Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chapter 13: Christmas Vacation With Mark Rudd, 1967 (iv)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (80)

In early January 1968, I also started to look for my own apartment again. I enjoyed living above Mark. But I desired an apartment where I could freely entertain friends and cook.

I answered a bulletin board card ad in mid-January and sublet a Tiemann Place apartment from two Columbia students. The apartment consisted of 2 ½ rooms and had windows which faced out onto Broadway, a few blocks south of W. 125th St. Whenever the IRT Broadway local train rode by, the apartment shook and it sounded like the train was going to rumble into the bedroom. I had to give up possession of the apartment, however, when the landlord vetoed the sublet because my proposed roommate, Eliezer, now had long hair and looked too much like a hippie. I was forced to move back to my parents’ apartment in Queens for a few weeks until dormitory space in Furnald Hall became available for me. As a result of my unsuccessful Tiemann Place sublet, I was beat for $150.

In Queens, I filled up my spare-time for a few weeks hanging out around Queens College. But compared to Columbia in early 1968, Queens College seemed politically, intellectually and morally dead. At Queens College, I picked up a copy of the Phoenix student newspaper and ended up writing a letter to the editor which the newspaper printed—and the FBI agent who monitored political activity at Queens College inserted in my (now-declassified) FBI file because the letter recommended that Queens College students read the radical press for more accurate information about the Viet Nam War.

The TET offensive of the NLF in Viet Nam began in early 1968. Like most other Columbia SDS activists, I felt that the New Left’s analysis of the situation in Viet Nam had been validated by this offensive. I followed the TET offensive by reading the New York Times again each day and I felt happy that the Vietnamese people, despite the U.S. military escalation of the previous three years, were still able to fight for their liberation so effectively. Because it now appeared to many Columbia students that the U.S. government could not win its war in Viet Nam, campus opposition to continued U.S. military intervention in Viet Nam deepened even further.

Chapter 13: Christmas Vacation With Mark Rudd, 1967 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (79)

Although I was sad to hear of Che Guevara’s October 1967 death and angry about the CIA’s role in his execution, I had not really examined Che’s thoughts and writings while he was alive. But to complete my term paper on the “ideology of anti-communism” before returning to W. 110th St. to write the position paper with Mark, I read about Che and Castro and the Cuban Revolution, which had taken place only 9 years earlier. In the summer, I had identified with the young Trotsky, as described in Isaac Deutscher’s biographical writing. Now I began to identify more with the martyred Che and the New Left Fidelista tradition in the Western Hemisphere.

Mark, too, had been reading about the young Trotsky and about Che. We both felt that many of the Columbia SDS theoretical debates seemed like reflections of debates held by the Bolsheviks and the Fidelistas of previous generations.

One night in Mark’s apartment, he mentioned that he had had a dream. “I dreamt I was speaking on the sundial to a huge crowd,” Mark said.

Because Mark, Sue and I had started to write a position paper which argued for an alternative, more confrontational SDS chapter political strategy, I thought Mark’s dream was just a reflection of the intensity of our strategic discussions at this time. I can’t recall any major points of disagreements with Mark and Sue during the week we collectively hammered out our position paper. What I do remember is Mark saying things like “What’s a good phrase to use here?” And then, if I replied with a phrase like “institutional resistance,” Mark would smile and say: “That’s a good phrase. Ted and Schneider will like that phrase.”

What we were thus attempting to do was to write the position paper in such a way so that the rest of the steering committee would be persuaded to accept our strategic call for a Spring 1968 confrontation-strike. We included a section which argued that the only way the mass of apolitical anti-war hippies could be politicized and radicalized, along with the mass of anti-war liberal straights at Columbia and Barnard, was if SDS consciously pushed for a Spring 1968 non-violent disruption. After the position paper was finished, Mark suggested that we use a quotation from one of Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album songs, “Stuck Inside of Mobile,” as a kind of poetic preface. The lyric Mark chose was: “Your debutante just knows what you need. But I know what you want.”

I laughed at Mark’s clever choice of an appropriate Dylan phrase because it really did express the main thrust of our position paper, which was essentially a call for Columbia SDS to stop verbalizing about what we ought to be doing and to start just doing what we really felt like doing, as soon as we could: shutting down Columbia until it cut its ties to the U.S. war machine. Mark titled our position paper “How to Get SDS Moving Again and Screw the University All in One Fell Swoop.”

On the Sunday night before classes were to begin after the Christmas-New Year’s break, Mark and I went over to Trude’s apartment on W. 108th St. to show Ted the position paper we had written. Ted read the position paper, but wasn’t too impressed.

“We can’t start working for a spring confrontation or strike now because it’s too early to know whether we will have enough student support.”

Mark attempted to explain to Ted that the whole point of the paper was to make sure we would gather enough student support for a spring disruption, by motivating chapter hard-core activists with the promise of a spring confrontation.

“We still have to just focus on developing mass radical consciousness and organizing future New Working-Class people. That’s more important than whether or not we have a spring strike or confrontation,” Ted maintained.

“As long as Columbia is disrupting the lives of the Vietnamese through its IDA sponsorship, we have a right and an obligation to disrupt its campus,” I argued.

“That’s just thinking morally, not strategically or politically, Bob,” Ted replied in a condescending tone. “It’s not a question of whether we have a moral right to disrupt the campus. It’s a question of being politically sophisticated enough to know when it’s more important to educate the campus, and not alienate people by a confrontation. Otherwise we end up being as isolated as PL or being as politically crazy as JJ is.”

Mark and I exchanged grimaces and a few minutes later left Trude’s apartment. By early 1968, as a result of Al and Peter Schneider’s right-opportunist influence, Ted tended to put down any chapter person who wanted to act, and not just talk, as being a person who was “unpolitical” and “lacking an analysis.” Mark and I circulated copies of our “How to Get SDS Moving Again and Screw the University All in One Fell Swoop” paper to other Columbia SDS hard-core people over the next week. But although Robby and some of the other sophomore activists felt the call for preparing for a spring confrontation-action was strategically correct, the Praxis-Axis of Ted-Peter Schneider-Teddy-Al pretty much blocked any serious consideration of the paper by the chapter as a whole.

Chapter 13: Christmas Vacation With Mark Rudd, 1967 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (78)

My next recollection is standing inside the hall of Mark’s apartment in the evening, at the very moment his woman friend Sue was coming out of the bathroom shower with only a towel around her body and a second towel around her hair.

“Hi,” Sue said with a smile, as she quickly walked matter-of-factly in front of me towards Mark’s bedroom.

“Hello,” I replied, with a smile in return.

Later in the evening, Mark formally introduced Sue to me, after she had put on her nightgown. She was a senior at Barnard, majoring in English, who had not been as interested in New Left politics as had Mark. Although she was a friend of Linda, unlike Linda, she did not attend Columbia SDS steering committee meetings or do much chapter organizational work. She had evidently been Mark’s friend for awhile, although I had not noticed her around campus before, because she rarely accompanied Mark to political meetings and never spoke at SDS general assembly meetings.

Sue was very sweet and easy to talk with, and I liked her from the start. If you gossiped with Sue about Columbia SDS people, she would often characterize people in humorous ways. But she seemed interested in Columbia SDS and New Left organizing only insofar as Mark was interested in radical politics. She seemed in love with Mark and to be mainly devoted to him. But her love for Mark wasn’t a clinging one and she didn’t sleep over at Mark’s apartment every night. It was always uncertain whether Sue would be at the apartment on any evening I dropped by to visit Mark.

Mark, Sue and I became close during December 1967, mainly because we gossiped about other people together, discussed radical organizing strategies and talked about literature and each other’s life in personal, not just political, ways.

