The Antiwar Movement in the Vietnam Era




The Antiwar Movement in the Vietnam Era

The occurrence of the Vietnam War succeeded in rousing different sentiments across disparate groups of people based in the United States. Even though opposition against the armed struggle in question was expected, it was impossible to predict the internal class struggles that would eventually take place between those that supported Nixon’s initiatives and those that directly stood against the respective conflict. From a completely hypothetical point of view, the antiwar movement that was constructed in the United States during the Vietnam Era was comprised of young college individuals from prestigious backgrounds who exhibited a condescending attitude towards working-class individuals and American soldiers and working-class persons that actually supported the war and declared opposition towards the antiwar movement. In the book, Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, the author, Penny Lewis disrupts this paradigm by illustrating that working-class persons openly exhibited their opposition to the Vietnam War as much as the upper and middle classes did. Following this line of thought, it is arguable that different class groups comprised the antiwar movement and assumed an obligatory role in opposing the Vietnam War.

Under the government of Richard Nixon and the eventual implementation of the New Deal Coalition, the Vietnam War was derived as a plan established by the American government at the time in order to flout the resurgence of communism, which was rather prominent within the Asiatic region. Following the start of the Cold War within the same period, the Nixon Administration was concerned about the extent to which the Communist manifesto had spread across Asia and Europe further threatening the ideal of capitalism that the country had implemented over the years. Initially endorsed as a conflict to secure and reinforce the ideals of the United States of America, the Vietnam War as seen as an intervention carried out by the American government in order to avert the plausible incidence of a Communism-based conquest of South Vietnam. Even though this was a rational claim, the objective reason for the Vietnam War involved the implementation of a broader containment policy aimed at securing South Vietnam as a complete anti-communist ally together with countries such as the United States and the Philippines.

Hence, with the paradigm asserted by Lewis in mind, it is imperative to note that the antiwar movement was comprised of different groups that asserted an opposing predisposition against the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War regardless of class disparities. The African-American and Chicano movements comprised some of the most aggressive groups that established opposition within the all-inclusive antiwar movement. Interestingly, most of the persons that constituted the respective movements were working-class even though class identity was not asserted as a core basis for mobilizing the individuals in question. The movements were most effective especially in the articulation of relationships between American imperialism in the region of Vietnam as well as aspects such as poverty and racial discrimination within the United States. One of the most popular activists at the time, Martin Luther King, Jr., within the final lap of his existence materialized as the most apparent critic of the Nixon administration as shown by his embrace of “both movements” (Lewis 93).

At the height of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke out against the evils of militarism, racism, as well as economic exploitation. African American and Chicano criticisms of the Vietnam War were grounded “in both morality and pragmatism”, which was a rather significant aspect evident in the antiwar sentiment at the time (Lewis 13). The opposition that was exhibited by the Chicano and African American movements was gained from the negative implications of the war as well as the government’s actions, which imposed an economically pessimistic impact on their lives as minorities living in the United States. For example, while protesting against America’s participation in the Vietnam War, the Chicano Moratorium Movement asserted, “millions of dollars (were) spent and destroyed in a war that brings no benefits” (Lewis 98). This assertion by the Chicano movement largely depicted the driving motivations that influenced such groups to comprise part of the extensive antiwar movement in the United States during the era in question.

Aside from the aforementioned groups, working-class servicepersons within the military also comprised part of the antiwar movement. In fact, the most consequential opposition to America’s intervention in Vietnam was overpoweringly constituted of working-class military personnel. Normally, defiance to the actions of the United States assumed numerous forms. This constituted draft resistance, collective aversion from combat, desertion, decreasing levels of enlistment, and sporadic attacks on army officers. Whereas draft resistance significantly comprised a middle-class incident, the author notes that, “deserters were significantly more likely to be from working – or lower-class backgrounds” and from bucolic regions (Lewis 120). In addition, the resistance of soldiers was considerably imperative in compelling the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam. This form of defiance normally took place outside the auspice structure of official organizations. By traversing beyond a normal organization-based approach, the account asserted by Lewis illustrates the various forms of defiance that assisted in the culmination of the Vietnam War.

Within the boundaries of the United States, local soldiers as well as retired military personnel took part in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War. Accordingly, the respective group engaged in organizations that declared an open opposition against the occurrence of the Vietnam War. One of the most remarkable illustrations of the respective organizations was evidenced by the conception of the Vietnam Veterans against the War movement (Lewis 159). By 1973, the Vietnam Veterans against the War was comprised of nearly 30000 affiliates and members. Even though the wealthy John Kerry was hailed as the great veteran dissenter, the faction in question mostly possessed members who constituted the American working class during the turn of the 1970s. In this respect, the Vietnam Veterans against the War engaged in a number of activities that protested America’s participation in the Vietnam War. In addition to this, the group confronted local issues such as unemployment, racism, as well as other issues of importance to its generic constituency.

To this end, the need to establish a containment platform against the spread of communism by the Nixon administration succeeded in causing ripple effects in the United States. Working class persons and soldiers saw the strategy as a plausible and positive tactic that supported the United States and its capitalist ideals. In this respect, the Vietnam War was supported by persons within the respective stratifications in the American society at the time. On the other hand, the loss of thousands of lives during the conflict with North Vietnam and its communist allies such as Russia and China managed to rouse movements that actually opposed America’s participation in the respective conflict. However, the author argues against this notion asserting that “working-class people were never more likely than their middle-class counterparts to support the war, and in many instances, they were more likely to oppose it” (Lewis 53). For her, the supposed conflict in convictions regarding the Vietnam War by working class individuals and the elite scholarly individuals from campuses and universities was simply a ploy aimed at positioning class-based struggles further obscuring solidarity based on mutual political aims and ideals. 

Works Cited

Lewis, Penny. Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement As Myth and Memory. Ithaca: ILR Press, 2013. Print.

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