The growing mobilizations by teenagers in the US and Palestine, cited in this month’s CPNN bulletin, remind me of the mobilizations by youth against the War in Vietnam in the 1960’s and by youth against Apartheid in the 1970’s.
If we learn from those mobilizations, now 50 years ago, there is a possibility that they can be expanded into a global movement against all violence.
Both began as localized movements and rapidly spread around the world, especially through the engagement of young people.
I had been active in the anti-Vietnam movement in the mid-60’s in the US and spent a year in Italy in 1968. The students in Italy joined the movement with enthusiasm and enlarged the agenda to include a general demand for education reform. 25 years later, working with the UNESCO team for a National Culture of Peace Program in El Salvador, we discovered that each of us had been radicalized in the movement of the 60’s and active in more than one country (USA/Italy, Nicaragua/France, Ecuador/France, etc.).
The student-led movement against Apartheid in South Africa was picked up by students around the world, including those at my university in the United States which became the first American university to divest its portfolio from companies doing business with the Apartheid regime. I was proud to be their advisor.
At that time there were still active movements of Communist Parties around the world that provided strategic and tactical support to the youth movements, helping them to achieve global networks and inspiration.
The Communists also helped broaden the agendas of action against all sorts of violence. Our actions in the USA against the Vietnam War were linked by the Left to the actions of the Civil Rights movement against the violence of racism. For example, with the help of the Left, a civil rights activist from the South who had been threatened with death in the South came north to help with our political campaign in Connecticut which gained the greatest number of votes of any anti-war candidate in 1966. And in April 1967 Martin Luther King united the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement in two dramatic speeches, one of which he delivered to an anti-war march to the United Nations. Accused of being pro-communist by FBI director J.Edgar Hoover, he was assassinated one year later.
In the 1960’s, It was Communist veterans from the 1930’s who taught us to recognize the agents provocateurs of COINTELPRO, the government agents who tried to infiltrate our ranks with guns and dynamite in order to give the government an excuse to crush our movement with violence.
The movement against the violence of Apartheid produced political leadership of people like Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela whose inspiration reached far beyond South Africa, inspiring us all towards a global movement against all kinds of violence and oppression.
Those of us who are veterans of the 60’s and 70’s need to assume the role played by veterans of the 30’s in those years and provide strategic and tactical support to the new generation. We need to help them broaden their agenda to protest all forms of violence and broaden their scope to become a truly global movement.
The time is short. Johan Galtung has repeated his prediction, first made in 2004, that the American Empire cannot be sustained beyond the year 2020. The window of opportunity is soon arriving when the culture of war and violence can be transformed into a culture of peace and nonviolence. The strength is in the hands of the new generation, but the support and advice of the older generation is still needed.