Union of American Exiles 1968
The Union of American Exiles grew out of efforts by a number of American exiles to help themselves find employment and get settled in Toronto. The exiles felt that their problems were shared by the entire community of exiles and were problems that could be solved on the community level as opposed to being private problems that had to be solved by each individual acting separately. The initial idea of the Southern Contingent was to develop a job information service to encourage job seekers to supply Noami Wall with job leads that she could use for other exiles. Naomi Wall was the TADP job counselor. The job information service was also intended to create a way for the exiles to stay in touch with each other after successfully immigrating and finding work. When a meeting was called to organize the job service, there were no plans for anything other than that. It turned out that there were other groups of exiles who were also thinking about the needs of the exile community. The meeting to organize the job service quickly moved to larger issues. The meeting became the impetus for a diverse organization that was eventually called the Union of American Exiles.
The Southern Contingent was trained in a New Left style of community organizing that required analysis and then discussion prior to taking action. Several members of the group tried to put something on paper that could be used as the basis for discussion. The following is a fragment of an unpublished paper by Philip Mullins that was written sometime during the summer of 1968. It is followed by an article that appeared in the UAE newsletter. The UAE newsletter later became AMEX (American Exile in Canada) magazine. The article was written by Tom Kane, an exile who was very active in the UAE during its first year of existence.
The following is a fragment of an untitled draft of a political program for the Union of American Exiles as written by Philip Mullins in June or July 1968.
“For the last two months or so American draft dodgers in Toronto have been meeting almost weekly. Out of these meetings have come the beginnings of a program and an organization for American exiles in Toronto. Almost despite ourselves and by the tortured processes of non-directed growth, we are building an institution known variously as the Union of American Exiles, American War Resisters Information Service for Employment, the Housing and Job Information Committees of the TADP (Toronto Anti-Draft Programme), a social committee and a political study group now known as Toronto SDS-SSOC in Exile. We have yet to look into the future and set goals and concerns which will direct our programs and organizational work.
Our programs thus far have arisen from immediate necessities and are intended to satisfy immediate needs. We begin now to set more distant goals and to create a more distant vision of what we as American exiles in Canada can and intend to do. This draft is the beginning of such a process.
Understanding the advantages of exile
Our first task will be to determine what being exiled means. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Canadian exile with regard to what we can do? What difference will the fact of exile make in our personal and collective life styles? Can we take advantage of the opportunities offered by our exile? We might find that our exile affords us the peace and quiet to properly utilize the skills and training that most of us already possess. Regardless of where we are, who we are and what we are, we have to redirect our efforts and redefine our goals to take advantages of our being in exile.
We have begun to realize that, far from being obsolete, the skills acquired by years of struggle in the movements for peace and freedom in the United States are of utmost importance in organizing for social, political and economic change from within Canada. However, exile means that the value of direct action politics is minimized and that the value of intensive, long-range organization to achieve distant goals is maximized. Our old skills have to be redirected toward goals that can only be realized in the distant future. Being in exile means that we can reexamine our goals, channel our energies and change our life styles to achieve the kind of social change we desire in a new and, in many ways, more exciting context.
An important part of any program we develop will be our efforts to help ourselves to get “Landed” in Canada, to get employed, to find housing and to make initial social contacts. We have already done much in this area. We have organized committees to expand the Draft Resister’s Employment Service and to find temporary housing in the Toronto area for newly arriving resisters. The social committee is arranging picnics and parties to relieve the social exile in which so many of us find ourselves. The program committee offers aid and advice on how to adjust to life in Canada and Toronto at its Wednesday night events. This program will be continued and expanded. Eventually we will develop a more effective counseling service which will be able to function as a kind of draft dodger’s “welcome wagon.” We might want to establish a self-perpetuating loan program to help the hostels remain financially and functionally solvent. We are already learning how to tap into existing social aid programs so that our new Canadians can get by until they earn their first paycheck.
