Tonight, from Boston, THE ADVOCATES. Roger Fisher, William Kunstler, and
the moderator Michael Dukakis.
Good evening, and welcome to THE ADVOCATES. Every week at this time, we
look at an important public problem, and for you, a practical choice. Tonight, the issue is
public demonstration against military involvement in Indochina, and specifically our question is
this; "If you oppose the war, should you answer the call for massive civil disobedience?" With
us tonight is guest Advocate William Kunstler, trial lawyer and defender of the Chicago 7. Mr.
Kunstler says, "Yes."
I believe in civil disobedience among other forms of resistance in times
when it's called for. I think now is a time in which it's called for. With me tonight are Rennie
Davis, and Howard Zinn, both advocates in the past and present of civil disobedience as a
Also with us tonight is guest Advocate Roger Fisher, a member of the
Executive Committee of the National Council for an Indochina Deadline. Mr. Fisher says,
Today a majority of all Americans want Congress to act to end the war
this year. For you or others to engage in disruptive, illegal conduct would antagonize both that
majority and Congress. Here to help convince you that legal and responsible political action is
today the best tactic for ending the war is Allard Lowenstein, who started the "Dump Johnson"
movement of 1968, and who's now working to end the political career of President Nixon, and
Senator Philip Hart of Michigan, one of America's hardest workers in the cause of peace.
Thank you, gentlemen. Tonight, we consider the propriety, and the
efficacy, of civil disobedience, as a means of bringing about political reform. It is a question
each individual must answer for himself, and it can only be considered in a particular context
of facts. Tonight, the context is a nation largely dissatisfied with the Vietnam War. This war
has been the longest in American history, and probably the most unpopular. A recent Gallup poll
indicates that nearly three-quarters of the American people favor the withdrawal of all American
troops from Vietnam by the end of this year. And yet President Nixon, in recently announcing a
slightly stepped-up increase in the rate of withdrawal from Indochina, made it quite clear that
there would be a continued active American military presence in Indochina for an unspecified
time to come. This conflict between the policy of the government and the will or the apparent
will of the majority of its citizens has become the prime fact of American political life today.
And it provides the basis for our question tonight. This April and May, a series of anti-War
demonstrations will be taking place, primarily in Washington, DC. Several different actions have
been planned: a mass march on April 24; intensive lobbying of Congress; a moratorium on business
as usual; and finally, early in May, a major demonstration of massive non-violent civil
disobedience. Those calling for civil disobedience are asking their supporters deliberately to
break the law, and to invite arrest in large numbers. They are asking people not just to
demonstrate or march, but to use physical, illegal force. To disrupt traffic, to disrupt
government, to make it difficult for people going to and from their places of work. The object
is to dramatize the power and urgency of popular opposition to this war. Is this an appropriate
means of political activity? That Is the question we face tonight: "If you oppose the war,
should you answer the call for massive civil disobedience?" Mr. Kunstler, why do you favor
massive civil disobedience?
Mr. Moderator, I favor massive civil disobedience, among other things.
It is not the only thing that is used to protest any grievance in society. But it is one of the
most effective under certain conditions. I believe that the times call at this moment for
massive civil disobedience, along with other forms of protest by people who feel they should do
other things. I feel this most strongly, and I hope to prove it tonight. And I would like to
call Rennie Davis, an old client, and the national coordinator of the upcoming demonstrations in
the District of Columbia, as my first witness.
Welcome to THE ADVOCATES, Mr. Davis.
Mr. Davis is now planning and coordinating a great many of the
activities in Washington that will take place in the next several weeks. Mr. Davis: I would like
to ask you first, what is planned for the District of Columbia next week, next month, in this
Well, the largest coalition of peace and civil rights organizations ever to assemble
in the history of this country is going to Washington to try to dramatize a situation where we
feel we cannot wait until the 1972 election to end the war. It's actually under way at this
time, with thousands and thousands of Vietnam veterans, who are beginning a lobby in Congress,
who are turning their awards and their medals that they won in Vietnam into body bags and
depositing them on the steps of Congress; they're going into Congress and demonstrating to
Congressmen a search and destroy mission and civilian torture techniques; all through this week,
they will be making clear that thousands of Vietnam veterans are turning against this war and
are prepared to engage in acts of civil disobedience, to make clear their urgency, their sense
of urgency about ending the war. During the fourth week of April, we hope to assemble in
Washington, DC the most massive people's lobby ever to come together in American history. At a
time when 73 percent of the American people want out, we're going to Washington to talk with
every single person who serves Richard Nixon. Thousands of people who will go into Congress;
thousands of people will go into the cafeterias and offices of the Commerce Department, the
Labor Department and the Agriculture Department; and our objective will be to raise, with every
single government worker, who feel as we do that the war must end, whether or not the time has
not come when Americans who have tried to work through channels only to find the channels are
dead-end streets, whether the time has not come for American people to create their own
channels, that literally compel public opinion to be acknowledged and recognized and acted on.
We're going to ask federal employees to join us in a strike of the United States government, as
an example of the kind of resistance that we feel has to sweep this country. We're urging people
to stop paying taxes, and supporting the tens of thousands of American GIs who are in virtual
mutiny demanding the right to come home, and so on. Then, on May 3rd, 1971, we will be going to
various government buildings; on Monday morning it will be primarily -- the focus will be the
Pentagon; and we intend to engage in a massive non-violent campaign of civil disobedience. We're
supporting government workers who say they will not be good Germans and continue to function in
a government that is engaged in mass murder in Indochina at a time when the American people want
it to stop. And we intend to go onto the entrances and roads around the Pentagon, sit down, lock
arms, and allow ourselves to be arrested if necessary, to put our bodies between the machine
that carries out this war, and the tremendous sentiment of the American people to stop this
Mr. Davis, a lot of the things you've mentioned are conventional
protest. Among them, you have civil disobedience, or acts of civil disobedience. Why not stay
with the conventional methods, and avoid the civil disobedience with all its problems?
