WHO SPOKE UP? by Nancy & Gerald Sullivan Zaroulis


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The Mobe, the Moratorium, the Fifth Avenue Organizing Committee. The Fort Hood 3, the Boston 5. Norma Becker, Tom Hayden, Carl Oglesby, Sidney Peck. CAPAC, NDNP, NAG, NCAWRR, NPAC, CLCV. Dewey Canyon II. For groups and groupings, protester-personalities and group leaders, actions and meetings and demonstrations, there has been nothing in American history quite like the anti-Vietnam War movement--and this year-by-year record is far and away the most ambitious attempt to wrap everything up. It's not a history in any true sense. The tone is naively celebratory, a defense against hoary charges. (The movement was homegrown, mainly led by people ""who believed profoundly in their American heritage""; it was ""not violent,"" ""not a movement of cowards afraid to fight for their country,"" ""not a movement of licentious counterculturals,"" etc.) Zaroulis, author of feminist historical novels (The Last Waltz, etc.), and Sullivan, her ex-teacher husband, have no interpretation to offer; they don't frame, compress, or subordinate. They use testimony from a few principals uncritically and ill-advisedly--letting Tom Hayden say in conclusion, for instance, that the movement leadership was involved only ""because they wanted to stop the Vietnam War,"" when the SDS under Hayden was markedly slow to seize the war as an issue (they were into Northern community-organizing), when Hayden's own dissenter-roots were in the Beats. (That element is totally ignored.) In the absence of information, they write nonsense: the first ""teach-in,"" at the U. of Michigan, was actually inspired by a Freedom School--and the term was a reporter's, whatever ""connotation of protest"" it had. Chiefly, their chronicle of the struggle against the government, and the factional in-fighting, is just too much detail to absorb without authorial guidance. Thus, they write a great deal about the fight to make and keep the movement non-exclusionary--to embrace every group against the war: Stalinist, Trotskyite, Maoist. This is presented vaguely as a good thing. They write ad infinitum about the Progressive Labor (Maoist) fight to take over SDS--in this hackneyed (semi-literate) vein: ""The idealism of the early years was being sorely tested in the harsh realities of human nature and the realities of the political process."" (Later, they're unhappy about the un-American--Weathermen, etc.--fringe.) The extensive index will permit inquirers to discover more-or-less who was doing what. For reading or comprehension, the book is a washout.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday