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YSF on the Antiwar Movement, 1965-1968

From the beginning of the antiwar movement, the Trotskyists called for an antiwar movement that would build mass opposition to the war, calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, for an end to Canada’s complicity in the U.S. war effort, and for support to the opposition to the war that they expected to arise within the U.S. military. They also urged the NDP and its youth organization, New Democratic Youth, to get involved and take a leadership role in the antiwar movement.

These articles, selected from Young Socialist Forum between 1965 and 1968, show how the Young Socialists viewed and built the antiwar movement in Canada in its early years.

YSF also carried articles explaining the nature and causes of the war, especially in the early years when there was little on that subject available anywhere else. See YSF on the Vietnam War, 1964-1966.

Young Socialist Forum, February 1965

U of T Opposes Vietnam Raids

by Art Young

TORONTO—The U.S. bombing mission on North Vietnam sparked sharp opposition all across Canada. Perhaps the sharpest reaction came from the University of Toronto. Within 24 hours of the attack, at an emergency meeting, a broad ad hoc committee was formed, and a demonstration planned for the next day. After the meeting, John Roberts, students’ council president, said "any action such as this which constitutes a threat to peace must be of grave concern to all of us." Prof. Willmott declared that "the extension of a civil war into an international war is not the kind of retaliation a nation does over seven men. There seems to be a prevailing mentality in the U.S. that proper retaliation for one American killed is the killing of numerous colored people."

The day of the demonstration, the campus paper Varsity, exhorted students to attend the protest. In a hard-hitting editorial, it declared:

"The latest U.S. action, like the U.S. military presence in Vietnam beforehand, is wicked. The latest attack constitutes a crisis, and makes total war the more probable.

"Every Canadian, every U of T student, is threatened by this danger. Every Canadian, every U of T student, is guilty of this wickedness until he speaks out against it. ... The war in Vietnam is your war, unless you disavow it"

Over 300 students turned out to the demonstration, which featured a number of speeches, and sharp heckling by outnumbered counter-demonstrators. The 300 carried two slogans: "End the war in Vietnam" and "Students protest U.S. action." After the picket, the ad hoc committee carried the issue back to the campus, with the launching of a petition calling on the Canadian government to oppose the American intervention, and the holding of frequent open meetings to debate the Vietnam crisis.

Young Socialist Forum, Early Summer 1965

Editorial: NDP Must Speak Out!

One of the most amazing things about the Dominican and Vietnam crisis has been the lack of organized opposition in Canada, the lack of a sustained and coordinated campaign for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. What protests there have been in Canada have been staged by the small peace groups, and socialist forces. That’s not to underrate the importance of these actions, but to point out the failure of the force that should really be acting in the situation, the group which could mount an effective campaign, and cause the Washington warlords to think twice about what they are doing—the NDP, Canada’s labor party, the political expression of the labor movement of this country, the party of the working people of Canada. With a word from the parliamentary leaders, there would be sizeable demonstrations in all the major Canadian cities, demonstrations that would have powerful impact, that could galvanize public opinion against the war, that could really launch a sustained campaign.

Worse than the lack of a call for public demonstrations is the total failure of the NDP even to clearly protest in Parliament. There have only been weak mutterings from some of the "left-wing" MPs. Even from a purely opportunist viewpoint—and this seems to be the only viewpoint that matters to the party brass—a protest would help to build the party. For events have shown the large reservoir of public indignation which the NDP could tap by a clear demand for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Votes, Tommy, votes for your much-heralded June election; image-building, you know.

That’s why we’re so heartened by the plans of the left NDYers to stage a real fight at the coming convention, to demand the adoption of a clear, consistent program for a socialist Canada, and also for an unequivocal opposition to U.S. imperialism. In effect they are attempting to get the NDP-NDY to realize its tremendous potential, to make it an effective opposition to the crimes being continually plotted in the White House.

We hope that in the meantime, before the convention, the leaders of the NDP will decide to speak out. As the Toronto campus newspaper the Varsity said during the last Vietnam crisis, "this is your war, unless you disavow it." Well, Mr. Douglas?

Young Socialist Forum, Early Summer 1965

World Protests Viet War

by N. Dunfield

Demonstrations against the Vietnam war are mounting around the world. On Easter weekend, 50,000 Londoners heard Labor Party MP’s denounce their own party’s unquestioning acceptance of U.S. actions and call for unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. At a rally in Washington, 20,000 students backed similar demands.

Canada too has demanded an end to U.S. intervention. In Toronto 600 marched, in Vancouver 150; Montreal, London, Ont., Winnipeg all saw protests. The Canadian revulsion at American policy is part of a worldwide reaction.

Not unusual was the demonstration of some 1,000 youth in Frankfort, Germany on March 27 at which several of the youth were brutally beaten by the police for their participation. Japan is undergoing an even greater ferment because American bases there are-being used for maneuvers in Vietnam, and Japan naval forces are supplying both men and ships. Consequently, on April 26, about 25,000 snake-danced, sat down on streets and battled 4,500 riot cops in a demonstration against the U.S. embassy to demand that the U.S. troops leave Vietnam immediately. Further demonstrations in Japan have demanded that the Japanese government no longer allow the Americans to attack Vietnam from Japanese bases and that the Japan-U.S. security pact of 1960 be ended:

The British Foreign Secretary’s May Day speech was broken up with shouts of "Hands off Vietnam" and "Condemn the Napalm Bombing." He was unable to finish.

