Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (xii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (38)

February 1967 remained hectic, with SDS activity on two fronts at Columbia. The Columbia Administration went ahead with its disciplinary action against the PL-led students who had sat-in against the CIA’s campus recruitment. A hearing was held around the time that Ramparts Magazine was disclosing how the CIA had secretly used many “non-profit” U.S. educational foundations as conduits to finance non-leftist political organizations like the National Student Association [NSA], and activities in which people like Gloria Steinem, Allard Lowenstein and Barney Frank participated in during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The anti-class-ranking campaign was also beginning to reach out to both liberal student leaders of the Columbia Citizenship Council and the Undergraduate Dormitory Council [UDC] and to the broad mass of liberal Columbia College students. A characteristic tendency of Columbia SDS in 1967 was to ignore mass organizing at Barnard and neglect to make any real attempt to mobilize Barnard women against the institutionalized male-supremacist nature of Columbia. I did set up a Brooks Hall lounge dormitory meeting at Barnard in which Gadfly’s editor, Paul, and Professor Stade spoke out against the U.S. war machine before a small group of Barnard students, who floated in and out. But we all generally assumed that only anti-war men at Columbia were qualified to be featured at SDS public meetings. Only on rare occasions was the “exceptional” leftist woman allowed to speak at SDS-sponsored educational events. Yet New Left women at Barnard and Columbia did not vocally protest against SDS’ male chauvinist political practice in 1967.

I didn’t relate much to the disciplinary hearing of the anti-CIA students, because the hearing was initially closed to most leftist students. According to de-classified NYPD “Red Squad” documents, however, a New York City undercover cop attended these hearing sessions and made notes that listed the names of those students and professors who also attended the hearing sessions, for “Red Squad” files.

I did spend time listening to the rapidly improving campus sundial oratory of Paul:

“The CIA is a criminal organization. It respects no rules of international law. It abides by no morality—except for the morality of Goring, Goebbels and Hitler. Columbia University President Kirk directs the Asia Foundation. The Asia Foundation acted as a conduit for CIA funds. Columbia University awarded an honorary degree to Allen Dulles in the 1950s in order to legitimize CIA Director Dulles’ role in ordering CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala.”

Paul spoke in a fiery way. His face reddened with outrage when he described from the sundial how current U.S. foreign policies violated Jeffersonian principles of democracy.

Ted also felt Paul had become an increasingly effective orator. But in his dorm room one night, Ted cited one reservation he had about Paul’s 1967 politics:

“He doesn’t argue against the war from either a New Leftist or a Marxist ideological perspective. But just from a militant liberal democratic, constitutionalist perspective. He ends up perpetuating illusions that the U.S. Constitution and Jefferson’s political thought genuinely reflect a commitment to a truly democratic society. We want to rid people of these illusions.”

In February 1967, Ted was the Columbia SDS agitator who initiated the anti-class-ranking campaign by standing up on a wall in front of Hamilton Hall, between the 9 o’clock and 10 o’clock classes, and addressing three other Columbia SDS guys. While he attempted to harangue them, large numbers of students apathetically walked by him. Many of these Columbia students glanced at Ted with a condescending smirk as they passed by him.

Ted’s oratorical style was more verbose and pedantic, as well as less emotional and concise, than Paul’s style. But his political summations were more traditionally Marxist. Paul was much better at using hecklers to stir up leftist mass moral passion, because he could quickly think up an emotionally and verbally good response to a right-wing heckler. Ted was less quick and witty than Paul at retorting to hecklers. Although Ted explained SDS positions very logically, he was sometimes too long-winded and not verbally flashy enough to stir up student mass emotions. He usually sounded more like a super-logical leftist intellectual than a charismatic orator.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (xi)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (37)

Around this same time, a regional SDS conference was held in Princeton, New Jersey one weekend. Eliezer and I took a bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 40th St. and Eighth Ave. late Friday afternoon. We arrived on Princeton University’s dead, deserted campus by early evening. In the large lecture room where the SDS conference was being held I noticed other Columbia SDS people, who had come to Princeton by car. SDS people from other New York City area chapters were also there, reminding me that SDS was more than what happened at Columbia.

At this Princeton conference, Dave read “The Port Authority Statement,” which he had written with Bob Gottlieb and Gerry Tenney. The Port Authority Statement was intended to be an updated equivalent of the Port Huron Statement of early National SDS. Its basic argument was that “the new working-class” of technocrats, technicians and middle-class professionals was going to be the agent of Revolution in the United States, instead of the traditional industrial working-class—which was declining in numbers and social power because of technological change.

After Dave read his Port Authority Statement, an elderly editor or former editor of some Old Left publication looked perturbed and unimpressed. In a dogmatic, Old Left-chauvinist, intellectually elitist way, he argued that the New Left of the 1960s was “wrong to write off the industrial working-class under capitalism” and that “the new working-class theory” was “non-Marxist” and “made no sense.”

Yet in 1967, given the general political passivity of U.S. industrial workers in relationship to the U.S. war machine, and given the growing enthusiasm of white middle-class, pre-professional college students for radical politics, Dave’s “New Working-Class Theory” seemed to explain reality. New Leftists around Columbia were guided by New Working-Class theory political conceptions when they organized during the next year.

The Old Left editor’s argument against the New Working-Class theory was snickered at by most of the younger generation SDS people. Not just because of our ageism in relationship to Old Leftists of the older generation, but also because his description of the U.S. industrial working-class in the 1960s seemed inaccurate. The Old Left editor’s picture of the industrial working-class seemed like a result of wishful thinking and not a picture that was based on concrete investigation, observation and interaction with 60s industrial workers on the factory shop floor.

I can’t recall anything else about the Princeton conference meeting. Ted and Harvey were going back to New York City after the Friday night meeting and there was extra room in the car they were traveling in. Because the conference seemed boring, unproductive and irrelevant to mass organizing at Columbia, I was glad to get a lift back in the same car in which Ted, Harvey and Ted’s woman friend Judith were leaving early in. Eliezer stayed longer in Princeton and traveled back to New York City on a bus alone.

On the drive back from Princeton, Harvey sat next to me in the backseat and we talked about our lives, while rock music played over the car radio and other people in the crowded car engaged in other conversation.

“I was in Brooklyn CORE in the early 60s. And it amazed me to learn how racist the System was. And I used to play some guitar and write poetry. But it’s not enough just to be an artist. The point of life is to be a revolutionary and a communist, Bob. Marxist-Leninism, not C. Wright Mills, does explain the world. It really does explain how to end not only the Viet Nam War, but all future wars,” Harvey earnestly said at one point. In the crowded car, Harvey sounded so intellectually certain of his values, of his political ideology and of his purpose in life—and so morally motivated—that I really felt that Columbia SDS could, in fact, not only organize the whole Columbia and Barnard student body into the radical movement, but also the whole United States.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (x)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (36)

Around this time, other leftist students became involved with Columbia SDS who formed the hard-core of its “praxis-axis” faction. “Praxis” was a political term used by National SDS people to describe political theorizing and strategizing which related to daily radical activism.

Evansohn was a graduate student in sociology at Columbia of average height who dressed straight, not bohemian. He looked like a future academic, not like an activist, artist or hippie. He was beardless and had no mustache. His hair was not super-long, although it was longer than most Columbia professors.

Evansohn attended Columbia SDS steering committee meetings fairly regularly during Spring 1967. He saw himself as more of an academic, Marxist theoretician than as an organizer-activist or Movement shitworker. Evansohn rarely volunteered to either write leaflets, type-up stencils, run the mimeograph machine, post leaflets, make phone calls, hand out leaflets, sit at Columbia SDS recruiting tables or walk around with petitions. He was apparently from upper-middle-class wealth and had studied at SUNY-Binghamton before entering Columbia graduate school.

Evansohn’s basic political argument was that Columbia, like the University of California at Berkeley, was no more than a vocational training school and research instrument for the corporations and U.S. corporate capitalism. And that the education we were all receiving inside Columbia’s classrooms was “bourgeois” mis-education and little more than the transferring of “bourgeois ideology and culture” to a new generation of captive students.

“Students have to be shown that the corporate interests served by the Columbia Administration are antagonistic to their own student interests. And that to insure that Columbia serves their own interests, they must struggle to take power over the institution from the Administration,” Evansohn argued at one meeting.

Columbia SDS’s New Left faction accepted the truth of Evansohn’s theoretical argument at this time. His basic notion about the Columbia Administration’s true relationship to U.S. capitalism and U.S. corporate interests, and the bourgeois ideological bias of its class course content, seemed to reflect the reality of the late 1960s situation at Columbia.

Peter Schneider was another key praxis-axis theoretical leader who became active around this time. Like Evansohn, Schneider was very intellectual, academic and non-bohemian. He was a philosophy major and was already married to an equally politically-involved Barnard student named Linda Schneider. The Schneiders lived in a high-rise, middle-class apartment building on La Salle Street, a few blocks north of Columbia’s campus.

The Schneiders, unlike Evansohn, were willing to volunteer their time writing leaflets after meetings. But neither one of the Schneiders ever seemed willing to do much dorm canvassing, perhaps because of Peter Schneider’s increasingly elitist, frivolous and non-passionate approach to radical politics. Although Peter Schneider was only a Columbia College junior in Spring 1967, he seemed, on an emotional level, prematurely old, like a 21-year-old with a middle-aged heart. Like Evansohn, Peter Schneider thought that Columbia and Barnard students could be radicalized purely by “education alone.” Linda Schneider was a bit more emotionally involved in her radical political commitment, but she pretty much followed her husband’s political approach to radical politics.

Then there was Halliwell, a Russian History graduate student at Columbia. Halliwell dressed in a bohemian-proletarian way and worked with National SDS organizers and New York Regional SDS Office people. He liked to attend National SDS conferences and international student radical conferences. But he was too elitist to do any Columbia SDS organizing at his own school, except to chair an SDS general assembly meeting once or twice. Despite his ties to National and Regional SDS, he never once went into a Columbia dormitory to canvass Columbia students and speak to dormitory residents about New Left politics or about why they should join SDS. (By the 1990s, Halliwell was an executive at Citibank).

