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Letter to the editor: In response to ‘Stanford’s rebels’


To the editor:

I was a graduate student at Stanford during the Vietnam War years and, like H. Bruce Franklin, was active in the antiwar movement for much of that time.

Anna-Sofia Lesiv’s story on Franklin (“Stanford’s rebels,” Nov. 15) is troubling for its inaccuracies, but not for its conclusion:

If our era’s activism is to have impact, perhaps remembering the legacy of leaders like H. Bruce Franklin can challenge us to engage with challenging ideas and work to construct answers to social injustices, instead of falling back on our era’s lethargic, easy, “no.”

At Stanford in the ‘60s, we could see the need to stand up against deadly, profiteering U.S. imperialism, some of the practitioners of which were Stanford trustees. Our opposition to the war went hand-in-hand with support for women’s rights, civil rights and the burgeoning ecology movement. We were part of a national — no, international — student movement.

Besides demonstrating, we did our homework and published our findings. Over time, we won the hearts and minds of the majority of students. Our 1969 sit-in — nine days at the Applied Electronics Lab (it was plotting bomb runs on North Vietnam) — had wide and deep support.

Imperialism was our “elephant in the room” — the new thought paradigm that the post-WWII generation, brought up to believe that the U.S. was the beacon of democracy, had to struggle with to learn. That many of us became revolutionaries should come as no surprise.

Today the elephant in the room is different. The rapid advance of technology is making human labor redundant, while the economic system still distributes the necessities of life based on wages. That contradiction, consolidating wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands, pits class against class and causes misery in a world of plenty.

Making work unnecessary is humanity’s dream, but to realize it the system of distribution has to change. That’s revolutionary — and, as Ms Lesiv calls for, “a challenging idea to construct answers to social injustices.” We rose to the challenge 50 years ago. Stanford students can do so now.

— Dave Ransom M.A. ’68

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