Sunday, December 25, 2011

Columbia SDS Founder & 1968 Columbia Strike Leader David Gilbert's Autobiography Published By PM Press

The long-awaited autobiography of U.S. and New York State political prisoner David Gilbert, Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond, was recently published by the West Coast-based PM Press publishing group.

Prior to his arrest and imprisonment on October 20, 1981 in Rockland County, New York, Gilbert was a founder of the Columbia University and Barnard College chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a New School SDS organizer, and a staff member of National SDS’s New York City Regional Office during the 1960s. He also co-authored National SDS’s sequel to its earlier Port Huron Statement, the Port Authority Statement , in 1967. And during the 1970s, Gilbert was an anti-imperialist activist in the Weather Underground (who would later be featured in a 21st-century documentary film about the Weather Underground that was nominated for an Academy Award).

As PM Press observes in its website description of Gilbert’s Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond book:

“David Gilbert arrived at Columbia University just in time for the explosive '60s. From the early anti-Vietnam War protests to the founding of SDS, from the Columbia Strike to the tragedy of the Townhouse, Gilbert was on the scene: as organizer, theoretician, and above all, activist. He was among the first militants who went underground to build the clandestine resistance to war and racism known as “Weathermen.”

“…And he was among the last to emerge, in captivity, after the disaster of the 1981 Brinks robbery, an attempted expropriation that resulted in four deaths and long prison terms. In this extraordinary memoir, written from the maximum-security prison where he has lived for almost thirty years, David Gilbert tells the intensely personal story of his own Long March from liberal to radical to revolutionary.

“Today a beloved and admired mentor to a new generation of activists, he assesses with rare humor, with an understanding stripped of illusions, and with uncommon candor the errors and advances, terrors and triumphs of the Sixties and beyond. It’s a battle that was far from won, but is still not lost: the struggle to build a new world, and the love that drives that effort. A cautionary tale and a how-to as well, Love and Struggle is a book as candid, as uncompromising, and as humane as its author.”


Recruiting Animal said...

In addition to the quotations above you might want to refer people to the Wikipedia article about the robbery he was jailed for.

b.f. said...

One problem with the wikipedia article, though, is that it apparently erroneously describes what happened at the Brink's robbery site. As part 2 of the 1991 article about this case from Downtown (which was reposted on this blog a few years ago) states:

Controversy still exists about the events in Rockland County on Oct. 20, 1981, prior to the arrests of Sam Brown, Boudin, Clark and Gilbert:

1. There is disagreement about what actually happened in the Nanuet Shopping Mall when the Brink’s truck was robbed. In its Oct. 21, 1981 edition, the New York Times reported that then-Rockland County D.A. Kenneth Gribetz “told a news conference at midnight that four of the robbers jumped out of a red van parked near an entrance to the huge two-story shopping complex and began shooting. `They just opened fire on them,’ he said.” Yet in 1985, Gilbert stated: “The story of the combatants charging out shooting at the Brink’s guard is a pure propaganda creation.” And in The Big Dance, John Castellucci wrote that: “Eyewitness accounts of what happened during the robbery are unreliable.”

2. There is disagreement about whether Kathy Boudin shouted at the slain policeman, Sgt. O’Grady: “Tell him to put the gun back,” after Ptl. Brian Lennon pointed a shotgun at the windshield of the U-Haul truck at the Thruway entrance and two other police cars pulled in behind the U-Haul. According to Castellucci’s book, Boudin denies telling Sgt. O’Grady that Ptl. Lennon should “put the gun back” and Ptl. Lennon left out any reference to Boudin’s alleged pre-shootout demand in “both his handwritten account and supplementary investigation report,” yet “testified about it when he took the witness stand during preliminary hearings in the state case in New City, New York, on Oct. 5, 1982.”

3. There is disagreement about whether Boudin was already in police custody prior to the exchange of gunfire at the Thruway entrance and whether she should really be held legally accountable for the deaths of the policemen who were killed after her detention. In an April 20, 1984 letter to Judge Ritter, one of Boudin’s attorneys, Leonard Weinglass, wrote that “The evidence clearly supports the contention that Ms. Boudin was in custody at the time of the shooting.”

4. There is also disagreement about what actually happened during the exchange of gunfire at the Thruway entrance. The Big Dance states that” Patrolman Brian J. Lennon and Detective Arthur G. Keenan were hypnotized to jog their memories about what happened during the shootout” and that Keenan incorrectly identified Sam Brown as the person who shot the two slain policemen in his Oct. 23, 1981 preliminary hearing testimony. Castellucci also states in his book that witness Norma Hill “at first gave an account of the shoot-out radically different from the one she would give when she testified” and “admitted picking the wrong man out of the hospital lineup during a pretrial hearing on October 18, 1982.”

Although the pro-Establishment reporter Castellucci concedes that “neither Boudin, nor Gilbert, nor Clark had fired a gun during the robbery,” then-Rockland County D.A. Gribetz decided to charge the three political activists with murder. According to Gilbert, “The law under which we were convicted is called `felony murder.’ And the reason it’s called felony murder is confusing to people who aren’t involved in the law. But it’s not the same thing as direct or intentional murder. I, personally, for example, was never charged with shooting anyone or even having a gun. It’s a New York law that if you’re involved in a robbery then you could be held accountable—every person involved will be held accountable—for every death that results if there’s a shoot-out afterwards. So that’s the basis, legally, for which I was given 75.” Attorney Tipograph told Downtown in 1991 that the decision to charge people with felony murder is always arbitrary and at the sole discretion of the prosecutor, and is always a political decision.