Well, I think really the question that faces the country right now, at a
time when 150 million people want the war to end, is whether or not methods don't have to be
pursued now that literally compel the American government to get out. And it has to do with your
estimation of what is happening. Right now in Vietnam Nixon is setting up an electronic
battlefield, so that as GIs are withdrawn they'll be replaced with devices that are called
"sensors," that flash signals to computers. And these computers will program the F-105s to carry
out the saturation bombing raids. Right now, as Nixon talks about winding down the war, nearly
three Hiroshimas a week are being dropped in Indochina. Right now, as Nixon talks about winding
down the war, women who drink even a cup of water in a day between the second and seventh week
of pregnancy, who are in an area that's been affected with Chemical Agent Orange have something
like a 60 percent chance of giving birth to a genetically deformed child. And even according to
U.S. Army figures, 10 million acres of land have been sprayed with chemical Agent Orange. I
think if the American people knew what was happening under Vietnamization, and knew that as we
debate tonight the question of civil disobedience in Washington, what is being debated tonight
in Hanoi is the question of whether or not large numbers of Vietnamese will have to be
quarantined to prevent genetic mutations literally threatening the specimen, because of Chemical
Agent Orange, and Blue, and White, that this debate would cease. The American people would rise
up and compel the United States government to stop. And we're trying to bring the information to
the American people and trying to urge in every possible way for people to recognize that they
have to act, at whatever level. I mean, I have no disagreement with Al Lowenstein or anyone else
who wants to send a telegram to Nixon, who wants to vote, who wants to petition, who wants to do
anything at any level that stops this war. But I think there are many of us who feel that the
time has come when we cannot be good Germans, and we must resist, we must compel the American
government to get out of Vietnam and deal with the problems of racism and poverty and repression
here at home.
Thank you, Mr. Davis.
I'll ask Mr. Fisher to ask a few questions on cross-examination.
Mr. Davis, I think, as you've pointed out, we're in wide agreement on
the need for bringing the war to an end, and on many of the means appropriate to doing it. Our
disagreement, if it is, is on the particular technique of violent, or disruptive non-violent,
disruptive illegality, as a way of bringing about that result.
You should clarify that one word "violent." Our intention is to be
I think that's understood.
Do you expect some violence to develop?
Well, every possible effort is being made to train every single person
who's participating in Washington in clear tactics of non-violent civil disobedience. And the
question ought to be put, I think, to Richard Nixon, whether or not he will allow demonstrators
who are genuine, who feel deeply about -- passionately about the course of this country and this
country's future, whether or not we will be allowed to demonstrate without violence.
Let me just press you as to how you believe the process will work to
compel the government. Who is the demonstration going to influence?
Well many people, I think. The first thing that we're trying to do is
deliver a powerful message into--
To whom? To whom?
Into the military bases up and down the East Coast, where GIs are in
virtual mutiny, demanding the right to come home.
I'm trying to follow the process, because we now have a majority, a vast
majority, who want Congress, which has the legal power to do it, to end the war this year. And
73 percent say to do it. I see the task as how to get them. Now I'm wondering how you see the
task. How lying down in the streets, how blocking traffic -- what are the steps through which
that goes; who brings the troops home? Is there complete dissolution of the government before
they come home? Is there wide-scale mutiny and a general collapse? Or does public opinion then
ask Congress to bring them.
Well, I think it's going to be a combination of factors that will end
the war. I think that we feel very strongly the power in this country is committed at so
absolute a stake to a military victory in Vietnam that every conceivable channel, and channels
that do not exist, will have to be used. We support the GIs who are resisting this war in South
How do they come home? Who tells General Abrams to bring the soldiers
home? Who -- what ships get up there to take them out? Who sends the orders to do that?
There's no question that ultimately an act of government will be
required. The question is, how can we move this government? How do we move Congress to
Right. That's what we disagree on. How do you move Congress. And my
belief is, if the issue is the war in Vietnam, Congress is maybe with us. If the issue is
disorder in the streets -- Where is President Nixon strongest? On which issue is he strongest?
Law and order in the streets?
I think very much, Roger, that if anything, what we have demonstrated
the last five years is that many of the American people have not been real happy with this
generation of young Americans who have been in the streets, who have refused to go into the
Army, or if in the Army have resisted. Homes have been torn apart by young people who have taken
principled and determined positions. Now we're taking a position again, during this period. We
are engaged in what I believe is absolutely necessary, which is a struggle with those 150
million Americans who want to see this war end, who nevertheless, every single morning get up
and go to work; and in the government, there are a half million people in Washington, DC who get
in a car, go to work, who are against the war, who agree that Nixon regularly lies to them about
Vietnam and yet, they continue, directly or indirectly, to support a government that
They have the power to turn Congress out of office; they have the power
to indicate that now, that unless Congress acts this session they can turn them out of office.
Isn't the debate likely to be on disorder, on violence -- not violence, but disruptive tactics,
on illegality, on lawlessness -- and if the debate's on lawlessness, President Nixon may have a
Well, the debate should be on lawlessness. The kind of lawlessness that
is going on in our name, and your name, and everybody's name.
