HAW Steering Committee, June 6, 2016, NYU
Present: Rusti Eisenberg, Barbara Epstein, Jeri Fogel, Van Gosse, Margaret Power, Ellen Schrecker, Andor Skotnes, Jim Swarts, Barbara Weinstein, Kevin Young, – Marc Becker by Skype
Marg. Power and Van Gosse served as co-chrs of the meeting.
H-PAD – Historians for Peace and Democracy
HAW’s relationships with other organizations:
After adopting minutes, etc., Rusti began a discussion of our relationship with other organizations, especially the UFPJ in which both she and Van had leadership positions. Rusti succeeded Van as co-chair of its legislative arm which analyzed proposed legislature, dealt with congressional offices, and, generally, gave HAW (now H-PAD) a role at the national level. She noted that there were strategy groups drawn from groups like the AFSC and UFPJ as well as some representatives of the Democratic Party leadership that dealt with specific issues like the Iran treaty, Syria, and budget and military spending. She suggested that other H-PAD people besides herself join these strategy groups, which we can do because H-PAD is a national organization.
Van – Noted that during the run-up to the Iran Treaty, we tried to deliver local op-eds. When we do lobbying, it helps to have a distinguished professor.–
Rusti – We (Brooklyners for Peace) concentrated on Gillibrand and sent Jed Abrahamian into meeting with her staff when doing the Iran treaty —
New Mission Statement:
There was then a short discussion about our new “mission statement” which was agreed upon at the last meeting. It will allow us to integrate foreign and domestic issues, as, Andor noted, for example, immigration.
Several people found the statement too focused on the Trump administration. Might it not be considered a policy statement rather than a mission statement? And shouldn’t we add climate change to the list of issues H-PAD will be dealing with?
Andor noted that this was our 4th mission statement, so we have a history of revising it and could always change it again. But, as Rusti pointed out, we felt compelled to emphasize our switch to a broader mission because of the threat Trump posed to domestic programs which, because of their connection to Trump’s plans for more military spending, are tied to our original concerns about U.S. warfare.
There seemed to be a desire to define our new focus in terms of a “conjunction” of domestic and foreign policies.
Jim Swarts suggested that we check out an excellent article by Andrew Bacevich that lists 24 issues that obsessing about Trump has diverted us from, several of which deal with issues of war and peace.
A discussion followed about “conjunction” and how do we understand the current situation. Van noted that we need to get past Cold War thinking to realize that there is no side we need to support. There is now, perhaps, nothing but “grubby national politics.” Barbara Epstein: Because of the weakness of the Left, we are in situations where the main battles are between Neoliberals and Far right.
Andor noticed that situation changed from the time of SC’s last discussion in Jan. where we were all “really down.” Now there are the stirrings of “a contradictory fragile resistance movement.”
Margaret: Has seen shift to left by students as they realize how much they are being screwed, they support Bernie Sanders.
Rusti: Important to note that the emerging revolt does not yet focus on military issues and war. Most of current resistance focused on domestic stuff, not recognize the terrible situation in Iraq or that with regard to foreign policy the fact that Trump is crazy is relevant. Traditional foreign policy elite opposing Trump in their own terms, so mainstream media with positive response to Trump’s use of cruise missiles.
Becker: In his area (rural Missouri), which is Trump country, it would be useful to focus less on foreign policy.
Weinstein: Tension between immediate threat of Trump and our bigger critique
of neoliberalism, not want to see us backing it. Also, internationally, we need to recognize that fascism a possibility. In Brazil, next to Lula, the most popular politician is a fascist so would have to support a neoliberal.
Jim: Important to continue to focus on Vietnam, especially in our teaching. Our outreach should counter failure of mainstream to present the real lessons of Vietnam
Discussion then turns to: What can we do as historians?
Jeri: We should emphasize our role as historians. We can supply the “missing alternative” and offer examples of things that have worked.
Margaret: What can we do realistically? Sees us as a university-based movement that somehow integrates the larger movement with the university and the community.
Andor: We should work as “historian-intellectual-activists” to provide encouragement and a milieu for our people to work with existing movements in the community”
Discussion about “Organizational Development,” about the nature of H-PAD.
Epstein: Are we an email list or groups in specific schools and geographical areas?
Jeri: The email list is the way we stay in touch with our members, but need to go back to see who our actual email members are.
Power: HAW had been relatively inactive before Jan. Had been working on Palestine resolutions and sending out biweekly lists of readings.
Epstein: Notes that people want some organization to relate to and are showing up to meetings of other organizations. So maybe it would be useful to create H-PAD chapters where people could discuss the same issues we’ve just been talking about.
It would be good to have an East Bay chapter. Our base is within the historical profession. But can offer materials, etc. to the larger movement.
Rusti: Should find a way to empower people. There are quite a lot of lefties on faculties but little activity on our campuses. Somehow we need to energize our colleagues to raise the level of student activism. But we do have access to red states, so maybe we could help our colleagues in those places do activities.
Power: important for us to identify ourselves as activists, could organize meeting at AHA, OAH, etc. to get people organized.
Discussion of ways to organize beyond historians, recognize that could reach scientists because so many are foreigners. Immigration an important issue already.
Discussion deals with the need to envision different forms of organizing.
Because there are so many people without steady jobs, can’t necessarily reach them through campus-based chapters. There are also people in red states like Texas or other places where students may be active, though there is a dearth of faculty leadership on the left.
Van sees the teach-in model, which can be live-streamed, as a way to reach these different types of groups with possible community/campus events. Also with Speakers Bureaus. And then organize a conference, possibly along with other types of groups.
Discussion about recruiting people. HAW (H-PAD) currently with only 1277, originally had about 2200 on e-mail list. Problem that younger people do not know about HAW. Maybe name change will help attract more people, especially, according to Rusti, if we ask people on the email list to act as recruiters.
