Vietnam Revisited During Trump’s Bonkers Brinkmanship

I returned to Vietnam in April, having not been there since the war, nearly 50 years ago. I’d sailed there as a seaman in the National Maritime Union (NMU) on a cargo ship carrying war materiel from the naval ammo base in Port Chicago, California. Having been active in the anti-war movement before the merchant marine, I was reluctant to go to Vietnam. Popular chants in the anti-war demonstrations in the ‘60’s were “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” and “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is Gonna Win!” At Penn State I burned my draft card in 1965 along with several others including Andy Stapp,  who had organized the anti-war American Serviceman’s Union.  That same year Marxist philosopher Isaac Deutscher,  underscoring the power of the working class, said in a speech at Columbia University that he’d give a thousand of the mushrooming student anti-war protests for just one, solid workers strike against the war in Vietnam.

A Trotskyist seaman in the union convinced me that an individualistic act of refusing to sail to Vietnam wouldn’t stop the war, that revolutionaries should go with the working class youth, that our task was to organize within the military and the trade unions to fight to stop the war. My father’s family was steel mill workers from Steelton, Pennsylvania, and my mother’s family had fled the Nazis in Vienna. Her mother who I adored was a socialist. So, it wasn’t difficult to convince me of a working class perspective. Soon, a seaman’s job on…

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