Chronology of Political Events, 1954-1992

Chronology of Political Events, 1954-1992

Part One, 1954-1966

Part Two, 1967-1970

Part Three, 1971-1974

Part Four, 1975-1980

Part Five, 1981-1992

Part Six, Source Reference Guide

Author’s note: I compiled this chronology to organize my notes in preparation for writing Revolution in the Air. It covers key events in international and U.S. politics; mass movements and popular struggles; and especially developments on the U.S. left and within the current which came to be known as the New Communist Movement.

Following each entry one or more sources are listed in abbreviated form. The books, pamphlets, articles, journals or newspapers each abbreviation stands for are listed in the Source Reference Guide at the end. Fuller information about many of these sources is available in the bibliography posted elsewhere on this website.

Because of the chronology’s length (190 single-spaced pages) it is posted here in six parts. Part one covers 1954-1966; part two covers 1967-1970; part three covers 1971-1974; part four covers 1975-1980; part five covers 1981-1992; and part six consists of the Source Reference Guide.

Since I was not trying to develop a comprehensive chronology per se, some sections (for example the years from 1967 to 1980) include much more details than others. Also, I did not go back over the chronology to double-check and correct mistakes after I began writing my manuscript. If you notice errors, please send the correct information to me at so I can change this document accordingly.

I hope you find this of some use or interest.



Chronology Part One, 1954-1966



            January 25-February 17: Berlin Conference ends a five-year break in negotiations among the “Big Four” powers (U.S., USSR, Britain, France). Though resisted by Dulles, the meeting is held and – while no substantive agreements are reached – the participants sets dates for further meetings on various issues, in particular for the Geneva Conference on Indochina and Korea. This begins a process of substantive East-West negotiations, regarding Germany, Austria (where a settlement is reached May 15, 1955 for neutralization of the country and withdrawal of all Soviet troops), Indochina and Korea. This entrance into dialogue reflects the end of “Cold War I” in 1953 and the beginning of what Halliday called a period of “Oscillatory Antagonism” lasting until formal “detente” begins in 1969. (Second Cold War; Political Affairs April 1954; Century)

March 1: On the 37th Anniversary of the law that made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens, four Puerto Rican nationalists – Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Irvin Flores – unfurl a Puerto Rican flag and fire weapons from the gallery of the House of Representatives, wounding five Congressmen. They are imprisoned with sentences of 50 (Lebron) and 75 years, and along with Oscar Collazo – shot while trying to attack then-President Truman in Washington during the 1950 uprising on the island – they become the “five nationalist prisoners.” (Puerto Rico)

March: Beginning of the fall of Joe McCarthy with the Army-McCarthy hearings and Edward R. Murrow’s telecast attack on the senator broadcast March 6. On December 2, McCarthy is censured officially by a Senate vote of 67-22 for contempt of a Senate subcommittee, abuse of its members and insults to the Senate. (Haunted; Student Generation; Goines chron; SF Chronicle 3/5/98 in D-3)

May 7-8: Fall of Dien Bien Phu; The U.S. had explored conducting air strikes to rescue the French garrison, and also tentatively offered France nuclear weapons to stave off defeat, but there are hesitations in France and Britain and the deal for France to formally request the nuclear weapons and the U.S. to supply them for use falls through. (Almanac; Century; Hobsbawm; Coates in NLR #145/May-June 1984; Raskin/Fall)

May 17: Supreme Court rules segregation in public schools is illegal – “separate is inherently unequal” – in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. (Prize)

May: CIA-sponsored coup overthrows the reformist Arbenz government in Guatemala (Isserman; Barnet; Political Affairs August 1954)

Early in the year: First issue of Dissent, edited by Irving Howe, appears. (Isserman)

July 21: Geneva Agreements on Indochina are signed after complex negotiations, the Geneva Conference had opened on April 26. The Vietnamese are pressured by Zhou Enlai to make more concessions that they wish, the anti-imperialist forces in Cambodia are dissatisfied with the deal; although the U.S. delegate to the conference says the U.S. will not use force to disturb the agreements, Eisenhower says “The U.S. has not itself been a party to, or bound by, the decisions taken by the conference.” (Karnow; Century; Fact Sheet; Revolution Rescued; Raskin/Fall; Schurmann; Harding)

September: Khrushchev visits Beijing, several agreements are concluded, according to Schurmann this is the highest point of the Sino-Soviet alliance and the positive climate between the two powers continues until the Soviet 20th Congress in February 1956. . (Schurmann)

November 20: U.S. begins sending aid directly to the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, not through the French as formerly. On February 12, 1955 U.S. General O’Daniel takes over training of the South Vietnamese Army from the French. (Fact Sheet; Goines chron)

November 1: Algerian War of Independence against France is officially proclaimed and launched. (Student Generation; Said in NLR #180)


Malcolm X is appointed Minister of Nation of Islam Temple No. 7 in Harlem. (Allen)



            January: The Mattachine Society – founded in 1951 in Los Angeles by Harry Hay and other ex-CPUSA members to promote homosexual rights from a militant progressive perspective but after 1953 taken over by more conservative figures – begins publishing its own newsletter, The Mattachine Review. Mattachine is the first continuing organization of what becomes known as the homophile movement. (D’Emilio)

February 8: Malenkov, who had appeared to be in the strongest position to succeed Stalin after his death (March 5, 1953) is forced to resign as Soviet Premier, but he is given another responsible post, setting a new precedent for the ouster (without arrest or execution) of a Soviet leader. Bulganin becomes Premier but it is clear that Khrushchev, the “First Secretary” of the CPSU, is in charge. (Nove; Century)

February 9: AFL and CIO sign a merger agreement for creation of a single union center. The new AFL-CIO is born December 5 with the AFL’s George Meany as its president. (Almanac; Green; Untold)

Late March: Split in the “Correspondence Group” (which had originated in 1951 out of the “Johnson-Forest”/State Capitalism Tendency – Johnson is C.L.R. James, Forest is Raya Dunayevskaya – of the Trotskyist movement). Dunayevskaya and her followers leave to form News and Letters, remaining folks (with C.L.R. James offering advice in letters from exile in London) include Martin Glaberman and James and Grace Boggs, all three later to play important roles in the revival of the left in Detroit in the mid and late 1960s. James Boggs is editor of the group’s publication, Correspondence. (James)

April 18-24: Bandung “Conference of the Afro-Asian States” in Indonesia is the forerunner of the Non-Aligned Movement; key figures are Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Josef Broz Tito of Yugoslavia; 29 nations participate. At first this is essentially an Asian and African movement, involving Latin Americans only after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. People’s China participates in this meeting and signs the final communiqué. Richard Wright and Adam Clayton Powell are present. (Hobsbawm; Century; Black Scholar December 1976)

May 14: Warsaw Pact is signed. (Century)

May 15: Austrian State Treaty signed by the USSR, U.S., Britain and France; Austria becomes a neutral state and Soviet troops leave the country. (Century; Schurmann)

May 26-June 2: Khrushchev, Bulganin and Mikoyan reconcile with Tito during trip to Yugoslavia, saying there are “many roads to socialism.” (Century; Schurmann)

June 26: The Freedom Charter is adopted by a Congress of the People in South Africa held under the guidance of the African National Congress. (Frontline Supplement, September 30, 1985)

July 18-21: First East-West Summit Conference at Geneva, the heads of state of the U.S., Britain, France and the USSR meet each other. One result of the Summit is the opening of Sino-U.S. talks at the ambassadorial level in Poland, marking the first official contact between the U.S. and China since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China October 1, 1949. (Century; Schurmann)

August 8: 26th of July Movement is founded in Mexico City by Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries. (Century)

August 28: Emmett Till is murdered in Money, Mississippi, his (later admitted) killers are acquitted by an all-white jury, the case gets major nationwide publicity. (Freedom; Prize)

September 21: Eight women – four couples, including Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon – gather in San Francisco and within a few weeks form the Daughters of Bilitis. In October 1956 DOB publishes the first issue of The Ladder, which lasts until 1972. (D’Emilio; BAR January 1, 1998 in BMOV-1)

October 13: Allen Ginsberg gives the first public reading of Howl at the Six Gallery in San Francisco with Kenneth Rexroth presiding and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen also reading on the program; “it seemed a moment that allowed those present to see that a new force had arisen in American culture.” Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems is published in 1956 by City Lights (San Francisco). During this time “the beats” come to national prominence. (Utopia; Gitlin)

December 1: Rosa Parks refuses to yield her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama; the bus boycott begins on December 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. plays the central leadership role and rises to national prominence. The boycott ends in victory December 21, 1956. (Prize)


After a series of military defeats, the Philippine Communist Party (PKP), leader of the Huk insurgency, abandons the armed struggle in favor of concentrating on parliamentary struggle. (Rectify/Rebuild)

Publication of first edition of Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais (UE-United Electrical Workers & Cameron Associates, New York); this as well as the second and third editions will be reprinted many times, especially as many New Left activists turn their attention to Marxism and the working class in the late 1960s/early ‘70s. (Untold)

Two landmark films focusing on “youth rebellion” are released, Nicholas’ Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean – who died in an auto crash at age 24 on September 30, 1955, three days before the film opened – and Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle. The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando (“What are you rebelling against? Whadda ya got?”), had been released in 1953. (Gitlin; Utopia)



February 14-25: Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. At the Congress, Nikita Khrushchev gives his “secret speech” with its revelations about Stalin and the extent of his crimes, terror and repression. The Congress criticizes the “cult of personality” and adopts a new perspective that, with nuclear weapons and the change in the world balance of forces, Lenin’s thesis that world wars are inevitable as long as imperialism exists is no longer valid – rather world war in no longer inevitable. Additionally, there are supposedly new possibilities for a peaceful transition to socialism in many capitalist countries. The Congress, especially the revelations about Stalin, sends shock waves through the International Communist Movement (see April 28 entry below for the response of the CPUSA), with the Chinese and Albanians critical (at first privately and only later openly) of Khrushchev’s line, and Italian Party head Palmiro Togliatti most aggressively arguing the case for a new, “polycentric” world communist movement. Within the USSR there is a “thaw,” relaxation of censorship, freeing of many prisoners, posthumous rehabilitation of many CPSU members killed by Stalin, etc. The height of “de-Stalinization” is reaching in 1961, afterwards and especially following Khrushchev’s fall in 1964 things “tighten up” again. (20th Congress; Starobin; Isserman; Haywood; Nove; Cohen; Line of March No. 11)

April 18: It is announced that the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau, formed September 21-28, 1947) has been dissolved. (Century)

April 28: First meeting of the CPUSA’s full national committee in five years, at which general secretary Eugene Dennis gives his report entitled The Communists Take a New Look (text in D-7). The last full convention had been in 1950. The term “new look” had first been used by Dennis at the anniversary meeting for the Daily Worker in January 1956. A summary of Khrushchev’s speech had been available at the meeting, but the full text was not published in the U.S. until June after the U.S. State Department released a text to the press on June 4. The Daily Worker reprinted excerpts the next day and the full text in the Sunday Worker. (Starobin; Isserman; Haywood)

April: The Diem regime formally reiterates its “non-recognition” of the Geneva Accords as the last of the French Expeditionary Force withdraws from Vietnam. With the backing of the Eisenhower administration, Diem refuses to hold the elections mandated by the Geneva agreement; the U.S. Assistance Military Advisory Group begins training and equipping the South Vietnamese Army. About 700 U.S. military advisers arrive in Vietnam. (Century; Spoke; Fact Sheet)

June 28-30: Rioting in Poznan, Poland sets the stage for Gomulka’s return to power after 5 years in prison as an anti-Stalinist. (Almanac; Century)

June: Meeting sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) at Carnegie Hall featuring A.J. Muste, Norman Thomas, Eugene Dennis and W.E.B. DuBois; draws 2,000, perhaps largest at any radical meeting since the 1948 Wallace campaign. And this spring the first issue of Liberation magazine appears; it is a radical pacifist publication whose initiators included Muste, Dave Dellinger and Bayard Rustin. (Isserman; Gitlin).

July: The U.S. withdraws its promise of aid to Egypt to help build the Aswan dam, partly in response to Nasser buying Czech arms. Nasser in reply nationalizes the Suez Canal on July 26. (Roots)

September 13: publication of CPUSA’s “draft resolution” for the upcoming 16th convention. (Starobin; Isserman; Haywood)

September: Eighth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party declares that “transition” period is over, period of constructing socialism had begun and the main task is to develop the productive forces, Liu Shaoqi plays a leading role. (Trial)

October 23-November 4: Hungarian uprising. Imre Nagy installed as prime minister after students clash with Soviet troops and the troops are at first withdrawn from Budapest. Nagy could not restore order, announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw pact, and Soviet tanks rolled into the cities November 4, overthrew the Nagy government and, after a few days of fighting, put down resistance. During the crisis 100,000 West Berliners protesting the Soviet action are dissuaded from storming the East German guardposts by mayor Willy Brandt (who is mayor from 1957-1966) who fears a bloodbath and the outbreak of a wider war. Also note: China had been supportive of Nagy – consistent with a policy of favoring autonomy for and equality between the various ruling parties within the socialist camp – until he announced that he was taking Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact; at that point, Beijing – based on their current view that party autonomy had to be within the camp – broadcast a statement denouncing him. (Starobin; Isserman; Haywood; Hall-S; Schurmann)

October 29: After tensions had been building since Egypt’s July 26 nationalization of the Suez Canal, Israel (by secret agreement with France and England) invades Egypt; Britain and France invade November 5; Cease-fire forced by U.S. November 6. During the crisis, the U.S. makes “an overt and explicit [nuclear] threat toward the USSR through the global actions of U.S. strategy forces” to deter the Soviets from intervening on the side of Egypt – this is the first of at least 4 times over the next 17 years such an explicit threat was made, and one of at least 19 times that the U.S. at some level indicated it was preparing to use nuclear weapons. (Second Cold War; Almanac; Hall-S; Roots)

November 6: Eisenhower beats Stevenson in presidential election. (Almanac)

November 18: CPUSA national committee meets and is deadlocked on Hungary. Ends with statement that they neither support nor condemn the invasion. (See Isserman, p. 30).

December 21: Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory. (Prize)


In the wake of Hungary and Suez, the first “New Left” takes shape in Britain (the phrase itself is borrowed from “nouvelle gauche” concept put forward by the editor of France Observateur Claude Bourdet). The main expressions of the new current are the magazines Universities and Left Review (fist issue appears in 1957, it is “independent socialist” with Stuart Hall as an editor) and The New Reasoner (started as a critical bulletin, The Reasoner, within the CP in July 1956, name changed after its founders leave the party or are expelled, “dissident communist,” E.P. Thompson is among the core). (Hall-S; NLR #153/Sept-Oct 1985)

End of “Operation Wetback,” which in its three years of official operation (1953-1956) was linked with the other repressions of the McCarthy era and deported more than two million people to Mexico. (Chicano)

Rock & roll is here to stay: 1955 and 1956 are the breakthrough years for rock & roll’s explosive emergence into the center of popular music. The term originated in June 1951 with Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed, who started a rhythm and blues show on a mainly white radio station for which he coined the euphemism “rock & roll,” since the Black-rooted R&B was considered disreputable by the white-owned music and radio industry. By 1955 chart-toppers included Bill Haley and His Comets Rock Around the Clock, Chuck Berry’s Maybelline, Fats Domino’s Ain’t That a Shame and Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti. In 1956 Elvis Presley – now on RCA Records – hits No. 1 with Heartbreak Hotel, followed by other hits; he appeared three times on the Ed Sullivan Show that year and made his first movie, Love Me Tender. White artists are now “covering” songs written and originally recorded by Blacks and (along with the record companies) reaping the profits. (Gitlin; Top 40)

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorizes 41,000 miles of Interstate freeways: a major boost to suburbanization: between 1946 and 1958, outside the farms, 85% of all new housing was built beyond the central cities. (Gitlin)

Irish Republican Army begins armed campaign against Unionist regime in Northern Ireland; ends in failure in 1962. (Student Generation)

The African Party for the Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands (PAIGC) is founded, Amilcar Cabral is the key figure. (Cabral; Guardian July 7, 1975 in BTr5; MR December 1975)

Publication of C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (Oxford University Press, London and New York); William H. Whyte, The Organization Man; Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: The Problem of Youth in the Organized System (New York, Random House);



January 10-11: In the aftermath of the successful Montgomery bus boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded under the leadership of Martin Luther King. (Prize; Spoke)

            February 9-12: 16th National Convention of the CPUSA in New York, which the Maoist New Communist Movement as the gathering which consolidated the party around a revisionist line. For broad left and public reaction at the time, see Starobin for citations of numerous contemporary articles commenting on the crisis in U.S. communism; and also – page 226/227 and notes to these pages – for the very contradictory ways the convention was summarized. (Starobin; Isserman; Class Struggle #4-5)

March 6: Ghana becomes the first Black African territory to win independence from the European colonial powers, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. (Prize; Almanac; Student Generation)

March: Some of the participants from a December meeting initiated by A.J. Muste (that meeting, which drew 35 people, turned out to be the high point of the effort) formally launch the American Forum for Socialist Education as a left regroupment effort with Muste as chair. The effort is short lived. (Isserman; CrossRoads No. 52).

May 6: Washington announces it is sending an Air Force detachment of Matador guided missiles, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to Taiwan. the announcement is virtually ignored in the U.S. but noted in China with extreme alarm; it appears to Beijing as if the thaw of 1954-56 is being replaced by new imperialist aggressive moves. (Schurmann)

June: Power struggle in Moscow: Khrushchev is outvoted in the Politburo, but then convenes and wins a vote in the Central Committee, the “anti-party group” of Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich (and others) is criticized and demoted to minor posts (but again, not subject to any legal penalty). (Nove)

September 24: Eisenhower sends federal troops to Little Rock to enforce school integration. (Almanac)

October 4: Sputnik I is launched. Only a few months previously, in August, the USSR had successfully fired its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). These steps – breakthroughs for Soviet technology and also prestige throughout the world – provided the fuel for the outcry about a “missile gap” that arose in the U.S. and was a factor in Kennedy’s campaign and election in 1960. They also were apparently key factors in Mao ZeDong’s speech in November 1957 in Moscow – where he attended the international meeting of communist parties, see below – in which he asserted that “the east wind prevails over the west wind,” implying a shift in the world balance toward the socialist camp – a perspective which was at the core of Soviet doctrine at the time. He is also quoted as saying in that speech that “the socialist camp must have one head, and that head is the Soviet Union; the communist and workers’ parties of all countries must have one head, and that head is the Soviet Communist Party.” (Century; Schurmann)

October 15: Soviets sign a secret agreement on sharing nuclear technology with China which may include a promise to provide China with a sample of an atomic bomb. The Soviets unilaterally abrogate this agreement in June 1959 (see entry below) and both the agreement and its renunciation only become public in 1963 with the Soviet signing of the Test Ban Treaty. (Schurmann)

November 16: “Declaration of Communist and Workers Parties of Socialist Countries” issued in Moscow after meeting of 12 ruling communist parties; from November 16-19 representatives of 64 parties meet in Moscow and unanimously adopt the declaration, though later the world learns of the intense struggles that went on in preparing it especially between the Soviets and the Chinese. This is the “Moscow Declaration” argued over in the Sino-Soviet polemics of 1962-64. The Declaration also sets off a fight in the CPUSA over whether to “adopt” the declaration. Finally adopted at February 1958 National Committee meeting after John Gates’ resignation (Polemic on the General Line; Haywood; Century).

Fall: Clark resigns from CP in September; Daily Worker forced to shut down because Foster group withholds funds in December; a little later Gates resigns from CP. (See Isserman; Haywood gives January 1958 for date of Gates resignation)

Fall: Harry Haywood completes For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question for the internal fight in the CP, later adopted as an official position of the POC and much later (1975) reprinted and heavily promoted by the October League. (Haywood)

Fall: A newspaper ad against nuclear tests sparks the formation of the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. Over the next couple of years peace activism grows on campuses: a Student SANE is formed. In spring 1959 the AFSC sponsors the formation of a Student Peace Union (SPU). At the other end of the political spectrum, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is formed in September 1960 at William F. Buckley’s family manor in Connecticut. (Gitlin)


AFL-CIO expels the Teamsters for “unethical conduct.” (Goines chron; Frontline, April 10, 1989)

“Battle of Algiers,” systematic use of torture by French troops, beginnings of antiwar movement inside France. (Student Generation)

Founding of the Situationist International, some of whose ideas (though often reduced only to slogans) became prominent in the French upheaval of 1968. (NLR #174/March-April 1989)

Publication of Jack Kerouac, On the Road (Viking, New York); Robert Lindner, Must You Conform?; Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders; Lewis Coser and Irving Howe, The American Communist Party: A Critical History, 1919-1957 (Boston, Beacon; also cited as New York, Frederick A. Praeger); Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York, Viking) – Draper’s American Communism and Soviet Russia appears in 1960; Paul Baran, Political Economy of Growth (Monthly Review Press, New York) – important in radical literature around imperialism, center/periphery, development/underdevelopment models – and reprinted as a Modern Reader book in 1968; the novel On the Beach – about the aftermath of nuclear war – is a bestseller, the movie version follows in 1959; Anna Louise Strong, The Stalin Era (Mainstream, New York)



January: China begins its “Great Leap Forward” – scrapping the five-year plan approved at the Eighth CPC Congress – with backyard steel furnaces, people’s communes, etc.; the Central Committee vote to proceed is actually at the end of 1957. (Trial; Jacoby; NYT/2-20-97; Century)

June 16: Supreme Court bans denial of passports to suspected Communists, including Paul Robeson, who had been denied a passport in 1952 after a visit to the USSR. (Goines chron)

June: Now that Gates has resigned and the Dennis/Foster leadership declare victory over revisionism, at this month’s CP NC meeting Robert Thompson issues an anti-factional ultimatum to the “anti-revisionists.” (Haywood)

June: Socialist Party Convention approves merger with the Max Schachtman-led Independent Socialist League (of which Michael Harrington is a member, and a key figure in ISL’s Young Socialist League); after a summer referendum, in the fall ISL’ers enter the SP. (Isserman)

July 14: Overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq removes the “home country” of the U.S.-sponsored “Baghdad Pact.” Iraqi troops had been ordered to attack Syria and detach it from the just-formed United Arab Republic with Egypt (which is dissolved in 1961), but the troops, influenced by rising Arab nationalism, turned around to overthrow the pro-U.S. regime. Two days later U.S. Marines land in Lebanon to protect the right-wing government of Camille Chamoun, which had been engaged in battles with Arab nationalists in that country. Three days later British paratroopers land in Jordan to shore up the regime of King Hussein, which was also under nationalist pressure. (Roots; Barnet; Second Cold War)

July: Most serious confrontation yet over the “offshore islands” of Quemoy and Matsu between China and Taiwan backed by the U.S. (an earlier crisis over these islands had taken place in spring 1955). Chiang Kai-shek’s “rollback regime” had deployed 100,000 troops on the islands trying to provoke China and push the U.S. into backing with force his ambitions to return to the mainland. Many charge the Soviets with giving little if any support to the Chinese; others argue that the Soviet nuclear umbrella over China existed and was a major force in restraining the U.S. from “unleashing” Chiang Kai-shek. (Peck on China; Second Cold War; Century for November Khrushchev letters; Handbook; Schurmann)

August 16-17: Folks from the “Marxist-Leninist Caucus” in the CPUSA, some expelled and some quitting the party, form the “Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (POC)” (Haywood gives name as “Provisional Organizing Committee for a Communist Party” and a slightly different account) at founding convention in New York. Harry Haywood (who resigns quickly, on October 25), Ted Allen and Noel Ignatin are among the founders, Armando Roman is chosen general secretary. About 70 members. (ARC45-50; Ignatin; Haywood; Class Struggle No. 1).

December 15: Mao resigns from the presidency of China and is replaced by Liu Shaoqi, a loss of power for Mao that he only regains in the summer of 1966 just before the launching of the Cultural Revolution. See also July 1959 entry below on the end of the Great Leap Forward. (Schurmann; Hobsbawm; Trial; Century)


First Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Aldermaston march in Britain. CND peaks in 1960-61 and is in decline by 1963. (Student Generation; Hall-S)

World Peace Council founded in Prague. (Newport in Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1986)

Publication of John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Boston, Houghton Mifflin) which Hobsbawm cites as one of the “major texts of Golden Age reformism” along with Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology (New York; Collier, 1960, also cited as Glencoe, Illinois, Free Press, 1960), Anthony Crosland, The Future of Socialism, and Gunnar Myrdal, Beyond the Welfare State, all written between 1956 and 1960.

Publication of C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War III (Simon and Schuster, New York); Facing Reality: New Society, Where to Look for It, How to Bring It Closer by Grace Lee (Boggs) and C.L.R. James (Correspondence Group, Detroit).



            January 1: Batista flees Cuba, for a brief moment a military junta takes power but the next day a general strike paralyzes the country and Che Guevara’s column enters Havana; on January 8 Fidel arrives in the city. The Cuban Revolution triumphs. Huge impact throughout Latin America and on the emerging New Left in the U.S. (Gosse; Gitlin; Che)

April 16: John Foster Dulles resigns as U.S. Secretary of State; he dies a month later. He and his brother – Allen Dulles, long time head of the CIA, are among the most hard-line and belligerent anticommunists in high posts in the U.S. government. (Schurmann)

Spring: Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule, suppressed by military force. (Schurmann)

June 20: Soviets unilaterally abrogate a secret agreement on sharing nuclear technology with China that had been signed October 15, 1957, apparently as a condition of détente with the U.S. and the U.S. not giving nuclear weapons to West Germany. (Among the background facts is Mao’s statement that even if half of mankind died in a nuclear war, the result would be the other half building socialism. Also, according to Schurmann, the 1957 Agreement was secret and both it and the fact that the Soviets had abrogated it in 1959 according to the Chinese as “a gift to Eisenhower” [whom Khrushchev would meet at Camp David in September – see below] were revealed only in 1963 when the Soviets signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty with the U.S. against strenuous Chinese objections.) Also according to Schurmann, this Soviet reversal on nuclear weapons was the “great blow that sparked the split between China and Russia” – “the Sino-Soviet split began in the summer of 1959.” At the same time, the Chinese perceived that the Soviet’s were pursuing a detente that would preserve the status quo on Taiwan, due to lukewarm Soviet support for China during the confrontations with the U.S. and Taiwan over Quemoy and Matsu in 1954 and again in 1958; and the Chinese also were unhappy with the Soviets apparent tilt toward supporting India in the first Sino-Indian border clashes in August-September 1959 (even heavier clashes occurred later, in October 1962). (See Jacoby, Polemic on the General Line; Medvedevs in NLR #130/Nov-Dec 1981; also see Second Cold War and its citing of John Gittings, The World and China, 1922-1972, London, 1974; Peck on China; Schurmann; Century; Viewpoint Vol. 3 No. 3).

July 8: Major Dale Buis and Sgt. Chester Durand killed are the first U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam. (Karnow)

July: Bitter internal fight in CPC ending with Mao’s “Great Leap” effectively abandoned. It had been slowed earlier, with Mao replaced as head of state on December 15, 1958 by Liu Shaoqi, though Mao remained chair of CPC. At least partially due to the policies of the Great Leap, China experiences “probably the greatest famine of the twentieth century” (Hobsbawm) in 1959-61. At the same time, the “Lushan Meetings” of party leaders in July and August are debating the implications of the Soviet abrogation of the nuclear agreement, and as a result the Minister of Defense, Peng Tehuai, who is a strong advocate of a close alliance with the Soviets and reliance on them for technologically sophisticated weaponry, is purged. (Hobsbawm; Trial; Century; Schurmann)

Summer: In Dissent Irving Howe attacks C. Wright Mills’ The Causes of World War III for being too anti-American and pro-Soviet; Mills replies “as regards [U.S.] foreign policy, from what, tell me, do you dissent?” In fall 1961, Howe in Dissent co-authors an article “New Styles in Fellow-Traveling” essentially an attack on the New Left, and in October 1963 (Isserman [wrongly?] says 1962) a meeting between Dissent editors and SDS leaders ends in impasse over Dissent’s insistence that anticommunism must be a pillar of any new left. (Isserman; Gitlin)

September 15-27: Khrushchev visits the U.S. where he meets with Eisenhower in “the spirit of Camp David.” Immediately following Khrushchev’s meeting with Eisenhower he flies to Beijing for the Tenth Anniversary celebration of the PRC, but he receives an icy welcome from Mao and other Chinese leaders; Khrushchev never returned to China. The AFL-CIO under George Meany had opposed Eisenhower’s invitation to Khrushchev to visit the U.S. (Polemic on the General Line; Second Cold War; Viewpoint Vol. 3 No. 3; Century; Schurmann)

December 10: Seventeenth Convention of CPUSA opens in New York, with the party decimated by losses in membership since 1956/57 – perhaps down to about 5,000 members or less after having 20,000 in 1956. Gus Hall gets the post of General Secretary; Dennis has a stroke just before the convention. (Dennis)


Group led by Sam Marcy (“Global Class War Caucus”) leaves the SWP to form the Workers World Party; a key issue is their defense of the Soviet role in Hungary – which was similarly a key issue in the formation of the POC. They approach POC but are rebuffed. (Ignatin; GCW)

Studies on the Left begins publication in Madison, Wisconsin, carrying C. Wright Mills’ “Letter to the New Left” in its premier issue. The magazine is largely the product of graduate students of William Appleman Williams; it moves to New York City in 1964 with James Weinstein then playing the key editorial role. (Student Generation; Aronowitz)

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is founded – initially called the R.G. Davis Mime Troupe – led by R.G. Davis. In 1960, Peter Schumann founds the Bread and Puppet Theater in New York City. (Mime)

The American Socialist journal – founded by the Cochran-Clarke faction after its split from the SWP in 1953 – ceases publication. (Noia)

Forty-six day strike against seven New York hospitals by Local 1199 – then a small local of mostly pharmacists – marks the beginning of a new wave of organizing the mass of hospital workers; though 1199 does not win recognition this time it scores some gains and lays the basis for recognition and contracts in the 1960s. (Hard Times No. 87)

Congress passes the Landrum-Griffen Act, allowing restrictions on mass picketing and outlawing secondary boycotts. (Green)

German SPD at its Congress at Bad Godesberg and adopts a new program eliminating references to Marxism, celebrating a mixed economy, accepting German membership in NATO and generally moving way to the right of previous official stance.

(NLR #145 & 131)

Publication of Century of Struggle by Eleanor Flexner (Cambridge, Harvard University Press)



            January: The Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) changes its name to Students for a Democratic Society: SDS. (Sale)

January: Albert Camus dies in auto crash at 46 in the first week of the year. (Gitlin)

February 1: The start of the sit-in movement when four Black college students refuse to move from a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina. By September 1961, more than 70,000 people will have participated in sit-ins for civil rights. (Carson)

March 17: Eisenhower (secretly) approves CIA training of Cuban exiles to overthrow the new revolutionary regime. As U.S. hostility to Cuba rises, U.S. liberals and radicals form the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in early 1960. Starting with a small handful of members the group grows to 7,000 members in 25 chapters and 40 student groups. FPCC helped coordinate Fidel’s visit to New York in fall 1960 (see below) and led protests against the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. It sponsored trips to Cuba, and one in July 1960 included Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), Robert F. Williams and Harold Cruse. The group declined afterwards and went out of existence in 1963. (Che; Goines chron says Eisenhower’s approval was February 17; CrossRoads No. 46; Kelley; and for details on FPCC see Van Gosse’s book Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left)

March 21: Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, 69 people protesting pass laws are killed, ANC is banned soon after, it turns to armed struggle. (Frontline Supplements September 30, 1985 and January 19, 1987)

April 16-18: Founding conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Raleigh, North Carolina, the organization which spearheads the freedom struggle in the South over the next five years. The meeting was called by Ella Baker, executive director of SCLC, but she resisted efforts to subvert SNCC’s autonomy. The meeting draws more than 120 Black activists representing 56 colleges and high schools in 12 southern states and the District of Columbia, as well as a dozen southern white students and representatives of various other student and reform organizations. Marion Barry is chosen as SNCC’s first chair, the organization launches a newspaper, the Student Voice. SNCC establishes a fuller organizational structure and clarifies its goals and strategies at its second conference October 14-16, 1960 in Atlanta. Following the conference Chuck McDew becomes SNCC chair, and he serves until 1963 when John Lewis is elected. (Carson; Prize)

At SNCC’s founding meeting, Guy Carawan, then musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, brings the song We Shall Overcome – which already has a long history in the Black freedom movement – into the sit-in movement and it becomes the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Highlander is an important institution in bringing together and training networks of civil rights activists (one of whom was Rosa Parks); it had been founded as one of many “radical labor colleges in 1932, it was directed from 1933 to 1973 by Myles Horton. Highlander was forced to close by segregationist pressure in 1959, it reopened in Knoxville as Highlander Research and Education Center, and then moved in 1972 in New Market Tennessee, and survived into the ‘70s. The Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), founded in 1938, and its newspaper, The Southern Patriot, launched 1942, also play an early role in building support for SNCC, especially among southern whites; the organization is left-identified and one of its leaders, Carl Braden, serves a year in jail in the late 1950s for refusing to answer questions before HUAC. (Carson; Prize; King; Gitlin; Radicalism; Left Encyclopedia; Southern Patriot various issues)

April: Publication of Long Live Leninism! by the Chinese Communist Party, opening public ideological salvo in the emerging Sino-Soviet split. Chinese allege it is a response to CPSU attacks on CPC at various Congresses of CPs around the world. In practical terms, the CPC in this dispute also alleges that during this year the Soviets renege on economic agreements, withdraw technical advisers, etc. – see July entry below. (Trial; Polemic on the General Line p59 & p533 & other pp.; Viewpoint Vol. 3 No. 3)

Spring: Protests, including a vigil at San Quentin prison largely made up of UC Berkeley students, surround the execution of Caryl Chessman, a convicted rapist who had eloquently pleaded his innocence. (Goines; Gitlin; Viorst; Streets)

May 1: U-2 spy plane shot down over Russia, pilot Francis Gary Powers captured alive. U.S. response justifying the spy missions rather than apologizing for the intrusion leads to the failure of May 16 Paris Summit, and, according to Roy & Zhores Medvedev, along with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis is a key factor in Soviets decision to try to end overwhelming U.S. military-technological superiority; that is, shifting (beginning in 1961 and consolidated by 1964 with the fall of Khrushchev) from “minimum deterrence” to the pursuit of “strategic parity” and the capacity to fight a protracted nuclear war. (Medvedevs in NLR #130/Nov-Dec 1981; Second Cold War; Almanac)

May 9: FDA approves the first oral contraceptives – “the pill.” Within six years one out of five American women of childbearing age has a prescription (Goines chron).