Van explains that the Israel-Palestine issue hurt HAW. Had a huge sign-up in 2003 because of David Montgomery, which shows the value of an advisory board.
We do have some well-known professors on our email list, but do not know who they are because we only have their email addresses
Value of advisory board is that it provides an umbrella of safety for people to join, had an advisory board in early days of HAW – include Marilyn, Cummings, Gendzier, Lloyd Gardner
Discussion of the content of possible programs.
We realize that we can’t develop an organization without a program and vice versa.
Should we discuss it as “Whether this is fascism, authoritarianism, nationalism, etc.?”
Van organized such a program at F & M. People could have similar programs at various campuses, with people from our Speakers Bureau – possibly doing a major big city program early in the term, distribute broadsides on things like Japanese internment, COINTELPRO – and then hold real meeting at AHA to share experiences from the fall campaign.
Possible name: “Threats to Democracy and the Danger of War”
A number of suggestions for the program:
Can be specific about things that are actually happening and can also see if we can present it in the form of a dialogue.
Could bring in students who or whose families are being affected by Trump regime.
Include information about websites and teaching materials.
Can utilize internet skills of Tom Harbison
Issue of Membership –
No decision taken here about what membership is and who is a member. Rusti and Van seem to agree to postpone discussion of membership policy for now as want to build this campaign and get endorsers for it.
Then we can call on people to work on it – but should be able to get endorsers quickly because of the threat of Trump
JUNE –– 1. Recruit endorsers and potential members of Speakers Bureau:
Write up paragraph for the people we want to serve as advisors, announcing the emergence of the new HAW, its new name and our planned campaign, “Threats to Democracy and the Danger of War”
- Send out email to our lists announcing the emergence of the new HAW, with the list of endorsers, our new name, and the campaign, “Threats to Democracy and the Danger of War” – describe campaign, say we will work on Speakers Bureau, other matls — need to have it look like organizing campaign
Ask recipients to endorse it and let us know if interested in working on it.
- – start recruiting for fall — Finalize the call
ask people to suggest more people (with emails) for us to contact
note that had a good # of signers on our Gaza statement:
(822 in US, 270 outside US)
- build up press strategy
including facebook page
send out big email w. speakers bureau, materials, organizing guide
Media outreach –
Include call for the campaign in Perspectives, ditto Peace History, maybe
ask them for co-sponsorship
How should we get other organizations to endorse the call?
LATE AUGUST —
- will get out big email w. information about the progress being made on this campaign.
SC Volunteers for the campaign —
Becker and Harbison are doing the technology
Jeri – will work on organizing guide
Van will work on organizing guide and Speakers Bureau
Need to finalize the new name, most support Historians for Peace and Democracy
Website can be “Historians for Peace,” Jeri to design new graphic
Discussion of decision-making
do we want executive committee –
there are 20 people on steering committee
what if half disagree?
Had a 4-person Exec. Committee in the past.
Jeri – could text if need to consult everyone quickly
There seems to be a preference for the whole SC to make decisions
but if do it on-line need to have brief emails
Frequency of meetings –
could schedule steering Committee conference calls on a regular basis
setting up a day and time in advance, then people would be free that day and time
Tuesday, 6 pm/3 pm W. Coast –
Will query the whole SC about June 20, July 11, July 25
As for decisions, Van would like a consensus, but feels OK with a majority, as long as no abstentions allowed
Rusti wants to discuss how much we build in disagreement into our campaign on Threats to Democracy and the Danger of War –
For example, could coordinate w. CATO Institute – as had sim. policies c. for. pol.
might be able to work w. them – No decision made on this.
Need for someone to help her with the Legislative agenda as she is going on leave from her position as UFPJ legislative person for 5 mo. –
important to make legislative work a piece of HAW, it would enable us to help select what issues to focus on –
“What are some things historians should be aware of?”
should figure out what’s worth paying attention to
Van suggest that we find people in our organization who could handle this work –
it would be a project, perhaps with the AHA, to create a legislative working group within H-PAD
Rusti – It has to be selective – need knowledge and judgement c. what is happening legislatively that is important – do we or do we not want to send announcements to entire list, for example.
Notes that the Congressional budget stuff is really consequential – will be broken up into appropriations bills and we should inform people c. the important ones –
There is already a working group on the Pentagon budget, it would be good to get H-PAD people into it –
will work with Rusti to set up task force of legislative issues, will send out message asking for volunteers to work w. Rusti on it
describes possible Broadside publications:
First Red Scare, Jap. Internment, Operation Wetback, COINTELPRO, Immigration,
Chinese Exclusion, Crime and Punishment, NATO, also women’s issues like Reproductive Rights, Women’s Liberation
Jeri – suggests Jane Guskin—do immigration –
- The Broadside – The statement needs to be redesigned —
Van — a publications committee has to be approved by the SC –
Jim O’Brien interested in serving on it
Jim – has a list of publications that were being disseminated at HAW tables
for use directly by the public
Discussion of methods of dissemination –
can take them to their local bookstores, Margaret did that with the torture pamphlet
put on our website and make them available to be printed out
Should have this literature at our tables at teach-ins and AHA
write articles for Truthdig other groups, conferences like Left Forum, UNAC,
want our members to rep. us at these mtgs
could keep calendar so as to be proactive with regard to conferences
Kevin Young suggests that we could partner with K-12 – Radical Teacher, Rethinking Schools –
fund-raising – membership or fund-raising letter
How to connect to other organizations –
Rusti – Announces that NY Hist. Soc. will have program on VN – Rusti, Marilyn, Chris Appy, consultants, the exhibit will run at time of Ken Burns documentary –
apparently, there is a committee to ensure the right politics being org.