence at the Chicago convention, all contributed. Like many others, I shifted to a revolutionary perspective out of frustration. But it only took a year or so of such involvement for me to see the utter impracticality of such thinking. It was then that I tired to find a non-revolutionary way of doing politics.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I was impressed with the way you described the rational strategy involved in mass civil disobedience in DC on May Day 1971. Since many thought those sorts of actions were crazy outbursts, your description helps us see their possible practicality. What was going on there? How did it end up?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 15

The May Day action in DC in May of 1971 was designed to shut down the city, and therefore the federal government, for one day by blocking traffic at 21 key intersections and bridges. It was designed as a show of force, to demonstrate to people who we wanted to involve in more serious tactics that they had the ability to act offensively. Without an offensive capacity, any talk of revolution would be ridiculous, so we thought we had to start taking the baby steps necessary to build one. We utterly underestimated the strength of the police and military response, which crushed our attempt to close down the city, and we failed to spark the public outrage we expected when more people were arrested on a single, 11,000, than at any other time in US history. It was one of our best organized mass demonstrations, but it completely failed to achieve its objectives. It was the last large demonstration against the war.

BevW June 26th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 4

Bill, thank you for a great book.

First, the Sixties are remembered more for the sex, drugs and rock roll than the sit-ins and antiwar protests. But without the political movements of the Sixties revealing serious flaws in American society, there would have been insufficient alienation to create a true counter-culture, which was based, tellingly, on the slogan, ‘make love, not war.’ I wanted to describe that political activism.

How do you think we can build upon the protests and political movements that were so effective in the 60s, into today’s digital world, get people into the streets – involved?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to BevW @ 17

There is an interesting dilemma we face in organizing now. Using the Internet and digital technology we can reach far more people than ever before, and we can activate them on the Internet. But getting them out on the street requires much more motivation than getting them to sign a petition on line. So we now have access to greater numbers of like-minded people, but as we continue to see with regard to protest against the current war in Afghanistan, that does not easily translate to large scale street actions. Recent events in Wisconsin can perhaps make us a little more optimistic about coming out when the need is perceived to be immediate and urgent.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Well, even in the Vietnam period, you and others began to combine mass protest with a strategy directed at influencing congressional support for the war. What were the effects then of this turn–and how might it be relevant today?

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 18

greetings from the beloved community of atlanta — what ideas, suggestions, etc. do you have mr. zimmerman to spur people to take to the streets and raise a ruckus?

darms June 26th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Bill, your book sounds interesting, I’ll look for it in the library. I remember the May Day 1971 rallies as well as others even though at 14 I was a bit young to participate as the media gave them some attention. But the large anti-war rallies in 2002-2003 were largely ignored at the time and are long-forgotten now. What are the prospects (if any) for 60′s style activism these days? Does the corporate monopoly controlling all major media preclude any similar success these days?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 19

During Viet Nam we learned that there were far more people who strongly opposed the war than were willing to actually go out in the streets and risk violence and arrest, so we developed tactics that did not require taking those risks, like grassroots congressional lobbying. People unwilling to demonstrate were willing to write or call their representatives in Congress. Nixon wanted to continue funding the war but Congress had to appropriate the money. That was the weak link in his strategy, so we concentrated all our forces on a lobbying campaign in 1973 and 1974, and we succeeded in cutting off funding for the war. Certainly, a similar tactic can be used today. The votes in Congress for ending the war in Afghanistan are increasing, and there are certainly a huge number of people who oppose the war. But we have to find more powerful means of pressuring elected leaders than simple petitions. I’d suggest trying to organize their financial supporters to oppose the war. No one has greater influence with elected officials than those who pay for their reelection campaigns.

tjbs June 26th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I was on the street that May Day there were a lot of goons unleashed.

It slowed the war machine that day.

Camping out in Washington never happen today.

Simplify June 26th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

What would you say to someone who has a commercial or other “normal” career but would consider giving that up part-time or full-time for activism? How does one make a living as a full-time activist?

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Unfortuantely, big funders to our corrupt Congress seem to be making good money from continuing our ‘wars’.
I can’t imagine that anything less than a general strike will make them change their ways…..well, that or the collapse of the world economy.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Tom Hayden has been organizing congressional district level efforts to influence congress re Afghanistan and he just issued a statement saying that the Obama speech the other day reflects that grassroots pressure. Do you agree with Darms (above) that media monopoly presents a big problem nowadays for mobilization?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to darms @ 21

The point you raise about the corporate media is very important. During Viet Nam, we had three TV network news organizations that everyone watched. National consciousness about events like Viet Nam was shaped every night on the evening news because so many people all saw the same thing. Now we have hundreds of sources of news, with varying commitments to telling the truth as opposed to pushing their own analysis of it. As a result, truth itself gets corrupted. But no unified national consensus emerges from that cacophony. On top of that, during Viet Nam, not a single TV network was owned by a manufacturing company. Today, they are all owned by companies that regularly have business before Congress and contribute to its campaigns. The conflict of interest stinks to the high heavens. This is another reason why absent an overwhelming event, like the pending invasion of Iraq in 2003, it so hard to organize massive numbers of people into successful demonstrations.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Simplify @ 24

Many have done this. One makes a living by being employed by a nonprofit organization that gets its funding from sympathetic donors or foundations. There are thousands of such organization that now exist, and hundreds of thousands of people making a living working for them. Go on online and start looking, or ask a college guidance counselor for help, even if you are not in college. There is an entire world of nonprofit organizations out there doing great work.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

WEll you have been busy these last 40 years as a media activist and consultant. And you can claim some achievements. Talk about this?

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 28

I’ve been advising students about this for many years–and i think nowadays there are in fact a lot more opposrtunities to work and live ‘progressively’–except that housing costs are much higher and lots of other economic pressures are limiting for people after a certain age…

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Dearie @ 25

That’s certainly true. But big corporate funders aren’t the only ones giving money. Also, it’s dangerous to wait for a calamity to shake things up because you have to be ready to act in the midst of calamity to control events. Were we ready to act in the midst of the Great Recession in 2008? I don’t think so. The next time something like that happens, we will make gains only if we are ready with a program and a means to organize around it.

Valley Girl June 26th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Bill, your book looks to be a fascinating read for one of the class of ’69.

In advance of reading, I’m interested to know your opinion as to how, how much the end of the draft has changed the impetus for anti-war demonstrations and activities. It seems to me that back in the draft days the “war connection” was much more personal, if you see what I mean.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 29

Working with progressive organizations, my company has given political consulting and advertising help to hundreds of campaigns. We like best to work on ballot initiatives. Using them, we helped regulate auto insurance in California, created an assisted-suicide law in Oregon, passed medical marijuana laws in seven states, created state-funded elections in Arizona, passed a treatment instead of incarceration law for drug possession offenders in California, created a 1% surtax on income over $1 million in California, and other progressive laws. We also helped some good people get elected to office, not the least of which was Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American Mayor.

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 31

well stated, dearie and billz. there is an event being organized for october 6th at freedom plaza AND they are camping out a la tahrir square. your statement, “I’d suggest trying to organize their financial supporters to oppose the war. No one has greater influence with elected officials than those who pay for their reelection campaigns,” is great AND what tips do you advise?

tuezday June 26th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Do you know of anything going on behind the scenes to rid us of that vile Patriot Act? Between that and this administration’s open hostility to activists I’m sure a lot of people are rightfully afraid to protest; however, we really have no choice.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Valley Girl, my thoughts exactly. As class of ’67, I knew young men who were dying in Viet Nam….and we all saw TV news reports of body bags and such. Nowadays, I don’t know a single person who knows a single person who has suffered in Iraq/Afganistan. And we can’t get a full report on most news programs. Divide and conquer; shut down the information; make everything ‘state secret.’ Very frustrating.