That is exactly why I'd like the discussion to be on what's going on in
Vietnam, and not what's going on outside the White House or what's going on on Shirley Avenue,
or who's blocking the bridge. I don't see the process. What'll happen in August? What do you
expect to happen in August, or September? Will you be planning next Spring's
The idea of May is this: to suggest to the country that the time has
come when the overwhelming majority of people must express themselves in the most determined,
compelling way possible. Now I happen to think that there is a great possibility in Congress
that congressmen will buy the argument that American casualties are being reduced, so it's all
right to automate the battlefield. It's all right to create an electronic, instrumentalized
battlefield that literally destroys the ecology and the life of another people, as long as
American GIs are coming home, as long as it appears that the war is winding down.
Won't the disorder, won't the disorder that you're creating, won't the
disorder discourage those moderate congressmen who would now, might take action, to say, "I
don't want to side with Rennie Davis and William Kunstler, who are under indictment, who engage
in illegal activities -- I don't want to do that!" And won't you be contaminating the very
chance which we who are working on the voters, working on the Congress will do; won't you be
risking that chance?
Roger, I really think one of the great tragedies of this decade has been
liberals who have argued, trying to find an excuse for not engaging in as high a level of
political struggle against the war as possible--
Disorder and disruption--
Let me just finish, please.
Gentlemen, you're going to have to finish it up pretty quickly.
I mean, I think that it's quite clear that young people, and black
people, and people who have been committed to struggling in this country have been in the
forefront of the anti-War movement, and that this country has been brought along step by step,
and that the mass demonstrations themselves will not end the war, the American people will end
the war. But what we hope to do this May is to set an example of resistance, a resistance that
has to sweep this country, sweep South Vietnam, sweep GIs, sweep the vets, sweep every
household, and sweep Congress.
Promote law and order in Vietnam by disorder at home.
Gentlemen, I'm afraid I'm going to have to interrupt? Mr. Davis, thank
you very, very much for your testimony. Mr. Kunstler.
I think Rennie Davis' testimony has shown that there is a vast need for
all types of protest today, whether it be civil disobedience, or whether it be on a -- more
conventional variety, I reserve my rebuttal for Mr. Zinn.
Thank you, Mr. Kunstler. We will be back to you for your rebuttal case,
but now it's time for Mr. Fisher to present his argument against massive civil
We are considering massive civil disobedience now as a means of ending
the war. This is not a debate over the war; it's not a philosophical debate over civil
disobedience in general. Civil disobedience, in my view, is justified in some cases.
Particularly where you're resisting a law which you regard as immoral, such as a law requiring
you to return a fugitive slave, or not to serve a black person, or where you are in fact calling
attention to a problem that is unknown. But the traffic laws in the District of Columbia are not
immoral laws, and the Vietnam War is not unknown. The only justification for illegality and
lawlessness now is effectiveness. And illegality today is not an effective political weapon. It
has high costs; it is counter-productive. First, as to the costs. Lawlessness leads to more
lawlessness. If you take the law into your hands, Mr. Kunstler and others like you, others will
take the law into their hands for their cause. If you believe you're right, others will break
the law for what they believe right. The idea that the end justifies the means led Governor
Faubus to defy integration orders in Little Rock; led Governor Wallace to block the schoolhouse
door; led Lester Maddox to chase blacks away from his restaurant with axe handles; led white
parents and students to block school buses in South Carolina; led the hardhats to break up a
peace demonstration on Wall Street; Mr. Kunstler has urged disruptive illegality in the streets.
Others are following that advice. This lawlessness will breed more lawlessness. That way lies
anarchy. That is too much for us to take. The cost of such illegality is high, and there are no
benefits. Illegality is in fact counter-productive. It antagonizes the very people whose action
will be required, Congress and some of the public, to bring about an end to American involvement
It diverts attention from the war, where 73 percent of the people are opposed to the President's
policy and want a quicker withdrawal; it diverts attention to the issue of law and order in the
streets, where most people support the President, He can win, the public will support him, on
that question. This is the time for effective political action, to convert the majority we have
into a governmental decision to end the war. Here to talk with us is Allard Lowenstein.
Welcome to THE ADVOCATES, Mr. Lowenstein.
Mr. Lowenstein is an ex-Congressman from New York, and the man credited
with organizing the "Dump Johnson" movement in 1968, You were elected to Congress, Mr.
Lowenstein from a Republican district?
Well, I guess that shows the unpredictability of the American
And how do you still have faith in the political system, after they
gerrymandered your district away from you?
Well, you can gerrymander one district, but it's very difficult to
gerrymander the whole country.
In 1968, you were teaching at CCNY, and you decided you wanted to dump
President Johnson. Now what happened?
Well of course it wasn't me, it was millions of people, and we organized
across the country to show that in this country, the elections in the final analysis do belong
to the people, and if they don't lie down and pretend they can't be effective, they can be, And
at that time, in the face of all the precedents and all the arguments by experts, without much
money, without visible leadership at first, and without really any kind of experience at it, a
sitting President was defeated in his own party.
But we ended up with President Nixon.
Yes, I don't think we expected that there'd be assassinations, that we'd
be punctured on the way to the White House by murder, and that derailed the effort in 1968, not
in a way that shows it can't be done, but in a way that shows that if murder becomes part of the
process, victories aren't always consummated. So we have to pick up again now where we were
then, and finish the job this time.
What are you doing now?
Well, I think the same thing that most Americans are doing: feeling this
terrible frustration over the terrible injustices that this government visits on Vietnam, and
its dissembling the facts so that it confused the issues; feeling this sense of frustration that
we can't -- if we were in England, this government would have fallen for lack of confidence
already. We have to get through the next 18 months in some way, and I think what we have to do
in that 18 months is to build the strength of the people who are opposed to the present course,
so effectively that Congress stops the money for the war, so effectively that we get a President
who will move us in new directions, not just in the war, but in many other problems.
