Re: AntiDraft Policy - a failed standard of the Sixties

Wed, 28 Aug 1996 08:18:55 -0400

Rich Cowan suggests
>The fact that the antiwar movement lost so much strength when
>Nixon announced the end of the draft points to some major
>weaknesses in the movement itself.
>I'd like some feedback on this proposition, but it seems
>that the movement itself suffered from a lack of coordination;
>it was structured to short-term national responses but not
>really ready to build long-term infrastructure, except maybe
>through local community projects. Some trends...

I think there's SOMETHING to this, but I don't think the central thesis is
accurate. The antiwar movement didn't rely on the existence of the draft by
1969, and the groups and events you mention, Rich, (SDS, New Liberation
News, women's liberation split-offs, students getting the vote, organizations
of PIRGS) were, in my view largely irrelevant to the antiwar movements --which
was much more focused coalition-type organizations like the various
Mobilizations, the Moratorium, the VVAW, etc. SDS was virtually completely
irrelevant to the antiwar movement by 1969 (if not long before).

So what DID happen? Did the antiwar movement in fact "lose so much strength"
in 1969 and afterwards --how then explain the huge moratorium demonstrations
of Oct & Nov 1969, the massive D.C. demonstrations in 79 and 71; the MayDay
demonstration, the Vets at the Capitol Steps, etc. What exactly DID go out of
the movement in 1969 (I would suggest that one thing that did largely
evaporate from the movement was the belief that electoral politics were a
route to end the war --after Chicago in 1968.).
So, this lends caution to your hypothesis:
>If national coordination could have been maintained through stronger
>national organizations, would the dropoff in energy have been so
Again, what there a "severe dropoff in energy?" National coordination was
ALWAYS problematic in a movement that spanned from religio-moral pacifists to
Democratic party liberals to the Resistance to the SWP to various militant
obstructionists to anarchists to Marxian anti-imperialists, etc. I just am
skeptical about the starting point of your argument, Rich, --the dramatic
CHANGE that occurred at some point like 1969. I don't dispute the fact that
there were alot of huge obstacles facing the movement, including its own
internal dynamics. Then again, what was the objective: ending the war (and
how to do this??!!), or changing the system that produced and accommodated
itself to the war. Most people I know just did their bit the best ways they
knew how in arenas they had access to.
On the issue of centralized coordination, there's a good critique of the
"prevailing SDS" reflective history in Wini Breines' Community & Organization
in the New Left.

Ted Morgan