Despite their political elitism and political weaknesses, however, Evansohn, the Schneiders and Halliwell were all pleasant people, personally. They also all seemed to have far more integrity and more of a commitment to the politics of liberation than either the non-Columbia SDS people around campus or the faculty members of Columbia.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (ix)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (35)

The final course I took during the second term of my sophomore year that was significant to me was entitled “American Foreign Policy II.” It was taught by Professor of Government Schilling, a “balance of power man” who supported the U.S. military escalation in Viet Nam. He was anti-communist, anti-radical and anti-Soviet in his views. On an intellectual level, though, he found it entertaining to debate foreign policy issues in his class with leftist anti-war students like me.

The course met in a classroom at Columbia’s Law School, not inside Hamilton Hall like my other government courses did. After attending a few class sessions, participating in a few class discussions and learning how pro-Pentagon Professor Schilling was in his politics, I started to cut most of the remaining classes. But to pass Schilling’s course, I was expected to write a term paper on a foreign policy-related issue. In late February 1967, I chose the topic of my term paper: “The Military-Industrial Complex’s Role In Determining U.S. Foreign Policy.”

After the PL-led students stopped CIA recruiting in early February, political activity on campus remained at a high level. Tony and his PL followers came to the next Columbia SDS general assembly meeting with a proposal for Columbia SDS to begin an anti-ranking petition campaign at Columbia.

In early 1967, the Columbia Administration was mailing the class ranks of each of its 2S-deferred Columbia students to local draft boards in order to help the U.S. war machine determine, by means of class ranking, which students should be drafted first in case LBJ declared a “national emergency.” Students whose class ranking showed them to be less efficient than higher-ranking students would be more likely to be denied deferments by the U.S. Selective Service System [SSS], as a result of the Columbia Administration’s complicity with the SSS.

After PL proposed a spring term campaign to demand that the Columbia Administration stop sending class ranking information to U.S. draft boards, the New Left faction within Columbia SDS started to panic. PL—not Columbia and Barnard New Leftists—seemed to be the ones who were setting the spring agenda for Columbia SDS, and PL people were starting to dominate Columbia SDS general assembly meeting debates, in a way that made students feel that SDS wasn’t really a New Leftist political entity.

John, Harvey and Josh decided to hold a meeting at Teddy’s conveniently-located West 115th St. and Amsterdam Ave. apartment for non-PL people who were most active in Columbia SDS to attend. At the meeting, which Harvey and John dominated, we all attempted to define, more clearly, in what ways our approach to politics was different than PL’s approach to politics.

We concluded that, yes, PL’s idea for beginning a campaign to end class-ranking at Columbia was politically sound, but not just because ending class-ranking was morally justified or a good way to fight the U.S. war machine while on campus. An anti-class-ranking campaign was also seen by New Left activists within SDS as a vehicle for raising mass radical consciousness about the “true nature of the U.S. university” and their “real state of unfreedom” and “political powerlessness” and to turn people on to a New Left lifestyle and political orientation. At the meeting, Teddy also argued that PL’s conception of Revolution was “fundamentally Old Left, not New Left” and that our caucus represented people who were committed to a “life-style revolution,” unlike PL, which was only interested in obtaining political power for an authoritarian sect, by manipulation.

The New Left faction of Columbia SDS started to meet publicly every Friday afternoon in Earl Hall as a steering committee group which was open to all SDS members, including PL people. When necessary, though, informal meetings between SDS general assembly meetings would be held at Teddy’s apartment or someone else’s apartment. This was done in order to avoid the disruptive presence of PL fraction people. PL people at this time would often tie-up SDS general assembly meetings in long, irrelevant, non-productive, sectarian debates which tended to undercut SDS’s capacity to effectively engage in mass campus organizing.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (viii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (34)

Another reason why SDS people voted not to join the PL-led anti-CIA sit-in was that the Columbia Administration had vowed to discipline any student involved in stopping recruiting. It seemed foolish to risk being disciplined when our numbers were still so small.

The Columbia SDS dorm lobby meetings that evening and during the next few weeks went well. At the meeting in Furnald Hall’s lobby a good crowd of white liberal and white conservative dorm residents passed in and out of the lobby meeting, during the two hours it lasted, as did about 15 Columbia SDS people. When one liberal Columbia student argued that Viet Nam was an isolated case of U.S. foreign policy immorality, Harvey became angry and replied:

“What about Iran in 1953? What about Guatemala in 1954? It’s not just a question of Viet Nam. It’s a question of the U.S. government’s whole immoral foreign policy. And it’s not a question of free speech when it comes to the CIA being allowed to recruit on campus. The CIA is a criminal organization. Just like the KKK is a criminal organization. It not only has no right to recruit. It has no right to exist!”

Josh and Teddy were also there to argue effectively a New Left political line with much moral fervor and enthusiasm. Josh had been unanimously elected Columbia SDS vice-chairman because he was the only Columbia College senior interested in being Columbia SDS vice-chairman at that time and because he had no political enemies in Columbia leftist circles, as a result of his personable nature and non-rigid political style. John had been unanimously elected Columbia SDS chairman because he was the driving force behind the founding of the chapter, in addition to Dave, and because Dave had already graduated from Columbia College.

Classes for the second term of my sophomore year started. I ended my 1 ½ year involvement with the Columbia Citizenship Council’s P.A.C.T. because of my conclusion that it was politically ineffectual, too reformist, not radical enough and too white paternalistic. The afternoon and evening time I had devoted to P.A.C.T. work was now free for me to engage in more Columbia SDS organizing activity.

I kept writing new folk songs each month, but I no longer even considered writing plays and short fiction anymore. I was too busy interacting with real people within a large community of leftists, reaching out to new people with my revolutionary message and attempting to actualize my fantasies in real life to spend much time isolated in my room, pumping out a new play or novel. I began to see fictional writing, like reading, as a defense mechanism for really being involved with people and as a poor political substitute for really attempting to change the world by activism.

Three classes I took in Spring 1967 were significant to me because of the independent research they led me to engage in.

For my second term of “Europe 1870 To The Present” course, I wrote a long term paper on the European anti-war movement during World War I, which led me to read about the Second International’s failure to prevent World I and to read about how both pacifists and socialists continued to resist World War I after it began. I studied the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915 and both Rosa Luxemburg’s and Lenin’s writings of the World War I years.

The graduate student-teaching assistant assigned to mark the term paper trashed the paper on both political grounds and stylistic grounds. But my World War I resistance research seemed connected to my anti-war activism and seemed quite relevant to all the issues which were being discussed by 60s activists who wished to stop the Viet Nam war machine.

For my second term of Professor Kesselman’s “Reflections In Politics Since 1914” course, I wrote a long term paper on “The Role of German Universities in Nazi Germany,” in which I examined how German universities acted as “business-as-usual” instruments of Nazi totalitarianism during the Third Reich. I noted in what respects U.S. universities were fulfilling similar ideological and training functions during the Viet Nam War. By 1967, I felt the U.S. military machine’s operation in Viet Nam was comparable to the Nazi military machine’s activities during World War II. I also assumed the U.S. ruling class, like the German ruling class, would tend to drift towards more domestic fascism, in order to stifle mass resistance to its policies. Readings for this course included Behemoth by Franz Neumann, which was a sociological study of Nazi Germany, as well as some of Hitler’s speeches, Bullock’s biography of Hitler and Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism work.

What was also interesting about the Spring 1967 term of Kesselman’s class was that three Columbia SDS activists, in addition to me, had enrolled in the same course: Harvey, Teddy and a sophomore activist named Mark. After attending the first few class sessions, Harvey and Teddy mostly cut classes for the rest of the term. On the few occasions Teddy did appear, he usually walked in about one-half hour late at 11:30 a.m., with a big smile on his face. Mark attended class a few more times than Teddy, but also soon lost interest in the classroom sessions. After I saw that Harvey, Teddy and Mark were no longer coming to class to dominate the discussion in a collective way, challenging Kesselman’s social democratic political line and historical interpretations with arguments that Kesselman couldn’t answer, I also stopped going to class.

On the first day of class, after Kesselman had handed out the reading list, Harvey had raised his hand and asked: “Why isn’t Trotsky’s book on the rise of fascism included on the reading list?”

Kesselman looked uncomfortable and mumbled something about it not being an important work. Harvey then lectured Kesselman in his super-intellectual way, with arguments concisely and clearly laid out in order, for a few minutes. Teddy, Mark and I, and some of the other students, started to giggle, because Harvey appeared to already know more about the course’s subject than Professor Kesselman did. After hearing Harvey talk some more during the rest of the period, it became obvious that he was a more interesting, scholarly and knowledgeable lecturer on the subject than the Columbia professor.

It was in Kesselman’s class that I first noticed Mark as more than just somebody who looked vaguely familiar because he was some sort of a leftist. In early 1967, he had a brownish beard. He was around 6 feet tall and he dressed proletarian and bohemian. He wasn’t especially articulate in class compared to Harvey or Teddy. But Mark liked to talk in class when he showed up and he used his class talking time to bring current political issues into the discussion. In cold weather, Mark usually wore a green coat and a stocking cap.

Before or after Kesselman’s class sessions, Mark and I didn’t speak too much or too deeply. I found Teddy friendlier than Mark. Mark, unlike Teddy, never seemed to speak to people in a non-ambiguous way. He seemed harder to get to know than Teddy. Mark also wasn’t that interested in talking with me about New Left politics.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (vii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (33)

At the meeting in the CUSC office, John, Josh, Linda, Teddy, Ted, Tony, myself and others were in attendance. We talked about what kind of leaflet we would hand out and distribute around campus in the days prior to the anti-CIA demonstration. People agreed to leaflet and post leaflets around campus at specific times and places. PL leader Tony agreed to type the stencil and mimeograph the 1,000 leaflets we required, even though he still argued that the leaflet should announce that the CIA would be “kicked off campus by Columbia SDS,” not just picketed.