May 13: HUAC opens hearings in San Francisco, police hose protesters down the City Hall steps with 31 arrests; genesis of the film “Operation Abolition,” made by HUAC but so “camp” it became a recruiting film for the new left. (Goines; Gitlin Rorabaugh)

Spring: Socialist Workers Party (SWP) launches a youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) (O’Brien)

June 30: The Congo wins independence from Belgium under left-wing leader Patrice Lumumba. (Second Cold War; Almanac)

July: Sudden recall of 1,390 Soviet advisers, academics and engineers from China, taking blueprints and plans with them; 343 contracts and 257 scientific and technical projects are scrapped as a result. (FEER/ Revisionism; Viewpoint Vol. 3 No. 3; Schurmann)

August 27: Mob of whites attack desegregation demonstrators in Monroe, North Carolina, where armed self-defense advocate Robert F. Williams heads NAACP chapter. Williams is charged with kidnapping a white couple, flees to Cuba, lives there until 1966, then goes to China, then in 1968-69 goes to Tanzania and returns to the U.S. September 12, 1969. During this period he continues to publish the Crusader – which he had launched while in the U.S. – promoting revolutionary nationalism and armed struggle. James Forman, who had come from Chicago with other freedom riders to support the movement, is present in Monroe. (Carson; SalesJr; ; Ahmad in Black Scholar May-June 1978; Guardian, April 26, 1972 & September 27, 1969)

September 19-October 13: U.N. General Assembly Session attended by top leaders of most of the socialist countries. Khrushchev addresses the assembly on September 23 and again on September 28, where he pounds his shoe on the table and utters his widely publicized “we will bury you” remarks (he means economically, but the image popularized in the West drops out this point). Fidel Castro also attends the Assembly, but rather than stay at a fancy downtown New York Hotel he and the Cuban delegation stay in Harlem at facilities arranged by Malcolm X then still with the Nation of Islam. The Cubans receive an enthusiastic reception in Harlem, Fidel and Malcolm hold a well-publicized two-hour meeting at the Theresa Hotel. (Century; SalesJr.)

November 8: John F. Kennedy beats Vice-President Richard Nixon in a close contest for the presidency. (Almanac)

November 6-30: Meeting of 81 Communist and Workers Parties in Moscow, issues the “Moscow Statement” frequently referred to in later Sino-Soviet polemics. Again, intense struggle at the meeting, some of which only comes to light later. Liu Shaoqi is the CPC’s delegate to the conference, and his inability to deflect Soviet attacks on China (often by proxy through attacks on Albania) while China is in the midst of grave difficulties – the famine following the Great Leap, along with Soviet withdrawal of advisers – is, according to Schurmann, a “humiliation” for him. (Polemic on the General Line; Century; Viewpoint Vol. 3 No. 3; Schurmann)

December 20: The National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Vietnam is officially launched. (Schurmann; Century)


Universities and Left Review and The New Reasoner merge in Britain to form New Left Review, Stuart Hall is first editor. Later (1962-64) there is an editorial and political change in NLR as Perry Anderson becomes editor and the magazine becomes more distinctively (or perhaps “orthodox”) Marxist. (Hall-S; MR October 1981; 1993 Resignation Statement in DCR-3)

The Folk Music Boom: Through the late 1950s and early ‘60s Pete Seeger is kept from a mass audience – and instead restricted to performing in left-wing enclaves – because of the blacklist. But he (and the other members of the Weavers and others) are a large if often behind-the-scenes influence in the growing popularity of folk music via Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio and others. According to Gitlin, folk music “was the main bridge between red-diaper babydom and the rest of their generation.” (Gitlin)

ILWU, West Coast longshore left-wing union led by Harry Bridges, negotiates the Modernization and Mechanization (M&M) pact, allowing new technology into the industry in return for lifetime job security for those already employed, pension benefits and other items. (CrossRoads No. 27; Aronowitz in SR March-April 1979/reprinted in Socialist Register 1980)

Malcolm X begins editing Mr. Muhammad Speaks to the Blackman newspaper in Harlem, which soon becomes simply Muhammad Speaks and its offices move to Chicago. By the late 1960s the paper has a 300,000-a-week circulation, and in the very early 1970s 650,000-a-week, second largest of any weekly newspaper in the U.S., and covers many issues from an anti-imperialist perspective. Muhammad Speaks ceased publishing after the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad, his son Wallace renamed the paper The Bilalian News and it folded up 3-4 years later. (Woodford in Underground)

Timothy Leary and assistant Richard Alpert (later Baba Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now in 1971) begin psilopcybin research project at Harvard and hold psychedelic sessions on their own outside the university. In 1961-62 he begins to use LSD. In May 1963 Albert and Leary are fired from Harvard and they accelerate their campaign promoting widespread use of psychedelics. (Acid)

Huge demonstrations of up to a million people in Japan against the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Pact; the Japanese CP and the Zengakuren student federation are the central mobilizers. Eisenhower is forced to cancel a proposed trip to Japan. (Katsiaficas; Apology)

A decade of major demographic changes: world population is 3 billion (an increase of 17% from 1950; U.S. population is 179.3 million (16% increase); between 1950 and 1960 U.S. suburbs grow 40 times faster than central city areas, and automobile registrations increase by 22 million. California population is 15.7 million (increase of 33%). (Goines chron; Davis in NLR #143/Jan-Feb 1984)

And finally, there is an overall “social revolution” in the nature of life pushed by urbanization, technological change and its spread to previously unaffected areas, etc.: Hobsbawm writes: “For 80% of humanity, the Middle Ages ended suddenly in the 1950s, or perhaps better still, they were felt to end in the 1960s.”

Publication of The Great Contest: Russia and the West, by Isaac Deutscher (London, Oxford University Press; U.S. Ballantine paperback in 1961)



January 3: U.S. severs relations with Cuba. (Che)

January 31: Eugene Dennis dies. (Dennis)

February 12: Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba is murdered by a Belgian mercenary in the service of secessionist leader Moise Tshombe, after being handed over to Tshombe by President Joseph Kasavubu who had conducted a coup against Lumumba. Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, who had become a CIA “asset” in 1959, gains a high post in the army. Over the next several years mercenaries and Belgian troops are employed by the regime to fight rebellions by followers of Lumumba. (Century; Second Cold War; Barnet; Almanac; SF Examiner and SF Chronicle September 8, 1997 in BMOV-6)

March 1: President Kennedy announces formation of the U.S. Peace Corps. (Goines chron)

March 13: Kennedy gives his major speech announcing the Alliance for Progress for Latin America, which includes some pressure on the most right-wing regimes and oligarchies for reforms while acting as a cover for increased counterinsurgency programs and the soon-to-come Bay of Pigs invasion. (Goodwin; Second Cold War)

April 17: Bay of Pigs invasion, a failure by April 19; protests against the U.S. role on U.S. college campuses. At Berkeley, Max Schachtman gives a speech giving qualified endorsement to the invasion – he is opposed by the Berkeley YPSL chapter led by Hal Draper. (Almanac, Isserman; Century; Che)

April: Bob Dylan, recently arrived in New York, opens for John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Fold City, makes a splash, is soon signed by Columbia Records, and releases a series of albums that deeply affect popular music and the emerging protest movements. (Rock & Roll; Gitlin)

May 4: First “freedom riders” (sponsored by CORE) leave Washington, D.C. in two buses; on May 14 a white mob in Anniston, Alabama burns one of the buses and beats up the riders on both. The riders are beaten again when they regroup and reach Birmingham the next day. CORE leaders discontinue the freedom ride, but SNCC activists continue with further efforts, on May 20 riders including John Lewis are beaten in Montgomery. On May 21 1,000 Blacks gathered in Martin Luther King’s First Baptist Church are besieged by a white mob and it takes federal marshals and national guardsmen to protect those inside. The Kennedy administration tries to get the protesters to stop and “cool off”; its reluctance to protect demonstrators or press for civil rights at home while proclaiming democratic freedoms abroad has a major radicalizing impact on SNCC and others. A Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee is formed by representatives of SNCC, CORE and SCLC and in the following months hundreds ride and are arrested. The Interstate Commerce Commission rules segregation in bus and train terminals is illegal on September 22. (Carson; Gitlin)

August 13: “The Wall” goes up in Berlin amid a simmering Berlin crisis. The crisis provided the climate for congressional approval of new President Kennedy’s plans for expansion of U.S. non-nuclear forces, as Kennedy and McNamara move to establish a counter-guerrilla capacity in the armed forces and begin to direct priorities toward anticipated interventions in the Third World. Major influences on U.S. policy-makers are the 1959 victory of the Cuban Revolution, and then in 1962, the achievement of Algerian independence; Henry Kissinger is one of the voices warning that without a buildup of counterinsurgency capability the U.S. will not be able to win “limited wars” that cannot be prevented by the threat of Massive Retaliation. (Almanac; Student Generation; Gitlin; Century; Klare)

Late summer: The activist National Indian Youth Council is founded by Clyde Warrior and others in Gallup, New Mexico, among other activities it publishes a broadside entitled Americans Before Columbus.. (Hurricane; Crazy Horse and COINTELPRO give other dates for the NIYC’s founding)

September 1-6: First Formal Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade, with 25 countries participating. Over the following decades the Non-Aligned Movement holds periodic Summits, conferences, and various-level consultative meetings, as does its various sub-committees and executive committee. The group is a major force in world politics in the later 1960s and the ‘70s, but declines after the mid-1980s. (Black Scholar December 1976; Century)

September-October: James Forman goes to work at SNCC National Headquarters in Atlanta and a week later agrees to become executive secretary (Carson)

October: 22nd Congress of the CPSU, height of criticism of Stalin whose body is removed from the Lenin mausoleum, new CPSU programme is adopted. Khrushchev also attacks Albanian Party, Zhou Enlai walks out of the Congress, full dimensions of Sino-Soviet split become apparent to U.S. communists. (Nove; Ignatin re: impact on POC; Polemic on the General Line).

November 1: Some 50,000 women demonstrate around the country against the resumption of nuclear tests, the beginning of the Women Strike for Peace organization, which reaches its peak membership in 1963. (Gitlin; Left Encyclopedia)

December 16: First action by Umkhonto we Sizwe, armed wing of the ANC. (Frontline Supplement January 19, 1987)


New Politics magazine, an advocate of “third camp” socialism begins publication. It folds in 1978 and is revived in 1986. (Frontline, March 30, 1987)

Freedomways magazine, “A Quarterly Review of the Freedom Movement” is launched (Freedomways, Fall 1961/Vol. 1. No. 3)

MPLA militants attack the Luanda prison, launching the armed struggle in Angola that in 1974-1976 will prove pivotal in the history of southern Africa and Portugal, and also in the history of the New Communist Movement and international Maoism. (LSM News No. 13)

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) is founded in Nicaragua (NLR #164)

The July 26th Movement and Popular Socialist Party (the traditional CP in Cuba) join together to form the Communist Party of Cuba; the formal establishment of a unified Marxist-Leninist Party takes place in 1965 and the First Congress in 1975. (Line of March No. 11)

Formation of the Eritrean Liberation Front and launching of armed struggle “14 months before Ethiopia’s formal annexation of Eritrea.” (MR June 1978)

Nasser issues widespread nationalization decrees, turns to Soviet Union for economic help, especially in the Aswan Dam project which is completed in 1964. (Storm)

Motown produces its first major hits (Goines chron);

Founding of Amnesty International by London lawyer Peter Benenson (Goines chron).

Publication of John Howard Griffen, Black Like Me.



