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Lessons of the 1960s Radicalization

[I wrote the following article in 1970. It was published as the introduction to the 1971 book, Towards An American Socialist Revolution: A Strategy for the 1970s, published by Pathfinder Press. The book has long been out of print.

I believe that this article captured our feeling at the time about the lessons of the 1960s radicalization and about the prospects it posed for the socialist movement in the United States. Although, in hindsight, one can easily point to miscalculations and overly optimistic expectations about the period, I believe that it still has value in attempting to incorporate some of the experience and lessons of the 1960s radicalization into the corpus of Marxism The ideas expressed here were not just my own, but represented the general thinking of the SWP at the time. – Gus Horowitz, 2012]

 

 

Not too many years ago, the prospect of an American revolution seemed realistic to only the most farsighted politicians. To most people, it appeared as if theUnited   Stateswere entering an era of unchallenged supremacy abroad and social tranquility at home, invulnerable to challenge, whether by foreign military power, international economic competition or social revolution. However volatile political life might be elsewhere, the United States, at least, seemed to have achieved domestic stability: the crisis of the depression years had been surmounted, and the economy was booming; the labor movement had been tamed; the radicalism of the 1930s had given way to the conservatism and complacency of the 1950s; and if the “silent generation” of American youth afforded a preview, this was to be the mass mood for years to come. Sure of its international power and of its dominance at home, the American ruling class looked to the future with unshakable confidence.

 

The magnitude of the remarkable changes that have occurred since then need hardly be described. The American ruling class, previously so self-assured, has been shaken by an unfavorable shift in world military and political alignments; by growing international economic competition and a recurring monetary crisis that threatens the post-World-War-II system of international trade and investment; and, most of all, by a worldwide revolutionary upsurge that has spread beyond the colonial revolution. What is more, the new generation of revolutionaries throughout the world includes a sizable American contingent. We are today just at the beginning of what is already the most thoroughgoing radicalization in American history.

 

The Black liberation movement, the antiwar movement, the student movement and the Chicano movement, more and more, have all grown into massive, independent movements of strug­gle. The women’s liberation movement, now only in the initial stages of development, is beginning to grow rapidly and has already had a deep impact. The mood of militancy, protest and struggle is taking root among Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and Asian-Americans. The radicalization is penetrating what would have seemed earlier the most unlikely areas. It has affected prisoners in the jails, GIs, welfare recipients, homo­sexuals. The churches, the professions, cultural, artistic and intellectual circles have each contributed their share of protest.

 

These new movements are all growing. Each affects, interacts with, cushions the difficulties of and spurs on the others. Furthermore, the widespread climate of protest and struggle insures that other movements will arise and take their part in the radicalization process too. The massive organized labor movement will be transformed and will play a political role that few in this generation have yet conceived. It is already clear that no sector of the population and no section of the country has been unaffected. There is no form of oppression, no reactionary prejudice, no outmoded social institution that is too deep-rooted, too venerable or awesome to be free from challenge. This challenge to all aspects of the existing social order is one of the best proofs of the thoroughgoing character of the current radicalization.

 

As a result, the prospect for revolutionary change in Amer­ica is gaining greater and greater credence. It is talked about by political pundits of every variety. The catchwords of revo­lution have become part of the language of our age.

 

But how can a real revolution — a social transformation that will truly overturn the established order, throw out the old ruling class and institute a new social system based on, controlled by and responsive to the human needs of the great majority of oppressed and exploited — actually occur in the United States? What kind of revolution must it be? Will it be a “classical” socialist revolution? These are questions of great concern to the current generation of radicals, and it is to them that this book is addressed.

 

The authors of this book are Marxists — revolutionary so­cialists active in the Socialist Workers Party. For them, a social­ist revolution in the United States is a realizable goal. Moreover, they put forward the thesis that the current radicaliza­tion in the United States-even though it will suffer temporary setbacks — will not be decisively reversed before the possibility of socialist revolution is posed in practical terms. Whether or not that possibility is realized will depend on the ability of a revolutionary socialist party to provide leadership based on a political strategy adequate to such an immense undertaking. The authors of this book are actively engaged in constructing just such a party. The revolutionary strategy they project for the 1970s derives from a Marxist analysis of the objec­tive roots and dynamics of the current radicalization. But anyone expecting to find here a stereotyped version of Marxism will be disappointed. This book offers a fresh and stimu­lating application of the Marxist method to the new and dif­ferent forms that the class struggle is taking in the United States today. The analysis and strategy presented here con­trast sharply with the shortsighted, pragmatic and eclectic ap­proach of some theorists of the New Left and with the dog­matic and stereotyped version of Marxism that is commonly associated with the “Old Left.”

 

During the 1960s many people in the radical movement made the error of considering Marxism a dogmatic schema foreign to the developing radicalization and even at odds with it The various political currents loosely defined as the New Left, and often incorrectly identified as the sole political rep­resentatives of the radicalization that began in the 1960s, re­jected Marxism (as they understood it).

 

There were two aspects to this attitude of the New Left. On the positive side, it signified a rejection of bureaucratic, con­servative and narrow-minded political tendencies in the “Old Left” The New Left, like most of the forces in the radicaliza­tion today, had a deep and justified distrust of the political policies and organizational methods of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and other groups that can properly be labeled Stalinist or Social Democratic. Most radicalizing young militants spurned these discredited tendencies because they were interested in a radicalism that was militant, independent and politically and intellectually honest

 

Because Stalinism and Social Democracy were the largest and best-known political tendencies in the radical movement during the preceding decades, and because they both professed to trace their origins to Marx and to the political struggles of the working class, the New Left incorrectly accepted them as the authentic representative of Marxism. This led to the negative side of the New Left approach. The failures and inadequacies of these two “Old Left” currents were seen as proof both of the dogmatic character of Marxism and of its inap­plicability to American conditions. So, along with the Stalinist and Social Democratic perversions of Marxism, the New Left rejected Marxism itself. It rejected the value of all previous experience acquired by the revolutionary movement, preferring to test what seemed to be new ideas and new organizational methods.

 

This was the approach of the major New Left organization, Students for a Democratic Society, and was to prove its un­doing. Young its most of it was, SDS proved incapable of appreciating and embracing new developments in the radical­ization that arose only a few years after it. SDS had been quickly raised high, but was just as quickly pushed down by changing political winds that it was unable to understand. Ironically but predictably, in rejecting the value of historical experience, SDS found itself unwittingly adopting many of the political policies and organizational methods that had been tried and found wanting in the earlier history of the radical movement — including policies and practices of the Stalinists and Social Democrats. This was not the least of the reasons for its rapid disintegration in the late 1960s.

 

The Communist Party, the dominant party claiming to represent socialism during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and thus the chief symbol of the “Old Left,” has likewise been ineffective in these years of rising radicalism, despite its initial advantage in numbers and resources relative to other forces in the radical movement. The Communist Party has failed to make significant gains, either in numerical growth or in political influence over the current radicalization. There have been two basic reasons for this failure.

 

First, and most important, has been a fundamental error in its political policy. Since the 1930s, the Communist Party has consistently attempted to get the mass movement to center its activity around the election of liberal capitalist politicians, primarily those in the Democratic Party. The bankruptcy of this policy was shown by the experience of the New Deal, which did not advance the radicalization of the 1930s, but retarded and blunted it. The then-influential Communist Party, with its pro-Democratic Party line, was a factor in diverting the mass radicalization of the 1930s into support of New Deal liberalism, where it eventually expired. The experience of the 1930s proved once again that it is a fatal course for radicals to work within the framework of the Democratic Party — and the reason is very simple. The Democratic Party is controlled not by those who vote for it but by a section of the ruling class. Con­sequently, political activity within or in support of the Democratic Party is severely circumscribed; it cannot go beyond the limits of procapitalist liberalism.

 

The corollary to the policy of tail-ending liberalism is the attempt to tone down the militancy and restrict the independence of the mass movement, a policy the Communist Party has long tried to implement. This conservative policy set it at odds with the militant and politically independent thrust of the new radicalization. For example, the Communist Party has felt uncomfortable with an antiwar movement whose principal ac­tivity is mass street demonstrations and whose principal de­mand is immediate and unconditional U.S. withdrawal from Indochina. It would have preferred a movement that spent most of its energies in election campaigns for Democratic Party “doves” and that raised less militant and more “realistic” demands, that is, demands acceptable to these capitalist politicians. The Communist Party rejects as divisive the growing nationalism of the Black and Chicano movements, which refuse to subordinate themselves to white liberals. It fears that the militancy and independence of the student and women’s liberation movements will go too far for the good of liberal politicians.

 

A second reason for the Communist Party’s failure to regain its powerful position on the left has been its inability to understand the new radicalization. It does indeed have a dogmatic and stereotyped view of Marxism and the radicalization process. The adherents of the Communist Party expected the new radicalization not only to be a repetition of the radicalization of the 1930s, but also a repetition as they understood it.

 

To them, this meant a massive labor upsurge through the union movement as the dominant feature, with all other mass movements tied and subordinate to it, and with the labor movement itself tied and subordinate to the Democratic Party. They have viewed the independent development of the women’s, student and antiwar movements, for example, as incidental to the “real” struggle of the working class that will come later, and only through the trade unions. They expect these new independent movements to fade into the background when the trade union radicalize. In short, the preconceived notions of the Communist Party have been alien to the basic thrust of the new radicalization and its growing effect on the American workers. As a result, the Communist Party has been unwilling and unable to participate fully in the new movements that have arisen and to develop an effective strategy for them.

 

The Socialist Party has been even less effective in the current radicalization. Whereas the Communist Party’s conservative brand of socialism flows ultimately from its subservience to the needs of the privileged bureaucratic layer in theSoviet Union, the Social Democrats follow the plodding footsteps of the privileged trade-union bureaucracy in theUnited States. Mired in cold-war ideology, deeply committed to the welfare of Democratic Party hacks, the position of the Socialist Party in practice has even been to the right of many liberals. The Social Democrats have bitterly opposed the new independent movements and have boycotted the radicalization. Not surprisingly, they have been completely rejected by the new radicals.

 

The authors of this book show how the Socialist Workers Party and the youth group in political solidarity with it, the Young Socialist Alliance, have been able to orient effectively to the new radicalization, avoiding both the shortsighted empiricism and eclecticism of the New Left and the sterile dogmatism of the Stalinists. There have been two main aspects to this revo­lutionary socialist approach. First has been the insistence on adhering to the central principles of Marxism, which are invaluable acquisitions tested through many years of experience in revolutionary struggle. Second has been the ability to act as revolutionists in the new situation. This has meant identify­ing with the new radicalization, participating in it, and applying the basic principles of revolutionary strategy within it. These were the prerequisites for learning from the new rad­icalization, refining and adding to the basic political strategy of the revolutionary socialist movement, and affecting the radicalization through participation in it on the basis of this strategy.

 

The Socialist Workers Party began by rejecting the perspective of permanent stability and invincibility for American capitalism. It saw in the very expansion of American capitalism after World War II the creation of conditions that would lead to a new revolutionary upsurge. This estimation reaffirmed Trotsky’s farsighted analysis of 1928: “… it is precisely the International strength of the United States and her irresistible expansion arising from it, that compels her to include the powder magazines of the whole world into the foundations of her structure, i.e., all the antagonisms between the East and the West, the class struggle in Old Europe, the uprisings of the colonial masses and all wars and revolutions. On the one hand, this transforms North American capitalism into the basic counter-revolutionary force of the modern epoch, constantly more interested in the maintenance of ‘order’ in every corner of the terrestrial globe; and on the other hand, this prepares the ground for a gigantic revolutionary explosion in this already dominant and still expanding world imperialist power.”*

 

The current radicalization has borne out this analysis, affording a striking illustration of the various ways in which the capitalist system, through its inability to achieve political, economic and social stability, and improvement in the quality of life, creates the conditions for and radicalizes the agents of its own destruction. The understanding of these long-term trends in the evolution of capitalism and the class struggle enabled the Socialist Workers Party to see beyond the temporary conditions of reaction in the 1950s and prepared it for a new upsurge of radicalism in the United States. And when this occurred, the Socialist Workers Party was able to see it, not as ephemeral, but as a development growing out of the very structure of American capitalism. This is one of the key factors indicating that the projection of a revolutionary strategy for the 1970s is politically realistic.

 

The Socialist Workers Party also reaffirmed the Marxist conception of class struggle and the central importance of the working class — Black, Chicano and white, women and men, young and old, in uniform and out — in a socialist revolution. It pointed to the prospect of a resurgence and transformation of the labor movement.

 

But this analysis had nothing in common with crude economic determinism, which can conceive of a radicalization de­veloping only as a result of a 1929-type economic depression and taking organizational form solely through the trade unions. Prior to its development, it was impossible to predict the spe­cific social, political and economic issues that would give rise to a new radicalization, the specific forms it would take and the tempo at which various sectors of the population, among them the labor movement, would be involved. Essential to its development would be the involvement of masses in struggle against the ruling class and organized independently of the bureaucratic formations in the workers movement and the capitalist political institutions.