Mark felt that Ted was too pedantic and that Peter Schneider and Al were too coldly intellectual to turn on many people to New Left politics at Columbia. Mark also felt Teddy was no good as Columbia SDS chairman and that Nancy was “too bourgeois.”

“I don’t like Nancy,” Mark said one night. “She’s not a friendly person.”

At the time, I thought that Nancy was a friendly person who just hadn’t been friendly to Mark. But Mark may have been reacting negatively to the fact that Nancy—although not a conscious radical feminist at this time—tended to be less submissive interpersonally in relationship to men than most other Barnard women.

Mark had an entertaining way of talking about his English literature courses. He related a story about Tristan and Isolde in a very tender way to me and Sue. Often in the evening, WNEW-FM rock music would be playing on his stereo radio in the background, as we talked. Sometimes we talked as Mark cooked for himself or scrambled an egg in his frying pan.

I can’t recall much of what our December 1967 small talk consisted of. But the general result was that Mark and I all of a sudden were friends, as well as political comrades. By the time Columbia classes broke up for the Christmas 1967 break, I felt personally closer to Mark than to either Teddy or Ted.

A few days before the Christmas vacation break, Mark and I conducted a small group meeting of some Columbia SDS people in the lounge of Ferris Booth Hall, in the early evening. Only a few other students showed up at the meeting. One of them was a petite Barnard freshman who wore a dress and earrings, used make-up and lipstick, had short hair and looked culturally straight. Her name was Josie Duke. She was related to the Duke family that had made its billions from monopolizing the tobacco industry and exploiting tobacco workers. But at this time I didn’t realize that Josie came from super-wealth.

Despite looking straight and bourgeois, however, Josie took a position in the political discussion on the issue of why Columbia SDS couldn’t recruit more people that was similar to the position that Mark and I had come to share: 1) Unless Columbia SDS activists felt their organizing was going to lead to some Spring 1968 confrontation and/or sit-in or strike, they would tend to retreat from day-to-day political activism; and 2) Unless there was some kind of Spring 1968 confrontation/sit-in/strike, the mass of Columbia and Barnard students would remain apathetic, unpoliticized and unradicalized.

At the end of the small meeting, Josie, Mark and I agreed that Mark and I should try to write some political position paper during Christmas vacation for the Columbia SDS steering committee which would argue that only if the chapter consciously began working in January 1968 for a Spring 1968 confrontation/sit-in/strike would the mass radicalization of students at Columbia and Barnard be a possibility. As we walked home, Mark and I felt more energized by Josie’s apparent agreement with our analysis as to why Columbia SDS continued to be stagnating under Ted, Teddy and Peter Schneider’s leadership. We agreed to return early from our parents’ homes during the Christmas break, in order to write a position paper which argued in support of working towards a Spring 1968 confrontation—analogous to the 1967 confrontation with the Marine recruiters—in order to both win the demand for an end to Columbia’s ties to the IDA and to radicalize large numbers of students.

Chapter 13: Christmas Vacation With Mark Rudd, 1967 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (77)

In late November, I was walking uptown on the east side of Broadway, near W.114th St., when I noticed an index card posted in the local barbershop window. The index card advertised a vacant furnished room, in an apartment on W. 110th St. Because I wished to move as close to Columbia’s campus as possible, I telephoned the advertiser and arranged to look at the vacant room.

The vacant room was located in a unit of a large elevator apartment building at 501 W. 110th St., on the corner of Amsterdam Ave. and W. 110th St. This was the same apartment building in which Mark lived.

The tenant who was seeking to rent the vacant room was a woman named Mrs. Rodriguez. Mrs. Rodriguez spoke English with a Spanish accent and seemed to be in her 40s. Her apartment was a well-furnished one. Within her apartment, she had had constructed a small, cell-like furnished room, no more than 15 feet by 6 feet in size. The room contained a small bed, a small drawer, a small desk, a small sink and a small toilet.

After speaking with me for a few minutes, Mrs. Rodriguez agreed to rent me the vacant room. I was not given any access to the apartment kitchen, but this did not bother me because I rarely cooked and I ate most of my meals on campus or in restaurants. I was given the right to use the shower in her large bathroom. I was not allowed to entertain any guests in either her apartment or in my tiny room. And I had no access to the apartment telephone and could receive no telephone calls.

In December, I moved in a few suitcases of clothes and books, plus my portable manual typewriter, to this tiny room on the 8th floor of 501 W. 110th St. I planned to just rent the room until I found myself a regular apartment of my own.

Living at the W. 94th St. apartment had further alienated me from Columbia’s institutional life. It had been much more fun turning on most nights with Dave to the beat of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and talking New Left politics with different Movement people than spending the evening doing assigned reading in one of Columbia’s dormitories.

Because Ted was now spending most of his leisure time with Trude and the Schneiders, I had started to see less of him outside of SDS political meetings. It now appeared that we would not get any closer on a personal level than we had become during the previous 14 months. I was also not getting that much closer to Nancy and Teddy than I had been during the previous 14 months; although I was still close enough to Nancy and Teddy to take a subway down to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn early one morning and help hand out anti-war leaflets at the fort, when Teddy reported for his pre-induction draft physical, at the same time he was also applying for C.O. status.

As I spent my first night in my room at W. 110th St., I felt politically involved in a radical community in a vocationally meaningful way, but romantically unfulfilled on a personal level. There were still moments when feelings of emotional emptiness would paralyze me, in-between the rounds of Movement meetings and all the random reading and term paper research that I engaged in each week.

By early December, the Resist! Movement people around the United States were collectively frustrated enough to want to do more to resist the draft than just mail in their draft cards to their local draft boards. Hence, a “Stop The Draft Week” in New York City was planned for December 5, 1967, with the goal of using non-violent civil disobedience to shut down the induction center at Whitehall St., a few blocks south of Wall Street.

Like most other Columbia SDS steering committee people, I felt the idea of going down to the Whitehall Induction Center at 5 a.m. and sitting down in the street until the cops carried you away represented the politics of moral witness, and not the politics of New Left democratic radicalism. Our strategic alternative to “Stop The Draft Week” was for Resist! people and their followers to work to build SDS at Columbia, engage in the mass organizing on campus necessary to raise anti-imperialist consciousness and develop institutional resistance to the war machine’s manifestations at Columbia. It seemed obvious to us that there were not enough people willing to get arrested outside the Whitehall Street Induction Center to really shut it down. So it seemed more logical to continue to engage in mass consciousness-raising on campus rather than get SDS people tied-up downtown in court cases, for engaging in purely symbolic resistance. In retrospect, Columbia SDS probably underestimated the political and strategic value of protests like the civil disobedience outside the Whitehall Induction Center in encouraging the spread of anti-war sentiment.

As it turned out, the cops broke up the “Stop The Draft Week” demonstrations each day with an unnecessary amount of brutality, which was not reported by the Establishment’s mass media. Spectators and demonstrators who weren’t planning to get arrested were shoved around and pushed into side streets by cops, along with the anti-draft protesters who had been sitting down. One of the anti-draft demonstrators at the Whitehall Street Induction Center was the Columbia Daily Spectator’s soon-to-be-named editor-in-chief, Robert. A few days after the last early morning anti-draft protests, Ted said the following to me: “Robert’s evidently got radicalized by the police at Whitehall Street. Maybe Spectator’s coverage of SDS will get better.”

Some of the hard-core Resist! group people, although brutalized at Whitehall Street, still felt turned-off by Columbia SDS people. They felt we “were on a power-trip” and were not willing to really resist the war in a “morally pure” way or “put our bodies on the line” by going to jail for the cause of draft resistance.

