Robert Meeropol





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my perennial chaos

"Robby & Elli" 1968


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Robby speaking at the re-launch of the Mary Pitawanakwat Fund in Toronto

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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Talkin’ about my Generation…

October 8, 2016

Tags: Millennials, Old Left, New Left

As a college student 50 years ago, I got into arguments with my parents’ Old Left comrades. They criticized my generation for our long hair, ratty clothes and musical taste; they labeled our radical politics as indulgence. They didn’t understand our cultural revolution, didn’t approve of the tactics we employed to end the War in Vietnam and thought the concept of Black Power was madness. They told us we should be fighting for integration and organizing the working class. But we formed the core of a new movement that, along with the draftees in Vietnam who rose up against their officers, helped end the War in Vietnam. Our cultural revolution sparked the second wave of feminism and the gay rights movement. The militant cry for Black liberation echoed down the decades to be resurrected by Black Lives Matter.

In those years we, not our parents, had our finger on the pulse of the nation. We had a better sense of what fights needed fighting. We were inexperienced, impulsive, arrogant and, too often, obnoxious. We made stupid mistakes. But our analysis of what needed to be done at that moment was more accurate than that of the Old Left. In the long run we couldn’t sustain a radical vision and a cohesive movement strong enough to ward off the right’s counter offensive, and our dream of revolution crumbled.

Still, my parents’ generation failed to understand that while they had a lot to teach us, we had much to teach them. Could my generation be making the same mistake today?

Half a century later, radical Millennials echo who we New Leftists were in the 1960’s. We had the draft; they got screwed by the crash of 2008. We had nightmares about nuclear annihilation; they face global famine, resource wars, and mass social breakdown. They understand that the current political/economic system is unacceptable, that the approaching biospheric collapse means that everything has changed, and our politics must change along with it if most of them are to survive. Is it possible that we are too quick to dismiss their perspective just as our parents did with us?

Today, my age-mates argue that the two million young radicals (the core of Jill Stein’s 2.7 million voters) are just stomping their feet and holding their breath because Bernie is not the nominee. My age-mates reject young radicals’ argument that although Trump’s environmental policies are worse, both are unacceptable, since Clinton’s policies will cause us to cross tipping points that will destroy the productive capacity of the planet. Aging New Leftists counter that with Clinton in office we’ll have more time to save the biosphere. But does this ignore the science of tipping points and positive feedback loops? Some claim we can move Clinton towards our position, despite her history and her allies. Radical Millennials tell us no, that the environmental crisis has become so acute that maintaining the status quo against something that is even worse still jeopardizes our survival. Could they be right?

There are a few million aging but engaged 1960’s radicals and left-liberals in this country. What if those who live in deep blue states whose electoral votes will still go to Clinton even without their support, voted Green? What if a significant portion of them joined the Millennials who have picked up our banner? If that happened, the Green Party might reach 5% of the vote, qualifying them to be on the ballot in all states in the 2018 federal elections.

Maybe the growing climate change generated calamities of the coming four years will cause more of my old activist buddies to understand that Millennials who won’t vote for Clinton aren’t throwing temper tantrums, or wasting their vote, but rather, are looking ahead to build a movement for change. Maybe radical Millennials have more to teach us than we realize.

Millennials are Awake; Boomers, let’s join them

September 24, 2016

Tags: Millennials, Jill Stein, lesser evil

Sunday evening Elli and I attended a rally for Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. It was a great crowd – about 400 people – and I was impressed by the composition of the audience. A few were from my generation, but the overwhelming majority were in their 20’s and 30’s. It was thrilling to see so many politically-energized young people, today’s equivalent of my SDS comrades from the 1960’s. It gave me hope for the future.

I was also inspired by Jill’s speech. How refreshing to hear a presidential candidate articulate so many positions that I agree with. Not only did she put climate justice front and center, but I could enthusiastically support virtually everything she said, from her attacks on the military industrial complex to her plan to cancel student debt to her understanding of institutional racism and desire to create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants.

On our way home afterwards it dawned on me that I was reviving the simple concept I first heard in elementary school: we vote for the person we agree with. I felt grateful to Jill for giving me the chance to do that.

There are those who will call me self indulgent for voting for the candidate I agree with, but I do this out of necessity. Many of us are aware that Dr. James Hansen (formerly head scientist at NASA) and other climate scientists predict that we face climate change generated biospheric collapse by 2050. Fewer understand that because it takes 30 years for the climate to react fully to today’s emissions, that we have only until 2020 to change course to avoid that catastrophe. Yes, that means that this hellish summer of record, drought, flood, fire and heat was caused by our pre-1986 emissions, and we’ve already locked in so much worse for the next thirty years.

Some ask, why vote for someone who can’t win? That’s a good question. Is it better to vote for someone whose policies guarantee that we will cross climate tipping points by or shortly after 2020? Some claim that Clinton’s acknowledgement of climate change will buy us more time to address the problem. This reflects a failure to understand tipping points, positive feedback loops and the 30-year lag between emissions and their full impact. Clinton’s history shows that it will be virtually impossible to separate her from oil and gas companies, other multinational corporate giants, their Wall Street backers and the military-industrial complex. This guarantees that, despite her “acceptance” of climate change, that she will follow policies that will cross those tipping points, and thus, lock in ecological disaster.

Regardless of whether the tactics of lesser evil Democrats had any positive effect in the last several decades, they are the politics of the past. It might be too late already, but the ONLY way to save the upcoming generations is to act on the understanding that there can be no more business as usual. Millennials are figuring this out, but are my age-mates too set in our politics to embrace the new reality? Let’s not repeat the rigidities of our parents’ generation. We must wake up. If we want civilization, or more than a tiny fragment of our species, to survive the current century the lesser evil is no longer viable.

Selected Works

Memoir
"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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