I can’t remember if I wrote it here, but I know that, in lunches with Don Quixote, I’ve discussed the parallels between the OWS protests and the Chicago convention in 1968. Rather than gather my slightly fragmented thoughts, I’ll just pass the baton to Bruce Kesler, who ably discusses the issue.
UPDATE: Charles Martel’s reminiscences about Chicago in 1968 were too good to hide in the comments section:
I was in Chicago during the 1968 convention. I was part of a Los Angeles-based group called Monitor Training School. We went around LA in 1967 and 68 training protest marchers how to avoid or resist violent confrontations with the cops and provocateurs like the Students for a Democratic Society.
(One of my betes noires was a USC student named Mike Klonsky, a rabid violence freak whose m.o. was to try to pry his way into a group of peace marchers and instigate an angry response from the police. Our tactic was to surround him and the four or five lapdogs that were always trailing him and seal them off from the rest of the marchers. If his name rings a bell, Klonsky is still rabid and is one of Bill Ayers’s closest friends.)
Anyway, I drove with two friends to Chicago to teach people what we’d been teaching in Los Angeles. We held daily sessions in Lincoln Park, on the city’s north shore, where we vied with some guy who was teaching people how to form a giant conga-like line where they supposedly would swish their way around the cops, all the while proclaiming “Wa-shoi! Wa-shoi!”
I digress: The comparison between the two events has one or two significant differences. While the scene in Lincoln Park had its share of derelicts and grungy hangers-on, drawn by the prospect of dope and the free nooky that Abbie Hoffman kept pimping, the majority of demonstrators were well-fed, well-educated college kids out to experiment with rebellion. If the rebellion failed—the election of Dick Nixon says that it did—there was always graduate school or Daddy’s bribe of a nepotistic office job once Junior or Missy came to their senses. The economy was not on the skids like it is now, and the higher education bubble was still a pipe dream.
Fast forward 43 years: The job prospects for the OWS people are pretty dismal, both because of the economy in general and the demonstrators’ own remarkable lack of higher-order thinking skills in particular. Yes, many of the Chicago ’68 kids were ditzes, but they still operated with far more cognitive functionality than their descendants.
In any case, almost everybody at the park had a place to sleep or stay while they were in Chicago. Some hopped the train to head up to Evanston or some other suburb, while others drifted back to nearby college dorms or crashed with friends and relatives. The Yippies tried to confront the cops over sleeping overnight in the park, but the Chicago cops were not like the weenies in present-day Oakland or Los Angeles. They were perfectly happy to apply billy clubs and drop tear gas canisters with abandon. The Yippies wisely quit contending the issue after one teary, bloody night.
If the Democrats decide to set loose the hounds of OWS on the GOP convention in Tampa, it will backfire even more royally than Chicago 1968. Some of the more cynical and manipulative leaders at Chicago (I remember sitting in an office somewhere in downtown Chicago with some of the best minds of the New Left, fascinated by intelligence that had been seduced by the pursuit and prospect of total power) knew that a reaction to the demonstrations very likely would result in Nixon winning the presidency. To their Marxist minds, however, that simply meant that the “contradictions would be heightened,” leading to oppression, leading to a revolt by the awakened masses.
Our current Marxists, who are far more febrile and syphilitic than their 1960s forebears, probably think that history is now finally on their side. No more need to heighten contradictions when you can go in for the kill. OWS-type clamors in Tampa will cause such a police overreaction and such an awakening that they will sweep Obama back into power. But what will really happen is the same thing that happened after Chicago: Voters, disgusted by what they see, will vote for a Republican.
Throw in one other consideration: In Chicago, I ran across two demonstrators who were armed. One was a crazy girl from Berkeley, named Gail, who packed a small pistol (we later persuaded her to leave it where she was sleeping and never carry it on the streets) and a black guy who was a street tough hanging around for dope and sex. These days, as the petulance escalates, there will more armed thugs among the demonstrators. Gangbangers, union members and anarchists all have access to good weapons and the motive to want to see pig blood flow. If/when that happens, they will create a firestorm that they cannot control.