Although I knew that I was now living one flight above Mark, I did not immediately ring his bell, once I had moved into the room at 501 W. 110th St. I had begun to like Mark more than during the previous spring, but I still didn’t feel close enough to him to be able to just drop by spontaneously at his apartment.

A few days after I moved into the apartment building, however, Mark bumped into me by the front door of the building. He was exiting from the building, as I was entering.

“Bob! What are you doing here?” Mark said in a surprised tone.

“I’m living in a furnished room here now, on the 8th floor.”

We then talked for a few minutes and Mark invited me to stop by his apartment either later that evening or later during the week. We both were wearing ski stocking caps and Mark seemed genuinely interested in having me stop by his apartment.

Chapter 12: Marge Piercy and the Anti-Rusk Demo, 1967 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (76)

Near the end of November, Ted, Dave and I chose to move from the W. 94th St. apartment. We had discovered that Mrs. Grossman, our “landlady,” was not really the owner of the apartment building, after all. She was only a rent-controlled tenant masquerading as a landlord, in order to rip us off.

“What you’ve done is very wrong, Mrs. Grossman,” Dave pointed out to her when we confronted her with our knowledge of what she had done, in violation of New York City rent-control laws that protected tenants against the greed of landlords.

Mrs. Grossman looked very nervous, but she didn’t concede that she had done anything wrong or illegal. When we tried to bargain with her, so that she’d agree to sublet her rent-control apartment to us at the legitimate lower rent, she refused to bargain and demanded that we vacate the apartment.

After Mrs. Grossman ended our meeting with her and left the apartment, we decided that it would be too much of a hassle to squat in the apartment against her will. In addition, because Ted had pretty much been living at Trude’s apartment for most of October and November, it didn’t appear necessary for him to keep up the expense of a vacant bedroom, in another shared apartment. So we decided to all move out of the W. 94th St. apartment.

Although Dave and I had gotten much closer as a result of living together, we each didn’t feel it made much sense to look for a new apartment together. Most of Dave’s political work at this time was downtown with older radicals at the New School or around the New York SDS Regional Office with graduate students or with people just out of college. Most of my political work involved meetings inside dormitories, student union lounges and classroom buildings at Columbia. On a daily level, we didn’t seem to have enough in common to make any special effort to keep living together in the absence of Ted’s presence as a third roommate.

One of my last memories of life at the apartment with Dave was a Saturday night visit of Linda, Harvey’s woman friend and Harvey. Harvey and his womanfriend had come in from Madison to visit Linda—who, herself, had returned to New York from Madison earlier in the month to catch up on her Barnard academic work. Harvey, his woman friend and Linda each looked like they were either high on marijuana or hash or on some kind of psychedelic drug trip. As we sat around Dave’s water pipe and smoked some more hashish and marijuana, Linda mentioned that she was on a mescaline trip. She appeared happier and gigglier than when she was straight. I felt a very loving kind of vibration in the room between Harvey, his womanfriend, Dave and Linda that night, as we all shared more and more hash and grass.

Harvey’s womanfriend still seemed in love with Harvey. Linda appeared content, although Josh had remained out in Wisconsin for the weekend for academic reasons. I was happy to have Harvey appear in the apartment, by surprise, that night. Like Dave, I missed Harvey being around the Upper West Side. Prior to Linda, Harvey and Harvey’s friend going back uptown to Linda’s apartment for the night, Harvey and Dave kissed each other goodbye.

Chapter 12: Marge Piercy and the Anti-Rusk Demo, 1967 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (75)

On the Saturday before the anti-Rusk demo, Gottlieb, Sutheim and Marge came to the apartment with Dave, after having held an afternoon meeting and eaten dinner out together. They had been smoking a lot of grass and dancing to Rolling Stones’ music for awhile, when I went into the living room to join them in their little party. I smoked some grass myself and was content to sit on a couch and just listen to the music while Sutheim and Marge took turns dancing with Gottlieb and Dave—in-between continuing to talk SDS Regional Office shop.

Near the end of the party, Marge—who appeared to be in high spirits from the pot—insisted that I dance with her, in a friendly tone. We danced to a few long songs on the Rolling Stones album that contained the tune “Something Happened To Me Yesterday.”

It was during the two weeks before the anti-Rusk demo that Mark and I started to gossip with each other. In early November, Mark telephoned Dave at the apartment when Dave wasn’t home. Somehow Mark and I began to talk about Trude, Ted and Dave. Mark mentioned that he and Trude had once been close. We gossiped for awhile. And we each discovered that we could make each other laugh.

After gossiping about New Left politics and New Left people with him, I began to feel that Mark was getting more serious about being a New Left activist. When he said “Ciao” at the end of the phone conversation, I felt more warmth from him than I had previously felt. He seemed more fun to talk with now.

On the day of the anti-Rusk demo, about 100 hard-core Columbia SDS people met at the sundial in the late afternoon. Teddy gave a brief speech from the sundial in an easygoing tone and, halfheartedly, urged everybody to head downtown towards the Hilton Hotel. We all entered the 116th Street subway station through the kiosk and, when a Broadway downtown local arrived, we all got on the train simultaneously.

“Maybe we should take over the whole subway train like they used to do in France during the Algerian War,” Teddy joked, as the train moved towards 50th Street and Broadway. Most of the hard-core SDS radicals heading downtown weren’t too enthusiastic about spending the night in front of the Hilton, because our numbers from Columbia were sparse. And we didn’t expect many other people to be at the demonstration. But since the demo against Rusk had been planned, we all figured we might as well follow-through on it, the best way we could. I didn’t expect to get arrested outside the Hilton. I assumed that even if we were blocking traffic for awhile, we would be able to get back on the sidewalks if we saw any cops coming towards us.

Around the beginning of the midtown rush-hour, Columbia SDS people stepped out of the subway station at 50th Street and Broadway, feeling in more of a party-like than a warlike mood, as we noticed all the 9-to-5 people mechanically rushing home from the skyscrapers. The 9-to-5 people all seemed unaware that an anti-Rusk demo was about to take place.

The hundred of us, three-quarters of whom were Columbia men, walked towards the Hilton in a conspiratorial, smiling way. I noticed that the streets and sidewalks were crawling with NYC cops, and that police barricades were in front of the Hilton on 6th Ave. and W. 53rd St. When we got as close as we could to the Hilton, I noticed that Mark and Ted were each chanting through bullhorns and encouraging people to go “block the limousines” in the streets and “block the rush-hour” traffic. Some of us went into the street to confront the honking, disgruntled rush-hour drivers and any limousines we were able to pick out in traffic. Within a few minutes, however, police on horses and police on foot, with their clubs swinging, were rushing into our group of demonstrators. And within a few seconds, most of the Columbia SDS-led contingent of white demonstrators that escaped contact with the clubs—including me—was back on the sidewalk, trying to blend in with the now-curious rush-hour crowd of spectators. Prior to escaping to the sidewalk, I noticed that—about 25 yards away from me—Mark and his bullhorn were being grabbed by a group of burly cops. During the next hour or so, groups of demonstrators from both the Upper West Side and the Lower East Side periodically staged “guerrilla” traffic-blocking actions on the street. And, in an indiscriminate way, the cops “retaliated” with horse charges or foot charges on all the remaining demonstrators.

While this was going on, I was thinking that “boy, the cops really are brutal” and “boy, what a futile way to confront Rusk this proved to be.” I heard later that a few limousines did actually get blocked. But most ruling-class limousines were unaffected by the demo.

