Throughout the history of the United States, there has been conflict between established order and the general public. Even the very conception of an independent union of states separate from the British crown was an act of rebellion. The story of David Gilbert is one of many such struggles for progress. Landmark events in our history such as the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and more recently the fight for gay and lesbian rights, have all contributed to the strength of our democracy, improved civil liberties and fundamental rights for citizens. Argued in this vein, the radical political confrontation carried out by people such as David Gilbert is not as villainous as it is made out to be.
One might take issue with some of the tactics employed by David Gilbert and his associates in their efforts to fund their organization and to carry forward their political agenda. But the motivating principles behind their acts of protest and subversion are not unreasonable. For example, Gilbert, who came to prominence during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, condemns the corporate-government nexus (or the military-industrial complex) that has led the country to unnecessary foreign interventions such as Vietnam and Nicaragua. He rightly argues that these massive military expenditures for vague and unreal causes could be better utilized for lifting the standard of living of majority of citizens. This criticism is as relevant today as it ever was, as the nation presently grapples with the Iraq quagmire. It should be noted that when the decision to invade Iraq was announced in 2003, there was widespread public resentment. Hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets in protest. Of course, the mainstream media, which is owned and managed by a handful of corporate elite, did not report this. This unhealthy phenomenon of media concentration was also mentioned by David Gilbert during the course of his interview.
The failure of public demonstration and protest to prevent the Iraq War exposes the ineffectiveness of the general public when confronted with state and corporate power. When peaceful demonstrations cannot bring about democratic change then some activists turn to violence and armed conflict to bring about progress. Given the political circumstances under which David Gilbert was conducting his activist movement, it could be argued that he was pushed into adopting violent and forceful tactics only as a last resort. From a broader historical perspective, the process of democracy as we know it today was inspired by the French Revolution, which was one of the bloodiest conflicts between the royal establishment and the will of the people. This pattern of revolt and progress is seen throughout history. And the case of David Gilbert and the organizations that he was part of is another instance of this historical phenomenon.
Hence, in conclusion, it could be asserted that radical political confrontation goes hand in hand with progress; it also helps strengthen democracy. What civil liberties and rights that we have achieved so far were not given to us on a platter. To the contrary, these are hard fought victories for civil society. Whilst one can argue about the merits of particular tactics employed in the process, there is no ambiguity as to the role of radical political confrontation in strengthening our nation.
David Gilbert: A Lifetime of Struggle, retrieved from <http://assets.soomo.org/video/gilbert_01.flv> on 11th December, 2009.