Interview – Cortright

“A Historic Moment”

Interview with David Cortright
Conducted by Lawrence Wittner (State University of New York at Albany) Washington, DC, June 29, 1987
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David Cortright has a long history of public advocacy for disarmament and the prevention of war. In 1977, after having served in the Vietnam War and completed his doctoral studies, he commenced his decennial work as the executive director of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, which under his leadership grew from 4,000 to 150,000 members becoming the largest nuclear disarmament organization in the United States.

In this 1987 interview, David Cortright, details the “rebirth” of SANE and the peace and nuclear disarmament movement in general in the late 1970’s and early 1980s.  In his opinion this renaissance originated from a mounting concern and growing public awareness about the possibilities of nuclear war as well as the rising threat of civilian nuclear power.

He describes the campaign against the MX missile as a “lightning rod” for public opposition to nuclear policy and sees SANE as the “primary movers of that campaign.” The battle over the MX missile also played a pivotal role for the further development of the peace movement by establishing effective lobby groups and the “political clout” of the peace community in Washington as a “sophisticated and important constituency.” He sees later successes of the peace movement as essentially rooted in this earlier MX missile campaign.

The American peace movement, he observes, also drew strength from similar developments in Europe, which “gave a big impetus [as] our American people [were] seeing what . . . the people in European allied nations were doing.” In this interview, Cortright also calls for closer interaction and transatlantic coordination of campaigns to more effectively counter the fact that, “obviously, the NATO ministers are coordinating their war campaigns….”

Cortright believes the merger of SANE/FREEZE, occurring in the year of the interview to be “historic and [holding] a lot of great potential for the peace movement in the future.”

David Cortright today continues his commitment to peace and disarmament initiatives and has been the Director of Policy Studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame since 2009.

Interview Transcript

[Background:  SANE’s executive director for 10 years, beginning fall 1977.]

“When I arrived [at SANE], there was half a staff person and no money in the bank, huge bills — about $40-$50,000 was owed . . . — and, as far as I could tell, the membership had lapsed almost entirely.  There were only a few thousand members left, maybe 3 or 4 thousand reasonably current, paid-up members. . . .

I think generally the American peace movement fell into a nadir after the Vietnam period.  I was involved in the Vietnam peace protests.  I had been an active duty soldier during the war, and had been very much involved in a big lawsuit against the Army, and very much a part of the GI movement, and, therefore, a part of a lot of the peace demonstrations.  And then I was involved with the Vietnam vets, right after the war.  And it seemed to me, about `73 or `74, you could hardly find the peace movement.  Once the United States had withdrawn from Indochina, there was little or nothing going on in the peace community.  And I think the decline that occurred in SANE was part of a decline that occurred everywhere.  I don’t know the figures, but certainly it was true here at SANE. . . .

In `76, when Jimmy Carter’s name came in as a nominee, there was a big debate on the [SANE] board whether or not he should be endorsed.  I know they did not, although it was close.  And my understanding is that Sandy Gottlieb, who was the director then and had been the director for a number of years, had done a fine job, . . . took a leave to go work for Carter, and that added another blow to the organization.  I’m sure his leadership had been key to holding it together for many years.  So when I came in, they hadn’t had a director in . . . a year, I guess.  Sandy, I guess, came back after the campaign.  But my impression was that he really didn’t get back into it very much, and he did formally resign sometime during `77 to work for this other organization that was called New Directions. . . .

It was a period when Vietnam was over, the nuclear arms race did not appear to be a grave threat publicly. Detente was just beginning to end at that time, in the mid-seventies; it still looked like it was real.  SALT I had happened, SALT II was being negotiated.  Jimmy Carter was coming into office.  There was . . . a feeling on the public mind of less concern about the nuclear threat.  Watergate, no doubt, increased disillusionment, a sense that the bad, nasty people — Nixon and company — were out, and that there was, perhaps, a new period of more openness and decency in government that we might look forward to.  And, at least with Carter’s election, it appeared that that was what was happening. 

Our [SANE’s] focus has always been the nuclear arms race. . . .  In the late `70s, when I first came here, we took on the challenge of economic conversion, which had always been part of our agenda but which we had seldom really worked politically.  And it seemed an appropriate time to look at that, for a number of reasons.  One, because the period of slight detente was occurring at that time meant some slight reduction in the increases in military spending that had been happening.  And it seemed like a time when cuts in the military budget might really happen.  Jimmy Carter seemed to imply that that was what he wanted to do.  So it was that kind of a political climate. . . . In the labor movement, there was a very important historic development.  That was the [IAM] presidency of Bill Winpisinger, whom I had known before I came to SANE and was very impressed by him.  When he came in, it seemed to me the possibility of a labor-peace alliance was real.  And we went to him and we achieved that by making him the chair of the organization and by developing a program to try to seriously push economic conversion legislation.  Which we did, for a couple of years there.  We actually passed a version of economic conversion legislation in the House of Representatives, and that was the Dodd-McKinney amendment, sponsored by Chris Dodd and Stuart McKinney of Connecticut. . . .  It might have been `79, but I think it was `80.  The Dodd-McKinney amendment . . . was a scaled down version of the larger McGovern conversion bill. . . .  Unfortunately, we were never able to get it to a vote in the Senate. . . .

But then, obviously, the political climate changed.  In the late `70s, Carter turned to the Right, Afghanistan happened, the New Right upsurge began to take hold, and then, worst of all, of course, Reagan’s election.  And, with that, there was a dramatic shift in the political climate, so that economic conversion made less sense, because the military budget was zooming upward again.  Public fear of the nuclear threat was rising.  And so the question of the nuclear arms race, the nuclear threat generally, began to really reassert itself at SANE. 

I should backtrack just a year or two because I think the upsurge and rebirth of SANE . . . that occurred in the late `70s-early `80s was in a way connected to the question of civilian nuclear power.  Because what happened to the antiwar movement is that a good number of people went into the nuclear power movement, the environmental nuclear movement.  And that was growing all during the late `70s and, in a way, helping SANE, even though nuclear power was never . . . our primary issue.  The people who were concerned about the threat of nuclear energy also could see that the greatest threat was in the Bomb.  Power plants were terrible, but the Bomb was much worse.  And then, of course, Three Mile Island happened, and there was a great upsurge in that concern.  And that also helped this growing public awareness of the nuclear threat and the horrors of nuclear technology. . . .

Out of all the many issues that were coming forward, we had been involved with the neutron bomb question in the years of the Carter administration.  In fact, I think helped to create a public controversy to the extent that Carter backed down somewhat; at least he didn’t go to immediate deployment.  Production did continue.  And we never won the vote in the House on that; I think the closest we got was about 150, or around there.  But we created controversy enough to force them to slow down that program.  And that was still going on in the early `80s. 

But we began to see the MX missile as the big debate that would emerge over nuclear policy in the early `80s.  And that was because of its scale and its cost.  It wasn’t that the MX was any different or more dangerous than other nuclear systems like the cruise missile or the Trident II.  In terms of nuclear missiles, you would argue that they’re all outrageous and dangerous.  But the MX had that controversial edge to it.  It had the aspect of tearing up Utah and Nevada and the environmental impact.  And the enormous cost — initially, over $100 billion.  We saw it as the issue that was likely to become the kind of lightning rod for public opposition to nuclear policy, the kind of primary organizing issue.  So . . . I believe we were the very first group to begin to take on the MX. . . .  You may recall that this wonderful, absurd missile came first from Jimmy Carter.  We had worked the 1980 convention, in New York I think it was, . . . to get a resolution against the MX passed, and we had Harold Brown and other officials in the Carter administration lobbying against us.  But, then . . . when Reagan came in, it was something we really pushed, harder than ever.  So I guess actually our first organizing tour on the MX must have occurred before Reagan — . . . maybe it was 1980, maybe even `79.  Michael Mawby, who was our assistant director, did the first trip out to Utah. . . .  And here was this eastern liberal organization representative going out and meeting with Mormons in Utah and cattlemen in Nevada and Native Americans in the reservations, and finding a lot of receptivity to our message that the MX is absurd.  And the Mormons particularly wanted to view this from the point of view of integrity.  They didn’t want to oppose it because it was going to tear up their state.  They wanted to know more about the nuclear policy involved, the strategy.  And the more they heard about it, the more absurd they saw it to be — this first strike nuclear strategy that was at the root of the MX policy.  So we organized in the latter Carter and early Reagan years, particularly around that MX missile system.

