View Full Version : The Olive-Drab Rebels
04-30-03, 08:26 PM
The Olive-Drab Rebels: Military Organizing During The Vietnam Era <br />
Matthew Rinaldi <br />
Introduction <br />
"The morale, discipline, and battleworthiness of the U. S. Armed Forces are, with a few...
04-30-03, 08:28 PM
There followed a series of individual acts of resistance. Ronald Lockman, a black GI who had also had previous connections with the Du Bois Clubs, refused orders to Vietnam with the slogan, "I follow...
04-30-03, 08:29 PM
The reaction of the military brass to these first attempts at organizing were in keeping with traditional military practice. Individual GIs court martialed for political activities received stiff...
04-30-03, 08:30 PM
In this milieu of widespread restlessness within the ranks, the left worked to generate conscious political action. The attempts made were varied. Groups like the Progressive Labor Party and the...
04-30-03, 08:31 PM
Despite these internal struggles, the high degree of transience among GIs, and the pervasive power of the brass, the overriding intensity of the war ensured that the work continued. Since the high...
04-30-03, 08:32 PM
A Changing War, A Changing Movement <br />
The years from 1970 to 1972 marked the almost total collapse of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Drug use became virtually epidemic, with an estimated 80% of the troops...
04-30-03, 08:33 PM
In the early years of the seventies the organizing collectives at most bases also felt the dramatic impact of the women's movement. The most immediate effect was intense internal struggle over male...
04-30-03, 08:34 PM
Consequently, the experience of organizing in the U. S. lined forces during the Vietnam War was fairly unique. It represented an attempt to radicalize the working class in uniform while it was subjected to particular pressures, in a period when the working class in civilian life was relatively dormant. Given this situation, it was not realistic to conceive of this organizing as an attempt to win armed contingents for the left. Rather, the goals were two-fold: first, to incapacitate as much as possible the ability of the U.S. military to carry out its intervention in the Vietnamese revolution; and second, to stimulate struggle and militancy in a generation of working class youth.
Some success was achieved in both goals. The disintegration of the ground forces in Vietnam was a major factor in causing U. S. withdrawal. A complexity of factors caused this disintegration, ranging from the upsurges in civilian society to the impact of the Vietnamese revolution, and much of the breakdown in morale and fighting capacity developed spontaneously. Nevertheless, the conscious organizing of radicals both in service and out helped play a catalytic role in this disintegration.
The long term effects of this organizing are still to be determined. The veterans movement, and the political development of Vietnam Vets Against the War, certainly illustrate that a durable change of consciousness occurred among thousands of GIs. At the very least, the military tradition in the U. S. working class suffered a major setback. More significant, millions of working class youth who went through the war years have now returned to civilian jobs and life situations. To what degree the militancy and consciousness which was created during this period will be carried on to the civilian class struggle can only be determined in the years ahead.