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Fifth Estate # Archive

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Angry Workers Group
Mutinies can Stop U.S. Wars
Fifth Estate #323, Summer, 1986

The past few years have seen a wholesale rewriting of the history of American involvement in Vietnam. From the official government versions of the events to extremely violent television shows and movies like “The Deer Hunter” and “Rambo,” the people who rule us are attempting to glamorize the slaughter of the Indochinese Wars as a prelude to the next war. It might be in the Philippines or Southern Africa, Central America or Korea. It might be fought on five or ten fronts simultaneously with the Soviet Union. Or maybe they’ll send us off to massacre the populations of Spain or Italy or Britain in the suppression of a revolutionary civil war in Western Europe. Read more…

Capitalism to Build Vietnamese “Socialism”
Fifth Estate #277, October, 1976

The “socialist” government of unified Vietnam, after telling the Vietnamese people for the past twenty years that they must expel the imperialist nations of France and the United States, is proposing to invite private corporations of those same countries, along with those of Japan, Canada, Australia and Norway, to exploit Vietnam’s wealth of cheap labor and natural resources–all in the name of “industrial development” and production. (not yet online)

Million Refuse Registration: Draft Law at Standstill
Fifth Estate, #308, January 19, 1982

Faced with upwards of a million men who have refused to register for the draft, President Reagan announced on December 10, a halt to prosecutions scheduled in the cases of 161 resisters. This means that currently there are no legal sanctions for failing to comply with the Selective Service Act provisions and hopefully it will impel hundreds of thousands of additional young men to refuse to have any part of the U.S. war machine. (not yet online)

“Stop the Coral Sea!”
Fifth Estate #323, Summer, 1986

(This article originally appeared as “Berkeley Strikes the Coral Sea” in Fifth Estate #146, November 25 – December 8, 1971 (Vol. 6 No. 18) page 2)
ALAMEDA, Calif.—With a Navy band blaring “Anchors Aweigh,” the USS Coral Sea sailed out of the Golden Gate for Vietnam Nov. 12 despite a mass petition drive by anti-war sailors, an offer of sanctuary to deserters from the Berkeley, Calif. City Council and a threat of mass disruption from civilian picketers. Also, three officers aboard the Coral Sea handed in their resignation requests in protest against the Indochina war. Read more…

Jonny Ball
A Changing Vietnam: After decades of war and revolution, a communist country looks increasingly like the capitalist countries it fought against.
Fifth Estate #388, Winter, 2013

Having lived and worked in Vietnam for a year now, I have only a slightly better understanding of the country than when I first arrived. This is a country of extremely complex paradoxes and antagonisms. I remain dumbfounded by the disparities, hypocrisies and corruption that are endemic at every level of every institution. One could argue this is a common feature of all nation-states and market-oriented societies, and this may be true. But for one styling itself as socialist, run by a communist party with a firm monopoly of political power, these features seem even more maniacal. Read more…

Rob Blurton
Mutiny at the Outposts of Empire: GI Resistance in the Vietnam Era:
The Fifth Estate #346, Summer, 1995

Thirty years ago, the most powerful military colossus ever assembled, its triumphant legions spread throughout the world, committed an expeditionary force of its best troops to the Asian mainland. “The American Army of 1965,” wrote an admiring historian, “was headstrong with confidence, sharply honed to a lethal fighting edge … [and] eager to test its newly acquired wings of air mobility.” In other words, it felt invincible. Battalions dispatched to Indochina were told that the local communist guerrilla-bandits were politically isolated and would quickly succumb to their superior might, but instead they found themselves locked in desperate battle with a determined adversary enjoying massive popular support. This expeditionary force gradually became a gigantic field army of over half a million men, and the lightning war turned into a meat-grinder. Read more…

Richard Boyle
GI Revolts: The Breakdown of the U.S. Army in Vietnam

The Vietnam War was one of the least popular in American history. It was
also the least “popular” with the GI’s who were sent to fight it. By the
late 1960s, news of GI unrest was being carried on TV and in newspapers
around the country and Vietnam vets were speaking at anti-war

