Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
A Report From The Oleo Strut
There was no news from Killeen last issue because we were in a stage of transition when it wasn't clear what was going to happen. Three factors were important to this confusion: 1) all except for one of the GIs that we work closely with were ripped off by jail, levy or ETS. 2) Josh and Jay were exhausted and then took a ten-day vacation. 3) The staff lost 2 people and gained three others, and a lot of adjustment was necessary to make us work as a whole. The staff at this time consists of old-timers Josh, Jay, Bronwen and Jay Farlow; ex-GIs Dave Cline and Lionel Anderson and Terry Davis (girl) from Wisconsin and Sandy Thompson (boy) from Boston.
A touch of the outside world was injected by the SDS N.C. in Austin. Guys from here went, talked to people from all over, got a much wider sense of the Movement, and as a new constituency were made much of. One guy talked to Reese Erlich of the Oakland 7 and they hatched the plan of a speaking engagement for Bobby Seale, Tom Hayden and one of the Oakland 7 at the Strut.
Naturally Bobby Seale became the pivotal issue of discussion. At times there is a tendency in the Movement to feel that prominent (nationally known) people can only aid an organizing project (especially one that's geographically isolated). But we felt that Scale could not be seen as an entertaining speaker. People had to b prepared to hear what he would say.
More importantly we fe1t guys, both
black and white, had to have the ability to translate what he would say into a program to aid. organizing on the Fort. We felt that Seale would be beneficial only if he were part of an overall campaign against racism and riot control, using literature, films, tapes, discussions, speakers and organizing on post. He could not be a program by himself. To lay the foundation for him coming, it was necessary to put off the proposed date of May 8 to May 31.
It was at this point that Josh and Jay felt it necessary to take their vacation. There were two important developments at the Strut while they were away. The staff met and began developing contacts with a group of organized blacks at the Fort. A group called the 5% came down one Sunday to see the film on the Black Panthers. Also the staff began carrying on discussions amongst themselves which revealed real differences of political direction amongst the staff.
When Josh and Jay came back the whole staff began discussing the possibilities of some type of mass action which would 1) give guys at the base a sense of growing movement, 2) deal with relevant issuesat.the Fort and 3) be of such a nature as to reduce the possibility of guys being busted for their participation.
After about a week of talking it became clear that racism (used by the brass to divide EMs) and riot control which is commonly hated by blacks and a large number of white EMs should be the issue.
Amongst EMs racial antagonisms became a greater problem than we expected. There was one race riot in the stockade in February and another April (between black and white EMs). There were several fights between black and white EMs on the Fort. We felt that we had to address ourselves to the division being created among EMs. We came up with the idea, we felt would meet the three criteria mentioned before and provide a basis' for alleviating some of they racial hostilities.
We talked about bringing together a large group of EMs (200-300), black brown and white to sign a peace treaty amongst themselves, which would recognize the hostilities and would serve to focus attention on a common enemy. While there was not full agreement amongst the staff about the idea, we decided to talk to different political GIs for the next week and see if there was a. good response.
We began by talking to the black group mentioned before, the 5%. The lessons we, learned should be passed on to others working with GIs. This specific group of guys identified strongly with the Panthers (leather jackets, berets, Free Huey pins, etc.) We wrongly assumed the identification as far as developing a Panther ideology. We assumed they would accept the idea of white and black alliances as the Panthers have. In reality since there was no visible white organization, we were asking them to aid us impetus to white organizing (as the alliance with the Panthers obviously aided PFP organizing) We failed to take into consideration that the people we work with (both black and white) have been isolated from the rest of society for nearly two years an have not gone through any where near the development that other segments of the movement have.
The specific group of blacks we talked to made it clear to us that because of the anti white feelings of most blacks on post (which did not distinguish between EM and sergeant, between individual racism and institutional racism) that there could be no cooperation or alliance between black and white. In fact, the riot that we and most whites dreaded was viewed as beneficial by the blacks, their first chance to strike back.
In the continuing discussions we had on the staff and with the GIs, we became aware of certain racist tendencies among the staff in trying to channel black organizing to fit the needs of the white EMs. We finally dropped the idea and have concentrated on 1) serving as a resource place for the black organizers - literature, books etc. 2) continuing to talk to white guys on a one to one basis, mainly about racism. We are also intending to start a literature campaign on fort. The forthcoming issue of the Fatigue Press is going to be a special Racism issue.
Riot control has started again and the way things are going (e.g.Berkeley) it seems like more and more whites will be having a gut level reaction to their participation in putting down rebellions.