darms June 26th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 32

Valley Girl,
I agree with your question as it’s one I’ve been asking. Whocouddaknown ending the draft would forty years later bring endless wars of empire here in the USofA? Maybe ending the draft wasn’t all that hot an idea, certainly my Goldwater-loving grandfather was opposed to either the war and/or the draft when my uncle was looking to lose his student deferment. (My uncle went to law school instead)

nahant June 26th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 32

I agree VG I know I “HAD” to serve in 66… Didn’t make it to Vietnam (happy dance) but many of my friends did, many were wounded but survived. But serving was a very big part of our lives back then… On the bright side when I got home from Germany and out of the Army I was lucky enough to make it to Woodstock for two days…

billz June 26th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 32

Good point. The draft did play a big role, but I would argue that the initial impetus for the antiwar movement was moral and not fear of being drafted. The draft issue helped us expand the moral crusade against the war into a much broader community. Today, without a draft, the self-interest reasons for opposing war are diminished. As a result, the wars become separated from one part of society, the middle class, because another part, the working class, is actually fighting the wars, at least for the most part. This class separation, of course, reflects ever broadening class divisions within our society, one of the most unjust and dangerous trends over recent decades.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to cherwell @ 34

All contributions to Congressional election campaigns are online at the Federal Election Commission. Go on the site, get the lists you need, and start contacting the donors.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to tuezday @ 35

Unfortunately, I see little short term chance for getting rid of the Patriot Act, although many many activists and organizations are trying. The ACLU among them. You can check out their work and analysis on their website.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Look–wasn;t ending the draft a grewat victory against involuntary servitude? Having a draft helped LBJ expand the war in Vietnam. And today there is more public opposition to the wars than at any time during the Vieetnam war. And the career militart has spawned some of our most important and sharpest critics of the current wars…

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 40

thank you AND say what to them, please?

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Lists of donors! Wow, now that is something I can work with. Thanks for that information.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to cherwell @ 43

No magic words. It depends on the issue and the person you’re talking to.

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

What is your assessment of Obama? Is he just a tool for the dark forces or is he just a well-meaning and well-educated but totally unstreet smart leader?

Phoenix Woman June 26th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 27

Indeed. Former Newsweek journalist Robert Parry spent most of the 1990s telling anyone who would listen about the right-wing efforts, led by William Simon among others, to take over not just American media, but think tanks and the American educational system itself: from taking over school boards (very easy to do as so few people vote in school board elections) to starting colleges that teach only right-wing viewpoints and getting them accredited — in other words, taking over the arbiters of objective reality and forever imposing right-wing corporate slants.

But none of the rich liberals out there wanted to make the big expenditures necessary to combat this.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 42

This is an important point. Because our actions in the antiwar movement ended the draft, when Pres. Reagan wanted to wage war against the successful Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in th 1980s, he was unable to do so. He didn’t have enough troops, and the War Powers Act, also passed because of lobbying by the antiwar movement, controlled his options, so he had to use a surrogate army, the Contras, instead. Same in El Salvador at the same time. Without a draft, military options are more limited. That’s why we never had more than 200,000 troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan, whereas we had over 500,000 in Viet Nam at one time.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Ignoring Republicans, of course, are there any reliable Congressional folks who can be counted on to actually fight against the Patriot Act and against ongoing wars and against dismantling the middle class? Many talked tough about health care, for example, and then folded, as they say, like cheap chairs.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 47

Sadly, you’re right. Good point.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Dearie @ 49

Yes, there are dozens of reliable Congressional folks we can count on. Unfortunately, there are not enough to win majority votes, and with Republicans in control of Congress, their voices and control are limited.

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 51

Seems I recall a couple years ago when the Dems were in control of Congress, their voices and control were just as limited….

tuezday June 26th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Do you agree with Larry Lessig that there is already an “Act”, like the Patriot Act, sitting in a drawer waiting for the right moment to limit our internet freedoms in this country? Do you have any ideas on what might trigger such an act to become law? Manufactured or otherwise.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 50

But don’t you think we need to support and promote every avenue of progressive reporting and opinion–and there are many of these? People should note I thinbkj that oublic opinion has turned strongkly AGAINST the wars, despite mainstream media.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Who are you going to vote for in 2012? (Just kidding. I do honor the secret ballot……except when it’s stolen.)

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to robertarend @ 46

I have a different take on Obama. I respect him as an intelligent and well-meaning man, but I realize that he is president, not king. He sits in the center of government, and the role of government in our society is to comprise the varying interests in society into a common plan. It is not his role to lead the progressive movement. It is our role to create the pressure he becomes forced to respond to. You know the famous quote from our most progressive president, FDR, who was refusing to go along with some reforms being advanced by very liberal Americans, even though he personally supported those reforms. FDR said to them, “Make me do it.” In other words, create the pressure outside of government that forces him to do the right thing. Too many people on the left, are “waiting for Obama” instead of going out and creating the kind of public pressure he has to be responsive to.

darms June 26th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 48

So you think ending the draft was a good thing? Wouldn’t having draftee troops used against the contras have been a ‘better’ thing for US society as a whole as it would have 1)exposed the war long before Eugene Hasenfus was captured & 2)bypassed or eliminated the nefarious actions by the CIA, NSA & others (North, et al) used to fund the contras, items like missle sales to Iran & the crack epidemic here at home due to massive cocaine importing by these agencies & their allies? In my world it seems that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’…

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to robertarend @ 52

You’re right. There aren’t even enough good progressives in Congress to control things in a Democratic House, but there are some. We have to wean the others off their fat-cat supporters to get more of them to do the right thing.

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 56

And Obama did warn late in his campaign that he would need and expect supporters to support him after by turning the heat up to ‘make hin do it.”

In many ways we obeyed that, but then were called ‘retarded.”

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to darms @ 57

I’m not sure that would have been the result. Once the US has boots on the ground, there are constant calls to support the troops and be cautious about their withdrawal, as we see now in Afghanistan. The Contras, on the other hand, were easily abandoned after the 1987 vote cutting off congressional funding. We just walked away from them and the war ended.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to robertarend @ 59

I don’t think we did enough, and I know that much of the progressive leadership backed off for fear of losing access.

Kathryn in MA June 26th, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 16

I was protesting the war in DC during this time and had quite a shock – I don’t know if it was specifically the May Day, (probably, tho) and i was driving my beloved ’41 Chevy into the middle of town, when the car stalled. It had a tendency to do that. Anyway, plainclothes policemen, one from each corner of the intersection, ran at me and put their handguns to my head thru the open car windows, and told me to get that car started and out of there. I left DC a bit later.

Valley Girl June 26th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 39

Thanks for your reply, and perspective. Naturally, as part of the class of ’69 the draft is a topic that comes to mind for me. I was not meaning to suggest that it was simply a matter of fear of being drafted that impelled people to act. I think it was a true moral issue, certainly for the people I knew- and as you suggest from your experience. But, perhaps the reality of having to actively participate in a war prompted people to take more risks, and be more aggressive in opposition that they might otherwise have been. But, as others have noted, other factors (change in the media being but one) are important too.

Of course, and I’m sure you are aware of this, the draft was not exactly egalitarian, because those of the “middle class” had more tools and means to avoid the draft than did those less well off. But this class division as to how fights the wars on the ground, as you point out, is more extreme now.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

If we take funding from Dems, the fat cats will simply buy more Teabaggers, I suspect. I’m at a point where I cannot imagine why anyone would want to be involved in elective politics. And Obama just begs to be bullied…. or he’s just a liar and a Republican. The choice is yours. FDR, by the way, seems to have been a leader, though I wasn’t around to judge him. Obama took his bully pulpit and hid it somewhere.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to tuezday @ 53

Nixon had a plan waiting in a drawer. It was called COINTELPRO, FBI-speak for counter-intelligence program. It provided for, among other things, concentration camps for protestors. Exposed in 1972, the plan became moot when Nixon was forced from office. But my understanding is that there is a plan in a drawer for almost anything that can happen.

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 61

That was going to be my next question, about corruption of once highly regarded netroots progressive leaders due to the vanity of access or fear of losing such.

I don’t think Jane Hamsher has been even invited for any of those progressive sooth sessions by the White House political hacks….

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Kathryn in MA @ 62

They did that because among other tactics we had bought a number of old cars to abandon on the bridges leading into DC. Aware of our plans, they must have thought you were on such a mission.

tuezday June 26th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 65

That’s the most depressing thing I’ve heard in a long time.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 63

I agree with you on all counts. Thanks.

Valley Girl June 26th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 42

I was not meaning to suggest that the draft should be reinstated, although this is a topic I have debated with my contemporaries- some of whom feel that if the draft were revived, individual citizens would be pressed to pay more attention to our war involvements. Or, rather, be pressed to act more forcefully to oppose them.

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 56

it was, “yes WE can,” vs. “yes, HE can.” ~ van jones — will you be a contributor to his initiative, “rebuild the dream?”

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Bill–I’m hearing a good deal of bitterness and despair in some of these comments. You’ve sustained your activism and hope for change for fifty years. How do you avoid despair?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 70

I think our position should be: draft everyone. We should have a national service program that everyone must join between the ages of 18 and 20. No college deferments or deferments of any kind for any purpose. The work should be social service as well as military service. People could be assistant teachers, medical trainees, fire fighters, or soldiers, whatever, but everyone from every class, region and race would have to participate together. I can’t think of a better to end racism and rekindle a sense of common destiny in this country.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 70

I think the widespread youth rebellion of the sixties had a lot to do with the draft. but the intensity of oppisition to the war was fueled a lot more by its horrors. remember that women were not subject to the draft and college students were mostly not.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to cherwell @ 71

I work regularly with MoveOn.org.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to cherwell @ 71

Can you tell us more about this?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 72

Because the fight for justice is a reward in and of itself. No one will ever get to the promised land. But moving the movement forward, in the small incremental steps that are our only alternatives, has given me a very rewarding life. My eyes stay on the prize, but it is something to always be working toward, not something any of us will ever possess.

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

yes. van jones brought the house down at newtroots nation 11 by stating that we need a charismatic movement vs. a charismatic leader. a 6 minute snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zJp8hZTRiE

“The American Dream Movement is growing stronger by the day, and it’s not going away until we can find jobs, afford to go to college, retire with dignity, and secure a future for their children and their communities.”

he also hit a home run with his presentation thursday evening in NYC, which can be viewed here: http://www.rebuildthedream.com/

we voted for peace and prosperity NOT war & austerity, again stated by mr. jones.

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 76

yes. van jones brought the house down at netroots nation 11 by stating that we need a charismatic movement vs. a charismatic leader. a 6 minute snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zJp8hZTRiE

he also hit a home run with his presentation thursday evening in NYC, which can be viewed here: http://www.rebuildthedream.com/

we voted for peace and prosperity NOT war & austerity, again stated by mr. jones.
“The American Dream Movement is growing stronger by the day, and it’s not going away until we can find jobs, afford to go to college, retire with dignity, and secure a future for their children and their communities.”

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Bill, I love your spirit, but I sense that we are in worse shape now than in the 60s/70s, And, by the way, what is “the prize” and are we nearer now than in 1967? In what way?

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 76

From 2003 to 2007, my political consulting firm, Zimmerman & Markman, had the honor of doing almost all of the TV spots sponsored by MoveOn.org. If you remember them, they were unusually forceful and creative, and they helped MoveOn.org grow from 300,000 members to 5 million. Many of the online organizing tools we developed in MoveOn.org than played an important role in helping to elect Obama. In the 2004 election, we raised and spent $23 million trying to defeat Bush, and I think we weakened him enough to retake the House in 2006, a major MoveOn.org priority we assisted with.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Aren’t you sustained by the recognition that it’s possible to outsmart those in power? Your book has quite a lot of episodes that show this.

Kathryn in MA June 26th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 67

!! gadzooks, too funny.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to cherwell @ 78

Thanks!

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

In spite of common myth, history shows, like the current severity of hard times, crime actually drops during periods of deep ressessions. Is that somehow connected to the lack of folks taking to the streets here, unlike in Turkey?

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 84

tout le plaisir était le mien!

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Dearie @ 80

The differences between then and now are significant. We now have an environmental movement, a gay rights movement, vastly reduced discrimination against disabled people and minority people. We’ve dodged, at least temporarily, the nuclear bullet. We’ve ended legal discrimination in America. I think we all have to recognize those achievements as genuine progress.

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 82

Indeed. Outsmarting people in power is satisfying because their power so often lead them to believe they cannot outsmarted. We need to teach activists a lot more about strategic thinking so it becomes easier to find the means to outsmart those in power.

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 87

well stated. thanks!

Kathryn in MA June 26th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to cherwell @ 79

I watched the youtubes from home and thought Van Jones is doing a great job educating and envigorating his audience. Thanks for spreading the word.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

It isn’t that I don’t recognize progress; it is that I recognize that the setbacks during the past ten years have been enormous. Many of us hoped that Obama would lead. He hasn’t. Millions with no health care access (except ERs), housing in crisis; people losing pensions and high risk of losing SS. Etc., etc. I don’t think we are heading in the right direction. And, personally, I don’t see the environmental movement, dear as they are, as having accomplished much of significance. Hate to be a wet blanket, but I think we’re in deep trouble. Deep trouble.

darms June 26th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 73

Bill,
My sentiments exactly. Universal service, no exemptions or deferments whatsoever.

BevW June 26th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Bill, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and life as an activist.

Dick, Thank you very much for Hosting today’s Book Salon. It was great.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Bill’s book – Troublemaker

Dick’s website

Next week – Sunday Book Salon only
Jeff Madrick – Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present
Hosted by Max Fraad Wolff

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

tuezday June 26th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to Dearie @ 91

I agree people in the environmental movement are being jailed for eco-terrorism, the disabled are losing Medicare and SS, the pro choice movement is losing access to abortion through underhanded methods. It just goes on and on.

Richard Flacks June 26th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Bill for this book which has much to learn from and to share with others and thanks all for provocative ideas and reflections…Bill: any final words?

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Whistleblowers and journalists being attacked. That’s Obama……how is that hopeful???

billz June 26th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Dearie @ 91

We are in deep trouble, and I don’t want to minimize it, but we also have new tools, a more politicized population, and greater awareness of the problems. We may not solve the critical issues in the short run, but we have no choice except continued attempts in the long run.

Valley Girl June 26th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Richard Flacks @ 74

YOu said- I think the widespread youth rebellion of the sixties had a lot to do with the draft. but the intensity of oppisition to the war was fueled a lot more by its horrors. remember that women were not subject to the draft and college students were mostly not.~~

Good points. One thing I didn’t add in previous comments is that at the time, I was actually very pissed off (for want of a better phrase) that the draft did not include women. I thought this was a totally unfair burden on men (remember this was also the time of women’s lib), although women were affected indirectly of course.

Your point about intensity of opposition being fueled by its horrors- you may well be correct, but because both forces were operative for class of ’69 and thereabouts, it’s hard for me to separate the two.

As an aside, back then we had Uncle Walter (Cronkite). I would say, and suspect you agree, that the horrors of war now and in the past decade, are just as acute. Fallujah, for example. Now we have no Cronkites.

Valley Girl June 26th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 73

Yes, actually I would totally agree. And, as I said in response to RF in more detail, I thought it totally unfair that women were not subject to the draft.

Dearie June 26th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks, Bill, for your efforts and for informing us. Call me when it’s time to take to the streets! :)

nahant June 26th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 73

Sheesh I have advocating that for years. A very good way to get all citizens to be real citizens who all a common goal of the betterment of our country for All Citizens. Not just for the 1%er’s! Think of the good that could be done for society in total! The things that could be fixed and improved for Our Country.

robertarend June 26th, 2011 at 4:07 pm
In response to Valley Girl @ 98

With health channel Couric gone, having given Pelley a chance for two weeks, I am ready to go out on a limb and opin, though no Cronkite, Scott Pelly is doing more to cover real news than I’ve seen since Dan Rather….

cherwell June 26th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

thanks Bev, Richard, and of course, a HUGE namaste to THE troublemaker.

underemployedlovinit June 26th, 2011 at 4:19 pm
In response to Dearie @ 91

Yes the recent report about the ocean’s dying off rapidly seems to be one of those things that trump the minor problems like our standard of living. If I had the choice of a normal (natural) environment or the paycheck that comes with industry as an highly educated individual it’s a no brainer as 99 out of 100 select.

papau June 26th, 2011 at 10:21 pm
In response to Bill Zimmerman @ 56

Obama did the “they have no place else to go” when we turned up the heat – and he has been tossing the left under the bus every time on every issue since elected. I do not see the FDR request working with Obama.

