Saturday, March 3, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 10: The Viet Nam Summer of Love, 1967

Chapter 10: The Viet Nam Summer of Love, 1967 (v)

In late July, Columbia SDS steering committee people started to meet in the Schneiders’ high-rise apartment on LaSalle St., a few blocks from Columbia’s campus. Meetings were held in the evening during the week, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Political strategy for the coming 67-68 school year was discussed. At one of the meetings, Katie and a male student activist, both from Princeton SDS, participated in the strategic discussion with us. We talked about our experiences in attempting to mobilize students in opposition to both Princeton and Columbia’s Institute for Defense Analyses connections and both Princeton and Columbia’s performance of Pentagon-sponsored research and weapons development activity on campus. Katie was a good-natured, serious intellectual activist who seemed to know almost as much about U.S. university ties to the Pentagon as Mike Klare knew.

Nearly all the people attending the informal summer Columbia SDS steering committee meetings were “Praxis Axis” people. Teddy, Nancy, Ted, the Schneiders, Harvey, Evansohn, a grad student from Boston named Al and I were among the people meeting. I brought research about IDA’s involvement in “Project Agile”—which directly related to weapons research for Viet Nam War operational activity—to one of the meetings. I also listened to much theoretical discussion about New Left political strategy and SDS chapter internal organization and education. Peter Schneider, Teddy and Ted, especially, seemed to feel that too great a gap existed between the political consciousness level of Columbia SDS’s leadership and its rank-and-file’s political consciousness level. Each felt that in the 67-68 academic year a special effort should be made to involve rank-and-file members in smaller groups, to maximize their participation in SDS chapter activity.

In Summer 1967, Monthly Review published an English translation of Regis Debray’s Revolution In The Revolution, which argued in support of Che Guevara’s “foci theory of revolution.” Near the end of the summer, SDS Regional organizer Halliwell appeared at one meeting to make the case for applying Regis Debray’s theory of “mobile tactics” to Columbia University conditions, with Columbia SDS acting as the non-violent equivalent of Che’s “guerrilla foci group.” According to Halliwell’s analogy, the mass of Columbia students, like the mass of Latin American peasants, could only be aroused if Columbia SDS developed the capacity to act on an off-campus level as a mobile guerrilla foci at anti-war demonstrations. In Halliwell’s view, Columbia SDS should continue to use its usual educational methods to persuade future members of the new working-class—the mass of Columbia University student “peasants”—to become off-campus mobile demonstrators who pushed the U.S. anti-war movement “from protest to resistance,” by their mobile tactics.