Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Price of Dissent: Testimonies to Political Repression in America

By Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz

Bud and Ruth Schultz's vivid oral history presents the extraordinary testimony of people who experienced government repression and persecution firsthand. Drawn from three of the most significant social movements of our time--the labor, Black freedom, and antiwar movements--these engrossing interviews bring to life the experiences of Americans who acted upon their beliefs despite the price they paid for their dissent. In doing so, they--and the movements they were part of--helped shape the political and social landscape of the United States from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century.

The majority of the voices in this book belong to everyday people--workers, priests, teachers, students--but more well-known figures such as Congressman John Lewis, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Abbie Hoffman, and Daniel Ellsberg are also included. There are firsthand accounts by leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, active early in the century; Southern Tenant Farmers Union of the 1930s; Women's Strike for Peace, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Berkeley's Free Speech Movement of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Hormel meatpackers' Local P-9 in the 1980s. Lively introductions by the authors contextualize these personal statements.

Those who tell their stories in The Price of Dissent, and others like them, faced surveillance and disruption from police agencies, such as the FBI; brutalization by local police; local ordinances and court injunctions limiting protest; inquisitions into beliefs and associations by congressional committees; prosecution under laws that curbed dissent; denaturalization and deportation; and purges under government loyalty programs. Agree with them or not, by dissenting when it was unpopular or dangerous to do so, they insisted on exercising the precious American right of free expression and preserved it for a new century's dissenters.


It did drag out from 1972 until 1975, for the final peace treaty to take place. There was vast relief that the bombing was over, that the carpet bombing of Vietnam was stopped. When the final treaty was signed, we organized the War Is Over rally. Cora Weiss from Women Strike for Peace got Joan Baez and Phil Ochs and a number of entertainers, and we had this big celebration in Central Park. But there was no overwhelming joy. I think that on an intellectual level I felt some satisfaction - you know, recognizing that our movement had some historical impact. But I wasn't happy. The carnage had been so vast. The death toll of Vietnamese was staggering. The loss of our men for nothing. Fodder. Fifty-eight thousand dead, thousands crippled. It was not the kind of situation that gave one joy.

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