For these reasons then, the political level of the black guys, plus the deeper understanding that our real job is to talk to white guys who would be scared away from the Strut by Seale, as well as the lack of a possible follow up to his visit, we decided to ask Seale not to come. What we have seen since then has made us sure that we finally read the situation right.
At this point the staff morale is at rock bottom. We just lost Bronwen, Sandy and Jay Farlow. Also this week Terry and Dave left, to return in ab6ut month. Kathy Bragg, a girl from Killeen who worked with us last summer part time, is going to begin full time work this week. From a staff of twelve which we once talked about, we are now down to four.
Now we should explain a little about the staff situation when everyone was here which also has some lessons to teach. At different times we tried to turn the staff into a collective. We felt that if we tried to erase or minimize the different levels of political development through collective political experience (reading and discussing among ourselves) we could work better as a staff. The main problem was the inability to organize time efficiently. The only time we managed to spend together as a group was at dinner and that was usually at 1 or 2 a.m. We also never developed the discipline to carry out serious continuous political discussions t the end of a tiring day. The tendency was to grab ass and goof, which took, sometimes, the tone of unfriendly gameplaying. The underlying factor was differences in approaches to political organizing. After many months of working together (and all the pressures that you know well) the tensions increased considerably. They came out either in personal conflicts or demoralizing general depression.
The main point of conflict (and it took us several months to figure it out) was the different way that people perceived oppression, both their own and others. Bronwen and Sandy emphasized psychological and individual oppressiveness (and looked for sensitivity in people) while other members focused on economic and class oppression. The fact that both views express themselves very similarly in political vocabulary confused us for a long time. The differences were so basic, though, that there were two different views of tbe Strut and too many varied ideas of why people were in Killeen. The discord did not sharpen our wits at all, but rather drained our energy and separated people. Bronwen and Sandy decided to leave, Bronwen to do some theatre work and Sandy to pursue his losing battle against the draft.
The only really good thing that happened here in a while was a surprise visit from Pete Seeger. He was supposed to sing at an Indian college, but when the Bureau of Indian Affairs heard about it they cancelled the performance and fired the man who had hired him. We had one day to get the word out. We printed up 1000 leaflets advertising Seeger on one side and a fact sheet and explanation of the People's Park on the other (several units were on the alert for Berkeley),. We got a lot around town but felt it was not enough, so Jay Farlow and Sandy went on post at 1 a.m. to distribute the remaining leaflets. About three, when they hadn't returned, we abandoned our rationalizations and acknowledged that they had been caught. Sure, enough, they spent the night in the PMO's cells and were banned from post. Also the leaflets never got out.
Nevertheless on Thursday when Seeger showed up he sang to a packed house that stayed therè and sang all night long. He did a great job, singing a song about the Fort Hood Three which he wrote, as well as some other real good songs. It was fanfuckingtastic.
That is about it. We hope our next contribution will have some better news from Killeen.
POST SCRIPT FROM KILLEEN
There have been three recent meetings of GI's. They got a petition started asking that the AR's 210-40 and 190-5, which say that you can't pass out lit and give the CO the right to search your locker at his discretion, be removed from the books because they clash with the first and fourth amendments. Although it is a constitutional rights fight, it is good for two reasons. Most of the guys are most moved and outraged by the blatant Unconstitutionality of the way they are treated. Second, there are several guys that are aware of the pitfalls of that kind of fight (ending up in court, with the guys back out of control of their fight and the possibility of ending up proving to the GI's that the Constitution and democracy are really groovy and there are just a few nasty individuals who are messing up.) They are trying to guide it beyond that now and in the future
Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that in 1 day, about 200 signatures were gotten from guys from all over the country, many from guys in pool halls etc. who had never been to the Strut. About 35-40 petitions are now circulating on the Fort. I understand there'll be another meeting on Wednesday to count results, etc...
Also we had a bust scare based on rumors which when traced didn't exist, but we learned something and have increased security on the house and got three people in Austin to promise to come up on a minute's notice. They came up last week and we showed them how to run the place, do the books, what taxes had to be paid, etc. So that's o.k. for the future .
We're also talking about remodeling --making the Strut a display of the Movement--posters from a lot of organizations with cards explaining about the groups, etc. The expense will entail repainting, new tablecloths, a few new chairs, a new sign (which' got deestroyed by local "vandals"--we go to court Thursday to try to recover losses) and the posters. I don't think it will cost too much, but we have taxes, too. So???...
New SOS News, vol. 1, no. 4