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.
Early in 1982 a group of lawmakers introduced into both houses of the U.S. Congress a resolution calling on the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate a mutual and verifiable halt to the nuclear arms race. It was a bold measure and one that sparked intense debate between members of Congress and the White House over the conduct of U.S. arms control policy. This book is an inside account of that legislative battle, told by a congressional aide who was in the thick of it.
One of the most controversial atomic projects of the US nuclear industry during the 1960s and 1970s was the construction of a nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, a relatively unsettled and biologically rich part of the central California coast. Conservation Fallout traces the course of opposition that tore apart local communities, almost destroyed the Sierra Club, and attracted massive demonstrations in San Francisco and at the plant itself. The result is a balanced examination of nuclear politics in California and of the evolution and strategies of little-studied grassroots protest groups determined to resist the spread of nuclear technology.
Eco-nationalism examines the spectacular rise of the anti-nuclear power movement in the former Soviet Union during the early perestroika period, its unexpected successes in the late 1980s, and its substantial decline after 1991. Jane I. Dawson argues that anti-nuclear activism, one of the most dynamic social forces to emerge during these years, was primarily a surrogate for an ever-present nationalism and a means of demanding greater local self-determination under the Soviet system. Rather than representing strongly held environmental and anti-nuclear convictions, this activism was a political effort that reflected widely held anti-Soviet sentiments and a resentment against Moscow’s domination of the region—an effort that largely disappeared with the dissolution of the USSR. Dawson combines a theoretical framework based on models of social movements with extensive field research to compare the ways in which nationalism, regionalism, and other political demands were incorporated into anti-nuclear movements in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Armenia, Tatarstan, and Crimea. These comparative case studies form the core of the book and trace differences among the various regional movements to the distinctive national identities of groups involved. Reflecting the new opportunities for research that have become available since the late 1980s, these studies draw upon Dawson’s extended on-site observation of local movements through 1995 and her unique access to movement activists and their personal archives. Analyzing and documenting a development with sobering and potentially devastating implications for nuclear power safety in the former USSR and beyond, Eco-nationalism’s examination of social activism in late and postcommunist societies will interest readers concerned with the politics of global environmentalism and the process of democratization in the post-Soviet world.
In the early 1970s construction began on a nuclear power plant at Laguna Verde in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Initially, most local citizens were largely unconcerned with the prospect of having the nuclear plant in their community. With the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, however, residents' complacency toward the power plant soon turned to opposition. Protest groups such as the Madres Veracruzanas emerged to join existing environmental groups in a fight to close down the facility.
In Mothers and the Mexican Antinuclear Power Movement, Velma García-Gorena traces the protest movement against the Mexican government's Laguna Verde nuclear plant, outlining the movement's formation, development, and decline. Documenting the movement's key players and turning points in superb detail, she interweaves important historical narrative with a deft examination of the events, framing her analysis in terms of social movement literature. In a departure from the more conventional New Social Movements approach to analyzing antinuclear movements, García-Gorena demonstrates how, in many ways, movements of this kind are not so new and how a modified "political process" approach fits much better. With a sophisticated application of various social movements' paradigms, García-Gorena incorporates perspectives such as resource mobilization, political process paradigms, and feminist theory.
Timely, well written, and thoroughly researched, Mothers and the Mexican Antinuclear Power Movement fills a major gap in the literature on grassroots environmental movements in Latin America. Both rich in empirical detail and convincing in its conclusions, this study provides a broader understanding of Mexican social movements and the quest for democracy in developing countries.
The Nature Way
Corbin Harney University of Nevada Press, 2009 Library of Congress E99.S4H269 2009 | Dewey Decimal 978.004974574
Corbin Harney’s long life encompassed remarkable changes in the lives of Native Americans and in the technological and political development of the world. Born into an impoverished Western Shoshone family on the Nevada-Idaho border and orphaned as a newborn, he was brought up by grandparents who taught him the traditional ways of their people and the ancient spiritual beliefs that sustained their culture. As an adult, Harney found his calling as a traditional healer and spiritual leader. Soon he became involved in the Shoshone struggle for civil rights, including their efforts to protect and heal their traditional lands in what became the Nevada Test Site. This involvement led Harney to his eventual role as a leader of the international antinuclear movement.The Nature Way is a rich compendium of Corbin Harney’s experience and wisdom. His account of his life incorporates the tragic history of Native Americans in the Great Basin after the arrival of Euro-Americans, his realization of his own identity as a Native American, and his long study of his people’s traditions and spiritual practices. His summary of the Shoshone and Paiute use of indigenous plants for food and healing highlights their understanding that the Earth and her denizens and products must be respected and protected in order to preserve the connection that all creatures have with sacred Mother Earth. Finally, his account of his role as an antinuclear activist expands on his awareness of the human responsibility to protect the Earth, especially from the extreme danger posed by nuclear technology and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Corbin Harney’s voice is one of the clearest expressions yet of the values, concerns, and spirituality of contemporary Native America. He offers all of us an eloquent plea that we respect and cooperate with Nature to ensure the survival of the planet.
