Stories about events in 1970

Businessmen against the war

This story takes place in 1970. It was told on June 25th, 2010 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

BEM aspired to be the broker for some kind of moderate agreement in the ruling class. lt occasionally got real establishment types like Sink Armstrong. But the real core were business men who had been radical in the past and were now getting re-radicalized, or other people of conscience, mostly Quakers and Jews, who were moved by the immorality of the war, and in some cases by the fact that their own children were subject to being drafted. Solly Sherman, who had been a quarterback for the Bears under Sid Luckman, was a member.

Our first ad in the New York Times was signed by four presidents of New York Stock Exchange companies, which was a big deal in those days. Two of them were real people of conscience. The guy from Northern lllinois Gas got scared after the first ad. Some of them thought they were members of the establishment, like Kelly Gratzen, but they really were marginal.

BEM sent a delegation to the big anti-war demos. They gave the movement an edge of respectability. The movement took it more seriously than it warranted. Chicago was the most active chapter. We picketed and did things. We had people coming to meetings who l wouldn’t ever have expected to participate in anything like that.

They tried to make me chair the group, but l didn’t think it would look good. Their effectiveness came form the fact that they came from traditional society and had a high respectability quotient. To have a rock promoter as chairman – especially when rock was in its period of primitive accumulation, when everybody was passing money around without their white gloves on – would take away some of that clout.

lt would be nice to think that BEM was the reflection of a wing of ruling class thought, but it wasn’t. lt was never more than a marginal player. ln any great upsurge in society, a small section of the ruling class defects, and BEM provided a home for them.

We had an admiral or two who would come and speak. They would sometimes send out a guy from Paine Webber who would attack the war, but that was it. Even when the ruling class turned on the war, they still did not tum to BEM.It was only when Bobby and the Kennedys came out against the war – and McNamara and the crowd that had been the architects of the war – that a serious section of the establishment took up the cudgels against the war. Bobby legitimized the opposition. Everybody understood that whatever Bobby and his people would have done, they were responsible; they were house players. After all, his first campaign stop was to Mayor Daley, who was no peacenik. (Even so, some people said he ought to have been a member of the Chicago peace council because he was so active in avoiding the draft. The rich and the powerful had avoided going to Vietnam more thoroughly than they had ever avoided another war.)

lt was the Democrats, tied in with the establishment, who knew when the game was over, and some of them sincerely wanted to get off the war bandwagon. Pretty soon these people were all over the place.

There are eight pages about BEM in the FBI file that they won’t give me. I ’m sure I’m not the only person in BEM who had a file.