But the leaflets that Tony ran off reflected PL politics, not what everyone else in the Columbia SDS planning meeting had agreed the leaflet should say. So Ted had to end up typing up a new stencil and running off a bunch of new leaflets, so that the anti-CIA demonstration would accurately reflect New Left, not PL, politics.

Tony was a humorless, emotionally dead grad student at Columbia Teachers College, whose specialty was Chinese history and dogmatically applying the thoughts of Chairman Mao to U.S. 1960s political reality. But he was a hard worker and he was extremely dedicated, as were most of the other Progressive Labor Party people who operated as a fraction within Columbia SDS at that time and sought to gain control of the organization. Eliezer laughingly described how Tony had tried to recruit him into PL:

“He invited me to his apartment. After we arrived there, he started to play me a phonograph record of somebody reading the Communist Manifesto. Then, after the record was played, he asked me if I had any questions.”

In his dorm room, Eliezer and I gossiped about how the PL-types seemed less democratic and less emotionally open in their personalities and ways of relating than the New Left SDS types. We also joked about what Teddy used to call “the PL personality.”

After Ted had printed up the new anti-CIA leaflets and given them to Teddy, I was visited in my dorm room at Furnald Hall for the first time by Teddy. He had brought some leaflets for me to distribute around campus and in the dormitories. It was the first time I spoke with Teddy at length, on a one-to-one basis. Teddy immediately charmed me. I immediately felt even more love for him than for Ted. Teddy carried his leaflets and school books and notebooks around in a small knapsack, when everyone else at Columbia and Barnard was still using briefcases and attache’ cases. He wore a stocking-type cap in winter.

I can’t recall the specifics of my first lengthy conversation with Teddy. But he immediately seemed like the kind of guy with whom you could talk about more than New Left politics. Eliezer and I agreed that Teddy seemed Christ-like in many ways.

Teddy had a variety of intellectual interests. He was much more of an intellectual, trendy, faddist and hippie than a political activist. Politically, he saw himself as an anarchist, not a communist or Marxist-Leninist, in 1967.

Teddy was a very spiritual person. He argued that “Politics should be an instrument of morality, not an instrument of domination.” His personality and appearance were androgynous and gentle, not macho. He majored in religion and was so intellectually eclectic that he was almost as much into the Buddha as he was into Marxism. Teddy also liked to talk about sex and “chicks” a lot in a non-macho, realistic way, and considered himself a follower of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse. He often tended to be more of a sexual determinist than an economic or sociological determinist when he explained the inter-personal and political behavior of people.

In talking at length with Teddy, you were able to receive capsule summaries of the many books in various fields that Teddy had read over the years. “As Reich says in The Function of Orgasm, etc.” or “As Marcuse says in Eros and Civilization, etc.” or “As Buddha says, etc.” or “As Che Guevara says, etc.” or “As Ho Chi Minh wrote, etc.” was the kind of talk Teddy was good at sprinkling his conversation with.

I put leaflets all around the dormitories and in school buildings and under dormitory doors. The night before the CIA recruiter was to come, I went with Eliezer to John’s W. 108th St. apartment to help make anti-CIA picket signs for a few hours at a picket sign-making party. In the apartment, Dave, John, Teddy, Josh, Linda, Ted and other SDS people were drinking beer in-between using magic markers to write on the oak tag that was to be used for the picket signs. Rock music played in the background and, as people became more drunk, it really did begin to turn into a picket sign-making party. Being still new to most of the SDS people there, though, Eliezer and I found that nobody was too into talking with us. So we left the party early.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, I joined a picket line of about 20 people outside Dodge Hall. John led the chanting, as we marched around in the freezing February morning.
“CIA must go! CIA must go! CIA must go!”

To introduce some variety in the chanting, John suddenly started to chant, in a softer voice, “Lumumba lives! Lumumba lives! Lumumba lives!”

By late morning, the picket line had grown to about 75 people, a much smaller group than we had hoped for. Despite our January publicity, many Columbia and Barnard leftists had not heard about the scheduled anti-CIA demonstration because they hadn’t been around campus during January.

Shortly after Columbia SDS began picketing Dodge Hall, the PL fraction within SDS—plus a few other impatient SDS people—went inside Dodge Hall and sat down in front of the recruiting office. The CIA representative was effectively stopped from recruiting for the day. The New Left faction picketed outside for awhile. Then, we went to the basement floor of Dodge Hall and held a meeting to decide whether Columbia SDS, as a whole, should join the 18 PL-led students who were already sitting-in and stopping CIA recruitment.

Dave, John, Josh, Harvey, Lew, Ted and Teddy all argued against going upstairs to join the PL-led sit-in, as did most of the other students who spoke.

“If we all go upstairs and sit-in, the rest of the campus won’t understand why we’re stopping recruiting. The rest of the campus still thinks it’s a question of free speech. And that SDS is preventing free speech if we stop CIA recruitment today. PL doesn’t care about building a mass movement of students. They think all students are `bourgeois’ and that only workers matter. So they don’t worry about alienating the mass of students by their tactics.

“Yet there are plenty of Columbia students out there, who aren’t here now—but who will be here next time in a much larger demonstration—who can be organized. But only if we don’t alienate them now, by letting PL determine our campus strategy,” Dave argued.

Everybody supported this argument and we went back outside to picket some more, and then held a short rally.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (vi)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (32)

In January 1967, Columbia SDS people learned that the CIA was returning to Columbia’s campus to once again recruit students during the first week of the Spring 1967 term. A meeting was held in Professor of History Kaplow’s high-rise apartment which his wife, Susan Kaplow (who was in both PL and SDS), John, Lew, Ted, Teddy, Harvey, Josh, myself, Tony of PL and a few others attended. In Professor Kaplow’s apartment, we discussed whether or not Columbia SDS should stop CIA recruitment. We also discussed possible tactics we could use to mobilize students to attend the anti-CIA protest demonstration.

Led by Tony, the PL faction at the meeting pushed for the political position that “The CIA should be kicked off the campus by students” and not just peacefully picketed by Columbia SDS. The non-PL New Leftists, however, collectively felt that our politically liberal mass base at Columbia and Barnard was still not radicalized enough to understand why the CIA should be driven off campus. Consequently, we decided to just call for a peaceful picket of CIA recruitment, in order not to turn-off the mass of potentially radical left-liberal students whom we wished to eventually recruit.

At the meeting we discussed possible ways of radicalizing more students at Columbia and Barnard.

“If we show students the gap between social potentiality and social actuality, they’ll get involved in Columbia SDS,” John asserted.

“I think the key thing to do to radicalize Columbia students is to show them that their liberal goals actually can be achieved only through political radicalism. And not through liberal politics,” I stated.

When we discussed possible ways to mobilize students to confront the CIA recruiter, I suggested we hold SDS dorm lobby meetings at which individual Columbia professors would be featured as guest speakers.

“Many more students might come to an SDS dorm lobby meeting if we have a Columbia professor there as a drawing card, than if it’s just SDS people speaking,” I said with a twinkle in my eye.

Lew immediately saw the virtue of this idea. It was agreed that I would spend part of January telephoning professors and setting up these SDS dormitory lobby meetings.

The first time I noticed Lew, when I was a freshman, he reminded me of Mario Savio in his physical appearance. Lew was probably the tallest white leftist intellectual around the Columbia campus in the 1960s. His 6’3”-plus height always made him quite noticeable at campus demonstrations. His hair was generally more longish than short. He was always clean-shaven, even when most other Columbia SDS men were growing mustaches and beards.

Lew’s mother was apparently an Old Leftist of some sort who became a literary editor of The Nation magazine and who lived in an Upper West Side apartment. She had remarried a published leftist novelist and then apparently given birth to Lew’s younger half-brother, who was to become a published novelist at a very young age.

After attending college for a time in Canada, Lew had moved back to the Upper West Side and enrolled at Columbia. He was a junior at Columbia College during the 1966-67 academic year. He was open about wanting to be a writer and he seemed to know more than anybody else, except Harvey, about the literary left and small intellectual magazine publishing scene. But he didn’t reveal to most other leftist students at Columbia either his mother’s Nation magazine connection or his stepfather’s prominence in U.S. left literary circles. In the academic year before Columbia SDS was re-organized as a mass-based group, Lew had coordinated a faculty read-in against the war in Viet Nam.

I reserved Furnald Hall dorm lobby space for the first meeting and “booked” a Columbia professor for this meeting and other professors for meetings in other dormitory lobbies. Most of the professors I telephoned were paranoid about SDS, but were flattered to hear that I felt dormitory residents would be interested in hearing them speak about U.S. foreign policy. Among the professors who were unwilling to speak against the war in the dormitory lobbies was Columbia Professor of Sociology Silver.

Professor Melman had an answering machine, which few other people possessed in the 1960s. He soon called me back and enthusiastically agreed to speak at an SDS dorm lobby meeting. Professor of Sociology Dibble also quickly agreed to speak out. Professor of Sociology Martin, who was a dogmatic social democrat, only reluctantly agreed to speak out against the war. Another social democrat, Professor Kesselman, was unwilling to speak out against the war in an SDS dorm lobby meeting, even though I was enrolled in one of his classes.

I also attempted to book an English professor named Hovde. Hovde initially refused to appear because “Lewis told me he was a communist” and “Lewis is a Columbia SDS leader.” But after I managed to reassure Hovde that speaking to Columbia students about the war in their dormitory didn’t mean he was supporting communism, he, too, agreed to be featured in a Columbia SDS dormitory lobby meeting.

