About the National Resistance Committee and Resistance News
(poster by Fred Moore for the National Resistance Committee, 1980;
the same font was used for the masthead of Resistance News)
The National Resistance Committee (NRC) was formed in 1980 to oppose registration and the draft, and was active through the 1990-1991 USA-Iraq Gulf War.
The NRC was founded at a meeting at the Women's Building in San Francisco on 1 March 1980. The first issue of Resistance News was published two days later, and distributed at the national mobilization against the draft on 22 March 1980, where speakers advocating resistance to registration included Davis Harris and Dave Dellinger at the East Coast march and rally in Washington, DC, and Fred Moore of the NRC at the West Coast march and rallyin San Francisco. An organizing meeting for regional and local NRC activities and affiliates in the East and Midwest was held the day after the mobilization, 23 March 1980, in Washington, DC.
The stated goals of the National Resistance Committee were:
- To resist current U.S. preparations for conscription and war by encouraging those of draft age to refuse registration.
- To sponsor and promote nonviolent demonstrations and civil disobedience to oppose draft registration.
- To build a grass-roots movement by collecting pledges of nonregistration, distributing literature, holding public actions, forming support groups, and working with existing organizations to resist registration.
From its founding, the National Resistance Committee was open to all draft resisters: pacifist and non-pacifist, religious and secular, ideological and individualistic, internationalist and isolationist, young and old, women and men, queer and straight and questioning (and, like me, confused), public and closeted, anarchist, communist, libertarian, patriotic, pagan, feminist, and of course many who didn't identify with any "ism". One of the first pieces of literature produced in the name of the NRC, a leaflet distributed at the 22 March 1980 mobilization, declared that, "The National Resistance Committee embraces individuals of all political persuasions. Our point of unity is an action -- resistance -- not an ideology."
As a group potentially regarded by the government as a criminal conspiracy, the NRC had no formal structure or officers; its activities were carried out by local and national working collectives and individual activists. We were funded almost exclusively by small individual contributions, many of them anonymous and many of them from the same people who were doing the work.
Like other draft resistance groups, the NRC used as its symbols the rainbow of diversity and the Greek letter "omega" (as in the posterat the top of this page), which has been used since the 1960's as the symbol of the resistance to the draft. The omega is the symbol (in physics and electronics) of the unit of resistance, the "ohm", and also symbolizes the Buddhist chant for peace, "om".
From 1980 to 1987, the NRC published 25 issues of a newspaper, Resistance News, providing an open forum for all draft resisters. (Contact me if you are interested in obtaining one of the remaining sets of printed copies.) According to a statement published in each issue:
Gandhi's term for nonviolence was Satyagraha, which he defined as "truth force." The National Resistance Committee has no dogma, Gandhian or otherwise. But we agree with Gandhi that belief in nonviolence implies belief in the power of truth, and in the ability of people to discern it for themselves. Resistance News is devoted to the search for truth. We can only conduct that search, and permit others to do otherwise, if we print the most divergent opinions and encourage open discussion of controversy. Our editorial policy is to print what you write, edited only for length and only with your permission. If we can't afford to publish all your contributions (we couldn't this time [and we never could], we'll save them for the next issue. You are the resistance, and the news of the resistance is the news of your lives. Write to us about it.
Such a policy may seem commonplace today, when the Internet makes it possible and affordable to disseminate huge amounts of information, without the need for as much selectivity. But at the time, it was a radical position. We were using the Internet and other computer networks even in the early 1980's, but the Internet wasn't yet a medium of masscommunication. Getting out the word required costly printing and mailing, and relatively few people were willing to pay, often out of their own pockets, to print and distribute the opinions of those they disagreed with, not just their own opinions.
There were, and are, many other organizations involved in draft resistance as well as other activities, organizations for draft resisters from specific religious or political groups, organizations working against the draft through means other than resistance, organizations supporting conscientious objectors within the draft and military system, draft and military counselors and organizations, and local draft resistance organizations.
But from 1980 through 1991, the National Resistance Committee was the only national organization in the USA dedicated exclusively to resisting draft registration and open to all draft resisters. As of 2005, it remains the only such organization to have existed in the USA since the last involuntary inductions into the military in the USA in 1973.
After the U.S. military was driven out of Vietnam in 1975, the antiwar movement -- including many forms of resistance -- forced an end to the draft and, for five years from 1975-1980, to draft registration. When draft registration was reinstated in 1980, massive resistance and the failure of the government's attempts at intimidation through show trials of registration resistance organizers (including myself and other participants in the National Resistance Committee, which was itself investigated and considered for possible prosecution as a criminal conspiracy) forced the government to abandon enforcement of the draft registration law, and no one has been prosecuted for draft or registration resistance since 1986. So we know that draft resistance has the power to stop the draft. But are we prepared to resist the next attempt to bring back the draft?
To every war, and to every draft, there has been, is, and will be resistance. Each generation has its own reasons to resist, and finds and forms its own organizations. I'm sure that new grassroots draft resistance groups and networks are already forming, even if I and other older draft resisters haven't yet heard about them.
I was involved with the NRC throughout its life, starting just about the time I left the University of Chicago in 1980. (President Carter wouldn't formally propose reinstatement of draft registration until January 1980, but the possibility of a resumption of the draft was already on the minds of student activists in 1979, as is visible in the photos here of the campus demonstration at the U. of C. on 22 May 1979at which I was arrested for the first time. )
I moved to San Francisco in 1985 to take over as one of the editors of Resistance News when Fred Moore (whose historical significance I've written about in a separate article in AFSC's "Peacework" magazine) left on one of his extended peace walks. I was one of the 20 vocal nonregistrants who were prosecuted in the early 1980s for "willful refusal to submit" to registration with the Selective Service System.
As the custodian of many of the archives of the NRC and Resistance News (some of which are included in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection), as well as many of the archives of earlier draft resistance organizations that were passed on to us in the NRC, I'm trying to make some of these materials available, in updated form, to those who might not otherwise get this information and these points of view, and to new generations of draft resisters. These leaflets and other materials reflect the work and contributions of many people. Many members of the NRC's core collectives are still in touch with each other. If you are interested in making use of other draft resistance writings or graphics from our archives, or talking with people who were active in the draft resistance movement in the 1980's, please get in touch.
Please use, modify, and distribute these materials freely and widely, or use them to create your own, with your own ideas. I especially encourage draft and registration counselors to make material advocating draft resistance, like these leaflets, available to those they counsel, to explain the reasons people like us have chosen to resist registration and the draft, and why they might want to do so too. If you don't feel comfortable advocating draft resistance -- either because you don't want to take that legal risk, or because you don't feel it appropriate to encourage other people to take a risk you haven't taken yourself -- you can point people to this and other draft resistance advocacy.
This Web site is hosted in Canada, not in the USA. In Canada, the privacy of information concerning visitors to this Web site is protected by Canadian laws including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Reproduction or distribution of this literature in the USA might be considered by some people, such as the Selective Service System and the Department of (in)Justice, to be illegal. On the other hand, both the draft itself, and the laws against advocating draft resistance or conspiring to resist the draft might be considered to be unconstitutional. And prosecutions for draft resistance advocacy or conspiracy have, historically been even rarer (none at all since the Vietnam War) and less successful than prosecutions for nonregistration. But past performance is no guarantee of future returns.
It's your life. Make your own decisions. If you'd like to talk to someone who has made some of the same choices -- in a different era, and in different circumstances, of course -- feel free to get in touch with me. I'm always available to talk to individuals or groups, and to do my best to put you in touch with others who can do likewise, about the draft, draft registration, draft resistance, and the choices I've made. I chose to resist, and while I've made many mistakes along the way, I have no regrets about that choice to resist registration and the draft, to refuse to register, to encourage others to do likewise, and to join together with others to carry on our resistance.
Edward Hasbrouck 1130 Treat Ave. San Francisco, CA 94110 USA +1-415-824-0214 email@example.com (GnuPG/PGP public key; more about e-mail encryption)