January 31: Under U.S. pressure the Organization of American States (OAS) votes to expel Cuba. On February 3 Kennedy orders a total embargo on U.S. trade with Cuba. The next day the Cubans issue the Second Declaration of Havana as a reply to the OAS underlining Cuba’s support for revolutionary struggle throughout the Americas. (Che)

February 16-17: Initiated by Harvard’s Tocsin group, a coalition of peace organizations sponsors lobbying and a demonstration opposing the resumption of nuclear testing at the White House which draws 4,000-8,000, the largest White house demonstration since the effort to stop the execution of the Rosenbergs in 1953. Kennedy has his aides bring an urn of hot coffee to the demonstrators marching in the snow. (Gitlin)

Spring: Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) founded by a core of activists at Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio and others. The group was largely inspired by the ideas and work of Robert F. Williams, had links to Malcolm X and played a role in pushing SNCC toward more nationalist positions, Sales Jr. says an attempt to synthesize a revolutionary nationalism on the basis of the ideas of Malcolm, Marx, Lenin and Mao, Kelley says this was the “first Black Maoist-influenced organization in history.” RAM published a bi-monthly called Black America and a newsletter RAM Speaks. (SalesJr; Kelley; CrossRoads Sustainer Notes January/February 1992; Ahmad in Black Scholar May-June 1978; Carson discusses RAM but says its founding date is 1964; Nationalism says it is 1963).

June: Port Huron “founding convention” of SDS, which approves and issues the most widely read manifesto of the New Left, the Port Huron Statement. In the aftermath, the executive committee of SDS’s “parent” group, the League for Industrial Democracy (LID) meets secretly, fires SDS staffer Al Haber and changes the locks on the SDS office. A compromise is soon worked out but the incident has lasting impact especially in shaping the New Left’s image of “democratic socialism/social democracy.” (Sale; Isserman; Gitlin)

July 1: Progressive Labor Movement (later Party) is formed at a New York City gathering, led by people who split/were expelled from the CPUSA; they had been publishing PL magazine since January. Key leaders: Milt Rosen, Fred Jerome, Wally Linder, Mort Sheer, Bill Epton (PL Vol. 10, No. 1; Costello; O’Brien; Sale; Five Retreats)

July 3: Algerian independence struggle ends in victory; France transfers sovereignty to the new republic (Almanac; Said in NLR #180)

July 23: Fourteen nation declaration on the neutrality of Laos is adopted in Geneva in a great power attempt to defuse and control the fighting and crisis in that country. In May an important base of the rightist forces had fallen to the Pathet Lao and their allies; the Seventh fleet was dispatched to the Gulf of Siam May 12, then a tripartite (neutralists, rightists and the leftist Pathet Lao) coalition government was announced June 11, to be backed up by the 14-nation declaration. The country is effectively divided into different zones of influence. (Schurmann)

September: Revolution in North Yemen brings Nasserite forces to power on the borders of Saudi Arabia and British-ruled South Yemen/Aden. (Second Cold War).

October 2: Riots at “Ole Miss” attempting to prevent James Meredith’s admission; it takes federal troops to restore order. (Prize)

October 11: Pope John Paul XXIII opens the Second Vatican Council (“Vatican II”) which holds four sessions, continuing under Pope Paul VI after John Paul’s death on June 3, 1963. The Council closes December 8, 1965. The Council’s pronouncements on human development and social justice are a major spur to progressive Catholic activism in the 1960s and 1970s, including the evolution of Liberation Theology. (Boyte; Almanac; Century)

October 22-29: Height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had begun to build in August. Kennedy gives his speech announcing a “quarantine” of Cuba on October 22. Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement – in which the Soviets have to back down and withdraw their missiles from Cuba, though the U.S. does have to agree not to invade the island – ends the crisis, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than any other episode of the Cold War. (Second Cold War; Almanac; Gitlin; and many)

Fall: Large-scale armed conflict on India-China border, Chinese accuse Soviets of backing India (Polemic on the General Line)

December 15: First salvo in the new round of the CPC’s polemics “against modern revisionism”: “Workers of All Countries, Unite, Oppose Our Common Enemy!” (in Whence the Differences) The new round continues into and through 1963 and until July 14, 1964. (The CPC does not mention CPSU by name until after CPSU’s March 30, 1963 Open Letter.) See those years for details. (Trial; Polemic on the General Line/Whence the Differences)


“Turn” in POC toward hairsplitting doctrinairism and away from the small amount of practice it had engaged in (Ignatin).

“Turning Point” (which had changed its name in 1954 to the Communist League), only remnant of late-1940s small “anti-revisionist” efforts to survive past 1950, folds up. (ARC45-50).

Workers World Party launches Youth Against War and Fascism (Sale, p. 174) (O’Brien) credits YAWF with holding the first anti-Vietnam War demonstration in the U.S. during this year; but (Spoke) says the first organized demonstrations take place in August ’63 during the annual commemorations by U.S. pacifists of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. (Sale; Spoke; O’Brien)

James and Grace Lee Boggs lead a split from the Correspondence group and relaunch a new Correspondence with a different viewpoint; Correspondence fades and in the 1970s James and Grace Lee Boggs establish the National Organization for an American Revolution. The remaining members of the pre-1961 Correspondence group, led by Martin Glaberman and supported by C.L.R. James, change their name to Facing Reality. Facing Reality, which published a newsletter Speak Out, often carrying the writings of C.L.R. James, lasts until the 1970s. (James; MR October 1993; Wald)

  1. Wright Mills dies at age 45 of a heart attack. (Gitlin)

Publication of Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States (The Macmillan Company, New York, and then Penguin Books in paperback); Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston, Houghton Mifflin), which is often credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Also, first CPC explicit anti-CPSU polemic (noted above); Conversations with Stalin, by Milovan Djilas (New York, Harcourt); Doris Lessing’s novel, The Golden Notebook;



May 2: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign to end segregation in that city takes off; in the buildup, in April, King wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” while in custody. Children and youth march on May 2 and again on May 3, when police arrest 500 and disperse demonstrators with dogs and firehoses and photographs attract attention across the nation and the world. More demonstrations and arrests follow; a settlement that is a substantial victory for the Civil Rights Movement is announced at the end of the week, but then a racist bombing of Rev. A.D. King’s parsonage leads to confrontations and the city threatens to explode. But the agreement holds and the Birmingham victory is a watershed for King. (Parting the Waters)

June 11: Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death in Saigon to protest religious persecution by the Diem government. (Fact Sheet; Goines chron)

June 11: Kennedy gives nationally televised speech on civil rights, at the mid-point of a 10-week period after the Birmingham settlement in which there are 758 demonstrations and 14,733 arrests in 186 cities. (for figures, see Parting the Waters) Just after midnight that night, Medger Evers, Field Secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi, is assassinated from ambush in Jackson and he dies in the early morning hours of June 12. (Carson; King; Freedom; Parting the Waters)

June 14-17: Pine Hill (New York) Convention of SDS issues America and the New Era statement, the last broad, consensus manifesto of the organization. (Gitlin; Sale)

June 22: Martin Luther King visits the White House, is warned to break all ties with alleged communists Stanley Levinson and Jack O’Dell by Burke Marshall, then Robert Kennedy, then President Kennedy himself. (Parting the Waters)

March-July: Height of open polemics between the CPSU and CPC: CPSU Open Letter to CPC March 30; CPC’s influential A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement June 14; and CPSU’s Open Letter to Communists of the Soviet Union July 14. The CPC’s ideological charges of “Khrushchev’s revisionism” in its June 14 Proposal center on the CPSU’s alleged deviations from Marxism-Leninism on the questions “peaceful coexistence,” “peaceful transition,” “peaceful competition,” the “state of the whole people” and the “party of the whole people” (sometimes abbreviated as “the three peacefuls and the two wholes”). CPC’s “nine comments” on the Open Letter begin September 6; the first six appear in 1963, the others in 1964 ending July 14 (which see). In the third comment the CPC argues that capitalism has been restored in Yugoslavia, the first statement of theirs on how a socialist country could become a capitalist country. (Trial; Polemic on the General Line/Whence the Differences; Myth). In direct party-to-party meetings attempting to bridge the gaps, Deng Xiaoping, then Secretary General of the CPC, heads a delegation that visits Moscow in June-July; Schurmann argues that a central goal of his trip was to try to dissuade the Soviets from signing the Test Ban Treaty with the U.S. and instead prioritizing an alliance with China above detente with U.S. imperialism, a goal that was not met. This proves to be the last formal contact between high-level leaders of the CPC and CPSU until 1989. (NYT/2-20-97; Deng). While Sino-Soviet talks are in progress, and just before a meeting of the U.S.-USSR and Britain, the CPSU publishes its second Open Letter. (Polemic on the General Line)

August 5: Test Ban Treaty (often called the Partial Test Ban) banning aboveground nuclear tests signed in Moscow by U.S., USSR and Britain. China refuses to sign and the Soviet decision to sign the pact is a key factor in the Sino-Soviet split; right after the signing, on August 15, the Chinese release a statement for the first time revealing the secret nuclear-sharing pact with the Soviets of 1957 and the Soviet unilateral abrogation of the agreement in 1959. (quoted in Schurmann) Along with John Kennedy’s American University speech in early June saying “we must re-examine our attitude toward the Cold War…” and inauguration of the Washington-Moscow “hot line” on August 30, this is the high point of the what the Medvedevs called the first of the “interludes of comparative sanity” in the Cold War, “both initiated on the Soviet side,” this one “Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful coexistence (1955-63).” Halliday’s slightly different periodization says Cold War I was from 1946 to 1953 (Stalin’s death, truce in Korea); Period of Oscillatory Antagonism 1953-1969; Detente, 1969 (with Nixon’s ascent to the presidency)-1979; Cold War II 1979 to 1986-87. (Medvedevs in NLR #130/Nov-Dec 1981; Century; Isserman; Gitlin; Halliday in NLR #180/March-April 1990; Second Cold War; Schurmann)

August 9: Formation of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) after a faction including Robert Mugabe breaks away from the Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo (Black Scholar September 1978)

Early August: Mao ZeDong issues his “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Thier Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”; according to Kelley, Robert F. Williams happened to be in China at this time and was a catalyst for Mao issuing this statement; other sources identify Williams as a catalyst for Mao’s 1968 statement in support of the Afro-American struggle – see April 1968 below. (Kelley)

August 27: W.E.B. Du Bois dies in Ghana at 96. (CrossRoads No. 28)

August 28: 250,000 demonstrate in DC for civil rights, Martin Luther King gives “I Have a Dream” speech, John Lewis speaking for SNCC is forced to modify parts of his speech under tremendous pressure. (Carson; Freedom; Reunion; Prize; Marable)

September 15: Four young Black girls killed in bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. (Prize)

September: SDS National Council meeting in Bloomington, Indiana finalizes plans for ERAP – the Economic Research and Action Project, which sends organizers – including many of SDS’ leaders – into the cities to organize the poor. Tom Hayden, whose paper with Carl Wittman “Toward an Interracial Movement of the Poor?” is influential, goes to Newark. (Sale; Reunion)

November 1: Military junta backed by U.S. overthrows Diem regime in South Vietnam, Diem and his brothers are executed. (Fact Sheet)

November 22: John Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President. Malcolm X says that the assassination represents the “chickens coming home to roost” in white America, allegedly the reason Malcolm is suspended from the Muslims in December 1963. (Almanac; Allen)

Fall: Grassroots Conference held in Detroit, Malcolm X gives his later famous “Speech to the Grassroots Conference,” RAM and its larger network, the Black Liberation Front of the U.S.A., plays a prominent role. (CrossRoads Sustainer Notes January/February 1992)

December: British hand over power in Kenya to government led by Jomo Kenyatta, after brutal repression had defeated the earlier, more militant and radical Mau Mau rebellion of 1952-1960. (MR May 1985)


The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is established in Washington, D.C. (various IPS-published materials in BMOV-7; Barnet)

Reunification of most of the world Trotskyist movement, which had been split into two main tendencies in 1953, into the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. The U.S. Socialist Workers Party decision to participate in this reunification, which meant uniting with the “Pabloists” who allegedly had revised classical Trotskyism, provokes the formation of an opposition Revolutionary tendency within the SWP, which itself splits and whose members, leaving and expelled from the SWP, form the Spartacist League and the Workers League. (Fourth; self-published material in D-5)

Founding Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Black Scholar, Jan-Feb 1978)

U.S. Army Caribbean School in Panama, founded in 1949, is renamed the U.S. Army School of the Americas and a new curriculum is introduced emphasizing training in counterinsurgency. The School – dubbed by the left the “School of the Assassins” is later moved to Fort Benning Georgia. (Klare)

Publication of two books that will have a huge impact on the decade: (1) The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (New York: Grove Press) Fanon had died of leukemia at 36 [or 37] in 1961 at a U.S. military hospital in Washington, D.C. (MR May 1969); An MR October 1975 bibliography cites the publication date as 1968, while the Black Scholar July-August 1986 says the book appeared in French in 1961 and English in 1965); (2) Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Dell), a key salvo in beginning the “second wave” women’s movement;

Also publication of Clark Kerr’s (President of UC) Uses of the University with all its juicy quotes concerning the role of the University in serving government and business (Goines chron); James Boggs, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook (Monthly Review Press, New York); Open polemics continue between CPSU and CPC, including CPC’s A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement (noted above); The Making of the English Working Class, by E.P. Thompson (London) – the Vintage edition paperbound (Vintage, Random House, New York) widely distributed in the U.S. appears in 1966;



January 23: Adoption of 24th Amendment to the Constitution ending the poll tax. (Goines chron)

January: President Johnson declares a “War on Poverty,” it and the concept of a “Great Society” are themes of his public appearances throughout the spring, the first anti-poverty legislation is passed the day after the Tonkin Gulf resolution is approved in August. (Pillar; Wei)

January: The Beatles revive rock & roll as I Want To Hold Your Hand hits the charts. In February they go on their first U.S. tour and on April 4 Beatles records hold the top 5 positions on the Billboard charts. (Top 40; Goines chron)

February 1: A new program of covert warfare against North Vietnam goes into effect. On March 17, a new National Security Memorandum (NSAM 273) is approved that substantially expands the scope of U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia from helping the South Vietnamese government win its war to a full-scale U.S. defense of the country and the region. A right-wing coup disrupted the tripartite coalition government in Laos in April, and though formally the coalition is patched together in fact the country is now divided into two sides with the “neutralist” government serving as a figurehead for the right. Fighting within Laos intensifies and some neutralists, unhappy with the new government arrangement, go over to the Pathet Lao. These developments, in turn, lead to the beginning of U.S. bombing of Laos on May 17, which continued right down to February 1973. The administration tries to suppress the news of the strikes but the information is semi-public and published in, for example, Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine June 15, 1964. On June 6, 1964 the first U.S. plane is shot down over the Plaine des Jarres. (Schurmann)

February/March: Nationwide one-day boycotts of school to protest segregation and poor quality of education; over 20,000 Black students boycott in Boston; 464,000 Black and Puerto Rican students boycott nationwide (Goines says on March 3) (Hunter-Green; Goines chron).

March 8: Malcolm X formally breaks with the Nation of Islam. (By early ‘60s, NOI had grown to 200 temples, over 50,000 members and many more sympathizers). On March 12 he announces the formation of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. On April 13 (elsewhere SalesJr. says April 22) he leaves for his pivotal hajj to Mecca. On June 28 the founding rally of his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) is held. Bill Epton among others is introduced to the rally as an invited guest. Malcolm goes to Africa again in the fall. (SalesJr.)

March: Conference at Yale calls for antiwar actions which take place on May 2, including a march of 1,000 in New York to the U.N. PL initiates the “May 2nd Movement” (M2M) out of this action. In the spring, PL launches a weekly newspaper, Challenge. (Sale; Five Retreats; PL Vol. 10, No. 1)

March: First “fish-in” for Indian fishing rights in the Pacific Northwest, activists of the NIYC recruit Marlon Brando to participate and he does. (Hurricane)

May 1-4: Fist National Afro-American Student Conference on Black Nationalism held in Nashville, initiated by RAM-linked Afro-American Student movement (Ahmad in Black Scholar May-June 1978)

May 28: Palestinian National Council proclaims the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jerusalem. This is largely an initiative of the Arab governments who hope to control the emerging Palestinian guerrilla movements, such as the Arab Nationalist Movement (founded in 1953 by George Habash, and later to give rise to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine/PFLP) and Fatah, formed in 1958. (Roots; Palestine)

June 19-21: W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs of America, CPUSA-initiated youth and student group, is founded as a national organization at a convention in San Francisco. (Fighting; O’Brien; MLQ Vol. II, No. 2)

Summer: Mississippi Summer, hundreds of white students go south, Robert Moses of SNCC, who had spearheaded earlier voter registration efforts in McComb and elsewhere in Mississippi, plays the leading role. Civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney are killed near Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 22 (Prize says 21), their bodies are discovered August 4. (On October 20, 1967, 7 Klansmen – of 17 charged, are convicted on federal charges, the first-ever convictions by a Mississippi jury for racist crimes.) In the aftermath of Mississippi Summer comes one of the most pivotal experiences for the Black freedom movement, the entire anti-racist movement and the new left: the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge to the segregationist official delegation is rebuffed at the Atlantic City Democratic Convention in late August, with Hubert Humphrey and other whites with long liberal and civil rights credentials playing hatchet-man roles for, or at best caving in to, Lyndon Johnson. During the battle, Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony before the Credentials Committee is broadcast to the country in network television; Johnson tries to prevent it by calling an impromptu press conference. (Carson; Goines chron; Prize; Gitlin; Freedom; Pillar)

Summer: Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters careen around the country in a bus labeled “Further” driven by beat hero Neal Cassady. By fall 1965 Kesey and friends are sponsoring “Acid Tests” linking up with the Hell’s Angels and generally shaking up the “counterculture,” and serving as the topic for Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (New York, Bantam, 1969). (Acid; Gitlin)

July 2: Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed in Congress; it is signed by President Johnson on July 3; later it is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Spoke; Goines chron; Prize says bill is signed on the 2nd)

July 13: Opening of the Republican Convention in San Francisco which nominates Goldwater; protests at convention organized largely by UC students. (Branch; Goines chron)

July 14: Publication of the CPC’s Ninth Comment (see below), reportedly written by Mao himself unlike most of the earlier eight comments; this polemic first introduces the notion that the restoration of capitalism might be imminent in the USSR. The thesis that capitalist has already been restored is first publicly asserted in a series of articles in the Chinese press in late 1967, collected in the 1968 collection How the Soviet Revisionists Carry Out All-Round Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR. (Trial; Polemic on the General Line/Whence the Differences; Myth)

July 18: Harlem erupts in the first of what will become five years of Black urban rebellions. According to Haywood, p635, there are 24 uprisings in 1964. (Allen p126 says 15) On August 5, Bill Epton of PL is indicted for criminal anarchy (Sale, p. 136) and he is convicted on December 20, 1965. (Sale; PL Vol. 10, No. 1)

August 2: Gulf of Tonkin incident, U.S. fabricates “unprovoked” attack on U.S. ships by North Vietnamese torpedo boats; Congress passes the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution” which is the flimsy “legal” basis for the Vietnam War on August 7. U.S. planes bomb many areas in North Vietnam on August 15. (Spoke; Almanac; Fact sheet; Raskin/Fall; Gitlin)

August 22: MFDP leader Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony about conditions in Mississippi before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic Party National Convention is on TV before the entire country – see summer entry above. Gitlin writes: “Atlantic City and the Gulf of Tonkin together, in the fateful month of August 1964, drew a sharp line through the New Left’s Sixties. Before that, liberalism posed a dilemma. After, it was an obstacle.” (Carson; Goines chron; Prize; Gitlin; Freedom)

August 22: Palmiro Togliatti dies, he is succeeded as head of the PCI by Luigi Longo. (Century)

September 11: SNCC activists begin a trip to Africa arranged by Harry Belafonte; a crucial experience in the further ideological formation of SNCC. John Lewis and Don Harris unexpectedly encounter and meet with Malcolm X on the trip; after their and Malcolm’s return, Malcolm and the OAAU and SNCC begin to forge extensive ties. (Carson)

September 27: Release of the Warren Commission Report saying that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone had assassinated John F. Kennedy. The Report becomes the subject of constant criticism over the following years. (Gitlin)

Fall: Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. United Front forms on September 17; Jack Weinberg arrested on October 1 and the car is surrounded through October 2; FSM formed October 3; November 20 Regents meeting stonewalls FSM; December 2 Sproul Hall sit-in, with largest mass arrest in California history on December 3. Strike begins, Greek Theater meeting on December 7 where Savio is prevented from speaking followed by rally of 10,000-plus; Academic Senate passes FSM program on December 8, Mario Savio’s birthday. (Goines, Sale, Rorabaugh)

Fall: Proposition 14 backlash against anti-discrimination laws in housing in California; passes in November, boosting George Murphy in his successful campaign for the Senate. The first in what Mike Davis (NLR #128) called “the polarization of the southern [Calif.] suburbs against campuses and ghettoes offered a model laboratory for contriving united fronts of middle class and white working class backlash against integrated housing (1964-65), abolition of the death penalty (1965, 1976), the rights of farm labor (1972), school busing (1979) and property taxes (1978).” (Goines; Rorabaugh)

October 14: It is announced that Martin Luther King is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964. (Pillar; Almanac)

October 14-15: Khrushchev is ousted as head of the CPSU, Leonid Brezhnev is the new First Secretary (later the term General Secretary is reinstated). (Nove; Century)

October 15: The Chinese explode their first atomic bomb; there is considerable discussion in Washington both before and after this of risking a “surgical strike” to destroy China’s nuclear capacity. (Schurmann; Branch; Century)

November 3: Johnson swamps Goldwater in presidential election. Goldwater had won the GOP nomination on a conservative insurgency against the “Eastern Establishment” and the American Conservative Union – first of the new conservative groups which will feed into the New Right of the coming decades – is founded to institutionalize the “draft Goldwater” movement. 1964 also sees the founding of the Richard A. Viguerie Corporation, which masters the art of direct-mail fundraising for the right wing. Goldwater did carry five southern states (and his native Arizona) and in fact this election begins the racial realignment in voting patterns which will shape the coming decades, with African Americans voting overwhelmingly Democratic and a white-backlash shift to the Republicans, codified by Richard Nixon as his “southern strategy.” Ronald Reagan is a key spokeperson for Goldwater in California. (Almanac; Davis in NLR #128; Second Cold War; Pillar)

November 5-8: SNCC retreat at Waveland Mississippi, a turning point in “SNCC’s transformation from being simply a militant civil rights organization to becoming a major source of radical ideas and strategies”; among the 37 discussion papers written for the 160 staff members was one on the status of women in SNCC, and there is a workshop on the status of women at the retreat. (Carson; Evans)

November 7: M2M (200 members at this time) issues “We Won’t Go” statement – first of what will later become a flood (Sale).


Initial breakup of YPSL in fight over Schachtman’s increasing turn to the right within the SP (the youth group is reconstituted by the SP later in the ‘60s). Many former YPSL’s join the new Independent Socialist Club at Berkeley led by Hal Draper, which becomes the model for the formation of other such Clubs around the country. (Isserman)

Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) is formed; it soon affiliated with SDS as a “fraternal organization” and disbanded as a casualty of SDS’s internal factional battles June 8, 1969. (Sale; Guardian, June 28, 1969)

The Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) is formed to support the Civil Rights movement; it goes on to be active in the anti-Vietnam War movement as well and has 34 chapters by 1971 (Guardian, July 14, 1971)

End of the year: 23,300 U.S. troops are stationed in Vietnam, technically as “advisers.” (Goines chron)

First edition of The Socialist Register, which will become an annual collection of left articles edited by Ralph Miliband and John Saville. (Socialist Register 1971)

CPSU-CPC Polemics: Publication of the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth comments from CPC; Ninth is On Khrushchev’s Phony Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World, published on July 14; it first introduces the notion that the restoration of capitalism might be imminent in the USSR. (Trial; Polemic on the General Line/Whence the Differences;) According to “Trial,” it is also in 1964 that Lin Biao – through whom Mao has reasserted control over the army after the purge of Peng Tehuai following the Lushan meetings in 1959 – orders publication of Quotations from Chairman Mao ZeDong (the famous “Little Red Book” or “Red Book”), and Schurmann says that “years before the Cultural Revolution began [when the Red Book began to proliferate throughout China and abroad], the soldiers of the PLA were reading the little Red Book.”

Nelson Mandela convicted for planning and carrying out sabotage and imprisoned on Robben Island (Frontline Supplement January 19, 1987)

Military coup ends civilian rule in Brazil, starts 15-plus year period of severe repression. (MR February 1984)

Forbes Burnham ousts progressive Cheddi Jagan as Prime Minister of British Guiana culminating a subversion campaign by the CIA and the British, Burnham is thus Prime Minister when the British colony, which had won “internal self-government in 1952, declared independence as Guyana May 26, 1966 (Barnet; Almanac)

Communist Party of India (CPI) splits into CPI and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), somewhat but not completely along the lines of the Sino-Soviet split. (Links No. 5; NLR #159)

Publication of Venceremos! Mexican-American Statement on Travel to Cuba!, the first radical manifesto written by Mexican American students, by Luis Valdez and Roberto Rubalcava, after returning from Cuba on a trip sponsored by Progressive Labor. Valdez goes on to join the San Francisco Mime Troupe and then found Teatro Campesino in 1965. (Muñoz; Mime).

Also published: SNCC: The New Abolitionists, by Howard Zinn (Boston, Beacon Press); One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, by Herbert Marcuse (London, Routledge, and Boston, Beacon Press) – paperback 1966; William Appleman Williams, Contours of American History (New York, Quadrangle Books) – a key work in the “revisionist” radical history outpouring of the ‘60s, and – along with the works of James Weinstein and Gabriel Kolko and Martin Sklar – popularize the notion of “corporate liberalism” which Aronowitz calls “probably the most influential doctrine of American historiography in the 1960s and 1970s” (source: Aronowitz); Oliver C. Cox, Capitalism as a System (Monthly Review Press, New York)

.Publication also of the first “underground paper” of the ‘60s era, the Los Angeles Free Press. It is soon followed (August 13, 1965) by the first issue of the Berkeley Barb. These begin an underground press explosion: 5 papers in 1965, a dozen by 1967, 500 plus 1,000 more on college campuses in 1969. (Underground; Goines chron, Rorabaugh).

California becomes U.S. most populous state. (Goines chron)



January 1: A unit of Fatah launches its first armed attack against Israel, the “fedayeen” are born. (Roots)

January: The Movement newspaper is launched, initially as the monthly newsletter of California Friends of SNCC. (Movement February 1968)

February 1: Martin Luther King and 770 others arrested in Selma while demanding an end to discrimination in voting requirements. Malocolm X, invited by SNCC, speaks at a mass meeting in support of the campaign later in the week. (Pillar)

February 7: Massive bombing of North Vietnam – Operation Flaming Dart I – ordered by Johnson. Operation Rolling Thunder, which was sustained bombing of North Vietnam rather than specific “reprisal raids,” began on March 2. It lasted until October 1968, and after a “lull,” took place until the end of U.S. participation in the war. Soviet leader Kosygin is in Hanoi the day the bombs begin to fall; he is offering stronger support to the Vietnamese than had been the case under Khrushchev. On his way back to Moscow Kosygin stops in Beijing and sees Mao, but their meeting is cold, Mao rejects any public declaration of joint solidarity with Vietnam, and whatever mild thaw that existed in Sino-Soviet relations after Khrushchev’s fall is ended.(Spoke; Sale; Fact Sheet; Schurmann)

February 21: Malcolm X assassinated. Later that year The Autobiography of Malcolm X is published, which becomes “must reading” for late ‘60s radicals. (SalesJr)

March: “Filthy Speech Movement” in Berkeley. (Goines)

March 4: Augustus Owsley Stanley mixes his first commercial batch of LSD (Goines chron).

March 7: Activists in the Selma (Alabama) movement attempt to march and are stopped and beaten at the Edmund Pettus bridge. The episode gets nationwide attention and sparks the famous Selma to Montgomery march — see below. (Freedom)

March 8: First U.S. marine infantry units (there are already 23,000 “advisers” present) arrive in Vietnam. (Spoke; Sale; Fact Sheet)

March 11: Civil rights activist Rev. James Reeb dies of injuries from being beaten in Selma. On March 15 Johnson goes before a full session of Congress to present the 1965 Voting Rights Act – which is passed and then signed into law on August 6 – and utters the words “we shall overcome.” (Carson; Freedom; Prize)

March 19: SDS-sponsored demonstration and sit-in at Chase Manhattan Bank near Wall Street intended to make the links between U.S. banks and corporations and apartheid and more generally promote a radical, anti-imperialist perspective. The issue is rapidly overshadowed by the escalating war in Vietnam. (Gitlin-World; Sale)

March 21-25: Selma to Montgomery March led by Martin Luther King, starts with 3,200 and swells to 25,000. March is guarded by 4,000 federal troops. Viola Liuzzo killed while driving back to Montgomery after transporting Freedom Marchers to Selma. The next day, Stokely Carmichael quietly enters Lowndes County to begin the work which culminates in the formation of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO). Organizing for LCFO goes on for the next year (see May 1966), the group picks the black panther as its symbol for the ballot and becomes popularly known as Black Panther Party; inspiration for Huey Newton and Bobby Seale choosing name for their organization. (Carson; Goines chron; Freedom)

March 24: First anti-Vietnam War “teach-in” at the University of Michigan, a rousing success; within two months, there are more than 100 others. Largest is May 21-22 at Berkeley (following “Vietnam Day” protest there) with 35,000 participating at one time or another. Perhaps the most famous is at Rutgers in April, where Professor Eugene Genovese says “I do not fear or regret the impending Viet Cong victory in Vietnam. I welcome it”; his comments become a central issue in the fall New Jersey governor’s race as the Republican candidate campaigns for his dismissal. (Sale; Spoke; Mellen in Viorst).

April 15-18: Progressive Labor Movement reorganizes at a conference to become the Progressive Labor Party (PLP, or simply PL), claiming a membership of 600. (Five Retreats says a membership of 300). PL activists take a day from the convention to attend the SDS-led anti-Vietnam War march – see next entry. (Five Retreats; PL Vol. 10, No. 1; O’Brien; Spoke; Sale – who errs in saying this conference is in 1964)

April 17: SDS-led demonstration against the Vietnam War. First major nationwide demo draws 15,000 – many more than expected – and sets a precedent in not disavowing the sponsorship of communist-linked groups and by letting anyone carry whatever signs they wanted, including pro-NLF; another crisis with LID and key experience in red-baiting from liberals and social democrats. Paul Potter’s “name the system” speech. Robert Parris Moses of SNCC also speaks at the rally. (Sale; Spoke)

April 21: Pedro Albizu Campos, Puerto Rican nationalist leader dies after spending 24 of his last 28 years in prison; 100,000 attend his funeral on the island. (Torres; Puerto Rico)

April 28: U.S. Marines intervene in the Dominican Republic to crush a constitutionalist revolt against a conservative regime that had come to power in a 1963 coup. (Almanac; Century; Barnet)

July 25: Bob Dylan is booed at the Newport Folk Festival for playing electrified folk-rock. His new style is a popular success: “Like a Rolling Stone” goes to the top of the charts. In the same genre, Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” hits No. 1 in August five weeks after its release though it is banned on many stations. Later in the year the music industry promotes Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets” and the political battles are on the airwaves. (Rock & Roll; Gitlin)

July: Full text of The Confessions of Nat Turner appears in this month’s issue of Negro Digest (later Black World) magazine. (Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1987)

August 6-9: On the 20th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Assembly of Unrepresented People meets in Washington, D.C. The weekend gives rise to the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam (NCCEWV), first of several umbrella coalitions to organize demonstrations against the war over the next decade. Initially coordinated from Madison, Wisconsin, A.J Muste is prominent in the group. A few weeks before the Assembly, a number of young men burned their draft cards in New York and attained national media attention, sparking Congress to pass a bill making draft card burning illegal. Prominent in organizing the draft card burnings – and later in draft resistance and antiwar activity – was the War Resisters League, a radical pacificst group founded in 1923 whose membership grew rapidly during the anti-Vietnam War period: in 1973 it reached 15,000 members with 30 local and four regional offices. (Spoke; Aronowitz; Nonviolent)

August 11-16: Black uprising in Watts, lasting for six days, 34 killed, 1,000 injured and 4,000 arrested, fire damage estimated at $175 million. Two days of uprisings in Chicago. (CrossRoads No. 22; Goines chron; Prize; Almanac; Allen p126 says 9 total in 1965.)

August: Constituent Congress founds the MIR, Movement of the Revolutionary Left in Chile. It unifies previously-divided organizations with a strong Trotskyist influence, but the new group adopts positions that cannot be narrowly categorized as belonging solely to one doctrinal tradition. (MIR History)

September 3: New China News Agency publishes Lin Biao’s Long Live the Victory of People’s War, which becomes a major reference point for late 1960s/early ‘70s revolutionaries worldwide; its formulation that “the contradiction between the revolutionary peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the imperialists headed by the United States is the principal contradiction in the contemporary world” is “probably the most frequently quoted analysis within the mother country anti-imperialist movements” according to Red Papers No. 2 Ironically, by the time the new revolutionaries of the U.S. and elsewhere are basing their political efforts on this analysis, this position is no longer the position (if it ever thoroughly was) of the Chinese Communist Party – see entry on the CPC rejecting joint action proposed by the Japanese CP in February-March 1966 below and entry on the CPC Ninth Congress in April 1969 below. Lin’s article, with its focus on the role of the world “countryside,” is, among other things, a polemic against the perspective of building a united front of the socialist countries. In November, the CPC publishes Refutation of the Leaders of the CPSU on United Action, which for the first time explicitly calls the Soviet Union a capitalist country (according to Trial – Myth says this assertion is first put forward in 1967); Luo Ruiqing is deposed at the same time. (Trial; Five Retreats; Red Papers No. 2; Mellen in Viorst)

September 8: Filipino workers of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee walk out of 33 grape ranches in the Delano area in California’s Central Valley. Eight days later, on September 16 – the anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain in 1810 – the mainly Mexican and Chicano members of the National Farm Workers Association, formed in 1962 and led by César Chávez, vote to join the strike and the central battle of the 1960s farmworkers struggle for justice is underway. A 300-mile march to the capital in Sacramento is the highlight of the effort in 1966, and the strike and boycott lasts until victory is won July 29, 1970. The two groups soon merge to form the United Farmworkers Union (UFW). (Muñoz; Chicano; Agbayani)

October 1: After an abortive move by leftist officers to prevent a right-wing military coup, the Indonesian military moves to take effective control of the country and crush the left. Over the next few weeks a reign of terror ensues and between a half million and one-and-a-half million communists, workers and peasants are massacred. Before the massacre the PKI had been the largest non-ruling Communist Party in the world with an estimated membership of 3 million. General Suharto becomes Army chief on October 14 and head of state Sukarno becomes essentially a figurehead. Both the PKI and Sukarno had had good ties with the CPC, which is seriously affected by the Indonesian events. (Century; Five Retreats for CPC’s relationship with CPI & Sukarno; China Alliance; Links No. 2; Hobsbawm; Schurmann)

October 3: Immigration Act abolishes the national origins quota system and removes discriminatory restrictions on Asian immigration. (Wei)

October 4: SDS and LID officially sever ties. (Sale, p. 239; also see note there on the LID-linked ILGWU’s support for the war and for the invasion of the Dominican Republic.)