 

In analyzing the new radicalization, the authors of this book show how it has confirmed the central propositions of Marxism. What we are seeing in theUnited   Statesis new, but not inexplicable. We are seeing the develop­ment of new methods of struggle against the capitalist class, new ways in which the capitalist system is being challenged, new aspects and new forms of the class struggle. The process is still far from reaching its full development, but it is lead­ing in the direction of deepening mass struggles of the oppressed and exploited and points toward a socialist alternative to the inhumanities of capitalism.

 

The issues raised in the current radicalization may not all be identical to the issues raised in the 1930s, but they go right to the heart of the key contradiction of capitalist society. This is the contradiction between: (1) increasing social and economic interrelationships, interaction and interdependence among peo­ple throughout the world, and a level of technology making it possible for the first time in history to satisfy the basic needs of all humanity; and (2) the continued existence in a whole series of nation-states of the capitalist system, in which a wealthy few personally own the commanding heights of the economy and who, from this position, are able to control all major decision-making — their own private gain rather than humanity’s needs being the guiding principle deciding the fate of the vast majority.

 

The current radicalization reflects the growing awareness of this antithesis. Increasing numbers of people see the gap between what can potentially be achieved, given the present cultural and technological level in the United States, and what is actually being achieved under the present system of social organization.

 

The mass movement against the Indochina war, an unpre­cedented development during a shooting war, is an illustration of this trend. There is questioning and rejection of the myriad social institutions and forms of ideological backwardness and prejudice serving to prop up an outmoded order. This is a fea­ture, to one degree or another, of the women’s liberation movement, the movements of oppressed nationalities, the student movement, the revolution in culture and many other aspects of the current radicalization. More and more people are becom­ing aware of what their real interests are; they are beginning to demand the right to decide major questions of social policy on the basis of their own human needs; and they are relying on their own independent strength and that of their potential allies in struggling against the capitalist class. These struggles are part of, forms of, or potentially allied to the general class struggle of the working masses against the capitalist system. The ability to see this feature of the current radicalization, to see it within the framework of basic Marxist concepts, and to orient to it on that basis demonstrates the richness and via­bility of the Marxist method.

 

The new movements highlight yet another fundamental aspect of the Marxist analysis, the law of uneven and combined devel­opment, and show that it is applicable to the United States. Social reality is complex and uneven. In the United States as elsewhere, there is no such thing as a theoretically “pure” form of capitalism, and thus no “pure” form of class struggle. Under capitalism, side by side with the exploitation of the working class there also exist new forms of long-known oppression, the reactionary institutional and ideological remnants of a precapitalist era; the oppression of women and nationalities, religious superstition, the persecution of homosexuals, reactionary social morality, restrictions on civil liberties and human rights are but a few examples. These have become instruments for upholding the present system and cannot be eliminated within its framework. As a result, the coming American revolution will have to accomplish an entire range of historically overdue democratic tasks, as well as socialist tasks, such as nationalization of industry under working-class control.

 

With this in mind, we see that movements such as the wo­men’s liberation movement, the struggles of oppressed national­ities for self-determination, the gay liberation movement, and the revolution in culture are a part of the general struggle against the outmoded capitalist system. The authors of this book show how the national question is so interwoven with the class struggle in the United States that the American revo­lution will actually be a combined revolution: a revolution by the oppressed nationalities for liberation and self-determination, combined with a revolution of the working class against the exploitation and alienation of capitalist relations. That is the only way in which capitalism can be overturned in the United States That is the only way the door can  be opened to the eradication of racism, sexism, exploitation, alienation and the warped human relations bred by capitalist society.

 

Thus these new movements are not unimportant or peripheral to the socialist revolution, but at the center of its advance. Furthermore, they have all developed independent of the ruling-class institutions, and they are free from domination by the Communist Party and the trade-union bureaucracy. The polit­ical thrust of their demands is directed against the ruling class and in the interests of the great mass of American workers. So, far from diminishing in importance as the labor movement itself radicalizes, these movements will grow and continue to be a key part of the general process leading to a socialist revolution. To think otherwise is to think that the radicalizing layers of the working class will be completely incapable of identifying with feminism, Black nationalism, gay liberation and progressive standards of social morality. If that ware the case, there would be no prospect of the working class identifying with the goals of a socialist revolution. To the contrary, the radicalization already involves large numbers of workers — as women, as GIs, as Blacks, as Chicanos, as gays, as youth, as antiwar activists — who will play a key role in the radicalization of the labor movement. This makes it all the more apparent that the radicalization of labor will necessarily in­clude support to the central demands of the sectors of the popu­lation already engaged in Independent struggle.

 

The new movements, the new forms of independent struggle, the new issues that are being raised, all give a preview of what some of the new characteristics of the more general work­ing-class radicalization will be. When large masses of workers radicalize, they not only will have to fight through the trade unions, and within the trade unions against the union bureau­cracy, but also will adopt new and different methods of strug­gle, including some learned from these other movements. In addition to struggling through the trade unions, the insurgent working class will also undoubtedly create organizational forms that are distinct from the official trade unions. It is pointless to try to predict exactly what will happen. What is essential is to realize that the existence of social forces already involved in independent struggle and the deepening of radical conscious­ness among large sectors of the population will have a major effect in impelling the working class as a whole onto the field of mass anticapitalist political action. When this occurs, the already powerful radicalization will take a giant leap forward.

 

In addition to the creative application of the Marxist method in analyzing the new forms of anticapitalist struggle that have arisen, the authors of this book show how the Socialist Workers Party has been able to translate theoretical appreciation of the new radicalization into action. It is only the combination of previously acquired theory with current application in action that enables a revolutionary organization to fully understand new developments, participate in them effectively, and work out a political strategy that can lead to a socialist revolution. The basic strategy put forward in this book is embodied in what is called a transitional program.

 

This program is totally different in conception from the ap­proach of reformists and ultralefts. Reformists look upon socialism as a far-distant goal, irrelevant to the practical struggles of the day — and thus justify limiting the scope and blunting the thrust of the mass movement. Ultralefts, substituting the actions and conceptions of a handful for the actions and aspirations of the masses, reject all practical struggles aimed at bettering the immediate conditions of life. The strategy of the transitional program, by contrast, begins on the basis of the present objective conditions and the present needs of the oppressed and exploited. It raises a series of democratic and transitional demands aimed at winning the immediate support of the vast majority engaged in a given struggle, at their present level of consciousness. But the demands raised at any given moment are part of a unified program designed to lead in the direction of an anticapitalist revolution. Through the struggles waged around these demands, it is possible to make the transition to the mass realization of the necessity for and possibility of a socialist revolution. This book indicates some at the central demands raised as part of the transitional strategy that the Socialist Workers Party has applied in the current radicalization. **

 

The growth of a new radicalization in the United States has offered great opportunities to all political tendencies and organizations on the left. But it has also been a great challenge to each of them. It has tested the validity of their political analysis and their ability to carry out their policies in action. As a result of the response to these challenges, a continuing process of shake-up and political realignment is occurring in the American Left. The past political dominance of the Communist Party has been shattered. The Social Democrats have floundered. SDS has disintegrated, and other New Left groupings remain fundamentally without political perspective. Assorted Maoist and other ultraleft sects remain small and isolated. In contrast, the Socialist Workers Party and theYoung Socialist Alliance have been able to grow significantly by identifying closely with the growing radicalization, deepening their ties to it, while retaining their theoretical heritage of Marxism and their grounding in revolutionary socialist principles. As a result, the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance are beginning to pull ahead of their rivals in the radical movement. For the first time in American history, the revolutionary socialist movement is in a position to become the most influential political force on the left. The successful continuation of this process will greatly advance the prospects for an Amer­ican socialist revolution, for it will mean the creation of a mass revolutionary party with a cadre and program adequate to the task of overturning the American ruling class and inau­gurating a new era in American history, and in world history an well.

 

 

 

 

* Leon Trotsky, The Third International after Lenin

 

** For a more specific outline of the features of a transitional program, the following are recommended:

 

The,Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International  by Leon Trotsky [Pathfinder Press, New York], This is the basic programmatic document of the world Trotskyist  movement and was adopted by the founding conference of the Fourth International in 1938.

 

A Transitional Program for Black Liberation and The Worldwide Youth Radicalization and the Tasks of the Fourth International [Pathfinder Press, New York]. These are recently drafted documents that outline a transitional strategy for the Black liberation struggle and for the student movement.

 

 

Socialists and the Anti-Vietnam-War Movement

[The following speech was printed in The Militant, October 10, 1969, shortly before the massive antiwar demonstrations scheduled to occur in mid-November of that year. I was the SWP’s national antiwar director during that year and through the first half of 1970.

 

I have made a few minor spelling and punctuation changes in the text reprinted here. I have also added in square brackets a few words to explain abbreviations or acronyms that may be somewhat obscure to today’s readers. The introduction was by The Militant.

 

This article was also reprinted in 2003 by the Australian socialist journal, Links. ]

 

 

Introduction (by The Militant)

 

On Labor Day weekend inNew York, the Socialist Workers Party held its national convention. One of the central points on the agenda was a resolution assessing developments within the movement against the Vietnam War and the role of the SWP within that movement.

 

Discussion on the resolution was initiated with a report by Gus Horowitz, a member of the Party’s national committee and its representative to the New Mobilization Committee to End the War inVietnam.

 

Gus Horowitz’s report offers an outline of the political development of the antiwar movement. We present it here with the thought that it will illuminate why and how the antiwar movement has been able to make such and enormous impact on U.S. policy – and, equally important, what a vital contribution a revolutionary Marxist force like the SWP can make to the development of such a movement.

 

*    *    *

 

 

The history of the antiwar movement has been not only one of demonstrations, teach-ins, rallies and hundreds of other actions, it has also been a history of continual and turbulent internal struggle over political line – over how and for what purpose to mobilize the mass sentiment against the war in Vietnam.

 

The Communist Party and the liberals have persistently tried to draw the antiwar movement into class-collaborationist politics, to use it as a means of pressure within the Democratic Party. At the same time, various pacifists and ultra-lefts have tried to divert the movement into ineffectual acts of individual witness and small adventurist actions which would isolate it from masses of people.

 

In contrast, the Socialist Workers Party has consistently fought for massive demonstrations, politically independent of the ruling class which could express the sentiment of the tens of millions of people who are opposed to the war. Within the broader antiwar movement we have built the militant left wing, centered on the demand for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of allU.S.troops fromVietnam.

 

Although the antiwar movement has suffered many temporary setbacks in its history, the policy we projected has been able to win decisive influence over the long run. Opposing lines have been strong on occasion, but never strong enough to divert the antiwar movement permanently from its independent axis of mass action.

 

The basic character of the antiwar movement did not emerge fully developed. It was won in struggle, in large part due to the efforts of the revolutionary party. In this room are seated not only organizers, builders, activists and participants in the antiwar movement, but also – and most important – its conscious political leadership.

 

At each stage in the development of the antiwar movement, it has required the conscious intervention of the revolutionary party to win a course that would indeed deal blows to the imperialists. Although we are small in numbers, our conscious leadership has been required to move the struggle forward, to project each succeeding series of actions and to drive back threats to anti-imperialist mass action as the axis of the struggle.

 

It is this essential continuity of our line and the struggles for it that this report will undertake to describe.

 

To see how much has been accomplished we need only contrast the present movement against the Vietnam War to the old peace movement of the early 1960s. The Militant, in April 1963, described a typical Easter peace march in Chicago, where a few students – among them, YSAers – carried signs against the war in Vietnam:

 

“Some self-appointed ‘officials’ tried to have these signs removed. But the Northwestern students insisted on carrying them. One argued, ‘If you are not against the Vietnam War, you are not for peace.’

 

“A leaflet distributed by the Young Socialist Alliance called for nonexclusive picket lines. It also explained the socialist position that capitalism causes war.”

 

That was a peace movement in which we had to fight to carry signs against the shooting war inVietnam. And, excluded from the meetings which planned the demonstrations, we had to argue for political non-exclusion by distributing leaflets to the demonstrators.

 

The new antiwar movement was born in a break with the policy of the old peace movement. This was most evident in the first national demonstration against the war inVietnam, theApril 17, 1965mass march onWashingtoncalled by SDS [Students for a Democratic Society]. In calling the march, a section of the SDS leadership broke with the League for Industrial Democracy, a social-democratic relic which at that time was the official parent organization of SDS.

 

The march was not for “peace” in the in the abstract; rather, it was directed against the specific war inVietnam. In a break with cold-war liberalism, it characterized the Vietnam War as a civil war and called for self-determination for the Vietnamese people. The march was organized on a non-exclusionary basis; in particular, the SWP and YSA were welcomed to participate on the ground floor. And finally, the nature of the action was that of a militant mass demonstration. It was independent and did not support any capitalist politicians.

 

The social democrats and sections of the old peace movement waged a bitter struggle against that march onWashington. They exerted all the pressure they could to tone down its political line and impose the old exclusionary anticommunist norms. They demanded complete bureaucratic control over the action and, failing to achieve that, they even tried to have it called off. On the eve of the demonstration they issued a public statement denouncing it.

 

But the march occurred. Some 20,000 came toWashington– more than twice as many as had participated in any of the old peace demonstrations – which proved the feasibility of organizing militant mass actions against the war.

 

It was this demonstration that established many of the basic political characteristics of the then-new antiwar movement that remain to this day: non-exclusion; self-determination; and mass action.

 

The SWP and YSA played a large part in the struggle for the march onWashington. The issue was settled, not simply in meetings between SDS and the cold-war social democrats, but in battle – in actually building the march on the basis on which it had been conceived.

 

We recognized that this demonstration was a test. It was a means of establishing the new antiwar movement along the lines that we had fought for earlier. And so we plunged into the work of insuring its success.

 

The YSA endorsed the march. We sent speakers touring the country to build it and distributed literature on a far wider scale than had ever been done before. We took the lead – much more than SDS itself – in establishing non-exclusive, ad hoc committees to build the march, to explain why it was important, and to argue for the policy of self-determination for the Vietnamese.

 

By getting the ball rolling, by convincing the activists, it was assured that the march would occur. That was how the issue was ultimately decided. So that when Bayard Rustin, the social democrat, demanded that SDS call off the march, they had to answer, in effect: “We can’t. It has wide support. The Trotskyists are going ahead and building it. And they’ll carry it off without us.”

 

Following the march onWashington, two aspects of the present antiwar movement remained to be established: (1) a national coalition to coordinate the much more massive actions that were to come; (2) popularization of the demand for immediate withdrawal ofU.S.troops fromVietnam.

 

The next stage of struggle in the antiwar movement took place over these questions.

In 1965, hundreds of teach-ins and antiwar demonstrations occurred all over the country. They were organized primarily by ad hoc, non-exclusive, campus Committees to End the War inVietnam(CEWVs). High points included a national teach-in inWashingtonwhich was broadcast to 100,000 students on more than 100 campuses; a 34-hour marathon teach-in inBerkeley, attended by 15,000; and local demonstrations on the International Days of Protest in October, which involved many tens of thousands.

 

A new challenge was thus posed to all tendencies in the antiwar movement. How would they orient to these action committees to end the war? This really boiled down to the root questions of independent mass action and withdrawal.

 

From the first, the SWP and YSA helped to build these CEWVs in a totally nonsectarian way. We sought to bring together all political tendencies opposed to the war around the single issue of action in the streets. At the same time, we argued for immediate withdrawal and were able to convince many antiwar committees of this perspective. This left wing formed the backbone of the antiwar movement.

 

The leadership of SDS drew back from the antiwar movement almost immediately after the successful march onWashington. And that has remained the policy of SDS nationally to this day. Needless to say, SDS turned its back on the CEWVs and counter-posed itself and its line to them.

 

The Maoist Progressive Labor Party was, in its own way, equally sectarian. Wielding control over a group called the May 2nd Committee, PL proclaimed it to be the exclusive agency through which all antiwar actions must be channeled. This factional, ultimatistic policy did not work. Isolated from the real, rapidly growing antiwar movement, PL dissolved the May 2nd Committee to enter SDS, an SDS that had also abandoned the struggle against the war.

 

Shake-ups occurred in the old peace movement. These groups faced the alternative of cooperating with the CEWVs or standing aloof and trying to organize the old-style peace actions, a perspective that was none too promising, given the temper of the new militants. Under pressure of the mass actions, many groups in the old peace movement felt compelled to align themselves with the new antiwar committees. This laid the basis for the broad mass-action coalitions that were to develop later.

 

The Communist Party’s basic line was essentially the same then as it is today. The CP supported the mass actions only intermittently and always with the intent of using them as a means to draw antiwar activists into capitalist electoral politics. To avoid collision with liberal capitalist politicians, the CP pushed a negotiations line and opposed withdrawal. The CP persistently counter-posed a “respectable,” multi-issue program of social reform and community electoral organizing to nationally coordinated antiwar demonstrations.

 

The mass action and withdrawal perspective of many CEWVs hampered the CP’s ability to implement its popular-front line. Accordingly, the CP took a hostile and sectarian attitude to the antiwar committees and worked mainly through the old, “broader” peace groups which supported negotiations. Among the students, they tried unsuccessfully to counter-pose the [W.E.B.] Du Bois Clubs to the CEWVs.

 

The struggle between these contending political lines reached its first climax at the convention of the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam (NCC) attended by 1,500 in November 1965. There the CP and SWP positions met in head-on collision, the first of a series of national political encounters which were decisive in determining the future course of the antiwar movement and in helping to change the relationship of forces on the left.

 

At the NCC conference, the central battle over mass action and withdrawal took an organizational form. We argued for a national organization of CEWVs based around the withdrawal demand, to be a part of a broader coalition to organize national mass actions. The supporters of negotiations, with the CP in the lead, tried to block this perspective. We were in a minority. The relationship of forces was still unfavorable, and it wasn’t until a year later that these organizational forms would arise.

 

But the vigorous struggle we waged was crucial in preventing the CP’s multi-issue, anti-withdrawal line from dominating the broad movement, even though they held decisive influence over the NCC’s apparatus. Under pressure of the political battle, the CP was reluctant to try and block a call for the next mass actions. A second International Days of Protest was set for March 1966. In these demonstrations the battle was joined once again.

 

The withdrawal-based, NCC convention minority formed a caucus and published the Bring the Troops Home Now Newsletter. This grouping of CEWVs, with our aid and support, took the fight to the ranks of the antiwar movement and waged an intensive and successful educational campaign. By the March demonstrations, the central demand was “Bring the GIs Home Now,” and that has been the norm ever since. Most of the original opponents of withdrawal have in the meantime changed their position.

 

The NCC’s political perspective, set by the pro-CP elements in its leadership, was not geared to organizing the March mass action. So we threw forces into that task as well. Travelers toured the country to build the action. Literature was published in quantity. In every city the militant CEWVs, mostly student based, spearheaded the action. These CEWVs eventually became a key ingredient in the formation of the Student Mobilization Committee [to End the War inVietnam]. Then, as now, the militant, withdrawal-based youth section of the antiwar movement has been the decisive factor in pushing the other sections of the movement along.