The tremendous success of the student March on Washington raises to a new level the American protests. Teach-ins (all-day and all-night discussion sessions) are being organized on all the major campuses to discuss and protest the Vietnam war. Johnson is feeling the pressure, for he has decided to send State Department propagandists to the campuses to attempt to convince the student opposition, or at least to silence it. But this will undoubtedly backfire, for the propagandists will soon find that all the arguments are against the war, and nothing will aid opposition to it more than the opportunity to discuss the issues.

In Canada our task is no less clear—to mobilize the strongest possible opposition to the U.S. actions, to increase the pressure on Pearson to condemn the brutal war of extermination which could lead to the total eradication of mankind from the face of the earth.

That the protest movement can influence American policy is shown in the comment of the Washington Correspondent of the Los Angeles Times: "The worry among officials here is that adverse American reaction to the crisis will either collapse the present U.S. policy or at least force the president to shift his position somewhat."

Let’s hear it louder—hands off Vietnam!

Young Socialist Forum, October 1965

Stop The War Now!

By the Editors

Day by day the casualties mount as U.S. imperialism continues its barbaric war of repression against the people of Vietnam. To anyone with eyes to see, the character of the war is clear. The "government" in Saigon, like its predecessors, is a fiction created by the U.S. to cover for its aggression, and it has so little popular support that the Pentagon has been forced to commit military forces on the scale of a Korean war. The junta’s methods—and those of the U.S.—are entirely compatible with those of the personal hero of General Ky—Hitler. The record of indiscriminate bombings, concentration camps, burning of peasant villages, terror and torture are sufficiently documented even in the pro-war daily press.

What’s the cause of the war? T.C. Douglas pointed it out to the delegates at the Federal NDY convention. The U.S. is in Vietnam, he said, not to protect freedom and democracy, but to protect its right to exploit the peoples and resources of Southeast Asia.

Further than this, the persistent "escalation" of Johnson’s dirty war, particularly the provocative bombings of north Vietnam, coming all the while closer to China’s borders, poses very sharply the threat of a third world war and nuclear annihilation. This threatens all mankind, even those cynical enough to remain indifferent to the plight of the Vietnamese people.

World-wide protests have mounted against the war. One of the most encouraging developments is the rise of a new anti-war movement in the U.S. itself, centered on the campuses. What is unique in this movement is the broadness of the anti-Vietnam war committees, the fact that they are open to all tendencies and viewpoints, and that this movement is directed against a specific war being conducted by the American government at this time.

While the Vietnam war has provoked more opposition than any other in U.S. history, the opposition in this country is even more widespread. A recent Gallup poll reveals that less than 50% of Canadians support the war and 33% are definitely opposed.

This is all the more significant considering the total lack of leadership present. The New Democratic Party, despite its denunciation of the war, and the possibilities for party-building present, has failed to mount a campaign of any kind to mobilize the Canadian people. The established peace groups—even under the threat of nuclear war—remain preoccupied with courting respectability and giving advice to the National Liberation Front ("Viet Cong") as to under what conditions, where and how negotiations should take place.

Youth in Vietnam are shouldering a major part of the struggle there, and their counterparts in the rest of the world are leading protests. Youth in Canada can do the same in rallying increasing opposition to the war, based on the following:

1. Support the NDP, the only party opposed to the war, in the November general election, and put pressure on it to make Vietnam its major campaign issue.

2. Work for the formation of broad, nonexclusive anti-war committees, open to all viewpoints, and uniting all tendencies of the anti-war and socialist movements in the struggle against the American war.

3. Recognize that there would be NO war except for the presence of U.S. troops; that the only hope of victory for the Washington warlords—in view of the heroic determination of the Vietnamese people—is the reduction of all Vietnam to a smoking ruin, and demand: GET U.S. TROOPS OUT OF VIETNAM NOW!!

Young Socialist Forum, October 1965

United Committee to End War
in Vietnam Formed

Over 150 people gathered in Carpenters’ Hall in Toronto, Sept. 19, to lay the groundwork for an effective protest movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam. The main speaker, Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society, was held up in New York and could not make the meeting. However the meeting heard talks by David Middleton, twice NDP candidate for parliament; Edith Guild, a lecturer at York University who had just returned from a peace mission to Vietnam; Bill Sone of the New Democratic Youth, and Henry Tarvainen of the Student Union for Peace Action. The meeting decided to elect the four speakers and the chairman, David Hemblen, as a committee to explore the possibilities of united action on Oct. 15, which has been designated as an International Day of Protest by the American "National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam" and the Students for a Democratic Society. The Society of Friends (Quakers), the Progressive Workers Movement, the League for Socialist Action, the Voice of Women and YSF took part in a joint literature display at the back of the hall.

Young Socialist Forum, November-December 1965

Thousands Protest Vietnam War

by Gail Anderson

Tens of thousands of people in the United States, and across the world came out into the streets on the weekend of Oct. 15-16 to oppose the American war against Vietnam. They came in response to an appeal issued by the Berkeley Vietnam Day committee for an international united protest on those two days.

The appeal met with a vigorous response in Canada, where Canadians are beginning to realize, under the impact of the waves of protest in the U.S., the extent of the Canadian government’s involvement in Vietnam.

The largest Canadian demonstration was in Toronto, where over a thousand from campus and community answered the Berkeley appeal. Initially, several Toronto anti-war groups, including YSF, united in the Toronto International Vietnam Day Committee to organize for the protest weekend. Unity was only partially achieved, however. Campus groups, led by the U. of T. Student Union for Peace Action did not join the TIVDC rally at City Hall, but assembled separately. Both demonstrations attacked Canada’s large and little-realized role in Vietnam.

