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August 11, 1971 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1971-08-11

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WR : Gonfronting the power elite

By ROSE SUE BERSTEIN
PROVIDENCE,R.L
"IF ALL THOSE ELITIST guys
saw what was going on today,
they would turn over in their
graves,' journalist Gloria Stein-
em remarked at last month's
National Welfare Rights Or-
ganization (NWRO) convention,
as she glanced at the austere
portrait gallery that bedecks
Brown University's Sayles Hall.
And Steinem's comment could
well be taken to describe the
mood of the entire convention.
Throughout the five days of dis-
cussion and planning, there was
a sense of confronting the power
elite. The means, however,
would be such traditional tactics
as legislative reform and lob-
bying, although more militancy
was recommended by many con-
ference participants.
The constituencies represented
at this convention were no dif-
ferent, except in proportion, from
those at any other gathering of
the politically and economically
disaffected and disadvantaged.
Well over half the delegates were
women, and they were predomi-
nantly black women. But also
among the many friends and ob-
servers were middle class stu-
dents, young, non-student ac-
tivists, and a smattering of poor
workers, white and black.
THE RHETORIC at times was
heavy, but the delegates cut
through it easily. Every an-
nounced presidential aspirant
was invited to the gathering, but
only Sen. George McGovern (D-
SD) accepted NWRO's offer -

ously. He spoke of infusing joy
and God into the nation's body
politic and of abolishing money
as a form of exchange.
THE PLANS FOR FALL ac-
tions under NWRO's aegis repre-
sent the first political actions
scheduled since the Mayday
demonstrations. It now appears
that any fall actions will focus
on fighting the Nixon adminis-
tration's proposed Family As-
sistance Program (FAP), with a
longer view ahead to the na-
tional elections next year.
The People's Coalition for
Peace and Justice (PCPJ), one
of the sponsors of the May
demonstrations, has announced
its intention to support NWRO's
fight against FAP. PCPJ leaders
Rennie Davis and Dave Dellinger
led workshops which devised
NWRO's fall plans.
These strategy planning ses-
sione were closed to the press,
but, at press conferences after-
ward, the PCPJ leaders were
willing to discuss their plans
somewhat openly.
THE FALL ACTIONS, which
are expected to draw upon a
unified coalition for participants,
include a nationwide moratorium
on "business as usual," set for
Oct. 13, and a "Return to Wash-
ington" for planned civil dis-
obedience similar to that of the
Mayday actions on Veteran's
Day, Oct. 25. The Veteran's Day
protest will be led by Vietnam
veterans.
In addition, NWRO has an-
nounced it will sponsor a "bed-

fare mother declared that wel-
fare recipients must be the most
patriotic Americans, because
they "help maintain the five per
cent unemployment level which
President Nixon says we need to
insure the value of the dollar."
And Georgia Democratic legis-
lator Julian Bond responded to
Vice President Spiro Agnew's re-
cent praise of black leadership
in Africa by offering to consider
Agnew as a white settler and
mau-mau him.
NWRO OPPOSES the Nixon
plan on several grounds, and has
received support in its opposi-
tion from many quarters, includ-
ing presidential hopeful McGov-
ern, and Reps. Bella Abzug (D-
NY) and Ronald Dellums (D-
Calif.), both freshmen - and
left liberal - legislators. There
is, obviously, still a long way to
go in gathering support. .
FAP would provide a guaran-
teed annual income of $2400 for
a family of four, which is less
than the present allowance in 46
states. In addition, it contains a
"forced - work" provision and
does not provide any plan for
child care.
NWRO supports a $6500 annual
income for a family of four, and
a bill guaranteeing this mini-
mum has been introduced in the
House by its liberal bloc.
In his speech to the conven-
tion,' McGovern announced his
support for the House bill and
pledged to press it in the Sen-
ate. According to the U.S. De-
partment of Labor's guidelines,
$6500 is the minimum income
needed for basic necessities of a
family of four.
WITH FAP as a political focal
point around which to draw op-
position to the war, the Nixon
administration, and the military-
industrial complex this fall, the
so-called movement will appar-
ently coalesce once again, as has
happened previously. It is an
ironic tribute to the effectiveness
of action rather than rhetoric
that political groups which fail
to agree on ideological differen-
ces can come together to act to-
wards specific goals and then
separate.
It was clear that there was
dissension among the confer-
ence participants as to goals and
tactics as well as to their feel-
ings about the group itself. At a
women's rap, several hundred
women hurled charges at each
other.
Many middle-aged black wom-
en accused the women's libera-
tion movement of insensitivity
and lack of understanding, charg-
ing its proponents with "getting
uptight only because their poc-
ketbooks are only now being hurt
by oppression."

THE WELFARE RIGHTS movement began amorphously, with
scattered local actions, but is now attempting to .build a strong
national organization.

420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in all reprints.
Wednesday,_August 1 1, 1971 News Phone: 764-0552
NIGHT EDITOR: ALAN LENHOFF

TO THIS CHARGE, Steinem, a
women's movement leader, re-
plied, "We work into the stereo-
types of each other. We've got to
go beyond that; we've got to see
where we meet." A delegate
from Connecticut, Trina Leal
Walker, calmed the group by
urging all women to "take over
the country."
"We don't understand each
other," she said, looking about
her, "but we have to unite."
But, at a continuation of the
women's rap, one of its leaders
admitted that she considered
NWRO to be a male-dominated
organization of women. The prob-
lems of unity are ,complex, as
poor women resent those who
have always had more than
them, and more militant women
distrust those who are still hesi-
tant to take strong action.
The workshops which did not
deal with planning fall strategy
against FAP considered such
topics as "Press Relations," "Or-
ganizing Blue Collar Workers,"
"Movement Mu ic," "Educa-.
tion," and "Military Resistance."
THE RESISTANCE workshop
was led by David Harris, pacifist
and anti-war activist, and Al
Hubbard of Vietnam Veterans
Against the War. This workshop
was attended primarily by non-
w e 1 f a r e recipients, including
many women. Hubbard pointed
out that many black draftees
have no choice but to join the
military because their families

need the supplementary income,
whereas less needy men are free
to resist the draft. As a result,
Hubbard said, resistance from
within the military must be
stressed.
Harris advised on draft resist-
ance as well as specific areas of
resistance from within, such as
organizing enlisted men to con-
sider and vote on certain pro-
grams which they will then
conduct by themselves.
The workshops on blue collar
workers attracted few partici-
pants, leaving the NWRO lead-
ership concerned about building
strength in that area, since they
readily admit that it is the low-
er income workers who fear wel-
fare recipients the most.
MANY SPEAKERS, including
Dellums and Abzug, spoke about
the lower-level w a g e earners,
citing them as potential allies
in the fight against FAP, while
recognizing that these workers
now oppose the $6500 guaran-
teed income because it is so
close to what they themselves
earn through "drudgery."
After five days of workshops
and speeches and small group
discussions, the convention goers
left the ivy-covered building and
glared a final glance at the elite
old gentlemen who adorn the
walls of Brown University.
NWRO had devised a pro-
gram, and its ranks were some-
what more united than they had
been before. But there is still a
long way to go.

showing how far the movement
must go to become important in
the eyes of those who hold real
power.
Later, scheduled speaker Rep.
Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) an-
nounced that she was considering
running as a symbolic candidate
for President, and the Rev. Clen-
non King of Albany, Ga., inter-
rupted McGovern's speech, de-
claring that he too was a presi-
dential candidate.
King was later granted per-
mission to address the gathering,
but it does not appear likely he
will pursue his candidacy seri-

pan and mop" demonstration in
Washington sometime in Novem-
ber in protest of FAP's "forced
work" provision for welfare re-
cipients. The march will un-
doubtedly add a touch of humor
to a movement which sorely
needs it. The action is meant as
a retort to President Nixon's as-
sertion that emptying bedpans
and performing other similar
functions is as dignified is being
President of the United States.
Acerbic remarks aimed at the
Nixon administration punctuated
the convention with a sharp
flavor. At one workshop, a wel-

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