 

Thanks to this effort, the NCC was unable to divert the whole movement away from militant mass action. Although some antiwar committees destroyed themselves trying to carry out the NCC line, others switched their course. The majority of the antiwar movement was won to the line we fought for.

 

But the antiwar movement lost precious time because the first attempt at forming a national coalition was aborted. A gap existed between the objective possibilities of the antiwar struggle and the formal organization needed for it. It was to be a year before the next major action could be mounted onApril 15, 1967. But this action was to be a qualitative leap forward.

 

While the NCC declined in 1966, the process of building antiwar actions led to the creation of broad-based, local antiwar coalitions on a fairly permanent basis. The most important of these was the New York Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, which brought hundreds of organizations together for the demonstrations it organized.

 

The Parade Committee was central to uniting the forces that eventually formed the new national antiwar coalition. Smaller demonstrations in August and November 1966 set the stage for the conference which called the huge April 5 demonstrations inNew YorkandSan Franciscoand formed what was to become the National Mobilization Committee, the national antiwar coalition for the next period.

 

The Student Mobilization Committee was formed soon after – at a conference which was to be the second round in the series of confrontations between the SWP and CP in the antiwar movement. It was initially a narrow conference called and controlled top to bottom by the CP. But we had won enough support for our line to be able to turn it around and form a united front of students, based on the withdrawal demand.

 

With that, the line we had fought for at the NCC convention a year before had won out. The relationship of forces in the antiwar movement had been reversed.

 

The political struggles of 1965-1966 were necessary to organize the great mass demonstrations of 1967 and 1968.

 

On April 15, 1967 as a half-million people marched in the streets of New York and San Francisco. OnOct. 21, 1967, 150,000 marched onWashingtonin a direct political confrontation with Johnson’s war policy. And onApril 26, 1968, the SMC organized a remarkably successful nationwide student strike. With close to a million participants it was larger than any of the student antiwar strikes of the 1930s. The following day, mass demonstrations were held in cities all over the country, the largest – inNew York– some 200,000 strong.

 

These historic actions illustrate the power of the tactic of the united front and its particular application in the form of the antiwar coalitions. No single group acting alone could have organized such large and militant demonstrations. In those united fronts, the left wing, the SMC, was the best builder and the militant spearhead of the actions.

 

These actions also helped solidify the international antiwar movement, which also developed independently of the Stalinist and social democratic parties and to the left of them. This had been a key factor in developing a renewed spirit of internationalism, militancy and anti-capitalist consciousness, especially among the youth. This shakeup and realignment of class forces has in turn opened expanded opportunities for building the Fourth International.

 

But the struggle for our antiwar line was far from over. The most recent period has seen the continuation of the struggle – in slightly different form and under slightly different conditions, but showing the same basic characteristics.  These struggles arose our of the need for the antiwar movement to mount an effective response to the tactical maneuvers of the ruling class.

 

American imperialism faces a dilemma inVietnam. Its central strategic objectives remain the same. It still aims to crush the national liberation struggle inSouth   Vietnamand deal a major setback to the socialist revolution in southeast Asia.

 

For the imperialists to withdraw fromVietnamin defeat would contradict this strategic goal. The struggle of the Vietnamese has already given great impetus to revolutionary developments in other countries. A definitive revolutionary victory would magnify that impact manifold.

 

But two factors have caused the American ruling class to adjust its tactics.

 

The first is the fact that theU.S.has so far been unable to win an outright military victory inVietnamdespite a massive effort. Though imperialism has by no means been totally defeated, its inability to win a victory is in itself a tremendous setback.

 

The second factor compelling a tactical shift by theU.S.ruling class is the growth of the worldwide opposition to the war, in particular the mounting protests in theU.S.itself. For, [in order] to carry on the war inVietnam, the American ruling class needs social peace at home. Unable to win wide support for the war, it needs at the very least a disoriented and disarmed opposition.

 

For this reason, the mass mobilizations strike blows at the ability of the ruling class to wage the war. The capitalists face the threat of an intolerable growth of class conflict as the mood of protest and opposition spills over and exacerbates social tensions on all fronts.

 

In 1968,Washingtonresponded to this threat with a major diplomatic and propaganda offensive.

 

First, the talks were set up inParis.Washington’s aim in these negotiations is at minimum a Korea-type settlement that would mean the derailment of the Vietnamese revolution. As we know, theParistalks did not signal a significant slowdown of the war or a genuine move towards peace. While there was a pause in the bombing of the North, the same high level of bombing continues, all of it now concentrated in the South. Orders to the Pentagon called for bringing maximum military pressure on the liberation fighters, and the level of fighting stays high as they try to force the Vietnamese to capitulate.

At the same time a slick propaganda offensive was mounted to dissipate the antiwar sentiment of the American masses. TheParistalks and the pause in the bombing of the North were demagogically portrayed as steps towards a speedy peace. The token troop withdrawals are just the latest such maneuver.

 

The hated President Johnson withdrew as a candidate for reelection. Nixon, portraying himself as an alternative, won a temporary respite from the wrath of millions of people. This was all compounded in 1968, when the [Democratic Party Senator Eugene] McCarthy campaign was mounted with the stated goal of getting the antiwar movement off the streets.

 

But although the mass antiwar sentiment was temporarily diverted and confused, the ruling class had also paid a price. All the talk about de-escalation raised the anticipation and desire of the mass of people for a quick end to the war. Antiwar sentiment grew considerably. It was only a matter of time before there would be another wave of indignation and hundreds of thousands would once again take to the streets and tear away the façade of lie and illusion.

 

The propaganda maneuvers of the ruling class posed another major test for all tendencies in the antiwar movement. How to respond? American imperialism was in deep trouble, and the situation cried out for keeping on the course that had put it there.

 

The class collaborationists, full of illusions about theParistalks, abandoned mass action. They turned to the elections, with the aim of using their influence in the antiwar movement to drum up support for McCarthy and the pro-capitalist peace candidates.

 

As a result of these defections, many of the local antiwar coalitions tended to fall apart. On a national level, National Mobe [the National Mobilization Committee to End the War inVietnam] lost its broad coalition character. The old Mobe’s apparatus came to be dominated by frustrated ultralefts who saw no future in mass action. And in the spring of 1968, the Communist Party and pacifists in the Student Mobilization Committee split from the organization, in retreat from mass antiwar action.

 

In contrast to every other political tendency, the SWP and YSA put forward a line that encouraged the independence of the antiwar movement from the capitalist parties in the elections. It was a line designed to maintain the perspective of reaching out and drawing larger numbers into action. It was designed to maintain the position of immediate withdrawal and to puncture the illusions about theParistalks. And it was designed to lay the groundwork for building even larger mass mobilizations than those which had already occurred.