The demonstrations then joined several hundred Americans, from a number of groups in western New York State in an Assembly of Unrepresented People in Exile before the U.S. consulate. The Americans had come into this symbolic exile to dramatize the difficulties they face in presenting their opposition to the Vietnam war to their countrymen. Six organizations representing a wide range of political tendencies on both sides of the border read symbolic "Declarations of Peace," putting forward their positions on the Vietnam war.

In Montreal, 200 students from McGill and Sir George Williams campuses marched to Confederation Square in a demonstration sponsored by the campus New Democratic Youth, SUPA, the McGill Student Christian Movement and Friends of SNCC. They were addressed by an American anti-war activist and by Cheddi Jagan, former Prime Minister of British Guiana.

Members of the NDY and a number of other groups joined together in Ottawa on Oct. 16. Over 30 people, carrying placards and distributing leaflets, marched through downtown Ottawa to Parliament Hill, where they held a workshop to discuss formation of a united Ottawa committee to oppose the war in Vietnam.

In Edmonton 60 demonstrators, including a large number of NDY activists, joined in a protest called by SUPA. They were addressed among others by an NDP federal candidate and by a representative of the League for Socialist Action, both of whom took a strong stand for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnam.

Vancouver saw the largest demonstration in recent years, when 500 joined outside the U.S. consulate. They presented a petition of the Vice-Consul demanding "that U.S. stop escalating the war in Vietnam. That is: 1) stop bombing North Vietnam, 2) stop bombing South Vietnam, 3) stop flights over mainland China." They also demanded withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam and the dismantling of military bases.

Never before have Canadian anti-war groupings participated in an international action of such scope and rarely before have the tendencies in the peace movement managed to overcome the tradition of red-baiting, factionalism and exclusionist policies to achieve such a degree of unity. This represents a breakthrough in both these respects.

The largest overseas demonstrations were in Japan. The Japanese Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Japan Trade Unions led a demonstration of 35,000, which was only one of a series of impressive actions throughout the week.

The weekend marked the first emergence of a significant movement against the war in western Europe. There the mass Social-Democratic and Communist parties, with millions of members and tens of millions of supporters, had not organized a single significant demonstration in the past year to protest American aggression in Vietnam.

However 1,500 marched in response to the Berkeley call in London, chanting "Out of Vietnam." Two thousand marched in Rome. Demonstrators in Copenhagen presented petitions to the U.S. embassy, while police in Stockholm attacked 300 young protestors. The largest, European demonstration was held in Brussels, where all left wing groups independent of the Belgian socialist party marched together with three unions under NLF ("Viet Cong") flags and banners reading "U.S. get out of Vietnam."

The most powerful demonstrations were held in the United States, where 70-100,000 marched in 60 cities. In New York, a united committee open to all groups who supported the demand "Stop the War in Vietnam Now" led a march of 30,000 down Fifth Avenue. One contingent of a thousand students from Columbia University and other schools marched through the heart of Harlem to join the main line, and were greeted by the ghetto residents with warm applause. Sponsors, participants and speakers ranged from pacifists like A.J. Muste and Dave Dellinger to labor figures, representatives from SNCC, leaders of the Puerto Rican community, to Clifton DeBerry, presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party.

In Berkeley, the Vietnam Day Committee, whose appeal sparked all these actions, brought two days of massive protest to a peak with a march of more than 15,000 through the streets of Berkeley. The marchers were heading for the Oakland Army Base, one of the chief points of embarkation for Vietnam, when they were stopped at the Oakland city limits by 400 riot police with clubs and tear gas grenades. A similar confrontation took place the next day. The Berkeley committee has now taken up this challenge to the right of free assembly, and will march again Nov. 20 in defiance of the threats of the city administrations.

In other cities, demonstrators: leafleted Selective Service induction centers; demonstrated in front of a university institute researching chemical and biological warfare for use in Vietnam; staged a sit-in at a selective service center; got thousands of signatures for a call for a national vote on U.S. participation in the war; and attempted a citizens arrest of an-air force base commander for "acting as in accessory to mass murder and genocide."

These demonstrations are proof of the swiftness with which anti-war sentiment is developing among the American people. Tens of thousands of participants are rapidly coming to an understanding of the nature of the war in Vietnam. Dozens of broad committees to end the war in Vietnam have sprung up, and are meeting in Washington the weekend of Nov. 27 for a national conference. The movement has broken free of the cold war factionalism of conservative groups which crippled previous peace actions.

The Oct. 16 demonstrations united all political tendencies of the left. What began as a student protest has become a mass movement, with strong ties with the militants of the Negro freedom struggle. The frantic red-baiting attacks of U.S. government officials are only an indication of the tremendous threat this movement presents to the American establishment.

The freedom fighters of the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam voiced their gratitude over their underground radio, saying they were "profoundly thankful" for the demonstrations. And with good reason, for Oct. 16 proved that the anti-war movement has acquired a mass base in the U.S., and an international character, and is posing a serious challenge to U.S. imperialism.

Young Socialist Forum, January-February 1966

Editorial: NDY Calls Ottawa March

At its meeting early this month, the Federal Council of the New Democratic Youth decided to issue a call for a March on Ottawa March 26 to protest the War in Vietnam and Canada’s complicity in that war. The call is to be issued January 13. This follows closely on the heels of the decision of the Provincial Council of the Ontario Young New Democrats to issue a similar call. The Federal Council meeting sent a telegram to the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) asking them to join in the action. SUPA has announced that they will support the march in principle, and will form a committee to discuss anti-war activities with the NDY. This march, which will be parallel to the March on Washington being held at the same time, could well provide the touch-off for a massive antiwar movement in Canada. Young Socialist Forum enthusiastically endorses the action, and calls on everyone opposed to American presence in Vietnam and Canada’s disgraceful endorsation of it to join to make this march a loud, clear and unequivocal statement to the American and Canadian governments that we will not acquiesce in the continuation of this war.

