Home Front Turmoil: The 1960s
Home Front Turmoil: The 1960s
T he 1960s decade was a period of severe Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. The technological capabilities of both countries dramatically increased. Nuclear weapons stockpiles grew, and spy satellites, or constructed orbiting objects, circled Earth. Both the Soviet and the U.S. government spent vast amounts on defense to keep up with or go ahead of the other. By 1960, military-industrial complexes—the partnership of military, defense, and industry—had brought economic growth to America and a good living to a small population of workers in the Soviet Union. But the new decade would bring turbulent times to the superpowers.
For American citizens and many other people around the world, the United States represented freedom and hope: The U.S. government was democratic and designed to protect the people's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet the United States regularly contradicted these principles by its treatment of African Americans. And although freedom of speech was a keystone of the democratic system, the country's reaction to Vietnam War (1954–75) protesters suggested that this freedom was not entirely guaranteed. Race riots over the inequalities that African Americans endured broke out in large U.S. cities and throughout the South. White Americans joined with blacks in marches and demonstrations. The Soviets used racism in America as propaganda, information spread to further one's own cause, questioning the U.S. commitment to freedom and justice for all. Many Americans, particularly college students, looked with horror at television footage of the war in Vietnam. They took to the streets, protesting U.S. actions in Vietnam, but police fought them with tear gas, clubs, even gunfire. The Soviet government continually pointed to the unrest in America as an example to their people that the U.S. system of government had failed.
In the Soviet Union, families who lived and worked in "secret cities" prospered. The secret cities were technological hubs where the latest top secret military equipment and weapons were developed. To keep up with American militarism, the Soviets spent billions on research and industrial facilities. Yet the communist system was not working well for most Soviet citizens. Most of them lived a drab existence. Housing was terribly overcrowded, and food was scarce. Communist rule in Eastern European countries survived only because of ruthless oppression ordered by the communist leaders in Moscow. The communist People's Republic of China (PRC), by this time more commonly referred to simply as China, was undergoing the Cultural Revolution. Ordered by China's leader, Mao Zedong (1893–1976), this so-called revolution was designed to keep all Chinese people loyal to the ideas of communism.
By 1960, half of all U.S. federal government expenditures, or spending, went to the military and to the development of the latest military technology, including new aircraft, radar, ships, weapons, and electronic and telecommunication systems. The goal was to stay ahead of the Soviet Union in military might. Together, the U.S. military and the Department of Defense employed approximately 2.5 million people. The government contracted with large aerospace technology corporations, including Lockheed in Georgia and the San Francisco, California, area; Ling-Temco-Vaught (LTV) in Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas; Boeing in Seattle, Washington; and McDonnell-Douglas and Hughes in southern California. These corporations employed tens of thousands of Americans. The partnership of military, defense, and industry came to be known as the military-industrial complex. This grouping reached out into a multitude of regions, touching a great number of American families. Large and small businesses subcontracted to provide materials needed by the military and aerospace industry. Universities throughout the nation received government contracts for technological research. The salaries people earned by this work allowed them to buy consumer goods, which in turn kept other companies, such as auto manufacturers, growing rapidly. But some Americans were left out of the good living generated by the military-industrial complex. For example, most African Americans lived in poverty, enduring discrimination, low wages, and unemployment.
In Soviet society, the military-industrial complex was hidden in secret cities where industry and research facilities coexisted, often in a setting much like a university campus. The scientists and other employees were well paid, well fed, and well housed. In contrast, the majority of Soviets struggled just to feed their families. Two of the best known secret cities were Arzamas-16, where the Soviet atomic bomb was developed, and Akademgorodok, a flourishing science city of sixty thousand in western Siberia. The Soviet military-industrial complex brought prosperity to only a small number of Soviets.
Racial strife in the United States
During the 1950s, Americans lived in a segregated society; generally, blacks and whites did not mix. This was especially true in the South, where racism, or discrimination based on skin color, had long been a part of everyday life. Whites and blacks ate at separate restaurants, attended different schools, and could not even drink from the same water fountains. By the mid-1950s, people began to protest against the inequalities that black Americans had to face on a daily basis. In May 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that schools for black students were inferior to schools for white students. The Court ordered that all states with segregated school systems integrate their schools immediately—that is, allow blacks and whites to attend the same schools together. This decision sparked social unrest
throughout the remainder of the 1950s, and by the 1960s the unrest exploded into widespread demonstrations.
In the 1950s, a young black Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), began preaching nonviolent civil disobedience, the use of peaceful protests to demonstrate against injustice, to African Americans. King led black Americans and supportive white Americans in boycotts (for example, refusing to use segregated stores or restaurants), sitins (occupying tables and counters at restaurants and refusing to leave), and peaceful marches. The peaceful demonstrations frequently were met by police who used their clubs to beat the protesters. Police also used police dogs, cattle prods, and fire hoses on marchers, resulting in a number of serious injuries. King was arrested numerous times for participating in such events as sit-ins and demonstrations.
In August 1963, King led 250,000 people in the March on Washington. There, as noted in Turbulent Years: The 60s, he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, calling
for equal opportunities for black Americans: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." In 1965, King led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the fact that very few blacks had been able to register to vote. Hundreds of marchers were attacked and beaten by whites and by state and local law officials along the way until the National Guard, the military reserve unit for each state, was called in to protect them.
Just as in the South, blacks in large northern cities lived in poverty. After a white policeman shot and killed a black teen in New York City in July 1964, five days of rioting broke out in Harlem and Brooklyn, two neighborhoods with large black populations. Despite King's call for nonviolent protests, tension ran high in the cities, and violence erupted. Rioting in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California, in the summer of 1965 lasted six days and left thirty-four dead. The riots, sometimes referred to as black rage, spread to cities throughout the United States in the summers of 1966 and 1967, including in Detroit, Michigan, where, in 1967, forty-three people lost their lives and property losses cost millions. Between 1964 and 1968, two hundred people died during riots, and several hundred million dollars' worth of property was destroyed.
Many northern blacks gave up on nonviolent methods of solving America's discrimination problems. They preferred the message of Malcolm X (1925–1965), a member of the Black Muslims, a group that promoted separation of the races. This separatist movement differed from the anti-segregation movement. Separatism, endorsed by Malcolm X, wanted to create a separate black society from mainstream white society; on the other hand, civil rights leaders such as King wanted to end separation of the races and merge blacks into mainstream white society. Malcolm X rejected nonviolence and stressed that black men must defend themselves from what he called the "white devil" any way they thought necessary. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, but he left behind his Autobiography, which became like a Bible for young blacks searching for their identity. In 1966, another black leader, Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998), advocated separation from whites and Black Power, which he defined as the right of African Americans to define and organize themselves as they saw fit and to protect themselves from racial violence. He hoped to instill racial pride in black Americans. Huey Newton (1942–1989) and Bobby Seale (1936–) formed the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Oakland, California. Eldridge Cleaver (1935–1998) became a famous Panther leader. The Panthers never appeared in public without their guns. Although they organized free meals for hungry black children, they also were involved in violent shootouts with police. The Black Power movement brought some black Americans greater pride in their identity. However, the majority of black Americans still favored King's nonviolent approach as the best way to expand opportunities for blacks in the United States.
King was a strong supporter of the Great Society social reform programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69). These programs included Job Corps (to train unemployed workers), Head Start (to aid in early education of poor children), and Medicare (to provide health care for seniors). Construction of respectable low-rent housing for the poor was another part of the Great Society plan. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed all discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic origin, covering employment, education, housing, and public accommodations, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ensured full political voting rights for all adults. But by 1968, Johnson's efforts had been slowed by the cost of the Vietnam War. King became a critic of the war because he thought the vast sums being spent on it should be used to help fund Johnson's domestic programs, which were designed to end poverty and hunger in America. On April 4, 1968, as King stood on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated by white ex-convict James Earl Ray (1928–1998), though evidence that more than one gunman was involved remained.
Soviet leaders decried the racism and violence in America. How, they asked, could America be devoted to democracy and justice and at the same time condone racism? This was a legitimate question, but it was also part of the Soviets' Cold War strategy: Like the United States, Soviet leaders wanted to win the arms race, but perhaps even more, they wanted to win over the minds of their citizens. Their strong criticism of racism was an effective propaganda tool, encouraging Soviet citizens to see the flaws in Western society. Out-side the Cold War framework, even nations friendly to the United States were beginning to doubt America's devotion to liberty and justice for all.
The Vietnam War and antiwar protests
Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a communist revolutionary named Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969) led a Vietnamese army in battles against French troops who were trying to maintain French colonial rule in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and his army beat the French, but not everyone in Vietnam wanted Ho Chi Minh as their ruler, especially those in the southern part of the country. So in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) sent U.S. military advisors to support the anticommunist army in southern Vietnam. In May, a peace settlement officially divided Vietnam into North Vietnam, where Ho Chi Minh became president, and South Vietnam, where Ngo Dinh Diem (1901–1963) became president. But soon fighting resumed, this time between the South Vietnamese army and the Vietcong, a group of communist-trained rebels within South Vietnam. U.S. president John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63) sent troops to South Vietnam during his time in office; his successor, Johnson, was reluctant to send any more troops, but the communists were rapidly gaining the upper hand. Johnson feared that if the United States abandoned Vietnam, the international community would no longer believe U.S. promises to defend against communism. The United States would potentially lose credibility and prestige. Therefore, Johnson decided to commit more troops. About 200,000 U.S. troops were fighting in Vietnam by the end of 1965. Ultimately, 540,000 troops would be in Vietnam by 1967. By 1968, the United States had dropped more bombs on Vietnam than it dropped during the time it was involved in World War II (1939–45).
The United States also dropped tons of chemicals on Vietnam. One was Agent Orange, used to kill jungle foliage where enemy troops hid. Another chemical, napalm, was a fiery gasoline-like gel substance that not only burned plants but stuck to and burned human flesh.U.S. soldiers were ordered to "search and destroy" villages where Vietcong might hide. Civilians—men, women, and children—were also killed by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces who were in a difficult situation to determine who were Vietcong sympathizers and who were not.
The Vietnam War became the first prime-time television war. The daily tragedies of Vietnam were shown every night on network news broadcasts. A daily death toll was generally announced. These televised war reports changed many Americans' views toward the war. By 1965, university students and faculty were leading "teach-ins" about the war. Teach-ins were marathon lecture and debate meetings that were meant to educate people about the Vietnam War. Critics of the war said the old "domino theory" had little meaning in Vietnam. The domino theory maintained that if one country fell to communism, other countries in the region would similarly fall, like dominoes. Critics asserted that Vietnam was fighting a civil war, in which citizens of the same country fight against each other. Therefore, critics said, the United States had no business interfering. They objected to the loss of lives, the financial cost of the war, and the destruction of property and land in the Vietnam countryside. Nevertheless, the U.S. presence in Vietnam continued to expand.
In order to commit such large numbers of troops, the United States had to increase its draft call, in which all eighteen-year-old U.S. men had to register to enter the military. During the Vietnam War, if they were not in high school or college, they would be drafted and quickly enrolled in the U.S. military. This meant the draft took a disproportionate number of young black men as well as young men from other minority groups because these groups tended to include large numbers of poorer Americans who could not afford college tuition. Twenty-five percent of the U.S. troops in action were drafted, as opposed to those who willingly signed up to be in the military, but these draftees made up 50 to 70 percent of those killed in action. This was because many of the enlisted men had become officers while draftees served as combat infantry. To avoid the draft, some young men stayed in school as long as they could or joined the National Guard. Some illegally evaded the draft by packing up and moving to Canada, where they stayed for many years.
Students watched in horror as nightly news broadcasts showed the misery and death of Vietnamese villagers and soldiers from both Vietnam and the United States. On university campuses, more and more students attended the teach-ins. Soon the gatherings evolved into organized groups that stormed university buildings and demanded that schools cut ties with the U.S. Defense Department, which funded many university research projects. Students also organized demonstrations against companies that manufactured war materials. In addition, they organized demonstrations against military recruitment on campus. Buildings housing the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), a student-oriented military training corps, were trashed; some of them were burned. Over the next few years, protests spread out from the universities across the nation and onto the streets of cities and small towns. In 1967, thousands marched in New York City
and on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In 1968 and 1969, huge marches were held nationwide so people all across the country would be marching on the same day. Protesters burned their draft cards and the American flag, declaring that the war was immoral and had no purpose except making money for the military-industrial complex.
Many of the war protesters were part of the baby boom generation. Following World War II, as soldiers returned home, young couples started families. Between 1946 and 1964, the U.S. birthrate increased significantly, causing a "baby boom." The first baby boomers were college age in the mid-1960s, and if they were not fighting in Vietnam, they could be found protesting the war on campuses and in the streets. During the 1960s and early 1970s, baby boomers between eighteen and twenty-four years of age made up roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population. They distrusted "old" Americans—anyone over thirty—who seemed intent on sending them to a war with no clear purpose and no end. Although some parents joined with their children to protest the war in Vietnam, many did not. The "generation gap" developed between parents and their children: Young people rejected the beliefs and values of the older generations, and older people found the lifestyle of the young disrespectful and amoral. The young questioned the materialism they had been surrounded by in the 1950s and 1960s. Their parents had fought patriotically in World War II, then came home to earn a good living and acquire the latest consumer items. Young people, seeing the horrors of war on television each night, questioned the values of the older generation and searched for deeper meanings to life. In their youthful exuberance, they turned to rock music, "free love," or sexual freedoms, and psychedelic art; some experimented with marijuana and the psychedelic drug LSD. In some families, the deep rifts of the "generation gap" never healed.
Both young men and women wore their hair long; tiedyed T-shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and sandals were popular. A new name for these young people, "hippies," was coined. Their youthful counterculture, or those people who rejected the dominant values and behavior of U.S. society, centered on music of popular rock groups. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, the Who, the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970), Janis Joplin (1943–1970), Bob Dylan (1941–), Arlo Guthrie (1947–), and Joni Mitchell (1943–) were just a few of the rock musicians who made vinyl record albums full of songs enjoyed by the counterculture youth.
San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district became a central location for the counterculture. In the summer of 1967, thousands gathered there for what became known as the "summer of love." Young people handed out flowers to strangers as a symbol of peace and love. They hoped free love and drugs such as marijuana and LSD would expand their consciousness. The popular musical Hair combined all the major themes and conflicts of the day: love, sex, drugs, strong antiwar sentiments, and hair—long hair.
In August 1969, approximately five hundred thousand people descended on Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm near Bethel in upstate New York for a rock music festival called Woodstock. In three rain-soaked days, the crowd heard Joan Baez (1941–), Hendrix, Joplin, Guthrie, the Who, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and other popular musicians. The three-day love-in, a public gathering held to profess mutual love and protest inhumane government policies, amid the music caught the attention of the nation. Older Americans had little understanding of the event and looked on it with contempt.
Although many young people protested the war and participated in the counterculture, they were part of a minority in America. The "Silent Majority," as coined by President
Nixon, characterized the public who were not politically vocal to justify the continuation of the Vietnam War. These Middle Americans, that segment of U.S. society with average income and education and conventional values and conservative attitudes, were dismayed by the antiwar demonstrations and the hippies. Many Middle Americans, labor union members, and minorities had lost their sons in the Vietnam War and were proud of their sons' service to the country. They were outraged by the antiwar protests. Furthermore, they considered the rock music and sexual permissiveness of the counterculture excessive and an insult to the American way of life—allegiance to the national government and its economic system.
Although the Silent Majority supported the military in Vietnam and continued to hope for victory, the U.S. government overestimated citizens' support of the war effort and consistently underestimated the communists' will to continue fighting. The seemingly endless war led to President Johnson's decision not to run for reelection in 1968. The victor in the election, former Republican vice president Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994), began withdrawing troops from Vietnam in 1969 but increased bombing in Cambodia to destroy enemy supply camps. (More protests followed; on May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, were shot and killed by National Guardsmen during a war protest. Eleven more were injured.) After more rounds of bombing over North Vietnam in 1971 and 1972, the communists still hung on. The United States had military might to spare, but U.S. leaders did not want to escalate the war to such a point that a nuclear confrontation with China or the Soviet Union might result. Both China and the Soviet Union had remained involved by supplying the communists of North Vietnam with military materials.
In March 1973, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Approximately fifty-eight thousand U.S. soldiers had lost their lives. Huge areas of Vietnam's jungle and farmland were ruined for decades, poisoned by the chemicals U.S. planes had dropped. The war cost the United States roughly $150 billion. In the end, which did not come until April 30, 1975, South Vietnam surrendered to the communist North. Only the countries of Laos and Cambodia fulfilled the predictions of the domino theory by falling to the communists. Thailand, Burma (later renamed Myanmar), Malaysia, and other Asian nations did not.
Soviet citizens' struggles
While the United States struggled with racial tensions and the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union faced problems at home as well. Some Soviet families benefited from the military-industrial complex, but for most Soviet citizens, life in the 1960s was a dull sequence of low-skilled jobs and the daily task of endlessly waiting in lines everywhere for food and clothing. Housing was cheap because the government paid part of the cost, but overcrowding was common. One communal apartment might house several families and single people, all in the same space. The occupants made the best of the situation by celebrating holidays and special occasions together and playing games in the evening. The Soviet government provided free education, health care, and full employment. But productivity was very low because there was little incentive to work hard. Highly skilled individuals often held unskilled jobs; jobs were guaranteed but there was little chance for promotion; and more money would not be as useful because there was nothing to buy but the few necessities due to a lack of consumer culture like in the West. People could not earn enough to buy the luxuries that appeared from time to time in state-owned department stores. As part of the communist way, the people had no freedom of speech or press, and all religious activities were banned.
The Soviet economy was run by the Central Government in Moscow. Five-year plans were drawn up, and middle managers in local areas assigned workers their tasks. The workers were encouraged to keep up with the United States, especially in agricultural production. But the Soviet system was inefficient and inflexible and could not respond to local needs; it was highly centralized and possessed very rigid decision-making. Its output, therefore, lagged far behind America's robust economy.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) was constantly urging collective farms, which would provide more local control, to set higher output goals. During Khrushchev's "meat campaign," the collectives, which strongly supported the idea of increased local control, eagerly set goals that they could never reach. They then set about butchering animals throughout the countryside to meet the one-year goal. The livestock herds were destroyed, and it took years to recover. Likewise, plans for huge grain harvests were unrealistic: About 90 million acres were plowed up and planted in wheat. For the first few years, the harvests were good, but overuse of the land soon decreased its production severely. The Soviets then had to buy grain from the United States—an embarrassment, but necessary to keep people from starving.
Khrushchev, who had denounced former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) as a brutal leader, loosened some of the restrictions in Soviet society. Art galleries opened; Soviets began enjoying a variety of musical performances; and hundreds, even thousands, gathered for poetry readings. Poets were especially popular with the Soviet public. One of the most famous was Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933–), who read with energy and passion, delighting his audiences. Young Soviets also began to pick up snatches of Western culture. Western clothing fashions such as blue jeans were prized, and radios brought Western rock and roll. Although Western music was forbidden, vinyl records were occasionally smuggled in and reproduced. Soviet teens idolized Elvis Presley (1935–1977) and the Beatles as much as Western teens did.
Conservative Soviet communists became concerned about the young people's craving for Western culture and goods. They also feared the creativity and freethinking of the fledgling Soviet art community. They urged Khrushchev to again crack down. Khrushchev agreed and began to caution young people to conform to communist doctrine, to reject all things Western, or find themselves in trouble with Soviet authorities. Protests in the Soviet Union and Soviet satellite countries led only to tighter control and repression of the people.
China's Cultural Revolution
Appalled at Khrushchev's tentative move away from the strict communist doctrine of the Stalin years, Mao Zedong, leader of the People's Republic of China, or more simply, China, instituted his Cultural Revolution in 1966. Mao's objective was to ensure that all Chinese people remained loyal to the philosophy of communism. He believed the only way to accomplish this goal was to purge, or eliminate, from Chinese society any trace of traditional Chinese culture and Western (that is, noncommunist) ideas or influence.
To carry out this massive purge, Mao enlisted a million young people from universities and militant youth groups in China. In every town and city, young men and women were organized as the Red Guards. Each Red Guard wore a red arm band and carried a little red book of Mao's "thoughts." Devoutly loyal to Mao, the Red Guards fanned out over China; their first targets were teachers and intellectuals, whom they accused of having deviant, dangerous ideas and opinions. Everyone in a place of authority—in government, factories, businesses, and local Communist Party committees—was subjected to the abuses of the Red Guards. Verbal abuse turned to physical violence as the Red Guards tortured and murdered thousands. Millions of Chinese people were arrested and sent to labor camps, accused of favoring improved relations with the United States and the Soviet Union and tending toward aspects of a market economy. Others committed suicide before the Red Guards could reach them.
Mao called the purge a fight against the "four olds": "old cultures," "old customs," "old habits," and "old thoughts." The "olds" extended to old paintings, old books, antiques, and museum exhibits, many of which were destroyed. Anyone or anything that might take attention or reverence away from Mao and communist doctrine was eliminated. Nearly four hundred thousand people were killed.
The Cultural Revolution severely damaged the framework of Chinese society. Most universities closed between 1966 and 1970. Industrial manufacturing capabilities decreased dramatically after management leaders were purged. Charging that local Communist Party leaders had moved away from pure communism, the Red Guards took over provincial and city governments and shredded the party's leadership structure. The Communist Party officials who lived through the purge remained apprehensive and barely functioned. A few brave moderates called for an end to the purge in 1967. Mao gave his answer by organizing a frenzied rally of a million Red Guards in Tiananmen Square in the center of the capital city of Beijing.