But word of the GI resistance in Vietnam itself trickled back more slowly —
the soldiers flashing peace signs and Black Power salutes, the group
refusals to fight, anti-war petitions and demonstrations, and even the
fragging of officers. What we’ve read in the newspapers, however, has just
been bits and pieces. Seldom have we had a chance to hear the whole story
from the GI’s themselves. Read more…

Stanley Diamond
Some contrasts: Primitive vs. Civilized War
Fifth Estate #312, Spring, 1983

This article is excerpted from “The Search for the Primitive,” an essay written by Stanley Diamond in 1963 and later revised and expanded for inclusion in his book In Search of the Primitive (Transaction Books, 1981).

By presenting contrasting modes of dealing with conflict and violence in society, we hope to at a minimum cast doubts on the notion of the “inevitability” of modern civilization and its forms as well as the common argument that modern war is only an expanded version of earlier cultural experiences (and hence the cynical conclusion that nothing has changed). As Diamond writes elsewhere in the same volume, “Our idea of primitive society as existing in a state of dynamic equilibrium and as expressive of human and natural rhythms is a logical projection of civilized societies and is in opposition to civilization’s actual state. But it also coincides with the real historical condition of primitive societies. The longing for a primitive mode of existence is no mere fantasy or sentimental whim; it is consonant with fundamental human needs, the fulfillment of which (although in different form) is a precondition for our survival.” Read more…

Jim Feast
Vietnam: Where the Political is Still Personal
Fifth Estate #385 Fall, 2011

A review of In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary, by Ngo Van; Eds. Ken Knabb and Helene Fleury; Trans. Helene Fleury, Hillary Horrocks, Ken Knabb, and Naomi Sager; AK Press; 2010; $19.95. Read more…

Fifth Estate Collective
Bravo Co. Won’t Go: Vietnam Mutiny
Fifth Estate #326, Summer 1987
(Reprint from FE #128, April 1-14, 1971)

In March, 1971 53 men of Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, Americal Division refused orders to move into a battle zone near the Laotian border to retrieve abandoned equipment. One of the men who refused to obey the command said he did not follow orders because “the reason given wasn’t a very good one… I didn’t see any sense in risking any more lives.” The headquarters of the American Serviceman’s Union (ASU) in New York City announced full support of the 53 men and said it “will continue to support all acts of resistance in the military.” The 15,000 member ASU is a revolutionary GI union with affiliates across the world including Vietnam. The military brass are in a jam as increasing numbers of rank and file GIs are refusing to play out the John Wayne strategies of the Pentagon. Read more…

Fifth Estate Collective
No Bombs! No Borders! Abolish All Armies!
Fifth Estate #323, Summer, 1986

President Reagan came into office with an understanding apparently lacking in the two previous administrations which had been still reeling from the egregious defeat of the U.S. imperial forces in Vietnam: If U.S. capital was to continue to function successfully as a permanent war economy (as it has since 1942), a corresponding war psychosis was going to have to be created to justify programs of economic austerity for the working class and poor while making enormous expenditures of state funds for armaments. Read more…

H.  Bruce Franklin
The Anti-war Movement We Are Supposed to Forget
The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 20, 2000
available at:

This article discusses and refutes several false steriotypes about the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It gives some history about when and how opposition to U.S. agression against Vietnam actually began, and who opposed it and who engaged in actions against it, including discussion of the influence of the civil rights movement and radical African-Americans’ critiques of U.S. foreign policy, the involvement of soldiers and veterans, as well as anti-Vietnam War sentiments and activities among poor and working class people and those with less education. Read more…

Barbara Garson
Their Revolution or Ours!

This article gives a firsthand description of the experiences of an anarchist/anti-authoritarian who was part of the Shelter Half, a coffee–house for G.I.s, in Tacoma, Washington during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Read more…

Jerry Lembcke
Debunking a spitting image
The Boston Globe, April 30, 2005

In this article Jerry Lembcke discusses his research on the stories about spat-upon Vietnam veterans and refutes such stories. Read more…

Jerry Lembcke
Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal. University of Massachusetts Press, 2010

In this book, Jerry Lembcke argues that the charges of treachery against Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War combine traces of fact with heavy doses of fiction to create a potent symbol of feminine perfidy. The myth fills the need of all too many patriotic Americans to explain defeat in Vietnam through fantasies of home-front betrayal and the emasculation of the national will-to-war.

