Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 9: Confronting The Marines, 1967

Chapter 9: Confronting The Marines, 1967 (v)

Following the confrontation with the Marine recruiters, most of the newly politicized and radicalized SDS supporters returned to their normal academic and hedonistic routines. But Ted, Teddy, Nancy, the Schneiders and a few other Columbia SDS steering committee “heavies” spent the next few weeks putting together a Columbia SDS publication called New Left Notes: The Journal of Columbia SDS. This SDS newspaper contained articles and columns on the SDS-Marine confrontation, on the “free speech/freedom to recruit” vs. responsibility to resist Columbia complicity with the war machine controversy, on draft resistance, on the latest Viet Nam War escalation and on Columbia’s IDA connection. It also included a short poem by Bertolt Brecht. I contributed the article on Columbia’s IDA connection. (I found a photocopy of this particular newspaper in my de-classified FBI file, in the late 1970s).

Much of the work of putting out this May 1967 Columbia SDS chapter newspaper was done at Teddy’s W. 115th St. apartment. Nancy applied her past experience as a high school newspaper editor to the Columbia SDS newspaper project. She’s the one who did most of the technical preparation and make-up and lay-out on the 4-page newspaper, after Columbia SDS steering committee people had contributed the articles and Ted “Acapulco” had edited them. Because Ted, like everyone else around the New Left, was smoking pot everyday by this time, people thought it was funny to start calling him by that nickname.

In Teddy’s apartment, Nancy usually just dressed casually in jeans, a nightgown or shorts. And whenever I stopped by to bring over flyers, attend meetings there, drop off my article or pick up and drop off Columbia SDS table literature, she was very warm and good-natured. Both she and Teddy always seemed to give off good love vibrations and I continued to feel a strong love for both of them.

On the afternoon the Columbia SDS newspaper was ready to be picked up from the printer I was hanging around the Columbia SDS table on Low Plaza. So I volunteered to go downtown to the printer and meet Nancy in order to assist her in carrying back the heavy bundles of newly-printed newspapers. She had been downtown most of the day in the print shop, making sure the newspaper was being printed correctly. I enjoyed working with Nancy on this little errand. She seemed much happier than I was, and still deeply in love with Teddy. She still seemed like the best woman around Columbia and Barnard.

Around this time, I first visited Mark’s 501 W. 110th St., 7th floor apartment, to attend a meeting to discuss Columbia SDS plans to run a slate of candidates in the Columbia University Student Council [CUSC] elections on a “student power” platform. At first I was going to run as a candidate, along with Mark and a few other SDS people, because somebody had decided that I would make a good candidate. But, after thinking about the prospect of running for the Student Council, I decided it wasn’t the kind of political role I wanted to play.

In order to make sure that I would pass my courses that term, I also couldn’t afford to spend the final weeks of the semester campaigning, instead of completing term papers. I also didn’t believe there was much political value in running in student council elections because real power at Columbia rested with the Columbia trustees, not with the student council. Mark and the other Columbia SDS candidates stayed in the student council election campaign and didn’t win many votes—for reasons indicated in Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, which describes the origins of “false consciousness” in advanced capitalist society. But perhaps some consciousness-raising gains were made by the New Left at Columbia because of its participation in the 1967 “Mickey Mouse” student council elections.

I don’t recall much of what was talked about at the meeting in which I first visited Mark’s 110th St. apartment. What I do recall most vividly is that Mark had hung a huge poster of Mao Tse-Tung on his living room wall and that the apartment resembled most hippie pads of those days.

Mark was cheerful at the meeting, but he still seemed hard to get to know and not more than superficially friendly towards me. He still didn’t seem to think as logically in a political way as Harvey, Dave, Josh, Ted, Teddy, John, the Schneiders, Evansohn or Nancy all did around this time, despite the charisma he had shown at the April 20, 1967 post-right-wing attack rally. When Mark talked politically at this pre-student council election meeting, he sometimes seemed to make sense, but other times he seemed scatterbrained, too rhetorical and not politically concrete enough.

On a political level, Mark still seemed unclear about the direction that he wanted Columbia SDS to be going. You got the sense that Mark enjoyed speaking before a leftist crowd, saw Columbia SDS as being an effective campus anti-war group, thought New Left politics could be popularized easily at Columbia if people worked at it and was into Columbia SDS because it was fun to be a New Left activist, as well as because he felt personally threatened by the draft. Mark gave no indication that he was especially interested in the question of African-American Liberation or that he had ever been involved in Civil Rights activity or peace movement activity before joining the ICV or Columbia SDS. He also never mentioned that he had ever been into writing plays, although he was open about being an English major at Columbia.

At 501 W. 110th St., Mark roomed with Herbert Marcuse’s stepson, a guy named Neumann. Neumann’s older brother, Tom Neumann, was one of the founders of the non-student “Up Against The Wall, Motherfucker!” Lower East Side chapter of SDS. This chapter combined an anti-student, anti-white collar radical, hippie lifestyle with a hard line revolutionary politic. The Neumann who was Mark’s roommate was never very active politically at Columbia. He seemed to be amused in a supercilious way at Mark’s growing inclination to become involved in day-to-day Columbia SDS campus organizing after April 1967. Neumann’s biological father, Franz Neumann, had fled from Nazi Germany and written the book about Nazi society, Behemoth.

Mark’s other roommate was a guy named Lieberman, who was also never politically active at Columbia. Lieberman just seemed into studying and smoking pot and never said much to me whenever I bumped into him either on campus or in Mark’s apartment.

Unlike most other Columbia SDS steering committee people, Mark, thus, roomed with non-activist student roommates. His apartment always smelled heavily of marijuana and there was usually FM rock music being played in the background. In early 1967, I recall seeing Mark walking on the street with this blond-haired woman with an English accent, named Mary, who also never became that active politically.