And . . . in the subsequent years then built up a very big lobbying program on the MX, so that from I guess `82 on for the next 3 or 4 years, it became a constant battle between Congress and the Reagan administration.  I think it’s fair to say that it was the primary weapons question through the early years of the Reagan administration, and we were the primary movers of that campaign.  We had started it, at one time we even set up a separate campaign to stop the MX — kind of an offshoot for a while — but we brought it back again in house.  And I think we achieved some important victories along the way.  Of course, the most important one was that we stopped the actual basing of the MX on Utah and Nevada, which was not just a victory for SANE and the peace movement, but a victory for the states of Utah and Nevada, for the Mormon church, the Nevada cattlemen, and others. . . .  But we also . . .  over the years gradually whittled away at the MX, in terms of its size, so that the latest plan is to deploy 50, not 200 as originally proposed.  And I think there’s still a chance that we’ll cut it down even more, `cause even to this day it remains a battle and every year in Congress there’s yet another big amendment when it comes up.  Nowadays the sponsor is Barney Frank.  And we’re still arguing to cut out the test missiles. . . .  I think we’ve done a lot over the years to make it a big issue and to . . . cut it way down. . . .  There were some monumental struggles in Congress in `83 and `84, in which we would have the entire organization basically on emergency footing, calling everybody in the country, lobbyists battling members up on the Hill, producing ads, doing everything we could to counter the pro-MX.  We’d have the leaders of the House working with us.  I remember one of the votes, we were so close that we had to call some members of Congress who were on their sickbed.  Parren Mitchell, who was a solid vote for us, he was up in Baltimore, he was terribly ill.  And I called his house directly.  Others called him.  Sure enough, he got up out of his sickbed and got driven down here to come onto the floor to vote.  We had a couple of incidents like that, where we dragged members from their home districts back to Washington to vote.  We won some, we lost a lot.  But, overall, what we found was that the process of this huge political battle against the MX resulted in the cutting down of the missile, and I think the first time in the history of the arms race that a weapons system, intensively lobbied for by a President over many years, was substantially cut back.  It was a real victory for the peace movement.  It didn’t eliminate it, unfortunately. We didn’t get all that we wanted.  But we got a lot of it.

But it was a victory in another sense, too, in that it helped to build SANE and it helped to build the political clout, sophistication of the peace community, of the arms control community here in Washington.  Because it was through the MX battle . . . that the lobby — what’s called the arms control lobby in Washington — was created and its skills and its capabilities were established.  Prior to the MX — in the late `70s — you could count on your hand the number of arms control lobbyists.  It was a pretty motley crew.  And while Sandy Gottlieb and others did wonderful work as individuals, you couldn’t really point to a substantial, well-coordinated, overall arms control effort.  Now it’s a sophisticated and important constituency. . . . 

The core were ourselves, the Council for a Livable World, Friends of the Earth played a key role, Common Cause came in (not at the very beginning, but midway through the battle) and played a crucial role once they came in, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Union of Concerned Scientists.  Practically every group in the peace community got involved, and many others.  We actually did have a good and supportive relationship with the major unions.  Not just the Machinists; the Food and Commercial Workers, AFSCME, we could work well with other environmental organizations: the Wilderness Society.  The Sierra Club nationally never really came on, but a lot of its state and local chapters did get involved. . . .  And then we would occasionally get some minimal support, not real close, but some support even from the larger, like the Wilderness Society, some of the major environmental groups who worked with budget coalitions like the Center for Budget Policy, Jobs with Peace groups, some of the Third World groups, LULAC got involved, some of the black organizations.  So that by the time this thing was fully developed, we had a very broad coalition. . . .  And the letters that we would send to the Hill sometimes had as many as a hundred organizations signed on — a broad-based effort to stop this absurd MX thing.  Of course, many religious organizations — Catholic, Methodist . . . .  At a certain point, even the Mormon church came out.  It never joined the coalition, of course, but in its own way made a very powerful statement.  (I think that was in `81.)  The peace/arms control community broadened out. 

