Students activism more important than ever

Greg Schwartz's view

Next week, I’ll present evidence indicating the likelihood that the massacre of May 4, 1970, was the result of a conspiracy between President Richard Nixon and Ohio Governor James Rhodes to try and stamp out student activism.

This week, I’d like to talk about why student activism is still so important. Most undergrads are fairly apathetic about socio-political matters. It’s not their fault — they justifiably want to have a good time before being forced to enlist in the rat-race. Students also are necessarily directed by society to be more concerned about future earning power than social justice. Our culture is to blame — young people are conditioned to feel they are too powerless to have an impact on the world.

But throughout history, this has proven false time and again. Activists have networked, gathered and triumphed over struggles to achieve social change. The anti-war movement in Kent at the dawn of the ‘70s is an example. After the shootings, millions of students protested across the nation. Many historians feel the Kent State tragedy was the catalyst that eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.

We’d all prefer to achieve positive change without having to suffer as martyrs. But when you have a repressive government that refuses reason, certain people become compelled to resist. From the American Revolution in 1776 to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, from the Kent State students in 1970 to Mexico’s anti-globalization Zapatista uprising in 1994 and the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, there comes a time when people can’t help but say, “enough is enough.”

The similarities between the Bush regime and the Nixon regime make 2005 appear as an eerie mirror of 1970. “They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers,” beckoned The Doors’ Jim Morrison back in the ‘60s. It was true then, and it’s true now — an idealistic soul can’t help but wonder what amazing changes will be possible when good people finally overcome their contrived differences to take the power back from the repressive corporate political slavemasters.

“The revolutionary spirit of 1776 … was alive and well at Kent State University in 1970 — and that same patriotic revolutionary spirit must remain alive here at Kent State in 2004, 2005 and beyond,” remarked Alan Canfora, who was wounded on campus in 1970, at last year’s May 4 commemoration. “As Thomas Jefferson observed, the abuse of political power must be opposed by those who truly cherish freedom and democracy.”

At the rate the Bush regime is abusing political power, student activism is more important than ever. The problem is most students don’t realize how much is at stake. I’m not suggesting we should be gratuitously seeking confrontations where we can get our skulls cracked in. But everyone needs to get brainstorming about how we, the people, can come together.

What if student groups like the Kent State Anti-War Committee, Kent State Anti-Racist Action, International Socialist Organization, Black United Students and others could join their numbers together under one banner? These progressive groups all have far more in common than they do in differences — they are all students for a democratic society. The possibilities of unity are intriguing. A nationwide network is already underway — see


Greg M. Schwartz is a graduate student in journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].