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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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