Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

`Columbia'

“Oh, educate
Columbia
Pursue the truth
Columbia
Exalt the mind
Columbia
Research and find
Columbia
And humanize and civilize
With reason as your tool.”

Invite the spies
Columbia
The C.I.A.
Columbia
Give them a room
Columbia
To recruit spooks
Columbia
And “humanize and civilize
With reason as your tool.”

Help the Navy
Columbia
ROTC
Columbia
Teach a course for
Columbia
“The Art of War”
Columbia
And “humanize and civilize
With reason as your tool.”

Secret research
Columbia
You’d best not snitch
Columbia
At Hudson Labs
Maybe some bombs?
For electric war
Design lasers
And “humanize and civilize
With reason as your tool.”


The "Columbia" protest folk song was written in Furnald Hall on the campus of Columbia University in late 1966 to protest Columbia University’s collaboration with the U.S. war machine that waged unjust war in Vietnam and the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] that overthrew the democratically-elected governments of Iran and Guatemala during the 1950s. In 2010, Columbia University still apparently allows the CIA to recruit on campus and still allows war-related research work for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] and the Joint Warfare Analysis Center [JWAC} to be done on Columbia University’s campus.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Epilogue: Lewis Cole's `Legacy of 1968 Columbia Student Strike' Speech (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (144)

“And so the legacy is something that we create. And it is our job here to create the thing that we give to the future. That’s what matters.”—Lewis Cole on April 26, 2008

Former Columbia SDS activist and 1968 Columbia Student Strike leader Lewis Cole died from complications due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (a/k/a/ Lou Gehrig’s disease) on October 10, 2008, at the age of 62. Nearly six months before he died, he spoke about “The Legacy of the Student Movement”—while sitting in a wheelchair and using a breathing tube—at the 40th anniversary commemoration of the 1968 Columbia Student Strike event that was held at Columbia University’s Journalism School on April 26, 2008. To listen to an audio version of this speech and audio versions of other presentations that were made at the 40th anniversary commemoration, you can check out the following website link:

http://www.columbia1968.com/

“A couple of things that I just want to clean up before I say quick things about “legacy.”

“First of all, when we’re going through the horrors of the New York Times, it’s important also to recognize the young reporters—and especially one of them—who tried to tell the story true. He is sitting in the front row. He is probably the greatest witness to revolutionary movements throughout the world in the latter half of the twentieth-century. And I just want to take my hat off to John Kifner. I’d call up the Times and say `Where’s Kifner? And they’d say: `He’s in Pakistan.’ You knew something was happening there.

“The second thing I want to say is one of the real problems of the radical Movement was its sense of its own importance. And it is interesting to me—and a little bit appalling—this argument about Nixon. Because what it neglects is the role of the Black Movement and how it is that because of the enormous challenge that the Black Liberation Movement set in America, Nixon conceived of the `Southern Strategy.’

“And then, in many respects, the election of Nixon in 1968 is an example and is a moment when America reacted reactionarily to the struggle of the African-American population for its freedom. And it set that Movement back in a certain way. It set the development of the society back in a certain way.

“So that the argument about how it is that we affected Nixon—while it may be partly true—overlooks this much greater thing which was the deliberate and conscious decision on the part of the Republicans—that aspect of the ruling-class, et cetera—to try to throttle that Movement. And try to throttle the way in which it was trying to transform the society at large.

“So, having said all that, I just want to say two other quick, little, tidying up things. One, it galls me when they talk about how we were `middle-class.’ We were not middle-class!

“The students who were involved in the Strike came largely from working-class homes. They were largely the children of first-generation Americans. Harvey Blume’s father I believe ran a dry-cleaning or a tailor establishment in Brooklyn. My parents were working-class intellectuals. Tom Hurwitz’s parents took out loans to get him to come here, for which they spent years paying off.

“So this thing about we were `middle-class kids.’ Maybe Mark [Rudd]. Maybe Mark. Because it is true that—as a kid who had grown up in New York—I was very impressed that Mark knew how to drive a car. And he was the only one.

