[sixties-l] Re. antiwar consciousness

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: 10/23/00

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    Paula's post raises, I think, an interesting phenomenon.  In all our diverse
    'readings' of the 1960s, we probably all fall prone to injecting a little of our
    own "consciousness-raising" --that is, some of us came to an appreciation of the
    appalling nature of the war early on, some brought a 'radical' consciousness to
    our early  appreciation of the war; others had to do a lot of
    consciousness-raising and self- (or peer, or other-) education over time.  These
    kind of perspectives often seem to get mixed up in various arguments about
    "correct" or "accurate" interpretations of the 60s, when the crucial point is
    that at different times and in different ways (from different sources) millions
    of people came to a more radical consciousness about the American war in Vietnam.
    In my 60s class, I hand out a chart of "5 Perspectives" on the war: ranging from
    (right to left) 3 Inside-the-system (and it's ideological framing of the war)
    views from 1) Hawk to 2) Technocratic Liberal (unreconstructed "limited war
    policy-makers") to 3) Dove (war's not working, etc.); to 2 "Outside-the-system"
    perspective which see the war fundamentally as an act of US aggression against a
    tiny nation seeking its independence from Western colonialism/imperialism: 4)
    "Moralistic liberals" who recoil in horror at the immorality of this act of
    aggression but attribute it causally / explain it to non-systemic forces, and 5)
    "Radicals" who similarly recoil in horror but attribute the war to (explain it in
    terms of) systemic forces, particularly imperialism and an economically-driven
    geo-strategic plan to maintain American hegemony and access to markets, raw
    materials, etc. (in a stable world order where there are no "successful
    demonstration" cases of independent development.
    In the class, I use myself as an example of someone who (coming from the place I
    did) started at #2, believing in very early 1965 that government 'experts'
    probably understoond SouthEast Asia a lot better than the few voices I saw being
    raised denouncing the war; moved quickly to #3 the dove view as I found out more
    about the war, paid closer attention to news (mainstream, still) accounts of the
    war, disbelieved the rhetoric of government officials, etc. (this occurred during
    the teach-in season in '65); then, paying more critical attention to the war,
    gleaning information from other non-mainstream sources (peers at Oberlin, stories
    back from the war, etc.) gradually over the next year moved to the "outside" view
    and saw the war as an act of American agggression.  It probably wasn't until I
    had done considerable retroactive/spective reading on the war and US foreign
    policy (a healthy dose of Noam CHomsky, for example), reinforced by the Central
    America fiascoes of the 80s, that I came to an informed and grounded radical
    perspective on the war.   Others moved at different paces for different reasons
    different lengths along that spectrum.  The kinds of information people were or
    weren't exposed to played, it seems to me, an awfully important role in that
    Ted Morgan
    PNFPNF@aol.com wrote:
    > Thanks for the Bruce Franklin piece.  I've only had time to read the first
    > half, but so far it seems the sort of accurate historical account of the
    > antiwar movement/s that should be a purpose of this list.   I did not know of
    > the 1946 action, and am glad to learn this.  So far, I've one disagreement,
    > though; in some ways in 1965 or so we were naive, but I'm not sure many
    > people organizing against the war believed the "government had [just]
    > blundered into the war".
    > Paula

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