Leading the Strike

John Clifford



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In January 1969, I enrolled at UMass Boston. [My cousins] Doug, Michael, Danny, and Tony would follow me there. However, there were hundreds of other veterans there and lots who had just returned from Vietnam like us. Every veteran seemed to be against the war. I started speaking out against it on campus, at rallies around Boston, at Boston Common, etc. In my classes at UMass seemed to fill in the gaps that I had been missing over the years, the power elite. Capitalism was an evil system based on greed, corruption, and of course its foundation was slavery. These thoughts, these beliefs, this education seemed to bring my focus together. I also realized there had not been any gains, without struggle. So, along with many others, we protested the war and we spoke out against it. However there was the unique phenomenon going on at UMass at this time. There was a black movement, the women’s movement, a gay movement, an anti-war movement. Myself, and many others figured it out. We were better off fighting for these issues together in a collective effort, than one at a time. So we joined forces in supporting each other, demanding black studies, gay studies & gay liberation, women’s studies, and a daycare. With so many veterans and so many older students, so many students working it seemed that most people understood it. We all were educated and shaped by great teachers, who taught us differently. You didn’t study the kings and the queens and the presidents. We studied the struggles of people and how it shaped history, economics, literature. We studied the power structure and we studied capitalism. You know Barbara Chasin, Esther Kingston-Mann, David Hunt, Ted Richer, Linda Gordon, Ron Schiber, all had a great deal of influence on me, and I suppose all of us were shaped by not only these teachers and some that we I have forgotten. I think that we started to understand collectively, we could win some of these battles and change some things. Then, with the killings in Augusta, Jackson State, Kent State, as universities across the country went on strike, it seemed natural that we should follow suit. We had a meeting and decided to take over the registrar’s office. I was on the steering committee of the strike, and when we entered the registrar building, all of the administration people left. It seemed to take off from there. The university decided the close down the school for the rest of the semester.