“We used to go around late at night and he would drive up to some fancy car. And he would look out the window, get the red light. He’d turn to the guy and he’d say: `Wanna drag?’

“And that was a revelation to me. But he was the only one I knew who even knew how to drive. We were working-class kids. And that’s an important thing.

“And the second thing I wanted to just mention was that when we talk about the Black and white alliance that was so important here, et cetera. The other aspect of that was—which wasn’t, I think, underlined enough. Was that it wasn’t simply that the white students were supporting the Gym [demand].

“But, to my mind, much more importantly, it was that SAS [Student Afro-American Society] was unswerving in its demands about IDA [the Institute for Defense Analyses] and the Vietnam War. And that there were repeated attempts to get them to say `Oh, no. We’re only concerned about the Gym.’ And they never, never broke on that demand. And that was crucial.

“Now, very quickly, I just want to say something about legacies.

“Legacies are not simply something that are given. They’re something that are made. You know, like `Shakespeare.' He’s a legacy. So there were the plays. But then there was the quartos. There was the production of the plays. There was the love that went into that. And then there was the understanding of them.

“And so the legacy is something that we create. And it is our job here to create the thing that we give to the future. That’s what matters.

“And it strikes me that, you know, there are good legacies and there are bad legacies. And I think that this has been a wonderful discussion. And I thank Todd [Gitlin] for giving his point of view—which I find completely wrong. But because it opens up the discussion.

“But I just want to warn against something that I think has been true about `Columbia.’ Two ways in which a legacy is not good. And I think Maurice [Isserman] mentioned and talked about one of them in a certain way. One is the mythology of `Columbia.’

“I haven’t spent my whole life here. I came to school here. I left. I didn’t get a degree. I worked for many years outside. Then twenty years ago, somebody called me up and said: `You want to be an adjunct teacher?’ I said: `Yes.’ Then, you know, I married.

“So…But I’ve been to a number of the, you know, the fifth thing. The fifth anniversary, the tenth, the twentieth. And now the fortieth. It’s a little bit getting long. And the thing is that the mythology of `Columbia’ can become, in a way, a dead weight on people. It can become something that they’re always trying to measure up to. It’s like a standard. And then it becomes like `Well, we didn’t quite do it. It wasn’t enough.’

“It becomes a measurement which you can never fulfill. And that needs to be stopped in some way. People have to be told: `You know, you do what you do. And that is the way. The way you make your “Columbia,” is the way you make “Columbia.” Not the repetition. Not the imitation of what it is that we did.’

“And the second thing is the nature of argument about what it is that happened. Now, you know, some of the thing of going over what it is that happened. It’s always fun to tell `war stories.’

“What I found really fascinating about last night was the contribution of the SAS members and the talk about how painful it was to be a Black student on this campus. That was really revelatory to me and I think it’s an important piece of information. What’s not important is to have endless arguments about, you know, what it is that should have been done…You know, what could have been.

“And, in this regard, I think back when I was a young man--to the arguments that we used to have about the Spanish Civil War. By the way, in 1968 the Spanish Civil War—which seemed to us ancient history—was 30 years ago. And now, by the way, `Columbia’ is 40 years ago. So, think about that.

“But these things, like creating a mythology, arguing so much about what should or shouldn’t have happened, can be a way of controlling the past. It’s having power over it. And, of course, we want that. But, you know, brothers and sisters. It’s also time to let it go. To give it over to our children.

“And I think that one of the things for me that’s very important—Sorry, I get emotional—is the incandescent moment of `Columbia’. That, for a variety of reasons—and a lot of these we have not got into--`Columbia’ mattered not just because of what we did. It mattered because of what we believed. That this was a moment of real internationalism. The Blacks and the whites getting together was a moment of international solidarity. Our saying that we would stand with the Vietnamese people was a moment of international solidarity.

“There was one moment—I’ll be brief, Juan [Gonzalez], I’ll get off in a moment…There was one moment when, during the strike, the Administration came up with the bright idea of having a referendum on IDA. And everybody would `vote.’ The students would `vote:’ `Did we want to have IDA? Did we want to have the Gym? Did we not?’

“And we were thrown. We were in a tizzy. `What happens if…?’ We were going to lose the `vote.’ And then we decided: `You know what? We didn’t care about “the vote.”’ The right of the students here to say that programs should be created in which Vietnamese local leaders were targeted and killed. We didn’t have the right as students to say that that should happen. We did not have the right to say that the Gym should be built.

“So we said: `Have your referendum. We’re staying in the buildings!’ Internationalism.

“And that, along with participatory democracy, created a lot of what was the Strike. It created the incandescent moment of it. Not simply that we were taking power. But that we were taking power for certain things. And that moment needs to be acknowledged by us. `Cause every generation wants to have a moment in which they feel they are making the world.

“So it matters that we say to them: `This is how you really do make the world. These ideals really do give you power.’

“One last note about that. I am quite sick as you see. And I am facing an end which we’re all gonna face. But in my case it’s probably going to come a lot sooner. And a lot more predictably than in your case. And I read a lot.

“One of the things I read was about the Spanish Civil War, which played such an important, romantic part in my head when I was young. Yet the history of the Spanish Civil War now is very different than the one that I knew when I was growing up. But the thing that at the end it says to you is that, in the face of inexorable evil, people stood up. And that gives you strength. It gives you strength to go on.

“I brought my son—who’s in the audience—to the film [about the 1968 strike] two nights ago. And afterwards, we were walking home and…You know, except for the birth of my children, there’s no event in my mind as pure as the Strike.

“And we were walking home and I said: `What did you think of the film?’

“`Well, it was too long, blah, blah…’ And then he said: `You know, there was that guy saying, you know, “they were so romantic”.’

“He looked at me. He’s very tall, my son. I looked at him and I said: `You know, hey! Sometimes, you gotta be romantic. What’s wrong with that?’

“He said: `You know, they say “Oh, they emulated romantic heroes.” You know, there was this romantic emulation of heroes.’

“I said: `Sometimes that’s what you need to do.’

“And to me, you were all heroes. And that’s another part of the legacy. Thank you.”

Epilogue: Columbia SDS Memories: From Berkeley To Kent State (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (143)

From news of the Berkeley revolt to the Columbia revolt to news of Ted’s death to news of Kent State in less than 6 years. Within these years are my Columbia SDS memories. Freedom Now and World Peace and Equality had not been won yet. And the 1960s had still not brought me the sustained romantic love relationship I had hoped to discover with Rona in 1965. But I had learned the truth about U.S. society and I felt that I was one of its un-indicted outlaws, in some ways.

The time between the Berkeley Student Revolt and the Kent State Massacre had revealed why a Revolution was necessary in the United States for a genuinely democratic society to be established within its borders. The test of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 21st-century was whether my generation could collectively make that Revolution happen, despite the intensified repression that the U.S. imperialist Establishment appeared willing to lay on us, in order to try to turn us into docile, but cheerful, robots—as we aged.

Seize their TV
Then speak freely.


Turn 2009 into 1969.

All Power to the People!

THE END

Chapter 27: The Bronx and Kent State, 1970-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (142)

I decided to finally get a 9-to-5 clerical job to secure the bread needed to get a cheap apartment in this post-draft period of my life. I went to the New York State Employment Agency and it referred me to Cardinal Export Company, which sold RCA vinyl records around the globe. I was hired by a guy named Mr. Lerner to be a biller-typist. It turned out that Mr. Lerner was an ex-Communist Party member from the 1930s, now in his late 50s, who now lived in Great Neck.

Once I was getting my $100 per week in wages, I traveled up to the Bronx because that was where the cheapest apartments were being advertised, after I had decided that I didn’t want to move into a vacant apartment off Avenue D on the Lower East Side which I had been offered. In the Bronx, I found myself a 2 ½ room apartment a few blocks from Fordham University, south of Fordham Road, in a working-class Italian-American enclave. The rent-controlled apartment’s rent was $57 per month.

Before I moved from the Lower East Side to the Bronx, I spent an evening smoking pot with Melvin, in his Lower East Side apartment. Melvin had dropped out of Columbia a year before the 1968 student revolt, become one of the weirdest-looking Movement freaks in the City long before other white New Leftists became freaks and been one of Newsreel’s founders in late 1967. But in early 1970 Melvin had been pushed out of Newsreel for being “too anarchistic.” Yet Melvin had always been a very emotional, very enthusiastic and very “up” person.

I asked Melvin what he thought was happening in Newsreel, in particular, and to the New York City Movement, in general, these days. Melvin laughed and replied: “Uptight, bureaucratic people have taken over Newsreel and the Movement nowadays. Freaks don’t feel comfortable with Movement people anymore. People like us have to develop alternatives to what remains of the Movement.”

April 1970 was spent by me being bored with my 9-to-5 clerical job, painting my apartment in the Bronx and trying to recover from my heartbreak at not being loved in return by Florrie. At first, I felt an identity crisis, because for so many years I had always done New Left activist work on a daily basis, but now most evenings and weekends were free of day-to-day political activism. Once I began to get back into folk songwriting, folk singing and guitar-playing again, however, I felt my identity crisis was being resolved. I also went to an early April “Free The Panther 21” rally in Central Park and march across the Queensboro Bridge to the Long Island City Jail (in which some Black Panther Party activists were locked up) which Lew had organized, and which was attended by thousands of people.

Then Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia on April 30, 1970—2 years after the cops had invaded Columbia University’s campus. The following day, I left early Friday afternoon from work and took the New Haven Railroad up to New Haven to attend a “Free The Panthers” May Day rally on the New Haven Green. Yale University President Brewster had diluted the potential militancy of the protest by making Yale University campus facilities available to pro-Panther demonstrators and expressing doubt that Bobby Seale could get a fair trial in the United States in 1970. National Guardsmen, though, were still walking around the city streets, just in case mass militancy developed. That night, demonstrators ended up being tear-gassed, as we attempted to march around the downtown area, in front of the New Haven Courthouse. Early Saturday morning, I got bored walking around stoned and inhaling all the tear gas that was still in the air, so I took a train back down to New York City.

The following Monday, when I left work and was heading downtown to visit my sister, I saw the headlines about the Kent State Massacre. Four white students had been killed by Ohio National Guardsmen. Like everybody else, I was both angered and somewhat surprised. I had still thought the Establishment was reluctant to shoot down white anti-war demonstrators. It now appeared it wasn’t. I looked forward to the emergency demonstration in Washington, D.C. that was immediately scheduled for the weekend and I expected that the Saturday demo would be militant.

News of the Kent State Massacre ignited campuses all across the U.S. and the U.S. mass media publicized Movement resistance in a big way. Local high school students in the Bronx spontaneously walked out of school for the first time and chanted: “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your fuckin’ war!” As the big national Saturday demo in D.C. approached, it appeared that we might be on the verge of Revolution in the U.S., analogous to what had happened in France in May 1968, less than two years before.

My sister and I hitched down to D.C. on Saturday and we were given a ride by an older anti-war guy, who was a public high school teacher. But when I got to the demo of 200,000, it seemed more like a picnic than a militant anti-war and anti-repression protest. Bureaucratic Movement people and left-liberal Movement marshals were against encouraging any kind of spontaneous mass non-violent civil disobedience to protest the Kent State killings. No Weatherpeople appeared to be around to organize any effective non-violent militancy, outside of the legalistic protest that we had all been channeled into.

