As the Vietnam War continued to escalate, public disenchantment grew and a variety of different groups were formed or became involved in the movement.
Examples of antiwar organizations
Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA)- radical pacifist organization that "blended philosophical anarchism with Gandhian pacifism.". The organization used civil disobedience in direct action against military action.
Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE)- liberal international organization that was founded in 1957 by a group of nuclear pacifists. They attempted to increase public opinion in favor of their cause in an attempt to influence policy makers to halt atmospheric nuclear testing and reversing the arms race and the Cold War.
Another committee was called SNCC – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Black Women Enraged- a Harlem antiwar movement.
National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union (NBAWADU)- led by Gwen Patton and formed from black members of SNCC and socialist parties.
National Black Draft Counselors (NBDC)- led by Pat Berg and created to help young black men avoid being drafted.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)- founded in 1919 after World War I and provided women with an early entry into the antiwar movement.
The League of Women Voters- founded in 1920, was one of the first groups to call for an end to military involvement in Vietnam.
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur- popularized the use of kneel-ins and prayer to end the war and stop its escalation.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
American Writers and Artists Against the War in Vietnam
Americans for Democratic Action
FTA- a group whose initials either stand for Free the Army or Fuck the Army, depending on the situation, was led by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.
Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV)
WIN (Workshop in Nonviolence) Magazine -- editors and staff included Maris Cakars, Marty Jezer, Paul Johnson, Susan Kent Cakars and Tad Richards. Published authors such as Grace Paley,Barbara Deming, Andrea Dworkin and Abbie Hoffman.
Traditional peace groups like Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, the War Resistors League, and the Catholic Workers Movement, got involved in the antiwar movement as well.
Various committees and campaigns for peace in Vietnam came about, including Campaign for Disarmament, Campaign to End the Air War, Campaign to Stop Funding the War, Campaign to Stop the Air War, Catholic Peace Fellowship, and Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.
Opposition and the Arts
Many artists during the 1960s and 1970s opposed the war and used their creativity and careers to visibly oppose the war. Writers and poets opposed to involvement in the war include Allen Ginsberg, Denis Levertov, Robert Duncan, and Robert Bly. Their pieces often incorporated imagery based on the tragic events of the war as well as the disparity between life in Vietnam and life in the United States. Visual artists Ronald Haeberle, Peter Saul, and Nancy Spero, among others, used war equipment, like guns and helicopters, in their works while incorporating important political and war figures, portraying to the nation exactly who was responsible for the violence. Filmmakers such as Lenny Lipton, Jerry Abrams, Peter Gessner, and David Ringo created documentary-style movies featuring actual footage from the antiwar marches to raise awareness about the war and the diverse opposition movement. Playwrights like Frank O’Hara, Sam Shepard, Robert Lowell, Megan Terry, Grant Duay, and Kenneth Bernard used theater as a vehicle for portraying their thoughts about the Vietnam War, often satirizing the role of America in the world and juxtaposing the horrific affects of war with normal scenes of life. Regardless of medium, antiwar artists ranged from pacifists to violent radicals and caused Americans to think more critically about the war. Art as war opposition was quite popular in the early years of the war, but soon faded as political activism became the more common and most visible way of opposing the war.
Women Opposing the Vietnam War
Women were a large part of the antiwar movement, even though they were largely relegated to second-class status within the organizations. Sara Evans’ Personal Politics details the sexism women faced within opposition groups such as the SNCC and the SDS. Leaders of such groups often viewed women as sex objects or secretaries, not actual thinkers who could contribute positively and tangibly to the group’s goals. Others believed that women could not truly understand and join the antiwar movement because they were unaffected by the draft. Women involved in opposition groups disliked the romanticism of the violence of both the war and the antiwar movement that was common amongst male war protestors. Despite the inequalities, participation in various antiwar groups allowed women to gain experience with organizing protests and crafting effective antiwar rhetoric. These newfound skills combined with their dislike of sexism within the opposition movement caused many women to break away from the mainstream antiwar movement and create or join women’s antiwar groups, such as Another Mother for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and Women Strike for Peace (WSP), also known as Women For Peace. Female soldiers serving in Vietnam joined the movement to battle the war and the sexism, racism, and established military bureaucracy by writing articles for antiwar and antimilitary newspapers.
Mothers and older generations of women joined the opposition movement, as advocates for peace and people disgusted by the effect of the war and the draft on the generation of young men. These women saw the draft as one of the most disliked parts of the war machine and sought to undermine the war itself through undermining the draft. Another Mother for Peace and WSP often held free draft counseling centers to give young men legal and illegal methods to oppose the draft. Members of Women For Peace showed up at the White House every Sunday for 8 years from 11 to 1 for a peace vigil. Such female antiwar groups often relied on maternalism, the stereotype of women as peaceful caretakers of the world, to express and accomplish their goals. The government often saw middle-aged women involved in such organizations as the most dangerous members of the opposition movement because they were ordinary citizens who quickly and efficiently mobilized.
Many women in America sympathized with the plight of Vietnamese people affected by the war and thus joined the opposition movement. They protested the use of napalm, a highly flammable jelly created by Dow Chemical Company and used on Vietnamese combatants and civilians, by boycotting Saran Wrap, another product made by the company.