 

That is what we argued for, and – most important – that is what we were able to carry out in action.

 

The SWP’s approach to the 1968 elections differed from the class collaborationists in two important ways.

 

First, we ran our own candidates. We did not abandon the field to the pro-capitalist candidates, but counter-posed our revolutionary socialist program to them. By waging an all-out campaign effort, we were able to win considerable support from antiwar militants.

 

But that was only one side of our approach. Our policy in the antiwar movement was completely nonsectarian. The supporters of [SWP candidates] Halstead and Boutelle continued building demonstrations during the election period. We did not make the mistake of withdrawing from the antiwar movement in the illusion that we could then allot added forces to make greater gains for our campaign. On the contrary, revolutionaries always gain when the mass movement is built effectively.

 

One of the precedents that we had fought for previously – in particular, during the 1966 elections – was that the antiwar movement, as a movement, should not get involved in electoral politics, but should rather continue to unite everyone possible, regardless of divergent political views, for antiwar actions during the election periods. That precedent made it exceedingly difficult for the class collaborationists to scuttle the antiwar movement in 1968.

 

And we stuck to that policy. Even in those antiwar organizations where our campaign had considerable support, we resisted attempts to put them on record for the Halstead-Boutelle campaign. There were many antiwar activists who did not agree with the program of the SWP, but wanted to engage in antiwar actions, as we did. It would have narrowed the scope of the antiwar movement to make agreement with any full political program the basis for antiwar action.

 

The antiwar movement did suffer a setback in the 1968 election period and immediately afterwards. But it was a temporary setback. The movement was not scuttled. A series of demonstrations – even though they were generally smaller than before – continued the mass-action perspective that we had fought for.

 

In that period ultraleftist adventurism also exerted considerable influence over many antiwar militants. Frustrated because the war continues despite the mass opposition to it, the ultralefts aim at shortcuts through the isolated acts and adventures of a few, which renders impossible the arduous but solely effective path of winning over the masses of the people. The actions of the old National Mobe, SDS and some smaller groups tended to project this disorienting line.

 

In recent months the ultralefts have had less influence, but they continue to pose a problem for the antiwar movement. Some of them have even degenerated to the extent of introducing hooligan methods into the movement. The low point was reached inNew   Yorkwhen a small group was able to take over the rally platform on Aug. 9.

 

The key to combating ultraleft adventures lies in the scope of the actions themselves. In the recent past smaller antiwar mobilizations gave the hardened ultralefts the opportunity to exert disproportionate influence over impatient and inexperienced activists. Now, however, the possibility exists to mobilize hundreds of thousands. A political line geared to involve such numbers of people will be the single greatest deterrent to isolated adventures. They tend to become simply lost in the crowd.

 

In addition, we must wage an educational campaign in the antiwar movement to explain the need for preventing hooligan disruption of the demonstrations. It will then be possible to organize adequate marshalling to insure that the decisions of the antiwar coalitions are carried out.

 

This is particularly important because of the GIs. OnceWashingtonlaunched its propaganda offensive, with its continual talk of peace, the average GI naturally questioned the need to risk his life, especially in a war which he was most likely opposed to or had serious doubts about. As a result, there has been a big increase in GI antiwar activity, and this will be a permanent feature of the antiwar movement from now on.

 

The importance of, and potential for, reaching GIs is something we have long emphasized. We pointed to the powerful social weight that the GIs would bring into the antiwar movement – our basic Marxist approach has always stressed reaching the socially decisive sectors of society.

 

In 1965 we published our pamphlet on the Bring the Troops Home Movement of World War II. In 1966, we went on a campaign to defend the Fort Hood Three and publicize the case to the movement. In 1967, Howard Petrick was an important model in the fight for GI rights.

 

In 1968 and 1969, the vindication of our line was apparent in the wide circulation of GI papers, the big jump in GI participation in the demonstrations, and in the unprecedented fights for GI rights, particularly those of GIs United at Forts Jackson and Bragg.

 

It is not surprising that the political differences that exist in the antiwar movement extend to its GI sector. Most other tendencies project a line which would be ineffective or lead to defeats. Such proposals include individual “acts of conscience,” such as draft resistance or desertion; underground organizing; and GI union organizing which emphasizes issues other than the war inVietnam.

 

The threefold approach to GI work which we have supported has proved most effective. It may be summarized: 1) for collective action, rather than isolated individual acts of conscience; 2) emphasis on the legal rights of GIs as citizen-soldiers; 3) opposition to the Vietnam War as the central issue of concern to GIs and around which they are utilizing their civil liberties.

 

The past period, to repeat, posed a major challenge to the antiwar movement. To counter the maneuvers of the ruling class required the conscious leadership of the revolutionary party. We were the ones who fought for continuing on a course of effective action that could mobilize masses in independent antiwar struggle.

 

The key to this fight was the Student Mobilization Committee. It was the militant, withdrawal-based student wing of the antiwar movement that backed the perspective of mass antiwar mobilizations.

 

As always, it took a political struggle, and there was a major fight in the SMC over this perspective. The CP and pacifist section walked out. In so doing, they tried to brand the SMC as an impotent, paper organization, containing no one besides the SWP and YSA. They were proven dead wrong.

 

We had – and have – no interest in paper organizations or in capturing ourselves. To the contrary, our approach has always been one of building broad united fronts for mass action. Those who quit the SMC were splitting from this line, from what the SMC had stood for all along, and from what it stands for now.

 

The needs of the antiwar movement required the maintenance of the perspective of mass action. The SMC stood for that, and we backed it to the hilt. The SMC called for antiwar demonstrations in August 1968, and October 1968, and it initiated the conference that called the demonstrations on April 5 and 6, 1969. These demonstrations laid the groundwork for remobilizing the entire antiwar movement.

 

Even though there were considerable difficulties in convincing others to act in that period, we avoided any temptation to go it alone by substituting the vanguard of the struggle for the movement as a whole. We sought to find every conceivable way to involve other groups in united fronts for the mass actions.

 

The payoff came with the April 5-6 demonstrations.

 

The second Tet offensive inVietnamand the high rate of battle casualties began to destroy the illusion that the war was coming to an end. There was a shift in mass consciousness. The April 5-6 demonstrations, organized by united fronts, were able to mobilize tens of thousands across the country – 100,000 inNew Yorkalone – with a larger turnout of GIs than ever before.