In figuring out which professors to call and figuring out how to respond to professor questions about SDS’s goals, I consulted Harvey by phone a number of times. On the telephone, Harvey’s voice always sounded very earnest, intellectually confident, strong and seductive. With an affectionate giggle after he hung his dorm room phone up, following a conversation with Harvey, Ted once said the following to me: “He always sounds like he’s trying to seduce me.” The attraction of Harvey’s voice to me was based on the emotionally intense way he spoke about his politics. His personality had no effeminate qualities. The emotional intensity of Harvey’s voice was the quality that probably caused Ted to feel it was seductive.

A second meeting was held in the W. 115th St. office of the Columbia University Student Council [CUSC], a week before the CIA recruiter was to return to the campus. The head of the CUSC was some kind of a leftist, so John always had the key to the CUSC office. John was always able to use the student government’s stencils, reams of paper, phones and mimeograph machine for Columbia SDS purposes and as a meeting place whenever required.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (v)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (31)

December 1966 flowed into the Christmas break, which I spent back in Queens in my parents’ apartment doing assigned term papers, watching news shows, political interviews and football games on TV and practicing guitar in my room. By January 1967, I had read John Gerassi’s The Great Fear in Latin America, was getting more interested in Latin America and could argue against the immorality of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America as well as I could argue against U.S. war policy in Viet Nam. I also spent much time listening over and over again to Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album, Dylan’s first album and his The Times They Are A-Changin’ album, as well as the Phil Ochs In Concert album.

I wrote two more love songs for Beth, “The Princess of the Park” and “My Name Is Ishmael” to go along with a love letter I wrote her. Having re-read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick for an American literature course, I identified with Ishmael-Melville quite strongly and, increasingly, was beginning to see myself as an “isolato” like Ishmael. I eventually met Beth in Barnard’s Brooks Hall one evening and dated her and wondered whether we’d be happy together as lovers.

Beth was an easygoing and undemanding beauty, but she wasn’t interested in New Left politics. Although I was wild about her, she refused to take my love for her seriously.

“You still hardly know me in more than a casual way. We can’t sustain a relationship with each other if your love for me is just based on a fantasized image of me. And not on how I really am,” she said to me one cold winter night, before we kissed each other goodnight.

As I walked back to my Furnald Hall dorm room, I wondered whether Beth was right. Insofar as I was an apparently upwardly-mobile Columbia student with artistic inclinations who found her beautiful, I could hold Beth’s interest. But insofar as I was a New Left activist who felt spiritually alienated from white upper-middle-class life, I was not on the same wavelength as her. So I didn’t continue to pursue Beth. But my heart still jumped whenever we bumped into each other during the next few years around the Upper West Side.

My songwriting around this time also reflected my involvement in opposing both the CIA and Columbia’s complicity with the U.S. military. I wrote a song entitled “The CIA,” which contained the following lyrics:

It’s coming to bring you joy
It wants little girls and boys

Come work with me
In secrecy
The trench-coated spook he cries….

I also wrote a folk song entitled “Columbia,” which included the following lyrics:

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

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (iv)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (30)

I first met Josh and Linda at one of these Columbia SDS organizational meetings in Earl Hall. At the meeting, they both stated that they were Marxist-Leninists.

Josh had grown up in Queens. During his early years at Columbia, he had befriended a Columbia College classmate from Brooklyn named Harvey, who had been active in Brooklyn CORE before joining the Progressive Labor Party as a freshman. As underclassmen, both Harvey and Josh had apparently become acquainted with an Old Left ex-Communist Party member named Collins. Collins was a gay man who apparently influenced Josh and Harvey politically and intellectually more than any of their Columbia College professors. By the time Josh and Harvey were seniors, Harvey was no longer in PL and both Josh and Harvey were quite intellectually sophisticated Marxist-Leninists. Harvey, in particular, seemed to be the most widely-read and intellectually sophisticated guy in the whole school. He could concisely answer any intellectual question you might have about current and past social and political reality.

Linda had had a brief love affair with Teddy, and then fallen in love with Josh. Josh had been quite lonely before he and Linda found each other. Both Josh and Linda were much more intellectual and emotionally mature than most of the other students around Columbia and Barnard in Fall 1966. Josh was friendlier and more outgoing than Linda.

Linda seemed very devoted to Josh and lived with him. Josh and Linda walked around the Upper West Side as an inseparable couple most of the time. Linda rarely spoke politically at the male-dominated SDS chapter meetings and steering committee meetings. But when she did speak, she usually echoed Josh’s political views.

I also first met JJ in December 1966, when JJ was still in the Progressive Labor Party. JJ was from a wealthy Old Left family in Connecticut and had attended some exclusive private school before entering Columbia the same term I entered. Politically, JJ was a doctrinaire, dogmatic, left-sectarian Maoist, who was unable to convince left-liberal students of the correctness of his views through intellectual discussion and debate.

JJ’s voice was a monotonic caricature of a “proletarian” accent that lacked warmth when he spoke about radical politics. JJ also lacked warmth in relation to most men. He dressed like a hippie-bohemian, but in a Che Guevarist way, had longish hair and usually was bearded. He had a male macho personality, but Barnard women found JJ very attractive physically and sexually. Unlike most of his PL comrades, JJ was a sexually aggressive guy who enjoyed casual sex and sleeping around with many different women.

In the early 1960s, PL attracted many bohemian red diaper babies like JJ who found the Communist Party too politically conservative and socially straight and repressed. By 1966, however, grass, bohemianism and sexual promiscuity were no longer tolerated in PL. PL leaders claimed that grass, sexual promiscuity and a bohemian lifestyle alienated straight working-class people. By 1967, everyone in PL would be culturally and sexually straight, repressed and conventionally middle-class. In 1967, JJ would no longer be in PL.

Another reason for JJ’s exit from PL was that PL was too politically conservative for him. By 1967, JJ would be ready to begin the armed struggle in the U.S. immediately, in order to materially support the National Liberation Front [NLF] in Viet Nam by “bringing the war home” and opening a second front against U.S. imperialism within the United States. PL would still just favor sending student radicals into factories and into the U.S. military to just try to disrupt the System—without planting any bombs in the bathrooms of U.S. corporate office skyscrapers or at U.S. draft boards, military recruitment centers, ROTC campus buildings and U.S. military installations.

In December 1966, JJ spoke in a long-winded way at meetings and never listened to the arguments raised by people whose political positions were different than his. But he was unable to persuade anybody that his strategy of disrupting classes at Columbia University until the Viet Nam War ended was the best strategy for building a radical student movement.

When I first heard JJ go on and on with his version of PL’s current line in late 1966, I thought to myself: “Oh, God! If JJ is what radical change means, the new society is really going to be dictatorial and loveless, not democratic, liberating and loving.” But as I got to know JJ better over the next few years, I began to like him personally and become less paranoid about what his notion of revolution was all about.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (29)

The rest of November and December was filled with meetings with other newly-recruited Columbia SDS people. The meetings took place in Earl Hall or in lounges in John Jay Hall. At these Columbia SDS organizational meetings, I started to talk at length for the first time with many Columbia and Barnard leftists who I hadn’t met before.

The junior, senior and graduate student male white radicals tended to dominate the discussion at these informal SDS organizational meetings. At one meeting in the basement lounge of John Jay Hall, definite political differences appeared between a non-Marxist-Leninist named Peter Friedland and most of the other white radicals, who all called themselves Marxist-Leninists.

Initially, I felt that Friedland made some good points about the need for Columbia SDS to be “New Left” and not “Old Left” in style and politics. He felt it was useless to try to build a radical student movement at Columbia using “Marxist-Leninist jargon and Marxist-Leninist crap,” which would confuse people about the sincerity of the SDS desire to establish a participatory democracy in the U.S. I also felt that if Columbia SDS turned into just another Marxist-Leninist sect, like the Progressive Labor Party, it would go nowhere politically. So my personal position in December 1966 was “let’s just unite around specific issues and actions we all support, and not get bogged down in questions of exact ideology.”

As I got to know the Marxist-Leninists in Columbia SDS more, however, I tended to move politically into their faction. They seemed to be the most dedicated, most intellectual and most politically experienced and knowledgeable white people on Columbia’s campus. Ted, for instance, saw himself as a Marxist-Leninist and always seemed to make the most sense politically at Columbia during this period.

John had read about Guatemalan guerrillas. We followed their example in our initial Columbia SDS organizational meetings. According to John, when a Guatemalan guerrilla band is formed, each individual volunteer tells the other guerrillas about his or her life and the reasons why he or she decided to join the liberation movement. By the time every guerrilla volunteer has spoken, everyone realizes how similar their lives of oppression have been and how the source of their individual suffering is, therefore, sociological, not individual or psychological. Given this reality, the guerrilla band immediately realizes that since individual oppression is collectively shared by others, the collective oppression can be ended only by collective resistance and collective, not individual, action. Feminist consciousness-raising groups later also utilized the Guatemalan guerrilla group model to recruit women into the late 1960s women’s liberation movement.

New Columbia SDS recruits quickly learned that we all shared a sense of political powerlessness, anti-war and anti-draft rage and a militant anti-racist and anti-capitalist value-structure. We also all wanted to build a radically new world and new social order.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (28)

At the rally, John spoke and emphasized that what students at Columbia now wanted was more student power over University policy decisions and genuine student involvement in Columbia University decision-making. Mike Klare of the ICV, although still not interested in building a Columbia SDS chapter, also spoke at the rally. He criticized Columbia for accepting research contracts from the Department of Defense and drew the distinction between the Movement approach to politics and social change and the Columbia Administration’s approach:

‘We can attend yet another committee meeting. And speak to yet another bureaucrat. And wait for yet another dean. And attend yet another bureaucratic meeting. And we still won’t get any results. That’s the Administration’s approach. That’s the kind of politics they want us to be involved with.

“But what about the Movement? We do things differently in the Movement. In the Movement, we avoid all the bureaucratic run-around. That’s why the Movement is going into Low Library today.”

