October 15, 16 — Days of International Protest

Vietnam, like Mississippi, is not an aberration—it is a mirror of America. Vietnam IS American foreign policy; it is only that in Peru, Bolivia and South Africa the revolutionary movement has not yet progressed to the point where napalm and Marines are necessary. Vietnam reduces to absurdity the fifth grade civics book stuff about USA democracy and morality and lays bare the reality: a white nation bombing a colored peoples; a Christian country bombing a non-Christian country; a rich, highly developed nation laying waste the resources of an underdeveloped land.

Vietnam lays bare the violence beneath the smiles and in formality of American life. It exposes in raw form the ease with which humans can harm one another in the name of God, country, democracy and — even worse — in the service of "clean", automated, hierarchical bureacracies.

Vietnam gives us every reason to look at ourselves and our neighbors and say: "We are accomplices in murder."

Vietnam is the Guernica, the Rotterdam and the Lidice of the 1960's. Johnson to most of the world recalls Hitler, invoking "national honor" and anti-communism to rationalize mass murder. We, the American people, the lawyers, the truck drivers, the engineers, the secretaries, are the people whose guilt will be the subjects of philosophy tracts on "responsibility" to be written by African philosophers in the year 2000. Can we say, We did not know...?

Many of us do know. We know that the Pentagon and the State Department are prepared to bomb China.

We know that thousands of American young men are being lied to and shipped to Vietnam to serve as cannon fodder at the hands of Vietnamese people fighting for their homes.

We know that the single-minded Communist demon as the State Department describes Him does not exist.

We know — and this knowledge defines our lives for us. We must go into the suburbs, small towns and ghettos of this country to talk with the American people about Vietnam. We must force people to commit themselves on this issue. Where there is no talk, we must induce debate; where there is debate, we must induce protest. At the risk of being called traitors, we must question injustice.

The next step for us must be massive civil disobedience. We must say to Johnson Inc.: "If you want to go on killing Vietnamese, you must jail Americans." We must bring back to America the spirit of the imprisoned Thoreau who asked Emerson: "What are you doing out there?" We will invoke a law higher than that of the state, as the USA and its allies did at the Nuremburg Trials: when the state acts immoraly, it is the duty of the individual to refuse participation in its immorality. Our trial must be a political trial. We must go to jail as political prisoners, not as "trespassers" or "disturbers of the peace." We must deemphasize legal niceties and stress moral imperatives. In our trial it must be Johnson and McNamara who stand as the defendants.

Our massive civil disobedience aimed at blocking the USA war machine will send shock waves from Maine to California, and from the U.S. to all parts of the world.

There is no other choice.

Civil disobedience is justified and necessary not only on moral grounds, but also on political grounds.

There is now no organized opposition to the war in Vietnam. Because of the country's political party structure, elections do not offer us any opportunity to say "NO" to the war. The press is controlled, and feeds on war news. Congress refuses to discuss the issue. Although opinion polls indicate that one-quarter of the people in the U.S. oppose the war, there are no outlets through which this opposition can be expressed.

When a country's institutions stifle its thought and poison its moral health, civil disobedience is the only recourse of the citizen.

Civil disobedience will strike at the invisibility of evil in this war. Years of indoctrination about Communism have enabled Americans to read: "1000 Vietnamese die," and feel not a pang of remorse. The Chinese, North Vietnamese and Vietcong are not people. (The Russians are gradually becoming people.) Hardly an atrocity in Vietnam will break Americans out of this complacency. Unlike the civil rights struggle, there is no group in America which suffers directly from the Vietnam war. Thus, the need for collective moral action by those who feel the war most deeply is underscored.

If on October 16 in Berkeley, for example, thousands of students and others block the gates of the Oakland Army Terminal where munitions are shipped to Vietnam, and are arrested, attention will be focused dramatically on the issues in Vietnam to an extent that no atrocity in Vietnam can match. The issue will be opened. Scenes of thousands of middle-class youth being carried away by military police will be in every American living room. Controversy about these demonstrations will go on in churches and in pool rooms. People who would be with us if it were not for their reluctance to take a stand will be put on the spot. We will be in a better position to take the discussion about the war from the campus and into the community.

Massive civil disobedience on Vietnam will dramatize the issue throughout the country, express our personal rejection of the war machine, and expose the inability of traditional American institutions to cope with dissent.

The Vietnam Day Committee, Berkeley, California, is the "new" peace movement developing throughout the country Many of its activists were formerly involved in civil rights and campus struggles. The enemy — undemocratic power — and the issue — lack of representation — remain the same, be it Vietnam, Selma, or the University of California.

The general strategy of the Vietnam Day Committee is primarily to mobilize as many of those people now opposed to Johnson as possible, rather than to attempt to rationally change the minds of those supporting Johnson, although of course we are trying that too. Highly- coordinated, highly-publicized action will make people feel that they are not alone in speaking out. An active minority of 1,000,000 people marching on Washington or 100,000 in coordinated civil disobedience would likely be sufficient to stop the war.

Militant direct action must be so massive and publicized that everyone will be speaking of Vietnam protests, and how best to end the war, at every mealtime. Many opposing Johnson's policy will attack us saying they agree with our goals, but not our methods. They will then be put on the spot to show how their type of protest can be effective.

Two examples make this clear. First, the faculty at the University of California always agreed in general with the goals of the Free Speech Movement. Not until after the famous sit-in did they speak out, however. Second, after the "circus", "unbalanced" protest at Berkeley on Vietnam Day, a conservative faculty group was motivated to organize a debate on Vietnam with William Bundy — the first foreign policy involvment of such a group.

The Vietnam Day Committee has called October 15 and 16 International Days of Protest Against American Intervention.

On those days we will be co-organizing with the Students for a Democratic Society massive protests emphasizing some form of civil disobedience against the war. That form will be decided by the participants in the weeks before Oct. 15-16 in workshops, discussion groups.

Demonstrations in other countries throughout the world seem likely to take place on these dates. We are asking that the protest movement everywhere be completely mobilized for action on October 15-16.

Jerry Rubin
Prof. Stephen Smale
Barbara Gullahorn