The self-help aspect of our program will probably continue to be the largest single part of our program but we must not allow it to be our only activity. The Union of American Exiles, if it is to be politically relevant, must have an outreach that is greater than this. At the very basic level, we have to reach more people than those who attend committee meetings, Wednesday night talk sessions and Sunday picnics. We have to build an effective and widespread communications network. We are already developing central nodes in this network. We have a steering committee and are well on our way to obtaining office space for the employment service and the housing committee. The political study group has begun work on our first published material. Within the next few months we might find it desirable to begin organizing draft exiles on a national scale. There has already been one meeting of anti-draft groups in Ontario and Quebec. There has been sporadic letter writing between groups across Canada and the exiles in Montreal are publishing a newsletter, “The Rebel”. We should begin now to develop a mailing list and a periodic newsletter that can later be expended nationwide. To do this we need technical and editorial skills and the proper equipment. Most importantly, we need to know where we are heading politically.
(The third page of the draft is missing.)
In this regard, we should begin first with a survey of resources available to us both in terms of skills, machines, machine tools, land and buildings. Perhaps, as a politically oriented group, we will find sympathetic Canadians and Americans who will be willing to provide the initial capital and resources necessary to initiate communally run, economically sound enterprises. Perhaps out of our number, we will find individuals willing to forego complete integration into the Canadian capitalist economy for a while in order to contribute to the creation of self-perpetuating, economically self-sustaining utopian communities designed to continue experiments whose ultimate aim is to integrate and, at the same time, subordinate machine-production to a human-centered socio-cultural environment.
Our international role
While we are fully cognizant of the role we can play in Canadian life, at the same time we must be aware of the role we can play with regard to international politics. As elsewhere in this program it is suggested that we begin by considering the advantages exile affords us. Probably the primary advantage is that we are Americans (many with experience in the struggles in the United States) who are no longer subject either to the laws of the U.S. or the harassment of U.S. officials. In Canada we are free to develop contacts with anti-imperialist groups throughout the world and to actively aid those groups (as well as similar groups within the U.S.) in their struggles with western imperialism and a flagging capitalism. We are free in Canada to supply aid and encouragement to Cuba as well as the NLFSV (National Liberation Front of South Vietnam). We are free to organize a corps of Americans who, as a Peace and Freedom Corps, can begin to work throughout the world to aid anti-imperialist forces. We are free to organize a corps of Americans who could offer themselves, as well as medical and other aid, to embattled areas of Vietnam and elsewhere. As Americans in exile we have the great opportunity to carry out humanitarian work in areas that are closed to our brothers in the States and to aid incipient democratic movements which the U.S. government seems intent on crushing even at the cost of their own destruction.
Our role in the U.S.
The role of American exiles in the internal politics of the United States is more ambiguous. Our role there will depend only in part upon our own initiative and resources. Any action we undertake will depend upon developments in the United States and the needs of the people involved as they see them. We probably will not be able to develop and carry out independent political, social or paramilitary action within the United States without the active support of groups there. Therefore our program must derive from the expressed needs of groups in the United States. We should begin to establish communications with movement groups in the United States with the intention of offering whatever aid they seem to need and to solicit their opinion about the function of a group of American exiles in Canada.
In order to have something to offer movement groups in the United States, we must create an organization which is committed to working for the success of the Movement back home and which is capable of working effectively from this side of the border and as an exile group. To do this we need an issue to organize around. It has been suggested that if and when U.S. Senator McCarthy is elected President of the United States then the stand that we as exiles have taken will become meaningless. Furthermore if he announces an amnesty they our position will appear to be stupid.
Perhaps serious consideration should be given to the idea of organizing a group of American exiles pledged to return to the United States, via the Peace Bridge at Niagara or some other similarly symbolic route, and there to either submit to arrest for violation of the draft laws or to be repulsed by U.S. Marshals. The group could be organized on the same basis as the original draft card burning at Sheep’s Meadow. The advantages and disadvantages of such an action could be the beginning of the discussion of our role as American exiles in Canada.”
What follows was transcribed from an article in the April or May, 1969 issue of “The American Exile in Canada” that is titled: “The Complete History of the Union of American Exiles from someone who should know…like Tom Kane”.
“Surprise; we made it through one year of existence. For those interested in dominant themes, surprise at continued existence is one of those.
Early April ’68 several phone calls went out to exiles in Toronto. The callers told us that there would be a meeting at First Unitarian Church (thanks to Patty Proctor) to try to organize work on problems confronting new immigrants. So, on April 4 we met. Out of that was supposed to come an employment service (American Resisters in Service for Employment-ARISE). However, as the meeting progressed, we got to realizing that there were a hell of a lot of other things to cover, including the question of political relevance for the exile.