Jerry Lembcke
The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. NYU Press, 1998

This book extensively examines and debunks the stories of Vietnam-era anti-war activists treating Vietnam veterans abusively. The author was a Vietnam veteran who came home from the war and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Lembcke points out that “the peace movement reached out to veterans as potential allies in a struggle against an unpopular war, while many veterans were joining the anti-war movement by the late 1960s.”

Nick Medvecky
Vietnam: The Dirty War Told By the Men Who Fought and Opposed It
Fifth Estate #351, Summer 1998

a review of: Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War by Richard Stacewicz. Twayne Publishers, 1997, 471 pp.

By 1970 more than 50,000 Vietnam veterans actively opposed the war-over half of them combat experienced-officers as well as enlisted men. This article discusses the book, Winter Soldiers, the oral history of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, whose participation greatly strengthened the anti-war movement. Read more…

Bob Nirkind
The My Lai Massacre: A Bi-Centennial Moment of American Racism
Fifth Estate #270, March, 1976, Vol. 11, No. 6, page 12

The article discusses the infamous slaughter of civilians in My Lai, Vietnam by U.S. troops. Read more…

Mike Parisi
The New GI in Viet Nam
Industrial Worker, March, 1972

“Today’s GI is more concerned with staying alive than with taking chances. Many GIs are just simply refusing to go out on patrols in which they are asked to risk their lives. Many are in some of the top units in Vietnam. A good example of what I’m talking about was the assault a couple of years ago on Hamburger Hill, when after the third attempt to take it and the loss of several lives, they simply refused to go up the hill.

“Along with all of this is the increasing number of fraggings that are taking place. Fragging has become a standard response of the Army’s little people–the grunts and rear-area GIs–to any harassment or unpopular missions imposed by their superiors. ‘Frag ’em’ means to threaten, intimidate, or if necessary kill the officer responsible with a fragmentation grenade. Interestingly enough, though, the threats are turning into action. A number of GIs place bets to see who will pick off their NCO. In units where grenades are withheld they still manage to find them.” Read more…

Dr. Norman Pollack
Fifth Estate #2, December 2-16, 1965

“Perhaps the biggest mistake many of us make when speaking about Vietnam is that we focus only on Vietnam, and in doing so, engage in a debate with the forces supporting the Administration on their own ground. Not that a case against the war could not be made even there, for it could. But I think the time has come to enlarge the inquiry and to make a case not simply against the war, but against the structure of American society which makes that war possible in the first place.” Read more…

Harvey Stone
G.I. Coffee Houses for Peace
Fifth Estate #59, August 1-14, 1968

The war in Vietnam is now the longest war in America’s violent history. In addition to the genocide being committed against the Vietnamese, thousands upon thousands of American G.I.’s have been killed or wounded. But “G.I.” is merely a label we use; beneath the uniforms are real people. Sometimes we forget that.

Truong Nhu Tang with David Chanoff and Doan Van Toai
A Vietcong memoir. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1985

This book recounts the experiences of Truong Nhu Tang, a non-Communist participant in the Vietnamese national resistance to foreign domination, as urban organizer and participant in the National Liberation Front, and his feelings of betrayal by the Communists. Tang describes the varying and often conflicting perspectives in the NLF. Many participants came to feel that its goals were, in the end, subverted by the authoritarian rule of the Communist Party. By the end of the war he was disillusioned with the new national government’s determination to control all political and social activities everywhere in Vietnam. As he says, “Many of us also believed we were fighting for the human dignity of our people, not just a national revolution, but a national and democratic revolution (the terms are those of the NLF and PRG) that would have ensured free political and cultural expression among the variety of ethnic groups, religions, and regions–and among the commonwealth of individuals–that make up the nation.

“But the national democratic revolution itself became a casualty, choked by the arrogance of power among those who were responsible for the nation’s fate.”

