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Full text of "SDS: The Rise And Development Of The Students For A Democratic Society"

SDS 



Author: Kirkpatrick Sale 

Publisher: Vintage Books 

Date: 1973 

ISBN: 0-39471-965-4 



Table of Contents 

A Decade of Defiance 1 

Reorganization 1960-1962 7 

Spring 1960 7 

Fall 1960-Fall 1961 17 

Spring 1962 25 

Summer 1962 39 

Reform 1962-1965 46 

Fall 1962-Spring 1963 46 

ERAP: Fall 1963-Spring 1964 62 

Fall 1963-Spring 1964 76 

ERAP: Summer 1964-Summer 1965 85 

Fall 1964 99 

Spring 1965 115 

Resistance 1965-1968 132 

Summer 1965 133 

Fall 1965 146 

Spring 1966 167 

Summer 1966 186 

Fall 1966 198 

Spring 1967 211 

Summer 1967 230 

Fall 1967 248 

Spring 1968 273 

Revolution, 1968-1970 308 

Summer 1968 309 

Fall 1968 326 

Spring 1969 350 

Summer 1969 388 

Fall 1969-Spring 1970 418 

Epilogue: 1970-1972 459 

Acknowledgements i 

Organizations iii 

Officers and Membership Statistics v 

Constitution vii 

Appendix: The Roots 1905-1960 xiii 

Bibliography xxvii 



A Decade of Defiance 

Sometime during the week of March 2, 1970, a group of perhaps seven or eight young men 
and women moved into an elegant townhouse at 18 West Eleventh Street in a quiet, 
handsome section of New York's Greenwich Village. The house was a four-story, 125-year- 
old, Federal-style building still with its original molding and glass, said to be on the market 
for $255,000, and it belonged to James Piatt Wilkerson, a wealthy radio-station owner then 
away on a lengthy vacation on St. Kitts in the Caribbean. On the morning of March 6, a 
cloudy Friday typical of a Manhattan spring, a white station wagon double-parked in front of 
the building while several heavy boxes were unloaded, carried into the cellar, and placed 
near a workbench which Wilkerson used occasionally to refinish the antique furniture which 
decorated his house. Late that morning Cathlyn Wilkerson, twenty-five, the owner's 
daughter and a 1966 graduate of Swarthmore College, and Kathy Boudin, twenty-six, who 
had graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1965, were together near the front of the house, perhaps 
asleep in one of the expensively furnished bedrooms or in the sauna bath which was among 
the house's many luxuries; Ted Gold, twenty-three, who got his degree from Columbia 
University in 1969, was in the wood-paneled study amid James Wilkerson's prized collection 
of metal, wood, and china birds; several other people went about their business in the rear 
of the house. Downstairs, bent over the workbench, Terry Robbins, twenty-one, a Kenyon 
College dropout, and Diana Oughton, twenty-eight, a 1963 Bryn Mawr graduate and Peace 
Corps veteran, were at work fastening some doorbell wire from a cheap dimestore alarm 
clock through a small battery to a blasting cap set in a bundle of dynamite. Near them, on 
the floor and on open shelves, were more alarm clocks and batteries, additional wire, 
perhaps a hundred other sticks of dynamite, a number of already constructed pipe bombs 
and "antipersonnel" explosives studded with roofing nails, and several more blasting caps. A 
few minutes before twelve o'clock, one of the wires from the bomb they were assembling 
was attached in the wrong place, completing the electrical circuit. 1 

The explosion rocked the entire block, shattered windows up to the sixth floor in the 
apartment house across the street, blasted a curtain from the front window onto a railing 
forty feet away, and punched a two-story hole, twenty feet in diameter, through the wall of 
the house next door. Within moments two more blasts erupted and the gas mains in the 
cellar caught fire. The interior of the house disintegrated and collapsed in a cloud of dusty 
debris, leaving only the back and front walls temporarily intact, and then flames roared up 
through the opening, leaped out the blasted windows, and an enormous cloud of gray-black 
smoke billowed into the street. 



Out through the back garden, with its pebbled walks and rococo fountain, at least three 
people stumbled, coughing and partially blinded, then made their way over the walls into 
adjoining gardens; they immediately disappeared and were never identified. In the front of 
the house, Wilkerson, dressed only in a pair of blue jeans, and Boudin, naked, scrambled 
through the rubble and out of a front window, faces covered with dust, glass cuts on their 
bodies, dazed and trembling but apparently composed. Two passers-by helped the women 
out and Ann Hoffman— who lived in an apartment right next door to the Wilkerson house 
and whose husband, the actor Dustin Hoffman, had ironically become a symbol of youthful 
discontent through his recent movie, The Graduate— grabbed a curtain blown from the 
windows to cover the naked Boudin. Susan Wager, the former wife of actor Henry Fonda 
who lived a few doors down the block, ran up and helped pull the women away as more 
flames licked up the front wall and a part of it crumbled and collapsed; she quickly guided 
the two women to her own house, showed them the upstairs bathroom where they could 
wash and mend themselves, grabbed a few old clothes and dropped them outside the 
bathroom door, then returned to the burning house to see if anything more could be done. 
Behind her, Wilkerson and Boudin, hardly waiting to get clean, quickly put on the clothes 
and left the house, telling the housekeeper they were only going to the drugstore for some 
medicine; they, too, vanished without a trace and have never been seen in public again. 

Inside the demolished house, three people lay dead. Ted Gold's body, recovered late that 
night, was crushed and mangled under the century-old beams, a victim of what the coroner 
called "asphyxia from compression." In the basement the torso of Diana Oughton was found 
four days later, without head or hands, riddled with roofing nails, every bone in it broken, 
and it was not until seven more days that she was identified, through a print taken from the 
severed tip of a right-hand little finger found nearby. The body of Terry Robbins was so 
thoroughly blown apart that there was not even enough of him left for a formal 
identification, and his identity was learned only through the subsequent messages of his 
companions. 

Thus, starkly, amid ruins, did an era come to an end. For the inhabitants of that townhouse 
were not idle troublemakers or crazed criminals but members of a group of dedicated 
revolutionaries called the Weathermen who represented the last bizarre incarnation of the 
Students for a Democratic Society. And the Students for a Democratic Society was the 
force, beginning in the spring of 1960 exactly ten years before, which had shaped the 
politics of a generation and rekindled the fires of American radicalism for the first time in 
thirty years, the largest student organization ever known in this country and the major 
expression of the American left in the sixties. The explosion on West Eleventh Street was 
the ultimate symbol of SDS's tragic and ominous demise, and of the decade which had 
shaped it: a decade perhaps as fateful as any the nation has yet experienced, a decade 
marked by political and cultural upheavals still reverberating through the society, a decade 
of sit-ins and pickets, teach-ins and mass marches, student uprisings and building 
takeovers, ghetto rebellions and the destruction of property by arson and bombs, a decade 
notable for setting a considerable part of its youth against the system that bore them, 
against its traditions and values, its authorities and its way of life. A decade of defiance. 



This book is the story of that decade. It is a story roughly divided into four periods: the 
first, the period of Reorganization from 1960 to 1962 when SDS takes a new name and lays 
the basis for the shape it was to assume; the second, the period of Reform from 1962 to 
1965 when SDS tries to make American institutions live up to American ideals; the third, 
the period of Resistance from 1965 to 1968 when SDS spreads out from coast to coast with 
open confrontations against these institutions; and the last, the period of Revolution from 
1968 to 1970 when SDS sets itself consciously for a thorough— and, for some, violent- 
overthrow of the American system. (The roots of SDS, going back to the first national 
student organization at the turn of the century, and a description of SDS's immediate 
predecessors placing the organization in its twentieth-century context, are covered in an 
appendix.) It is a story which above all tries to explain how in ten years an organization 
could transform itself from an insignificant band of alienated intellectuals into a major 
national force; what that force meant to the universities, the society, and the individuals it 
touched; what happened to undo it just as it appeared to reach the height of its power; and 
what legacy it left behind. 

I was never a part of SDS— I graduated from college in 1958 when SDS's predecessor, 
something called SLID, was a campus joke and when we had to take the job of 
confrontation into our own hands— and so all of what follows is a reconstruction, albeit a 
careful reconstruction, of what SDS went through in that decade. It is based upon more 
than three steady years of work, interviewing former SDSers important and obscure, 
reading all of the nearly two hundred issues of SDS's paper, New Left Notes, and the 
hundreds of pamphlets put out by SDS, traveling to countless universities, and going 
through the cartons of letters, minutes, files, and other debris that have been collected in 
the SDS archives in Madison, Wisconsin. I have not tried to be omniscient, pretending to 
present verbatim those conversations and speeches I never heard or to record unpublicized 
events in private rooms I was never near; each quotation is from an actual source (cited at 
the end of the book), either a letter, an interview, a tape recording, a newspaper account, 
or some similar document; and each description is derived from independent sources such 
as contemporary witnesses, photographs, documentary movies, and multiple newspaper 
and magazine articles. Which is not to say that there may not be a mistake within these 
pages somewhere, but rather that what follows is history, not novel-as-history or memoir or 
tract, and it is intended to be as accurate a record as possible of what went on during these 
crucial years. 