Faced with the sexism of the antiwar movement, New Left, and Civil Rights Movement, some women created their own organizations to establish true equality of the sexes. Some of frustrations of younger women became apparent during the antiwar movement: they desired more radical change and decreased acceptance of societal gender roles than older women activists. Female activists’ disillusion with the antiwar movement led to the formation of the Women’s Liberation Movement to establish true equality for American women in all facets of life.
African American Opposition to the Vietnam War
African Americans were often involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and the Black Panther Party vehemently opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In the beginning of the war, some African Americans did not want to join the war opposition movement because of loyalty to President Johnson for pushing Civil Rights legislation, but soon the escalating violence of the war and the social injustice of the draft propelled involvement in antiwar groups. Black antiwar groups opposed the war for the same reason as white groups but often protested in separate events and did not cooperate with the ideas of white antiwar leadership. They harshly criticized the draft because poor and minority men were usually most affected by conscription. African Americans involved in the antiwar movement often formed their own groups, such as Black Women Enraged, National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union, and National Black Draft Counselors. Within these groups, however, many African American women were seen as subordinate members by black male leaders. Many African American women viewed the war in Vietnam as racially motivated and sympathized strongly with Vietnamese women. Such concerns often propelled their participation in the antiwar movement and their creation of new opposition groups.
Popular Antiwar Music
Protest to American participation in the Vietnam War was a movement that many popular musicians appropriated, which was a stark contrast to the pro-war compositions of artists during World War II. These musicians included Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Roger Hannay, Lou Harrison, Gail Kubik, William Mayer, Elie Siegmeister, Robert Fink, David Noon, Richard Wernick, and John Downey. The two most notable genres involved in this protest were Rock and Folk music. While composers created pieces affronting the war, they were not limited to their music. Often protesters were being arrested and participating in peace marches and popular musicians were among their ranks. This concept of intimate involvement reached new heights in May 1968 when the “Composers and Musicians for Peace” concert was staged in New York. As the war continued, and with the new media coverage, the movement snowballed and popular music reflected this.
A key figure on the rock end of the antiwar spectrum was Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970). Hendrix himself was not an official protestor of the war; in fact, being a former soldier he sympathized with the anticommunist view. He did, however, protest the violence that took place in the Vietnam War. With the song “Machine Gun,” dedicated to those fighting in Vietnam, this protest of violence is manifest. David Henderson, author of ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, describes the song as “scary funk […] his sound over the drone shifts from a woman’s scream, to a siren, to a fighter plane diving, all amid Buddy Miles’ Gatling-gun snare shots. […] he says ‘evil man make me kill you […] make you kill me although we're only families apart”. This song was often accompanied with pleas from Hendrix to bring the soldiers back home and cease the bloodshed. While Hendrix’s views may not have been analogous to the protestors, his songs became anthems to the antiwar movement. Songs such as “Star Spangled Banner” showed individuals that “you can love your country, but hate the government”. Hendrix’s anti-violence efforts are summed up in his words: “when the power of love overcomes the love of power... the world will know peace.” Thus, Hendrix’s personal views did not coincide perfectly with those of the antiwar protestors; however, his anti-violence outlook was a driving force during the years of the Vietnam War even after his death (1970).
The song known to many as the anthem of the protest movement was The "Fish" Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag released in 1969 by Country Joe and the Fish although it was not on music charts most probably because it was too radical. “Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” was a song that used sarcasm to communicate the problems with not only the war but also the public’s naïve attitudes towards it. It was said that “the happy beat and insouciance of the vocalist are in odd juxtaposition to the lyrics that reinforce the sad fact that the American public was being forced into realizing that Vietnam was no longer a remote place on the other side of the world, and the damage it was doing to the country could no longer be considered collateral, involving someone else.”
Another key historical figure of the antiwar movement was Bob Dylan. Folk and Rock were critical aspects of counterculture during the Vietnam War both were genres that Dylan would dabble in. Tor Egil Førland, in his article “Bringing It All Back Home or Another Side of Bob Dylan: Midwestern Isolationist”, quotes Todd Gitlin, a leader of a student movement at the time, in saying “Whether he liked it or not, Dylan sang for us …. We followed his career as if he were singing our songs”. The anthem “Blowing in Wind” embodied Dylan’s antiwar sentiment. The song metaphorically conveys the notion that the general public has turned a blind eye to the horrors taking place in Vietnam. To compliment “Blowing in the Wind” Dylan’s song “The Times they are A-Changin’” alludes to a new method of governing that is necessary, and warns those who currently participate in government that the change is imminent. Dylan tells the “senators and congressmen [to] please heed the call.” Dylan’s songs were designed to awaken the public and to cause a reaction. The protestors of the Vietnam War identified their cause so closely with the artistic compositions of Dylan that Joan Baez and Judy Collins performed “The Times they are A-Changin’” at a march protesting the Vietnam War (1965) and also for President Johnson. While Dylan renounced the idea of subscribing to the ideals of one individual, his feelings of protest towards Vietnam were appropriated by the general movement and they “awaited his gnomic yet oracular pronouncements”, which provided a guiding aspect to the movement as a whole.
Thus, the forces of Rock and Roll and Folk music were critical in the guidance of the antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s in the United States. Icons such as Hendrix and Dylan provided the movement with direction, which was conducive to a feeling of solidarity necessary in a movement originating from the people.