February 16, 2007

Take Five--Vietnam Moratorium Memories

[Take Five. Every Friday, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

There's been a most heartening spike in activity against the occupation of Iraq in recent days--the student strike peaking in the seizure of CA Highway 217 in Santa Barbara, the Vermont legislature calling for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the swelling wave of takeovers of Congressional offices blogged here a couple days back.

In this context, it's hardly surprising that activists brainstorming the next step are contemplating the possibility of an Iraq Moratorium, based on the massive Vietnam Moratorium of Autumn, 1969.

Hence, here are five things I recall about the Moratorium. Readers who were there would be making a small but real contribution by sharing your own memories. Your comments will be a real help to folks trying to see what might be done this year.


1. It was big, real big. On October 15, 1969, the Bronx campus where I was based hosted a borough-wide twilight rally of over 10,000, most of whom came on an unprecedented nighttime march through residential neighborhoods.(I seem to recall this being the candlelight demo where our SDS chapter marched with candles made from three foot lengths of 2 x 2, wire-wrapped at the top in kerosene-soaked mattress fabric.)

2. One unifying theme nation-wide was the widespread use of black armbands and ribbons.

3. Though the initial call six months earlier was for something more like a general strike, the no more business as usual aspect mainly took the form of student strikes at colleges and high schools, some junior highs too.

4. The Moratorium seemed pretty distant from the infighting between (and within) the two large anti-war coalitions and even more removed from the revolutionary politics them hegemonic in the student movement.

5. The single biggest error the organizers made was a voluntarist one: the concept was that each month the Moratorium would be extended by a day until the government caved in. In fact, after October, where participants in all the local actions must have numbered well over a million, the November Moratorium was folded into a huge Washington, DC March. By the middle of December, when it should have run an unsustainable three days, the Moratorium was heading for the dead letter office.

[This is crossposted over at DailyKos, where an interesting set of reminiscences is accumulating in the comments section.]

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