My latest reading of W.A. Swanberg's Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist was about Thomas' views on the anti-war movement in the 1960's. Norman Thomas was a six-time Socialist candidate for President of the United States.
Thomas was opposed to the Vietnam War, but he had issues
with the anti-war movement. Thomas could still gain a receptive
audience among a number of young people during the 1960's, even though
he was over 30, and one of the mottos of many within the younger
generation in those days was "Don't trust anyone over 30." My guess is that this was on account of Thomas' status as a veteran
within the left-wing, his reputation as a person with integrity, and his
talent as a public speaker.
But Thomas took issue with how many within
the anti-war movement were cheering for Communism to win in Vietnam
rather than emphasizing the importance of a peaceful resolution, and he
thought that they should be missionaries for the anti-war cause rather
than rebelling against the culture. If they were missionaries for the
anti-war cause, Thomas contemplated, perhaps they could get enough
people to influence President Lyndon Johnson to end the war.
was also not a big fan of civil disobedience, which he considered to be
self-defeating, plus he was not for the disruption of "organized
society" (Thomas' words, quoted on page 462). Rather than refusing to
pay his taxes, as one of his acquaintances did, Thomas paid his taxes
while noting in a letter to the government that he had moral objections
to some of the things that the taxes were paying for, such as war. I don't think that Thomas was for people rolling over and playing dead
when the government was stomping on civil liberties. Plus, my
impression (and I'm open to correction on this) is that he was
sympathetic to those who dodged the draft. But he most likely didn't
want the Left to be overly provocative when it did not need to
be----when it needed to build bridges rather than alienating people.
Friday Night Music: Hotel California
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