Do you think the action this year can affect Congress this year?
Well sure it can. There's no question that the mood of the country has
gone to the point where if people will use the fact that the majority by far wants now a change
in direction that we'll be able to get political leadership to respond. Congressmen are not evil
people, they're mostly sort of seismographs with antennae; they're waiting -- they're more
worried about losing their jobs than Assistant Deans of Men in the Ivy League. They just don't
want -- and now when the pressure begins to come, saying "Stop voting for the military
appropriations, stop this nonsense of supporting a policy which is disruptive of everything," I
think they have to respond because they otherwise lose their jobs.
And what is your position this spring?
Well I've endorsed the April 24 event; I endorsed the Mobilization in
1969 when I was in the Congress, because I think constitutional and lawful protest has a very
real value and one must join in that kind of activity to show the President that in fact people
are determined not to be quiet about the damage he's doing to us with his policies. But I will
not support, and I think it would be a great mistake to confuse, that kind of activity which is
productive of support in the country against the things that are wrong. I will not support
policies or programs which produce disruption, because that switches the issue.
What do you think the effect of illegal, disruptive activities will be
on the chances for peace?
Well, I think it makes it much more difficult to hold the country on the
issue where we have a majority; it puts it on the issue where we can't get a majority, where I
wouldn't even be prepared to argue that there is any justification for the tactic, and if I'm
not, I wonder how many people understand what that means in terms of what we've done to our own
coalition. We have a coalition now; it's so broad that it's the broadest, I think, base for
basic change in this country since the bottom of the Depression. It would be awful stupid to
throw it away by letting people think the choice is somehow between anarchy and Spiro Agnew.
That's not the choice. We ought to be sure that we don't let anyone get the impression that's
the choice, because that's what this Administration wants the country to think the choice is.
That's their only hope for salvaging themselves.
Mr. Lowenstein, I'm going to break in if I can, because Mr. Kunstler
thinks there's another choice; Mr. Kunstler? Some questions on cross-examination.
Thank you, Mr. Dukakis. Mr. Lowenstein, it's difficult not to call you
Al, because we've known each other for a long time, so if I slip once in a while, forgive
I'll call you Bill.
That's good reciprocity. I'd like to ask you this. You made some
statements about constitutional and lawful protest, and I just want to call your attention first
to Martin Luther King, when disruption was utilized; in fact, Martin often said that to cause a
crisis-ridden situation will then cause negotiation. And that was done in Birmingham, in Selma,
and in Alabama. Were you out of tune with those events, or did you support those events?
Well I think the question is, whether the protest is relevant, and can
achieve the goals set. There's no eleventh commandment, "Thou shalt commit civil disobedience,"
There's no eleventh commandment, "Thou shalt not." What you do is you face the realities of the
situation, and decide whether what you're doing will help or hurt the goal you set. And in my
judgment, the kind of civil disobedience that's disruptive, as distinguished from the kind of
civil disobedience which reflects an individual decision of conscience, is damaging to the goals
I want to see achieved, tactically hurts us, and in principle does not comport with what we say
we want America to be all about. So I supported Martin Luther King as you know, in many
situations, where what he was seeking was something which in fact was best achieved by the
tactics he arrived at. That doesn't mean that I have to support tactics which will not achieve
the goals set, when my judgment, tells me they'll damage the possibility of achieving that
All right, you supported Martin Luther King because you thought that he
was right in those tactics at that time. You're opposed today because you think it's wrong at
this time to use massive civil disobedience against the war in Vietnam. Can you concede the
possibility that, one, you might be wrong now, and secondly, that massive civil disobedience
might have a positive effect, as the Boston Tea Party had, and as many other events in our
history have had. That it might end the war a month, a year, a half year -- can you concede that
Can you concede the possibility that--
No. Not another question, Mr. Lowenstein. My question first. Then I'll
Well, I can concede the possibility that tactics besides electoral
politics might help to shorten the war. I've advocated those tactics, I cannot concede the
possibility that massive civil disobedience that disrupts the rights of other Americans will
help to shorten the war by so much as an hour, I think it will extend the war.
But isn't that just a rationalization? Doesn't civil disobedience and
illegal strikes always threaten the rights of someone else? A strike does that; The Boston Tea
Party did that. The attacks by the Abolitionists did that, during the slavery days. Is that
really the answer, that someone else's rights are interfered with? Because they always
Well, to suggest that the use of the Tea Party protest against the
British colonial rule is analogous to trying to tie up the Bureau of Wildlife and Fisheries
seems to me a difficult kind of step.
Well why is it so difficult a step? Just because one is then and one is
No; because the Bureau of Wildlife and Fisheries does not in fact
continue the war in Vietnam. The British continued their rule and they were protested against,
as was done at the Tea Party.
Well, the Tea Tax didn't really have the heart of the--the gravamen of
the, bitterness of the colonists. They had many other grievances. That was the slightest of the
What is your grievance against the Bureau of Wildlife and
Well, it isn't the grievance against fishing or wildlife. I'd be crazy
to even fly in the face of the ecological wrath that would come on that statement. But it is --
the disruption of the government is a dramatic effect to achieve a greater purpose; just as the
tea in the harbor was to dramatize something quite different, so the disruption of the
government for a day or two days is a dramatic statement, really. "Stop the war. We are so
grievous over the war that we will stop Wildlife and Fisheries."
