Monday, February 5, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (vii)

At the meeting in the CUSC office, John, Josh, Linda, Teddy, Ted, Tony, myself and others were in attendance. We talked about what kind of leaflet we would hand out and distribute around campus in the days prior to the anti-CIA demonstration. People agreed to leaflet and post leaflets around campus at specific times and places. PL leader Tony agreed to type the stencil and mimeograph the 1,000 leaflets we required, even though he still argued that the leaflet should announce that the CIA would be “kicked off campus by Columbia SDS,” not just picketed.

But the leaflets that Tony ran off reflected PL politics, not what everyone else in the Columbia SDS planning meeting had agreed the leaflet should say. So Ted had to end up typing up a new stencil and running off a bunch of new leaflets, so that the anti-CIA demonstration would accurately reflect New Left, not PL, politics.

Tony was a humorless, emotionally dead grad student at Columbia Teachers College, whose specialty was Chinese history and dogmatically applying the thoughts of Chairman Mao to U.S. 1960s political reality. But he was a hard worker and he was extremely dedicated, as were most of the other Progressive Labor Party people who operated as a fraction within Columbia SDS at that time and sought to gain control of the organization. Eliezer laughingly described how Tony had tried to recruit him into PL:

“He invited me to his apartment. After we arrived there, he started to play me a phonograph record of somebody reading the Communist Manifesto. Then, after the record was played, he asked me if I had any questions.”

In his dorm room, Eliezer and I gossiped about how the PL-types seemed less democratic and less emotionally open in their personalities and ways of relating than the New Left SDS types. We also joked about what Teddy used to call “the PL personality.”

After Ted had printed up the new anti-CIA leaflets and given them to Teddy, I was visited in my dorm room at Furnald Hall for the first time by Teddy. He had brought some leaflets for me to distribute around campus and in the dormitories. It was the first time I spoke with Teddy at length, on a one-to-one basis. Teddy immediately charmed me. I immediately felt even more love for him than for Ted. Teddy carried his leaflets and school books and notebooks around in a small knapsack, when everyone else at Columbia and Barnard was still using briefcases and attache’ cases. He wore a stocking-type cap in winter.

I can’t recall the specifics of my first lengthy conversation with Teddy. But he immediately seemed like the kind of guy with whom you could talk about more than New Left politics. Eliezer and I agreed that Teddy seemed Christ-like in many ways.

Teddy had a variety of intellectual interests. He was much more of an intellectual, trendy, faddist and hippie than a political activist. Politically, he saw himself as an anarchist, not a communist or Marxist-Leninist, in 1967.

Teddy was a very spiritual person. He argued that “Politics should be an instrument of morality, not an instrument of domination.” His personality and appearance were androgynous and gentle, not macho. He majored in religion and was so intellectually eclectic that he was almost as much into the Buddha as he was into Marxism. Teddy also liked to talk about sex and “chicks” a lot in a non-macho, realistic way, and considered himself a follower of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse. He often tended to be more of a sexual determinist than an economic or sociological determinist when he explained the inter-personal and political behavior of people.

In talking at length with Teddy, you were able to receive capsule summaries of the many books in various fields that Teddy had read over the years. “As Reich says in The Function of Orgasm, etc.” or “As Marcuse says in Eros and Civilization, etc.” or “As Buddha says, etc.” or “As Che Guevara says, etc.” or “As Ho Chi Minh wrote, etc.” was the kind of talk Teddy was good at sprinkling his conversation with.

I put leaflets all around the dormitories and in school buildings and under dormitory doors. The night before the CIA recruiter was to come, I went with Eliezer to John’s W. 108th St. apartment to help make anti-CIA picket signs for a few hours at a picket sign-making party. In the apartment, Dave, John, Teddy, Josh, Linda, Ted and other SDS people were drinking beer in-between using magic markers to write on the oak tag that was to be used for the picket signs. Rock music played in the background and, as people became more drunk, it really did begin to turn into a picket sign-making party. Being still new to most of the SDS people there, though, Eliezer and I found that nobody was too into talking with us. So we left the party early.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, I joined a picket line of about 20 people outside Dodge Hall. John led the chanting, as we marched around in the freezing February morning.
“CIA must go! CIA must go! CIA must go!”

To introduce some variety in the chanting, John suddenly started to chant, in a softer voice, “Lumumba lives! Lumumba lives! Lumumba lives!”

By late morning, the picket line had grown to about 75 people, a much smaller group than we had hoped for. Despite our January publicity, many Columbia and Barnard leftists had not heard about the scheduled anti-CIA demonstration because they hadn’t been around campus during January.

Shortly after Columbia SDS began picketing Dodge Hall, the PL fraction within SDS—plus a few other impatient SDS people—went inside Dodge Hall and sat down in front of the recruiting office. The CIA representative was effectively stopped from recruiting for the day. The New Left faction picketed outside for awhile. Then, we went to the basement floor of Dodge Hall and held a meeting to decide whether Columbia SDS, as a whole, should join the 18 PL-led students who were already sitting-in and stopping CIA recruitment.

Dave, John, Josh, Harvey, Lew, Ted and Teddy all argued against going upstairs to join the PL-led sit-in, as did most of the other students who spoke.

“If we all go upstairs and sit-in, the rest of the campus won’t understand why we’re stopping recruiting. The rest of the campus still thinks it’s a question of free speech. And that SDS is preventing free speech if we stop CIA recruitment today. PL doesn’t care about building a mass movement of students. They think all students are `bourgeois’ and that only workers matter. So they don’t worry about alienating the mass of students by their tactics.

“Yet there are plenty of Columbia students out there, who aren’t here now—but who will be here next time in a much larger demonstration—who can be organized. But only if we don’t alienate them now, by letting PL determine our campus strategy,” Dave argued.

Everybody supported this argument and we went back outside to picket some more, and then held a short rally.