Bert Garskof

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Bert Garskof


Bertram Garskof is a research psychologist at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, was an architect of the Green Party USA national political strategy and Ralph Nader's first run for president in 1996. He was a Connecticut party leader and remains a registered Green. He is also Senator Joe Lieberman's brother-in-law.

Early life

Bert Garskof was a Democrat until 1964, his "trust in the party shattered by the Vietnam War". As a child in Manhattan and later in Queens, he had worshiped Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was inaugurated the year he was born. Political talk in his family often focused on the revolution in Russia, their native land; his grandfather, a carpenter, instilled in him a hatred of the Bolsheviks and a distaste for authoritarian rule[1].

Activism

As a young professor at Michigan State University, Garskof became involved in antiwar efforts and helped run insurgent political campaigns. In 1968, he ran for Congress on a peace platform and lost. He was fired. He moved to Quinnipiac in 1971[2].

Weathermen Flint "War Council"

December 27-31, 1969, about 400 of the national membership of the Weatherman faction of Students for a Democratic Society held a “War Council” at a ballroom dancehall in Flint, Michigan. Posters of a giant cardboard machinegun, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevera, and Fidel Castro hung everywhere.

Among the attendees of the “War Council in Flint" identified by the Flint police department and/or its informant were: Michael Avey, Karen Ashley, Bill Ayers, Edward Benedict, Margaret Bennett, Douglas Bernhardt, Jeff Blum, Harvey Blume, David Chase, Peter Clapp, Judy Clark, Bernardine Dohrn, Diane Donghi, Linda Evans, Brian Flannigan, David Flatley, John Fuerst, Lynn Ray Garvin, Bert Garskof, Michele Garskof, Mark Glasser, Theodore Gold, Lenny Handlesman, Ann Hathaway, Karen Hardiman, Daniel Hardy, Tom Hayden, Phoebe Hirsch, Arthur Hochberg, Anne Hodges, John J. J. Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Sam Karp, David Klafter, Dianne Kohn, Peter Kuttner, Bradford Lang, Stephen Lang, Karen Latimer, Jonathan Lerner, Naomi Lev, Bradford Long, Allan Maki, Eric Mann, Howard Machtinger, Carol McDermott, L.R. Meadows, Lisa Meisel, Jeff Melish, James Mellen, David Millstone, Russell Neufeld, Diana Oughton, John Pilkington, Edward Purtz, Jonah Raskin, Natalie Rosenstein, Dennis Roskamp, Mark Rudd, Karen Selin, Mark Shapiro, Janet Snider, Mike Spiegel, Jane Spiegelman, Marsha Steinberg, David Sole, Susan Stern, Clayton Van Lydegraf, Cathy Wilkerson and Mary Wozniak[3].

Marriage to a Lieberman

In 1987, he met Ellen Lieberman, a divorced teacher whose brother was the state attorney general at the time; they married in 1989. Together, they formed Dandelion Productions, a theater company that sends troupes across the country, mostly for school-age audiences.

Green Party

In 1995, Bert Garskof became involved in the Connecticut Green Party USA. He helped form the Association of Independent State Green Parties, with groups in 11 states. Back in Connecticut, he led the petition drive to put Ralph Nader on the ballot in 1996[4].

That seemed to me to be in this era better than spray painting, better than putting up posters at night doing guerrilla theater, all the things we used to do.

Campaigning for the Democrats

Garskof campaigned for the Democrats in 2000, including helping organize a last-ditch Greens-for-Gore effort[5].

But now he believes the more effective strategy would be to create a green coalition under the Democratic umbrella. I think the Greens blew it with this election, he said.

On election night, he and his wife were in Nashville at a Gore-Lieberman family dinner, watching the returns show Mr. Nader as a potential spoiler in several crucial states[6]. Enough people knew my history to remind me of it, he says, wincing. 'Look at what your old friend is doing.' '

Statement of Solidarity with Pace SDS

Five Students for a Democratic Society New York members were arrested at Pace University, New York, on Wednesday, November 15, 2006, during a “free expression” protest.

Movement for a Democratic Society issued a support statement;

We the undersigned officers and members of Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS), denounce the actions of Pace University in regards to the planned arrest of several SDS first amendment activists on November 15, 2006 at the downtown campus. The targeting of these activists for their efforts to organize an SDS chapter at Pace is reprehensible. President David A. Caputo and the Pace administration have violated the civil rights of the student population and we join with SDS Pace in calling for David Caputo to step down now.

Endorsers of the statement included Bert Garskof of Movement for a Democratic Society, Connecticut.[7].

SDS re-union

Bert Garskov at the MSU SDS re-union November 2007
2077758178 a2355eb475.jpg

Former members of Michigan State University Students for a Democratic Society, present day members of Movement for a Democratic Society and organizers from Ignite, the recently formed MSU SDS chapter all came together for a counter-recruitment protest and later, a moving MSU SDS reunion on Friday, November 30, 2007, in East Lansing[8].

