What is the May 2nd Movement?


First Published: September 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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We, as students in the richest but most brutally confused country in the world, cannot understand that world and our part in it with the a-historical education we receive in our universities. In order to make ourselves into effective social beings and in order to discover, sharpen, and use the power of our knowledge, we should organize ourselves in the broadest possible way to combat that lack of education. For it is a lack, a vacuum, that leads to political degeneration and default. The May 2nd Movement was formed to fight against a politics of default, specifically by organizing student protest and revolt against our government’s savage war on the people of Vietnam.

May 2, 1964, saw the first major student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. In New York City, 1000 students marched through Times Square to the United Nations to protest what was then called “U.S. intervention” on behalf of the legitimate government of South Vietnam. More than 700 students and young people marched through San Francisco. In Boston, Madison, Wisconsin, Seattle, there were simultaneous smaller demonstrations. A start, but nowhere near enough. Nowhere near enough because very few students even knew about the war, or if they did, knew what it means, or what they could do about it. Now thousands know the nature of the war in Vietnam and its corollary deceit in the press and in our universities, and its concomitant at home. The May 2nd Movement calls that war and the resulting lies about it at home the products of an imperialistic system.

The chief imperialistic power in the world today is the United States, which has a business empire that permeates the non-socialist world, extracting the superprofits made possible by monopoly control. U.S. economic strangulation of other countries causes horrible living conditions, including mass starvation, to prevail. The people who live in these countries have tried every “legal,” non-violent recourse to break out of their misery, only to be violently suppressed or granted phony independence, without political freedom or economic improvement. They are driven to revolution as the only means of liberation from imperialistic domination. To keep them down the U.S. business empire requires the largest military empire in world history. Besides 3600 bases abroad, the U.S. military empire includes the “native troops,” the U.S. Trained, equipped and paid armies of the puppet military dictators (Ky, Tschombe, Branco). Ruling their countries for the benefit of foreign business, getting personal wealth and power as their out, these traitors serve to conceal the foreign nature of their country’s oppression.

The May 2nd movement opposes this 1965 version of imperialism – the corporations that exact superprofits, the military machine that enforces the system by violence and the cultural establishment that maintains the system abroad and at home, by racism, ignorance, lies and suppression of the socially creative forces within man himself.

National liberation movements are emerging in country after country around the world. Some have already been victorious: Cuba, North Vietnam, Indonesia, China. Others are carrying on pitched armed struggle against imperialism or are building toward it: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, British Guyana, Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, Iran, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Philippines. This is the many-fronted third world war. They May 2nd Movement, recognizing that there can be no peace without freedom, supports and joins the struggles for national liberation. We defect politically from the corruption of culture, mind and body that is the price the privileged must pay in our country for a share in the booty of exploitation.

The university offers no explanation of what’s wrong, of what’s happening in a world principally marked by revolution. Instead, it grooms us for places as technicians, managers and clerks within the giant corporations, or to be professional apologists for the status quo within the giant multiversities, or to fit some other cog-space that needs the special “sensitivity” that only the polish of factory education can bring. University courses on China put forward the same formula as the war comic books – a communist conspiracy resulting in a blue-ant hill. Usually there is no course at all on revolutionary Cuba, one of the major developments of our lifetime, only 90 miles away. Philosophy is not interested in how to understand (let alone change) the world, only in how to evade it. Literature is concerned with form alone. Students jump from major to major in search of relevancy, then, finding it nowhere, either quit or settle for banality. The university is doing its job, supplying the system with loyal, well-trained, intelligent servants – who are moral, cultural and social morons. Lest this job prove too much of a burden for overstrained college administrators, it is shared with other institutions, from the moves to the Peace Corps.

Out of this understanding of imperialism as responsible for the poverty of our lives, and out of the void of inaction of the existing peace and left groups on the campuses, the May 2nd Movement was formed. M2M is campus based, attempting to organize students to fight the system and not dociley (or gripingly) accept it.

The major issue facing U.S. students at this time is the war against the people of Vietnam. This war is also against the interests of the students and almost the entire population of the United States. Nine billion dollars has already been cut from the ever-decreasing “peace” portion of the federal budget. The war has been used against steel workers, who were told that they were not permitted to strike because of the “national emergency.” The administration will demand that black Americans stop protesting in an attempt to cover angry faces with a mask of “national unity.”

Most people realize that the U.S. is not fighting for freedom and democracy in Vietnam, that the Vietnamese people want nothing more than the U.S. to get out. We say to those who are being forced to kill and die for the interests of imperialism – don’t go. The May 2nd Movement is launching an anti-induction campaign on the campuses. This campaign will organize existing resistance to the draft, based on the refusal to fight against the people of Vietnam. Each campus and each community should say, “No one from this college (or community) should be drafted.” Declarations and literature will be circulated, forums and meetings held, demonstrations organized and acts of disobedience engaged in. The theme will be, “We Won’t Go.”

