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Beyond Vietnam

The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974-1990

Robert Surbrug, Jr.

Publication Year: 2009

Narratives of the 1960s typically describe an ascending arc of political activism that peaked in 1968, then began a precipitous descent as the revolutionary dreams of the New Left failed to come to fruition. The May 1970 killings at Kent State often stand as an epitaph to a decade of protest, after which the principal story becomes the resurgence of the right. In Beyond Vietnam: The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974–1990, Robert Surbrug challenges this prevailing paradigm by examining three protest movements that were direct descendants of Vietnam-era activism: the movement against nuclear energy; the nuclear weapons freeze movement; and the Central American solidarity movement. Drawing lessons from the successes and failures of the preceding era, these movements had a significant impact on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which itself had been undergoing major transformations in the wake of the 1960s. By focusing on one state—Massachusetts—Surbrug is able to illuminate the interaction between the activist left and mainstream liberalism, showing how each influenced the other and how together they helped shape the politics of the 1970s and 1980s. During these years, Massachusetts emerged as a center of opposition to nuclear power, the continuing Cold War arms race, and Ronald Reagan’s interventionist policies in Central America. The state’s role in national policy was greatly enhanced by prominent political figures such as Senator Edward Kennedy, Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, presidential candidate Governor Michael Dukakis, Vietnam veteran Senator John Kerry, and moderate Republican Silvio Conte. What Beyond Vietnam shows is that the rise of the right in the aftermath of the 1960s was by no means a unilateral ascendancy. Instead it involved a bifurcation of American politics in which an increasingly strong conservative movement was vigorously contested by an activist left and a reinvigorated mainstream liberalism.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

First and foremost, I owe deep gratitude to Kevin Boyle, who not only helped me focus and shape this work in its early stages but offered his personal support and encouragement during difficult times as well. I know few people whose lives are better expressions of their social democratic values than Kevin, and I am proud to be associated with him. I wish also to thank those who gave important feedback and criticism over the ...


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-18

In 1999, during a meeting of the World Trade Organization, radical protest against corporate globalization shook Seattle, Washington. The relatively small number of young anarchist militants who smashed windows and battled riot control police drew world media attention to a protest that comprised tens of thousands of nonviolent participants. Among their ranks were environmentalists, proponents of...

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Chapter 1 - Sam Lovejoy and the Campaign against the Montague Twin Nuclear Power Station: 1974

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pp. 19-53

In February 1974 the United States seemed to be slowly falling apart. Americans had become familiar with a new word, stagflation, which described the bizarre combination of inflation and unemployment. The nation entered its fourth month of the oil embargo of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), compounding an already serious energy crisis. As automobiles formed lines at...

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Chapter 2 - Massachusetts and the Battle over the Nuclear Power Station at Seabrook, New Hampshire: 1975–1988

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pp. 54-98

In February 1975, frustrated by the lack of legal recourse, antinuclear activists in the upper Rhine town of Wyhl, West Germany, occupied the site of a proposed nuclear reactor. Twenty-eight thousand participants soon joined the action, which lasted ten long months. The occupation at Wyhl was for many U.S. antinuclear activists a protest model that embraced values and tactics that Sam Lovejoy and ...

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Chapter 3 - The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Movement in Massachusetts: 1980–1985

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pp. 99-135

On November 4, 1980, U.S. voters went to the polls to elect a president. The mental climate was angry and impatient, as the various crises of the 1970s came to a head. Earlier, Jimmy Carter, the incumbent president, had described the national mood in terms of a crisis of confidence. For yet another year the nation had endured double-digit inflation, rising unemployment, high interest rates,...

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Chapter 4 - Massachusetts and the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Movement: 1980–1984

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pp. 136-170

The 1979 national election of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party in Great Britain foreshadowed the rightward turn in American politics symbolized by the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Like Reagan, Thatcher called for cuts in social spending, decreased regulation of business, reduced taxation, arms buildup, and a harder line toward the Soviet Union. Even Social Democrats such...

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Chapter 5 - The Central American Solidarity Movement in Massachusetts: 1980–1990

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pp. 171-208

On December 2, 1980, Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke of the Maryknoll Order prepared to take a flight from Managua, Nicaragua, to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, and from there return to the small northwestern town of Chalatenango to continue their work. For most of the previous year, they had distributed food and clothing to impoverished refugees who were fleeing the war...

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Chapter 6 - Massachusetts Politicians and Central America:1979–1990

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pp. 209-252

In mid-December 1979 Jim Fairchild and George Allen (staff assistants to the House Appropriations Committee) wrote a letter to State Representative Silvio Conte (the moderate Republican from western Massachusetts and ranking Republican on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee) concerning an upcoming fact-finding trip to Nicaragua. Just months into the Sandinista-led revolution that ...

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pp. 253-259

In 1989 Alfredo Cristiani of the National Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista [ARENA]) party in El Salvador assumed the presidency. During the election, Cristiani had tried to distance the ARENA party image from association with Roberto D’Aubuisson and the death squads. While Cristiani’s efforts earned growing U.S. congressional support for the Salvadoran government, solidarity...


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pp. 261-309


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pp. 311-323

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761687
E-ISBN-10: 1613761686
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497115
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497110

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War
Series Editor Byline: Christian Appy See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 761392543
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond Vietnam

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Massachusetts -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • Solidarity -- Political aspects -- Central America -- History -- 20th century.
  • Antinuclear movement -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century.
  • Solidarity -- Political aspects -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century.
  • Massachusetts -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Human rights movements -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century.
  • Massachusetts -- Relations -- Central America.
  • Central America -- Relations -- Massachusetts.
  • Protest movements -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century.
  • Peace movements -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century.
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