Ngo Van
In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary, Edited by Ken Knabb and Helene Fleury. Translated from the French by Helene Fleury, Hilary Horrocks, Ken Knabb and Naomi Sager. AK Press. Online at

In the Crossfire is a translation of Ngo Van’s Au pays de la Cloche felée (Paris: L’Insomniaque, 2000) and of excerpts from Ngo Van’s Au pays d’Heloi’se (L’Insomniaque, 2005). It has been edited by Ken Knabb and Helene Fleury and translated by Helene Fleury, Hilary Horrocks, Ken Knabb and Naomi Sager. Read more…

Vietnam Veterans Against the War
The Winter Soldier Investigation (Testimony given in Detroit, Michigan, January 31 and February 1 and 2, 1971)

Painfully documented the massive scale of the massacres, torture of civilians and other war crimes perpetrated against the Vietnamese people. Read more…

Michael Wong
Life After G.I. War Resistance: Military Resisters 30 Years Later.
The Mind Field blog, March 30, 2012

Michael Wong was a soldier in the U.S. military in the late 1960s. Because he opposed the war in Vietnam, he submitted a limited conscientious objector application (objection to a particular war, not to military service in general or to legitimate military defense of the nation). The army did not accept his application, but instead ordered him to report to Oakland Army terminal for shipment to Viet Nam. He escaped and went to Canada.

In making this decision, Wong was haunted by deep fear of all the things the Army, the government, and society said would happen to those who dared to openly defy them. They said such people would be branded cowards, traitors, that they would be disgraced and spat upon all our lives. They said such people would be losers, never respected, never trusted, never able to hold down a job, hated by everybody, loved by nobody. But Wong refused to kill and be killed for politician’s lies, the profits of the rich, war crimes repeatedly committed against unarmed civilians, and the invasion, conquest, and exploitation of a small foreign country that never threatened or attacked the U.S. Over the years he found that resisting war and the military’s threats enabled him and others to lead lives of fulfillment and dignity. He tells his story in this blog post. Read more…

David Watson
Looking back on the Vietnam War: History and forgetting
Fifth Estate #346, Summer, 1995

From Author’s note: Reality continues to be manufactured: When this essay first appeared in Fifth Estate in the spring of 1985, the Vietnam War already seemed to be receding into ancient history. Central America was at that time being battered by the latest incarnation of “the best and the brightest,” and it was being done more conveniently with money and proxies, rather than with “American boys,” who tend to get themselves unceremoniously killed while smashing up other people’s neighborhoods. A few hundred thousand deaths and mutilations later, we still await the tearful retrospectives with their admixture of regret and denial.

American society was left little wiser by its experience in southeast Asia; the United States has a handful of interventions and wars under its belt since 1975, and even some failures to act where it might, as in Bosnia, have prevented a massacre. (Yes, I know, on some other planet with an entirely different history. The Vietnam War taught my generation that any empire intervening anywhere was bound to cause disasters. Nevertheless, that Haiti and the former Yugoslavia further fragmented what remained of dissident movements in the U.S. reflects new conditions and shifting ground.) Read more…

David Zeiger
Did the GI Movement End the Vietnam War? And what is the real legacy of the GI coffeehouses?
The Rag Blog, July 25, 2008

David Zeiger, producer
Sir! No Sir! Displaced Films, 2005

Powerful documentary on the GI antiwar movement during the Vietnam period.

Howard Zinn
GI opposition to the Vietnam War, 1965-1973

Extracted from A People’s History of the United States

Historian Howard Zinn on the opposition to the Vietnam War by American soldiers.

“The capacity for independent judgment among ordinary Americans is probably best shown by the swift development of antiwar feeling among American GIs-volunteers and draftees who came mostly from lower-income groups. There had been, earlier in American history, in stances of soldiers’ disaffection from the war: isolated mutinies in the Revolutionary War, refusal of reenlistment in the midst of hostilities in the Mexican war, desertion and conscientious objection in World War I and World War II. But Vietnam produced opposition by soldiers and veterans on a scale, and with a fervor, never seen before.” Read more…