We had built alliances, linkages with other groups that we had not had before.  And we created a sophistication and an ability to work on the Hill, in the sense that we were working with the top leaders.  So that our people, our lobbyists got used to meeting with the leadership of the Rules Committee and the Whip of the House and knowing what the rules of the games are and how these things are done.  And finding out who were the legislators who could be relied upon as real leaders and which ones were just going to come along for the ride, which ones could be counted on when the going would get tough.  All of those sorts of things that you learn through struggle and campaigning, we learned.  And I think they’ve benefited us. . . .  The successes that we’ve had in the last two years on things like test ban, treaty compliance, and to some degree Star Wars funding are, in part, a result of the initial efforts that we put into building a lobbying network around the MX campaign.  So that the gains that we achieved institutionally, in that sense, have been maintained very much.  Something called the Monday Lobby Group, which meets at noon on Mondays . . . there’s 30 or 40 groups that meet almost every Monday . . . and go through the latest lobbying business and divide up tasks, get reports on sub-groups; it’s a real serious and well-established part of our community now. 

So that was our big campaign, and I think about two years ago [1985] we finally recognized that we had gotten about as far as we could get on it, and that we would not put a huge amount of resources into it. 

In the late `70s-early `80s, SANE also was a pioneer in a campaign which never really got anywhere near as big as the MX one, but we now see has proved to be important.  And that was on the Euromissiles, on the cruise and Pershing missiles. . . .  This was a very big development for the European peace movement. . . .  Their movements burgeoned [after the double track decision of 1979], those large peace rallies occurred. . . .  And that, of course, gave a big impetus to the American peace movement.  Some of the growth that we achieved no doubt had to be in relationship to our American people seeing what . . . the people in European allied nations were doing.  So we got involved in that and we took the position:  no cruise or Pershing missiles.  And I think SANE was the first group that I know of . . . that brought over to the United States a delegation of European peace leaders to talk about these issues.  We had two different delegations . . . I think late `79 and 1980.  And then `81. . . .  One was a group of parliamentarians that included Jo Richardson from the Labour Party in Britain. . . .  So the INF thing was something we worked on.  But legislatively, it was very tough to get much of a movement behind it.  Our other arms control groups were not interested in it.  We had this annual retreat, up at West Virginia, and I remember going to the one in 1980 . . . and I argued: `We’ve got to take on the European missile question.’  And most of the people there said:  `Well, we certainly sympathize, but it’s just not a hot political issue in the United States.  The MX is, because it’s on our territory.  These things are on their territory and, unfortunately, most Americans don’t even know what’s going on, much less care about it.’  That proved to be true, at least from a legislative point of view.  So we never got much support for our amendments to cut money for the cruise and Pershing. 

But now we find, years later, by an ironic twist of fate, that the zero option that was proposed by Reagan — which we at that time said, it would be great if it would happen, but it’s just propaganda — now the Russians have taken it up and said:  `OK.’  So I think we’ll see a treaty and this is coming back as a very urgent and important question for us to address:  the INF question, the question of nuclear weapons in Europe. . . .

The test ban, which is . . . our current, our number one priority. . . developed out of a number of different questions.  The most important is to recognize that the test ban movement is a genuine, grassroots, grown at home, bottom up issue.  No Washington lobbyist ever proposed that this was the way to take on the arms race. . . .  It was not an invention of the Russians, as the State Department told me it was.  It came out of the grassroots in the peace movement, and it came out . . . of the development of the Freeze movement.  The Freeze burst on the scene . . . like a lightning rod, awakening the American consciousness, tremendously powerful.  But in `83 we had this tragic development where, one week the Nuclear Freeze resolution passed Congress by very hefty vote, and we all drank champagne and had a wonderful time, and shortly thereafter — ten days or thereabouts — Congress voted for the MX, and we all drowned ourselves in beer.  That was a tremendous psychic shock to all of us in the movement, I think especially to the grassroots.  And it didn’t happen immediately.  But, over the next year, profound questions were asked about both strategies, about both the MX strategy and about the Freeze strategy.  And the MX strategy was questioned . . .:  `Yes, well, we’re doing OK, we’re eventually going to cut down this weapons system.  But so what?  There are 8 or 9 others.  What about the Tridents, and the cruise, and all the rest?  What’s your answer to stopping the arms race, Mr. MX organizer?’ . . .  But then, to the Freeze side, equal questions were raised:  `Well, this is a wonderful concept, this is the way to stop the arms race by just stopping it.  But how are you going to make it happen?  How are you going to put some teeth into the Nuclear Freeze?  How do you make it real?’  And from both sides then came the need for a concrete, realistic proposal that would begin to achieve a comprehensive Freeze, that would begin to stop everything, not just one weapon, but that also had some realistic teeth to it, some real basis to it.  And by process, the concept of the test ban emerged.  It emerged here at SANE, it emerged at the Center for Defense Information, it emerged from Greenpeace, from the Physicians, and from the grassroots of the Freeze. . . . By `84, it began to be seen as a real option.  I think I wrote my first strategy paper on it at the end of `83, that we ought to begin to look at this as the way to advance the Freeze strategy, the Freeze movement in the next phase. . . . 

I guess it was [not] `till the end of `84 that we began to convince any members of Congress to really begin to take this seriously.  And I guess in `85 . . . we finally got a piece of legislation and we could start to move on it.  Now, of course, previously there had been these wonderful, high minded, meaningless resolutions for a comprehensive test ban, which had passed the Senate in `84, I believe, and various versions had passed Congress in years past.  But that wasn’t what we wanted.  That was the same promise we had with the Freeze resolution.  In fact, it was even less because it didn’t call for as much.  What we wanted was a measure that would actually do something.  So we had to basically force members of Congress to accept the notion that we wanted a funding cutoff, that Congress had to use its power of the purse to achieve the test ban.  And there were some precedents in previous legislation.  For example, the MX.  We said:  `Well, that’s what you’re doing with the MX.  Why don’t you do it with testing?’  So, gradually we got together a core of sponsors.  But, initially, it was a pretty isolated group.  It was Markey, it was Pat Schroeder, Ron Dellums — good folks but not in the mainstream of the leadership of the Congress.  Then Tom Downey took it up, and that was a little closer.  But we kept pushing and we hearkened back to our MX days, when we were working with the leadership, with Mavroules, with Tip O’Neill, with Foley, with Wright.  And we said to these people:  `The test ban is important to us.  We want you to look at it.  Take it up.  Move it.’  And gradually we got some support on it.  But it really took until last year, . . . `86, that we got a real vote on the floor of the House on the funding cutoff. . . .  We’ve had two so far this year [1987], and we’re still not at the point when we’ll get one in the Senate. . . . 

It’s a long struggle, and of course it was greatly aided by the Soviet moratorium, and that’s probably what really gave it tremendous impetus.  But it’s . . . still the top issue.  It’s the first step that’s the most logical, the most important.  It does lead towards. . . .”

[Tape of first side ends here.  As the next section of the interview was not picked up on the tape, the following items are reconstructed from LW’s notes: 

This test ban campaign was very useful, and the public knows of it and supports it by 60 to 80 percent.  It will remain a top issue of SANE for lobbying, electoral support, etc.

On Central America:  SANE members and board members began asking:  `What are you going to do about Central America?’  Cortright favored SANE’s becoming active against the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, for he was horrified by the war and recognized its salience.  But he was not sure what the SANE board thought about such activity.  When the board met in August 1983, however, the board was keen to throw SANE’s efforts into the anti-intervention struggle.]

“It was after that August `83 meeting we got more involved and, over the years, have been particularly concerned about the Contra aid issue, and have lobbied.  We participated in demonstrations in November `83, the April `85, and now the most recent, the April 25, `87 demonstrations.  In each of those we’ve been on the steering committee, contributed money, have mobilized our people, and have tried to do our best to build that Central America movement.  We’ve organized a couple of trips down there.  I’ve been twice, and members of the board have gone.  We’ve done a lot of radio programs about it, and view it as one of our key educational issues. 

The overarching theme that we constantly work on — it’s related to the economic conversion question — is the military budget.  I guess you’d call the unifying theme of all the things that we do is the economic cost of the arms race.  Whether it’s the nuclear question or Star Wars or intervention in Central America, it all can be translated into dollars and cents.  And we try in our literature and in our education on the issues to bring everything back to the pocketbook concern.”

Major SANE failures:  “We’ve not really done enough to project our image to the public.  As a big organization, of 150,000 members, and the scale that we’ve achieved, the dramatic growth that we experienced in the `80s, it’s still mostly a secret to the public.  And other organizations of a smaller scale get a lot more visibility and profile.  It’s our problem, it’s the problem generally of the peace and disarmament community.  We simply have not penetrated into the mass media.  We’re not even part of the discussion.  It’s a major failing, I believe.  We’ve not developed a serious communications marketing media program.  I think partly it’s due to a lack of commitment and resources, partly it’s perhaps my own style — I’m not particularly visible or a public person. . . .  It’s something we’ve looked at and we’re trying to address. . . .

I also think that we’ve not really built solid enough coalitional ties with our natural allies.  The labor-peace alliance that we talk about a lot, it really only exists with the Machinists, and a little bit with the Food and Commercial Workers, and individual unions here and there.  But we need to do a lot more.  Environmental groups, it’s the same way.  We have good relations with Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and those groups, but we really haven’t developed organic links.  I think particularly in the religious community, which is in many respects the core of the peace community, the peace movement is a faith-based kind of commitment which many, many people in our movement have, and yet the links between this organization and religious peace organizations are pretty weak.  I think our relationships with the black and Hispanic community are also inadequate.  We have relationships with LULAC, and the Mexican Brotherhood, and the Rainbow Coalition, and SCLC, but really they’re not the kind of cordial and supportive relationships that they ought to be.  Not yet.  We still have a long way to go in developing those kinds of ties. 

And for SANE, another major weakness has been our lack of a broad, grassroots base, in terms of organization.  We’ve never had more than 50 or 60 chapters in the time that I’ve been here.  In part, that was a conscious decision, because when I arrived on the scene in the late `70s the peace movement was different than it was in the late `50s.  When SANE first emerged, there weren’t many local peace groups, but in the late `70s and especially in the `80s, there were very many — many of them under the name of the Nuclear Freeze.  And we made the conscious decision that it was not in the interests of SANE or the peace movement to go out and try to compete with other organizations to create chapters.  And this latter factor is really one of the motivations that’s behind the merger process.  From SANE’s point of view, the merger is a way to connect the national organization that we’ve created to the broad, grassroots base that’s organized within the Nuclear Freeze campaign.  So it hopefully creates the best of both — a strong national organization and a broad, grassroots base.”

Asked about SANE’s interaction with overseas ND movements, DC said:  “We’ve had a little bit.  I wouldn’t say it’s very great, and that’s probably another area where we need more resources committed. . . .  We had decided with the merger process that we will have an international desk for the new organization, but we don’t have the money for it right now, so it may be an empty desk for a few months `till we reallocate resources.  Our links have been OK, but not great.  I know the British CND people and met a number of them over the years.  Joan Ruddock and Bruce Kent I know reasonably well.  The Greens, I know Petra Kelly and some of the people in Germany.  And the IKV in Holland.  And we’ve worked a little bit with some of the Socialist bloc peace council-type groups.  But that’s about it — really not much of a substantive, organic connection exists.  And we usually have gotten together around international events — for example, at the Geneva summit in November of `85, or prior to that when the talks opened there was an international peace movement group that got together there from CND and the Greens and ourselves.  But our links are not really as close and as cordial as they ought to be. 

But it is the kind of thing where, for example, when the break occurred on the INF treaty, when the Soviets said `Yes’ to the zero option, I did pick up the phone and call the CND and talk with them about:  `Well, what’s your line on this?  How are you reacting to it?’  And we could share insight, and found out that we had a very similar approach to it.  But it’s pretty undeveloped. . . .  There needs to be a more formal and serious interaction, I believe, for us to coordinate our disarmament campaigns.  Obviously, the NATO ministers are coordinating their war campaigns. . . . 

I also think that we need to be more linked up with our Latin American allies.  We’ve done a little bit in Central America — hooked up with some of the human rights groups in El Salvador and the independent labor movement in El Salvador and with some of the human rights groups in Nicaragua and there have been general discussions with a few of the Mexican groups.  But I think this is another area where we could immensely benefit by having international liaison, not only to coordinate our program and strategy, but in terms of our own domestic education.  Since so many of our own people are Spanish-speaking, to have a program in alliance with Mexican colleagues, for example, and to try to get it into the media would do a lot toward communicating our message to a growing part of our own population. . . .”

Membership has “grown pretty steadily over the years.  In the last year, it’s about leveled off.  It’s about 150,000, in terms of total membership. . . .

I think there was a big change politically for us over the last two years, in terms of our orientation and towards lobbying and towards what our objectives were really to be.  And that coincided with Marc Raskin’s assumption of the chair of the organization and the beginning of serious involvement with the Rainbow Coalition and with Third World constituencies.  And with those developments came an orientation that we had to make a choice here.  Are we going to be an arms control lobby group in Washington, focusing only on the MX? . . .  Or are we going to try to develop a program, which will really stop the war system and reverse the arms race?  Are we going to take this on in a piecemeal arms control fashion, or are we going to try to develop a more holistic, comprehensive peace program?  How much are we going to put into Central America?  How much are we going to commit ourselves to genuine affirmative action, to — as Rev. Jackson called it, darkening the face of the peace movement?  When are we going to have Third World people not just typing, but in the leadership of this movement?  And when are we going to have a politics, which reflects that participation, which is not just settling for an MX, but is going for a test ban, a reversal of the arms race, and other things?  So that . . . was a very fundamental political question which coincided with the decision to begin to downgrade our participation in the MX fight, a feeling that we had gotten as much as could get out of it. . . . So we went through that struggle, and it was not an easy one, and it was around questions of Third World participation in senior staff and on the Board and how committed are we to that? . . .  It was a question of our lobbying program.  We never doubted that we would have a major lobbying program, but the question was:  Would that be informed by a broader political perspective or would it be an incrementalist, inside the beltway view of the world?”  Ultimately, it was decided “to try to achieve a more honest, thoroughgoing, uncompromising peace perspective that would not be incrementalist, but would really try to get at the core of the problem. . . .

Some aspects of this struggle also occurred at the Freeze. . . .  For both organizations, there was a parallel commitment to greater affirmative action and outreach to the black and Third World community generally and, also, a commitment to more of a grassroots approach to lobbying, to take the direction of our program outside the beltway. . . .  One of the ways you find it, for example, is that, around here, not too many people call ourselves `arms control,’ `cause we understand . . . that what arms control means is managing the arms race, and that’s not what we’re about.  We want to stop and reverse the arms race. . . .

The merger is the key gamble or political move that we’ve made this last year.  And some people question it in terms of the amount of energy and the amount of sacrifice that it’s required on the part of a lot of people.  I personally have accepted a situation where I go from being the director and the principal person in charge to being one of several — to being a co-director instead of being an executive director.  To go to a much more complicated process, where decisions were maybe not easy but at least there was a well-defined process for doing that here, now going to a broader and more complicated process.  I’ve made a lot of personal sacrifices, in terms of my own `power and position,’ in order to achieve this higher unity that I believe is essential to the peace movement.  And it’s really a dream that I’ve had for many years. . . .  Why can’t we have one big peace movement? . . .  It increasingly dawned on me as the Freeze grew up over the years that that was now possible and necessary.  So I’m convinced that this process is the right one, as difficult as it has been. . . .  I think it’s historic. . . .  I think it’s got a lot of great potential for the peace movement in the future.”