In a car on the way back to New York City, I felt that the Movement, as a result of its unwillingness to collectively organize mass non-violent civil disobedience outside the White House to protest both the Kent State killings and the invasion of Cambodia, had made a major tactical blunder. A few days later two African-American students were killed by police on the campus of Jackson State in Mississippi, but the corporate media gave it much less publicity than it had given the killing of white students at Kent State in Ohio.

Chapter 26: Uncle Sam Don't Want Me, 1970-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (141)

In late February 1970, I had finally received the order to report for my pre-induction physical. I mentioned this fact to Howie and he furnished me the telephone number of a doctor who was the mother of one of the other former High School Student Union activists. After I telephoned the anti-war doctor, she referred me to another anti-war doctor, who arranged an appointment with me in her office.

I asked a few Newsreel people whether they thought it made political sense for me to enter the U.S. Army and try to do anti-war organizing from within. The consensus was that little could still be accomplished by Movement activists going into the U.S. Army and that Newsreel people, themselves, would not be able to provide me with much outside support if I was so foolhardy as to go into the U.S. Army.

So on the day of my pre-induction physical, I took an early morning BMT subway train down to Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; and in my pocket was a letter. The letter stated that I was psychologically unfit for military service and that I would likely endanger the lives of my fellow combatants in a combat situation, because of my psychotic fear of authority.

At the military base, I noticed that among the predominantly African-American and Puerto Rican group of 200 young men, about 5 or 6 white young men had large manila envelopes with X-rays in them. I waited in line as the 200 of us got processed and examined; and I held my anger in at this first personal contact with the discipline of a U.S. military that was committing genocide in Viet Nam. I felt like shouting out to the other pre-inductees: “How can you let them take your life for use as cannon fodder? Why don’t we all start shouting `Hell, No! We won’t go!?” But I realized that if I made a political scene at the pre-induction physical my chances for a psychological deferment would vanish and it would mean jail, induction or exile for me.

I did get into an argument, however, with one of the African-American soldiers who controlled your position on line, after I complained aloud about the slow pace of the pre-induction physical examination process. In response, he ordered me to the end of the line.

After hours and hours of waiting, most of the other potential conscripts were certified as fit to be drafted and told that their pre-induction physical was over. About 10 of us, however, were ordered to wait outside the Army shrink’s office. Five of us had letters in our pockets from doctors and five of us had no letters. After about another hour of waiting, it was my turn to be interviewed by the Army shrink. I walked into his office with a downcast expression.

He asked for my letter, opened the envelope and read it, as I sat on the other side of his desk. He then looked at me with some disdain, as I maintained my downcast expression, and asked me a few questions related to my use of alcohol and my “sketchy” job history since getting a college diploma 7 months before. Then he stamped some papers and sent me to another office in the pre-induction physical center. At the next office, a young soldier looked at me with some pity, stamped my papers again and informed me that I was “4F.”

I continued to maintain my downcast expression, as I walked out of the pre-induction physical center at a slow pace. When I got closer to the gate of the base, I started to walk a little faster. Once I was off the base, I began to smile and laugh and broke into a run to the subway. I felt happier than I had ever been since the bombing of North Viet Nam had begun on a daily basis in early 1965.

Uncle Sam would never want me again. I had successfully resisted being drafted for military service in an immoral war. I could continue to devote my life to serving the cause of human liberation, not the needs of the U.S. military machine.

Once the draft threat was no longer over my head, I personally felt less desperate than I had been since high school. I still intended to do some kind of Movement-oriented work, but now I was doing it by choice and not also because I felt imprisoned by the draft threat. After I left Newsreel, however, I did not know where I would now fit into the Movement, exactly.

Chapter 25: All Power To My Sisters, 1970-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (140)

Increasingly, though, some Movement women were starting to question the political drift towards the use of militant tactics that would include destroying U.S. corporate and military property by anti-war bomb-planting. Political arguments started to be made by certain Movement women that it was not only left-adventurist to resist the war machine by planting bombs, but that it actually expressed an anti-feminist politics of macho for Movement people to either support or practice the use of revolutionary violence in the U.S.—even if Black Panther Party activists also justified its use in response to fascist repression.

In March 1970, Newsreel’s women’s caucus, under Andrea’s leadership and influenced by the example of the women’s takeover of the (now-defunct) Rat counter-cultural newsweekly, began to push for Movement women control of Newsreel. Because about two-thirds of Newsreel’s 40 to 50 New York City members were Movement women, the demand for radical feminist control of Newsreel could not be logically resisted on democratic grounds. As Movement women took control of Newsreel, those men who wished to remain in Newsreel were compelled to equally share organizational shitwork duties and child care duties with Newsreel women.

Newsreel men were also compelled to accept “personality criticism,” as well as political criticism from Newsreel women, at intense meetings, in order to rid their personalities and political practice of male chauvinist tendencies. Newsreel women were also required to submit to collective personality and political criticism in these emotionally-draining March 1970 criticism-self-criticism sessions. But criticism of Movement women was usually done in a less harsh and more supportive way than was the criticism of Movement men. Mass organizing and mass outreach work pretty much came to a standstill because Newsreel women felt that the organization’s top priority should be to eliminate all vestiges of male chauvinism within the organization, before resuming any mass outreach work.

Some of the criticism that Newsreel people leveled at each other was productive. But much of it seemed organizationally and emotionally self-destructive. Some Newsreel people began to feel emotionally closer or politically empowered because of the intensity and frankness of these criticism-self-criticism sessions. But many activists were trashed by other members of Newsreel, whom they were quite fond of previously, for petty reasons, in a politically destructive way.

Sometimes it seemed like the predominantly upper-middle-class white Movement women were using the predominantly upper-middle-class white Newsreel men as surrogates for their lovers in previous failed marriages or relationships or for male supremacist institutions in general; given the resentment and bitterness that came out in these demoralizing meetings. Many Newsreel people no longer seemed to trust each other or accept the weirdness or eccentricities of each other’s personality or style of doing political work. Movement men who were not attached romantically to Newsreel women were at a special disadvantage now within the organization; because they lacked a Newsreel woman to certify to other Newsreel women that they were “dealing with their male chauvinism” adequately.

Some Movement women who felt dissatisfied with the quality of their love relationships with Movement men attempted to solve some of their relationships’ sexual or emotional problems by criticizing their lovers at these formal Newsreel criticism-self-criticism sessions. One Newsreel woman criticized a Newsreel man in front of the rest of the collective for not letting her lie on top of him when they made love to each other. Newsreel men were requested by Newsreel women to take turns revealing the history of all their previous relationships with women to other Newsreel men, in order to collectively deepen their anti-sexist consciousness.

When I mentioned to my sister some of the ways in which Newsreel women were pressuring Newsreel men to “deal with their male chauvinism” and change their personalities, she was somewhat surprised and remarked that the process sounded somewhat “neurotic.” A Leviathan magazine article by Marge Piercy, titled “The Grand Coulee Dam,” was also influential in encouraging the Newsreel women to verbally trash white Movement men at the height of the Panther 21 trial and the war in Viet Nam.

I concluded that it was politically positive for Newsreel women to set the agenda for their Movement organization, given the depth of inter-personal and institutional sexism both within and outside the Movement. But I also concluded that it no longer made much political sense for me to work with Newsreel. Without a distribution network for its films, Newsreel really wasn’t able to make any mass political impact in the U.S. And until the demoralizing internal conflicts between Movement men and women were satisfactorily resolved, it appeared unlikely that any adequate mass distribution network for Newsreel films would ever develop.

Before leaving Newsreel, I attempted to get Florrie interested in me romantically, since I still was wild about her, despite my feeling that Newsreel wasn’t really making any political headway because of its internal and external political problems. But Florrie was not interested in getting any closer to me outside of a Movement work-situation. So when I finally managed to beat the draft near the end of March 1970, I dropped out of Newsreel.