What I don't understand is that if you tie up highways, which is one of
the proposals, and a lady who has a baby on the way is on her way to the hospital and can't get
there, have you in some way contributed to ending the war? If there's no connection between the
tactic and the result you're trying to achieve, and if in the process you can damage other
people who are in fact innocent in the whole situation, I think you ought to re-examine whether
what you're doing makes sense.
You're creating a horrendous, unlikely example.
I'm creating what can happen when you try to tie up highways.
Well, that's -- Martin Luther King you could have had the same
statement...tied up Birmingham.
No, Martin Luther King never tied up highways.
Of course he did.
No, he didn't. He opposed using the tactic on the Triborough Bridge when
some advocated it, tying up that bridge. I think it's unfair.
But what of Fifth Avenue in Birmingham, which was completely tied up,
resulting in 2500 arrests for tying up that highway? There might have been a baby there,
I would love to argue with you about Martin Luther King some other time,
but I think that the--
No, I'm pinning you down to this time.
Right. I'm pinning you down this time, to show me how disrupting traffic
in Washington has the possibilities suggested of ending the war a month sooner. My view of it is
that in fact what it does is it jeopardizes the fragile but very important coalition that we
have for ending the war, by changing the question to, "Do you want to have highways tied up as a
tactic to do anything?" When President Nixon said that the American people don't want their
foreign policy dictated from the street, unfortunately, he said the most clever political
statement I think he's ever said.
If I can just interrupt you one moment.
The thought will be finished in one second.
Mr. Kunstler is going to have to finish.
You've switched the issue from do you want his foreign policy, to do you
want someone dictating it from the streets? People don't want it dictated from the streets. My
judgment is they don't want his foreign policy. But why let the argument switch to do they want
it dictated from the streets, where he wins instead of us?
But wasn't it dictated from the college campuses over the withdrawal
Not by civil disobedience. Not by disruption.
There's a total difference. If a government employee wants to
Before you gentlemen switch roles, I'm going to have to interrupt you.
Thank you very, very much, Mr. Lowenstein, for your testimony.
Another witness, Mr. Fisher?
My next witness is the senior Senator from Michigan, Philip Hart.
Welcome to THE ADVOCATES, Senator Hart.
Senator Hart voted for the McGovern-Hatfield bill last year, and he's
been a long-time and hard worker to help end the United States involvement in Indochina.
Senator, how do you stand on lawful demonstrations against the war?
Along with motherhood, I'm for it. No, clearly, that's a useful and a
constitutionally guaranteed right.
Was your wife arrested in 1969 for demonstration at the Pentagon?
Do you want to explain that?
I'd better, before Bill asks me about it.
That's known as anticipating cross-examination. Go ahead, Senator.
Well, she would want me first to explain that she still insists that she
was not guilty. More important, she and those who were with her did not intend to violate the
law. There was no conscious decision to do violence to the statutes. She insists still that
their actions were misunderstood, that she was not guilty; it was a finding by a court that they
had nonetheless violated an ordinance which prohibited loud and unusual noises in the
Did the fact that she was convicted help you to persuade your colleagues
to support peace in Vietnam?
It certainly did not, and if I can anticipate another question, if she
had been joined by one hundred thousand others, it wouldn't have persuaded some of my colleagues
to change their mind.
What will be the effect if many people engage in illegal activity in
Washington this spring? In your judgment.
Well, that 73 percent will melt away very promptly, to what lower figure
I would not be able to guess. I'll be listening to speeches for the next two months in the
Senate about Rennie Davis, and Mr. Kunstler, and you name any other favorite whipping boy --
that will be the debate. And this system is a sitting duck when you give one of these
politicians an easy way out. They'll fight the violence.
If they are not disrupted, what's going on in Congress right now,
Well, we're approaching another McGovern-Hatfield vote. Get us out of
there lock, stock and barrel at the end of the year. There are number of commitments of
conscience that are being circulated, also bipartisan. Inouye and Marthias in the Senate;
McCloskey in the House. In substance, the same commitment. We are hopeful, given the dramatic
increase in public support, that we'll be able, either by attaching a measure to the
appropriation bill, or the adoption of a McGovern-Hatfield equivalent, to end the war by the end
of this year.
There may be, Senator, there may be two million people watching this
broadcast, at a rough guess; could -- if half of them wanted to end the war and really did
something about it, could they make a difference?
If a million people really wanted to end the war, you bet. That doesn't
mean just writing their congressman or senator, though, though that's helpful. That means
reacting to this war the same way those who reacted who discovered they were going to have an
ABM missile in their hack yard. Who react now when a superhighway is supposed to go through
their living room. If you really feel strongly about immorality of the war, react at least as
strongly to your editor, and to your congressman, and to your neighbor, about the
Senator, I think Mr. Kunstler wants you to react even more strongly than
that. Mr. Kunstler? Questions to Senator Hart.
Senator Hart, I'll surprise you. I didn't know your wife was arrested,
but that shows that I've been a little out of touch with things since Chicago.
She got an ACLU lawyer.
They're very good -- they're representing me now in Chicago -- at least,
I hope they're very good. I would like to ask you this, Senator Hart. As you talk about this
December, it brings back a memory of someone else saying about another December, and the
withdrawal of Americans from Vietnam, the end of the war -- isn't it possible that civil
disobedience is justified in the situation where there is an immediacy -- the immediacy that
Rennie Davis has described. When as we talk here, people are dying. People are being maimed.
Babies are being born with genetic mutations. Isn't it possible there are some situations, as
there have been in the past, where civil disobedience is a necessity, along with other methods
of protest, to stimulate a reaction to a Congress which is now maybe feeling that it can only
react to conventional methods?
