Vietnam War, Part II – The “Peace Movement”

“The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism” Karl Marx

During the Vietnam War, radical student groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) tried to undermine America’s troops and sabotage the war effort. The leaders of many of these groups were allied with the enemy, and the methods they used were often violent, but don’t expect to hear that in a mainstream history class today.

University faculties are overwhelmingly liberal, and no subject brings out that leftwing bias more flagrantly than the Vietnam War, and the ironically-named “peace movement” that opposed it. Most of the history textbooks being assigned to freshman history students portray the radicals of the sixties in a positive light, and single out SDS for special praise.

The View from the Ivory Tower

In his widely used textbook Give Me Liberty, Dr. Eric Foner portrays the anti-war protestors of the 1960’s as peace-loving visionaries. Foner, a past president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association, first praises various leftwing authors and social critics of that pre-Vietnam War era, then goes on to say that “in some ways the most influential critique of all arose in 1962 from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an offshoot of the socialist League for Industrial Democracy. Meeting at Port Huron, Michigan, some sixty college students adopted a document that captured the mood and summarized the beliefs of this generation of student protestors.” This document, according to the Professor, “offered a new vision of social change.”

Other mainstream college history books offer the same perspective on sixties radicals in general, and the SDS in particular. The textbook Making a Nation, written by five history professors from four different universities1, tells students that “The key organization of the New Left was Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).” By 1965, the book tells us, “the New Left had found a perfect issue to dramatize the failings of liberalism – the Vietnam War.”

The textbook Nation of Nations offers a similarly flattering portrayal of SDS and its founder, future Senator Tom Hayden: “Hayden helped form Students for a Democratic Society. Members of SDS gave up on change through the electoral system. Direct action was needed if the faceless, bureaucratic society of the ‘organization man’ were to be made truly democratic.” No mention is made of the fact that Hayden and his group were meeting with, and coordinating efforts with, the North Vietnamese government during this time.

The Other Side of the Story

Many of the professors who write these textbooks were student radicals themselves during the Vietnam era, and appear to be downright nostalgic about the movement as they write about it today. They are clearly willing to cover up a lot of negative information about the “peace” movement they remember so fondly.

In his textbook, Professor Foner reprints a famous photograph of a mild-mannered hippie gently placing flowers in the muzzles of American soldiers’ rifles. This, he would have us believe, represents the motives and methods of the 1960’s student protestors.

The truth is very different.

Many of the protesters were perfectly willing to use more than flowers to get their point across. In his memoirs, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan describes the weapons and tactics utilized by student radicals during this period: “During one eleven month period, there were eight bombings and attempted bombings at the Berkley campus alone; during those eleven months, the police confiscated more than two hundred rifles, pistols, and shotguns and nearly a thousand sticks of dynamite and dozens of Molotov cocktails.”2 Reagan goes on to say that rioting protesters sent forty-seven Berkley policemen to the hospital in a single day in 1969.3

SDS Becomes the Weather Underground

Berkley was not the only place where the “Peace Movement” used violence to achieve its goals. In the summer 1969 SDS morphed into a terrorist group that called itself the Weather Underground, with the expressed goal of violently overthrowing the United States government and replacing it with a Communist government.

SDS/Weather Underground leaders are the primary suspects in a still-unsolved police station bombing that killed one officer and wounded others in early 1970. They have been implicated in some thirty bombings, including explosions at a New York police station, the Pentagon, and various other office buildings. In March of 1970 three members of the group were killed when fragmentary bombs they were building providentially detonated in their apartment. The bombs, packed with roofing nails around explosives, were designed to kill non-commissioned officers and their dates at a dance on a military base.

Various other “peace” groups followed the example of the Weather Underground, placing explosives and firebombs in office buildings during the war years. In 1970, for example, one of these copycat groups detonated a car bomb  that killed one person and wounded others at the University of Wisconsin.

Two of the SDS/Weather Underground leaders were William Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, both of whom were directly involved in many of the bombings. Ayers recently retired from his position as a Professor of Education at the University of Chicago, where his politics put him more or less in the campus mainstream. Ayer’s wife Bernardine Dohrn is Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University.

There are not many places in American society were self-described Communists who used bombs against American citizens in support of a wartime enemy would be so easily accepted into the mainstream. The status that Ayers and Dohrn have achieved in academia says a lot about the radicalism of America’s college faculties.

Connections to North Vietnam

Tom Hayden and other SDS/Weathermen leaders were meeting with representatives of the North Vietnamese government, as well as other Communist governments, as they worked against American interests at home. A 400 page FBI report describes the assistance and advice that SDS received from North Vietnam. In July of 1969 SDS leaders traveled to Cuba to meet in person with agents of the North Vietnamese government, to “gain from their revolutionary experience.”

In 1972 SDS founder Hayden traveled with his future wife Jane Fonda to the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where they issued public statements condemning the United States, and posed for pictures with some of the North Vietnamese soldiers who had been killing American  pilots.

It is interesting to note that Hayden and Fonda, while surrounded by Communist soldiers and weapons, did not make any attempt to place flowers in the gun barrels. Apparently that part of the “peace movement” applied only to American weapons.

Conclusion

Textbook coverage of the Vietnam War, and groups like SDS, illustrate just how radically Marxist our university faculties are these days. History professors as a group are not just slightly left of center; they are very far to the left.

Sunlight makes the best disinfectant, and the best way to mitigate the pernicious influence that campus radicals are trying to have on young Americans is to expose their beliefs and agenda to the light of day.

Al Fuller

1Boydston, Cullather, Lewis, McGerr, and Oakes; Making a Nation, 2004 edition
2Ronald Reagan, An American life p. 180
3ibid., p. 181

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