Sunday, March 11, 2007

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

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

During October and November 1967, a number of Movement people stopped by the apartment to spend some time with Dave. From the SDS Regional Office in Washington, D.C. came Cathy Wilkerson, who was visiting New York SDS Regional Office people on Movement business and needed a place to crash for the night. Cathy was in her 20s, dressed in jeans and a work shirt, and used neither make-up nor lipstick. She sounded much more politically conscious and earnestly committed to making radical social change than the Barnard women students I knew, and she seemed very intelligent.

I first met Jeff when he nodded at me on an October 1967 stopover to meet Dave at the apartment. Jeff had dropped out of Antioch and was also working at the New York Regional SDS Office in Fall 1967. He was a tall, blond-haired guy and was from a Quaker background. But Jeff struck me as more of a rebel and radical Guevarist-type activist in spirit, than a religiously-motivated “pacifist-Quaker”-type activist. I was impressed by his cheerfulness, his good nature, his apparent psychological strength and the energetic way he approached people and moved about. He seemed to be more into being an activist and organizer than an academic radical or a theoretician. I was also impressed by the fact that Jeff had apparently been willing to drop out of school and give up his 2-S deferment, in order to be a full-time Movement organizer before completing college.

A tall Movement guy in his early 20s from Madison, who wore glasses, spent three nights in our apartment, before moving into his own New York City apartment. I can’t recall the guy’s name, but I do recall that he talked about the police riot which squashed the anti-Dow Chemical protest in Madison. Dow Chemical was the company which made the napalm that was being used by the U.S. war machine in Viet Nam to burn civilians.

Madison radicals in Fall 1967 had stopped Dow Chemical Company recruitment at the University of Wisconsin and the University Administration there had called in the police. Many student radicals were then beaten, and Ted and other Columbia SDS people received calls from Madison indicating that Harvey had been brutalized. Given how we all worshipped Harvey, because of his leftist intellectual brilliance, we were, naturally, quite anxious, until we heard that Harvey had not been seriously injured.

Around this same time, Brooklyn College SDS—under the leadership of PL “SDS’ers”, like a guy named Jeff Gordon—had also stopped Dow Chemical recruitment and forced the Brooklyn College Administration to also call cops onto the campus. As a result of the brutal way the NYC cops came onto Brooklyn College’s campus, Brooklyn College SDS, temporarily, acquired a mass student base around anti-repression politics for about a week—until the mass of sympathetic left-liberal students discovered that the Brooklyn College SDS chapter was actually an authoritarian, dogmatic left-sectarian PL chapter, operating under the New Left “SDS” label.

Another Movement visitor who stopped by the apartment one evening was an enthusiastic young activist from Berkeley who had played a leadership role in the mass street actions a few weeks before, in which mobile radical anti-war protesters had succeeded in shutting down the Oakland military induction center for awhile, while bravely confronting Oakland police. For a few hours, the activist—a guy named Kleiman—vividly filled me and the activist from Madison in on details of the anti-draft protest. I was excited by his talk, and felt some envy that more radical and more militant action was happening out near Berkeley than was happening at Columbia. As I listened to his description of the street demonstrations, I once again regretted that I hadn’t been able to afford a transfer to Berkeley.

“We had the cops completely outflanked. So many more people than we ever expected turned out for the protests early in the morning, that the cops were too outnumbered to control us. This was the most militant anti-war protest that’s been held anywhere in the U.S. That’s why they’re trying to pin a `conspiracy’ charge on some of the leaders,” Kleiman explained.

Kleiman’s personal report from Berkeley reinforced my feeling that the pace of mass radicalization and the growth of mass militancy was definitely accelerating. After speaking with Kleiman, I read the West Coast-based newspaper, The Movement, and liked the way it analyzed Oakland’s “Stop The Draft Week.”