Friday, March 16, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (xii)

Male chauvinism was still not treated as a really serious issue within National SDS. And National SDS leaders appeared to feel uneasy when National SDS women brought up the issue of male chauvinism. At this particular Madison meeting, a physically beautiful woman in her mid-twenties dressed herself up in baggy pants, a flannel shirt and a working-class cap before reading a collectively-written position paper which stressed the need to end male chauvinism within SDS at all levels. In-between reading paragraphs of her position paper, this SDS female “heavy” inhaled on a cigar.

Her speech reflected a hard-hitting radical feminist critique of SDS policy and practice in relationship to Movement women and was interrupted quite a few times by jeers from some of the SDS men at the meeting. After the speech was read, there was little debate or discussion of the issues raised, and the meeting soon adjourned for dinner, and for the Saturday night partying.

Despite the unenthusiastic reception National SDS men seemed to give to the speech on male chauvinism and sexism—because the speech argued that the New Left reflected the sexism of straight bourgeois society—I felt that SDS was still going to be an effective organizational vehicle in the future for establishing sexual equality and female liberation in the United States. Within white, anti-war circles on campus there was not yet much visible evidence of Movement women discontent with the New Left’s political practice in relation to women. Most women student radicals still seemed content to let male radicals play the dominant political roles, although there was growing pressure on white male radicals to start sharing the political shitwork roles with women activists. And many of the most vocal 1970s white middle-class feminist critics of the “Patriarchal New Left” were too deeply involved in their academic studies, middle-class careers or marriages to liberal Democratic Party-affiliated husbands, to be involved in New Left activism in 1967.

Gottlieb and Sutheim also spoke at this National Council meeting. And people like Dave, John, Harvey, Josh and JJ also were in attendance. Another guy named Machtinger was there, too. Ted, Brian and I ate dinner out with Machtinger at a local student hangout near the campus on Saturday night.

Machtinger had grown up on the East Coast, prior to attending Columbia. At Columbia, he had become quite friendly with Ted, before going out to the University of Chicago in Fall 1966 to attend graduate school. At the University of Chicago, Machtinger was a “heavy” in the SDS chapter and played a leadership role in a sit-in at the University of Chicago administration building which demanded an end to the university’s mailing of student class-ranking information to local draft boards.

In the student hang-out restaurant, Machtinger seemed like a pleasant, good-natured, jovial guy, who was more of a grad student and academic radical than an activist. He laughed a lot and was very friendly. After we had eaten dinner and had a few drinks with Machtinger, all of us got into the car of Ted’s father and Ted drove to where Harvey and Josh now lived.

My memories of the next few hours are somewhat hazy, because we all started to smoke a lot of potent pot together at the house in which Harvey and Josh lived, and where Linda was now staying with Josh again. But certain images remain vivid, and I do recall some of what we talked about.

Harvey was now involved with a different woman than the one with whom he had been involved with at Barnard. She listened in a stoned state along with Linda, as Ted informed Harvey and Josh about the state of the Columbia SDS chapter. She seemed both good-natured and quite devoted to Harvey. Linda looked much happier than she had looked in New York earlier in the fall, now that she was together again with Josh.

“Nancy has isolated Teddy from the rest of the chapter. And the chapter is suffering because I have to do most of the day-to-day political work and strategic thinking myself,” Ted complained to Harvey and Josh. “Nancy is more interested in her relationship with Teddy, than in building SDS. She discourages Teddy from doing any more than a minimal amount of political organizing work.”

Harvey, Josh and Linda all seemed to agree with Ted’s negative assessment of Nancy’s influence on Teddy and all felt that Nancy was too self-centered.

“Teddy has always had serious political weaknesses, Ted. That’s why I wasn’t sure he’d make a good chairman. And Nancy isolating him probably accentuates his political weaknesses,” Harvey added.

Personally, I didn’t share Ted, Harvey, Josh and Linda’s negative assessment of Nancy’s political influence on Teddy. But since they all had known Teddy far longer than I had, I didn’t feel qualified enough to openly challenge their negative assessment of Nancy’s influence on Teddy.

The rest of the night remains a blur, as the grass started to take effect and the rock music began to drown out our attempts to have a political discussion. Eventually, Ted, Brian, Machtinger and I staggered into the car of Ted’s father, Ted dropped off Machtinger at the house in which Machtinger was staying and then drove back to his childhood friend’s apartment. Ted, Brian and I then crashed down on the mattresses on the floor, and we all slept soundly until late Sunday morning.

No comments: