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International Socialist Review, Winter 1966


Dan Rosenshine & Jens Jensen

The Thanksgiving Anti-War Convention


From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.1, Winter 1966, pp.17, 29-30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Over the Thanksgiving weekend, close to 1,500 people from a wide variety of organizations opposed to the war in Vietnam came together to talk shop in Washington, D.C., at the convention called by the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

The date was set for the next major national action against the war, another weekend of protest, to be held on March 25 and 26 around the theme, “End the War in Vietnam Now”. These Days of Protest, like October 15 and 16, will have a combined educational and direct action character. They have the potential of being much larger than the demonstrations in October, drawing upon the additional tens of thousands, or more, who will be jolted into active opposition between now and then by the continued escalation of the war. The convention also decided to support anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations called by the Southern Regional Committee to End the War in Vietnam to be held throughout the South on February 12.

This was the first gathering of its kind for the new antiwar movement and there was naturally a wide range of viewpoints represented and expressed. Probably the viewpoint that generated the most dicussion and controversy was that held by those of us who formed the Caucus to Constitute a National Organization of the Local Independent Anti-Vietnam-War Committees for the Withdrawal of US Troops Now. Over 170 delegates and members from 52 Committees to End the War in Vietnam met in this caucus and discussed the idea of building a national organization to demand the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam.

As two delegates from independent committees who played an active role in the convention and in establishing the Caucus, we would like to set down at some length our understanding of the issues of the convention.

1. What are independent anti-war committees and why are they important?

Properly speaking, the anti-war movement consists of every trend or organization that has taken a forthright position against the war and acted upon it. This includes organizations such as SANE [National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy], CNVA [Committee for Non-violent Action], civil rights groups like SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party], community projects and organizations, SDS [Students for a Democratic Society], DuBois Clubs, YSA [Young Socialist Alliance], the May 2nd Movement and other left political groups, all of which existed before the escalation of the war.

The Committees to End the War in Vietnam and Vietnam Day Committees, however, are a new development that was born out of the SDS March on Washington and the Berkeley Vietnam Day last spring. They have rapidly become the most dynamic sector of the anti-war movement.

Although each local Committee to End the War in Vietnam has its own unique characteristics, there are certain common features that all of them have. They have established a policy of non-exclusion whereby anybody who is opposed to the war in Vietnam can join regardless of other political views or affiliations. This sharply separates them from some of the organizations leading the peace movement a few years ago like the Student Peace Union, Turn Toward Peace and SANE. They are able to remain nonexclusive because they are organized around the single issue of ending the war in Vietnam. This differentiates them from organizations with broad programs for social change like SDS, the DuBois Clubs, YSA, May 2nd, and the various local multi-issue groups.

This means that the tens of thousands of participants in the movement who haven’t come to definite conclusions on how or whether society should be changed, can work together with radicals who do have such conclusions. It also means that the committees do not choose between the conflicting programs of the radicals, and narrow themselves to one viewpoint on all questions other than Vietnam. The committees are non-exclusive to both the radicals and other opponents of the war (and it is this latter group which is growing the fastest).

The Committees to End the War in Vietnam are important because their non-exclusiveness and breadth along with their forceful opposition to the Vietnam war means that they can organize large numbers of people in strong opposition to the war.

2. The charge of “split”

The meetings and decisions of the independent caucus in no sense constituted a “split” from the convention. This charge was made several times during the convention in a manner that could only cloud the issues, heighten tensions and shut off meaningful discussion.

As the convention began, it was apparent that there was a broad spectrum of peace forces there. Almost half of the voting delegates were not from independent committees. Due to the broad character of the convention, it could not speak for the independent committees, nor could it adopt an approach toward ending the war. This became clear when two separate votes during the convention rejected the NCC’s coming out for immediate withdrawal of US troops. When it was proposed by the Southern delegates that the NCC march on the SANE demonstration with slogans for withdrawal, there was general agreement that the NCC was a coordinating committee of many different kinds of organizations, and could not adopt a stand on how to end the war. The National Action Workshop proposed that the March 25-26 demonstrations be under the theme of “Bring the Troops Home Now”. Several delegates from multi-issue organizations expressed their opposition to the theme, and it was defeated. So it was clear that the NCC is a coordinating body, which includes the independent committees and those for withdrawal, but is not limited to them. The independent caucus supported the NCC as a coordinating body, as a service to all the participating groups.

We who formed the caucus did so not to set up a parallel coordinating committee, which we are not, but because we felt that the independent committees for immediate withdrawal should have their own national organization. Our caucus has been organized to publicize this idea.

3. Coordination

It was apparent at the convention that it is not an easy job to coordinate the diverse range of organizations and individuals who are opposing the war in Vietnam, especially when there are sharp differences between some of them. Nevertheless, it is an important and necessary job.

We look at this problem from two levels. First is the problem of coordination among the many national and local organizations who are opposed to the war. This demands a structure where every national group has a voice and vote. Such a coordinating center can act as a service center for the participating groups and as an initiator of common actions against the war.

The proposals on the structure of the NCC submitted by the caucus to the NCC convention and those submitted by a majority of the steering committee of the NCC are carried in this issue of the Newsletter.

While the two proposals are similar, there are some significant differences. First, the caucus wanted the policy of non-exclusion to be explicitly stated in the resolution on structure. The steering committee proposal which was adopted had no such provision.

Second, the caucus felt that the national organizations should not only have voice on the NCC but should also have a vote. The steering committee proposal gave only voice but no vote to national organizations. It was the feeling of the caucus that if national organizations are to be encouraged to participate in helping to plan national actions, etc., they should have a vote in making decisions.

On the other hand, the caucus opposed the section in the steering committee proposal that allows local chapters of national organizations a vote if they are the sole anti-war group in their area. The clause is ambiguous enough to leave the door open to any national political organization defining “local area” to suit its needs and seating many more than one voting representative on the NCC. Furthermore, it discourages rather than encourages chapters of national organizations to help form new Committees to End the War in Vietnam.

The independent caucus proposals would have made the NCC more democratic and representative as a coordinating body.

There is also the Independent Committees’ problem of coordination among the Committees to End the War in Vietnam and VDCs that support immediate withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam. These groups, especially as they become more numerous, should have a national organization of their own. Besides the obvious advantages of having a national center that heightens the solidarity and effectiveness of the supporters of withdrawal, a national organization would give the local committees that support withdrawal a voice in organizing national actions in advance.

4. What is the independent caucus?

The Caucus is an association of individuals, members of CEWV or VDC, who have the outlook of building a national organization of independent committees with the program of immediate withdrawal. The caucus elected Kipp Dawson, Danny Rosenshine and Jens Jensen as a committee to put out a regular Newsletter. It was further decided that caucus members in each area should select a person to be on a temporary National Steering Committee of the group. The caucus sees its chief activity in the coming months to be: a) support and help build the March 25-26 Days of Protest; b) continue to build the anti-war-committees and organize new committees where none now exist; c) convince as many people as possible that the way to end the war is to Bring the Troops Home Now; d) recruit supporters of immediate withdrawal to the caucus, and e) build the Newsletter. Have your committee order a bundle.

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