Anti-War Movements


The oral records of the anti-war protests, tells us that the experiences of the anti-war movements was deeply enshrined in political ideologies, however greatly varied with the society in which the protesters lived in. It must be acknowledged that the experience of the Australian anti-war movement was much ‘less profound’ than it was in America, and to understand this topic, this point must be accepted. Curthoys recognizes, accepts, and explains this point in her text.


Anne Curthoys, an active member of the feminist movement, and the ‘new left’, recounts her experiences in these movements, which is furthered by her historical knowledge as a lecturer at Australian National University, which allows her to assess the difference in experiences between the two nations. Two main areas in which the experiences of the anti-war movement differed in Australia as compared with America, is the engagement of the political ideologies (in particular the left) in the movements, and the focus of the protest in both nations.


In America, the three main political ideologies (which at times conflicted with each other in their protests against the war), were: (as was stated) the Political left, (also known as ‘the new left’) which, appealed to the student youth, and used non-violent tactics, in the search for a middle class social and cultural revolution (in contrast to ‘old left’ socialist desires of worker, and economic revolution), the Liberals, who were a peace-movement, and the radical pacifists, who used hostile, and violent means to achieve their ends and who were also heavily involved with the civil right movement.


The stance of an individual ideologically influenced the experience of the anti-war movement dramatically, as all the different parties operated their methods to the anti-war movement in vastly different way. For example Curthoys has given various examples of how the radicals initiated and engaged in student street battles, and open hostilities against the army[1]. The radicals were abusive, were vandalistic, and very often ended up arrested for any length of period. These experiences were vastly different to say the Liberals who, (as was mentioned) were a peace movement, who engaged in the anti-war experience through the methods of petitions, debates, meetings/organizations, speeches, occasional marches, and even just handing out leaflets in the street, in universities, or in schools. It is worth noting that there were those in the Liberal movement (some politicians) who supported the war movement, and didn’t attend all these rallies and demonstrations. Interestingly, in Australia many workers opposed the war (being socialist/trade union supporters) however in America; workers supported the war as they were the living representation of capitalism at work – earning money to further a private enterprise. Interestingly, there is evidence that ethnicity, or the perspective of race had an impact especially on the Negro Americans perception of the war. While Curthoys argues that the blacks saw Vietnam as “nothing more than white people sending black people to make war on yellow people in order to defend the land they stole from red people[2]” – which, indicates a negative view on Vietnam, and therefore anti-war, an interesting theory emerges through Leslie H Fischel Jr. who claimed the Vietnam war (and the anti-war movement) ‘both stimulated and impeded the negro’s drive for equality[3]”. He says this because Black America also suffered to the losses in Vietnam, as just like any white, they had friends, and relatives fighting, but furthermore the American dream, and its values are imbedded as strongly in any Black as it is in whites, so therefore they also feel threatened by the ideas of communism. However, the anger towards the anti-war felt by many whites was occasionally vented through racial attacks both in the military, and in the anti-war protests[4].


When referring to the left in regards to its impact on the anti-war experiences, it must be recognized that old ideological socialist movement of the 1920’s – 30’s, which appealed to the working class to create a revolution, is not the same as the left in regards to the 1960’s – 70’s.


One of the more significant things about the left was its characteristic of being ‘a non-communistic left’, which was put together by those disheartened by the Soviet Union’s approach to communism (i.e. Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Hungary), and who were in opposition