Though I was never a member of SDS, my interest in the organization stems from the fact 
that I was, like most people I know, considerably changed by the events and processes of 
the sixties which SDS helped to fashion. For most of this time I was either out of the 
country trying to bring changes to other societies or else more sedately boring from within 
the institutions of this one— yet I came to share the same animus that motivated the 
shapers of SDS, the same sense of dislocation from the nation that inspired those still on 
the campuses, ultimately even the same radicalization that SDS generated not only in the 
universities but throughout so many levels of the society. And I came to feel that the history 
of SDS would provide more than just an account of those who had been its formal 
members, more than a portrait of the student generation, but an explanation of what was 
happening to us all. SDS stood as the catalyst, vanguard, and personification of that decade 
of defiance. 



SDS was of course only a part of the political phenomenon known as "the Movement" and 
the Movement only a part of the larger process of cultural upheaval of the time, but it was 
the organized expression of that Movement, its intellectual mentor and the source of much 
of its energy, the largest, best known, and most influential element within it for a decade. 
SDS was also, to be sure, contradictory and chaotic, loosely and sometimes perilously 
structured, bewildered and timid and arrogant by turns, and it made countless mistakes, 
avoidable and otherwise, throughout its history and right up to its eventual mad 
disintegration, but it nonetheless left an impressive record of accomplishment which it is 
appropriate to review. 

SDS was responsible for building much of the student support for the Southern sit-ins as the 
decade of the sixties began, and over the next four years it developed into the invaluable 
counterpart of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early civil-rights 
battles, battles which eventually opened a nation's eyes and led to the de jure elimination of 
segregation over much of the country. It was the group that produced the pamphlets and 
research in the early years of the decade that brought such issues as automation, poverty, 
disarmament, and the bankruptcy of the Cold War to the attention of at least the politically 
minded in the nation's colleges. It provided— chiefly through The Port Huron Statement of 
1962— the intellectual and analytical tools which helped many students to fashion a political 
underpinning for their sense of cultural alienation, producing what was fairly called "the New 
Left," the first really homegrown left in America, taking its impulses not from European 
ideologies and practices (at least not until the end), but from dissatisfactions and distortions 
in the American experience. It established, even before the federal "war on poverty," one of 
the most ambitious social experiments ever undertaken by American youth on their own, 
the Economic Research and Action Projects of several hundred young men and women 
working in the ghettos of a dozen cities to improve the lot of the poor through direct action 
and "community unions"; this in turn later helped to generate a variety of political 
organizations, from the National Organizing Committee to the Young Lords Organization, 
run by the poor themselves. It was the first, and for some time the most important, 
organization to mobilize Americans against the war in Vietnam, supplying not only much of 
the analysis by which a generation came to understand the evils of that war and the system 
behind it, but also most of the techniques and shock troops for the marches, teach-ins, and 
confrontations, until ultimately a President was forced to resign and three-quarters of the 
country declared themselves against the official military policies of their government in a 
time of war. It was initially responsible for opening up the left spectrum of politics in this 
country, introducing successively the concepts of participatory democracy, corporate 
liberalism, local organizing, student power, the new working class, revolutionary 
consciousness, and imperialism, with the eventual effect of not only pushing the liberal 
canon to the left but establishing socialism as at least a possible political alternative for a 
considerable segment of the population. 



SDS led the initial campaigns of students against the draft when conscription came down 
upon the campuses in 1966, and, though initially slow to lead the draft-resistance 
movement, it provided many of the earliest draft-card burners and later played a part in the 
agitation that led to major changes in the draft laws and the commitment of the federal 
government to an all-volunteer army. It was the inspiration and in many cases the supplier 
of talent for a wide range of "alternate institutions," such as the free universities, 
underground press. Movement "think tanks," guerrilla theater groups, free health clinics, 
alternate political parties, and collectives and communes, many of which lasted well into the 
seventies. It was among the earliest critics of the postwar university system, galvanizer of 
the student power movement, organizer of much of the student protest that was endemic 
from 1966 on, and directly or indirectly responsible for a wave of reforms and restructurings 
that have considerably changed the face of American colleges, from the grading and types 
of courses to the social and sexual lives of the students to the composition of the boards of 
trustees. It was the first to raise the issue of university complicity and expose connections 
between the academy and the government, leading to organized national campaigns against 
the Dow Chemical Company, draft boards, the Institute for Defense Analysis, university 
research and investments, and above all against ROTC (in a drive that by 1970 had 
eliminated thirty units, made eighty-three voluntary, and reduced enrollment by 56 percent 
from 1966). 2 

SDS taught the mechanics of political organizing and protest to an activist segment of the 
student population and restored the legitimacy of mass dissent to the national scene, 
leading eventually to such direct political consequences as liberalized laws (with respect, for 
example, to abortion, marijuana, homosexuality, community control, and the rights of 
blacks, women, and the young), the reorganization of the Democratic Party and the 
nomination of George McGovern, and the extension of suffrage to eighteen-year-olds. It was 
the seedbed for the women's liberation movement— sometimes, to be sure, as much by 
inadvertence as intention— and supplied many of that movement's initial converts, and it 
played a part both formally and informally in other kinds of political broadening such as 
high-school organizing, GI resistance, trade-union agitation, the Venceremos Brigades to 
Cuba, and "radical caucuses" in the professional societies of almost every branch of the 
academy. It was part of, and sometimes the leader of, the use of symbolic violence as a 
political weapon, beginning with aggressive confrontations at the time of the Pentagon 
march in 1967 and escalating through "trashing" and bombing, contributing to what must 
have been one of the most violent periods in American history since the labor struggles of 
the 1890s and leading Life magazine to declare that "never in the history of this country has 
a small group, standing outside the pale of conventional power, made such an impact or 
created such havoc." 3 It was thereby at least one of the causes for the vastly increased 
machinery of state repression that developed in the sixties— agents and informers, 
surveillance and harassment by FBI and police "Red Squads," computerized files on millions 
of citizens, expanded teams of federal prosecutors— and that may be one of the decade's 
most enduring monuments. Its early international contacts with representatives of the 
National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, the Republic of North Vietnam, Cuba, European 
Communist parties, and assorted Third World guerrilla groups were important in forging an 
international perspective for the Movement in its later stages, and the worldwide impact of 
the Movement was hailed by organizations from the Chinese Communist Party (citing it as 
one of the reasons for reopening contacts with the United States) and the NLF to the 
student movements of France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Japan. 



SDS produced a remarkable series of leaders and thinkers, some of the best of the 
generation— Al Haber, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Todd Gitlin, Carl Oglesby, Carol 
Glassman, Carl Davidson, Paul Booth, Marge Piercy, Jeff Shero, Jane Adams, Greg Calvert, 
Bernardine Dohrn, and literally hundreds of others— who continued to work in the forefront 
of political change, writing, speaking, organizing, researching, traveling, even after 
graduating from SDS and even after its demise, well on into the present decade. And 
perhaps more than anything else it touched the lives of millions of young men and women, 
both formal members and many more on the fringes, teaching them a new way of regarding 
their nation and its heritage, penetrating for them the myths and illusions of American 
society, providing for them (for the first time in the history of the American left) a new 
vision of personal, social, and cultural relations— in short, radicalizing them, until at the end 
of the decade various national surveys could point to more than a million people just within 
the universities who identified themselves as avowed revolutionaries, and one academic 
observer could declare that "radical, and indeed revolutionary, consciousness has rarely if 
ever had so substantial a numerical base or so much activist energy in this society as it now 
has." 4 

What all of this adds up to, beyond the specific and immediate accommodations and 
reforms, is a quite considerable and perhaps permanent alteration of the American 
landscape over a remarkably short space of time. What all of this will mean for the future is 
more difficult to say, for certain elements have already faded, others have become 
exaggerated, still others endure in quiet and unnoticed ways. But if SDS, and the Movement 
of which it was a part, has been successful in just one thing, the creation of a permanent 
left in America, it will have served its times invaluably; and if the lessons of its history, its 
mistakes as well as its success, its entire ten-year transformation, are not forgotten, there 
may be even a newer and higher movement of challenge and change. It is for that reason 
that this book was written. 

The explosion in the townhouse on West Eleventh Street marked the end of an era, but in 
this sense perhaps also a beginning. 



1 Sources for Eleventh Street explosion: New York newspapers, March 7-21; Bernardine 
Dohrn, "New Morning— Changing Weather," Weather Underground communique, December 
6, 1970 (var. reprinted, including "Outlaws of Amerika," by Liberated Guardian Collective, 
July 1971, and Liberation, November 1970); "Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders," Part 24, 
pp. 5378 if.; Mel Gussow, New York, March 5,1971; Sale, Nation, April 13 (reprinted in 
Jacobs, p. 470) and May 4, 1970 (letter); Jacobs, pp. 484 ff.; Powers, Chs. 1, 9. 

