Dissertation Defense: Alex Macartney
Candidate Name: Alex Finn Macartney
Advisor: Anna von der Goltz, Ph.D.
Title: War in the Postwar: Japan and West Germany Protest the Vietnam War and the Global Strategy of Imperialism
This project examines the Japanese and West German protest movements against the war in Vietnam with a particular focus on the connections between anti-imperialist groups and individuals. It contends that movements in the two states had much more engagement than has previously been discovered and that these contacts had an important influence on a particular strain of anti-imperialist ideology that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The key insight this project proposes is that both Japanese and West German anti-imperialist radicals subscribed to a similar theory of global imperial strategy acting in Vietnam, fostered, in part, by an active exchange of people and protest material across borders. While historians of the 1960s often speak of anti-imperial politics, few studies trace the contours of what anti-imperialists believed and why. Similarly, although anti-imperialist movements in Japan and West Germany had many similarities and moments of contact, there are no studies of these groups in comparison or in transnational perspective
The shared West German and Japanese theory of global imperialism held that the past Axis powers had not abandoned fascism or empire, and that the unreformed and reenergized imperialist Japanese and West German states were poised to take over for a United States defeated by the people of Indochina. Indeed, because the United States needed West Germany and Japan for their war in Vietnam – the argument went – these powers were able to achieve their “Economic Miracles” and set them on the path of neo-colonialism around the world.
Through archives of protest literature, this project shows that as the Vietnam War intensified, groups in both nations began to see parallels with their own past and a danger of repeating a history of genocidal war. At the same time, activists shared a critique of modern and ‘experimental’ weapons like napalm that made the American empire more dangerous than what came before it. Added to this was a unique proximity to American military bases, a reminder of complicity in US ambitions but also a chance to connect with anti-war GIs. Finally, the project examines parallel rise of the armed left in both West Germany and Japan through personal interactions at the 1969 Second International Anti-Imperial Conference and inspiration drawn from the so-called Yodogō hijacking in 1970.
Wednesday, May 22 at 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 662
37th and O St., N.W., Washington