Carl Oglesby


Carl Oglesby

Carl Oglesby is a writer, academic, and political activist. He was the President of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during the term 1965-1966. Unlike some of his colleagues, he maintains a strong opposition to socialism, and has espoused libertarian beliefs. He once unsuccessfully proposed cooperation between SDS and the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom on some projects. [Kauffman, Bill. [http://www.reason.com/news/show/124941.html Writer on the Storm] . "Reason". April 2008. accessed on 2008-09-10.]

Biography

Early years

Carl Oglesby's father was from South Carolina, and his mother from Alabama. They met in Akron, Ohio, where Carl's father worked in the rubber mills. Carl progressed through the Akron Public School System, even winning a prize in his final year for a speech in favor of America's Cold War stance. He went to Kent State University; but dropped out in his third year to try to make his way as an actor and playwright in Greenwich Village, a bohemian area of New York. After a year, he returned to Kent State and graduated, writing three plays and an unfinished novel. He worked at odd jobs until, around 1960, he came to Michigan.

Contact with SDS

He first came into contact with members of SDS in Michigan in 1964. At the time he was thirty years old and had a young family (a wife and three children). He was a technical writer for the Systems Division of Bendix (a defense contractor); at the same time trying to get a part time degree from the University of Michigan. He wrote a critical article on American foreign policy in the Far East in the campus magazine. SDSers read it, and went to meet Carl at his family home to see if he might become a supporter of the SDS. As Oglebsy put it, 'We talked. I got to thinking about things. As a writer, I needed a mode of action [...] I was that people were already moving, so I joined up.' He became a full time Research, Information, Publications (RIP) worker for SDS.

He became so impressed by the spirit and intellectual strength of the SDS that he rapidly became deeply involved in the organization, becoming its President within a year. Carl's first project was to be a 'grass-roots theatre', but that project was soon superseded by the opposition to escalating American activity in Vietnam; he helped organize a teach-in in Michigan, and to build for the massive SDS peace march in Washington on 1965-04-17. The National Council meeting after was Oglesby's first national SDS meeting. He records: 'A fantastic experience. For three days there was debate on various subjects, and I was absolutely convinced by every speaker. One would get up and defend a point and I would be convinced. Then another guy would get up and refute the point so well I thought "he" was right. One after the other they got better and smarter. It was the first time I'd seen a debate when it wasn't an ego game. They were really beautiful people. Students! I had no idea until then that young people - anyone - could think so well.'

On 1965-11-27, Oglesby gave a speech before tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators in Washington, which became one of the most important documents to come out of the anti-war movement. According to Kirkpatrick Sale: "It was a devastating performance: skilled, moderate, learned, and compassionate, but uncompromising, angry, radical, and above all persuasive. It drew the only standing ovation of the afternoon... for years afterward it would continue to be one of the most popular items of SDS literature."

Later years

After the collapse of SDS in the summer of 1969 Carl became a writer, a musician and an academic. Oglesby wrote several books on the JFK assassination, and the various competing theories that attempt to explain it. He is skeptical of the 'lone gunman' theory. He also recorded two albums, roughly in the folk-rock genre. He taught Politics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College. Oglesby attended the April 2006 North-Eastern Regional Conference of the 'new SDS', and gave a speech. A video of part of the speech can be viewed [http://antiauthoritarian.net/NLN/photo-gallery/2006_ne_regional/video/03_carl_oglesby.mov here] , and general documents relating to the convention - including several accounts of Oglesby's speech - can be seen [http://www.nextleftnotes.net/photo-gallery/2006_ne_regional/ here] . He currently resides in Amherst, Massachusetts.

References

* Sale, Kirkpatrick. 'SDS: Ten Years Towards a Revolution' New York: Vintage Books (1974) ISBN 0-394-71965-4. It is available online [http://www.sunrisedancer.com/radicalreader/detail.asp?iArt=10&iType=36] See especially pages 194-199.
* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKoglesby.htm Short biography, with extracts from texts by and about Carl Oglesby] . Site information is in the context of a debate about the JFK assassination.
* [http://www.reason.com/news/show/124941.html "Writer of the Storm - Former New Left leader Carl Oglesby on the '60s, his old friend Hillary Clinton, and the dream of a left-libertarian alliance." April 2008. Bill Kauffman] .

Books by Carl Oglesby

*"Containment and Change," Macmillan (1969).
*"The Yankee and Cowboy War: Conspiracies from Dallas to Watergate" Sheed Andrews and McMeel (1976) ISBN 0-8362-0688-6.
*"Who Killed JFK?" (The Real Story Series) Odonian Press (1991) ISBN 1-878825-10-0.
*"The JFK Assassination : The Facts and Theories," Signet (1992) ISBN 0-451-17476-3.
*"Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960's Antiwar Movement" (2008) ISBN 1-4165-4736-3.

External links

* [http://www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org/documents/ Archive of SDS documents] , including two speeches by Carl Oglesby:
** [http://www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org/documents/oglesby_democracy.html Democracy is Nothing if Not Dangerous (speech)]
** [http://www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org/documents/oglesby_future.html Let Us Shape the Future (speech)]

Quotes

* "It isn't the rebels who cause the troubles of the world, it's the troubles that cause the rebels."
* "What gives you hope gives me bitterness - this balmy night, soft spring, sweet air. Life looks so little and death looks so big. You don't misunderstand me. What's worth working for is simply worth working for - on its own present terms, on the face value of what it is. I mean, I'm not in the movement like a businessman's in business, waiting for the payoff on the investment. The value of my commitment is not "pending" anything, the commitment isn't waiting to be ratified by success or refuted by failure. Life is better than death, one sides with life always... To the barricades!" Private note to Paul Booth in May 1965.


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