Student Peace Union

Student Peace Union (SPU) was a nationwide student organization active on college campuses in the United States from 1959 to 1964. Its national headquarters were located near the campus of the University of Chicago.

The SPU was founded by Ken Calkins, who had gained notoriety when his pelvis was fractured when he ran in front a truck during a pacifist demonstration against nuclear weapons at Cheyenne, Wyoming. He had returned to Chicago and became educational director for the local American Friends Service Committee. As part of his duties in that position he conducted a number of peace seminars at local Chicago high schools, where he developed a number of contacts with local students. By the spring of 1959 this network had been organized in the Student Peace Union, and had about 100 members by the end of the school year. In 1960 it merged with the Fellowship of Reconciliation affiliated College Peace Union, which had several campus chapters in the Northeast. By December 1961 the group 1,500 members in dozens of campuses in the Midwest and Northeast, and a year later would expand to 3,500 members, with inroads on the West Coast and South. From the beginning the Young People's Socialist League, then under the influence of the Shachtmanites poured its members into the group and tried to give it a "Third camp" direction—rejecting both Western capitalism and Soviet communism as equally imperialist.

The SPU organized a number of protests and vigils at the White House. The first was in November 1961 against the resumption of nuclear testing. To their surprise President Kennedy displayed some sympathy for the group, having his disarmament advisers confer with picket leaders and receiving their petitions. A second protest, the "Washington Action" drew 5,000 students in February 1962. Kennedy sent them an urn of coffee on the first day of the protest, which was held during a snowstorm. The event was co-sponsored by Student SANE, the Students for a Democratic Society (which at the time had a tenth of the membership of SPU) and a Harvard affiliate of the SPU called TOCSIN, which was led by Todd Gitlin. TOCSIN was able to initiate some contacts with Senators and State Department officials, combining the protest march with lobbying efforts.

The SPU continued its protests against nuclear testing that spring, when they engaged in the first confrontation between police and anti-war protesters of the decade in New York. During the Cuban Missile Crisis that October the group sponsored demonstrations across the country, including a march in front of the White House that drew 2,000 people. When the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in the wake of the crisis it was a mixed blessing for the SPU. While they had always been against nuclear testing, so much of its identity was bound up with anti-nuclear war activism that it struggled to find a new footing. Furthermore it was undermined by the factional struggles within the YPSL between the Shachtmanite "realignment tendency" -- which favored socialist entry into the Democratic party—and the more non-electoral "labor party tendency" led by Mike Parker. The Shachtmanites tried to dilute the labor party tendency's control of SPU by urging a merger with Student SANE, but this fell through. Debated among the YPSLs over when, if ever, to support peace candidates and questions over foreign policy consumed the top leadership and the organization dissolved in the spring of 1964.

A second incarnation of the Student Peace Union was formed in the fall of 1964 by some of the young SPU members and David McReynolds. While not very prominent nationally, it had chapters on a few campuses not otherwise known for New Left activism - Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, St. Peter's College, Idaho State University and Rocky Mountain College. It merged with the Campus Americans for Democratic Action to form the Independent Student Union in 1967

Papers of the Student Peace Union are located in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Other articles related to "peace, union":

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Measuring and Ranking Peace
... Although peace is widely perceived as something intangible, various organizations have been making efforts to quantify and measure it ... The Global Peace Index produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace is a known effort to evaluate peacefulness in countries based on 23 indicators of the presence/absence of ... on their internal and external levels of peace ...
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... President Reagan alleged that the Soviet Union was outspending the US in the global arms race, and warned that America's global power was decreasing, while the Soviet Union was becoming more powerful ... Alluding to the Paris Peace Accords (signed by the Nixon administration) as an undesirable example of compromise that needed to be avoided in the future, Reagan ... of Venezuela and Mexico? Clearly, world peace must be our number one priority ...
Le Duc Tho - Nobel Peace Prize
... Tho and Henry Kissinger were jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords ... declined to accept the award, since there was still no peace agreement ...

Famous quotes containing the words union, student and/or peace:

    So we grew together
    Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
    But yet an union in partition,
    Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.
    William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

    One must be a student before one can be a teacher.
    Chinese proverb.

    My mother always used to say, “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”
    Donald Freed, U.S. screenwriter, and Arnold M. Stone. Robert Altman. Richard Nixon (Philip Baker Hall)