NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Matthew Clark
I think the war in Vietnam is causing a lot of needless problems very serious problems to the enemies people are caught in the middle of a power struggle between two power blocs that really needn't struggle at all. And as a result of the enemies people are in a very bad situation. The voice you just heard was that of Matthew Clark the 19 year old full time worker for the resistance the national direct action and he war organisation. And our guest on any E.R. forum a weekly program concerned with significant issues in the news this week a pointed look at the professional anti-war protester. I'm an E.R. public affairs director Vic Sussman. Our guest Matthew Clarke has given up the comfortable life of a white middle class college student to become a full time and he war worker. Matthew what is the resistance the resistance is an organization of chapters around the nation
which are engaged in draft resistance activities that is. Activities which are designed to act against the draft system which we believe to be immoral and which we believe to be a major contributing factor in the war. So that the resistance acts in a number of ways both locally and nationally to fight the Selective Service System. How did it how did it start and started in California in I think February of last year that's about a year ago. A number of students on the west coast decided that they themselves weren't comfortable with cooperating with the Selective Service System. There had been some draft card burnings before that Dave Miller for example who is one of the earliest and most famous they decided that it would be very useful to coordinate. The draft card burnings on a massive scale. There was a draft card burning do I mean
on the face of it almost seems ridiculous it's a piece of paper. What does it mean. Does it mean to you. Well it means to me that. The government says that I have to do things that I don't think I should have to do. Did you burn your draft card yes I have. Have they sent you another one. Yes several times. So what's the point of it. Well the they buy that they seem to think there's enough point in it that they send people to five jails where I have me jailed for five years for burning a card. Now they think it's important they attach a great deal of significance to a person saying no I'm not going to go along with the system. Evidently it's very dangerous for the power structure to have a person say something like that. Now I think the draft resistance movement has gained a lot of force political force in this country. We started a couple of years ago with one or two people in April of last year we had a hundred fifty people. Now it's about 2000 in the resistance yes. This is
people who have publicly broken their ties with the Selective Service System and have thus brought themselves possibly five years in jail and $10000 fine. There are many other people working with the resistance grows for example who don't have draft cards so the total resistance is probably closer to five or six thousand. But how do you communicate with each other is there a newsletter or a number of ways there are two national newsletters one operating out of Boston one operating out of power wealth of California. We also communicate through the two underground press networks the underground press and the good and the liberation News Service which have Western Union have cops going up. Let's get back to the question we open the show with why are you against the war. What's really complicated questions of course a complicated situation. But I think that the war in Vietnam is war that doesn't need to be fought.
And I think that it is being fought is causing problems that it'll take a long time for this country and the whole world to recuperate from. I think that the Vietnamese people should decide what they want to do themselves and I don't think the United States is allowing them to do that. I think there's a whole history of that dating back to before 954. In the 50s France tried to reassert its colonial rule over Vietnam and the Vietnamese led by Hoshi men fought against the French. That time the United States. Contributed about 80 percent of the money for the French military effort. But it was specifically a colonial effort. Now in 1954 the United States violate the Geneva Accords which were signed in 1954 established that there would be
elections two years later to decide what sort of political framework the country would have. The United States prevented those elections and install a puppet dictator. Now I don't think that's necessary I don't think Vietnam need be a battleground for the two major powers you know or at least the two that are seem to be at each other's throats these days China and the United States. I don't think China in the United States need to have military conflict and certainly the Vietnamese people don't need to have it on their land. How do you feel about the idea that we often hear that if. The United States has to stay in Vietnam if we don't stay in Vietnam it will go communist and communist conspiracy and so forth and so on. How do you feel. Well I think analyses in terms of the Communist Conspiracy need to be looked at very carefully. I don't think in fact there is such a thing as the communist conspiracy. There are certainly communist governments. They differ quite a bit are you a communist. No not I
I'm a liberal Democrat. As a matter of fact the communist governments differ quite a lot. They they are not directed from some central authority. That's quite clear China and Russia are having real problems and to doze off in one hand and the Chinese North Koreans don't even consider Tito a communist so that it's also clear I think that the Communists are not trying to take over the world militarily. I think China for example has been. Really quite reserved in its expansion largely because I think of their domestic problems. People often bring up the question of Tibet which the Chinese now control. But before the communist Chinese take over in China Tibet voted in Chinese elections so I don't think that really counts. In fact China has not been expansionist.
And there are a number of reasons for that I don't think we need fear. World domination by communists and I don't think the communists need fear world domination by capitalists either. You get what kind of American do you consider yourself and characterizing most people who are against the war the charge is often heard in Washington especially by some congressmen that these people out of the streets protesting the war are or are anti-American. They're they're not good Americans. What kind of American hero. Well I think that American History shows that radical tendencies are very strong an important force in American politics. There's an organization in New York which calls itself sons and daughters of the Boston Tea Party. We the Americans have for many you know since the founding of the country been interested in the rights of the individual. I have been against oppressive governments have been against governments moving in on other people.
There's a whole history of well for example civil disobedience such as draft card turn and draft refusals. The Boston Tea Party was direct action it wasn't even civil disobedience it was clearly just an illegal action. But there are things such as the stamp Tax Refusal. Before the Revolutionary War is very similar to the sort of Tax Refusal that's now going on the telephone Tax Refusal. And so on. Someone has raised the question about demonstrations. Have you exhausted all the the other avenues of protest have you for instance or do you think it's valuable to say write your congressman write the president. Why are you a congressman. You think that sort of thing is valuable. Well I'm very definitely I think anti-war activity has to go on all reasonable fronts. I think that success is only possible with a broad and coordinated effort that is to say I think
demonstrations strengthen the impact of telegrams. And I think telegrams bring home the message of the demonstrations to Congressman. Well we've had quite a number of demonstrations ranging from from very small demonstrations and very dramatic ones such as the pouring of blood on draft board files up to the Jeannette Rankin Brigade which was an all woman marching in Washington a very quiet very obedient one. What have all these demonstrations accomplished. That's very hard to say. I mean aren't isn't the whole idea of a demonstration sort of losing its impact. I don't think so. I think that if properly handled demonstrations are just as powerful as they ever were. Who do they convince I mean who are you trying to convince somebody on Capitol Hill. Somebody at 16:00 Pennsylvania Avenue. Well I think as a matter of fact we aren't trying so much to convince the president. And I think we've pretty well decided that he's in favor of the war and is not going to end it unless
the political situation in this country forces him to. I think we're trying to get him to the people of this country. You know who should be in control of the country and who unfortunately really aren't you know to say to them look you're being fooled. This is not a war that's good for you this is not a war that's good for anyone. Not when you have a demonstration. You become visible. People can see what you're talking about. They can take your literature your leaflets that you're handing out. You know they can see that for example when the police beat up demonstrators which happens fairly frequently. You know people begin to question what the government is doing. Demonstrators who are perfectly peaceful. They are really getting tromped on. And that's indicative of what's happening in Vietnam also. So there are a whole set of questions are brought out into the open. And people are
then more willing and more likely to investigate the questions. But what about a demonstration like this Jeannette Rankin brigade marching on. Well they didn't really march on Capitol Hill they marched to Capitol Hill. This was a quiet demonstration there were no arrests there were no there was no police intervention of any sort. And it was a very orderly sort of thing. Are you in favor of that sort of demonstration or something like the march to the Pentagon where there was violence. Well I mean Favre finally now which is more of which is which is effective. I really don't know. I'm I personally think that the Pentagon March which was by the way much less violent than most of the press reported today. I think that was a very effective demonstration in terms of people who were already in the movement you know made to see you know what put in the police and the army were we in fact willing to do it strengthened us as it brought us together. It changed our minds about a lot of things. I think it probably didn't have
a huge fact on people not already against the war. And I think that Jeannette Rankin brigade probably had a stronger effect there. So it depends upon what your purposes are sometimes it's necessary to bring the movement together. Sometimes it's necessary to talk to other audiences. All right. The average American reads in his newspaper about this. But an anti-war demonstration he sees he sees pictures of hippies and he reads in his paper about hippies hippies in the in the demonstration and hippies here hippies there. What about this. Well I think hippies are certainly a very important part of the peace movement I think. Again I'm not sure the press has been entirely fair to hippies. What's a hippie doing in an anti-war movement anyway. I thought the definition of a hippie is one who's who's dropped out. What's he doing in an anti-war thing. Well mostly I'm not sure that's in fact a good definition of a happy.
