Levertov's Speech for a Rally at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, April 15, 1970
I'm one of those people whose first participation in the peace movement began in New York way back when we demonstrated in City Hall Park against compulsory air-raid drills and our slogan used to be, "Peace Is Our Only Shelter." We wore buttons that said, "Stop The Testing" and "Strontium 90 Builds Bones."
With others of my generation, I moved along to organizing "Writers-and-Artists-Protest-the-War-in-Vietnam" ads in The New York Times, in emulation of the French intellectuals' protests about Algeria. Rallies and demonstrations became more and more frequent; veterans destroyed their honorable discharge papers, and we took them to the White House in a little coffin; we organized poetry readings and art exhibits and anthologies, and showed slides of napalmed children. We moved into the support and encouragement of draft resistance. And the war dragged on and at home poverty continued and racism intensified. And the demonstrations got bigger and bigger, but they still were one-issue efforts--Stop the War in Vietnam. And at last a better understanding of the futility of this one-issue campaign began to get through my thick head and some other thick heads.
Today, I believe we cannot bring the wars to an end--and I use the plural "wars" because there are wars going on in many countries, and in all these wars the United States has a hand--we cannot bring the wars to an end without bringing the capitalist-imperialist system to an end. These wars, whether in Asia or in Latin America or wherever they erupt, are wars of national liberation, in which people are fighting for self-determination against America's puppet governments, America's CIA and its "advisers," America's napalm, America's giant corporations, even when American troops are not involved.
Now the peace movement must become the revolutionary movement, must work to educate people to the realization that the struggle of black people inside the U.S. is a struggle for self-determination parallel to those outside the U.S., and that it will become a race war if we, white radicals, do not act toward revolution. A one-issue peace movement attempts to deal with only a single symptom of the disease that infects every aspect of our society; just as people concerned about the ecological disasters and threats of yet greater disaster attempt to deal with symptoms only if they do not realize that the greed of a profit system underlies the pollution of our resources.
We must get together to uproot the cause, even while we continue to struggle against the effects--and we must not confine our struggle to any single effect. Anyone who works to end the war in Vietnam but does nothing to stop the political and racial oppression that is happening around us simply does not understand where it's at. Everyone who's out today to demand an end to the war has a moral and rational obligation to be out demanding that the trial of Bobby Seale and the other Panthers be stopped too. As many people must flock to New Haven when that trial begins as flocked to Washington in November. More and more, people must be prepared to act militantly. The days of mere protest are over, and the days of separating war, and racism and pollution of natural resources, and social injustice, and male chauvinism, into neat little compartments are over. I say this with the conviction--and if it sounds apocalyptic, o.k., it is apocalyptic--that unless all men and women of good will realize this very, very soon, and act on it, there will be no future, but an increasing horror followed by annihilation.
Even at best we are not going to escape a period of terror, of increased repression, of bloodshed. It is happening already. But our one chance of survival, and not of mere survival but of a decent and humane life for ourselves and our children and our children's children, lies in solidarity and in the recognition now of the necessity of revolution.
Return to Denise Levertov