40 years after Vietnam, youth lead the way

March 23, 2007

"We refuse to be subtle in our outcry against this war, we refuse to do nothing and be silent while people are killed in our name for profit for the rich and we refuse to be sent overseas in a war for oil."

These were the words of the Students for a Democratic Society's (SDS) call for student walkouts against the war on Iraq on March 20, the fourth anniversary of the US invasion. Eighty-four university and high-school student anti-war groups supported the call. The day of action was also endorsed by World Can't Wait, a youth-based organisation also campaigning to "drive out Bush", and nationwide campus anti-war networks.

The March 20 protests ended several days of action against the war in which thousands of high-school and university students in the US called for "Troops out!" and for recognition of Iraq's right to self-determination. At some universities, rallies called for "Money for education, not war".

At the University of Florida, 500 people rallied against their university's ties with the US weapons industry and war technology research on the campus. In Santa Rosa, California, 300 high-school students walked out of class, along with many more around the country.

The targets of some demonstrations were local military recruitment centres, responsible for the lies and deception that lead many students to opt out of university for a "career" in the military, only to wind up as cannon fodder.

World Can't Wait helped to coordinate the March 17, 20,000-strong march on the Pentagon against the war. Exactly 40 years ago, a march on the Pentagon became a turning point in the movement against the Vietnam War.

While there have since been larger anti-war demonstrations, the 1967 rally was marked by a high turnout of young people. During the Vietnam War it was the consistent protest actions, many led by students and young people, that maintained public pressure against the warmongers.

The demonstrations this month herald a revival of the anti-war movement on campuses, which can regenerate the entire anti-war movement the world over.

Since the rformation last year of SDS (it takes its name from a 1960s campus group), it has attracted large numbers of young people who want to organise against the Iraq war. Around 250 SDS chapters have sprung up across the US and students have begun conducting anti-war teach-ins on campuses to educate new activists about how the war can be stopped. More local anti-war groups are being set up every day.

World Can't Wait aims to hold 100 teach-ins across the US this semester, and SDS is preparing an anti-war camp to be held in the middle of the year.

It's no surprise that young people are again at the forefront of the campaign against the war on Iraq. Many students can see no alternative but to organise against a war that President George Bush has spent $1 trillion on — money that should be spent on education and health care — and which is killing thousands of young people who've been trapped by unemployment and poverty into joining the US military — not to mention the even more horrific toll for Iraqis.

The rapid growth of SDS and World Can't Wait is a sign that young people want to be politically active — not just against the war on Iraq, but also to construct a better world. Hopefully, the resurgent student anti-war movement is the beginning of the end for the US war machine.

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