I think I've made clear that I think at this point in history, with
respect to this question, civil disobedience as an additional protest would defeat the
objective. I don't quarrel that in instances in history, civil disobedience has been appropriate
and useful. I signed a minority view on the Commission on Violence, making that very point. But
at the same time, tonight I urge as strongly as I can, that they not come in and give the
Congress and the middle-class American public which has joined to make that 73 percent opposed
to the war, a reason to turn off again. Let us stay with the issue. It's possible, it's possible
I could he wrong in that judgment: but it's very probable that history would say on that one, at
least, Hart was right. They did get off on a tangent.
Well, Senator Hart, there have been many other occasions when
congressmen and senators have said exactly the same thing about civil disobedience, and been
wrong. For example, when the Suffragettes were attempting to get the vote, more than just
demonstrate in front of the Pentagon, they chained themselves to courthouses, they disrupted the
entrances to federal buildings, and I've read in my history books that congressmen said very
much the same things as you've said. "Quiet down, you women; wait, and we'll get around to it."
But the point is, the women didn't quiet down and they got around to it a lot faster than they
might have had there been no demonstrations.
Did you say that it would be comparable here, or that I could be wrong
this time? Which is it?
Well, I'm saying can you conceive the possibility.
I say it's not comparable; I concede I could be wrong on any old thing.
But I do feel very strongly. I'll go back there tomorrow morning, and I'll sit with 99 other --
98 other men and a woman...
Which is unfair to start with.
That will be a topic on another show, Mr. Kunstler...
And please -- please, let us talk about the evil that we're inflicting
on the people of Vietnam and ourselves, in continuing the war, and lot us not talk about whether
it was right or wrong for you to get in the middle of a bridge, and stop the General on his way
to the bathroom, or something like that. Don't let us get off on that kind of tangent.
No, but you're reducing it to an absurdity, just as I thought that Al
Lowenstein reduced it to--
Don't let him go to work, then.
...reduced it to a question of an ambulance, and that possibility, which
is possible in any situation. What I'm saying, if the evil is so intense, and so immediate,
isn't it important that the American people have another way of expressing themselves other than
waiting for a Congress that never seems to act?
It is important that we do that which is most likely to achieve our
objective. I believe that adding to the petitions that one can manifest with his presence in
Washington, the violation of a law, that you're lessening the likelihood that we'll achieve the
common goal. That's all I'm saying. I have a deep conviction on this when I'm right.
I understand that you have a deep conviction and you've admitted to me
that you may be wrong.
And I know the Establishment is always against protest, so you've got to
I understand that.
But; boy, you -- can't you imagine what -- you don't have to even have a
speech writer. If you come to work in the Senate, and the morning paper shows that your
colleagues in the House have not been permitted to get to work. You know what the speeches will
be for two months. It won't be about the evil we're doing in the field in Vietnam; it'll be
about law and order in America. And that's crazy.
Yes, but you said that if a hundred thousand persons were arrested with
your wife, it would have made no difference. But I submit to you that if a hundred thousand were
engaged in such activity; Congress does, as Mr. Lowenstein said, act as a seismograph. They are
responsive, The President was responsive to the outpouring on the campuses, and there was civil
disobedience on the campuses, and he withdrew the troops from Cambodia. It had an effect. Why
couldn't it have the same effect now, and why is it incompatible with other methods?
I would be delighted if you have a million people there at the end of
the month. Or two million. I would hope they would not violate the laws. But if they did, and if
all one million did, do we read in Congress, and more important, does the White House read in
that, a message that a majority of Americans support the petition that the law-violators were
giving? No. The reading will be that this Middle America, this silent majority, which now goes
up to 73 percent to get us out of Vietnam, all of a sudden is offended, repelled, uncomfortable
-- "Oh, we don't want to do that" -- debate will run that way for months.
Gentlemen -- gentlemen, I'm going to have to interrupt--
Couldn't the reading be that there's such intensity of feeling that
people are risking their liberty?
The chances are the intensity will turn against them.
Gentleman, gentlemen; we're way over. Thank you very, very much for your
testimony. It was very, very impressive. Mr. Fisher?
If you really want to help end the war, get your pencil and piece of
paper handy I'm going to give you some names and addresses of how you can work with others. But
first, let's get the advice of the House Majority Whip, Thomas P. O'Neill who happens to be my
(ON FILM) I am the Democratic Whip of the House. I am opposed to the
war, I would like the war ended and the boys home by December 31, 1971. More members of Congress
are joining these views every day. Why? Because they have heard from the people at home. Those
who have written; those who have telephoned; those who have wired; those who have visited their
congressmen. Visit your congressman if you can, but if you can't, write him. He will listen, and
he will hear your views. You can believe me. If you come to Washington, and we'd appreciate your
coming to Washington; but if you do, act responsible. Don't lie in the streets; don't do
anything to disrupt; that only hurts our cause. We will win this fight, those of us who are
opposed to this war. If you live in the West, in the South, I ask you to contact your
Congressman, and I'm sure that you'll have the same effect as we are having in the rest of the
nation. (END OF FILM)
There are two specific things I would like you to do of the many that
you can. I urge you to first, write your Congressmen and Senators not just in general but ask
them to sign up to join those already committed to vote this year to end American involvement in
the Indochina war. Second, write the National Council for Indochina Deadline--this is a
non-partisan group coordinating efforts of many organizations to work with Congress on this
action. I'm involved with that National Council, their address is the National Council Indochina
Deadline, Box 7167, Washington, DC. Ask us what we can do, we'll let you know what you can do.