Are you happy. Probably not as a matter of fact what is it. I'm not really sure but certainly hippies are not interested in many of the values that people have been interested in for a while actually not too long. Things like you know big corporations they feel that they're stifling to an individual initiative to individual creativity. I think the war is also I think the two are connected. I mean it's clear that a lot of people. In the middle class are finding that the middle class is not exactly what they want that there's more that there's better than you know three television sets and two cars. And there's there's more to life than that. Why. Oh I think for example you know being like having a good family let's play if you were king. What do you want what you want to see. You're 19. And and
most of the country is under the age of 25 now. And the number is increasing. What do you want to see happen. Well let me talk because obviously it goes beyond this because beyond of the enemy's war right definitely. Let me talk in terms of the difference between the 150 years in the 1960s. Everybody says all of this isn't entirely true that the 100 50s was a very dull period for you. People were just going to school and getting their degrees and getting out into private business and into the government. But then in the 60s. Things changed and people started going to the Peace Corps and people started going into the south to help with civil and civil rights work and so on. This is a whole different attitude. And it was it was beyond the you know the I'm going to go to to the office every day and I'll come home probably a little disgruntled I'll probably have some also hers. And after a fight with the boss and the kids will be you know screaming and so on they
you know they said there are other things that are important there are people in this country and people in other countries you know who don't have some of the things we have. And that hurts us too. We aren't comfortable because Negroes can't eat in you know lunch counters in the South are not getting good educations. This also has an effect on a person's individual life. If he's made that sort of moral commitment he said to himself Yes in fact I'm going to try to be effective to help other people. Then you know he's probably more happy himself and more creative. Isn't this sort of a cop out though I mean you say someone says I want to help other people I want to change the world isn't the person sort of copping out on himself. On himself. I don't understand. Well isn't he sort of he's facing he's facing the world trying to change the world rather than perhaps meeting his own responsibility. Well I think one of the persons responsibilities is is to affect the
world around him. It's certainly there is a lot of people have gone into the Peace Corps and their personal lives are inter I mean this is the classic case of psychiatry is to try to put other people's lives in order and his children are the terror of the neighborhood. You know isn't this part of the problem in our Isn't isn't this a danger you're going after to change the world and what's happening with your own life. You may be a danger but I think it's one that's well under control. Well let's don't let's talk about Matthew Clark now. I said in the beginning of the program that you gave up the comfortable existence of a white middle class college student. Why. Because I found that I really felt better about myself in the end I want movement now. You had a scholarship is that the right you were at Cornell. Tell us about the scholarship. Well it's actually a combination of three scholarships Cornell has a program called the Secure Ph.D. program. It's an accelerated program which brings a person from his freshman year in college to his Ph.D. in six years.
I also had a university scholarship which was you know not a program out of scholarship betting cash dollars and a room and board scholarship from organization called the Telluride Association which is a scholarship organization with units at the University of California at Berkeley at Cornell and which also cooperates with a junior college in Deep Springs California. And you gave this up right. But can you go back to school any time and pick this up again or is that some of what I can pick up again if I want to some of it I can tell you ride that is to say the room board is still open. I probably have some difficulty getting the university's scholarship back although they'd probably be willing to give me a job of some sort you know or alone. But the question is couldn't you have done more effective good for society by staying in school getting a Ph.D. and then becoming a really effective tool in society wouldn't it have been more effective than than almost losing
yourself and a mass of thousands of people. Well I'm not. First of all I don't think I've lost myself in a mass of thousands of people. I retain some individuality. But as is the particular question about effectiveness. As economists are beginning to point out and social scientists are beginning to point out it's clear that the major problems we have confronting us have solutions for example transportation problems which I'm very concerned with. That is how to get people in and out of a city. I have solutions but the political structure is such that those solutions can't be put into effect. We don't need that many more communiqué attack excuse me Transportation engineers. What we need is people who are willing to let the Transportation engineers work. The same is true of the war in Vietnam. There are solutions to the political problems there but for some reason or another the political situation is such that those solutions can't be put into
effect. I consider what I'm doing to be trying to change the political situation in the country enough so the solutions can be tried. Well you've already you've already answered the question about being a hippie and you say you don't you don't think you are a hippie but I still think I can paraphrase Lenny Bruce and Lenny Bruce said there is nothing sadder. Than an aging hippie. I wonder if there isn't anything sadder than an aging protester. What are your plans. What do you hope to be doing when you're 40. Well assuming the Vietnamese War is over but right well I certainly don't think of myself as. As you know a lifelong professional protester although I probably would do would be doing some of that. I I'd rather like to teach for example teach one probably philosophy. I also am interested in literary criticism which is
more Alas my in my real field. And I also play classical guitar and any one of those could become a profession. What about the middle class goals of a home and family and children. The sort of thing one very interested in the house. Very definitely. I mean I'm a middle class person. I'm a you know I think that some things about middle class life have been distorted. But certainly you know it's nice to have a home. It's nice to have a family. That's what I'm fighting for the Vietnamese to have. And. You know certainly one reject those. Let's get back to talking about the war are you against this war. Are you it are you against all wars. Well I'm in particular against in particular I'm against this war. The quote. Of other wars a very complicated one. I think that whenever there is a war it's a sign that there's been a failure at another level. A more human level worries are about the most inhuman way there is to solve the problem.