By the late 1960s, Mao was apparently satisfied that the Red Guards had successfully purged anyone not totally loyal to him. Mao ordered the Red Guards to take the purge to the countryside. Cities slowly began to regain some order, but farmers experienced the Red Guards' wrath. Accusing each other of not being idealistic enough, Red Guard members began to fight among themselves, forcing Mao to call out China's regular army later in 1967 to restore order. By 1969 and 1970, China's schools, government, and industries slowly began to function again. Any dissidents who happened to be left were silent, not daring to speak out again for decades.
For More Information
Feinstein, Stephen. The 1960s: From the Vietnam War to Flower Power. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2000.
Isaacs, Jeremy, and Taylor Downing. Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945–1991. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.
Kallen, Stuart A. A Cultural History of the United States through the Decades: The 1950s. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1999.
Maier, Pauline, Merritt R. Smith, Alexander Keyssar, and Daniel J. Kevles. Inventing America: A History of the United States. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.
Stolley, Richard B., ed. Time of Transition: The 70s. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1998.
Stolley, Richard B., ed. Turbulent Years: The 60s. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1998.
Words to Know
Cold War: A prolonged conflict for world dominance from 1945 to 1991 between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats.
Communism: A system of government in which the nation's leaders are selected by a single political party that controls all aspects of society. Private ownership of property is eliminated and government directs all economic production. The goods produced and accumulated wealth are, in theory, shared relatively equally by all. All religious practices are banned.
Counterculture: Those people who rejected the dominant values and behavior of U.S. society.
Cultural Revolution: Chinese program ordered by leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976) designed to keep all Chinese people loyal to the ideas of communism.
Democracy: A system of government that allows multiple political parties. Their members are elected to various government offices by popular vote of the people.
Military-industrial complex: The partnership of military, defense, and industry.
Racism: Discrimination based on skin color.
Silent Majority: Term coined by President Richard Nixon to characterize the public who were not politically vocal to justify the continuation of the Vietnam War.
Vietcong: Vietnamese communists engaged in warfare against the government and people of South Vietnam.
People to Know
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973): Thirty-sixth U.S. president, 1963–69.
Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894–1971): Soviet premier, 1958–64.
Martin Luther King (1929–1968): African American civil rights leader.
Mao Zedong (1893–1976): Chairman of the People's Republic of China and its Communist Party, 1949–76.
Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994): Thirty-seventh U.S. president, 1969–74.
Counterculture Protest Song
Country Joe McDonald wrote the song "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" for his band, Country Joe and the Fish, as a protest to the Vietnam War effort. It was widely played across the United States. The band also performed the song at the Woodstock music festival in August 1969. The following lyrics are Verse 2 and the refrain.
Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go out and get these reds—
The only good commie is the one who's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.
And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam,
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! We're all gonna die.
Kent State and Jackson State Universities
Elected in 1968, President Richard M. Nixon promised to begin to decrease the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1969, he began U.S. troop withdrawal but suddenly escalated the war in May 1970 by ordering the invasion of Cambodia, a country neighboring Vietnam. He argued that U.S. withdrawal could be speeded up if enemy supply bases in Cambodia were destroyed. Reaction on college campuses was swift; protests broke out across the country. As noted in Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945–1991, Nixon further incited people when he called the antiwar protesters "bums."
Nixon sent National Guard troops to control the rioting of students. At Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, the troops opened fire, killing four students and injuring eleven. At Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, police shot and killed two students. Several governors declared states of emergency on their university campuses. Throughout the nation, approximately five hundred campuses temporarily shut down. Many Americans still supported the war effort, and they clashed
with and demonstrated against the anti-war protesters. Some Americans supported Nixon's actions, but others demanded his impeachment, a legislative proceeding charging a public official with misconduct. The country had not been so divided since the American Civil War (1861–65).
Born on July 18, 1933, in Zima, Siberia, Russia, poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko became a leader of Soviet youths who were daring to question communist authority in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yevtushenko traveled widely in the West until 1963; his travel was curtailed after he published in English A Precocious Autobiography, an uncensored, frank discussion of what he perceived to be flaws in Soviet society. Yevtushenko demanded artistic freedom and was politically outspoken. He attacked the policies of the late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin with his poem "The Heirs of Stalinism" (1961) and criticized the Soviet government's anti-Jewish policies with "Babiy Yar" (1961).
In the 1970s, Yevtushenko continued to write. He was also involved in acting, directing films, and photography. He supported the Nobel Prize–winning Soviet author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–) when Solzhenitsyn was exiled for his writings. In
the late 1980s, when Soviet communist policies had relaxed somewhat, Yevtushenko published the journal Ogonek, which introduced Soviets to poets whom they had not been allowed to hear or study before.