The early 1980s were a tense time. The nuclear arms race was escalating, Reagan administration officials bragged about winning a nuclear war, and superpower diplomatic relations were at a new low. Nuclear war was a real possibility and antinuclear activism surged. By 1982 the Nuclear Freeze campaign had become the largest peace movement in American history. In support, celebrities, authors, publishers, and filmmakers saturated popular culture with critiques of Reagan's arms buildup, which threatened to turn public opinion against the president.
Alarmed, the Reagan administration worked to co-opt the rhetoric of the nuclear freeze and contain antinuclear activism. Recently declassified White House memoranda reveal a concerted campaign to defeat activists' efforts. In this book, William M. Knoblauch examines these new sources, as well as the influence of notable personalities like Carl Sagan and popular culture such as the film The Day After, to demonstrate how cultural activism ultimately influenced the administration's shift in rhetoric and, in time, its stance on the arms race.
The Cold War forced scientists to reconcile their values of internationalism and objectivity with the increasingly militaristic uses of scientific knowledge. For decades, antinuclear scientists pursued nuclear disarmament in a variety of ways, from grassroots activism to transnational diplomacy and government science advising. The U.S. government ultimately withstood these efforts, redefining science as a strictly technical endeavor that enhanced national security and deeming science that challenged nuclear weapons on moral grounds "emotional" and patently unscientific. In response, many activist scientists restricted themselves to purely technical arguments for arms control. When antinuclear protest erupted in the 1980s, grassroots activists had moved beyond scientific and technical arguments for disarmament. Grounding their stance in the idea that nuclear weapons were immoral, they used the "emotional" arguments that most scientists had abandoned.
Redefining Science shows that the government achieved its Cold War "consensus" only by active opposition to powerful dissenters and helps explain the current and uneasy relationship between scientists, the public, and government in debates over issues such as security, energy, and climate change.
The Rise of Nuclear Fear
Spencer R. Weart Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress QC773.W44 2012 | Dewey Decimal 621.48
After a tsunami destroyed the cooling system at Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, triggering a meltdown, protesters around the world challenged the use of nuclear power. Germany announced it would close its plants by 2022. Although the ills of fossil fuels are better understood than ever, the threat of climate change has never aroused the same visceral dread or swift action. Spencer Weart dissects this paradox, demonstrating that a powerful web of images surrounding nuclear energy holds us captive, allowing fear, rather than facts, to drive our thinking and public policy.
Building on his classic, Nuclear Fear, Weart follows nuclear imagery from its origins in the symbolism of medieval alchemy to its appearance in film and fiction. Long before nuclear fission was discovered, fantasies of the destroyed planet, the transforming ray, and the white city of the future took root in the popular imagination. At the turn of the twentieth century when limited facts about radioactivity became known, they produced a blurred picture upon which scientists and the public projected their hopes and fears. These fears were magnified during the Cold War, when mushroom clouds no longer needed to be imagined; they appeared on the evening news. Weart examines nuclear anxiety in sources as diverse as Alain Resnais's film Hiroshima Mon Amour, Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, and the television show The Simpsons.
Recognizing how much we remain in thrall to these setpieces of the imagination, Weart hopes, will help us resist manipulation from both sides of the nuclear debate.
We can trace many important strategic decisions to compelling official fictions such as Kennedy's "missile gap" and Reagan's "window of vulnerability." Over the years, antinuclear movements have had mixed success debunking these fictions, raising public consciousness, and reorienting government policy.
Andrew Rojecki explores links between nuclear arms policy and the visibility of opposition groups in the media. He pays particular interest to two cycles of protest: the test ban movement of the Eisenhower and the Kennedy administrations and the Reagan-era nuclear freeze movement. As Rojecki shows, space devoted to the opposition as well as the quality of the coverage varied widely from the first to the second period. The change reflected different climates of public opinion and foreign policy but also a subtle shift in political culture that undermined the legitimacy of citizen protest. As the rationalized policymaking of government agencies, think tanks, and university departments increasingly restricted public debate, the potential for citizens to influence nuclear politics became more circumscribed while nuclear weapons continued to proliferate.
In the moments before his weekly radio address hit the airwaves in 1984, Ronald Reagan made an off-the-record joke: "I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." As reports of the stunt leaked to the press, many Americans did not find themselves laughing along with the president. Long a fervent warrior against what he termed the "Evil Empire," by the mid-1980s, Reagan confronted growing domestic opposition to his revival of the Cold War. While numerous histories of the era have glorified the "Decade of Greed," historian Andrew Hunt instead explores the period's robust political and cultural dissent.
We Begin Bombing in Five Minutes focuses on a striking array of protest movements that took up issues such as the nuclear arms race, U.S. intervention in Central America, and American investments in South Africa. Hunt's new history of the eighties investigates how film, television, and other facets of popular culture critiqued Washington's Cold War policies and reveals that activists and cultural rebels alike posed a more meaningful challenge to the Cold War's excesses than their predecessors in the McCarthy era.