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1973: A Year of Unity and of Struggle
From the December 1973 issue of Winter Soldier.
SUMMARY OF THE YEAR
The year began with the continued war in Indochina and with the signing of the peace agreement for ending the war in Vietnam. Immediately, the US and the Saigon regime violated it, and continue to do so. The US is still bombing Cambodia daily but is unable to suppress the struggle for independence of the Cambodian people. In Laos, the coalition government that resulted from the signing of their agreement proceeds on shaky ground. Elsewhere around the world, liberation struggles grew in strength while war broke out in the Middle East and a fascist coup overthrew the government in Chile.
At home, the American people were subjected to ever-increasing repression. We saw the trial of the Gainesville 8 end in victory for the people and the continuing trial of Gary Lawton and Zurebu Gardner, falsely accused of murdering two policemen. The occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement forcefully dramatized the continued abuse of Native Americans by the US government. In addition, we witnessed the explosive rebellions in prisons across the country that pointed out the repressive nature of the American system. Political trials continued in a blatant attempt to silence dissent.
In January, 5,000 VVAW/WSO members marched in Washington on Inaugural Day demanding that Nixon end the war in Indochina. When the agreement was signed our members pressed for its implementation by the US. Barry Romo of the National Office traveled around the country talking about the horrors of the December bombings that he lived through in Hanoi. In California, members demonstrated against Thieu as he visited Nixon in San Clemente. Other demonstrations occurred throughout the year protesting the bombing of Cambodia. In the Fall, VVAW/WSO organized Indochina Solidarity Week in which chapters spoke and leafletted in support of the struggles for independence in Southeast Asia.
VVAW/WSO military chapters in Japan grew as they demonstrated against the war in Southeast Asia and the American presence in Japan and Okinawa. They participated in marches on Kadena AFB and members were arrested for handing out copies of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. The military declared the Hobbit, (the movement coffeehouse), off limits, but the chapters grew because of it. In the US, VVAW/WSO saw an increase in GI membership through the efforts of the NOSCAM offices in Dayton and Chicago. In a show of solidarity with GIs, chapters participated in GI demonstrations on Armed Farces Day, which helped result in the formation of new chapters aboard the USS JFK and at Ft. Leavenworth.
VVAW/WSO, long committed to universal and unconditional amnesty, began a national program for amnesty. Programs were begun to upgrade less than honorable discharges that veterans received for their opposition to the war and the racism and oppression of the military. One of our demands is to upgrade all these discharges to a universal one. Community work and demonstrations were organized by chapters to bring the issue of amnesty and resistance to the war in Indochina to the prominence it requires. This amnesty is for all war resisters.
In February, the VA announced that it was asking for cuts in veterans' benefits. This attack on veterans has long, historical roots in the US. In New York City, members went to hearings on veterans' problems and confronted the panel with the truth about the VA's failure to meet the needs of vets. In Milwaukee, VVAW/WSO took over the VA office to point out the continuing plight of veterans. Chapters across the country set up PVS groups to counter the ineffectiveness of the VA in dealing with vet's problems on returning to the US after fighting for "freedom" only to learn that this was a lie.
As the Watergate disclosures were made, it was learned that VVAW/WSO was the target of illegal surveillance and infiltration by police provocateurs. To counter this, chapters spoke out to expose the corruption forced on America. Demonstrations occurred in towns and cities and VVAW/WSO participated in them. As Nixon attempts to subvert investigations into Watergate, VVAW/WSO has joined in calling for the impeachment of the biggest criminal in this nation's history.
As VVAW/WSO develops into a strong force for peace and justice it also develops strong ties with liberation forces around the world. During the past year, members attended meetings in Rome, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Moscow, and met with representatives of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Korea as well as with representatives of liberation struggles in Africa and Latin America. These meetings allowed us the opportunity to learn of the struggles against imperialism that are being waged in the world today. VVAW/WSO stands in support of these struggles and these meetings have helped chapters inform the people of the continuing crimes of the American government in exploiting countries around the world.
All photos on this page from November 1973 takeover of the Milwaukee VA office.