The war can be stopped, but it takes your action. I agree with the seriousness, but it's going
to take political effort, effective political effort, within the law. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Fisher, and now we turn to Mr. Kunstler for his rebuttal
argument in support of massive civil disobedience.
Well, I wish Tip O'Neill had been here so we could cross-examine him on
that statement, but since he is not, I would like to, before calling my rebuttal witness,
indicate that we are going to try to prove through this witness that civil disobedience is not
what the others have said, but is a viable political tactic, and a non-violent tactic. And to do
that, I would like to call Howard Zinn to the stand.
Welcome to THE ADVOCATES, Professor Zinn.
Howard Zinn is an historian, an old friend of mine, I believe a client
somewhere along the way; and he's been involved in civil disobedience both in the South and
against the war in Vietnam. Professor Zinn, Why civil disobedience today? Why not wait for what
our adversary witnesses have said is the normal processes of government to catch up with the war
Why do you call him "Al," and me "Professor Zinn?"
You're a client.
I was listening to the Congressman, the former Congressman, the present
Congressman, the Senator, listening to Congressman O'Neill; and they all talk as if the
political process were a quite simple one, and that is, that if everybody would just be nice,
and talk "nice" to your Congressman, write him letters, write letters to the newspaper, sign
petitions, that the war in Vietnam would end, the bombers would be brought home, the GIs would
be brought home, and the power-hungry American military establishment would lose its hunger.
That's not the way things have happened in this war, and that's not the way things have happened
in history. Throughout American history, the political leaders have always exhorted the American
people to be nice and quiet and leave things to them. But when very serious evils confronted the
American people, they had to go beyond the Congressmen and Senators, and they had to commit
civil disobedience and they had even to break the law. And the Abolitionists had to do it, and
right here in Boston, they had to violate federal law by trying to bring a slave away from the
federal marshals; they had to commit civil disobedience; the labor movement had to do this, they
had to violate the law, they had to disrupt things; they had to do all sorts of impolite things;
they had the sit-ins -- sit-down strikes of 1936 and '37, and only this finally brought that
modicum of justice that the labor movement demanded. And the civil rights movement went through
the same thing. And you know, the Congress did not act on the Civil Rights Laws of '63 -- of '64
and '65 until blacks went out into the streets and made a commotion. They did not do it on the
basis of some polite discourse.
Professor Zinn, like to interrupt you for a minute, because I want to
get, before we run out of time, I want to get to one point. Both Al Lowenstein, Senator Hart,
and Tip O'Neill have made promises to us tonight. They've said, if we wait, and don't disrupt
Congress, and don't get people excited and irritated, then they will end the war in Vietnam, by
December according to Mr. O'Neill, by some other date. Why not wait, and make them live up to
the promissory note they've made.
We have had promissory notes from Congress for six years. For six years,
Congress has promised to preserve our lives, our liberties, and have promised to defend the
Constitution of the United States, which is an oath that they took. For six years, Congress
violated that oath, as the President violated that oath, by carrying on and acceding to a
Constitutional war. Mr. O'Neill, who exhorts us to quietude and obeisance to the law, voted for
every single military appropriation bill. Of 21 military appropriations bills brought up before
Congress between 1965 and 1970, he voted for every single one of them. No, I don't think we can
depend on Congress. In the American political system -- we have been brought up to believe that
the American political system works beautifully; it is democratic; Congress represents us; the
President is elected, he represents us -- it doesn't work that way. Democracy depends on people
speaking out, and in times of great crisis, on people creating a commotion. Garrison once said,
when they accused him of breaking the law, of disrupting things, of antagonizing people; he
said: "Slavery, Sir, will not be overthrown without excitement. A tremendous excitement."
Thank you, Mr. Zinn.
When Garrison made that statement, as quoted by you in your book, he
said, "We do not have public opinion on our side, so we must act." Today, on the issue in
Vietnam, we have public opinion. Just who is this organized, disruptive tactic designed to
The organized, disruptive tactic that you keep describing as
That's what you were talking about.
Of course. It's designed to make people think. You know, it's designed
to make the public think; it's designed to represent to the public the seriousness of the war.
Now, if, if bombs were falling on Boston tonight, if they were falling on Cambridge, if they
were falling all around us, and children were dying all around us, and some -- and this was
being decided by people, and these planes were being sent out by people sitting in City Hall,
and somebody said, "Let's get everybody together and march on City Hall and stop this," what
would you say? "Well, how is this actually going to work? Will the members of the City Council
be perhaps offended by this?" What I'm getting at is that there's something in your
comprehension of what is going on in Vietnam that is lacking. What is lacking is some
understanding of how serious this all is.
Well I am sorry; exactly, Mr. Zinn, believe me. My belief in the
seriousness is why I think that dropping bombs on Cambridge, like dropping bombs on Hanoi, is
not a way of producing effective political action.
We're dropping bombs every day on Vietnam.
I know. And you seem to think that the same strategy at home is the one
to pursue. I'm disagreeing with that.
I'm not suggesting dropping bombs, I'm suggesting non-violent
The United States is wreaking havoc in Hanoi, and you favor wreaking
havoc in Washington.
Mr. Fisher, in fairness to Professor Zinn, I don't think he's talking
about dropping bombs, but he is talking about--
I thought that was fairly clear.
--you believe that physical disruption is going to produce a sensible
political result, where physical disruption elsewhere does not. We're disagreeing on the
consequences of that, and also on the cost. Tell me, what should those who are watching this
program -- perhaps they're the American Legion members, perhaps who want the President to fight
on to military victory -- what, according to your philosophy, should they do in May? Go down to
I can't tell the people who want a military victory--
You were saying, "Act according to your conscience!"
Will you let me answer the question?