Young Socialist Forum, January-February 1966

Editorial: Vietnam: The Real Issue

One of the key questions now before Canadian opponents of the U.S. war of intervention in Vietnam is what concrete proposals we should make for ending the war and what demands we should make on both our own government and that of the U.S. While many slogans have been raised in the course of the Vietnam war, the most significant difference is between those who demand immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and those who talk in terms of "negotiations."

One essential point is clear from the beginning: those who call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops are sharply defined in their opposition to U.S. involvement, while those who persist in talking of negotiated settlements obviously leave themselves straddling the fence, evading the issue. Like it or not, the latter are aligning themselves with Johnson’s hypocritical call for "unconditional negotiations"—a call made in the face of his persistent escalation of the bombings and the mass slaughter of Vietnamese civilians.

Coming from North Americans, the call for negotiations is wrong in principle. It is up to the people of Vietnam to decide this question. Self-determination is not negotiable, and it is the right of self-determination that is at stake in Vietnam. To call for negotiations is to imply that the U.S. has some legal or moral case for its presence there. It obscures those issues that most need clarification if we intend to build a mass anti-war movement.

Those who raise the negotiations slogan claim to be making "peace" the paramount question. Considered factually, this is false. At best, negotiations would bring about a temporary armed truce and at worst they would be a form of "legalizing" the U.S. aggression. In any event, given the fact that the Saigon puppet regime has no significant popular support, the presence of U.S. troops is the sole factor in the prolonged continuation of the war. Without their removal, no permanent peaceful solution is conceivable.

It is argued by some that to call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces will narrow the appeal of the anti-war movement. This is not the case. This demand simply recognizes the right of national self-determination, and that the U.S. action constitutes aggression. It does not imply support for the National Liberation Front, or even necessarily for the Vietnamese revolution, but it does propose a solution to the war that honors the sovereignty of the Vietnamese people over their own country and destiny.

Another "solution" presented by some self-styled opponents of the war in Vietnam is that of UN intervention. In the first place such intervention would be just as complete a violation of Vietnamese sovereignty as the U.S. aggression. In the second place, are we to forget that everywhere the UN has entered the scene, it has acted as a front for Western big business interests, for imperialism? In Korea it acted as a cover-up for U.S. forces in maintaining the hated Rhee dictatorship in power against the wishes, and with bloody suppression, of the Korean people. Its hands are still stained with the blood of the late Congolese Premier, Patrice Lumumba. There is no reason whatever to think that the UN would not play a similar role in Vietnam. Such a "peace" the Vietnamese people can do without.

An effective anti-war movement in this country cannot be built on equivocal slogans that ignore the facts, confuse the issue and refuse to take a clear stand. Based, however, on the demand of immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, a slogan which projects a realistic solution and which does not require commitment to any particular political tendency, large numbers of the Canadian people, especially student and working youth, can be rallied in opposition to the monstrous crimes being perpetrated against the people of Vietnam.

And, as Canadians, it is our particular responsibility to demand an immediate and complete halt to the political and material support given by the Pearson government to the Pentagon warlords and their hirelings in Saigon.

The war in Vietnam can be stopped. After World War II, when the American government at tempted to use U.S. troops and equipment to crush the developing revolutions in Southeast Asia, and particularly in China, a massive popular movement developed among troops and civilians, based on the slogan "Bring the Troops Home!". The movement was successful. The American troops were demobilized. A movement based on a similar slogan can be built and can gather broad support, as the facts be come clearer. It must be built now.

Young Socialist Forum, March-April 1966

Toronto Conference Exposes
Canada’s Role in Vietnam

By John Wilson

TORONTO - In response to a message from the Ontario Young New Democrats Convention, the February 19 All-Day Conference on Canada’s Role in Vietnam concluded its second session by setting up a co-ordinating committee to organize a March on Ottawa March 26 protesting U.S. aggression and Canadian government complicity in the war. This key action of the Conference, coming on the heels of similar action in Vancouver (see Notebook column) and other centers, cements what promises to be a powerful solidarity demonstration with the International Days of Protest being observed in the U.S. and around the world on the same date.

Sponsored by eight peace organizations, the Conference drew over 700 people, including significant numbers of NDP members, trade unionists and students.

In the morning session the Conference heard speeches by two Canadians, John Powell and Hugh Campbell, both formerly stationed in Vietnam with the Canadian delegation to the International Control Commission. Both scored Canada’s cover-up role for the U.S. on the ICC, as had Professor J. Steele of Carleton University earlier in a carefully-documented indictment of Canada’s ICC minority reports.

One of the ex-ICC members related a particularly flagrant incident of the Canadian delegation’s refusal to recognize U.S. violations of the Geneva Accord. The Polish and Indian delegates pointed out U.S. airplanes landing at Saigon airport, whereupon the Canadian present complained he couldn’t see because of fog. When handed a pair of binoculars, he acknowledged that the planes were marked "Marines", but objected that the markings didn’t specify "what Marines"!

Denouncing U.S. conduct of the war, John Powell told of National Liberation Front prisoners being dumped to their deaths from helicopters and planes and of having their hands nailed to trees to prevent escape, and declared: "Our side—the good guys—commit more atrocities than the Viet Cong."