2 ROTC figures, D. ParkTeter, Change, September 1971; Ralph Blumenthal, N.Y. Times, 
May 28, 1971. 

3 "never in the history," Edward Kern, Life, October 17,1969. Chinese on Movement, Edgar 
Snow, Life, July 30, 1971. 

4 "radical, and indeed," Richard Flacks, Journal of Social Issues, No. 1, 1971. On the number 
of revolutionaries, see e.g., Daniel Yankelovich, Inc., The Changing Values on Campus, 
Simon and Schuster, Washington Square edition, 1972, pp. 63, 64, 68, 75, 107, i2i, and 
notes for Chs. 21 and 25. 



Reorganization 1960-1962 



SDS is an educational association concerned with building a responsible and articulate left in 
the universities and to extending the influence of this community into the political life of the 
society more generally. The last year has been one of rebuilding, and the organization now 
is at that point where a lot of loose threads are being brought together, personal 
associations are being transformed into organizational responsibilities and program is being 
put on a firm base both of intellectual content and competent people to carry it forward. The 
synthesis continually in our mind is that which unites vision and relevance. 

— Al Haber, mimeographed letter to SDS and friends, December 4, 1961 

Spring 1960 

As the decade of the sixties began, the Student League for Industrial Democracy— SLID, as 
it was known— gave no sign that it would grow into the most important student organization 
in the country's history. It had a part-time headquarters in a lower Manhattan office 
building, a single regular officer who had more or less dropped from sight, and a budget of 
no more than $3,500 a year. It had, at best, a few hundred members, most of whom were 
once-a-year activists and many of whom were well past their undergraduate years. It had 
only three chapters— at Columbia and Yale, where both were known as the "John Dewey 
Discussion Club," and at Michigan— and they operated on their campuses with scant 
attention from the student body. Its activities consisted of sending occasional speakers to 
Eastern colleges, sponsoring a week-long summer "institute" to discuss the burning liberal 
problems of the day, and putting out occasional newsletters and pamphlets devoted to such 
questions as unionism and the Cold War. Its policies, if that is not too grand a word for the 
aimless whiffs of belief that floated around its offices, were approximately those set forth in 
the preamble to its constitution: "The Student League for Industrial Democracy is a non- 
partisan educational organization which seeks to promote greater active participation on the 
part of American students in the resolution of present-day problems." 1 



And yet SLID was not without virtues. It could trace its history back to the formation of the 
nation's first student political organization in 1905 and through the two high points of 
twentieth-century radicalism in the 1910's and 1930's. It had a parent organization, the 
League for Industrial Democracy, which in many ways was a decrepit social-democratic 
holdover from another age but which did give the student department a few thousand 
dollars each year, some office space and equipment, and an occasional pamphlet or speaker 
to put through its mill. It had that legacy of skills essential for all struggling organizations of 
the political outer-world, a capacity for chapter building, pamphlet mongering, and 
conference holding, plus the quintessential ability to keep going with a shoestring budget 
and a horsecollar load. It had the distinction of being one of the few student organizations in 
the land at a time when events on the campuses suggested that something was struggling 
to be born:* the formation of a student party called SLATE at Berkeley in 1957, a three- 
thousand-strong student-power demonstration at Cornell in 1958, a ten-thousand-strong 
march for school desegregation in Washington the same year and another march with twice 
as many people the next, the founding of the pacifist Student Peace Union in 1959, and the 
first issue of the proto- Marxist Studies on the Left in the same year. And it had a small 
nucleus of people who discerned this imminent birth and were prepared to be its midwives, 
young men and women who, on looking at the campuses, wrote, "We sense a growing 
climate of insecurity in the land, a growing inclination to probe and question: What is 
happening to us, where are we going, what can we do?" 2 

It was a measure of the new restlessness on the campuses that the members of SLID 
decided early in 1960 that the time had come to change its name. The stated reasons were 
simple— "industrial democracy" was too narrow an idea, it made the organization sound too 
labor oriented, it was too hard to recruit on college campuses with an antiquated and 
cumbersome name— but the overriding reason was that SLID felt, perhaps mostly 
unconsciously, the need to dissociate itself from the old and tired leadership of the League 
for Industrial Democracy in response to the new college mood. A poll among members the 
previous July had shown "Student League for Effective Democracy" and "Students for Social 
Democracy" to be the strong favorites for the new title, with the milder "Student Forum" 
and "Student Liberal Union"— wisps of the McCarthyite fog of the fifties still lingered even in 
those days, especially around LID— coming in not far behind. An October meeting of the 
SLID leaders had debated "National Student Forum" without being able to engender much 
enthusiasm, but a month later a new choice, "Students for a Democratic Society," emerged 
as the clear favorite: it was dignified without being stuffy, explicit without being precise, and 
it had the ring of freshness. In January 1960, with some trepidation as to how the elders in 
LID would take it, the young leaders of SLID made the switch. 

As a name change, it was important only to a handful of people around the New York 
office— but it was symbolic of a new attitude within the organization, a new awareness that 
the American studentry was getting ready to shed its apathy for a resurgent life of activism 
and that a student organization like SDS could help it on its way. 



* Others were the National Student Association, the Student Peace Union, the Students for Democratic Action 
(offshoot of Americans for Democratic Action), Young People's Socialist League (youth wing of the Socialist Party), 
a tiny Communist Party youth organization, and various apolitical religious groupings. 



There was in 1960 no Tocqueville to warn, as the count did in 1830, that "we are sitting on 
a volcano," though the universities were stuffed with people whose specialty it was to 
predict, or at least give a glimmering of, how human beings might behave. There was no 
presidential commission, no professorial committee, no scientific assembly foretelling what 
was to come. Academics were preparing no books on students as the harbingers of a 
revived left— their attention was still on juvenile gangs, or the dangers of apathy. And yet 
the volcano was there, and smoldering. 

The reasons for the renaissance of student activity in the 1960s are generally familiar but 
they bear reexamination because they help to explain why there was a new mood at this 
time, why it was felt particularly among the young, and why it so directly affected the 
student population. 



The first reason for the resurgence of the student left was that the American system by 
1960 had reached a point of serious— though disguised and usually unadmitted— crisis. The 
social fabric of the nation was clearly tattered: families were no longer the places where the 
young learned their values or the old sought their solace; marriages collapsed at a greater 
and greater rate, or were artificially sustained after the life had left them; sexuality was 
seen, and used, as a commodity; organized religion had lost its purpose and many of its 
followers; alcohol was accepted as the necessary basis for much social and economic 
converse and many familial arrangements, to which drugs ran a close second and were to 
increase; crime was abnormally high and on the verge of a threefold jump; cities were 
choked with an excess population they could not cope with, becoming behavioral sinks in 
which neither air nor relationships could be cleansed.* The economic structure that had 
begun to crack in the thirties and had since been sustained by artificial means (government 
intervention, a permanent military economy, aerospace boondoggles, colonial investment, 
overseas monopolies, racial and sexual subjugation, waste, pollution, advertising, planned 
obsolescence, and inefficiency) began to show new signs of deterioration: high and 
unstoppable unemployment (especially among the young and the blacks), permanent 
poverty for a third of the nation, runaway inflation, recurrent dollar crises leading to 
devaluation, and minority control of much of the economy through vast new conglomerates, 
monopolies, and investment funds. The political life of the nation as it sank in its postwar 
doldrums was increasingly seen to be characterized by corruption, inefficiency, giant federal 
bureaucracies, identically rigidified parties, favors for the rich, apathy among the voters, 
power among the special interests and lobbies, and general unresponsiveness and 
remoteness— ultimately moving toward a profound swapping process in which the populace 
passively agreed to sacrifice certain individual rights and freedoms (privacy, speech, 
political belief, social mobility) for government promises of personal security, material 
comfort, and national quietude. And the international position of the nation, tied to a Cold 
War ideology, involved an acknowledged practice of foreign intervention (covertly through a 
massive secret "intelligence" system assuring regimes bought, coerced, or overthrown to 
our liking, overtly through economic penetration and military occupation) and the 
production of a vast system of planet-destroying armaments, rattled from crisis to crisis 
with an effect especially debilitating for the young. Taken together, all of this evidence 
argued persuasively that the nation's systems were severely strained and distended— and 
this was felt by many people, but particularly the young, as the decade opened. 3 



To take just a few of those social ills measurable statistically: the median duration of marriages in the sixties was 
only six years, with the divorce rate climbing by 33 percent in the decade; the number of people in mental 
hospitals rose to 1 million by 1965, twice as many as in 1955, and mental outpatients increased from half a million 
in 1960 to 1.3 million in 1969; alcoholism rose steadily since World War II, affecting perhaps 5 million people in 
1960 and between 9 and 15 million by 1970; drug consumption was the highest in the world, with an estimated 
third of all adults taking mind- and mood-affecting drugs, and 166 million prescriptions written for mind-affecting 
drugs in 1965, up to 225 million by 1970; there were some 18,000 suicides in 1955, rising steadily to 19,000 in 
1960 and up to 22,000 in 1970; illegitimate births were two and a half times more frequent in 1960 than they had 
been before the war, and grew rapidly each year of the sixties; serious crimes were up 100 percent between 1950 
and 1960 and were to go up another 148 percent by 1970, and the number of known murders increased similarly, 
going from 9,000 in 1960 to 15,000 in 1969. (For sources, see notes.) 

Most figures obtainable from current annual almanacs; also, for divorce rates, U.S. Census Report, N.Y. Times, 
February 2, 1971; for alcoholism, nine million figure from George Washington University survey, reported by Jane 
E. Brody, N.Y. Times, March 5, 1970, fifteen million figure from House Commerce Committee hearings, December 
3, 1970; for drugs, Lawrence K. Altman, N.Y. Times, August 13, 1970; for crime, annual FBI reports, esp. 1970 
report, N.Y. Times, August 13, 1970, and 1972 report, Time, October 23, 1972. 



10 



The second and related reason for the troubles of the sixties was that the crisis of the 
system was accompanied by the crisis of belief. Becoming aware, even if subliminally, of the 
unworkability and distortions of many institutions, millions of Americans began to question 
those institutions— and many, dissatisfied with the answers, grew to distrust and reject 
them. The evidence is abundant that perhaps a half of the population— and certainly such 
sensitive minorities as the media, the intelligentsia, the blacks, and the young— were 
coming to have serious doubts about the nation's course: the staid National Committee for 
an Effective Congress later in the decade reported bluntly that "at all levels of American life 
people show similar fears, insecurities, and gnawing doubts to such an intense degree that 
the country may in fact be suffering from a kind of national nervous breakdown." For many 
this led to what the sociologists called the "delegitimization" of authority and the 
"deauthorization" of the entire system. The media played an important role in this, 
uncovering at least the surface deceit and corruption in the belief that by exposure the 
institutions would be self-correcting, and so too did the universities, inheritors of the strong 
tradition of skepticism in Western scholarship and stocked with a professoriate whose jobs 
had given them special knowledge of the weakness of national institutions. The young were 
most particularly affected, in part because they were confronted every day with disbelievers 
in their classrooms and on their ubiquitous television sets, in part because as youth they 
were predisposed to challenge and criticize parental institutions, and in part because they 
had had less time to become molded by the dominant culture and its values. They reacted 
initially with a sense of loss and a feeling of betrayal, then with a youthful moral outrage, 
and finally with an outburst of protest; Lewis Feuer is probably right in arguing that "every 
student movement is the outcome of a de-authorization of the elder generation." 

The third reason for protest by the young was that for the first time in the nation's history 
they occupied a distinct and powerful position in society. It was not just that there were 
more people below the age of twenty-five than ever before (27.2 million between fourteen 
and twenty-four in 1960, growing to 40 million by 1970) and more in proportion to the rest 
of the population (15 percent in 1960, growing to 20 percent by 1970). It was not only that 
they were better educated than any previous American generation— there were more than 
twice as many high-school graduates in 1960 as in 1940, and more than 20 percent of the 
college-age population in universities (compared to 10 percent in 1920), growing to nearly 
50 percent by 1970. More important was that, especially among the middle class and 
upward-reaching, the young of this generation had been specially invested by their parents 
with the opportunity of living out lives of money, education, mobility, ease (and presumably 
therefore happiness) that the parents themselves had been deprived of by the Depression 
and war years— and this is the central reason for the permissive upbringing, and the 
popularity of Dr. Spock, during the postwar period. Additionally, because these youths were 
thus allowed more money than earlier generations, and because there were so many of 
them, an economy continually in search of artificial stimulants immediately made them into 
a "youth market," accountable for no less than $40-45 billion by 1970; for the first time 
whole businesses catered to the young, designing clothes, music, foods, cosmetics, movies, 
and paraphernalia specifically for them. And the youth market did more than supply the 
young, it eventually defined the group, economically and socially, establishing a 
consciousness in society at large (and particularly among the young) of their separateness— 
so, just as adolescence had been culturally created in the early part of the twentieth century 
as an "inevitable" human stage, now youth came to be regarded as a distinct developmental 
stage, with its own special needs and attitudes to go along with its own special clothes and 
music. 4 



11 



Particular to this generation, too, was a new psychological position that accompanied its 
new socioeconomic one, a position highly directed toward protest. This generation, going 
through early childhood in the postwar years of (generally) permissiveness and child- 
oriented families, was uniquely caught in the tension between initiative (independence, self- 
expression, aggressiveness toward parents) and guilt (brought on by that independence and 
aggressiveness); it turns out now, according to a number of psychologists (Erik Erikson 
prominent among them) that the type of personality which goes through this tension at the 
ages of four and five is likely to become both "anti-authoritarian" (from the emphasis on 
initiative) and "hyper-moralistic" (brought on by guilt). Thus the adolescents of college age 
in the sixties were inclined to protest not just out of the blue, but rather because they were 
likely to be the products of a psychological upbringing predisposing them to distrust and 
resist authority and to emphasize moral values, especially those lacking in the parental 
generation. They were, moreover, joined with thousands of others on the college campuses 
who shared these traits in a setting where there was little dilution from other social 
influences. Protest is the almost inevitable result: it would be so in a world disinfected of 
faults, it is doubly so in a nation so fertile with them. 5 

The final reason for protest in the sixties is that students were gathered together in greater 
numbers than ever before and— as the products of a university system which was now 
absolutely vital for the functioning of the nation— had more power than ever before. The 
sixties began with 3,789,000 people in institutions of higher education and ended with 
7,852,000 enrolled. In the sixties, for the first time in the history of any nation, there were 
more students than there were farmers— indeed, in any year after 1962 there were more 
people engaged in formal studies than employed in transportation, public utilities, 
construction work, mining, or farming. But it was not sheer numbers— students (as 
graduates) were also crucial now to the maintenance of the highly complex technology on 
which the society had come to depend, to the functioning of such areas as government 
bureaucracy and the service industries which were now vital to the artificial economy, and 
to the transmission of the dominant culture in such expanding professions as teaching, 
reporting, social work, and the arts. Universities in fact now occupied a quite central 
position in American society: they were indispensable helpmeets of the federal government 
in the production of weapons, the development of scientific processes, the maintenance of 
the economy, and the study and manipulation of foreign cultures; they accounted for 
expenditures of nearly $7 billion in 1960, which was to rise to $22.7 billion by 1970; and 
they were the most important part of an $80-billion "knowledge industry" which accounted 
for as much as 29 percent of the Gross National Product in 1962 and 40 percent of it in 
1970 and which employed some 43 percent of all American workers as the decade opened, 
more than 50 percent when it closed, Clark Kerr, one of the first to understand the new 
importance of universities, stated it best: 6 

The university has become a prime instrument of national purpose. This is 
new ... What the railroads did for the second half of the 19th century and the 
automobile for the first half of this century, the knowledge industry may do 
for the second half of this century: that is to serve as the focal point for 
national growth. And the university is at the center of the knowledge process. 

And the students, be it not forgotten, were at the center of the university. 

That, then, is the basis for protest in the sixties: the severe dislocations of the American 
system that by 1960 were beginning to produce a crisis of function and a crisis of belief, 
combined with a massive new generation which was coming to occupy a new c position in 
society and which, at the university level, was starting to have a new importance in the 
workings of the system at the same time that they were disposed to challenge those very 
workings. It had never happened before. 



12 



SDS began the decade prosaically enough, planning a conference to be held at Ann Arbor 
that spring on "Human Rights in the North." Proposed by the 1959 convention, the 
conference looked as if it would be just one more of those speechified meetings 
characteristic not only of SLID/SDS but of student organizations in general, in which the 
grim seriousness of the problems discussed is outweighed only by the grim seriousness of 
the discussion itself. But this conference was to be different: on February 1, 1960, four 
black students walked into the Woolworth five-and-ten-cents store in the little town of 
Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at the previously whites-only lunch counter, and 
ordered four cups of coffee. 

The four black students were well aware that what they were doing was dramatic and 
different, but they could have had no idea what a change they were to bring. Before the 
month was over sit-ins were held at segregated restaurants in twenty cities throughout the 
South, by the end of that spring students at perhaps a hundred Northern colleges had been 
mobilized in support, and over the next year civil-rights activity touched almost every 
campus in the country: support groups formed, fund-raising committees were established, 
local sit-ins and pickets took place, campus civil-rights clubs began, students from around 
the country traveled to the South. The alliance-in-action between Southern blacks and 
young Northern whites, founded on a principle that was both morally pure and politically 
powerful, gave the student movement a strength that it had never before experienced. 

The birth of the civil-rights movement also gave SDS its initial cause and the fortuitous Ann 
Arbor conference gave SDS its initial identification with that cause. The conference, held 
May 5-7 at the University of Michigan, was a clear success, at least on the scale of those 
days. There was wide attendance from civil rights leaders— Bayard Rustin, James Farmer (a 
former full-time organizer for SLID), Marvin Rich and James McCain from CORE, Herbert Hill 
from the NAACP, Michael Harrington from the Young People's Socialist League— and from 
the newly active students— SDSers from the Midwest, representatives of a new group called 
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and two people later important in SDS, 
Bob Ross, a recent graduate of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science and a student- 
government leader at Michigan, and Tom Hayden, then the editor of the Michigan Daily. 
Nothing very grand was decided, but important friendships were formed, a new sense of 
commitment to civil-rights action was cemented, and SDS was set on a path of civil-rights 
support that provided it with much-needed visibility in the years ahead. 7 

Then, in the wake of this conference, came a second fortuitous stroke, a grant to SDS of 
$10,000 from Detroit's United Automobile Workers Union, the deus ex (literally) machina 
whose largesse was periodically visited upon the student group over the next few years. 
And because of this grant SDS was able, for the first time in five years, to hire a full-time 
national officer with the responsibility of strengthening and energizing the organization. The 
position was to be called Field Secretary and the man selected was Robert Alan Haber. 



13 



Haber, then a graduate student at the University of Michigan and the Vice President of SDS, 
would prove to be the indispensable element in SDS's initial success. A short, balding, 
scholarly, introspective type, he had grown up in an academic atmosphere in Ann Arbor— 
where his father, an LID member in his younger days, was then a professor at the 
University of Michigan— and he was familiar with the university world; in addition, he had 
been a campus leader at Michigan, where he majored in sociology, a participant in leftish 
student politics from 1956, and for the last two years an increasingly active figure in SLID. 
Not only was he close to the student movement at a time when few even knew it existed 
but he was perceptive about its depth and direction. "I wish I were able better to convey," 
he wrote to the LID elders after he assumed office, "the enthusiasm and optimism that the 
young feel for a new movement on the campus. I wish I could give to you a sense of the 
energy and vitality that is going into it." And again, "I know that if any really radical liberal 
force is going to develop in America, it is going to come from the colleges and the young. 
Even baby steps toward our vision of a 'social transformation' are going to have to be 
[taken] on campuses." 8 

But more than that, Haber also had the consequential perception of how SDS could 
capitalize upon this new mood and become a central part of it. First, he argued, SDS should 
play down the old SLID idea of establishing its own little chapters for its own little purposes 
at various campuses and concentrate instead on forming alliances with the existing campus 
groups that had al ready come into being in response to their own local needs— student 
political parties, single-issue organizations (peace committees, civil-rights clubs), and ad 
hoc action groups built around civil-rights picketing, sit-in support, and the like. Second, he 
said, SDS could play its most valuable role by trying to coordinate these groups and service 
their needs on a national scale, publishing newsletters, sending literature, organizing 
conferences, keeping the leaders in touch with one another, giving them a sense of 
participating in a wider movement beyond their particular campuses. Third, SDS should 
involve itself as much as possible with j direct social action— support for and participation in 
pickets, sit-ins, freedom marches, boycotts, protest demonstrations— rather than limiting 
itself, as it had in the past, to strictly educational work. And finally, SDS should abandon the 
ideological line-toeing that had characterized SLID, work with any groups that were 
genuinely involved in seeking social change, and content itself with giving them a 
nonsectarian vision of the totality of the American system and the connections between the 
various single-issue maladies. 

This last point is crucial. It is a vision which Haber felt must lie at the heart of any 
organization that is truly radical— that is, any organization that seeks to understand, make 
connections between, and operate on the root causes of present conditions; as Haber put it 
later that year: 

In its early stage, student activity is neither very radical nor very profound 
social protest. It generally does not go beyond a single issue, or see issues 
are inter-related, or stress that involvement in one issue necessarily leads to 
others. It does not, in short, seek root causes ... . There is no recognition 
that the various objects of protest are not sui generis but are symptomatic of 
institutional forces with which the movement must ultimately deal ... . 

The challenge ahead is to appraise and evolve radical alternatives to the 
inadequate society of today, and to develop an institutionalized 
communication system that will give perspective to our immediate actions. 
We will then have the groundwork for a radical student movement in 
America. 9 



14 



This vision— of a group which connects, and operates on, otherwise isolated issues- 
accounts for much of SDS's early success. Philosophically, it is a kind of proto-ideology, a 
way of linking otherwise disjointed problems so that they can be seen to rise from a single 
set of national conditions and thus can be held in the mind, examined, dealt with. 
Psychologically, it satisfies the search for ideology which, as psychologists point out, is a 
crucial element in adolescence, especially for the moral young, and accounts for the 
enlistment in SDS right from the start of a group of very smart but heretofore undirected 
youths who had not been able to find a way to synthesize their dissatisfactions with the 
system and who became excited and energetic once they could. And strategically, it is a 
way of bringing together a number of disparate single-issue clubs and ad hoc groups on 
different campuses and of easily admitting or working with new causes as they arise; this is 
important for an organization that has to grow both geographically (so that its chapters can 
vary from campus to campus, giving expression to a wide variety of issues of student 
discontent) and chronologically (so that it can take on a succession of shifting causes from 
the bomb to civil rights to the war to imperialism). 

Shortly after Haber was installed in the New York office with his new responsibility and his 
new perception, the first convention of SDS was held, on June 17-19, 1960. No longer the 
drab union halls and YMCA auditoriums of the fifties— now the meeting took place at the 
Barbizon-Plaza in New York. No longer the subdued and somewhat defeated attitude of 
conventions past— now, as one student put it, there was an awareness of "the widespread 
emergence of new student thinking on social issues" which the convention symbolized by 
holding a reception on behalf of students jailed and expelled from Florida A & M for a civil- 
rights sit-in. No longer the perfunctory panels on remote issues of "Freedom for the Captive 
Nations" and "The Need for Agricultural Price Supports"— now the convention started with a 
panel on "Student Radicalism: From the Close of World War I through the McCarthy Period" 
(with the unspoken assumption that it had not quite been reborn yet) and the discussion 
was so animated it was carried over to the next day (suggesting that it soon was likely to 
be). All that seemed to remain of the past was the sorry attendance— only twenty-nine 
members from nine universities— but among them were some people who were to be 
instrumental in the future: 

Sharon Jeffrey, a Michigan student whose mother was a Democratic Party committeewoman 
with close ties to the UAW; Jesse Lemisch, then at Yale and soon to make a mark as a 
major revisionist historian; Jonathan Weiss, an activist at Antioch; and Michigan junior Bob 
Ross. The largest number (eleven) came from Michigan, where Haber had done his 
spadework well, others from Columbia, Yale, and Wisconsin, and an additional fifty or so 
were guests, including Murray Kempton, Norman Thomas, trade unionist Don Slaiman, 
James Farmer, and banquet speaker Dwight Macdonald, whose topic was "The Relevance of 
Anarchism." Haber was elected President, his strong Michigan contingent coming through; 
Weiss, Vice President; and Yale student Eric Walther, International Vice President.* 

It all seemed a fitting, a propitious, ending to the spring's first flush of student activism. 
Haber, reviewing what had been accomplished on the campuses and what had happened to 
his organization, concluded: 



* The National Executive Committee consisted of Bob Craig (from Wisconsin), Eldon Clingan (Columbia), Sharon 
Jeffrey, Barbara Newman (Queens), Michael Rosenbaum (Columbia), Richard Weinert (Yale), and Carol Weisbrod 
(Columbia, and also SDS's part-time National Secretary). 



15 



We have spoken at last, with vigor, idealism and urgency, supporting our 
words with picket lines, demonstrations, money and even our own bodies 
We have taken the initiative from the adult spokesmen and leadership, 
setting the pace and policy as our actions evolve their own dynamic. 
Pessimism and cynicism have given way to direct action. 10 



1 SLID material, Tamiment. 

2 "We sense a growing," editorial, Venture (SLID, New York), April 1959. 

3 Evidence on national doubts includes various national polls (e.g., periodic Gallup polls, 
regularly reported in N.Y. Post and elsewhere; Roper Poll in N.Y. Times, July 9, 1971; 
American Institute for Political Communication survey, N.Y. Times, March 7,1972; Trendex 
poll, Wall Street Journal, November 16,1971; Albert H. Cantril and Charles W. Roll, Jr., 
Hopes and Fears of the American People, Universe Books [N.Y.], 1971); "Year-end Report," 
National Committee for an Effective Congress, December 26, 1967; Newsweek, special 
issue, July 6,1970; Andrew Hacker, The End of the American Era, Atheneum, 1970; William 
L. O'Neill, Coming Apart, Quadrangle Books, 1971; George Reedy, The Twilight of the 
Presidency, World, 1970; reports by various presidential commissions headed by Milton 
Eisenhower (Violence), Nicholas Katzenbach (Crime), Otto Kerner (Race), and William 
Scranton (Campus Unrest), and by the National Goals Research Staff; and Richard Nixon, 
"State of the Union," January 22,1970, and interview, Washington Star-News, November 9, 
1972. For attitudes of youths, see esp. Daniel Yankelovich, Inc., The Changing Values on 
Campus, Washington Square Press, 1972. "at all levels," "Year-end Report," op. cit. 

