ABOUT THE NEWS- LETTER
RADICAL MIDDLE, THE BOOK:
OUR CONGRES- SIONAL SCORECARDS:
OUR POLITICAL BOOK AWARD WINNERS:
RESPONSES FROM OTHERS:
WHO WE ARE:
Draft Dodgers to Canada in the 1960s:
Reality Behind the Romance
Several lifetimes ago, my
“job,” calling, and passion was bringing American draft dodgers to Canada.
In April 1967, as a
20-yratr-old American Vietnam War resister in Toronto, I was named head of the
Student Union for Peace Action’s Anti-Draft Programme; and after SUPA
disbanded that September I co-founded and became first director of the Toronto
Anti-Draft Programme (TADP).
SUPA was Canada’s premier
New Left political organization in the 1960s, with interests ranging from
community organizing to foreign policy. Its
Anti-Draft Programme had been established in 1965 to handle inquiries from young
Americans interested in immigrating to Canada as an alternative to serving in
the U.S. military.
At first the Programme
lagged behind independent anti-draft groups in Vancouver and Montreal – for
example, Vancouver produced the best how-to-immigrate leaflet, and Montreal
established the first draft-dodger hostel. However,
under my direction the Programme’s capacities and visibility rapidly expanded.
By late 1967 the reconstituted TADP had become Canada’s (not to mention
the world’s) largest pre-immigration counseling and post-immigration
assistance organization for U.S. draft resisters and military deserters.
articles in newspapers like the Toronto
Star, the Los Angeles Times, and The
New York Times made our efforts sound positively heroic.
This article is about the
reality behind the romance. It is
about TADP’s efforts (heroic and otherwise), but it is also about what happens
when there’s a lack of empathic personal, cultural, and political connection
within even the most “idealistic” social change organizations.
It is about the stubborn realities of human nature.
It is about Life.
And there’s even a
bibliography at the end.
The gathering storm
When the Programme’s
board hired me in the spring of 1967 (it had been making do with a very part
time letter-answerer since late 1966), they didn’t really know what they were
getting. I looked and sounded like a
dedicated 20-year-old activist, and I certainly was that, civil rights
volunteeer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in
Mississippi, president of a chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, etc.
But I was also a
natural-born American social entrepreneur, in love with the likes of Ben
Franklin, Tom Paine, and William Lloyd Garrison, and within a few months I’d
turned the Programme from a rather pokey entity averaging fewer than three
inquirers per day, into one of the most visible, energetic, and effective
organizations in the anti-war movement, averaging well over 50 phone calls,
letters, and visitors per day through the last 10 months of my tine there.
I also conceived, wrote,
and edited for TADP the Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants
to Canada (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1968) and helped turn it into
a huge bestseller; both the Toronto Globe
and Mail and the Toronto Star have
reported that nearly 100,000 copies were distributed overall.
Alas, as in many social
change groups of that era, things were not as rosy as they seemed.
The Programme’s board
consisted largely of socialists and pacifists.
I considered myself post-socialist and situational-pacifist.
The board felt deeply
conflicted (to put it mildly) whenever heroes of theirs such as Tom Hayden of
SDS, Stokely Carmichael of SNCC, and folksinger Joan Baez urged draft resisters
to go to jail or go “underground” in the U.S., rather than immigrate to
Canada. Two board members actually
opposed printing the Manual because of
SDS’s opposition to Canadian immigration; one of them characterized SDS as our
“vanguard” organization whose positions we were duty-bound to follow.
I deeply felt and vociferously argued that a mass movement of young
Americans to Canada could help end the war – and anyway, I couldn’t have
cared less what the political left wanted me and the resisters I nurtured to do
with our lives.
Finally, and perhaps most
crucially, the Canadians on the board mistrusted what they called
“rabble-rousing,” and feared it could get the border shut down.
I believed that in order to reach ordinary young Americans (i.e., the
kinds of kids I grew up with in Moorhead MN and Wichita Falls TX), we had an obligation
to make ourselves as visible as possible.
In addition, I thought the
board’s concern about the border was a vestige of far-left paranoia.
Most war resisters were middle class, reasonably well educated,
moderately ambitious, preternaturally sincere, and eminently employable, and
Canadians welcomed us wholeheartedly, a beautiful thing.
They even seemed to enjoy tweaking the Americans over the draft dodger
issue (even as they continued shipping war supplies to the U.S.).
Thus the stage was set for
an ongoing battle, behind the scenes, between the board and me; and it never let
up. Here is an alphabet soup of the
things I said or did that managed to baffle, offend, outrage, or alienate board
POINTS OF CONTENTION
1. Job definition
My insistence that we provide help to military deserters and not just draft
resisters (the board feared this could get us in trouble with the Canadian
My insistence on turning the office into a warm and welcoming environment, with
couches, sleeping bags, a wall-size Canadian flag, a floor-to-ceiling peace
symbol made of exiles’ draft cards, and a hotplate (the board did not want me
to encourage people to “hang out.” One
board member was especially incensed about the hotplate.
