Re: Re: Antiwar Movement & Civil Rights Movement

Thu, 18 Apr 1996 10:50:42 -0400

In response to David Hostetter: I agree with you and Paula about the
connections between civil rights and antiwar movements (in part, via the
student movement), I think there is a contradiction in your other point about
civil rights posing a "more fundamental" challenge to "the status quo" thereby
"still resonating with the vast majority" more than the antiwar movement.

I would argue that it's precisely BECAUSE the civil rights movement posed a
LESS fundamental challenge to deep-seated structural and ideological aspects
of American culture that it resonates more with the vast majority. I mean
even right wingers who bash the 60s take great pains to disassociate the civil
rights movement from the hated "60s." With hindsight, the primary principles
and goals of the civil rights movement are right in the center of the American
mainstream; no one can deny them except resentful racists. I think you
acknowledge this.

However, this is not true of the more radical tenets of the black movement
(its critique of capitalism, its assertion of community-based power) nor of
the more radical tenets of the antiwar movement (not only that the war was
immoral, but that it was a compatible outgrowth of an imperial American
foreign policy). With one exception these don't resonate with the vast
majority of Americans, but lie outside the mainstream. The exception --an
intriguing one-- is that the vast majority of Americans have for years viewed
the Vietnam war as "fundamentally wrong and immoral" --essentially the view of
the antiwar movement, but a view that is virtually INvisible in the columns of
the New York Times, halls of Congress, tv networks, or, for that matter, the
rhetoric of that famous "antiwar activist" (more media hype) Bill Clinton.
Why? Well, in part, it is a view that is fundamentally incompatible with
American foreign policy and imperialism. Civil rights are not. Still, the
antiwar residue has had a profound impact on American policy, at least in the
sense of restraining that policy from its more overt militarism (through the
80s anyway). It has resonated profoundly, and the Gulf War IS very crucial
here. Prior to January 16 and the first air strikes, the American public was
equally divided on support for going to war --i.e., roughly half opposed
this, a direct residue, I would argue of Vietnam. And the incredible Vietnam
propaganda exploited by the Bush administration, the enormous pains to keep
the American public from the truth about the Gulf war (itself a residue of
years of media bashing), the media's complicity in this propaganda, and the
almost completely sanitized war --all reflect the Vietnam legacy. The danger
is that this Gulf war experience, as the formative experience for millions of
Americans, replaces the Vietnam legacy (and reshaped the Vietnam history) so
that, not surprisingly the percentage of Americans who in 1994 viewed the
Vietnam war as "fundamentally wrong and immoral" dropped considerably from its
69-72% plateau of the previous 20 years.
Remember, it was George Bush who said in his inaugural address, "The final
lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a

Ted Morgan