4 Feuer, The Conflict of Generations, Basic Books, 1969, p. 528. Population statistics, U.S. 
Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstracts, 1968-1970, and "Characteristics of American 
Youth, 1970" (1971). Estimates of youth market, from Wall Street Journal, April 27, 1971, 
and "Selling the American Youth Market," AMR International, Inc. (N.Y.), 1969. On youth 
consciousness, and youth as a class, see esp. John and Mary Rowntree, International 
Socialist Journal, February 1968 (excerpted in Teodori, pp. 418 ff.), Socialist Revolution, 
May-June 1970, and Richard Flacks, Youth and Social Change, Markham (Chicago), 1971. 

5 Erik Erikson, his corpus, but esp. Identity: Youth and Crisis, Norton, 1968, and Daedalus. 
Winter 1970. University enrollments and other educational statistics. Projections of 
Educational Statistics to 1977-78, National Center of Educational Statistics, Office of 
Education, Washington, D.C. (1968 edition). 

6 Figures on knowledge industry, Fritz Machlup, The Production and Distribution of 
Knowledge in the United States, Princeton University, 1962, and statistics in N.Y. Times 
Education Supplement, January 10, 1972; see also Peter F. Drucker, Age of Discontinuity, 
Harper, 1969. Kerr, The Uses of the University, Harvard University, 1964, and Harper 
Torchbook, 1966, pp. 87-88. 

7 Figures on civil-rights action, Newfield, pp. 36 if., and Howard Zinn, The New Abolitionists, 
Beacon paperback, 1965. Human Rights Conference, reported by Haber and Carol Weisbrod. 
Venture, Vol. II, No. 1, September 1960. 

8 "I wish," letter to Nathaniel Minkoff, April 15,1961. "I know," letter to Trager, March 11, 
1961. 

9 "In its early," Venture, September 1960, reprinted in Cohen and Hale (1967), p. 34. 

10 ibid. 



16 



Fall 1960-Fall 1961 

By the fall of 1960, though some of the excitement of the spring had been forgotten on the 
campuses, the new mood of activism was still very much alive. Operation Abolition, a film 
distributed on the campuses by the House Un-American Activities Committee in which FBI 
Director J. Edgar Hoover accused students who had disrupted a HUAC hearing in May of 
being Communist-controlled, was greeted by college audiences with open derision and 
seemed mostly to encourage Student Davids in the notion of challenging the 
Establishmentarian Goliath. Civil-rights activity continued apace, though often now directed 
at less dramatic targets like off-campus housing discrimination and fraternity exclusion 
clauses; antibomb rallies and meetings still drew student audiences, and the Student Peace 
Union began one of its more successful years; campus groups to support the Castro 
revolution in Cuba, led in many cases by students who had returned from summer-time 
visits, were formed at several of the larger schools. And in many places campus political 
parties were established or renewed: at Michigan, a new group called VOICE began, largely 
through the ministrations of Tom Hayden, who had spent the summer in Berkeley soaking 
up both the experience of SLATE and the politics of the left ("I got radicalized," Hayden has 
said: no one is born that way); at Oberlin, Rennie Davis and Paul Potter were organizing a 
Progressive Student League; at Chicago, Clark Kissinger was instrumental in POLIT; at 
Harvard, Todd Gitlin was active in TOCSIN; Paul Booth, only a freshman, was trying to 
initiate what later became the Political Action Club at Swarthmore. (It is more than a 
coincidence that all of these people should later occupy leading roles in SDS.) 1 

Al Haber, meanwhile, operating out of the dingy SDS office downstairs from the LID 
headquarters at 119 East Nineteenth Street in New York, worked day and night to fashion 
the new student organization to capitalize on that mood. He felt then that civil rights was 
still the primary cause for student activists and that SDS could be, as he put it at the time, 
the organization for the "national coordination of student civil rights which seems so 
necessary." 2 He established a civil-rights newsletter which by the end of the year had a 
circulation of more than ten thousand (including two thousand to Southern students, four 
thousand to Northern supporters, and three thousand to twenty-five of the most active 
campus civil-rights groups); he laid plans (never realized) for a second civil-rights 
conference for the spring; he established contacts, largely around the civil-rights issue, with 
several hundred colleges; and he pushed the SDS image at any civil-rights meeting that 
came along. Largely through his efforts, membership straggled up to 250 or so, with the 
most active people gathered around VOICE at Michigan; there were also formal though 
sporadic chapters at Syracuse, Western Reserve, Yale, Chicago, Brooklyn, Oberlin, and 
Harvard. 

Herschel Kaminsky, then a graduate student at Minnesota, recalls meeting Haber at a SNCC 
meeting that October: 

I was very, very impressed with Haber. SLID had always represented to me 
the worst State Department kind of socialism, and to meet someone who was 
talking about turning what had been SLID into a multi-issue organization that 
did more than just attack the Soviet Union was a surprise. To find someone 
like Haber in there, who was very open and flexible on all sorts of questions 
and was talking about building a student movement in the United States that 
wasn't just a lot of abstract rhetoric about the taxes on the peasants of Tierra 
del Fuego or something, interested me and at that time really excited my 
imagination. 



17 



And Haber's view of SDS was also appealing. "At Minnesota we could get protest going, but 
we couldn't sustain it," Kaminsky says, "and I thought of SDS as being the kind of 
organization that could." And so it seemed to many others just then. 

But before Haber could get the new SDS untracked and pointed in the direction he felt it 
had to go, he had to confront the immutability of SDS's parent organization, the League for 
Industrial Democracy. The LID had been through a great deal in its forty years as a vaguely 
social-democratic clearinghouse for liberal and left-liberal (and even a few protosocialist) 
ideas and causes, and it had emerged from its battles with Communists in the thirties and 
forties and from its alliances with trade unions in the forties and fifties with certain 
fundamental beliefs: a strong attachment to anti-Communism, a commitment to the 
American labor movement, a faith in Cold War liberalism, and a dedication to the apparently 
successful meliorism of the American welfare state. Concomitantly, through years of 
experience with its various student departments— one of which had even broken away to 
form an alliance with a Communist-influenced youth group in the thirties— the LID had 
settled upon a form for its student group assuring that it would keep its chapters free from 
Communist taint, confine its campus activities to seminars and speakers, hold its politics to 
a kind of Fabian do-gooderism, and devote its energies to educating younger generations 
through pamphlets, newsletters, and an occasional conference. Moreover, the present 
leadership of the LID, men who had stayed with the organization through all these not very 
enlightened years, were growing old and increasingly rigid: Nathaniel M. Minkoff, a power 
within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union— an intractable foe of leftism and 
the chief source of LID's financial support— was Chairman of the Board; Frank Trager, a 
conservative professor of sociology at New York University, was head of the Executive 
Committee and its major link with the student department; on the Board of Directors sat, 
among others, such familiar Cold Warriors as Daniel Bell, George S. Counts, Louis Fischer, 
Victor Reuther, John Roche, and Clarence Senior; on the National Council, a kind of advisory 
group, were men like Arnold Beichman, James B. Carey, the Reverend Donald Harrington, 
Sidney Hook, Alfred Baker Lewis, and Harry A. Overstreet. It is little wonder, then, that the 
LID elders, not terribly disposed to welcoming the awakening student mood in the first 
place, became positively alarmed as Haber elaborated more and more of his particular 
vision for SDS's future. They were especially worried about the student organization's 
overstepping what they regarded as its basic educational role and going into overt political 
action that was at odds with the LID's superrespectable image, and which might endanger 
its all-important tax exemption besides.* They were genuinely troubled by Haber's interest 
in linking up with any of the newly active campus groups and working alongside any of the 
responsive national organizations— outfits like SNCC, for example, or, worse, YPSL— for fear 
that this might embroil the LID in relations with Communist or quasi-Communist 
organizations, a fate worse than promiscuity. And, finally, they were faced with a serious 
drought in contributions— funds on hand in the fall did not exceed $2,000, and even the 
usual trade union sources in New York were not coming forth with the $40,000 or so a year 
that the LID demanded— so they were little inclined to pour a lot of money into an ambitious 
student organization with all the conferences, picket lines, protests, staff, and subsidies that 
Haber seemed to want. 



* As a (distinctly) nonprofit organization, the LID was entitled to certain tax-exempt benefits— the kind that were 
essential to attract any sizable donations from wealthy patrons— so long as it did not engage, nor allow its various 
departments to engage, in direct political action in favor of any political party or legislative cause, declaring his 
intention to stay and fight. He acknowledged that he had little support in the New York office, but, with thinly 
disguised blackmail, he pointed out that most of the members elsewhere were on his side: 



18 



The conflict came to a head in early 1961, after months of what Haber, in a lengthy and 
bitter letter to Trager, called the "backbiting, the hostility and the vicious pettyness." 3 After 
several meetings the Executive Committee finally voted on March 23 to fire Haber; three 
days later, in an uncharacteristic fit of submissiveness, Haber sent in a letter of resignation 
saying he was off to join the National Student Association; and two days later Nathaniel 
Minkoff accepted the resignation and tossed in $100 as a severance gift, adding with 
unknowing prescience that he hoped Haber would "continue your warm interest in the 
student movement." 

