The Dems, HSF and the HRC

Wouldn’t you know that on the day we kick this bad boy off, I’d be quoted in the newspaper on one of my favorite topics: the progressive community. I used to be a leader of one of the major organizations of Harvard’s progressive community, HPAG, I’m a FUP leader (the unofficial center of the radical/activist/progressive community) and I’m an occasional member of the College Dems, so I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences that have lead me to some strong beliefs.

I also got kind of hosed in the paper today. For those of you who haven’t been following it (which I assume is most people who are not intense readers of Dems-Talk), a debate has been raging on the more moderate corners of the progressive community (a little on the HPAG list, a lot on the Dems list) about whether or not last week’s puke protest was over the line and whether or not Harvard Social Forum (who held a concurrent protest outside the event) was responsible. My blockmate who, I have to warn you is a republican, wrote this OpEd. (more in expanded post)

The Harvard Republican Club, under the leadership of the far-too-talented for my taste in republican leadership Matt Downer, sent a letter to the Dems calling on them to leave the coalition that is the Social Forum. I’ll post that letter and various responses later. The Dems, like idiots, started fighting about it not realizing or caring that they were being manipulated by the HRC. The result was this article in today’s Crimson. Because of my emails to Dems-Talk, the reporter asked me for a comment:

But some members of the Dems have objected to the HRC’s suggestions. Andrew H. Golis ’06 said the Dems should not allow the letter from HRC to cause a schism in the progressive community.

“”I think that the letter that the republicans sent was an amateurish and transparent ploy to separate progressives.,” Golis said. “”I think that the Dems need to stay in the HSF but I think that HSF needs to be reformed—. HSF right now is a small group of people who choose to do things on their own without consulting the other members of what is supposed to be a coalition of progressives.””

But Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky ’07, a member of the HSF coordinating committee, said that actions sponsored by the HSF, such as Tuesday’s protest, are not intended to imply endorsement by all member groups.

Ok, first of all, I sound like kind of an idiot. I don’t think that I said “I think” three times in two sentences. Even so, the placement of the quote is ridiculous, because it hints at, but doesn’t follow through on a serious debate. Putting GW’s quote after mine as if it discounts it gives him the final word when, well, he’s just flat out wrong.

HSF claims to be this big coalition of people all working together hunky dory. It’s not. It’s 10 people who show up to weekly meetings. Once a semester, it’s more than that, but essentially there are a core of people who get together to decide what they’re going to protest that week. Unlike in the fall, they no longer do significant work on developing the space at 45 Mt. Auburn, they no longer do almost any work trying to politicize their member and other groups on campus. They did hold their second annual Social Forum, in which they got lots of people together for discussions and workshops, a few weeks ago. However, on a week to week basis, and in the experience of most students, they are simply that group of people who can be seen protesting EVERYTHING: Doug Feith at the IOP, Larry Summers, Final Clubs (although here they take on different names), the CIA/DHS, etc, and the list goes on.

My point in the quote was simply this: the Harvard Social Forum has not been given permission to protest all of these things by ITS MEMBERSHIP. It is the most anti-democratic thing in the world to claim to be a coalition and then do things without consulting them. Leaders of HSF (yes, they claim to “not have leaders” because they’re anti-authoritarian like that. Don’t be fooled, there are leaders) claim that such protests are done in the context of “the Anti-War Caucus” not HSF as a whole. Well who made the Anti-War caucus this autonomous organization that is allowed to still claim HSF’s name? Why does that change a damn thing?

HSF needs to be reformed. It needs to stick to what the progressive community needs right now: a center (both physically and institutionally) that will allow the community to come together to share information and leadership, to develop our ideologies and understandings, to have trainings, open mics. They do a lot of that well and should do more. If they’re going to go protesting everything, they need to either leave HSF’s name out or bring their coalition partners in.

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