I bumped into Marge again, in the middle of a crowd of some anti-war demonstrators who were standing across the street from the Hilton Hotel, near the end of the demonstration. She still seemed friendly.

“What do you do when you’re not doing political work?” I asked her.

“I write poetry,” she answered.

“I used to write poetry. But now my poetry seems irrelevant compared to politics,” I replied.

“I have to write poetry in order to be able to be political,” Marge said. She then started to talk to somebody else.

During the demo, I had heard that Ted and his bullhorn were also seized by cops around the time Mark was grabbed. So after bumping into Marge and, subsequently, Teddy and Nancy and the Schneiders—and listening to a few boring speeches by the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade pacifists and moderates until Rusk finally left the Hilton—I headed downtown to 100 Centre Street. I wanted to find out what had happened to Ted and Mark. As I rode downtown on the subway, I thought to myself: “How sick America is. Now they’ve trapped Ted and Mark in their jail.”

When I arrived at 100 Centre Street for the first time, I took the elevator up to the floor where arrested people were being arraigned. I then went into the night arraignment courtroom. Except for the judge, some cops and court officers, and a few prosecuting or defense attorneys, it was nearly empty of people. But I then noticed Dave walking down the center aisle of the courtroom.

“Ted and Mark are being charged with `inciting to riot.’ But we should be able to get them released soon,” Dave said earnestly. He had spent the previous few hours calling Movement legal people from the courtroom building, and he seemed to have everything under control.

“Inciting to riot? Are they kidding?” I replied in a surprised tone.

Dave smiled. “The cops want to say that their police brutality was just a necessary response to an SDS-incited riot.”

“Is there anything that I can do?”

“Not really. The lawyers are pretty much taking care of everything now.”

Dave had to hang around the courthouse a while longer to make more phone calls and discuss details with lawyers. So I headed back uptown to the apartment, alone. When I got there, I turned on the radio and listened to some radio news descriptions of the events around the Hilton. As usual, I found the news reports bore little relationship to what had actually happened on the street during the demonstration.

Ted and Mark were released without much delay and were back around campus the following afternoon. Neither Ted nor Mark had been roughed up while in police custody. Everybody within Columbia SDS leadership circles treated the “incitement to riot” charges against Mark and Ted as some kind of Establishment and cop joke. The consensus around Columbia SDS was that the anti-Rusk demo had, indeed, been a fiasco. We explained its failure as being a result of the New York Regional SDS Office’s isolation from a grassroots campus base, which tended to lead its staff members to plan unrealistic, left-adventuristic actions.

Chapter 12: Marge Piercy and the Anti-Rusk Demo, 1967 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (74)

On the Sunday evening after the march on the Pentagon, I had also talked with Dave about the demonstration. He hadn’t appeared surprised that the U.S. government had been able to control the demonstrators, despite the mass bravery and militancy. During the next few days, however, news of the government’s brutality in relation to the people who had sat-in, and its harsh treatment of those it had arrested, began to filter through the jails and to the outside world. And a new spirit of militancy and resistance, generated by the Pentagon confrontation, impacted heavily on the New York SDS Regional Office. So Dave volunteered our apartment for an SDS regional meeting to plan a militant street demonstration, patterned after the Pentagon demonstration, in front of New York City’s Hilton Hotel, in midtown Manhattan.

The Pentagon confrontation had persuaded New York SDS Regional Office people like Jeff, Sutheim, Gottlieb, Halliwell and Marge Piercy that large numbers of people in New York City were ready for much more militant street activity in their street demonstrations against the Viet Nam War, comparable to the tactics used by European student groups such as German SDS. Mark and Ted also had been persuaded, by the apparent success of the Pentagon demonstration in radicalizing more people and “upping” the level of anti-war militancy, that Columbia SDS and the New York SDS Regional Office should try to organize an anti-war demo in Manhattan that embodied the new post-Pentagon confrontation spirit of resistance and militancy.

On November 14, 1967, LBJ’s Secretary of State—Dean Rusk—was scheduled to speak at the Hilton Hotel on W. 53rd St. and 6th Ave. at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Association, an elite group of ruling-class corporate-types. By November 1967, Rusk was seen by most anti-war people as a war criminal and a leading apologist for crimes against humanity in Viet Nam.

What the SDS Regional Office hoped to do was to mobilize thousands of anti-war people who had moved “from protest to resistance” in front of New York’s Hilton Hotel to confront Rusk and his Foreign Policy Association colleagues with militant opposition to their crimes and their right to rule over us.

Sutheim, Marge Piercy and some North American Congress on Latin America [NACLA] movement researchers had put together packets of revealing literature on Rusk and the Foreign Policy Association. A militant confrontation on November 14, 1967 would also provide a chance to spread this information to a wide audience and to raise anti-imperialist consciousness around New York City.

SDS chapters on all the New York City area college campuses were contacted by the NY SDS Regional Office and, on the last weekend in October 1967, one or two people from each chapter—plus about 9 people from Columbia SDS and New York SDS Regional Office circles—showed up at my W. 94th St. apartment to plan the November 1967 anti-Rusk demo. About 25 people attended this planning meeting.

Among the SDS activists attending this meeting was a 31-year-old woman who looked younger, although she was among the few women at the meeting who still used lipstick. Her name was Marge Piercy. Her novel, Vida, would later contain a fictionalized version of how Movement people planned this 1967 anti-Rusk demonstration.

Marge had attended the University of Michigan and a university in the Chicago metropolitan area in the 1950s; and she had also written Beat poetry during the same decade. And during most of the 1960s she was married to her second husband: a white middle-class man.

At the anti-Rusk demo planning meeting, Marge sat on the chair in the apartment that was right next to the telephone. She appeared content to just sit and listen during the whole meeting, without making any strategic suggestions of her own. Other activists at the meeting included Gottlieb, Naomi, Joe and Dave, from the SDS Regional Office and—from Columbia SDS—Mark, Ted and me. Gottlieb, Ted, Mark and Dave pretty much determined the political direction of the meeting. Various suggestions were made as to what the most effective and non-violently militant way to confront Secretary of State Rusk would be.

The meeting consensus was that we would try to move into the street in front of the Hilton Hotel as ruling-class limousines drove up to the Foreign Policy Association gathering, and then retreat onto the sidewalk whenever the police attempted to clear us from the streets. A few people were assigned to examine whether it would be possible to non-violently confront Rusk with demonstrators inside the Hilton Hotel. SDS people with bullhorns would be in the street outside the Hilton Hotel, encouraging the anti-Rusk demonstrators to use “mobile tactics” to block traffic in the streets around the hotel.

Over the next few weeks, SDS/MDS Regional Office people worked hard to mobilize people for the November 14, 1967 anti-Rusk demo. But, as the memory of the Pentagon confrontation receded, fewer anti-war people around the City appeared eager to attempt to non-violently charge the Hilton Hotel to confront Rusk and the Foreign Policy Association Establishment-types about war crimes in Viet Nam. The pacifist Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee was only willing to hold its usual innocuous, non-confrontational, legalistic, non-militant anti-war demonstration between police barricades, in a street across from the Hilton.

A few people, including me, made separate visits to the Hilton Hotel to check out how easy it might be to sneak inside with anti-war protesters. But after examining the Hilton’s layout, nobody thought it possible to get inside the hotel for any length of time, without first being stopped by hotel security guards. There were too few street entrances to the Hilton Hotel for anti-war demonstrators to be able to sneak into the place.

As news of what was being planned for the anti-Rusk demo spread among Columbia SDS activists and grad school theoretical “heavies,” people at Columbia started to feel lukewarm about what was being planned, and little mobilizing effort was made on Columbia’s campus to recruit large numbers of students for this off-campus demo. Al, a heavily cerebral Columbia grad student from Boston, was becoming increasingly influential with praxis-axis people on the Columbia SDS steering committee because of his ability to mask his anti-action, right-opportunist political line in Marxist jargon. He was among the Columbia SDS “heavies” who ridiculed the New York SDS Regional Office’s strategy for the anti-Rusk demo.

Because Mark remained enthusiastic about the proposed “wild in the streets” tactics—even after others started to feel lukewarm about how effective the whole demo would be—Mark continued to develop an image within Columbia SDS leadership circles of being “irresponsible,” a “wild man” and a “hippie anarchist.” As November 14th approached, Ted, like Mark, planned to carry a bullhorn on the streets outside the Hilton. But, unlike Mark, Ted had come to feel that the New York Regional Office’s anti-Rusk demo strategy was too adventuristic in its conception. And Ted expected the demonstration to make little impact in New York City.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (xiv)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (73)

On October 21, 1967, the big anti-war event was the “Confront The Warmakers” march on the Pentagon. All the SDS heavies around New York City and at Columbia felt this march was ill-advised because it distracted people from the more politically sophisticated and promising New Left strategy of “local organizing.” Dave, for instance, felt so unenthusiastic about the “Confront The Warmakers” march on the Pentagon that he didn’t even bother to go down to D.C. on October 21, 1967.

Influenced by the Columbia and National SDS leadership, I also didn’t see much value in going down to D.C. once again. But as October 21, 1967 approached and the U.S. Establishment media and underground press started to publicize the possible confrontational aspects of the demonstration more, I began to feel that it made sense for me to go to D.C., despite my “local organizing” strategic emphasis. At the last minute, I arranged to go down to D.C. along with my sister, on one of the pacifist buses.

In D.C., it was a warm, sunny autumn day. Around 70,000 people gathered around the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial where we all impatiently waited for the speeches to end and the march to confront the Pentagon to begin. About 95 percent of the anti-war demonstrators were white. A few people carried National Liberation Front [NLF] of South Viet Nam or “Viet Cong” flags. There was a group in New York City led by Walter Teague which used to provoke endless debates within anti-war circles, by insisting that the correct political tactic at the time was to bring NLF flags to anti-war demonstrations, despite the reality that the NLF flags tended to alienate many pacifist activists, many anti-war demonstrators and many unconvinced people, at this time.

Most of the October 21, 1967 demonstrators, like me and my sister, had never been to the Pentagon before. People seemed eager to confront the men responsible for carrying out the war of mass murder in Viet Nam. Yet because we all knew that many U.S. troops had been mobilized to stop us from marching beyond the Pentagon parking lot, there was also a feeling of tension in the air. The main political division among the demonstrators was between those who were satisfied to just rally in the Pentagon parking lot and those who were going to move beyond the limits of the rally permit and try to get close to the Pentagon steps. By the time the anti-war march reached the parking lot, it was obvious that most of the predominantly young anti-war demonstrators were going to try to get to the Pentagon steps because they were not satisfied to just hold an ineffectual, non-confrontational rally.

On the march across the bridge into Arlington, Virginia, I noticed Teddy and Nancy and Ted and Trude. I can also recall suggesting to both Ted and Carl Davidson, while people were gathering in a dissatisfied way in the Pentagon parking lot but hadn’t yet figured out which path led to the Pentagon entrance, that perhaps SDS people should lead a spontaneous march and blockade at IDA headquarters, which was located only a few miles away in Arlington, and was probably not being guarded by the U.S. military with as many MPs and U.S. troops as were now guarding the Pentagon entrance. Both Ted and Davidson thought a march to the unguarded IDA headquarters might be a good idea. But, before any SDS people could spontaneously begin to organize such a march, anti-war people had found paths through the grass and bushes near the Pentagon and ways of breaking through or climbing over some of the fences and barriers that had been placed between us and the Pentagon entrance.

I felt excited as my sister and I followed the anti-war crowd as it moved closer to the Pentagon entrance later in the sunny afternoon, between 3 and 4 p.m. More and more people began to go as far as they could, until we were face to face with MPs at various points around the main Pentagon entrance.

“Peace Now! Peace Now! Peace Now!” was the chant of thousands of people, as we faced off with the MPs, who all looked quite unsympathetic to us.

It felt like resistance to the war had escalated. We actually were all facing the guns of the U.S. government directly. Were the troops going to try to push us away? Were the troops going to actually shoot at us?

Outside the plaza in front of the Pentagon entrance, I felt that I was in some kind of unreal movie. Clearly, we all had spontaneously escalated our resistance to the war machine. But they seemed to have so much more firepower. And after about 15 minutes of our anti-war chanting, the MPs put on their gas masks and would periodically fire some tear gas canisters at sections of the anti-war crowd, or start to prod people with their guns. Yet no Establishment media cameras were anywhere in sight.

On a few occasions, defiant young women demonstrators would sneak behind some of the MPs and be cheered by the crowd until they were pushed back into the anti-war ranks by the MPs. The MPs shoved women who had climbed onto the barriers and fences and walls. As the afternoon turned into darkness, people mostly watched and talked, in-between individual displays of anti-war pacifist bravado and tear gas bursts and prodding and shoving of people, as the MPs advanced or retreated.

More and more people started to move behind the MPs and towards the soldiers guarding the Pentagon, and the MPs were ordered to become less aggressive for awhile and not prevent demonstrators from sitting down behind their frontlines anymore. I can recall seeing Jeff waving enthusiastically to people in the crowd from the front of the Pentagon, behind the line of MPs, encouraging more people to walk past the MPs and get closer to the Pentagon entrance.

My sister and I both decided that sitting down near the Pentagon entrance to get arrested was purposeless, because we were both convinced at the time that local organizing was still a more effective method of war resistance than the moral witness activity and individual acts of defiance, heroism and bravado we saw around us. But I was still acting like a middle-class liberal who felt he had something to protect on October 21, 1967, although I rationalized my unwillingness to throw myself spontaneously into the Pentagon confrontation with strategic rhetoric about “local organizing.”

Near 6 p.m., my sister left me to join most of the other anti-war demonstrators on the chartered buses going back to New York City. But I was reluctant to go home while other anti-war people were possibly going to get beaten later in the evening. So I hung around the Pentagon outskirts until long after the chartered buses left for New York City.

The MPs and troops successfully separated the non-violent civil disobedience sit-in from the anti-war demonstrators who had remained, but who weren’t going to risk arrest. Around campfires near the Pentagon outskirts, groups of us waited to see when the mass Pentagon bust would come. Joints were shared and a few couples were making out and hugging each other, helping to keep each other warm, as the night began to get colder. But people mostly just walked around alone or with friends, in a stoned state. Many anti-war people appeared to be happy that they were able to hang out in an anti-war stoned communal atmosphere.

When it appeared that no mass Pentagon bust would come until the early morning hours, I started walking back to the D.C. Greyhound bus station. As I walked back towards D.C. at around 10 p.m., on the side of the deserted Virginia highway that took cars to and from the Pentagon by day, I was struck by how little evidence there was of the anti-war demonstration that had taken place along the same road, less than 12 hours before. I felt very alienated from everything in and around Washington, D.C., except for anti-war people who had been bused in and were still waiting to be arrested on the Pentagon steps.

As I reached the deserted streets of Washington, a block or two from the old Greyhound bus station, I noticed that the Sunday edition of one of the local newspapers was on the newsstands. As I expected, local coverage of the march on the Pentagon underestimated our numbers. I bought my bus ticket, hopped on the next scheduled bus to New York and drifted into a stoned sleep for most of the trip.