As the 300 of us marched up the steps of Low Library to confront Kirk, I was ready to join in a sit-in inside the administration building. I was fed up with U.S. foreign policy, fed up with U.S. racism, fed up with the endless mass murder in Viet Nam and fed up with the Columbia University Administration’s failure to speak out against all this and its whole “business as usual” attitude. It looked like many of the other anti-war students who had been fruitlessly protesting the bombing of Viet Nam for over 1 ½ years also shared my sense of frustration and willingness to sit-in. Earlier in the fall, Savio and other FSM people had tried to stop military recruitment on campus at Berkeley and there had been some kind of confrontation with police out there again. If something was happening politically at Berkeley again, it was only natural that many of us would feel that the time was now ripe for something to happen at Columbia that was equally militant.

We marched into Low Library and gathered in the Low Library rotunda. Kirk uneasily read a statement in which he argued that Columbia University should make no value judgments and take no political positions regarding U.S. government policy. Therefore, organizations like the CIA would continue to have the right to recruit on campus.

After he read his statement, Dave, John, Mike Klare, Lew and some of the other Movement “heavies” at Columbia started to throw questions at Kirk. Students hissed in response to Kirk’s initial answers. Kirk quickly retreated to his Low Library office for another appointment, before students felt the discussion should be terminated.

Grayson Kirk was a former Columbia University Professor of Government in his ‘60s, who was now used to spending more time sitting on the corporate boards of companies like IBM and Socony-Mobil Oil and elite foreign policy-making institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations, than in talking with Columbia College students. When flustered, Kirk would redden in the face and start to speak with a slight stutter.

During the 1950s, Columbia President Kirk had fired a few Columbia professors who were accused of being Communist Party members. He had also written that Columbia University would not knowingly hire a communist intellectual to teach on its faculty. In 1954, Kirk had worked with the CIA’s “cultural freedom congress” campaign which linked the celebration of Columbia’s 200th anniversary to the CIA’s 1950s anti-communist Cold War propaganda campaign. In 1954 or 1955, Kirk had given an honorary degree to his friend Allen Dulles, the CIA Director in the 1950s. Personally acquainted with former Columbia University President Eisenhower and those U.S. ruling class officials who sat on the Columbia board of trustees, like New York Times publisher Sulzberger and CBS board chairman William Paley, Kirk identified himself totally with the U.S. Establishment.

After Kirk left the rotunda, some of the anti-war students began to laugh. John had a big smile on his face. Dave was the first activist to speak to the rest of us:

“Those are his values. But we have different values. And if we want Columbia University policy to reflect our values, we’re going to have to build a Movement here that fights for student power and for participatory democracy at Columbia. And that’s why we have to build a Columbia SDS chapter.”

There was more discussion, and the anti-war students were enthusiastic about attempting to build a Columbia SDS chapter which would fight the Columbia Administration on a multi-issue basis, attempt to win student power at Columbia and work to build a mass-based radical student movement in the United States. A time for follow-up meetings was agreed upon and we broke up for the day. There was a big headlined article on the student left’s confrontation with Kirk in the Columbia student newspaper Spectator, the next day. My feeling was that John and Dave’s Columbia SDS chapter-building approach seemed more dynamic than the Independent Committee on Viet Nam’s more stagnant approach.

Chapter 7: Into Columbia SDS, 1966 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (27)

November 1966 was also the month that, along with Ted and most other ICV activists, I became a Columbia SDS activist.

During my freshman year, I had seen John around campus anti-war rallies, often talking with a tall guy named Lew. And during a late September 1966 Wollman Auditorium meeting, I had heard John, in a panel discussion, explain why Columbia students should get into political activism:

“First you get yourself a Barnard chick. Then you look for something worthwhile to get involved in and you join the Movement.”

John had provoked hisses from his mostly freshman audience later in the panel discussion when he said:

“The best writers are always leftists. The best poets are always leftists, like Allen Ginsberg. People who are right-wing politically can’t create good literature or good poetry.”

John was a thin senior guy of average height. He wore glasses and his longish hair was beginning to recede. His father was a conservative Republican (who apparently was the City Manager of New Rochelle in Westchester County during the 1960's)..

John had spent an extra year doing academic work in London, which, according to Ted, was “one reason he’s so smart.” Along with Dave, John was the activist most responsible for starting an SDS chapter at Columbia.

John lived with a Barnard woman a few years younger than him, named Joan, in his West 108th St. apartment. Joan appeared devoted to John and leftist in her politics, and she usually dressed in a bohemian way. But Joan never became involved in a day-to-day way in campus political organizing like John did. She wasn’t socialized to feel comfortable participating in the 1960s leftist student meetings at Columbia. These meetings tended to be male chauvinist in their form, so Barnard women usually found it difficult to participate in the political discussion as intellectual equals.

In 1965, John had been involved in the anti-war student disruption of the Columbia Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps [NROTC] awards ceremony. As a result of this protest, which was busted up by the Columbia Administration with the aid of New York City police, John had received a disciplinary warning letter from Columbia College Dean Truman. On the kitchen wall of his West 108th St. apartment, John had taped up this letter from the Dean, in the same way that doctors tape up their medical school diplomas on their office walls.

Prior to founding the Columbia SDS chapter with Dave, John had been involved in Columbia student government politics and had also attempted to radicalize National Student Association [NSA] members all around the United States. John had also worked with National SDS people and been involved in some of the New Left student activists’ arguments with Michael Harrington and the League for Industrial Democracy [LID] people over the Social Democrats’ desire to impose a red-baiting, anti-communist tradition of political organizing on the younger New Leftists.

In early November 1966, John took the initiative on campus when it was learned that the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] was coming to recruit students in Dodge Hall. Columbia SDS sponsored a sundial rally to protest the CIA’s presence on campus and demanded that the Columbia Administration not allow the CIA to use university facilities to recruit.

Speakers at the sundial during a lunch hour rally explained what the CIA had already done around the world prior to 1966: overthrown the democratically-elected government of Iran in 1953, overthrown the democratically-elected government of Guatemala in 1954, planned the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and helped set up the Diem dictatorship in Viet Nam in the 1950s, which led to the 1960s U.S. military escalation in Viet Nam. Then around 100 of us marched into the lobby outside of Dodge Hall’s recruitment office and stayed there until CIA recruiting was cancelled by the Columbia Administration.

The following day, a letter was sent to Columbia University President Grayson Kirk, asking for a meeting to discuss university policy on CIA recruitment and university relations to the U.S. government. Later in the month, another rally was held at the sundial, prior to confronting Columbia University President Kirk in the Low Library administration building. Kirk appeared to feel he had to meet with the 300 Columbia and Barnard anti-war students who were rallying, in order to avert a possible Low Library sit-in.

Chapter 6: Enter Ted Gold, 1966 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (26)

I started to go down to the Greenwich Village area more often in Fall 1966 on weekend evenings to listen to other folksingers. The Pinewoods Folk Club was very active at this time and it sponsored cheap Friday night folk music events in churches and at NYU’s Loeb Student Center in Washington Square.

I continued to practice guitar and folk songs and write more folk songs in my dorm room, as a form of relaxation, self-expression and emotional release. I no longer wrote plays and my creative writing was limited to folk songwriting. Yet I still attempted to interest Columbia University Professor of Dramatic Literature Bentley in looking over my A Ball In A Basket and The Barrier plays, but he was too busy.

At this time, I wrote a song called “Mr. John,” which expressed my desire to break out of my anonymous, alienated, routinized student life into the more exciting world of folk music concert performer circles. And I wrote a song called “Girl With the Scarf” for Beth, which began with the following lyrics:

Girl with the scarf
I knew you from the start
‘Cause your eyes echoed mine in your search…

(Women college students didn’t object to being called “girls” or “chicks” at the time I wrote this song).

I also wrote a love song for Nancy which contained the following lyrics:

You’ve got such long blond hair
And a mind so rare
And the words you utter
Come through so clear
And I did realize
When you sat so near
That my heart was warning:
`Look out! Beware!’

I bought more guitar strings, a harmonica, a guitar strap, a new capo and a few songbooks at a music store on West 96th St., between Broadway and West End Ave. A friendly guy worked there who encouraged me in my musical ambitions. I mistakenly assumed that, with the songs I had already written, I was, instantly, going to be invited to cut a folk music record which would enable me to escape from the whole Columbia academic scene of bullshit, overnight. But I still lacked the contacts required to make that kind of jump into the U.S. music business and entertainment industry, as well as, perhaps, the required talent.

November 1966 came. I traveled out to Evanston, Illinois by car with my mother, father and sister to attend my first cousin’s Bar Mitzvah reception at the Hotel Orrington in downtown Evanston.

My mother had grown up in poverty in Chicago during the Great Depression. Her father, William, was a Russian-born ice delivery truck driver who worked on an irregular basis during the 1930s. In the late 1940s, he found a union job at the Chicago Tribune, loading newspapers onto delivery trucks between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. each night. He kept this job until the sickness of old age made it impossible for him to work anymore by the late 1960s.

Her mother, Jenny, was an Orthodox Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who had arrived in the States a few months after the Titanic sank. In Fall 1966 my mother’s sister, an elementary schoolteacher, was living in an old house in Skokie, Illinois. She had previously lived near Wrigley Field in Chicago. My aunt’s husband was a Bell & Howell factory worker.

I explored Evanston and Northwestern University’s campus when I wasn’t attending my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah events that weekend. I also spent some time in my family’s hotel room in Evanston reading for my political science course from an anthology of Lenin’s writings. It was in this hotel room in Evanston that I first read Lenin’s Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism work that he wrote during World War I.

Chapter 6: Enter Ted Gold, 1966 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (25)

Around the time I met Ted, I found myself feeling drawn to Beth. Beth worked as a student volunteer group leader in P.A.C.T. on the same afternoon that Nancy, Harry and I did. She was a senior at Barnard and was a dark-haired beauty. She was less socially-concerned and politically radical than Pat had been, but she had a gentle, tender, sweet, soft-spoken personality. Beth was majoring in Philosophy and her father was some administrator or doctor in the mental health field.

