Carl Oglesby, R.I.P.
Carl Oglesby died on Tuesday. He was 76.
I asked my dad for his impressions of Oglesby and dad said he remembers Oglesby as the "old man" of the new left, which is now funny to think about as dad and Oglesby, these decades later, aren't that far apart in age, relatively speaking.
Oglesby was into using theater to teach the anit-war method. My dad attended one of Oglesby's workshops and impressed him enough that Oglesby asked dad to do similar workshops in Cleveland, where dad was living at the time. At some point I'll probably post some of my dad's thoughts on the difference in cultures between the Ann Arbor and Cleveland branches of SDS back in the day. I've been thinking about this a lot since reading Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History in which Staughton Lynd makes comparisons between SNCC and SDS. My dad was involved in both, SNCC in the mid 60s working with Stokely Carmichael in Mississippi, and then SDS in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dad recalls that Oglesby was worried about "watering down" the anti-war movement by getting caught up in other radical concerns, such as women's lib and racism. Staughton Lynd notes this as a typical problem with the SDS national leadership, when they did try to make inroads into working class and minority communities, it was too little, too late. SNCC on the other hand, according to Lynd, had a much better legacy of socio-economic and racial integration in terms of its membership, leadership, and activities.
Oglesby was forced out of SDS when it took its more Leftward turn in 1969, in part because he was deemed "too bourgeois." There is an irony in this. Oglesby had actually grown up working class. His dad had worked in a rubber factory in Akron (my mother is convinced that Oglesby is a distant relative of ours as we had distant relatives who worked in that plant and she thinks they were Oglesbys). When SDS went Leftward toward what would become the PLP and eventually the Weathermen, the new leadership, insisting on their new "Marxist" purity, were, as my dad puts it, "the epitome of bourgeois" - sons and daughters of the captains of finance and industry, with a long list of degrees from elite universities. As dad tells me, not only was the new SDS leadership not working class, they didn't even know any working class people. Some day I may post about dad's thesis that his old antagonist Bernadine Dohrn used her (albeit very attractive) body to lure some of the male fence riders in SDS to go Weather Underground. Shortly after the "radical" turn, the new leadership issued a statement that monogamy was a "bourgeois" institution. When sex is used to organize, I suppose social constructs regarding monogamy best be ditched ASAP.
Carl Oglesby would eventually come to be a libertarian who spent his later years obsessed with conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. But the man made some decent music, and he lived through times which leave an imprint on the American mind which, as Oglesby put it, remains "mysterious."