I can't tell the people who want a military victory, which is now a
minority of the American people, what to do. But that great majority of the American people who
now are opposed to the war, should do everything that they are impelled by their conscience to
do. And you need to recognize that some people are impelled by their conscience to write to
their Congressmen, and other people are compelled by their conscience to go to Washington, and
to say to the people in the government offices, "Stop work. Disobey." Because the violence of
our time is caused by obedience. No, let me just finish my point. What we are trying to do in
Washington is not to tell everybody in the country to do exactly what we're doing. What we're
trying to do in Washington is to tell people in the country that they need, in their own way, to
disobey the government in every -- GIs to disobey the call to war, young people to disobey the
draft induction notices; that's who we need.
We've had examples of that: George Wallace, Governor Faubus, others
disobeying the law.
They would do that in any case. They would do that in any case. They
aren't stimulated by us. It's not our action that brings their action.
Do you believe that might will be right? Do you believe -- are you
This is not might. We're talking about non-violent action. Are you
equating what we're doing in Washington with what is happening every day in Vietnam?
Physical--I am equating...
This is right against might.
Right is to act within the law.
Right is not only to act within the law. It's to also act according to
Right. An individual act of conscience to break an unjust law, as in
many of the cases you're talking about, I will refuse to obey a law to return a fugitive slave,
because I disagree with slavery. That individual act; the individual strikes of the students,
over Cambodia, which was "I will not go to class"; that is different than organized action, "A
group of us are going to get together and physically stop the government," The slogan on the May
demonstration is, "If the government doesn't stop the war, we will stop the government." We will
take the law into our hands. And whatever the consequences, we will impose those. That is the
prescription which others have followed. In the Weimar Republic, Hitler followed that.
A short response from Professor Zinn, and then we're going to have to
close it. A very short response.
This is not the Weimar Republic, this is the United States in
It's a good time to end it, Professor Zinn, and I'm afraid I'm going to
have to. Thank you very, very much for your testimony. Ladies and gentlemen, you've heard both
sides of the argument tonight, now it's time for our Advocates to summarize their cases. Mr.
Kunstler, you have an additional two minutes.
Thank you very much. I would like to close, really, on the words of both
my witnesses, Rennie Davis has outlined what will be done in Washington, and why he thinks it's
important to do it now, so that babies don't die tomorrow, that bombs don't fall tomorrow.
Professor Zinn has pointed out that there is a right against might, that there is a right of
conscience, and you can't equate that with Governor Faubus, or use horrendous examples to in
some way betray or destroy that right. I think that if people understand what they said from the
witness stand, people will get themselves to Washington, or if they cannot go to Washington, in
their own communities, and do whatever their conscience dictates, and their own morality
dictates should be done. Otherwise there will be no peace. Otherwise, we will wait forever, for
one December to flow into another, while men, women, and children of all nationalities die in
the mud of South Vietnam, of Laos, and of Cambodia. This I hope we will stop, and we will stop
now. Because unless we do, we are no longer a free, a loving, and a decent people.
Mr. Fisher, you also have two minutes for your summary.
We are both -- we all here tonight believe that people should act,
should act to end the war in Vietnam quickly. There is no disagreement about the horror, there
is no disagreement that action is required by you out there. There is fundamental disagreement
as to whether we will promote international legality by illegality at home. Whether having
everybody "do his thing" is morally justified if ineffective. I happen to believe that if there
is political action you could take that is effective, like writing your Senator and Congressman,
asking them to commit themselves now to action this session; like writing the National Council
for an Indochina Deadline in Washington, telling them -- asking what you can do to coordinate
our efforts on legislative action. If there are things you can do to be effective, and if you
choose to "do your thing," let your conscience be your guide. Without regard to the immorality
of the law you're breaking, whether it's Fish and Wildlife service, the traffic laws in
Washington -- there's no immorality about the Washington traffic laws. Breaking them does not --
no conscience requires you do it. The only test is effectiveness. And we have the testimony of
the group most concerned, that it's ineffective. Congressmen and Senators concerned. Two years
ago, I did a program which developed into THE ADVOCATES on the basis that public affairs are
your affairs. I hope tonight you will prove me right, in taking this problem as your problem,
and taking the action that you think should be taken, I hope you'll agree on effective action; I
hope that action is political. Thank you.
Thank you, gentlemen. During tonight's arguments, each Advocate has
strongly suggested individual action. Either by writing your elected officials and specific
organizations, or by participating in forthcoming events in Washington. As a program, we've
always encouraged such direct individual action. But whatever you do, we hope you'll let us know
how you feel about this. Write us, THE ADVOCATES, Box 1971, Boston 02134. Let us know how you
feel on this issue. The question you'll be voting on: "If you oppose the war, do you answer the
call to massive civil disobedience?" Every one of your votes is important; write us on a
postcard or a letter with your "yes" or "no" decision. We'll tabulate your views, and make them
known to members of Congress, the White House, and other persons concerned with this issue. The
address again: THE ADVOCATES, Box 1971 Boston 02134. Do it tonight. Last month THE ADVOCATES
debated a question about the distribution of your tax money to state and local governments. And
specifically the question, "Should Congress adopt President Nixon's general revenue-sharing
plan?" Of the 2,763 viewers across the country who sent us their votes on this issue, 1,206 were
in favor of such a plan, while 1,517 were opposed, a fairly close vote. Thanks to our Advocates,
Mr. Kunstler and Mr. Fisher; I'm Michael Dukakis; join us again next week; thank you, and good
THE ADVOCATES as a program takes no position on the issue debated
tonight. Our job is to help you understand both sides more clearly. This program was