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My Father And The Peace Movement (Thumbnail Version)

Sixty years ago today the US dropped the nuclear bomb called Little Boy over the central part of Hiroshima, killing at least 66,000 people.

In honor of this year's Hiroshima Day, I am posting this excerpt from my father's Political Autobiography.

By now the McCarthy period was upon us. The CIO was split and the traditional antagonisms on the left had taken a turn toward suicidal meanness. Then real disaster hit in the form of the Korean War. I got drafted, got married and had all my previous assumptions challenged. War was indeed hell. I was constantly one step away from a court martial. A full Colonel once told me that in his twenty five years in the Army he had never seen a man who was less of a soldier than I was. I thanked him and told him that I was only a civilian with a uniform on. I found myself in Japan after several small wounds and a massive case of dysentery that was written up in the Army Medical Journal. It was in Hiroshima that I had a profound religious experience. In the Hiroshima Museum there is a wall, all that is left of a building destroyed by the bomb. On that wall is etched the shadow of human beings which is all that is left of them. It was there that I came to understand that the distinction between just and unjust wars was blurred and that human existence was at great risk and that only a spiritual revolution would be sufficient if humanity was going to survive.

When I came home neither I or the left was the same. It was the time of the toad. There were no labor jobs open for me and I was sorting out my own thoughts. I did participate in electoral politics and the peace and civil rights movements but establishing myself in the role of husband and father took priority. I went to Columbia University School of General Studies and after a couple of years realized that I was too restless for academic life. As the fifties came to a close and the first stirrings of a new left emerged I was involved with CORE and the organizing of the Committee For A Sane Nuclear Policy. After several years of mundane earn a living jobs I went to work for the United Furniture Workers. I was Assistant President and functioned as the "staff intellectual" and as director of organization. I headed the research bureau, edited the newspaper and directed field organizing. I was often in the South and trying to organize integrated unions. The President of the Union Morris Pizer was one of the last of a vanishing breed of Jewish working class intellectuals. He was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the union hall. After a couple of years the business union element pushed Pizer into a kind of corner and complained that I spent too much on organizing the South. Meanwhile SANE had grown and I was asked to become Executive Director of the Greater New York Council. Here we had some success. We lobbied for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and got it. We established Hiroshima Day by organizing the first large peace march in America. It went from Princeton, New Jersey to the United Nations and 100,000 people assembled under the words from Isaiah "and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and neither shall they study war any more."

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Brandon August 8, 2005, 9:50 pm

    What a beautiful life. One thing that I sense is that movement isnt the same as it was back then, not as organized, not as effective, and perhaps not as committed.

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