EDGE LEFT is an occasional column written by DAVID McREYNOLDS, a leader in the War Resisters League and the Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party in 1980 and 2000.
It might not have been a precise sixty years ago, but sometime in 1954 there were two young radicals in Ocean Park, California, both members of the Socialist Party, out on an errand along the board walk. One was Maggie Phair, and the other was me.
It was the quiet period under Eisenhower. But for young radicals the important news was the fall of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, where the forces of Ho Chi Minh had defeated the French Army on May 7th, 1954.
Here in the US there was a push for some kind of US military intervention to save the French. Richard Nixon was urging the use of nuclear weapons (vetoed by Eisenhower).
Maggie and I had set out with a stencil, a roller, and some ink – the stencil read “”Send Dulles, Not Troops, to Indochina“.
(John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State)
It was late at night, the board walk was deserted. To our West were breaking waves and the beach. We planned to stencil this slogan in front of several cafes that would, in the morning, be doing business. Hardly a revolutionary gesture, but at least an act in a time of silence and conformity.
I had with me a manila folder which contained a few family snap shots, the mailing list of our contacts at UCLA, (from which we had both recently graduated), and the pasted-up copy of a flyer on Vern Davidson, a young leader of the Socialist Party who had been arrested for refusing military service and was shortly to begin serving two years in federal prison. I had laid the manila folder down on one of benches along the board walk, so I could better focus on the stenciling.
It was my intent to take the flyer in that folder to the offset shop the next day to get copies made to distribute at UCLA
I was thinking about this incident recently and thought I’d write it up to cheer young radicals who think small gestures of resistance are not noticed. They are. Some agent of the government, in Ocean Park, California, on a deserted board walk, sixty years ago, was keeping his eye on two young radicals, stenciling an anti-war slogan on the sidewalks, and stealing, as proof of his time spent, that slim manila folder.