The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft Records

Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft Records

1979-2021 Bulk: 1980-1987
5 4 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1156

Formed in 1979 in the wake of a congressional vote on reinstating the draft, the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) was formed by San Diego-based anti-war activists Bill Roe, Hoppy Chandler, Norm Lewis, Fritz Sands, and Rick Jahnkow. Originally a chapter of the national Committee Against Registration and the Draft (CARD), the group formed as a grassroots effort to defeat draft registration legislation, organize opposition to future drafts, and expand the network of anti-draft/militarism work. Early successes included organizing around legislation proposed by President Jimmy Carter to begin draft registration in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, leafleting high schools over military recruiting, and supporting draft resisters, including Ben Sasway, a college student from North San Diego County who was among the first indicted for violating the Selective Service Act since the Vietnam War. Sasway was a student at North San Diego County College and his prosecution was reportedly supported by Edwin Meese, a chief counsel to Ronald Reagan and a San Diego County resident. Sasway’s prosecution led to national protests in over 100 cities and S.D. CARD supported him throughout his trial and 6 month imprisonment. This work led to the formation of the San Diego Draft Resisters Defense Fund (DRDF), a sub-group of S.D. CARD, to support Sasway and other future indictments. The DRDF was reorganized in 1988 and became a task force within S.D. CARD.
   
In addition to fighting prosecutions of draft resisters, S.D. CARD focused its efforts on counter recruitment campaigns in and around local high schools. This consisted of running anti-recruitment ads in high school newspapers and leafleting. In 1982, S.D. CARD sued the local the school district over their efforts to prevent counter-recruitment ads from running in high school newspapers. The court case, which the Department of Justice joined as a defendant on appeal, ruled that if the schools ran ads from military recruiters, they had to give equal time to an opposing view. This ruling set a precedent that emboldened other counter-recruitment groups and is still cited today. In addition, COMD has fought ROTC programs in schools
   
In 1983-84, S.D. CARD began to broaden its focus beyond draft work to include the anti-nuclear movement, U.S. military involvement in Central America and the Caribbean, immigration, the militarism of the U.S./Mexico border, discrimination in the military, military impacts on the environment, and other militarism-related issues to become a more inter-sectional organization. This prompted the name change to the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft. This led to COMD joining coalitions around these related issues such as the San Diego Military Toxics Campaign, a coalition of groups educating the public on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers docked in San Diego, and the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). Today the group continues to fight state, local, and federal legislation related to the draft, including legislation in the 2020s that would expand draft registration to include women. COMD has also called for Congress to eliminate the Selective Service System and discontinue draft registration entirely.
  
The collection consists of a run of COMD’s newsletter, Draft NOtices from 1979 to 2021 as well as clippings, photographs, circular letters, fliers, and pamphlets primarily from the 1979-1987 period.

Gift of Rick Jahnkow

Subjects

Draft resisters--United States

Contributors

Rick Jankhow

Types of material

Newsletters
Weather Underground Collection

Weather Underground Organization Collection

1918-1978 Bulk: 1973-1978
5 2.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1145

The 1960s and 1970s were decades rich with activist organizations intent on radically transforming U.S. politics and society as well as striving to end racial and gender inequality. One such group was Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Launched in 1962, with the infamous Port Huron Statement, SDS helped the nascent anti-Vietnam war movement gain traction in 1965 by organizing the first national demonstration in Washington, D.C. Over the course of the next four years, the organization grew at a rapid pace, claiming over 300 chapters under its moniker. Arguments over tactics and strategy culminated during an eventful national convention in June of 1969 in which three factions, all claiming to represent “the true SDS”, split the organization apart.
               
The most notorious of these factions was the Weathermen, (later renamed the less patriarchal Weather Underground Organization [WUO]). The WUO aimed to spark revolution in the United States, initially, through the use of targeted political bombings, political communiques, and support of Black liberation movements. Following the March 1970 accidental self-bombing of three of its New York collective members, Ted Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins in a New York townhouse owned by Cathy Wilkerson’s father, the organization opted to conduct more targeted bombings where no one would be hurt.
               
After two-to three-years of high-profile bombings, including the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, corporate buildings, and law enforcement institutions, with minimal impact, the organization began to consider how to regain influence with the greater Left. This began WUO’s “inversion” phase which included the publication of a book/manifesto titled Prairie Fire, the establishment of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, and a periodical, Osawatomie. The WUO’s Central Committee believed that this inversion strategy would allow them to influence and lead the greater anti-war/anti-imperialist movement.

The inversion strategy did not spark the all-encompassing revolution imagined by the WUO and members slowly began to surface, breaking apart the organization in the mid-late 1970s. While the WUO did not accomplish what they set out to do, their extreme tactics and notoriety with the FBI left lasting impressions on American society and the history of activism in the 1970s.
     
This small collection of materials donated by a member of the WUO includes books, pamphlets, manuscripts, notes, military manuals, maps of correctional facilities, and correspondence between members from 1973 to 1978, many of them coded through the use of letters replacing names. It also holds papers critical of  the WUO written by its own members between 1976 and 1978. This represents the period when Clayton Van Lydegaf gathered members in his “Cadre School”, to rigorously analyze and document how the organization fell apart, including a transcript from a recorded interview session in which Bernadine Dohrn repudiated all methods and practices of the WUO. These papers reflect the power struggle seen later within the WUO, as well as the contempt that many of its members grew to nurture for the organization as it strayed from its original purpose.

The collection also contains many political papers on subjects such as women and their place within the WUO, the anti-fascist movement, Black liberation movements, imperialism, and the origins of fascism. It also holds accounts of the WUO’s history, along with critiques, notes, and adaptations for their manifesto, Prairie Fire.

Gift of Jeff Perry, 2021

Subjects

FeminismImperialismRevolutionariesWeather Underground Organization--History

Types of material

CorrespondenceManuals (instructional materials)Notes (documents)Pamphlets