“It feels like a soup kitchen!” he shouted at a board meeting, his
arms waving wildly. I had to work
hard to stifle my laughter);
My insistence on devoting as many resources to post-immigration assistance as to
pre-immigration counseling (before I changed the culture, that was not their m.o.
One board member, a former SUPA draft counselor, liked to say we
shouldn’t be “baby sitters” for draft resisters.
Another board member explained her attitude this way: “Americans are
like little children. You can’t
always be holding their hands”);
My plea that the board hire a professional bookkeeper (all I knew how to do in
those days was keep a primitive list of income and outgo.
The board agreed to “try” to obtain one but never managed to do so
during my tenure there. It was much
more energized by my unauthorized “takeover” of unused space in the SUPA
building beginning the week two television crews were scheduled to interview me.
One board member and SUPA employee called me a “little imperialist,”
to the general delight of the board);
My proposal that we encourage the formation of a visible and vibrant
neighborhood of “American exiles” in Toronto, the better to telegraph our
existence and our message to the folks back home and to the international
community (this proposal, which I made the week before I was hired, almost
killed my chances of employment. As
one board member put it, “We want draft resisters to just fade into the
Canadian woodwork!” A couple of
years later, a so-called “American exile ghetto” did emerge around Beverley
Street near the University of Toronto);
My unabashed encouragement of the formation of a political organization for war
resisters (it too sprang up in due course, as the Union of American Exiles,
“Amex” for short);
2. Job performance
My working the same number of hours each week that young top-tier journalists
and lawyers did, and do (polar opposite of “movement hours” – especially
in the 1960s!);
My allowing some of the most problematic war resisters to sleep in the office,
such as an underage girl, a guy who’d driven up in an ice cream truck filled
with dead rabbits floating in formaldehyde, and a poorly trained dog named
My writing at least a couple of personalized sentences to nearly everyone that
wrote us, even when our literature and form letters appeared to answer every
question they might have;
My sending form letters to 500 U.S. radio stations asking to be on their talk
shows (a great way to reach ordinary Americans, I argued; but board members saw
it as shameless self-promotion. They
also worried that it might tempt The Authorities to Crack Down.
Wasn’t the underground press enough?);
My sending what was, in effect, a five-page direct-mail fund-raising letter,
something I’d never seen or even heard of before, to a random sample of 50
people on our 400-person mailing list (no matter that it raised $2,000, over
$14,000 in today’s dollars – “I’ve never seen anything like this
before!” one board member roared at me after charging into our office, which
was full of guys waiting to be counseled. “Who
cares about your background? Or what
goes through the minds of these kids at night? ...
Who do you think you are?” It
would be another decade before the North American left began making use of
emotionally resonant direct-mail);
My going ahead and writing the Manual even after I’d been told, at a
board meeting, that our flimsy and woefully inadequate little brochure was quite
enough and that a more substantial publication could get the border shut down,
and us shut down;
My inviting board members to come to the office and review the final draft of
the manuscript (their response was eloquent: not one of them showed up);
My sending unsolicited review copies of the Manual to hundreds of
journalists and 2,000 draft counselors across North America (supposedly another
Mark Satin ego trip);
My imploring the board to print 30,000 copies of the second edition, given that 12,000
copies were already on back order and that a major Canadian printer who’d
heard me speak at a church had promised to do one, and only one, print run for
me, on super-modern machinery, at a bargain-basement price (in the end I was
lucky to get the board to agree to a print run of 20,000.
