I have no problem shaming sport utility vehicle owners as part of building the anti-war movement. ("Are SUVs the reason for Bush's Iraq war?" 1/31/03) SUV owners are not passive victims of the automobile and oil industries. Further, SUVs are not "working class" vehicles by and large, but status machines for the upper-income and ruling classes, who are hardly lacking in transportation options.
Is the US preparing to assault Iraq only to provide cheap fuel for wasteful SUV drivers in the US? Of course not. Clearly there are many economic and strategic interests in play. However, if hostility to pampered SUV-drivers attracts layers of activists to the anti-war cause, then great by me. Environmentally conscious SUV-haters (like non-smokers before them who took on the tobacco industry) are a large and growing constituency who should be welcomed into the movement for peace and social justice.
San Francisco, CA
P.S. What's up with the "more" in the "No More Blood for Oil" slogan?!? (I bought and carried one of these signs in SF, by the way.) Like the blood spilt to date for oil acquisition is acceptable somehow?
Alternative URL for Gasper article: http://www.counterpunch.org/gasper01312003.html
Response printed in Socialist Worker:
Paul Dorn's responses in BOLD
Not all SUV drivers are rich fat cats
Dear Socialist Worker,
In response to Paul Dorn's assertion that working-class people don't drive SUVs (SW, February 21), I have to say that anyone who thinks that doesn't spend enough time around working-class people. (Nonsense! How insulting is it to have an Ivy League-educated socialist question my--my!--working class bona fides?!? (FYI: Indigenous prole, former Teamster, former steward for OPEIU, former SEIU member, current UPTE-CWA member.) Where does this poser comrade get off with this garbage?!? Beyond insulting--which I can endure with my thick hide--this is tail-ism at its worst. "Lots of working class people smoke, hence the ISO endorses smoking.")
The cars parked at both the staff and student lots at the community college where I teach include many SUVs. The same is true at the city hospital where I sell SW. (The comrade has eyes; she can see. It's a capacity for effective analysis that she lacks. This seems like an awfully large generalization to make from a very small sample. And she bases this assertion on an observation at a parking lot...what does she expect to see at a parking lot? Wouldn't a broader survey of transportation choice have been more effective; perhaps the comrade might learn that a large portion of the working class and lumpens can't afford any motor vehicle, period. Did she check out the closest bus stop to see if any "working class" people might be lurking nearby? Further, proles who overextend their credit to buy SUVs do so because they identify with and want to emulate the bourgeoisie; not likely recruits to radical politics. Ridiculous.)
I also feel that being anti-SUV is just the leading edge of an anti-car position that tends to disapprove of all the cars that working-class people drive--older model American cars, pickups, muscle cars--that are just as gas-guzzling as SUVs, and just as vital to getting people to work on time. (The comrade has feelings, wonderful. "Anti-Car?" How about "Pro-Bike, Pro-Walking, Pro-Clean Air, Pro-Transportation Choices"? "Vital to getting people to work on time"?!? Huh? That's the ISO priority? Not enhancing people's life by offering viable transportation options so people spend less time stuck in traffic, less time breathing exhaust fumes, and less time working to make the car payments? The government--always subservient to the GM-Exxon highway lobby--heavily subsidizes driving while starving transit, pedestrian facilities, bike infrastructure, urban preservation, and environmental protection. And the ISO defends this priority?!? "Vital"?!? That's truly laughable, as anyone stuck in commute traffic would know, or anyone who has been in Europe or Japan, societies with real transportation options, would know. If the auto-dependent transportation system worked so well, how would one explain the growing resistance to it? See my article "Pedaling to Save the City")
Not everybody lives in a place where it is practical or safe to commute by bicycle or public transportation. (Exactly. And this might have been an appropriate point for the comrade--had she known something about historical materialism--to suggest the need for radical transportation, housing, and land use reform, and made some overture to those people demanding such. Had she been better informed, that is. The GM-Exxon highway lobby wants workers trapped in cars without other options, the ISO wants people trapped in cars without other options. Stupid.)
Many San Francisco workers commute from as far away as Vallejo--a two-hour commute--and if they want to drive an SUV, more power to them. (The ISO endorses the diversion of working class income to automaker's profits, and away from housing, healthcare, food, education and other needs?!? This also seems like an endorsement of an individual consumer choice, rather than a call for social reform--oh, say, like affordable housing so commute distances aren't so heinous, or faster ferries, or better rail, or... This comrade knows nothing about transportation except they she prefers driving.)
Elizabeth Terzakis, San Francisco
P.S. I drive a fuel efficient Saturn that gets great mileage, because it's made out of plastic and will shatter like a wine glass on impact.(If Comrade Terzakis is concerned about traffic safety--as she should be--she shouldn't drive. Simple as that. If she lives in San Francisco, why does she need a car, and all its abundant associated hassles, anyway? Sounds like she's leaning toward purchasing an SUV. I wonder if she'll still be able to afford ISO dues?)
Actually, I thought Phil Gasper's original article on SUVs was actually fairly well-rendered, well-argued, well-reasoned--I even directed some of my more quote-unquote "moralistic" bike comrades to it on the web. But this amateur and buffonish "response" is one of the stupidest things Socialist Worker has ever published. It's unworthy of the International Socialist tradition--or for that matter the Marxist tradition--which I was helping to build when this comrade was still in junior high. I've forgotten more about Marxism than Comrade Terzakis will ever know. Sad.
The ISO obviously needs some enlightenment on transportation issues. Sooner or later they'll have to relate in a serious way to the livable cities movement.
Related Article by Paul Dorn:
Class and Traffic