"The Vietnamese Rangers and Marines in Saigon, trained by the Americans, are as brutal as the Nazi SS used to be."

Campbell, a former RCAF squadron leader, despite a lengthy attack on "communism", described the NLF as "determined and wonderful fighters" and said that "through two miserable bloody decades these people have been fighting for their independence."

In a letter read by the Conference Chairman, Rev. A.H. Fowlie, prominent author Farley Mowat blasted the U.S. war as racist, declaring: "If the Vietnamese were white, they would not get this treatment..."

"Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick has been replaced by President Johnson’s big cattle prod in the vitals of a small colored nation".

He stated that, compared to the role to the U.S. in Vietnam, "The German treatment of Belgium in two world wars was an act of civility."

He went on further to compare the bombing "pause" of North Vietnam to a hatchet murderer pausing for breath before continuing to batter in the skull of his victim.

NDP MP Bert Herridge (Kootenay West) sharply condemned Canadian complicity in the war, describing Prime Minister Pearson as clutching in one hand "his now faded Nobel Peace Prize, and with the other wholeheartedly supporting the U.S. war in Vietnam." He stated that the U.S. role "fits the classical definition of aggression, unless we are all illiterates."

While he did not elaborate on Canada’s concrete material aid to the Saigon regime, such as Caribou planes, medical teams, supplies, equipment and the training of Saigon police detachments, Herridge pointed out that Canadian contributions to NATO and NORAD helped free U.S. troops for the war and called for immediate withdrawal from these military alliances. He also sharply criticized opponents of the war who insist on prefacing every statement with red-bating declarations of opposition to "communism".

The afternoon session broke up into workshops on action through political parties, peace groups, religious bodies and trade unions. Meeting again in plenary session the Conference voted unanimously to endorse a resolution condemning U.S. aggression and Canadian government complicity in it.

The decision of the Conference to participate in the Ottawa March is important in more than one way. In the first place, it will be the largest and most powerful Canadian demonstration yet against the war, and the first to concentrate on exposing and attacking Pearson’s role. Secondly, given a successful March, the atmosphere established at the Conference, especially with the new forces represented, opens up possibilities for building toward a new, united movement against the war in Vietnam, one open to all viewpoints and tendencies and in which a free exchange of ideas could prevail. As experience in the U.S. has demonstrated, such a movement would be far more effective in opposing the war than the established peace groups, in their disunited and fragmented state, are capable of doing. This makes it all the more pivotal that all opponents of the war strain every effort to guarantee that the March and support demonstrations are a resounding success.

Young Socialist Forum, May-June 1966

Editorial: The Anti-War Movement in Canada

I: The March 26 Protests

There can be no doubt that the March 26 March on Ottawa and support demonstrations were a resounding success, and we can be confident that their success can mark the beginning of a new, powerful anti-war movement in Canada. The numbers alone were impressive; the some 3,500 demonstrators in Ottawa being more than matched by the 5,000 who marched in Vancouver. But there are several other features that also stood out.

One of these was the high proportion of new, unaffiliated people, a very significant number of them students, who participated in the demonstrations. Another, almost equally important, and obviously related to the first, was the new and welcome atmosphere of open-mindedness and non-exclusion that prevailed; Literature salesmen of different tendencies were well received and there was no attempt to police slogans.

Taking place when they did and in the strength that they did, the demonstrations were a powerful show of solidarity with the international movement against U.S. aggression in Vietnam. Thus the growth of the anti-war movement in Canada is taking place in the context of growing international opposition to the genocidal war in Southeast Asia, especially in the U.S. itself, where the number of demonstrators on these International Days of Protest was twice that of last time.

While the March was to date the most powerful protest launched in Canada against U.S. policy in Vietnam and the Canadian government’s servile complicity, it was also more than that. Representatives were present from every major center of anti-war activity and, meeting shortly after the March took place, made an important step forward by deciding to publish a news and discussion bulletin for the movement nationally. Such a bulletin will make possible not only news reports of activity across the country but representative discussion of the perspectives before the anti-war forces and how best to continue to build effective opposition to the war.

Another development which has arisen mainly from events surrounding the march, and which is an even more promising potential for the construction of a nation-wide anti-war movement, is the emergence of several membership, single issue, non-exclusionist committees. Particularly notable among these are the Vancouver Vietnam Day Committee, by far the largest to date, and Students Against the War in Vietnam (SAWV), a highly successful and growing organization among Toronto high school students which promises to expand across Ontario and inspire similar high school committees elsewhere.

The growth of these independent committees is key to the establishment of a national anti-war movement, inasmuch as this type of organization can best encompass the large influx of new forces who are opposed to the war in Vietnam, but who do not necessarily want to commit themselves to the multi-issue programs of the "established" peace groups, nor to the political tendencies which these groups generally represent. There can be little doubt that the building of these committees across the country will bring about a more powerful anti-war movement than this country has yet seen.

II: The NDY’s Role

The March 26 demonstrations marked an important step forward for the youth movement of Canada’s labor party. This was the first time that the New Democratic Youth has moved out in a really major way on a vital political issue. In Saskatchewan the NDY took the lead in creating a united committee and Alberta took the initiative in the formation of a broad united front that excluded no one. In Ontario they played a major role in bringing about the March on Ottawa.

