Former student leader Mark Rudd Sunday called for a revival of political organizing on the left.
“Probably everyone here calls themselves organizers,” Rudd told a large group of mostly middle-aged activists in Washoe Valley. “Kids today call themselves activists.”Rudd spoke at a memorial gathering for Nevada women’s rights leader Maya Miller, who was targeted by the Nixon administration for reprisal for her political views and later became a feminist lobbyist in Washington and a human rights worker in South America. Miller died May 31.
Rudd, a leader of the 1968 Columbia University protests to stop university construction of a gymnasium in a low-income neighborhood, and who now teaches mathematics at Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, said a rich history of organizing has been interrupted. He said antiwar activists in the 1960s had civil rights organizing as a model, and civil rights activists had labor organizing as a model. But that tradition was broken, and today’s activists do not have such live examples to draw on.
Opposition to the war in Iraq has focused more on protests and demonstrations and less on such things as walking precincts or distribution of educational material. Nor has there been much effort to draw more mainstream community groups into the antiwar movement.
Rudd said Maya Miller was all about organizing.
“That’s what Maya was, in every cell of her being, she was an organizer. … Somebody today said she nurtured organizers.”
The memorial attracted participants from all over the hemisphere. Nevadans who marched with Miller in the famous March 6, 1971, welfare rights demonstration on the Las Vegas strip attended. A representative of an indigenous South American tribe spoke. Volunteers who came to Nevada for her 1974 U.S. Senate campaign were on hand. A group of children in an Ecuador village sent a blanket decorated with their handprints, a statement of Miller’s imprint on their lives. It also bore a saying in keeping with Rudd’s message—”Juntos somos más fuertes” (Together we are strong). Feminist leader Gloria Steinem also sent a message to the gathering:
“Maya was always the woman who was the head of the women and men who were ahead of their time.”