A demo outside a Marine Corps recruiting center, on busy Grand River Avenue, opposite the MSU campus, was abbreviated due to the frigid temperatures. But later in the day, an SDS reunion held in MSU’s South Kedzie Hall, "warmed hearts and fired up the activists – young and old". Bob Meola, an MSU SDS alumnus, emceed the affair which featured speeches by Cole Smith of Ignite, Al Haber, Bernardine Dohrn Bill Ayers and the "man of the hour" – Bert Garskof who had been the faculty advisor to the original MSU SDS chapter. Garskof, fired by MSU for his "devotion to his students and the Movement", was described by Ayers as “a mentor, an inspiration”.

MDS board

Original members of the 2006 Movement for a Democratic Society board included[9];

Elliott Adams, Senia Barragan (Student Representative), David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky, Carl Davidson, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Fletcher Jr, Bert Garskof, David Graeber, Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Mike James, Robin D G Kelley, Mike Klonsky, Ethelbert Miller, Charlene Mitchell, Michael Rossman, Mark Rudd, Howard Zinn.

On February 17, 2007, the Movement for a Democratic Society held a well attended conferenceat New York City’s New School University[10].

The event was held in the Graduate Center, 65 Fifth Avenue, and about 100 participants were in attendance. The meeting featured several speakers who are well known figures on the U.S. Left and an agenda that centered around electing a board of directors for MDS, Incorporated – the non-profit arm of MDS that was founded last August in Chicago, at the national Students for a Democratic Society convention.

Manning Marable was elected as Chair of the new Board.

The new board, elected by acclamation, included: Mark Rudd, David Graeber, Judith Malina, Jesse Zearle, Kate Khatib, Roderick Long, Al Haber, Manning Marable, Muhammed Ahmad, Charlene Mitchell, Starhawk, John O’Brien, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gideon Oliver, Jeff Jones and Bert Garskof.

Elected as officers, in addition to Marable as Chair, were three Vice Chairs: Paul Buhle, Judith Malina and Jesse Zearle[11]

Defending Bill Ayers

In October 2008, Garskof posted a defense of Bill Ayers in the comments section of a New Zeal blog post[12].

Senator McCain suffers from a convenient historic amnesia as he carps about Bill Ayers. Nothing that supposed urban terrorist Bill Ayers said or did could compare to the mass destruction, the death and tragedy brought to the Vietnamese by McCain and the armed forces he blindly served. Better patriots than he saw the war on Vietnam for what it was – mass murder from the air and on the ground. Murder most foully unjustified. Justified not by international law, nor the U.S. Constitution, nor the Charter of the United Nations.
Nor were our chances of winning the war supported by the long history of the conflict, or by the wishes of the masses of Vietnamese people. In fact, President Eisenhower said that if we allowed an election (something we never did) in Vietnam, 90% of the people would elect Ho Chi Min, the man at the head of the forces opposing us. Nor was the war supported by the American people as a whole. Most of us were horrified at the deadly force and murderous weapons of mass destruction brought down on the Vietnamese.
From high altitude bombing to napalm to rapid firing multiple barrel machine guns, our air and ground forces killed an estimated 2 million people. We actually rained down more bombs on the small country of Vietnam than were dropped by all participants in World War II on the whole planet. Nor was it, by the end, supported by many of the young men and women serving in that un-winnable and morally untenable war. Many service men refused to fight the Vietnamese. Many young men fought the draft, fought the intrusion of ROTC on campuses. Pilots refused to take part in this immoral action. One was a friend of mine, Captain Dale Noyd, who was Court Martialed. Were Dale, now deceased several years, to come back and run for president and were he to point to his war record, I would say here is a man who could serve the country as he did during the Vietnam War.
Whereas, Senator McCain represents today, all that was sordid and cowardly in those years. He reaps no glory for, nor brings any moral rectitude to his campaign because of his years flying high tech missions over Vietnam. His actions then against the Vietnamese, as his rah-rah support of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan now condemn him, most profoundly condemn him.
Bert Garskof

Supporting Obama

On March 2008 Bert Garskof contributed this comment to a The Nation article on Progressives for Obama[13];

I agree that we people to the left of the Democratic Party should join the Obama campaign. We need to do the hard work of electoral organizing alongside the thousands of volunteers who have created the Obama movement. I think that we should, along with jumping into the work of the electoral campaign, argue that the Obama volunteers could become the base of a mass ongoing movement that lives on after Obama wins, a movement that would be in place to give the Obama Administration direct, on-going, immediate information from the base up and hear what Obama thinks from the Government down. We can try to create such grassroots advisory committees in every district. Even if we cannot make these ideas realities everywhere or even anywhere, raising the ideas is a good thing. And in some places we may be able to do it. Every town, or ward or even neighborhood that succeeds in creating a post-election advisory committee would be a great lesson, a great guide for others to build more participatory democracy.

References