If you’re wondering why the once-ubiquitous second edition looks less
like a movement publication than a government one, with semi-gloss paper and an
exquisite typeface, well ...);
My incessant use of the mainstream Toronto and U.S. media to publicize our
existence and our work – for examples, see page one of The Globe and Mail for October 11, 1967, and page seven of The
New York Times for February 11, 1968);
My comfort level with mainstream reporters (in those days, the far left was
extremely wary of the press. A SUPA
staff member once told me, “Mark, the Globe and Mail and the CBC are
My willingness to say what I thought and felt to those reporters, rather than
regurgitate talking points to them;
My conviction that, in the U.S. media, even negative publicity was good
publicity, since it let guys know where to go for help;
My eagerness to take public issue with pacifist and left-wing opposition to
draft resisters immigrating to Canada;
My attempt, in a New York Times Magazine article, to put some distance
between the Anti-Draft Programme and the far-left forces within SUPA;
5. (Even more) uppity behaviors
My leading a long procession of war resisters to a “love-in” on the
University of Toronto campus, then conducting a marriage ceremony there for a
hippie-looking war-resister couple (you can see the once “controversial” Globe
and Mail photo of their embrace opposite page 201 in Canadian historian
Pierre Berton’s book 1967: The Last Good Year, published in 1997);
My reimbursing myself, after the Manual had generated thousands of
dollars, for $324 that I’d personally spent on office supplies and on
unreturned loans to destitute war resisters – all documented – over a
My moving in with one of Toronto’s most visible radical feminists, a
27-year-old former SUPA staffer and critic of the organization named Heather
Dean (for more on Heather, see Gary Dunford, “Heather Dean Doesn’t Like the
Way YOU Live,” Toronto Star, July 1, 1967, special “Second Century”
section, p. 71);
My entering the premises of one of SUPA’s successor organizations, the New
Left Committee, through a window at 9:15 in the morning to use a mimeograph
machine that I was authorized to use (and inadvertently breaking the window...
not very smart);
My attempt to reconstitute the board, after SUPA collapsed, so it would include
fewer political radicals and more representatives of mainstream Canadian society
– specifically, a co-founder of House of Anansi Press (publisher of the Manual
and of Margaret Atwood); a Toronto entrepreneur; an ally at the Canadian
Department of Manpower and Immigration; a renowned Canadian historian; and an
attorney rather than a law student. All
five had contributed guest pieces to the second edition of the Manual
(the board threatened to sue my counseling partner and me if we carried out our
plan. They meant it, too.
They’d have probably lost, but they’d have pulled the Programme down
with them; so we had no choice but to give in).
By now I’m sure you get
the picture. It was a culture clash.
Within weeks, I had become a personification for the board of Amerikan
arrogance and overreach and irresponsibility; and they had become, for me, a
personification of Canadian timidity, under-reach, stodginess,
fearfulness-coupled-with-resentment, and refusal to dream big dreams.
It was also a generational
clash – I was the only true Baby Boomer among them.
It was the supercilious fathers and mothers against the rebellious son.
Except in this case, the fathers and mothers were the ones with the
hyper-left-wing politics. (Our most
“conservative” board member once began a board meeting by reading, only
half-humorously, from a devotional – the Little Red Book of Chairman
Every night when I’d walk
home (and it was often close to midnight), draft dodgers’ confidences and
words of appreciation would be ringing in my ears – and I’d feel the Sword
of Damocles hanging over my head because of the smoldering disapproval and
resentment of most of the board members.
I knew my place at the
Programme couldn’t, and wouldn’t, last much longer, and my “solution”
was to devote myself ever more completely to caring for the exiles, sometimes
even bringing them home with me (which Heather rarely appreciated!).
I was indifferent to many board members’ romantic heroes – Fidel
Castro, Mao Zedong, Louis Riel – but I did absolutely feel like one of my own
boyhood heroes, Holden Caulfield (of J. D. Salinger’s novel Catcher
in the Rye), standing on the edge of a rye field and catching all the young
people before they fell off the cliff and did irreparable damage to their lives
... and to Vietnamese lives.
The end, when it finally
came in May 1968, was uglier than I’d imagined.
(Remember, I was only 21 and a product of kindly small towns in the
American Midwest.) I was fired at a
board meeting for ridiculously trumped-up reasons – the only one they really
meant was “arrogance” (their word). The
two board members who voted to keep me were the only ones who’d actually
worked with me, my counseling partner and the head of our job-finding service.
One member of the board, a
married Trotskyite who’d spent years trying to bed the woman I’d moved in
with, vowed to erase me from the organization’s memory (several board members
nodding their heads in stern approval), and within a few weeks thousands of
letters that I’d answered or caused to be answered, many with my notes jotted
on them, “mysteriously” disappeared from our office, never to resurface.
A rumor was started that
I’d quit TADP because of “burnout.” In
addition, my name was removed from the title page of most future editions of the
Manual, and a rumor was started that I was only the nominal author or
that I’d based it on SUPA’s earlier work.
Those tall tales diminish academic books and articles to this day (see,
e.g., the Churchill and Hagan texts below).
Although I’d left all my
drafts of the Manual behind in carefully-marked manila file folders,
along with my ruthless edits of the guest chapters I’d solicited and comments
on the manuscript from nine draft counselors across North America, “somehow”
none of that material made it into TADP’s historical file at the University of
Toronto library, the Jack Pocock Memorial Collection, named after a radical
Quaker activist who was the second person on our board who vowed to fire me.
That was in September 1967 – just after I’d appeared on the cover of
a glossy Canadian magazine. His
wife, the keeper of the file, was the first, in May 1967 – three days after
I’d been pictured and profiled in a long article in The
New York Times Magazine.