October 15-16: First International Days of Protest against the War in Vietnam; sponsored national by the NCCEWV, Berkeley’s Vietnam Day Committee is prominent; likewise New York’s Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee which had been formed on Labor Day weekend. (Spoke)

November 2: Norman Morrison, a 32-year-old Quaker, immolates himself a few hundred years from Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s office to protest the Vietnam War. Between 1965 and 1970, a total of 8 Americans burned themselves to death in similar protests. (Spoke)

November 11: White Rhodesia under Ian Smith issues a Unilateral Declaration of Independence to maintain white minority rule in Zimbabwe; shortly afterwards ZANU and ZAPU take steps to begin armed struggle. (Black Scholar September 1978)

November 18: Casey Hayden and Mary King issue Sex and Caste: A kind of memo to a number of other women in the peace and freedom movements, later published in Liberation magazine, April 1966. (Evans)

November 24: Then colonel and army chief of staff Mobutu seizes power in the Congo in a military coup welcomed (if not instigated) by Washington. As Mobutu consolidates his rule, he changes the country’s name to Zaire in 1971 and changes his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko. (Almanac; SF Examiner and SF Chronicle September 8, 1997 in BMOV-6)

December: U.S. forces in Vietnam reach 385,300, not including 60,000 men on the nearby U.S. naval fleet and 33,000 stationed in Thailand. (Goines chron)


US Organization founded in Los Angeles under the leadership of Maualana Ron Karenga, originator of the Doctrine of Kawaida which includes the “seven principles of Blackness” Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). (Black Scholar November 1973)

Rodolfo “Corky” González founds the Crusade for Justice (Muñoz; Chicano)

Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed is published and has a wide impact. General motors makes a clumsy attempt to destroy Nader’s reputation and Nader wins a lawsuit against them. He uses part of the proceeds to found the Center for Study of Responsive Law, which is the flagship for the emerging field of “public interest law.” He later founds the organization Public Citizen to promote “public interest politics.” (Boyte)

Publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X with the assistance of Alex Haley (Grove Press, New York) and Malcolm X Speaks (George Breitman, ed., New York, Grove Press); The Vietnam Reader: Articles and Documents on an American Foreign Policy Crisis, edited by Marcus Raskin and Bernard Fall (Vintage/Random House)- a revised and updated edition is published in 1967; Vietnam: History, Documents and Opinions on a Major World Crisis, edited by Marvin E. Gettleman (New York, Fawcett Publications); The Free World Colossus by David Horowitz (Hill and Wang, New York); Letters from Mississippi, edited by Elizabeth Sutherland (McGraw-Hill);

Publication of Refutation of the Leaders of the CPSU on United Action and Lin Biao, Long Live the Victory of People’s War – see September above. (Trial)


            January 3-13: Tricontinental Congress of revolutionary groupings from throughout the globe is held in Havana, 100 countries are represented. The delegates found the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL) which publishes Tricontinental magazine. The Cubans promote a “left” position different from both the Soviets and the Chinese. (Szymanski; Century; Barnet)

January 6: SNCC issues statement opposing the Vietnam War and in essence supporting draft resistance, two days following the murder of SNCC worker Sammy Younge Jr. SNCC’s executive committee had earlier supported the SDS-initiated April 1965 antiwar march, and a few months later would take an all-out draft resistance stand and develop a national anti-draft program. On January 10, Julian Bond was denied the seat in the Georgia State Legislature to which he had been elected because of his support for SNCC’s antiwar stance; it takes a year for him to win his case at the Supreme Court. (Allen, Carson)

January 21: SDS begins publication of New Left Notes as a weekly newspaper-bulletin. (Gitlin-World; Sale)

January: National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam falls apart after being split at a Milwaukee conference over a proposal to make immediate withdrawal its main demand. (Spoke)

Early February: General Lewis B Hershey, director of the Selective Service System, announces that local draft boards will be free to induct students who are in the lower levels of their classes, to be gauged by class rank (to be supplied by the universities to the government) and by a national draft exam to be given in May. (Sale p. 253: “The effect was electric.”)

February 24: Kwame Nkrumah is ousted from power in Ghana by a military coup while abroad; he dies April 27, 1972 after publishing several books. (Century)

February: M2M votes itself out of existence and members, mainly members of PL, go into SDS. (Sale)

February-March: In the wake of continuing U.S. escalation in Vietnam and the threat of a wider war, leaders of the Japanese CP travel between China, Vietnam and Korea attempting to organize an anti-imperialist united front in defense of Vietnam which would include the USSR. Leading figures within the Chinese Communist Party – including Deng Xiaoping and especially Beijing mayor Peng Zhen seem open to idea, but Mao is bitterly opposed and blocks it. Delegations to a disarmament conference in Japan pushing the CPC’s line later in the year cause major problems for the Japanese CP and relations between the JCP and CPC deteriorate rapidly. Also in February, the CPSU invites the CPC to attend its Twenty-Third Congress set to begin in late March, but the Chinese refuse, publicly and with harsh attacks on the CPSU. They break off party-to-party relations with the CPSU and the combination of this step and the rejection of united action essentially severs all links between the two powers for many years. Peng Zhen is purged in April (the step is publicly announced in June) Within the next few months Mao and the PLA take steps that would lead to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in May. According to Schurmann, it is at this time that Mao personally decided that the USSR rather than U.S. imperialism was the principal enemy of China, though public indications of this are left very vague during the most difficult years of the Cultural Revolution and the Vietnam War, through about 1971, and a definitive, all-round practical move to this position doesn’t take place until 1974-75. (Trial; Peck on China; Schurmann)

May 9: Chinese detonate their third nuclear explosion, the same day the first article denouncing “demons and monsters” in authority appears in People’s Daily, a signal that the Cultural Revolution is being launched – see May 25 entry below. (Schurmann)

May 11-16: Students seize the administration building at the University of Chicago in largest protest against “student rank” being provided to draft boards; protest fails (Sale).

May 25: Fist big character poster put up at Beijing University is a key event in launching the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” An official Cultural Revolution Group had been set up earlier in the year, but in the spring and summer its direction changed. On August 8 the Central Committee (at a meeting where half the members do not attend, and Mao has packed with his supporters) approves the “Sixteen Points” Resolution formally known as the “Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” and this document serves as the official manifesto of the mass campaign that now gets fully underway. Red Guard groups are formed among students and youth, the “Red Book” (Quotations for Chairman Mao ZeDong) and Mao buttons begin to proliferate throughout China. (Trial; Cultural Revolution; Deng; Schurmann)

May: A few days after 900 Blacks in Lowndes County voted the black panther symbol in the first election (a primary) since the LFCO was organized, Stokely Carmichael is chosen SNCC chair, replacing John Lewis who had served since 1963 (Carson; Freedom).

Spring: Ramparts magazine exposes Michigan State University’s complicity with CIA in Vietnam. (Sale)

June 6: James Meredith shot during his March across Mississippi. Others continue his March; Willie Ricks and then Stokely Carmichael promote “Black Power” slogan on the March and it was after this use of the previously existing phrase that it caught fire. (Carson; Freedom; Ahmad in Black Scholar May-June 1978).

June 30: On the day that the Johnson administration announced the first bombing of oil depots in the densely populated Hanoi-Haiphong area, three army privates – the Fort Hood 3 – announce that they will refuse to serve in Vietnam. They are court-martialed and spend (reduced terms of) two years in prison. (Spoke)

July: The Radical Education Project (REP) initiated by SDS is officially incorporated, publisher of many of the New Left pamphlets of the late 1960s. (Sale)

Summer: Black uprisings in Chicago, New York, Cleveland and a total of 38 cities (Haywood; Allen p126 also says total is 38.)

Summer: Martin Luther King’s “Chicago Campaign” for open housing puts a spotlight on racism in the north. But the campaign fails to win its concrete goals and is essentially defeated by the Daley machine. (Freedom; Marable)

August 29-September 2: SDS Convention at Clear Lake, Iowa, marked by the rise of the so-called “prairie power” or “new breed” grouping who take leadership from the first generation of SDSers. The organization is rapidly changing from a relatively small circle of activists who have strong interpersonal connections into a mass organization, and it is moving “from protest to resistance.” A key document in the “prairie power” rise is Carl Davidson’s “A Student Syndicalist Movement: University Reform Revisited” published in the September 9, 1966 issue of New Left Notes and reprinted as an SDS pamphlet that fall. (Sale; Gitlin; Gitlin-World)

September: Bayard Rustin article in September issue of Commentary attacking Black Power idea. (Carson)

October 6: U.S. government declares LSD illegal (Goines chron, Rorabaugh)

October 29: The National Organization for Women (initially named the National Organization of Women; NOW) is founded, Betty Friedan has launched the campaign to found the new group beginning in June. (Goines chron; Wei)

October: Huey Newton and Bobby Seale found Black Panther Party in Oakland Merritt College. (Sale; Carson; Freedom)

November 8: Ronald Reagan, hand-picked as a candidate by a group of right-wing businessmen, wins a huge victory over incumbent Pat Brown for the California governorship on an anti-Black, anti-student, backlash program. (Gitlin)

December: SNCC votes narrowly to expel all whites from the organization. (Carson)

December: The Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC) is formed at a conference at the University of Chicago. Initially a coalition effort that included SWP, CP and other folks, the SMC splintered in summer 1968 and by that fall was controlled by the SWP. (Spoke)

December: 1,500 students, teachers and others representing especially the diverse strands of the Black intelligentsia attend Washington, D.C. conference on “Racism in Education,” focusing attention on Black History and how it is taught in the U.S. (Black Scholar, Jan-Feb 1987)


RAM publishes a pamphlet The World Black Revolution calling for the creation of of a Black International and a “dictatorship of the world by the Black Underclass through World Revolution,” but also arguing that Black nationalism “is really internationalism.” A series of exposes in Life and Esquire magazines this year and stepped up repression in 1966 and 1967, along with ideological differences within it, begin to weaken the organization and it is dissolved by 1969. (Kelley)

Farmworkers in Starr County, Texas begin a series of strikes for union recognition but are beaten by grower resistance, court injunctions and Texas Ranger repression. (Appeal Vol. 5 No. 4)

SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket, headed by Jesse Jackson, wins its first significant victory, obtaining agreements from four large Chicago grocery corporations to carry products of Black corporations and deposit money in Black-owned banks. (Marable)

Publication of Monopoly Capital by Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy (Monthly Review Press, New York); Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village, by William Hinton (Vintage Books, New York – Alfred A. Knopf and Random House, by arrangement with Monthly Review Press); The Other Side, by Staughton Lynd and Tom Hayden about their trip to North Vietnam (New York: New American Library); Jack Newfield, A Prophetic Minority (New York, New American Library); Thoughts of the Young Radicals, with contributions from Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden and other members of SNCC and SDS, edited by the New Republic (New Republic Paperback); Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Beacon Press, Boston); Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment (Holt, Rinehart & Winston Chicago, New York) – first in the wave of best-sellers disputing the Warren Commission Report of 1964;

Release of Gillo Pontecorvo’s film Battle of Algiers.

End of Part One

Part Two, 1967-1970

Part Three, 1971-1974

Part Four, 1975-1980

Part Five, 1981-1992

Part Six, Source Reference Guide