Obviously, that last question has never been settled. Nevertheless, we figured that we could stand a few meetings with each other. At least, it got a few of us together for a few hours a week.
So, we were meeting ourselves to near death. On April 27 I guess the Union was publicly “born”. That was the day of the glorious “Sunshine Teach-in”. We choose a name, mostly to have something to put on our banner. Up went the banner and a table and about 300 half-sheet mimeod (thanks to SCM) (Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam) notes telling people who we were. A party in Newman House that night, well, it existed.
For the next many weeks we continued to meet, and argue, and hassle. We also put out about 2 mineo’d sheets every two weeks, to our mailing list of about 70 people. (We cheered the day it topped 100). The sheet sort of happened each time, printed at the SCM office, and folded, etc, at our (Kanes) old apartment.
The meetings produced, believe it or not, a series of functional committees and a steering committee. Ummm, “functional” is a definition, not a description. They also produced the now infamous summer softball.
For a bunch of Yanks we made a damn poor softball team, but no one much cared.
Unfortunately, not much else happened during the summer. An “interim” steering committee was selected to replace the previous “interim” one, and the whole thing kind of hung together.
Towards the end of August people like Ronnie Nevin decided to kick the thing back to some form of life. (Our office at) 44 St. George is one of the major results. We suddenly found ourselves the occupiers of a kitchen.
We also found that “we” included a lot more people.
We also found ourselves with the same old hang-ups, like a political role, money, manpower.
And, of course, we developed the second stage of bureaucracy, an official office with a telephone number (probably complete with “official attachments” courtesy of those mysterious forces who convert private lines to party lines).
The old newssheet (2 sheets) sudden sprouted a fancy cover, and more stuff inside, and suddenly had regular staff. Well, it looked sudden, anyway. Remember, this is one guy’s recollection.
What happened, to some degree, is that the summer influx (of draft dodgers) had decided to stick around, and older (“veterans” of exile, I guess) people came around. Like, we developed bureaucracy, and the people came to join it.
And we continued to have our hang-ups. The Union has managed to hold a great number of people who have real trouble accepting any type of formal structure. Like, we shun it like the plague, or like Uncle. Still, we had this steering committee which was supposed to provide some direction.
Then came a few issues which simply showed that we could not get certain things done without getting lots of tempers up.
There came the “Anarchists” Revolution which was a show of anger against the UAE’s natural factionalism. (In fact, the AR people then had to go around making themselves into a faction).
For those interested in chronology, that happed in late December (December 28, 1968). This produced a “meeting of concerned individuals”. (At 7:30 the night of the meeting I got this phone call warning me of impending doom for the UAE, and telling me that the meeting was going on).
THE FIRST DUTY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY IS TO STRANGLE HIS EFFORTS IN PROCEDURE.
We organized a constitutional committee (consisting of Doyle Abernathy, Charles Campbell, Jesse Dean, Tom Kane, Ronnie Nevin and Nickie Richico). That committee held a series of open meetings. For the first time in the UAE’s life, meetings were held with a minimum of real hassling. Most of the reason is that we sort of set up regulations for the running of the meetings.
Again, the question of the role of the Union came up, and this time couldn’t be avoided. That was one of the principle things which had brought about the committee’s existence.
The draft which came out of that committee was, of course, a compromise, but most “factions” felt it was fairly reasonable, if not well written. The principle role of the Union was to be that of aiding new immigrants, with a realization of the implications of the move into exile. Sounds a bit weird. Like, the Union is performing a political function simply through its existence and its aid work. Further, although the new exile may not realize the political implications of his move, they are still there. And, if may be that working with the Union will bring about the realization.
Of course, very real problems of overt political activity were a consideration. Simply stated, none of us can really afford a bust at a demonstration. What is more important, perhaps, was the realization that the UAE could be responsible for tighter immigration regulations if its activities proved to be too disturbing to the Good Canadian Public.
The first draft was published, and submitted to the general membership at a meeting. It was re-written to a good degree and ratified. The Union of American Exiles has completed phase three of bureaucratic growth as reported on the Metro News page of the Star (March 17, 1969) “U.S. Exiles Elect Officers.””
Use this link to return to the narrative, The Union of American Exiles, May 1969-December 1969