We are beginning a program of approaching workers at the factory gate to talk to them about the war in Vietnam and why it is against the interests of workers. This project comes out of the understanding that while students make up an important section of the population, industrial workers make, load and transport the goods, and are therefore the key for stopping the war in Vietnam – for stopping the whole system. While workers’ militancy has become more apparent in recent years, we realize that organizing a radical workers’ movement in this country is a long range goal, and one that essentially must be done by workers. All the more reason to begin projects now to involve workers in the peace movement and as allies of the student.

Some chapters of May 2 plan campaigns to donate blood and other medical aid to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, to concretely show our support for national liberation struggles. Receiving blood from U.S. college students will be a terrific morale boost to the Vietnamese people. Collecting pledges for blood on campus can also show where the administration stands, as collecting for civil rights did at Berkeley.

Vietnam is not the slap in the face administered to students by U.S. foreign policy. During the summers of 1963 and 1964, 150 U.S. students traveled to Cuba to see the meaning of a Revolution. They went in spite of a state department “ban” on travel to Cuba. Even worse, they came back and told students throughout the country, with their experience and with slides, that Cuba was building a just society. The organizers of the trips (including members of M2M) face between five and twenty years in jail. We are now organizing defense for them on campuses. We must fight for our right to travel anywhere and see for ourselves what is happening we don’t find out in our classes and newspapers. The ban on travel to Cuba (and China, North Korea, North Vietnam, liberated parts of South Vietnam, Albania) is not an isolated Civil Liberties issue. It is part of the U.S. government’s policy of suppressing people around the world. Fighting against the ban is part of our struggle for liberation.

This struggle is also being waged in the universities. Whatever the immediate cause – libraries open 24 hours a day, free tuition, real teaching and learning – it comes down to this: In whose interest is the university run? Theirs or Ours? May 2nd chapters put forward the idea that students must fight for control of their schools, and that by working together we can win fundamental changes in our day-to-day life.

A creative response to university mis-education is the Free University of New York. May 2nd supports the Free University and May 2nd members in and around New York City participate in it as students and teachers. We will work toward spreading the idea of F.U.N.Y. and help in the initiation of Free Universities in other areas.

These activities are the focus of our daily work of educating and organizing: Talking to each person on campus, going door to door, literature tables, street rallies, speaking up in class about pertinent issues.

Two special vehicles of education and agitation are the Free Student and M2M study groups. Four issues of FS have already been published so far and have sold over 70,000 copies. It has become an important voice of the student movement on many campuses, reaching not only activists, but thousands of students not in contact with the movement in any other way. FS has reported and analyzed the major student events: Berkeley, the March on Washington. It has included long features on Vietnam, Congo, Malaysia-Indonesia, Columbia University (including a complete rundown on who the trustees are) and the right of travel to Cuba. A regular feature has been the International Student column. The editorials have analyzed the student movement, the university, the war in Vietnam, the need for a long term outlook in building a movement, and have helped develop a consciousness within the student movement. Free Student is sold by all M2M chapters and members, in addition to many friends and other groups. It is used in organizing support and recruiting new members.

Study groups, such as on Vietnam, are meant for learning what is vital but not taught within the school. They are unlike most classes, where alleged experts provide descriptions of things for us to feed back in tests. The members of a study group come together to help each other increase their understanding of areas they feel necessary in order to be better able to fight for social change. The study group develops an analysis of events which is not right or wrong because a professor says so, but is judged by whether it aids in projecting the strategy and tactics of political struggle.

Our ideas have to correspond to reality if we are to organize large numbers of people to fight against a brutal system. We are in the process of developing an ideology based on anti-imperialism and support for the struggles of national liberation. To have an ideology means that we have beliefs based on studied understanding and analysis of the world situation. We put those beliefs forward for debate and for testing and if they are proven, we base our actions upon them. Our ideology enables us to see through events that confuse and mislead. Many people who are against the war in Vietnam, but who are “non-ideological,” are deceived by Johnson’s peace offensive. They believe, because it would be nice if it were true, that the administration’s calls for negotiations represent a real desire to end the war. This, in spite of the two years of pretense at negotiations the U.S. engaged in during the hardest fighting of the Korean war, and the hypocrisy of calling for a return to the Geneva agreements, which the U.S. has – literally-violated in every possible way.

We reject non-ideological radicalism. There is no such thing as non-ideology. Those who have “non-ideology” cannot counter the prevailing ideology – decaying liberalism. Only if the members of an organization share a conscious understanding of their task, can they work together over a long period of time without suspicion, distraction and manipulation. Of course, organizations with differing ideologies can work together for common goals.

When the student protest movement refers to “the establishment,” we are not kidding. That which we are out to change – be it a university or a government – is built on a tremendously powerful structure of material and organization. The money and resources available to it are immense. We will change nothing unless we organize ourselves, forge ourselves into a united and discipline force and match the strength of the establishment in confrontations. We can do so because our strength is based on people, not cash. M2M is building an organization of students that recognizes, and works to satisfy, our needs as students and as men and women. These needs are inseparable from the worldwide struggle for liberation. One can choose to oppose this struggle, or to join it. To oppose it is to be a murderer. To join together and fight to change this murderous society is the only way for any of us to live with decency and dignity. We will succeed when large numbers of students have the insight, the dedication and the will to organize themselves, to join the struggle with their sections of the population, and to see it through.