Near the end of October 1966, P.A.C.T. held a party in Juan’s 104th St. apartment which was attended by about fifty Barnard and Columbia students who came in and out of the apartment during the night. There was much dancing to 60s rock music in the living room and much talking, laughing, beer drinking, wine-drinking and liquor-drinking around the people who danced. In a second room, there was pot-smoking. And in a third room, there were Columbia men making out with Barnard women.

About an hour after I arrived, I noticed Nancy appearing at the party accompanied by a thin, taller guy with a mustache and longish hair. He reminded me somewhat of Errol Flynn in the The Adventures of Robin Hood movie. He was dressed in a hip bohemian kind of way. I vaguely recalled having seen him around the ICV table during my freshman year. In the apartment, Nancy put her arm around her new boyfriend. They then spoke with some people at the party and both laughed.

Nancy had met her new boyfriend during a campus “Fast For Peace in Viet Nam” which he had organized earlier in the month. His name was Teddy.

Teddy was from a Jewish working-class section of Brooklyn. His parents were European-born communists who had survived imprisonment in the World War II concentration camps, and settled in the U.S. after the war. He also had a younger sister. In the 1960s, Teddy was totally assimilationist in his philosophy and rejected a Jewish cultural nationalist or Jewish religious self-identification.

Teddy had gone to Stuyvesant High School at the same time Ted had and, in the early 1960s high school student peace movement in New York City, Teddy had been active. In high school, Teddy had been more grade-oriented and more popular with his teachers than the more affluent Ted had been. He was ranked 6th—ahead of Ted—in their graduating class at Stuyvesant.

As a Columbia freshman during the 1964-65 academic year, Teddy had spent his first term studying heavily in order to prove to himself that he could get high marks at Columbia, and he did get high marks. The next term, however, Teddy devoted himself more to anti-war activism, independent reading and love relationships. He became a soft-spoken, super-friendly, bohemian left-anarchist, counter-cultural, charismatic personality at Columbia. He loved to talk with everybody he bumped into around campus. He exhibited a charming spirit which made him popular with the Barnard women he spoke with and caused him to have many Columbia men friends by the beginning of his junior year in Fall 1966.

At the P.A.C.T. party, Teddy and Nancy seemed to get bored quickly and left the party within an hour. Juan came on friendly to Beth, and she was hugging him passionately in the corner of the living room after a few drinks and a few dances. Seeing that Beth seemed into Juan that night, I escorted another Barnard woman I had been talking with for much of the evening home to her 106th St. and Broadway apartment.

Chapter 6: Enter Ted Gold, 1966 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (24)

In early October, I attended the Independent Committee on Viet Nam’s first meeting of the year. The room was packed with anti-war Columbia and Barnard students. The ICV at this time was led by Mike Klare. Klare was a red diaper baby and graduate student in art who liked to do research on university complicity with the Pentagon. He also liked to speak at campus anti-war rallies and was a hard worker and dedicated activist in the 1960s. Young Socialist Alliance [YSA] members, like Peter Seidman and Carol Seidman, also held leadership posts in the ICV at this time.

To rank-and-file ICV members and sympathizers who attended the first meeting of the school year, all the leaders appeared to be equally dedicated radicals. We were generally unaware of the below-the-surface campus political rivalry that was already going on between YSA-Socialist Workers Party [SWP] people, Progressive Labor [PL] people and the three or four people around campus—other than Dave—who were sympathetic to SDS. At this first meeting, I signed up for the ICV’s dorm canvassing committee, indicating that I would be available to knock on doors and discuss the war in Viet Nam with students in Furnald Hall, a few nights each week.

One evening after dinner the next week, as I practiced my guitar, I heard a knock on the door. I put down my guitar, walked to the door and opened it. A short, stocky, white guy with thick glasses, short hair and no beard stood in front of me, with a clipboard in his hand.

“Are you Bob Feldman?” he asked shyly.

“Yeah,” I nodded.

“My name is Ted. I’m from the Independent Committee on Viet Nam’s dorm canvassing committee. You signed our list saying you’d be interested in doing dorm canvassing,” he said uneasily, but earnestly.

“Oh yeah! Come on in!”

Ted walked into my dorm room.

“I’m coordinating the dorm canvassing in Furnald Hall. I live up on the 8th floor. In room 801.”

We then exchanged views on how immoral we both felt the war in Viet Nam was. We agreed it was important to try to get more students in Furnald Hall talking about the war and involved in anti-war protest.

Ted then noticed my guitar and asked: “You play the guitar?”

“Yeah. I like folk music. I’m into folk music like Pete Seeger is into folk music.”

Ted smiled. “I like folk music, too. I have a lot of old Pete Seeger records. You can come up to my room sometime and listen to some of them, if you want.”

“That sounds like it would be fun,” I replied.

Ted then said goodbye, in order to speak to other people in the dorm who had signed the dorm canvassing list. We agreed to meet the next night to do some anti-war canvassing together on the 5th floor of Furnald. Ted seemed sincere and interesting to talk to. I liked him from the start.

Ted was a red diaper baby—the son of an Upper West Side medical doctor and a Mathematics instructor at Columbia who had both been part of the Old Left. Although Ted’s father spent his days practicing medicine—not political activism—he was to the left of the Communist Party, intellectually, in 1966. Ted’s father considered himself a Maoist, in the days when Maoism appeared to provide a left-wing revolutionary alternative to the CP’s non-revolutionary revisionism, domestically, and to the Soviet Union’s apparent abandonment of support for Third World guerrilla movements, internationally.

In the 1960s, Ted’s father still seemed to be a young, vigorous man in his 40s whom Ted was still quite fond of, despite Ted’s rejection of many Old Left cultural and lifestyle values which he had come to regard as too “bourgeois.” When I met Ted in 1966, he considered himself a Marxist and a communist who sought to establish “decentralized socialism” in the United States. He regarded his father’s brand of Maoism as well-meaning, but too dogmatic an ideology to be applicable to U.S. conditions.

“Marxism is a method and a tool, not a dogma,” Ted would reply if some other leftist would argue against a political position by stating that “Lenin wrote” or "Marx said” or “Mao says.”

Ted’s mother remained politically interested, despite having to use a wheelchair to move to and from her mathematics teaching job at Columbia. The other member of Ted’s immediate family was a brother, about four or five years younger than Ted, who wasn’t interested in radical politics in the 1960s.

In Fall 1966, Ted was a junior at Columbia College. His parents lived in an upper-middle-class high-rise apartment on West 93rd St. and Amsterdam Ave. While Ted’s father had gone to medical school, Ted’s parents had experienced economic hardship. But by 1966, Ted considered his parents affluent and upper-middle-class, although certainly not part of the Establishment or ruling-class. During his freshman year, Ted had lived at home with his parents. At the beginning of his sophomore year, however, he had moved into his 8th floor single dorm room in Furnald Hall.

In 1958, shortly before his 11th birthday, Ted had attended his first Civil Rights demonstration in Washington, D.C. As a boy, he had gone to summer camp with other red diaper babies at Camp Kinderland, in Upstate New York.

Ted had attended Stuyvesant High School, an elite public high school in Manhattan, where he had received high grades and had run cross-country. In high school he had kept up an interest in professional sports, college sports, the Civil Rights Movement, radical politics, folk music and dating. Because of his past attendance at high school red diaper baby social gatherings, Ted knew more women college students who attended schools other than Barnard than did the more typical Columbia student.

Ted was a good athlete, although he was too short to have a chance to make either the basketball or football team at Columbia. He didn’t have much of a jump shot, but he was good at driving towards the basket for a lay-up and he played basketball in an intense way.

Arriving at Columbia in Fall 1964, Ted immediately became involved in campus Civil Rights activity. He worked with a sweet, hard-working white Barnard student named Barbara as one of the campus Friends of SNCC coordinators, organizing fund-raising activities for SNCC at Columbia. Ted identified more with SNCC activists than with the activists of any other 60s political group.

Initially, Ted had planned to major in Mathematics at Columbia. But by his junior year, Ted had decided that sociology was a more relevant field for him. He was emotionally involved with a college student named Judith, who was attending a school outside of New York City.

Chapter 5: In Furnald Hall, 1966 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (23)

What was on Kesselman’s reading list were works by Marx and Engels, works by Lenin, Bernstein’s book on democratic, evolutionary socialism and Sorel’s Reflections On Violence. For the course, I wrote a paper comparing Bernstein’s views on party organization with Lenin’s views. I concluded that, although Bernstein’s democratic socialist organizational principles might be appropriate in democratic capitalist societies, Lenin’s democratic centralist approach was probably necessary, realistic and justified for the Russia of his time, given the politically repressive nature of Czarist society. I also explained Lenin’s willingness to justify the use of revolutionary violence, in contrast to Bernstein’s socialism through peaceful elections line, by noting that Lenin’s brother had been executed by the Czarist government.

Lenin’s State and Revolution book influenced me. In the middle of Fall 1966, I began to think of myself as more of a socialist than an anarchist, and more democratic socialist than radical humanist. But after reading Lenin’s State and Revolution, I considered myself a revolutionary socialist Marxist who felt that Lenin’s interpretation of social reality was more accurate than C. Wright Mills’ interpretation had been. Yet I still did not consider myself a Leninist for two reasons: 1. I thought that non-violent methods alone, if engaged in by white anti-war people, could eventually bring socialism to the United States; and 2. I thought that Lenin’s notion that socialist revolution could not happen without a Bolshevik-like democratic centralist party was applicable only to less industrially-advanced countries than the United States.

After reading Lenin and Marx in much greater detail, I realized that they were both great men whose main motivation was to change the world so humanity would be liberated from wage slavery, class oppression and injustice. Although I considered Lenin’s tactical and strategic approach irrelevant to 1960s organizational problems, I now saw myself as being much closer to the intellectual tradition of Marx, Engels and Lenin. I agreed with Marx’s assertion in The German Ideology that only when the division of labor was abolished and an individual worker could be a poet in the morning, a factory worker in the afternoon and a lover in the evening—and not be trapped in one menial job slot for his or her whole life—would human beings around the world really be free.

One afternoon a week, I continued to spend at P.A.C.T. I was a group leader of 11 and 12-year-old boys this time. My co-leader was a guy named Harry.

Harry was a tall, bespectacled Columbia College freshman. He lived in the Carmen Hall dormitory, was the son of an Antioch College professor and hoped to become a writer. He was an earnest guy who seemed genuinely interested in Citizenship Council, in P.A.C.T. and in working with neighborhood children.

Together, we visited the parents of the boys in our group in their homes. Harry and I would also spend an hour or two each week together to plan our group’s activities. In his dorm suite in Carmen Hall, we listened to an early Donovan folk music album while we also discussed our group’s dynamics and activity interests. Harry expressed an intellectual interest in LSD around this time because he noted that “it releases your id.” Harry interpreted human behavior more psychologically than sociologically.

Carmen Hall was the most modern and expensive Columbia dorm in which to live. One of Harry’s suitemates was the son of a rich Venezuelan businessman and he was into photography. The suitemate had his private dormitory room plastered with many pictures of his photogenic woman friend.

As the Fall 1966 term progressed, Harry became involved with a Barnard woman named Peggy, who was friendly but not too politically radical. He also became more involved with Stein and Juan in the administrative side of P.A.C.T. In talking to me about one of the P.A.C.T. administrative meetings, Harry said the following:

“You know that Nancy? She really is too angry, too radical and too uncompromising. All she does is criticize P.A.C.T. for being too white paternalistic.”

Nancy had transferred to Barnard after spending her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She had long blond hair and was as beautiful as Pat. I first heard her speak at a P.A.C.T. group discussion session of group leaders one Tuesday evening in the church basement. The radical, anti-racist commitment and intellectual awareness she expressed made an impression on me.

Prior to walking back up to Columbia’s campus within the group of fourteen Barnard and Columbia student volunteers, I attempted to engage Nancy in conversation. But she was cold towards me. Then a few other Columbia men surrounded her in order to flirt with her, so I retreated from what appeared to be shaping up as some kind of intra-P.A.C.T. competition to win Nancy’s love. Instead, I headed uptown towards Columbia’s campus while talking to some other Barnard student volunteers who didn’t seem to be as popular.

Nancy had grown up in the Philadelphia area. An uncle of Nancy was one of the jailed Hollywood Ten old left celebrities and he later directed the Salt of the Earth movie in the 1950s, following his release from prison. In the early 1960s, Nancy had apparently become friendly with a summer camp counselor named Julius Lester. Lester was an African-American SNCC activist from Tennessee, a folksinger in Sing Out! magazine circles and a columnist for the radical Guardian weekly newspaper in the 1960s. Apparently influenced intellectually by her contact with Lester, Nancy appeared to have a deeper understanding of the African-American Liberation Movement and white racism than other Barnard women when she entered the Columbia scene as a sophomore, after her unsatisfying freshman year in Madison.

Another sophomore transfer student lived in the dorm room next door to mine. Eliezer was a thin, frail-looking guy from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He had been educated in Brooklyn yeshiva schools and had spent his freshman year at some Orthodox Jewish college. In transferring to Columbia and moving into the dormitory, he was attempting to break away completely from his Orthodox Jewish background. Eliezer analyzed every little action in a super-intellectual way. He always looked for the hidden meanings and hidden psychological motivations behind people’s words and behaviors.

In Fall 1966, Eliezer was a philosophy major who considered himself a radical. Shortly after the school year began, he also realized that Columbia’s academic life was intellectually worthless. We became close friends for awhile.

It was Eliezer who first introduced me to Paul Krassner’s satirical Realist magazine and the now-defunct East Village Other underground newspaper. Eliezer also was the first person who mentioned Tuli Kupferberg and the Fugs to me. It was also Eliezer who first persuaded me that the hippie-drug culture of the Lower East Side was as important and potentially subversive a subculture as the subculture of the radical political Movement or the folk music subculture. Talking for long hours with Eliezer in either his dorm room or my dorm room—or while walking around the campus—was intellectually more interesting than either doing assigned academic coursework or listening to Columbia professors lecture in class.

My Furnald Hall 5th floor dorm counselor was Bill. Bill was an efficient dorm counselor. Like Nancy, he was also from the Philadelphia area, and he had been active in the Congress of Racial Equality [CORE] in the early 1960s at the University of Pennsylvania, before coming to Columbia. At Columbia, Bill was approaching 30 years of age and was working for a Ph.D. in the School of International Affairs. He was around 6 feet tall and usually wore glasses.

Bill exercised a dominant political influence in the Student Afro-American Society [SAS] at Columbia, which was more of a social club than a Movement action group during most of the 1960s. I had first met him in May of my freshman year in the Livingston Hall dormitory lobby when he sold me a journal produced by the Afro-American Society.

Intellectually, Bill was interesting to talk with when he chose to drop into my dorm room and participate in a political discussion with me, Tom and other students on the floor. Bill knew much more about politics, African history and African-American history than I did in Fall 1966. He influenced my political thinking. He had SNCC politics and he persuaded me that an armed struggle to win Black liberation in the 1960s was both politically practical and morally justified. My residual pacifist reservations about supporting an armed struggle political strategy for African-American liberation were continually challenged by Bill. Bill seemed to have a clear sense as to which direction a radical student movement should go.

Chapter 5: In Furnald Hall, 1966 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (22)

September 1966 finally came and I was glad to get back to Manhattan to live again in a dormitory on Columbia’s campus. Over the summer I had changed from an aspiring playwright to an aspiring folksinger-songwriter and I brought my cheap guitar to Room 521 of Furnald Hall, where I now lived.

My roommate, Tom, was a government major who was planning to be a journalist. He was so into journalism that he decorated the walls of our room with the mastheads of different newspapers from all across the United States.

Tom was also an extremely religious Christian of the Lutheran sect. He felt his intellectual views and his personal actions had to genuinely conform to a Christian value system and to the teachings of Jesus. During our sophomore year at Furnald Hall we continued to debate philosophical and political issues frequently, in a way that we both enjoyed. Sometimes we would be joined in our discussions by other students on the 5th floor, because Tom liked to keep the dorm room open in the evening. The open door encouraged people to stop by and chat in-between studying or after dinner.

Our tiny dorm room had a bunk bed, two desks and two fluorescent lamps, as well as a sink and mirror. The dorm room’s window faced onto the South Lawn of Columbia’s campus.

Tom rarely cut classes like I did. He usually wore glasses and often spent time in the room writing letters to his many correspondents around the world. He had spent previous summers at some international camp in New England and had met people from all around the world there. During the school year, one of Tom’s friends from camp, a Yale student, visited New York with his knapsack and camped out on the dorm room floor.

Tom’s father worked in a factory. But Tom was not anti-capitalist in the 1960s. To afford Columbia, Tom had to work during the school year at some work-study journalism job with the University. His other main extra-curricular activity, aside from Sunday church attendance and Lutheran student group attendance, was to sing in the Columbia Glee Club. Although Tom liked to sing, he wasn’t into either folk music or rock music in college. He listened on the radio to either an all-news station or a classical music station only.

There were often times when I was able to practice my guitar and write songs in the dorm room without anyone else being present because Tom was attending class, working, singing, worshipping or doing something else. Likewise, because I was involved in much activity outside the dorm room, Tom would also have sole use of the dorm room often.

Tom was easy to room with because he was good-natured and knew how to share the space in a just fashion. We spent long hours discussing all kinds of issues. He expressed a New Right conservative position, generally, and I usually defended the New Left position. So discussion with Tom gave me good practice in articulating and clarifying my radical politics in ideological debate. Tom didn’t convince me of the correctness of his views and I didn’t convince him of the correctness of mine. But he was a good intellectual companion and, personally, very kind.

In early September, I bumped into Stein in front of Ferris Booth Hall. He was trying to recruit freshmen as student volunteers for the P.A.C.T. program. The previously clean-shaven Stein had grown a long, black beard over the summer and now dressed much more proletarian and radical than he had dressed the previous spring.

“How will SNCC’s call for white activists not to organize in the Black community affect P.A.C.T.?” I immediately asked Stein.

“We’ve been discussing the implications of the SNCC call for Black Power on P.A.C.T. And we’re going to hire a full-time organizer from the community to manage a P.A.C.T. office with Juan,” Stein answered. We then talked for awhile about how to prevent P.A.C.T. from being an outdated white missionary program.

The only class that I found relevant to my life and my concerns in Fall 1966 was the “Reflections On Politics Since 1914 I” class that Professor Kesselman taught. Kesselman was a friendly guy with a mustache, who was in his late 20s or early 30s. He had studied in France and written a book on French electoral politics.

Politically, Kesselman was a social democrat. But he wasn’t the kind of social democrat who worried more about Communist Party manipulation and “Stalinists” than about stopping the current crimes of the corporate capitalist Establishment. In the 1960s, there were many social democrats who seemed more interested in re-fighting the sectarian squabbles of the 1930s than in uniting people in a new movement for radical social change in the United States.

Culturally, Kesselman was a white middle-class academic, who wore a suit and tie, and who was neither bohemian nor interested in the U.S. Movement. He lived in a fancy high-rise apartment, just off Riverside Drive, with his young wife.

Kesselman’s reading list didn’t include the writings of any women political thinkers like Rosa Luxemburg or Alexandra Kollontai. This was an indication of the male chauvinist intellectual bias of Columbia’s faculty in the 1960s, before the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s began to make an impact on institutional university life.

