U.S. Committee to Aid the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (USCNLFSV) or (CANLF) and later the Indochina Solidarity Committee (ISC): Leaflets and Documents from 1965-1975.
Background. These documents were produced and distributed in the U.S. starting in April, 1965 in New York City by Walter Teague and others who formed the Committee (USCANLFSV). Many people contributed their political ideas and labor and gradually the organization grew and established an office in Manhattan and developed relations with many anti-war organizations, coalitions and individuals in the U.S. and other countries until its close in 1975.
This group was formed early in the anti-war movement for two reasons; one public and one strategic. The public reason was to make sure there was at least one group that called for understanding and even political support for the Vietnamese resistance. To do this, we participated in national and local demonstrations and distributed information on the liberation struggle in the South of Viet Nam and the historical defense of Vietnam for its national sovereignty and independence in the face of the U.S. war.
The second, specifically strategic purpose was to make it easier for Americans to turn against the war. Remember, at the beginning of this war, average Americans had been led to fear and hate the Vietnamese communists as a threat to "our boys." As long as Americans felt threatened, they were unlikely to be persuaded by the moral or other objections of the traditional peace forces.
Our analysis was that for the anti-war sentiment to extend beyond the traditional “peace groups,” a way had to be found to defuse this fear and the “threat to our boys.” We observed that most of the early leaders of the peace movement were hesitant to explain why the Vietnamese were fighting or by default didn't counter that this was a war against a communist enemy. This hesitancy to discuss why the Vietnamese were resisting, was because the peace movement was led by pacifist, religious and even some political groups who were against the violence and politics of the Vietnamese. Other more political groups who might privately understand and even support the Vietnamese cause, were afraid of being accused of pro-communist sympathies and thus lose the ability to organize ordinary Americans if paid too much attention to the Vietnamese views, and thus could be accused of being "un-American."
But those who started the committee, decided an opposite approach was needed in this mix of groups. We believed by boldly and persistently showing and arguing for support of the Vietnamese position in the demonstrations and coalitions, we could at least show that some Americans understood the Vietnamese were not necessarily our enemy and could be even be seen as similar in some ways to our own 1776 independence fighters. We began by showing and carrying the 13 star American flag of independence along with the Vietnamese flags.
While we had no expectation of building wide spread support, we felt that by interjecting an element of doubt or suspicion about the necessity of fearing this “faceless enemy,” some people might become freer to question and later even turn against the war. Our organizing efforts showed us that once this dialogue was entered, the barrier of fear was more easily bypassed and opposition could gradually increase and later accelerated by the growing costs of the war. Simply put, once people felt less threatened by Vietnam, they could ask “is it worth one more American life?”
By 1971, there were many groups educating about the origins of this war and the long Vietnamese history of resisting imperial and colonial attempts to dominate them. In 1973, we changed our name to Indochina Solidarity Committee (ISC) and worked for an end to the war in all three countries; Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia.
In 1975, the committee closed.
I will also be posting more of these documents, photos and history of CANLF and related work. Meanwhile, I am in the process of contacting past participants to fill in information where possible and welcome feedback. As of April 17, 2015, some of the key activists have been reached, but if you can contribute anything, please be in touch.
Because of our anti-war work, activists were invited to participate in the end of the war celebrations in 2005 and now again in April-May of 2015.
Written by Walter Teague, May 7, 2013. Updated: December 6, 2013
|wteague @ redandgreen.org|
|Index to CANLF documents|
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