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An inside look at SDS and the radicalization of the anti-war movement.

  • Dec 23, 2009
What a long strange trip it was for Carl Oglesby!   In 1965 Oglesby was busy working for the defense contractor BDS.   He was happily living the middle class lifestyle in suburbia with his wife Beth and their 3 children.  But independent from his duties at BDS Oglesby had quietly come to the conclusion that United States involvement in Vietnam was a huge mistake.  His views on the war crystallized when he was asked to put together a campaign brochure for Democratic congressional candidate Wes Vivian.  Well, one thing led to another and before long Carl Oglesby would resign from BDS and renounce his comfortable lifestyle to become President of the fledgling organization known as SDS (Students for A Democratic Society)"Ravens In The Storm: A Personal History of the 1960's Anti-War Movement" is Carl Oglesby's memoir of those turbulant days in the mid to late 1960's when it seemed that the whole world was turned upside down.  This is compelling reading folks!

What is so fascinating about "Ravens In The Storm" is the fact that this book probably could not have been written without the thousands of pages of documents from the files of the FBI and CIA that Carl Oglesby was able to obtain in recent years through the Freedom of Information Act.  He no longer had to rely strictly on memory to document so many of the events that he recalls in his book.  Because of the fact that the SDS had been infiltrated by government agents and his home phone had been tapped by the Feds, Oglebsy now had access to actual transcripts of many key organization meetings and phone conversations from this period.

To me what is most striking about "Ravens In The Storm" is how radicals like Bernadine Dohrn, Mike Rudd and David Gilbert were able to co-opt the agenda of SDS and steer the group in a direction totally contrary to the vision that Carl Oglesby had for the organization.  Seems like the 1968 assasinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy was the last straw for most of these folks.  Whereas Oglesby had sought to foster dialogue and education to help bring an end to the Vietnam War the group that would come to be known as the Weathermen favored armed conflict and ultimately revolution.  It seems to me that had Carl Oglesby's even-handed approach won the day that the war in Vietnam would have come to a conclusion much sooner.  It was also extremely unsettling to read about Carl's 1965 meeting with a group of eight South Vietnamese business leaders who outlined a plan to bring the conflict to a rapid and just conclusion.  And as Oglesby recalls on page 75 "The ghastly fact to contemplate decades later is that, in its salient points, this is almost exactly the peace plan that was adopted in 1975, ten years after that meeting and as many as three million lives later."

For me, "Ravens In The Storm: A Personal History of the 1960's Anti-War Movement" was a real eye-opener.  Contrary to my recollections of the period it is comforting to know that at least there were a few thoughtful and reasonable people like Oglesby with very honorable intentions involved in the anti-war movement.  Carl Oglesby is a superb writer who tells his story with verve and makes his argument most eloquently.  "Ravens In The Storm: A Personal History of the 1960's Anti-War Movement" should prove to be an important addition to the history of this period.  Highly recommended!
An inside look at SDS and the radicalization of the anti-war movement. An inside look at SDS and the radicalization of the anti-war movement.

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book


In 1964, Carl Oglesby, a young copywriter for a Michigan-based defense contractor, was asked by a local Democratic congressman to draft a campaign paper on the Vietnam War. Oglesby's report argued that the conflict was misplaced and unwinnable. He had little idea that its subsequent publication would put him on a fast track to becoming the president of the now-legendary protest movement Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In this book, Oglesby shares the triumphs and tribulations of an organization that burgeoned across America, only to collapse in the face of surveillance by the U.S. government and infighting.

As an SDS leader, Oglesby spoke on the same platform as Coretta Scott King and Benjamin Spock at the storied 1965 antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C. He traveled to war-ravaged Vietnam and to the international war crimes tribunal in Scandinavia, where he met with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. He helped initiate the Venceremos Brigade, which dispatched thousands of American students to bring in the Cuban sugar harvest. He reluctantly participated in the protest outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention and was a witness for the defense at the trial of the Chicago Seven the following year. Eventually, after extensive battles with those in SDS who saw its future more as a vanguard guerrilla group than as an open mass movement, Oglesby was drummed out of the organization. Shortly after, it collapsed when key members of its leadership quit to ...

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ISBN-10: 1416547363
ISBN-13: 978-1416547365
Author: Carl Oglesby
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Scribner
Date Published: February 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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