The Law and Movement

The GI Movement during the Vietnam War and Its Use of Legal Resources
By Michèle Gibault

The GI movement during the Vietnam war and its use of judicial resources.

Despite the existence of a Code of Military Justice which formalizes a number of GI rights, the army is in fact a rigidly authoritarian and coercive structure. The extraordinary GI movement that developed during the Vietnam War illustrates to what extent a political movement is able to invoke rights and make use of judicial resources, and with what limitations. How can a radical antimilitary movement take advantage of legality and phrase its demands in terms of reforms ? Examining a number of GI struggles during the Vietnam War, we try to show that one should not confuse legalistic tactics and the political aims of a movement. For a radical movement recourse to the law is a double-edged weapon. This rank-and-file movement made militant use of the possibilities offered by the law in order to change their lives and in so doing they invented new forms of democracy.

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