Information is power: the hidden history of power research in U.S. protest movements
Photo Credit: The Jacobin

Information is power: the hidden history of power research in U.S. protest movements

It was 1969, and the American War on Vietnam seemed unending. Mass outrage over the war had spilled into the nation’s streets and campuses — outrage over the rising heap of body bags returning home, over the neverending spree of bombs that barreled down from US planes onto rural villages, with the images of fleeing families, their skin seared by napalm, broadcast across the world. Hundreds of thousands of people had begun to resist the war. The fall of 1969 saw the historic Moratorium protests, the largest protests in US history.

But while the passion and determination of the antiwar movement was strong, some felt that hard knowledge about the power behind the war machine was lacking. Who was manufacturing and profiting off of the bombs, planes, and chemicals used in Vietnam? Where did the war machine — its factories, its research labs — exist in the United States? In what states, and in what towns? Who were the companies benefiting from and fueling the war?

If organizers and the booming antiwar movement could get hold of this information — a wider and deeper knowledge of the money and corporate power behind the war — the movement could become even stronger, able to strategically target the different components of the war machine across the country.

This was the context in which National Action/Research on the Military-Industrial Complex — or NARMIC, as it became known — was born. NARMIC wanted to research the power and money behind the defense industry and get this research into the hands of peace activists who were resisting the Vietnam War so they could fight more effectively. They wanted — as they put it — to “fill the gap” between “peace research” and “peace organizing.” They wanted to do research for action — hence, their use of the term “action/research” to describe what they did.


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