Ted and Trude had joined the sit-in at the Pentagon and were arrested after midnight Sunday, following a 30-hour sit-in, when U.S. Marshals finally waded into the mass sit-in of over 1,000 protesters in a brutal fashion--after most of the non-participant anti-war observers had gone home. During the next week, Ted responded to my explanation as to why I hadn’t joined in the civil disobedience sit-in by saying the following: “Sometimes spontaneous events happen that you have to take part in, even if it doesn’t fit directly into a local organizing strategy. Given the militancy that was being expressed by the sit-in, it was wrong of you not to have joined the sit-in. Being radical means being in the front-line when masses of people are in motion.”

“You have a good point there,” I replied. “I should have stayed to get arrested at the Pentagon,” I added sheepishly.

Within a week afterwards I had come to feel that those anti-war people who spontaneously decided to take an arrest at the Pentagon had been right. But on the Saturday night of the Pentagon demo, I hadn’t joined them.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (xiii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (72)

Sunday afternoon was spent at a brief National SDS Council closing session and, since Ted wanted to stay an extra day in Madison while I had to get back to class and my Journal of Philosophy job the following day, I decided to take a spot in a car going east that was leaving late Sunday afternoon, which was being driven by John. Also in the car were JJ, Ben, Ben’s woman friend—who had been driven to Madison in a different car than Ben a few days before—and the Japanese student who had come to demonstrate the snake dancing techniques to SDS people. Ben’s woman friend was in her mid-to-late 20s, was dressed in blue jeans, had long brown hair, and didn’t seem as intellectual as most of the other SDS women who had attended the National Council meeting.

John was a good driver, but less cautious than either Ted or Brian had been while driving on the turnpike. He tended to overtake and pass more cars while driving on the highway, in a much more impatient way than Ted or Brian had.

John spent much of the time talking radical politics with JJ and me and recounting earlier Movement history and early 1960s Movement gossip. John, like Harvey and Josh, had found graduate school study at the University of Wisconsin to be worthless and less relevant than his work on organizing a Madison Draft Resistance Union. Unlike JJ, John felt SDS was making real progress organizing students around draft resistance in accordance with New Working-Class ideology, in opposition to the use of student deferments as an Establishment instrument of “channeling” and around the slogan “not with my life, you don’t,” which spoke to students’ sense of powerlessness. Around this time, John was considering giving up his 2-S deferment because he felt it undercut attempts to organize non-students in campus-based draft resistance organizations. John also was beginning to question whether SDS chapters should continue to try to prevent on-campus recruitment by the U.S. military or Dow Chemical—from a left position.

“You know, Dow Chemical actually does belong on the corporate university’s campus. The corporate university trains manpower for the corporations, and Dow Chemical being on the campus to recruit emphasizes the real nature and the real function of the corporate university. Why should we try to purify the corporate university, by acting as if recruitment by Dow Chemical on campus is some kind of an aberration and something extraordinarily different than what `business is usual’ at the corporate university is all about?” said John.

JJ pointed out the political limitations of this position: i.e., even though Dow Chemical or the military on campus represented the logical extension of the corporate university’s politics, students still should stop such recruitment, in order to resist the war on any terrain where students could materially hurt the U.S. military or U.S. war machine, concretely.

As John drove past the oil refineries around Cleveland’s outskirts, Ben, the Japanese student and Ben’s woman friend were fast asleep. John, JJ and I were still awake and discussing what North American society would look like after it radically changed. We all assumed this change would happen by the end of the 1970s.

“I think those oil refineries represent ugliness,” I commented.

“They’re only ugly because the workers don’t control them, Bob,” John replied. “We shouldn’t be like the Luddites, even though we want to de-emphasize mindless industrial production and reduce the time people have to spend at factory work.”

“To me, those refineries symbolize exploitation and immoral materialism,” I said.

“There’s another side. They also symbolize what workers have been able to build. To me, those refineries have a certain beauty,” John said.

Then we got into a discussion about what place technology should play in the ideal society and to what degree technology had led to the anti-humanistic monstrosity that U.S. society in the 1960s had become. JJ joined the discussion, but nothing was resolved before we began to talk about another topic.

In Western Pennsylvania, in the early morning hours, John became sleepy and JJ took over the wheel. John took my seat in the backseat in order to try to get more sleeping room for his legs. I sat in the front seat next to JJ and had to fight against falling asleep myself, while JJ drove next to me.

JJ was a good driver. He did not drive as fast or as impatiently as John. But in the hours before dawn JJ started to get sleepier, as he drove through central Pennsylvania. I recall having to shove the steering wheel back to the left once, after JJ started to fall asleep at the wheel, and the car started to swerve to the right and onto the shoulder of the Turnpike. JJ opened his eyes again and decided that we should pull over, wake up John, and let John take over the driving again.

We shifted people in the car again and, somehow, John ended up at the wheel, JJ ended up sprawled in the back seat asleep, next to the sleeping Japanese student and Ben; and Ben’s awakened woman friend ended up in the middle of the front seat leaning against me, as she tried to fall asleep again. By this time, even those of us who were awake were too tired to talk anymore. So John just turned on the car radio, and he started to drive as quickly as he could towards New York City.

By the time we reached the outskirts of Harrisburg, the sun was up. We drove off the Turnpike and stopped at a gas station, where John purchased a pack of cigarettes and some coffee from a local highway restaurant. Then he headed toward Route 22, which was a toll-free alternative route to New York City. About ten minutes later, as John drove at 80 mph, we heard a siren behind us.

“Shit!” John said as he looked in his rearview mirror and started to slow down.

A Pennsylvania state trooper then pulled up in his car, alongside John’s car, and told him to pull over to the side of the highway.

“Let me see your license and registration,” the trooper said, as he stood next to the car.

John fumbled around his wallet—and in the glove compartment for awhile—and then handed over his license and registration form to the state trooper. The state trooper looked over the documents and then wrote out a speeding ticket for John.

“Don’t let me find you speeding again like that further down the road. Our radar picked you up at 78 miles per hour,” the state trooper warned John, as he handed him the ticket.

“I’m sorry, sir,” John replied in a quiet, respectful, earnest tone of voice. Then the state trooper got back in his car and drove in front of us--at 80 mph for a few miles—before turning around to the other side of the highway.

As he continued driving, John laughed and said: “Shit. I was afraid the cop was going to look for dope in the trunk and notice all my bundles of SDS literature and draft resistance pamphlets. We were lucky.”

JJ had awakened during the stop and he and John joked about what might have happened if John’s SDS literature had been discovered. Then JJ went back to sleep again, as John continued to drive at a slower speed to New York City.

We finally arrived in midtown Manhattan in the late morning. Ben, Ben’s woman friend, the Japanese student, JJ and I all went our separate ways home on the subway, while John drove to the SDS Regional Office to drop off some of his SDS literature there.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (xii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (71)

Male chauvinism was still not treated as a really serious issue within National SDS. And National SDS leaders appeared to feel uneasy when National SDS women brought up the issue of male chauvinism. At this particular Madison meeting, a physically beautiful woman in her mid-twenties dressed herself up in baggy pants, a flannel shirt and a working-class cap before reading a collectively-written position paper which stressed the need to end male chauvinism within SDS at all levels. In-between reading paragraphs of her position paper, this SDS female “heavy” inhaled on a cigar.

Her speech reflected a hard-hitting radical feminist critique of SDS policy and practice in relationship to Movement women and was interrupted quite a few times by jeers from some of the SDS men at the meeting. After the speech was read, there was little debate or discussion of the issues raised, and the meeting soon adjourned for dinner, and for the Saturday night partying.

Despite the unenthusiastic reception National SDS men seemed to give to the speech on male chauvinism and sexism—because the speech argued that the New Left reflected the sexism of straight bourgeois society—I felt that SDS was still going to be an effective organizational vehicle in the future for establishing sexual equality and female liberation in the United States. Within white, anti-war circles on campus there was not yet much visible evidence of Movement women discontent with the New Left’s political practice in relation to women. Most women student radicals still seemed content to let male radicals play the dominant political roles, although there was growing pressure on white male radicals to start sharing the political shitwork roles with women activists. And many of the most vocal 1970s white middle-class feminist critics of the “Patriarchal New Left” were too deeply involved in their academic studies, middle-class careers or marriages to liberal Democratic Party-affiliated husbands, to be involved in New Left activism in 1967.

Gottlieb and Sutheim also spoke at this National Council meeting. And people like Dave, John, Harvey, Josh and JJ also were in attendance. Another guy named Machtinger was there, too. Ted, Brian and I ate dinner out with Machtinger at a local student hangout near the campus on Saturday night.

Machtinger had grown up on the East Coast, prior to attending Columbia. At Columbia, he had become quite friendly with Ted, before going out to the University of Chicago in Fall 1966 to attend graduate school. At the University of Chicago, Machtinger was a “heavy” in the SDS chapter and played a leadership role in a sit-in at the University of Chicago administration building which demanded an end to the university’s mailing of student class-ranking information to local draft boards.

In the student hang-out restaurant, Machtinger seemed like a pleasant, good-natured, jovial guy, who was more of a grad student and academic radical than an activist. He laughed a lot and was very friendly. After we had eaten dinner and had a few drinks with Machtinger, all of us got into the car of Ted’s father and Ted drove to where Harvey and Josh now lived.

My memories of the next few hours are somewhat hazy, because we all started to smoke a lot of potent pot together at the house in which Harvey and Josh lived, and where Linda was now staying with Josh again. But certain images remain vivid, and I do recall some of what we talked about.

Harvey was now involved with a different woman than the one with whom he had been involved with at Barnard. She listened in a stoned state along with Linda, as Ted informed Harvey and Josh about the state of the Columbia SDS chapter. She seemed both good-natured and quite devoted to Harvey. Linda looked much happier than she had looked in New York earlier in the fall, now that she was together again with Josh.

“Nancy has isolated Teddy from the rest of the chapter. And the chapter is suffering because I have to do most of the day-to-day political work and strategic thinking myself,” Ted complained to Harvey and Josh. “Nancy is more interested in her relationship with Teddy, than in building SDS. She discourages Teddy from doing any more than a minimal amount of political organizing work.”

Harvey, Josh and Linda all seemed to agree with Ted’s negative assessment of Nancy’s influence on Teddy and all felt that Nancy was too self-centered.

“Teddy has always had serious political weaknesses, Ted. That’s why I wasn’t sure he’d make a good chairman. And Nancy isolating him probably accentuates his political weaknesses,” Harvey added.

Personally, I didn’t share Ted, Harvey, Josh and Linda’s negative assessment of Nancy’s political influence on Teddy. But since they all had known Teddy far longer than I had, I didn’t feel qualified enough to openly challenge their negative assessment of Nancy’s influence on Teddy.

The rest of the night remains a blur, as the grass started to take effect and the rock music began to drown out our attempts to have a political discussion. Eventually, Ted, Brian, Machtinger and I staggered into the car of Ted’s father, Ted dropped off Machtinger at the house in which Machtinger was staying and then drove back to his childhood friend’s apartment. Ted, Brian and I then crashed down on the mattresses on the floor, and we all slept soundly until late Sunday morning.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (xi)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (70)

I can’t recall much of what was debated at this particular National Council meeting, although the ideology of New Working-Class theory and student syndicalism/student power still dominated the politics of the SDS national leadership around this time. Like at all National SDS meetings, white male Movement “heavies” tended to dominate the heavily intellectual debate of strategy and theory. Personally, I found the debate interesting for the first hour or so. But after a few hours, the debate turned into a repetitive parliamentary wrangle between Progressive Labor Party heavies and New Left heavies, and people started to leave the meeting room and talk outside in the halls with each other, until the agenda called for discussion of some new topic.

This was the usual pattern of most SDS regional and national meetings between Fall 1967 and June 1969: interesting debates usually deteriorating into dull Marxist verbal battles between the personally straight, puritanical, sexually repressed PL bureaucratic heavies and their more bohemian, hedonistic, pot-smoking, sexually liberated New Left counterparts.

At this particular National Council meeting, a University of Wisconsin SDS heavy named Evan Stark—who was neither PL nor New Left bohemian, but more just a graduate student, academic, independent, traditional Marxist-type—was somewhat influential. The next week he apparently would courageously lead the anti-Dow Chemical Company recruitment demo that was busted up by the Madison police, at which Harvey was brutalized. Another influential person at this meeting was Carl Davidson, who was a national officer of SDS at this time.

Davidson was in his mid-twenties, but he seemed older. He wore the kind of Huck Finn cap that Bob Dylan wore around the time of his first album. Davidson was a quiet guy with a big mustache who was usually accompanied by a future editor of the now-defunct Guardian radical U.S. newsweekly named Karen Gellen. Gellen seemed content to let Davidson do most of the talking at political gatherings, and she seemed content to remain in Davidson’s shadow at this time. She was very sweet and less elitist than Davidson and had a tender-sounding voice. She called herself Karen Davidson at this time.

Davidson was one of National SDS’s leading theoreticians. He had dropped out of grad school after attending Penn State and the University of Nebraska in order to do full-time Movement work. Influenced by IWW theory, the Wobblies’ Little Red Songbook and events at Berkeley, he had written a paper on student syndicalism that, in turn, influenced local SDS chapter activists around the nation. Davidson was one of the first activists who characterized student governments at U.S. universities as “Mickey Mouse” forms of student politics.

Although Davidson wasn’t as loquacious as most Columbia SDS leaders, he struck me from the start as being a decent, committed and great guy. National SDS seemed lucky to have him as a Movement leader. I felt confident that Davidson could help lead the New Left to victory and create a radical democracy within the United States. Both Davidson and Gellen seemed to care nothing for material wealth. Both seemed to have developed an alternative post-college New Left lifestyle, outside the elite bourgeois university—that combined love, dropping out, activism and social commitment—which appealed to me.

Local campus organizing against the war and “institutional resistance”—not national mobilizations in Washington, D.C.—were being stressed by Davidson and the other National SDS heavies around this time. “The war in Viet Nam cannot be ended because it is a logical result of the existing social system. What we have to do is focus on building a movement that changes the System that produces this war. And maybe prevent a `seventh Viet Nam War’ in the future. And the only way to do this is to organize locally, not build another national march,” was the way National SDS leaders argued around this time.

Thus, National SDS leadership, like Columbia SDS leadership, was lukewarm in relation to the scheduled October 21, 1967 “March On The Pentagon” to “confront the warmakers,” which proved to be a successful means of stimulating a mood of increased militancy and resistance among anti-war youths. At this National Council meeting in Madison, PL pushed SDS to sponsor its own competing mass anti-war national mobilization to focus, not on the Pentagon, but on the White House. Much time was wasted at the meeting arguing about this PL proposal, until it was finally voted down.

