Dr. Robert Surbrug Publishes New Book
LONGMEADOW, MA. — In Beyond Vietnam: The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974–1990, Bay Path College Assistant Professor of History Robert Surbrug reassesses the impact of the activist left on American politics after the Vietnam War. In the book, published by University of Massachusetts Press, Dr. Surbrug challenges the notion that political activism peaked in 1968, with the 1970 Kent State killings ending the decade of protest and ushering in the resurgence of the political right. Surbrug contests this thought by examining three protest movements that were direct descendants of Vietnam-era activism: the mobilization against nuclear energy; the nuclear weapons freeze, and the opposition to U.S. intervention in Central America. Drawing lessons from the successes and failures of the 1960s, Surbrug demonstrates how these movements had a significant impact on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
“Beyond Vietnam should appeal to a considerable audience, given the paucity of books dealing with the history of radical movements in the United States over the past 30 years. The book has two major strengths: first, its close-in, tactile engagement with how activism actually works, beginning with Sam Lovejoy’s spectacular tower-toppling through the various referenda, occupations, and campaigns; and second, its illumination of the connection between grassroots radicalism and mainstream liberal politics,” commented Van Gosse, author of Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History.
Beyond Vietnam shows that the rise of the right in the aftermath of the 1960s involved a divide of American politics, in which an increasingly strong conservative movement was vigorously challenged by an activist left and a reinvigorated mainstream liberalism. Surbrug placed his attention on Massachusetts because of its activist history. “By focusing on one state it allowed me to dissect the interactions between the established political organizations and the protest movements,” he said. “In fact, when I teach the course, America in the 1960s and 1970s, I try to show my students that there was a continuum of activism that went beyond the heyday of the 60s, and, in fact, that energy was directed to other areas.”
Surbrug found his research focus: the activist movements of the 1960s and their influence on the following decades while studying the Cold War in graduate school. “The Cold War era is a period of multiple social movements, some having a revolutionary impact on U.S. history, which is why I’ve always been attracted to this area of study,” said Surbrug. “From the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War to the Women’s Liberation Movement, this period was a time of great political protests and citizen activism, which shaped our country.”
For more information about Beyond Vietnam, visit http://www.umass.edu/umpress/spr_09/surbrug.htm .