Given all that, I was, and
remain, remarkably unbitter. We did
help stop the war, and that was the main thing.
In the fall I moved to Vancouver and started “The Last Resort,” a
50-bed-and-pallet hostel for draft dodgers and military deserters.
By the early 1970s I’d begun work on a book called New Age Politics:
Healing Self and Society. It was
eventually published in Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Germany.
I know, now, that I was
partly at fault for what happened between the board and me.
In those first years of my adult life I lacked the personal and social
skills to communicate well with the kinds of people that were on the board –
not to mention the patience; though it might have helped if even one of them had
tried to honestly communicate with me.
It must have been difficult
for them to watch me, a small, woefully undereducated Amerikan kid with unkempt
hair and torn clothes, get myself and the Programme into the Toronto Star
at least 10 times, while the causes they deeply cared about often failed to get
the coverage they deserved. (The
Programme fell completely off the Star’s
radar screen after I was fired.)
It hurt me, more than I
knew at the time, that not one board member ever thanked me for writing the Manual
– even after it was clear that the Manual would be helping to support
their efforts for years to come.
I did appreciate, and
continue to appreciate, the lesson in human nature that the board inadvertently
taught me – that no matter how “noble” our politics, we are all still and
shall forever remain the deeply flawed creatures of the Old Testament.
In fact, for reasons only novelists can fully explain – Dostoevsky,
Silone, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, others – the Seven Deadly Sins may be most
prevalent among those whose politics are most “noble.”
(Or try my Jungian friend Connie Zweig’s anthology Meeting
There were other lessons
too, but I leave it to you to figure them out.
If you are a young idealist, you will need them for your journey.
“‘The Big Guys Keep Being Surprised By Us.’”
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), October 20, 2007, p. R6.
Includes House of Anansi’s sales figures for the Manual.
The Last Good Year.
Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1997, pp. 197–203.
to the Draft: Called in U.S., but Asleep in Toronto.”
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), October 11, 1967, pp. 1, 2.
Churchill, David S.
Ambiguous Welcome: Vietnam Draft Resistance, the Canadian State, and Cold War
Containment.” Histoire Sociale /
Social History, vol. 37, no. 73 (2004), pp. 6–9.
Without a Country.” The New
York Times Magazine, May 21, 1967, pp. 25 and 96–98.
Draft Evaders Prepare Manual on How to Immigrate to Canada.”
The New York Times, February 11, 1968, p. 7.
Anti-Draft Office Jammed; Korea, New Viet Attacks Said Cause.”
Toronto Star, February 3, 1968, p. 25.
Incite U.S. Draft Dodgers.” Toronto
Star, January 30, 1968, p. 6.
“Faces of Conscience, I: Mark Satin,
Draft Dodger.” Saturday Night magazine (Canada), September 1967, pp. 21–23. Cover
Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada.
Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Was a Tumultuous Year of Protest in Cities Around the World.”
Toronto Star, June 1, 2008, p. 6.
Includes estimate of Manual
Picture and a Thousand Words.” Toronto
Star, August 24, 2008, “Ideas” section, p. 8.
Satin in 2008.
House of Anansi’s Singular Bestseller.”
Canadian Notes & Queries, issue no. 61, spring–summer
2002, pp. 19–21.
Kasinsky, Renée G.
from Militarism: Draft-Age Americans in Canada.
New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Books, 1976.
Dodgers Conduct Own Anti-U.S. Underground War from Canadian Sanctuary.”
The Washington Post, January 22, 1967, p. E1.
American Draft Resisters in Canada.” Chicago
Tribune, March 10, 1968, pp. F26, F70.
Draft Dodgers in Toronto: Safe – and Lonely.”
Toronto Star, August 5, 1967, p. 8.
Palmer, Bryan D.
Canada’s 1960s: The Ironies of
Identity in a Rebellious Era. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 256 – 309.
SUPA and its context.
Rosenthal, Harry F.
Increasingly Draft Dodgers’ Haven.” Los
Angeles Times, June 2, 1968, p. H19.
Satin. Mark, ed.
for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada.
Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1968.
Haven for Draft Dodgers.” The
January 1968, pp. 34–36.
at Peace and War.” The Atlantic
Monthly, March 1968, pp. 42–46.
Williams, Roger Neville.
The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada.
New York: Liveright Publishers, 1970.
ABOUT THE RADICAL MIDDLE CONCEPT
GREAT RADICAL MIDDLE GROUPS AND BLOGS:
SOME PRIOR RADICAL MIDDLE INITIATIVES:
SOME RADICAL MIDDLE LESSONS:
SOME PRIOR WRITINGS BY MARK SATIN:
NOT JUST RADICAL MIDDLE: