PRINCETON, N.J. (AEP) — A noted expert on political activism today rebutted claims that where money comes from and who controls it ever has any effect on activist outcomes.
Herman Conrad, Emeritus Professor of Political Activism and Radical Social Change at Princeton University, said, “The mere suggestion that money should even be any sort of issue for rank-and-file street activists to consider is just so much balderdash.”
Conrad, holder of the eminently prestigious Thomas Woodrow Wilson Liberally Enlightened Endowed Chair in the Humanities, was responding to claims made yesterday by a long-time activist, who had suggested that monetary issues might occasionally affect an organization’s politics.
“That’s just so much bunk,” said Conrad. “Mature political organizations know how to raise money from available sources and put it to the best possible use, irrespective of whatever their donors’ wishes might be.”
Pip Kurtz, who has been an anti-war activist since the 60s, said yesterday that, “I think sometimes we on the left pay insufficient attention to money — who controls it once we get it, and perhaps even more importantly who we get it from in the first place.”
“That is absolutely the stupidest, most ridiculous, asinine thing I have ever heard,” said Conrad. “I’ve been a tenured professor at this distinguished university for 37 years. I’m authored 17 books, written hundreds of articles, and given thousands of talks across this great land of ours. And I have never seen even a modicum of evidence to suggest that where the left gets its money from plays even the slightest role in anything it does.”
Other activists weighed in. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a high-level national coordinator with the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) said, “Kurtz is entitled to his opinion, but he’s simply wrong. Where we get our money from has never impacted a single decision that we’ve made.” AEP’s conversation with this coordinator was cut short due to an incoming phone call to UFPJ from Nancy Pelosi.
Also speaking on condition of anonymity, a high-level editor & publisher at the periodical The Nation said, “It’s frankly inconceivable to me how any one could think issues related to funding are even worth discussing. The topic isn’t taboo — it’s childish bordering on embryonic.” This editor & publisher assured AEP that The Nation’s rejection of Participatory Economics-themed articles was completely incidental.
Conrad suggested that “money-obsessed” activists should instead “take a look in the mirror.”
“We need to do a better job reaching out,” said Conrad. “We need to reach potential supporters in their homes and in their workplaces. It doesn’t matter which — whether they’re at home on their tennis court or playing their grand piano, or at work in their medical offices and law offices. Over a martini, over cognac — it doesn’t matter. We must reach these people!”
In his original statement, Kurtz said that perhaps a better strategy would be to craft a movement more congenial to working-class people and more reliant on funding from working people. “My experiences tell me working people are completely ready for radical change. But that’s just it — it has to be radical change. Working people have zero interest in whether or not a Democrat wins the White House in 2008. They know full well that whether the next president is Hillary, Rudy, or whoever, their lives won’t change. And as long as they know their lives won’t change, they won’t really give a damn what we do, much less contribute their time or money to it.”
“Obviously, Kurtz rode the short bus to school,” Conrad retorted. “The people we need to reach drive Acuras and Beemers — not pickup trucks with Dale Jr. stickers on them.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Communist Party said, “We agree with Kurtz, and we’re trying to reach working people. The key to victory lies in Lenin’s concept of ‘one-man management.’ The working class must submit itself to the iron-fisted discipline of a tiny group of visionary leaders. Only a hierarchical Leninist structure can win anything in the United States.”
Hearing of this in a follow-up interview, Kurtz shook his head: “No, no, no. That’s totally wrong. Working people already deal with that for 40 hours a week — more with compulsory overtime. Vertical decision-making structures and classist job definitions are the last thing we need. Anything remotely like Marxism-Leninism is doomed to failure.”
Professor Conrad was incredulous: “Does Kurtz not realize that the working class watches auto racing, football, baseball, and professional wrestling? Is he not aware of the fact that they eat at McDonalds? Does he not know they like cars and guns? I tell you, we can’t work with these people!”
“Well, ignoring the fact that not ALL working people are in to cars and guns,” Pip Kurtz said, “maybe Herman Conrad should swim up out of his darkness, take a breath of salty air, and open his heart to diversity. What a boring world it would be if we all ate at Panera Bread.”
Regardless of the immediate future of the U.S. left, it seems clear that a change is brewing on the horizon.