I can’t recall much else of what was talked about at this National Council meeting, except for images of Crazy Ben standing in the back of the hall ridiculing the “white collar radical” and “bourgeois student” tone of the debate, funny horseplay and verbal exchange during the national office’s appeal for SDS chapters to pledge donations to fund National SDS staff activity, speakers from SDS’s Radical Education Project [REP] and its off-campus organizing projects and a meeting session in which the question of women’s liberation and male chauvinism was discussed.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (x)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (69)

Ted drove his father’s car south down the New Jersey Turnpike, and then west towards the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Like nearly all the New Left men whose cars I rode in, Ted was a good, safe driver who did not take macho risks on the highway, but who could drive for long hours and at night without having to rest his legs, at highway speeds of about 70 mph. In western Pennsylvania, Ted stopped the car for some gas and some dinner at a Pennsylvania Turnpike rest area restaurant. At Ben’s urging, we just walked out of the restaurant without paying the bill after we had eaten our meal, and we giggled as we hit the turnpike again. It seemed easy to outfox the Howard Johnson restaurant chain, if you just ignored their capitalist money-game rules and took what was rightfully yours from the corporate monopolies.

From Pennsylvania, we crossed into Ohio just as Ted and Ben were getting into a discussion about how U.S. society was going to look in the 1970s and 1980s—after we had successfully overthrown the U.S. government and made a Revolution in the United States.

Sitting in the backseat, as Ted kept turning his head towards the backseat to reply to Ben’s arguments while he drove, I half-noticed a sign which seemed to indicate that the divided Ohio Turnpike, because of construction, was going to turn into a two-lane, no-passing, undivided road a few miles ahead, with one lane going west and one lane going east.

Ted, apparently, didn’t notice the sign because, as I half-noticed that on-coming traffic was beginning to come towards us on the lane to the left of us, Ted suddenly accelerated and started to pass the slow-moving trailer-truck ahead of us. Before I could say anything, Ted had driven the car into the left lane and was alongside the slow-moving truck to his right. Then, suddenly, Ted realized that about 400 yards directly ahead of us a big truck was rolling head-on towards us in the same left lane.

Instinctively, Ted took his foot off the gas, slammed on the brakes, swerved the car back and forth, skidded in a way that stopped the acceleration, and somehow managed to reposition the car back in the right lane behind the slow-moving truck, only a few seconds before the oncoming truck from the west passed us by at full speed.

For about a minute, Ted, Ben, Brian, the Japanese student and I all sat in hushed silence. Then Ted said with a laugh: “Since when did the turnpike become a two-way street?”

And Ben replied: “I thought for a few seconds there that we all weren’t going to live to see the Revolution.”

We all laughed. And then Ted decided to pull over to the side of the highway and let Brian take over the driving, after the turnpike had once again become a divided, 4-lane highway. Once Brian started to drive, Ted and Ben resumed their lively political discussion.

Neither Ted nor Brian were yet used to driving on highways stoned in Fall 1967. So even though Ben had brought a supply of grass with him, we all decided we wouldn’t turn on together during the drive out to Wisconsin.

Brian was also a good, safe driver who didn’t drive in a macho way and he was more satisfied than Ted to just drive at the 65 mph limit. Because both Ted and Brian could relieve each other at the wheel, there was no need to stop at any motel before arriving in Madison, early Saturday morning. We then checked in at the Student Union building to register as SDS National Council participants and dropped Ben and his Japanese student friend off on the campus, before driving to the off-campus house in which a childhood friend of Ted lived with a woman friend. Ted’s childhood friend was also a red diaper baby.

Madison reminded me somewhat of Bloomington or West Lafayette, Indiana, and I was curious about what it would be like to attend school so close to a lake. But I didn’t get a chance to do much independent exploring at Madison during this weekend because the debates were too lengthy, and by late Sunday afternoon it was already time to return to the highway back to New York.

Ted’s childhood friend rented the first floor of a run-down house in Madison’s student ghetto. He and his woman friend were both pleasant and anti-Establishment, but they seemed more interested in just living together and being alone with each other, than in getting involved in SDS politics. Ted’s friend showed us the big room in which there were extra mattresses on the floor on which we could crash later that night, and he gave Ted an extra set of keys for the house and first floor apartment. Then Ted, Brian and I said goodbye, left the house, got into the car of Ted’s father, and drove back to the student building to attend the National Council meeting.

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (ix)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (68)

A National Council of SDS meeting was going to be held in Madison, Wisconsin during a weekend in October 1967. When Ted suggested that I ride out there with him and Brian, I agreed to attend. I had never been to any kind of National SDS meeting before and had never been to Madison, Wisconsin, so the prospect of attending the meeting appeared interesting. Ted borrowed his father’s car and on Friday afternoon we left the W. 94th St. apartment, picked up Brian at his apartment near the campus and then drove downtown to pick up two other people who needed a ride to Wisconsin.

One of the people we picked up downtown was a Japanese student in a white shirt and tie who appeared to be in his mid-twenties and who spoke little English. The other person we picked up was a short, thin man who had a heavy beard and black long hair, and who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s. In the car, he described himself as a revolutionary artist from the Lower East Side. His name was Ben. And he was one of the leaders of SDS’s “Up Against The Wall, Motherfuckers” chapter of hippie anarchists that Tom Neumann had also helped to build.

The trip began with Ted in the driver’s seat, Brian in the front passenger seat and the Japanese student, Ben and I in the back seat. After Ted had driven the car through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey, we all started to talk politics with each other. Most of the talking was done by Ben and Ted. And Ted would often turn his head for a second to the back seat while driving, to reply to a point made by Ben, during the times Ted became passionately involved in the discussion.

After I asked Ben why his Japanese student friend had decided to attend the SDS National Council meeting, Ben replied:

“He’s an expert in teaching the street demonstration tactics of snake dancing that they use in Japan. He thinks SDS should organize students to snake dance at anti-war demonstrations in Washington. If SDS learns how to snake dance at anti-war demonstrations, there’s no way the cops will be able to control demonstrations in Washington. And we’ll really be able to start an anti-war riot and get more of a revolution going.”

Ted started to laugh and I asked Ben: “What do you mean by `snake dancing’?”

Ben smiled and started to talk on and on about the need of the anti-war movement and SDS to start preparing for urban guerrilla warfare in the United States. Ted, Brian and I all seemed to feel that Ben was well-intentioned, but somewhat crazy and fanatical. However, his verbal style of getting out his revolutionary anarchist, “crazy” politics was quite entertaining; and the good-natured debate between Ted and Ben, as we drove out to the Midwest, made time pass by rapidly, as afternoon turned into night.

In the backseat at one point, Ben showed me a copy of the underground magazine he put out, which was called Black Mask. The issue contained some great revolutionary poetry and great revolutionary visual artwork, as well as instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails. In Fall 1967, Ben and the other members of his “Up Against The Wall, Motherfuckers” group—which was usually called “The Motherfuckers” by everyone in the City—openly argued that the time was ripe for New York City white radicals to just drop out of schools or quit their white-collar jobs and start heaving Molotov cocktails at cops, U.S. corporate offices, university buildings and U.S. military targets, whenever possible. Ben and the other Motherfuckers considered most student leftists as nothing more than bourgeois “white collar radicals,” and felt, like JJ, that 95 percent of all SDS national meeting debate was irrelevant, verbal bull-shit.

Although Ben struck me as both loveless and somewhat flipped-out politically (after I had heard him talk in the car for a few hours), I did share his contempt for what he called “bourgeois white honky culture.” But I also thought to myself that “if Ben were the revolution in the U.S., the revolution won’t be too humanistic or liberating;” because Ben seemed too macho, too hard, too authoritarian, too intolerant and too domineering in his personality structure. He didn’t seem to give off enough gentle vibes.