We both come out of Chicago at the same time although my U of C was earlier – in the 50′s – and both in SDS – and my old memory remembers many Zimmerman’s in those days. I doubt we ever met – and indeed that is good for my ego as your accomplished look massive – and more meaningful – than anything I ever did. But I am curious as to what high school you came out of?

siosal June 27th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

As one who had many relatives graduate (father, cousin, I think Grandmother,etc) and others fund (cousins, cousins-in-law) I am glad to find I can now rebut those that gloat over the rightwing smog that hangs over your alma mater. Book bought.

DrWJK July 5th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

As I write in my review at Left Eye on Books, Bill Zimmerman is a strategic thinker. His experience of happiness and fulfillment comes from planning tactics in pursuit of a larger strategy, and then acting on those plans. He never planned to harm anyone, as bomb makers do, nor did he ever harm anyone. His plans were always to do good for others, despite whatever personal risks there may be.

Unfortunately, this book is not without blemishes. One is his gratuitous attack on Ralph Nader. Zimmerman is among those progressives who fail to fault Al Gore for rejecting Bill Clinton’s help when Gore ran for president in 2000. Disdaining Clinton, Gore threw victory into the jaws of defeat. Zimmerman fails to see that Nader should be honored for his valiant exercise of the First Amendment rights to free speech and association. Nader was truly a “troublemaker” for the two-party system. It has been said that a people who do not exercise their rights have none.

Somebody should tell Zimmerman that Gore’s defeat was caused solely by Gore’s vanity, not by Nader’s boldness.
Secondly, Zimmerman digresses to savage the hippie movement. Unable to empathize in the least with its spirit, he denigrates it as focused exclusively on “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. Seeing the hippies as socially irresponsible hedonists, he declares that there was an “activist/hippie divide” during the 60s. Having been a member of both sides of this supposed “divide,” I must record my own observations.
The hippie movement, as I knew it, was an extension of the beatnik’s anti-war, anti-materialism sentiment, and a critique of our society’s obsession with commercialism. Both beatnik and hippie saw our post-WWII consumerist culture as reducing the human individual’s value to its mere economic use-value, and upholding the making and spending of money as the meaning of human existence. Unlike the rest of America, the beatniks identified this as a loss of human value and meaning. But the hippies went beyond mere critique, and actually dropped out of that society in the hope of building one more in tune with the deeper needs of the human spirit. These include the need to live in a peaceful and caring community, and to pursue spiritual aims long forgotten by power-crazed organized religions.

In this sense, hippies were more active than what Zimmerman calls the “activists.” The latter accepted the materialism and commercialism and sought political justice by working within the system. The hippies were far more radical; they walked away from the whole ball of slime entirely. As fate would have it, the slime proved too sticky to shake off, and the Hippie Movement soon failed.

Zimmerman’s interpretive density and false reporting of history degenerate into meanness when he turns on his old friend Rennie Davis, a hero of the anti-war movement, and one of the Chicago Seven. Once the Viet Nam war was over, Zimmerman pursued the profitable business of political consulting. But Davis, seeking spiritual fulfillment, found the Hindu Guru, Maharaj Ji, from whom, like me, he learned to meditate. Stubbornly pushing his misunderstanding of what moved the hippies, Zimmerman harshly characterizes his old ally as “the zombielike disciple of an East Indian mystic.”

With these criticisms, Zimmerman reveals his failure to understand that other, and more subtle, forms of human happiness can be had. True enough, the thrill of action – that is, pursuing a carefully planned strategy for doing social good – can, as he concludes, result in “an honorable and happy life”. But the practice of meditation, using techniques fashioned by the wisdom of millennia, can fill a person, who is just sitting, with a sense of joy, excitement, and completeness that even the ecstasy of victory can never match.

While activism is essential to building a more human and humane society, this does not require turning a blind and contemptuous eye to the vital spiritual message of the beatniks and hippies. We can have both a good society and spiritually fulfilled individuals. I hope its not too late for Bill Zimmerman, an honorable man, to hear this message.

Dr. William J. Kelleher, a political scientist, is the author of “Progressive Logic,” which shows how the policies of American Progressives manifest the natural order of values, and most recently “Internet Voting Now,” which shows how secure Internet voting can be organized so as to neutralize the power of Big Money in all US elections. Internetvoting@gmail.com

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