 

The SMC seized the opportunity offered by April 5-6 to emerge as the authoritative national organizer of the antiwar youth. In many local areas, the April 5-6 demonstrations also enabled us to rebuild the antiwar coalitions. This set the stage for calling the next national demonstration, one with a potential of being more massive than any previous one, at a time when that is of central political importance.

 

All that was needed was the conference to call it and a new national coalition to organize it. And that occurred on July 4 inCleveland, when the national antiwar conference called the Nov. 15 march onWashington.

 

Here again, the SWP and YSA played a central role in insuring that the antiwar movement would take the next necessary steps forward. It took a political struggle to win the conference, and it took a political struggle at the conference to win the call to the demonstration.

 

The key again was the SMC. The SMC took the call to the conference and publicized it far and wide. The SMC pushed and prodded others to come along (and more than a few came somewhat reluctantly at first). The SMC made the conference a representative gathering of the antiwar movement with the authority to call the march onWashington. After a thorough political debate, there was a highly favorable response to the idea of Nov. 15, and a new national coalition was set up to organize it. The next day, an SMC conference called for a student strike on Nov. 14, which can involve hundreds of thousands and build wide support for the march onWashington.

 

We must see the importance of the Nov. 15 demonstration in the context of the overall political situation. American imperialism is in deep trouble inVietnam. It hasn’t been able to win. And its strategic goals make it shy away from withdrawing in defeat. It hopes to force the Vietnamese to capitulate inParis. But that is a questionable proposition at best. And it needs time for that anyway. It needs time above all.

 

But theU.S.is running out of time.

 

The crux of the matter is this: The strategic objectives of American imperialism do not allow it to scale down the fighting to any significant degree. Their Achilles heel is that as the war continues, the death toll mounts. More and more people will see through their lies and duplicity, be outraged and demand a halt.

 

And now is the time that they can be brought to Washingtonto say, “No! Stop It! Bring all of the GIs home now!”

 

All indications, including the polls, show that there is deep and growing impatience with Nixon’s war inVietnam. The demonstration Nov. 15 can be both massive in size and devastating in its political impact. The antiwar movement must set itself the task of preventing American imperialism from gaining the time for maneuver that it so desperately needs.

 

The Nov. 15 demonstration must aim to involve new sectors of the population. Last April 5-6, significant number of GIs and high school students demonstrated. Their numbers can be increased. Now, there are new opportunities to draw in sections of the trade-union and black and brown movements. Every effort must be taken to make this a political reality.

 

Make no mistake about it. The main spokesmen for the ruling class are worried. Just listen to what James Reston had to say in his New York Times column Aug. 27, shortly after the protests by the GIs of Company A who refused to obey battle orders:

 

“For the more the President says he’s for peace, the more troops he withdraws fromVietnamandThailand, the more he concedes thatSoutheast Asiais not really vital to the security of theUnited States, the harder it is to ask for the lives of the men of Company A.

 

“They may not be typical, but they are a symbol of his coming dilemma. He wants out on the installment plan, but the weekly installments are the lives of one or two hundred American soldiers, and he cannot get away from the insistent question: Why? To what purpose?

 

“The breaking point comes in politics as it came to Company A, and it is not far off.”

 

Finally, if there is one point that should be emphasized, it is the importance of the Student Mobilization Committee. This fall, through its Nov. 14 student strike, the SMC will be the central organizer of the student antiwar upsurge that will surely take place.

 

The objective situation on the college campuses has never been more favorable. Antiwar sentiment is no mere majority view. It is overwhelming. The wave of protests against ROTC ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a campus-based military training program] and campus complicity that shook the campuses last spring is but a preview to the action this fall.

 

The same holds true in the high schools. All indications point to a highly favorable objective situation, one in which the SMC has already registered impressive gains.

 

One of the most important features of the SMC’s approach on the campuses will be its efforts to build united fronts to wage the most effective and militant struggles. This is particularly important in offering an alternative to SDS’s political line and methods of organizing.

 

Last spring, SDS’s sectarianism, exclusion, ultra-left formulations and adventurist tactics led to many a setback. But this fall, the faction-ridden SDS, continuing on its course of political degeneration, will find it increasingly difficult to win antiwar students to its insane adventures, and increasingly difficult to organize anything at all.

 

The SMC has a unique opportunity to win over, not only non-SDS antiwar activists, but also the many SDS members who are fed up with the SDS national office – either one [SDS had split, and two organizations were now using the SDS name]. It can involve them in the student strike, in Nov. 15, and in all related antiwar actions.

 

Our perspective, in short, is one of expanded and powerful mass antiwar action. The march onWashingtonon Nov. 15 will deal another major blow to American imperialism’s war inVietnam.

 

Our role in the antiwar movement is a powerful example of what even a small party can do in taking our revolutionary program and applying it in life, in being able to gauge accurately the objective situation and pose the next necessary steps forward for the mass movement.

 

In the process we have grown, and the struggle for the international socialist revolution has taken steps forward.

 

As the resolution before this convention states: “Our central tasks in the antiwar movement are to continue to build the mass mobilizations that are dealing hammer blows to American imperialism and to recruit from the growing numbers that have begun to move in a radical direction as a result.”

 

Postscript

 

I hope that today’s readers will not be too critical of the heavy dose of jargon in the speech, although I think that it suffers less from this fault than many other documents of the time. Bear in mind that the speech was delivered to a political convention of like-minded party activists rather than to a general audience. Readers today may find the speech of interest because it offers a fairly thorough presentation of the SWP’s political approach to the antiwar movement, as we saw it.

 

I hope that readers today will also find the speech of some merit as a shorthand history of the anti-Vietnam-War movement up to that time. The best full-length history, in my view, still remains Fred Halstead’s book Out Now!, first published in 1978.

 

The speech was printed only a couple of weeks before the tremendousOctober 15, 1969Vietnam Moratorium demonstrations held in many cities throughout the country. These demonstrations are not mentioned in the speech, which was delivered in the first week of September, before the size and scope of the upcoming Moratorium had become apparent. But by the time the speech was printed the SWP was on a campaign footing to build both the Moratorium and the November march onWashingtonandSan Francisco.

 

The time period from October, 1969 through April, 1971 marked thehigh pointof the antiwar movement, gathering the largest numbers of people in any protest demonstrations known until that time. The marches inWashingtonandSan Franciscoin November, 1969 and in April, 1971 each involved about a million people, concentrated in two gathering spots. The Moratorium in October, 1969 had a comparably large turnout, and the student upsurge in May, 1970, after the invasion ofCambodiaand the National Guard killing of four students atKentStateUniversity, involved even larger numbers in total, but these actions took place throughout the country.

 

– Gus Horowitz, March, 2003