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THE OBSERVER-RAG CONFERENCE We Failed to Communicate Austin On the weekend of March 16-17, the gala bumping of heads scheduled between Texas radicals and liberals happened. Sort of. But the concussion, certainly no shattering and definable CRACK, was more of a hollow and fuzzy-edged THUD. Which is to say that nothing was solved, but there sure are things we can learn from the experience. The conference was sponsored by The Rag and The Texas Observer. It was planned with high, if somewhat vague, hopes: Radicals and liberals would better understand what each group was about; where common ground was discovered, areas . of cooperation might be worked out. The Rag had sensed that Texas liberalism was floundering, that many Texas “liberals” would be open to radical alternatives. So we got’ all these people to come to Austin. At least 500 people from . Texas and Oklahoma attended the two debates, the party at Hillel Foundation, and the panel discussion. And in many ways, it was a flop. I think few would disagree, including the Observer people, that the main reasons that the conference fell short of most hopes can be dealt with under the general heading, “The Pathetic State of Texas Liberalism, Today.” What are we to think of the late defections of the liberal panelists? And the lack of liberals in the audience? What does all that mean? They had their alibis, for sure. But it seems clear to us at The Rag \(and I think the Observer is sensing to defend themselves against radicals. But what of the libs that did show? Some probably weren’t liberals. Larry Goodwyn expressed total agreement with radical Gary Thiher’s analysis of society. His contribution? Be Resigned. Dave Richards advised working in liberal politics, though he seemed less convinced himself. Don Allford, who was a last minute sub for Barbara Jordan, was totally unprepared and incoherent. It would seem that someone as deeply involved in reformist politics as he is \(co-chairman defend his politics without a whole lot of preparation. Ralph Estes, a last-minute sub on the panel, came across with the most clearly liberal line. But all the liberals seemed unsure of themselves and defended their existence thusly: it might not work, but it’s the only game in town. The liberals were aware of their own incoherence, The writer is the young editor of The Rag. He is from Houston. and were very apologetic about it. Frustration oozed from their brows as they tried to pull radicals into their bag \(“You’re really just a progressive liberal swers, they said, neither do the radicals. Thorne Dreyer Together we flail in the dark. The old ways haven’t worked, but we should keep bouncing back from each knockdown. Be resigned; there are no new ways. “After all, what is your Solution?” they asked us. AND THAT IS where the radicals failed; and perhaps where the radicals were doomed to failure. “We have no blueprints.” Gary Thiher was quite thorough in his picture of our imperialistracist Reality. Larry Caroline was emotional and moving in his call for the Revolution. That was good. The panel was reasonably , articulate, touching on cultural revolution, black power, electoral politics. But the panel failed, and the radicals as a whole failed, to overcome one thing: the language barrier. Radicals and liberals used the same words, and the words floated past each other in space, seldom meshing, seldom meeting on the same plane. When there are walls, you have to talk about the walls before you can ever talk about anything else. And it is the radical’s responsibility to talk about those walls because the liberals think they are the walls that frame reality. Radicals do not have a “blueprint” because to have a blueprint would be to negate radicalism. Radicalism means making radicals who can make radicals. Thus the Solution for a radical is to agitate to create struggle and involve people in that struggle and to educate people while they are engaged in that struggle. It is only when people are engaged in that struggle that they become radicals, i.e., gain a sense of their own prints are pretentious and elitist. People make their own blueprints when they engage themselves in the struggle. \(White civil rights workers had blueprints for Southern black people; they were told So there’s no argument. We can’t say what the new society is going to look like because the structures of that society must grow out of the needs of the people. The only question is tactics. And that must be an open question. Whatever action seems most likely to mobilize and educate people is the one that we take at any given time. If that means working in electoral politics sometimes, OK. It’s what you’re working for while you’re there that makes you a radical. And we certainly can’t say how the revolution will be brought about. That process will take care of itself. Initiate the struggle; people are radicalized; they will decide how to bring down the old order, how to structure the new one. Which doesn’t mean we can’t speculate, that we can’t hypothesize; it’s just not up to us to make the decisions. Liberalism suggests that the problems of our society are essentially problems of evil men. Radicals says that evil men are products of our society. Good men “working within.” They then have a stake in the society, and, in the name of “effectiveness,” may become the very evil men they sought to replace. The system corrupts so basically that, by the time a good man can reach a position of real power, he has become part and parcel of the process of corruption. \(How do you knowwhen you reach the point that you can quit being “effective” and WHAT ALL THAT means, I guess, is that you don’t radicalize people at radical-liberal conferences. You just give them a sense of what you them things to do. The last is the most important and I don’t guess it happened much. Humanist liberals can be of real value to the movement now. There is the everpresent need for financial support. \(While we were burning our bridges, the purse strings went as well. Set up legal defense committees \(we’re the ones who fore meetings, discussion groups, etc. \(sds Speakers Bureau, % Harvey Stone, licize what we’re doing; exert pressure or media not to distort our activities ganize your own people. Talk to your friends about their lives. Discuss, with them, the consequences of their own acportant, be aware and discuss their \(and cultural as well as financial; alienation isn’t restricted to the poor. fl 10 The Texas Observer