But then an extraordinary thing happened. Haber did not budge. He stayed on in New York, 
avoiding the office but carrying on correspondence from his apartment, weighing his 
weariness and his anger against his vision and his hopes, debating past and future, work 
accomplished and work undone. Finally he decided he was unwilling to give t all up, after 
all, and he wrote a six-page single-spaced letter to Trager declaring his intention to stay 
and fight. He acknowledged that he had little support in the New York office, but, thinly 
disguised blackmail, he pointed out that most of the members elsewhere were on his side: 

I am president of the organization and will preside at the next student 
convention and can there present my case. I have the votes, as the saying 
goes ... the membership of SDS would almost certainly support me. 

He also knew that it might be possible to take this membership into something new: 

I would be free to initiate discussion in student and adult circles regarding the 
possibility of ... the kind of radical democratic organization I have projected 
... . Many friends of the LID might well see a more aggressively dynamic 
youth organization closer to their interest. 4 

The LID came to have second thoughts. Trager, especially, urged reconsideration of the 
case. Some of the less rigid LIDers were enlisted in the battle for the first time, and sided 
with Haber. Haber's father, who had dropped his LID contacts some time before but was stil 
friendly with the elders, wrote long, warm letters to both Trager and Minkoff. To Minkoff he 
pointed out the virtues of the current young: 

I happen to be living on a college campus, an exciting and vital group of 
25,000. They are students coming out of their shells; they are talking about 
ideas and ideals ... are thinking beyond the vocational purposes which 
brought them to a college or university campus. 

To Trager he said of his son: 

I am sure he has a deep sense of responsibility and he has a deep sense of 
mission. In all fairness, you and I had it at his age and we cannot be too hard 
on young people who exhibit it at their age. 

By May the LID signaled that it was willing to reconsider. An Executive Committee meeting 
on the ninth of that month thrashed out the whole education-activist debate once more, 
finally deciding "to see whether the student conflict can be resolved during the coming 
week." 



19 



At that point Haber made concessions of his own. In a lengthy memo to the Executive 
Committee he modified his image, drew in his horns, and tried to placate their fears. He 
toned down his grandiose organizational plans, proposing a staff of four, a modest series of 
mailings, and a small citywide conference. He played up his anti-Communism and the job 
SDS could do "as an effective democratic counter-force to the ... activity and influence of 
Communist oriented youth," not to mention how it could of course "represent the 
aspirations, problems and programs of the labor movement to the current student 
generation." He played down his activism and stressed how SDS could "serve as a clearing 
house for publication, information and research on the left" with "primarily an education 
program" that should cause "no difficulty with our tax status." He agreed to LID demands 
that there be no convention that year, just to smooth everything over and lessen the 
chances for a youthful revolt. And he stressed how invaluable he himself could be, not only 
for running the SDS office at a pace no one had seen before but— and here was the 
clincher— for undertaking personally the responsibility to raise the money for the student 
program. The one thing he would not compromise on, and he made no bones about it, was 
the necessity for the student group to have "a greater flexibility in the kinds of membership 
and chapter relations" than before and to develop "relations with as many other democratic 
issue and action groups as possible"— in other words, no anti-Communist hysteria from the 
elders. The LID, to its credit, bought it. Trepidations there were, and even some dark 
predictions. But there was also the frank recognition that the LID itself had fallen on 
somewhat scabrous days— not only were contributions diminishing, not only was the 
leadership generation growing old and rickety, but the whole purpose of the organization in 
the context of the sixties seemed blurry and uncertain: it had not been uncommon for 
people at board meetings to raise the question of just what was the LID's current reason for 
being, and in fact a series of committees had recently been established to determine exactly 
that, each successive one failing to provide an answer. The strong feeling now was that if 
there were to be new blood and energy and life in the LID, it would have to come from the 
SDS; and if there was to be any life in SDS, it would probably have to come from Haber. 5 

Haber was rehired. 

Flush with his considerable victory, Haber chose the first opportunity to cement it. At the 
August convention of the NSA in Madison, he broadcast the virtues of the new SDS from 
every stump and platform, the start of a process of using this particular forum for publicity 
and recruitment that would continue for the next four years. An unlikely forum it may have 
seemed: the NSA was composed of student-government types, many of them churchly do- 
gooders who, for the most part, stood politically somewhere to the right of Adlai Stevenson, 
and it was being financed— though no one but the top leaders knew it at the time— by the 
Cold War moneys of the State Department and the CIA in their attempt to create a safe, 
not-too-liberal, uncritical weapon in their propaganda arsenal. But Haber knew that the 
convention was one of the few student meetings that attracted people from all over the 
country, it was well covered by the media ballyhooing it as the voice of the nation's 
campuses, it did attract a number of serious politically minded students who had no place 
else to go and who proved susceptible to the SDS position, and it was a convenient way for 
SDSers to meet and talk, to establish the lines of communication that during the rest of the 
year tended to become blurred and overextended. 

At the 1961 NSA meeting SDS established a formal caucus with the Campus Americans for 
Democratic Actions— Campus ADA was the closest thing to SDS in those days, though 
acknowledged to be to its right— which was known (with caution characteristic of the time) 
as the Liberal Study Group. For the next three years the Liberal Study Group proved to be 
SDS's vehicle both to argue left-liberal positions in the convention itself and to publish 
mimeographed papers on current political topics with which to propagandize the participants 
(papers that later became the bulk of SDS's literature list during the rest of the year). 



20 



With the beginning of the 1961-1962 school year, "SDS" began to be a set of initials heard 
of, at least by the political fringe, at a growing number of campuses. It was essentially only 
a two-man operation: Haber, in what was called the National Office in New York, 
coordinated the meetings, made the contacts, wrote the letters, gave the speeches, 
attended the conferences, and mimeographed the pamphlets; and Tom Hayden, who had 
just graduated from Michigan and been hired by the LID to be the SDS Field Secretary (at a 
munificent $12 a day), worked out of Atlanta, involving himself firsthand in the burgeoning 
civil-rights movement. It wasn't much— "Tom was SDS's project and Al was SDS's office," as 
Paul Booth says— but with the two of them operating at full and dedicated pace it slowly 
became the liveliest and most interesting student organization at work then, and the ripples 
began to go out in rings from the active center. By mid-fall SDS claimed a membership of 
575 and twenty campus chapters. 6 

Haber was of course the indispensable element, for it was his vision, his enthusiasm, and 
his energy (Booth says, "Haber slept underneath the mimeograph machine") that kept 
everything moving. But his choice of confederate was a stroke of happy genius. Thomas 
Emmett Hayden was a charged and vibrant person, with heavy dark eyes and a beaker nose 
on a striking face chiaroscuroed by gentle acne scars on the cheeks, a lopsided cleft in the 
chin, and angular dimples at the sides of the mouth; he would stand with shoulders 
slumped and slightly hunched, as if keeping himself on guard, somehow always wary but 
polite, interested, listening. He had been born in 1940 of middle-class Irish parents (his 
father was an accountant) in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit; they were Catholic— 
though later divorced— and his early schooling was in parochial schools. He had gotten to 
the University of Michigan on a tennis scholarship in 1957, was an English major as well as 
editor of the paper, and graduated the previous June. Now he thought of himself primarily 
as a journalist, though of the involved rather than the "objective" kind, and was writing 
articles not only for SDS but for such publications as the SDS-affiliated Activist run by 
Jonathan Eisen at Oberlin, the Socialist Party's New America, Liberation in New York, and 
even Mademoiselle the next year he would go on to be a graduate student in journalism— at 
least formally— at the University of Michigan. 

Hayden, blessed with an instinct for being in the right place at the right time, and carrying 
out Haber's civil-rights strategy for SDS, operated in the South with the SNCC voter- 
registration drive, sending back periodic reports which the National Office mimeographed 
and distributed to the campuses. Quietly, dryly he reported on the beatings, the murders, 
the harrowing lives of the SNCC youngsters trying to organize black voters in redneck 
country, "in more danger than nearly any student in this American generation has faced." 7 
These were practically the only writings coming out about the SNCC drive at that time, and 
they carried the unquestioned authenticity of one who had not only been there, but had 
been beaten (in McComb, Mississippi, in October) and jailed (in Albany, Georgia, in 
November). Through the SDS— chiefly in a twenty-eight-page pamphlet called "Revolution in 
Mississippi" sent out late that fall— and through other student publications such as the 
Activist (which carried a vivid photograph in one issue showing Hayden getting beaten), 
Hayden's writings reached a considerable campus audience. Betty Garman, a Skidmore 
graduate then working for the NSA, repeats what others have said, "These reports were 
very important to me: that's really the reason I went into SDS." 



21 



It is significant that Haber chose civil rights as SDS's initial emphasis and that Hayden was 
able to manifest it so dramatically, because it meant that SDS was able to make a 
reputation and an impact which it might not if it had chosen, say, antibomb activity, peace 
research, academic freedom, poverty, or university reform, all of which were current issues 
and any one of which might have seemed the "inevitable" trigger to student activism. Civil 
rights was the one cause with the greatest moral power, eventually the greatest national 
publicity, ultimately the strongest national impact, and having Haber's mind and Hayden's 
body so evidently on the line redounded to SDS's benefit. It was one measure of how 
accurately SDS was to read the student pulse, and profit thereby. 