However, while the Ontario Young New Democrats must be congratulated for their participation in the March, their leaders deserve some sharp criticism for the way in which preparations for the March were carried out. They capitulated to red-baiting pressure from hysterical NDP officials who wanted to "clear" themselves from any association with "communists." In doing this they created the fiction of a "separate YND March" and threatened disciplinary action against members who worked with the Toronto Coordinating Committee. Specifically, they threatened suspension or expulsion of YND members who sold Co-ordinating Committee train tickets rather than exclusively selling YND tickets! They even went so far as to violate policy adopted by convention which elected them, calling for "negotiations" rather than for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, a demand that the convention resolution had specified. In doing these things, they tended only to isolate the YND, justifiably alienate other antiwar activists, and, frankly, make the OYND look more than a little stupid.

But, taken overall, the developments around March 26, particularly the large influx of new forces into the anti-war movement, present the NDY with a tremendous opportunity to take a leadership role in the anti-war movement, build the struggle and in the process gain influence and members. However this requires a sensitive approach to other opponents of the war and an understanding of how to go about building unity of the anti-war forces. The NDY in Alberta and Saskatchewan have shown how to do this. On the other hand, any attempts by the NDY to dominate, to give ultimatums, or to try and channel anti-war actions solely through their own organization are doomed to failure.

An important point for the NDY to consider is its relationship to the new independent committees that have come, and are coming into being. We believe that it is in the best interests of both the anti-war movement and the NDY that NDYers should join and help build such committees. While making no attempt to impose thier program on these committees, there is nothing to prevent NDYers from identifying themselves as such and talking up the NDY and NDP. By playing this role the NDY can make itself a respected and influential force among young antiwar activists; we know that socialists in the NDY will make every effort to see that this happens.

Young Socialist Forum, November-December 1966

Students and the Anti-war Movement:
A YSF Interview

Editor’s Note: On September 5, the University of Toronto Committee to End the War in Vietnam issued a call for Canadian Student Days of Protest for November 11-12. They established a Communications Committee to maintain co-ordination with other areas. As secretary of the Communications Committee, Karen Kopperud is responsible for all correspondence and for the weekly progress reports the committee has published. YSF interviewed Karen on October 10.

YSF: Karen, why did the U of T Committee decide to issue this call?

Karen: You have to understand first that the anti-war movement in Canada has developed much more slowly than in the U.S., and in a very different way. In the States, it was students who initiated the protests, beginning in April 1985 with the SDS March on Washington. The movement then spread to the community. Here in Canada, the first big actions were held last March, with the initiative coming largely from community organizations like the NDY. As a result, there has been no appreciable student action here, except in B.C. This has meant that the movement has been deprived of a large reservoir of activists. There is a broad feeling against the war on campus, and students are generally more willing and able to act than non-students. They can be really critical in extending the protest beyond the campus. So our primary reason for calling this action was to bring the anti-war movement to Canadian students; to organize opposition to the war among students.

YSF: How has the reaction been?

Karen: Fantastic! We expected that there would be a good response, but what we got was beyond our wildest dreams. At the beginning of the year, there were Committees to End the War on only two campuses—UBC and U of T. Now they’ve sprouted up everywhere. Eight committees have already been formed, and five more are being set up now. The Canada/Vietnam Newsletter endorsed the Call. Ken Novakowski, President of the Alberta New Democratic Youth, sent in a telegram endorsing it. The Ontario YND voted to support it at their convention. All sorts of profs have endorsed it. It looks like this is going to be the biggest action of its kind ever carried in Canada.

YSF: Why did you establish the U of T CEWV rather than working in, say, SUPA or the NDY?

Karen: It wasn’t a case of rather than, but a case of in addition to. I’m a member of the NDY, for example. Other people in the Committee are in SUPA, or the Student Christian Movement or things like that. And a large number aren’t members of anything else. You see, the issue of Vietnam is one that can not only unite people of many different political views, but also people who haven’t any political views. You can’t ask everybody who is concerned over the war in Vietnam to join an organization that has a fully developed ideology—if you do you won’t be able to build a movement against the war, except in extraordinary conditions. We have to build a movement that excludes no one who is willing to work for self-determination for Vietnam. Committees based on this single issue are the best way to do this—this has been proven by the experience of the American movement.

YSF: Do you think it’s possible to bring together radicals of every point of view in a united movement?

Karen: Not only do I think it’s possible, I think it’s vital. The U of T Committee has been able to unite radicals from many tendencies. We all agree that we must work together to end the war. And that’s been the pattern in other areas—the Student Days of Protest have been endorsed by organizations, students and profs of every conceivable point of view.

I’m not saying there aren’t problems. For example, the U of T Committee, along with Students Against the War in Vietnam, the high school group, and several other groups were expelled from the Toronto Co-ordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam a month ago. The people who expelled us—and they did it at a meeting that was poorly attended—charged us with trying to build a single issue movement, trying to solidarize ourselves with the American antiwar movement, and trying to build an international movement. Of course we were trying to do those things—how else are we going to build effective opposition to the war?

So of the seven functioning committees to end the war in Toronto, six are outside the co-ordinating committee now. Much the same situation exists in Vancouver. As a result, this "co-ordinating committee" doesn’t co-ordinate anything—it merely represents one segment of the anti-war movement, and not a very big one.

But the people who carried this undemocratic maneuver out admitted it wasn’t democratic. Their support came mainly from old-line peace groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmanent, the Peace Congress and the Communist Party, and they are not anxious to be associated with more militant groups.

A real contrast to this sort of thing happened just a week after the split in Toronto. The American anti-war movement held a conference in Cleveland and decided to launch a series of actions for November 5th to 8th, just before the U.S. elections. They set up the November 8th Mobilization Committee, which has the broadest list of sponsors ever gathered for any American action. People who have never worked together before are uniting on the issue of Vietnam: liberal professors, socialists, communists, civil rights workers—from Dr. Spock to Stokely Carmichael—are working together. That’s what we hope will be happening here soon.

YSF: How have events in Vietnam—like the Buddhist demonstrations and the recent elections—influenced the anti-war movement?

Karen: The Buddhist demonstrations had a tremendous impact. Here were people in Vietnam demonstrating against the government and for peace. A lot of people realized what was going on in Vietnam as a result of those actions.

The election tended to confuse things a bit. The State Department made such a big deal about how they represented a victory for Cao Ky, that some people were disoriented. But if there is one thing people have learned out of this war, it’s that you can’t trust L.B.J. so there was a lot of skepticism—and rightly, too. When large portions of the population are excluded from voting, major groupings excluded from running, then the elections aren’t likely to be democratic. Just the figures of the number of participants were faked—they claimed that people voted in numbers which would include areas that the U.S. admits it can’t get into.

The developments in Vietnam have, overall, strengthened the determination and militancy of anti-war activists. Like at the U.S. Cleveland Conference—profs who used to talk about giving advice to the government are realizing that the State Department isn’t interested in advice, it wants to win in Vietnam. The escalation of the war is the clearest evidence of the fact that Johnson knows what he is doing and why. So it’s not a case of changing his mind, it’s a case of stopping him.

Another sign of this increasing militancy is the evolution of the demands the movement poses. A year and a half ago, most committees just called for an end to the war, negotiations and so on. Now, almost everyone calls for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops as the only possible slogan for winning self-determination for the Vietnamese.

YSF: What’s the next step for the anti-war movement in Canada?

Karen: Work. Plain hard work. We have to organize in every city and on every campus—students and people in the community have to be made aware of the facts about the war. We have to explain the role Canada has played, whitewashing U.S. action, supplying arms. The Canada/Vietnam Newsletter can play a major part in both organizing and educating people.

A lot of radicals don’t think the war can be stopped. They don’t seem to realize the extreme vulnerability of the American position. With Wilson and Pearson practically the only major figures supporting the war, and with inflation at home—they are extremely susceptible to international public pressure. And now we are beginning to see open signs of the anti-war sentiments among American GI’s—like the Fort Hood Three, who refused to go to Vietnam, and were given 3 and five years at hard labor for it. They didn’t give those three guys such harsh sentences for nothing—they were out to set an example so that no one else would follow them.

Nobody, anywhere, with any touch of concern for the fate of the world, can have any excuse for not working to get the U.S. out of Vietnam.

Young Socialist Forum, January-February 1968

End Campus Complicity

The Student Assembly to End the War in Vietnam held in Toronto, December 28 and 29, resolved to "Drive the War makers Off Campus." The 125 participants from 23 universities and several high schools from coast to coast will organize students to demand an end to job recruiting by companies engaged in the war in Vietnam, research campus complicity and stop university war research.

The conference set Feb. 9 as a cross-Canada Student Day of Protest against campus complicity. Because of its coast-to-coast united character the February 9 protest is expected to give a powerful impetus to the growth of a mass student movement against the Vietnam war.

Laurier LaPierre, federal vice-president of the New Democratic Party, spoke to the Assembly and called for a policy of confrontation. "When men refuse to confront they will accept the status quo and it is the status quo which destroys, which makes us sick human beings. All I care about," he concluded, "is that you do something about the society."

Syd Stapleton, editor of the Student Mobilizer, organ of the Student Mobilization Committee, which initiated the April 15 and October 21 mass demonstrations in the United States, said, "Student Power and stopping war recruiters are often interlocked, but the struggle to end the war must be given priority where the two objectives do not coincide." He also stated that the percentage of American soldiers opposed to the war is comparable to that found in the general population. "The struggle against the war is of world importance."

"There will be a million people," he said, "in the demonstrations at the Democratic convention in Chicago—but that’s including the troops" Stapleton charged the police and administration with attempting to break up the American anti-war movement, citing police brutality against the student demonstrators in New York during " Stop the Draft Week," Dec. 4-8.

Ian Angus, Executive Council member of the YS-LJS [Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes], said, " The international anti-war movement allows the individual in the demonstration to see a larger perspective than can be seen in his own area. The anti-war movement must unite on Canada-wide and worldwide actions to strike powerful blows at the Canadian government’s complicity and the American government’s criminal actions in Vietnam. We can win massive support not only on the campus but among the population all across the country."

The Assembly adjourned to be reconvened in the Canadian Industries Limited building. Participants marched to the building chanting, "Pearson, Martin, CIL, How many weapons do you sell?"

The diversity of political groups at the conference demonstrates the inclusion of more diverse forces in the student anti-war movement. The militant character of the speeches and resolutions indicate a deepening understanding of the interconnections between the universities, Canadian corporations, the government and the American military.

Besides the many unaffiliated students, in attendance there were Young Socialists, Independent Socialists, New Leftists, and members of the Communist Party of Canada.

The student anti-war movement will now try to build a mass movement on the campus, educate greater numbers of students about the war, influence student governments, aid the high school anti-war groups and try to get support from formerly uncommitted and hostile elements on campus.

Young Socialist Forum, November-December 1968

GIs Oppose The War

by Ken Wolfson

Ken Wolfson, a student at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, was the only student power candidate to run for the Board of Governors recently when Ryerson elected two students to the Board. He is an editorial board member of YSF.