Chapter 4: Summer Folk Songwriting, 1966 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (21)

I heard Pete Seeger live for the first time in July 1966 at an evening concert in Lewinsohn Stadium near CCNY at 137th St. in Manhattan. The stadium was packed with a mixture of old leftists from the 1930s and red diaper baby and left-liberal folk music fans from the 1960s “folk-left.” Seeger received the most applause when he sang “If you love your Uncle Sam, bring them home, bring them home” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” As I walked back to the Broadway IRT subway station at 137th St., within a massive crowd of Seeger folk music fans, it again seemed that everybody in New York City was against the war in Viet Nam. But I now realized that U.S. foreign policy was not determined by the people of the United States, but by a small corporate elite and its corporate economic interests.

At the end of July, the Children’s Treatment Center closed down for the rest of the summer, so I secured another Urban Corps work assignment from the City: assistant teacher at the Monticello Day Care Center in East Harlem, near 104th St. and First Ave. To get to Monticello Day Care Center, you had to get off the Lexington Ave. subway at either 103rd St. or 110th St. and then walk east, by housing projects, until you reached the daycare center. The center was directed by a middle-aged African-American woman and it offered community people a day camp and a teenage recreational program, as well as the head start and pre-school nursery programs in which I worked.

During my last week of work at Monticello Day Care Center, two Puerto Rican guys in their late teens or early 20s from the neighborhood jumped me as I entered the 110th St. subway station on my way home. They took my cheap watch and emptied my wallet of the four dollars I was carrying, but didn’t harm me physically. It was the first time I had ever been mugged and I did not like the sensation.

On the remaining few days of my work-study job at Monticello Day Care Center I walked uneasily to and from the 103rd St. subway station—not the 110th St. station. And I was glad when this summer job ended.

Chapter 4: Summer Folk Songwriting, 1966 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (20)

The other non-work activity I became involved in at this time was doing volunteer work in the Student Peace Union [SPU] office at 5 Beekman St. in Lower Manhattan. After working at the Children’s Treatment Center until 3 p.m., I would go down to the SPU office and stuff envelopes or staple and collate leaflets for a few hours each day.

The SPU office was a small room located within the larger office of the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee and the War Resisters League, on the top floor of 5 Beekman St. In July 1966, I felt that the Student Peace Union, not SDS, was going to be the organization that would most readily mobilize masses of students to resist both the Viet Nam War and all other expressions of U.S. militarism around the globe and on campus. I thought about possibly starting an SPU chapter at Columbia that fall. But National SDS had a much better organizational structure of dedicated hard-core activists than SPU had in 1966, so SDS, not SPU, became the organizational vehicle on campus which was able to mobilize anti-militaristic white students in the U.S.

In the SPU office there was one full-time SPU staff person, a white bohemian man in his early 20s who seemed quite dedicated to the cause. He was somewhat elitist in relation to young student volunteers, like me, who walked into his office. Occasionally, a sexually obsessed, male chauvinist SPU member would also be in the office talking, but not doing any Movement shitwork. When he started talking about Judy Collins’ alleged love affair with Tom Paxton in a gossipy, detailed way or started to repeat the latest sexist joke he had heard, the full-time SPU organizer would reply “That’s gross,” in an impatient way.

When the SPU office had no special work for me to do, I would sometimes help out in the War Resisters League section of the office floor, where Ralph DiGia or A.J. Muste would sometimes be working. But after Hiroshima Day of August 1966 passed, I stopped going down to 5 Beekman St. because there didn’t really seem to be enough work for an SPU volunteer to do each afternoon.

In searching for ways to continue to resist the war politically that summer, I also checked out the anti-war Congressional campaign headquarters of Ted Weiss in Manhattan. But his campaign didn’t seem to have an apparatus set up to effectively make use of student volunteers, when I visited his campaign headquarters. In 1966 it appeared to me that Weiss’ election might make a positive difference in Washington, D.C. I had not yet become completely disillusioned with trying to use the left-liberal wing of the Democratic Party to change U.S. foreign policy.

After James Meredith was shot and wounded while attempting to march through the South, SNCC began to popularize its “Black Power” line. Kwame Ture, who was then known as Stokely Carmichael, began to get much exposure on national television news and political interview shows.

Carmichael became one of my idols. He seemed to make more sense than Martin Luther King. I read all I could on SNCC’s new Black Power political orientation. A Black Power orientation sounded logical and righteous to me.

Yet, initially, I felt somewhat uneasy when I heard that all white activists were being asked to leave SNCC and that some African-American SNCC activists had now concluded that all U.S. whites, regardless of their politics, could not really be trusted politically. But Carmichael’s arguments quickly convinced me that it was really necessary for African-American political activists in SNCC to organize autonomously on a Black nationalist basis, without the intrusive paternalistic and stifling presence of even the remaining white activists in SNCC.

By Summer 1966, as Carmichael and SNCC argued, it seemed obvious that white anti-racist activists could most effectively fight in support of African-American liberation by organizing in white communities—among poor whites, white working-class people and white campus youth—in order to attempt to eliminate white racist mass consciousness and white racist political attitudes. The source of the white racism problem of the United States was in the white communities. White activists who sincerely wished to strike a blow against white racism in 1966 could best do so, not by intervening in the internal affairs of U.S. African-American communities in a paternalistic way, but by mobilizing whites enmasse to fight institutional racism in the U.S.

Consequently, if I taught in the New York City public schools after college, I would now seek to teach white working-class vocational high school students or white high school students of Jewish background, not African-American ghetto high school students. My support for SNCC’s new Black nationalist orientation also meant that I became more critical of the white missionary aspects of the P.A.C.T. daycare center program and more inclined to focus on organizing other white Columbia and Barnard students. I supported the nationalist SNCC notion that only African-American activists should organize in African-American communities.

I also supported SNCC’s 1966 shift towards advocating the right of self-defense in response to white racist attacks, instead of Martin Luther King’s philosophical non-violence. The influence of Malcom X’s theoretical writings and Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth book, as well as the lessons of their own personal political experiences in the Deep South, made it quite understandable that SNCC activists were now rejecting Gandhi’s philosophy of social change.

During the long, hot summer of 1966, there were African-American rebellions in cities other than New York. I watched TV news reports of these rebellions and felt they were justified responses to white police brutality and oppressive ghetto conditions. These African-American rebellions, however, did not affect the 9-to-5 world in Manhattan or evening and weekend life in Queens. But I assumed that SNCC, under Carmichael’s charismatic leadership, was soon going to be able to organize this Black mass anger into a mass-based revolutionary nationalist youth movement for Black Power.

Chapter 4: Summer Folk Songwriting, 1966 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (19)

I applied at Columbia’s Placement Office in Dodge Hall for a work-study New York City Urban Corps summer job. But the Lindsay Administration’s city government bureaucracy still didn’t have the program organized enough so that financially needy students could be assigned jobs in early June. So after arriving at my parents’ apartment and quickly recuperating from the measles, I was forced to seek a job in the private sector.

The job I obtained was a messenger job at Rapid Messenger Services that paid the minimum wage of $1.25 per hour. Rapid Messenger’s dispatching office was located at Broome St. in Lower Manhattan. Most of my deliveries were below 34th St. and above Canal St., between the East River and the Hudson River. One of the other messengers spoke as if he was mentally retarded. Another messenger was a well-dressed, middle-aged African-American man who wore a suit and tie and came to work with an empty briefcase. The dispatcher was a white man in his late 50s with white hair who wasn’t dictatorial. He could quickly rattle off the quickest pick-up and delivery routes for the messages or packages I was responsible for carrying and he gave me my paycheck on schedule.

I found the messenger work too low-paying. But it was more interesting than doing clerical work at one skyscraper desk for seven hours a day. On hot days, it could be quite grueling if I had many rush deliveries or pick-ups to make. Yet many of the women receptionists I delivered messages and packages to seemed to feel themselves superior to messenger workers. Heavily made-up women in their 20s, they talked down to me or related to me in a snobbish way.

In mid-June 1966, the Columbia Placement Office notified me that the Urban Corps work-study job program was ready to assign work assignments. I chose to work in the mental health field for the summer and went down to the Worth St. office in Lower Manhattan of the government agency that assigned jobs in the mental hygiene field. The friendly bureaucrat in charge of giving out work assignments matched me with an assistant teacher opening at the Children’s Treatment Center.

The Children’s Treatment Center was a school for emotionally disturbed children that was located at 71st St., between Broadway and West End Ave. The work-study job was a 30-hour per week job that lasted from 9 to 3, five days a week. I acquired some special ed experience, and a smattering of special ed jargon, by working at the Children’s Treatment Center. And while I worked there in 1966, I also became involved in two activities which indicated the life direction I was going to take.

My sister had learned guitar chords and been into folk music in the early 1960s. But by 1966 she was no longer interested in playing the guitar. I was eager, however, to learn the guitar and to sing folk songs with guitar accompaniment. So I borrowed my sister’s old cheap guitar and her old instruction book and taught myself a few chords. Then I bought myself a capo and persuaded her to give me her cheap guitar. She also gave me a book of civil rights songs that SNCC had published, called We Shall Overcome. I also bought a cheap book of folk songs that Moe Ash had put out in the late 1950s.

In the evening, instead of writing plays, watching much summer TV, reading or listening to much radio or many records, I stayed in my room and practiced guitar chords and sang folk songs. By the middle of the summer, I was singing the songs I had written a cappella with the musical backing of my elementary guitar accompaniment. By the end of the summer, I was using the guitar to pump out more original folk songs of love and protest.

By Fall 1966, I thought I might be another Dylan, Ochs or Guthrie because the songs burst out so easily and naturally. I went to one Tin Pan Alley music publisher to try to get an audition, but I couldn’t get past the receptionist. I also knew no one in the industry to help me market my songwriting talent or to back me financially.

After the summer of 1966, however, I found it more satisfying to be, artistically, a songwriter-folksinger than an aspiring playwright. I felt that writing songs, not writing plays, was the easiest way for me to reach the mass of people with my message of universal love, youth revolt and equality for all people on the earth.