I also don't think they really do solve the problems to any great extent. The First World War didn't solve the problems of Germany and the second world war has neither the you know the war in Asia in the Second World War didn't solve the problem of Japan and its. Axis of power Co-Prosperity Sphere I think it was called Going to the Japanese you know and the Chinese are still in conflict in that. That has to be solved in ways other than war. I think the Arab-Israeli War is a very clear example. It was tragic it was a silly war. There was no cause for a war at all. None of the problems have been solved because of that war. And the only time the problems are going to be solved is when the Arabs and the Israelis decide that they have to solve the problems and war doesn't help I think. How do you think the Vietnamese war can be subtle. I think the United States has to realize that it's
necessary to have a major power and disengagement from the war. And since the United States is the by far. More engaged than say China. I think it's up to the United States and to make the disengagement. I think the problems in Vietnam are local problems. That doesn't mean that we don't have responsibilities there. I mean clearly you know we're you know up to our necks and that's changed things. There's a whole political structure there that's dependent on the United States and I think any any solution should recognize the United States is responsible for those people. One point to be negotiated quite probably is the protection of the present government for example which would very likely fall out of power as soon as the United States militarily left the country. But I think the problem is a local one. It's a problem of you know political representation in South Vietnam. That is to say most of the peasants in the countryside who form after all 80 percent of the
population there are not represented by the central government. The Buddhist population is not represented adequately by the central government and so on. There's going to have to be a coalition hammered out it's going to be very difficult. But far less difficult than the war. What do you call it for you calling for there are a number of factions within the peace movement one faction is calling for immediate withdrawal Another one is calling for negotiation what are you asking for. Well I think probably a combination of immediate withdrawal in that I think that you know it's necessary for the United States to immediately recognize that it has to disengage itself were extricated So how do you see that would you see it as a civil war. Yes I do very definitely except for the United States. I mean North the enemies are after all the enemies. There is no national boundary between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and never has been the boundary that was set up in 1954 was specifically stated to be provisional and specifically not a territorial boundary. So that it is a civil war.
What do you think of the the indictment of Benjamin Spock and Marcus Raskin the sort of thing. Well as you may notice I'm wearing a button that says Dr. Spock brought me out. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how the government responds to the arguments that are going to be brought up in the trial. So the direct action and the direct confrontation approach is designed partially to make the government answer questions. So the government has You're not you're saying in other words that the Dr. Spock of the others tried to be arrested who wanted to be arrested to test this. I think yes I think so and they were very public about it. That isn't to say they want to go to jail. I don't think there's a I don't know anyone who in the peace movement wants to go to jail but they think that it's you know so important that the government you know talk to the people about what's going on that they're willing to chance jail
because you see the government isn't talking to the people about the war. It keeps mouthing fancy phrases which actually have no meaning. And this is a standard government ploy used by all governments everywhere I'm not saying the United States government is worse than any others may be better than many but certainly the United States government is you know uses these phrases without content. And. Direct confrontations I think can force the government to deal honestly with the people and say you know really why aren't we in Vietnam. What are the issues. But now you're involved with in the resistance and what's called Draft counseling in other words you're my correcting right to counsel young men how to avoid the draft right. So you admit this right. So you are as much liable to prosecution at this point as Benjamin Spock. Very definitely because you're doing something that the government considers illegal. Now let's say you had a young man in the room with you who was about to be inducted. How what would you say to him.
Well it's complicated. It depends upon the individual case. Often there are legal mix ups that the local draft boards have made because local draft boards are often inefficient. So that quite often just talking with a you know with a person we can find out some pluck you know where his draft board is made a mistake. Conscientious Objector status which many draft boards don't like to give anymore but which you can often battle through. You know that's a possibility. Now there are times when a person you know is when he's at his last stand when they've given him an induction notice they've said they won't give him a c o The draft board has not made any mistakes. There are only a couple of options laught you can go into the army which you know if you want to do that that's fine. It's probably more comfortable than jail. And within the army you can do certain things too he can organize within the army if he wants to
and if he's ever called upon to go to Vietnam he can also at that point decide whether or not to go. Or he may decide to confront the authorities directly. That is to say. Refuse induction publicly and take whatever consequences there are. You may decide to evade the draft through failing his physical deliberately or things like that or he may decide to leave the country. No we have certain things to say about all of those and we can generally provide help for a person in any one of those options. What course have you taken as far as the draft is concerned. I went down to the induction ceremony intending to refuse but before the actual ceremony they discovered that I had an ingrown toenail. Believe it or not and sent me away for three months. However since then just a little while ago in fact they gave me a
- NER Washington forum
- Antiwar protestor Matthew Clark
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Matthew Clark, 19 year old draft resister and organizer of The Resistance, an antiwar organization. View of a war protestor. Part 4 of 4: War in Vietnam.
- Series Description
- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Host: Sussman, Vic S.
Interviewee: Clark, Matthew
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-45 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Matthew Clark,” 1968-01-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t727fq97.
- MLA: “NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Matthew Clark.” 1968-01-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t727fq97>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Matthew Clark. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t727fq97