Soldiers in the American army won an important victory October 1, when Allen Myers, a private at Fort Dix who opposed the war in Vietnam, was found "not guilty" at his court martial hearing. Myers had been charged with disobeying an order prohibiting the distribution of leaflets and other printed matter that is, according to the Fort Dix regulation, "in bad taste, prejudicial to good order, or subversive."

The leaflet Myers was distributing was one published by the Philadelphia Student Mobilization Committee entitled "Support our Men in Vietnam, Not Those Who Send Them There." Myers is not the first anti-war GI to be harassed for exercising his constitutional rights, but he is one of the first to win the case against the army brass. In the spring of 1967 the army brass tried to court martial another GI, 21 year old Howie Petrick. Howie was a member of the Young Socialist Alliance and an anti-war activist before he was drafted. When he was drafted he refused to sign the "loyalty" oath and stated that he didn’t intend to change his socialist ideas or end his anti-war activities. He suggested that perhaps they might want to think about the whole question some more before drafting him.

But, according to Howie, ‘"They said that that was fine; that the army wasn’t some sort of totalitarian state and that everybody is entitled to exercise his constitutional rights within it. So if it was fine with them it was fine with me, and I went into the army."

He didn’t change his views, and what’s more he began talking to other GIs on his base who thought what he said made a lot of sense. When other GIs started to read his pamphlets and newspapers against the war, agree with them and pass them on to their buddies, the army moved in on Howie.

As Howie puts it, "They must have changed the rules or something." All his pamphlets were seized and he was isolated from his fellow GIs. Then they tried to court martial him.

But the Young Socialist Alliance initiated such a strong campaign for the right of Petrick and all GIs to exercise their constitutional rights, that the army had to back down. Anti-war activists throughout the United States identified with and supported the GI who wouldn’t shut up about what he knew was right. Last spring he was given an "undesirable discharge" from the army. He is fighting the "undesirable" part.

Howie Petrick addressed a conference of the Vietnam Mobilization Committee in Toronto in mid-September. He said, "The student-based anti-war movement can’t end the war by itself; it must reach out to involve the thousands of soldiers who are opposed to the war and who can put a stop to it."

He described the growing feeling among the GIs against the war and how easily they come to oppose it. GIs have always hated the idiocy of military life—the food, the social isolation, the inhuman treatment. But the soldier of World War II and Korea thought he was fighting for something worthwhile. The American GI today sees no reason whatsoever for fighting in Vietnam.

Within the United States itself people have been pressing their demands. The blacks are fighting for control of their lives and their communities. Trade unions fight for higher wages. And students attack the universities for being part of the racist war machine. The war, instead of diverting people from the struggle at home, has intensified that struggle.

All this has led to a growing sentiment among the troops. Still small but growing numbers of GIs have refused to go to Vietnam, have joined anti-war groups or have participated in actions against the war. The brass, of course tries to isolate anti-war GIs and intimidate them. They try to stop the circulation of anti-war literature. But they aren’t succeeding.

Howie Petrick told his anti-war audience in Toronto about the efforts of GIs who were circulating their own anti-war newspapers. "Each copy," he said, "is circulated among 15 or 20 men." There are many papers he explained. They have many names and many differences relating to the different needs of the GIs on the bases that produce them, but they’re all against the war. The most colorful name of all the papers he mentioned was a set of initials—FTA. It used to stand for Fun, Travel and Adventure—the army’s description of army life—but the GIs thought it more appropriately stood for Fuck The Army. One paper, Task Force, circulated 8,000 copies to GIs in the San Francisco region in one week.

This last International Week of Protest saw the organized participation of active GIs in anti-war demonstrations for the first time. They participated in the American Day of Protest on October 26, but they also held their own march in San Francisco on October 12. Over 500 active duty GIs joined with 15,000 others in this demonstration.

Ex-Green Beret Donald Duncan, a Canadian, said at the demonstration, "Although it is unique, it is not isolated. And the numbers (of protesting GIs) are increasing, here and in Vietnam.... This is not just another student mobilization.... This was started by, led by, and organized by active-duty GIs, reservists, Vietnam vets, and veterans of World War II and Korea. Important as other marches have been, I think this one is really going to be a hall mark; it’s going to be a turning point."

Although the army officials tried their utmost to stop the march, they failed. They tried to keep civilians off the bases, to keep GIs on the base during the demonstration and even tried to ship leaders of the protest to other bases. The march went on.

Nobody likes the war—least of all GIs. They know that what’s happening in Vietnam is not a clean, safe, ‘holy war, but rather a bloody mess. Having learned about "democracy" in the ghettos, many of them have no stomach for the tales about saving the world for democracy. The fake rhetoric of the capitalist politicians giving "support" to the boys in Vietnam means little to them.

The only presidential candidate who has solidarized himself in a meaningful way with the GIs is Fred Halstead, the Socialist Workers Party candidate. This fall Halstead toured his constituents in Vietnam. Prior to this tour he wrote: "... no one has a better right to oppose the war than a combat GI…. I also believe they ought to have the right to demonstrate against the war. Actually, this has happened before in the U.S. armed services. Just after the end of World War II, there were huge demonstrations of GIs overseas demanding to be brought home instead of being left in the Pacific area and involved in the Chinese civil war that was then developing. I know about these demonstrations, because I participated in them."

"All this happened without any codes, orders or regulations being violated, or any serious legal trouble. The movement was just too wide-spread and popular for anyone to stop it."

The GI movement against the war is growing. The army has failed in their tactics of court-martial and intimidation. The pressure is building up and in time, the GIs, along with the international movement against the war, will force the Pentagon to bring them home.

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