But SDS was also alive to the wider student mood from which the civil-rights activities 
sprang, as Hayden indicated in an essay in the Activist in the winter of 1961 called (in 
conscious imitation of C. Wright Mills) "A Letter to the New (Young) Left." It is not a 
profound essay, and its ideas are jumbled, half-formed, tentative, but it had the essential 
virtue of expressing much that was in the reaches of the student mind. Hayden shared 
some of the ground-rock liberal values of the time— he railed against the bomb, the 
"population problem," the "threatening future of China," "an incredibly conservative 
Congress," "the decline of already-meager social welfare legislation"— and expressed them 
in a litany that would have fit comfortably into the pages of the New Republic. But he also 
sensed, largely from his university experience, the inadequacy of liberal thought in either 
grasping the problems or suggesting anything but slippery welfaristic solutions, and its 
plastic-like susceptibility to distortion and subversion in the hands of people like Daniel Bell, 
Richard Hofstadter, and Arthur Schlesinger, where it simply became conservatism with a 
high forehead and a smiling face. In this acceptance of traditional liberal ends and 
simultaneous awareness of traditional liberal bankruptcy, Hayden was expressing what 
many of his generation were feeling not only among the left but also among the right, the 
sham and shabbiness of the liberal tradition in which they all had grown up was slowly 
coming to be felt. 

Hayden's solution to liberalism is "radicalism," by which he seems to mean— the difficulty is 
with his language, which is abstract and rhetorical— first an understanding of the underlying 
"real causes" of the problems of present society and then "a practice" that demands living 
outside that society ("the decision to disengage oneself entirely from the system being 
confronted"); in short, radicalism is the SDS style of making root connections plus the 
growing practice of operating on those connections in the real world beyond the campuses. 
Not to be overlooked here is the unspoken notion that inevitably one will lead to another, 
that an accurate analysis of root causes in America will inevitably create disgust, 
disenchantment, disengagement, and, ultimately, a willingness to change them. Hayden's 
radicalism, of course, is not very radical— what he wants is a kind of reformism "drawing on 
what remains of the adult labor, academic and political communities, not just revolting in 
despair against them"— and its ends go no further than the need to "visualize and then build 
structures to counter those which we oppose." It is, perhaps not surprisingly, a gut 
radicalism, a negative radicalism, what Hayden himself saw as "an almost instinctive 
opposition," for the times seemed to demand that the primary battle be against the easy 
acceptance of the system in power rather than for any particular alternative to it. Whatever 
its failings, and to an extent because of them, this kind of radicalism was an acute 
expression of the attitudes of many of the young of the period. Students read Hayden's 
essay he began to become a "figure." 



22 



With the ongoing successes of the fall, and with the LID compromise still unshaken, Haber 
and Hayden felt that the time had finally come to formalize the new vision of SDS in a fresh 
organizational form. Accordingly, they planned a small conference for "reflection on our total 
effort, past, present and future," 8 to be held in Ann Arbor over the Christmas vacation. 
Haber, the chief organizer of the conference, saw it as a meeting which would define, at 
least for the coming year, what role SDS could play in servicing and coordinating the wide 
variety of campus political parties and ad hoc groups that had now been established. He 
asked campus activists to come up with ideas for a national program that these groups 
could unite behind and SDS could run for them, and in the event almost every conceivable 
political notion of the time was put forth, most of them in lengthy papers that sat in deep 
piles in the University of Michigan Student Activities Building that weekend. 

Robert Walters, an SDSer in Pennsylvania, noted that students other than those in the hard 
core of radicals are induced to join campus actions because they want "to do something 
new" and argued that poverty was the perfect issue (this was a year before Michael 
Harrington's The Other America): an obvious problem, something to be against, capable of 
enlisting liberal and union support, and involving the federal government. Bob Ross and 
Mark Chester (a Cornell SDSer) pushed for university reform (three years before the Free 
Speech Movement at Berkeley), urging "that the university make itself relevant to the social 
order," allow students to "act as citizens within their communities," get rid of in loco 
parentis, and enlarge the power of students as against administrators. Curtis Gans, an early 
SDSer, then at North Carolina, wrote a paper with Haber suggesting a Southern Political 
Education Project to hold conferences to educate Southern whites and develop a black-and- 
white Southern cadre for civil-rights action. Jean Spencer, a Michigan senior, suggested a 
two-year project to establish peace centers on at least ten campuses for "discussion and 
communication" of war-related issues. Others urged action on civil-rights projects. Northern 
support of voter registration in the South, disarmament, and arms control, electoral action 
for peace candidates, and much other social detritus. 

The program suggestions are revealing, imaginative, well developed, and analytically 
shrewd. But useless. The Ann Arbor conference foundered on this multiplicity of rocks, one 
group wanting to steer one way, one group another. Haber had known that the various 
campus groups were each searching for a national program to unite behind, but he forgot 
that each one had its own favorite, or at least wasn't prepared to submerge its interests in 
somebody else's favorite. The plain fact of it is that Haber had forgotten his own first 
principle. Knowing originally that single-issue orientation was wrong, that only a broad 
radical consensus could draw student militants together, he had been tempted by the initial 
impact of the fall civil-rights campaign to want to put SDS unreservedly behind a single 
project. But naturally enough no one could agree on which one. Paul Booth calls the 
meeting "a disaster, politically": "We couldn't settle on a specific political notion through 
which everyone would be SDS as well as whatever else they were into." 

But this Ann Arbor meeting was, in spite of all that, no disaster. It was the first of what 
were to be a steady series of enormously congenial gatherings among sympathetic people, 
a process wrought by some mysterious chemistry of those early SDS days that no one has 
ever structurally analyzed. Many of those present had been at the NSA meeting that 
summer, most had been receiving the letters Hayden was sending from the South, and in 
getting together they found a real identity of interests and attitudes. There was among 
them a shared style, a kind of open Bohemianism filtered through the Beats that put a 
premium on honesty and naturalness; there was, too, an undercurrent of distinctly non- 
Beat urgency, a youthful passion and intensity, a sense that times were changing; and there 
was a common feeling about the horrible inadequacies of the present system and the real 
possibilities for altering it and finding something new. Betty Garman recalls the excitement 
she felt after one informal meeting during the conference: 



23 



We talked about a new life, a new world— no one had ever put down on paper 
what this would look like, though we all had a notion about it. We talked 
about the Cold War and its being over, how we all rejected both sides, both 
the Russian bloc and the American bloc, and how we all felt how rotten the 
American system was, without being able to put a name to it all. It was a 
terribly stimulating thing. 

Paul Booth says simply, "It was all very convivial, we had a great time." 9 

At the end of several days of this Haber had drawn enough like-minded people together to 
form the substructure of a new organization. A National Executive Committee was set up, 
with Haber as chairman, Bob Ross as vice chairman, plus Mark Acuff (from the University of 
New Mexico), Rebecca Adams (a Swarthmore senior), Booth, Donald Freeman (who had 
been organizing for SDS in Ohio), Sandra Cason Hayden (Tom's recent wife, a SNCC 
worker, known as Casey), Sharon Jeffrey, Timothy Jenkins (a Howard graduate and SNCC 
founder, then at Yale Law School), Daniel Johnston (Drake Law School), Steve Max (a 
young New York City activist who never bothered with college), Jim Monsonis (a Yale 
graduate working with SNCC in Atlanta), and Bob Zeilner (from Huntingdon College, also a 
SNCCer). Among those serving as regional representatives were Nicholas Bateson (an 
Englishman then at North Carolina), Peter Countryman (a New England pacifist), Michael 
Locker (Earlham College), Robert Walters, and Houston Wade (the University of Texas). 
Paul Potter was to act as the official liaison with the NSA, and Richard Roman with YPSL, 
whose chairman he was. Hayden, of course, continued as Field Secretary. 

At the end of the Ann Arbor meeting Haber also had come to see where he had gone wrong. 
He realized that what was important was not a single national program but the shared view 
of the world, and so at one late-night meeting he came up with the suggestion that SDS's 
real job should be to work creating a manifesto that would enunciate these basic feelings, 
and maybe thereafter could come an agreed-upon program around which an organization 
like SDS could function; as Hayden was to put it, "We have to grow and expand, and let 
moral values get a bit realigned. Then, when consciousness is at its proper state, we might 
talk seriously and in an action-oriented way about solutions." Hayden and a couple of others 
were given the task. SDS would collate their work, send out their drafts for comments, and 
when the manifesto was formulated, another meeting, perhaps, might debate and refine it. 

And so was conceived what would become The Port Huron Statement, not only the crucial 
document for the reestablishment of the Haber-Hayden SDS but also, for part of a 
generation at least, its expression-on-paper. Those at the New Year's Eve party which 
ended the Ann Arbor conference could not then have imagined it, but the slightly sardonic 
words at the bottom of their conference schedule would prove to be prophetic: 

"JANUARY 1st— The new left goes forth." 



1 Hayden, quoted in Newfield, p. 96. 

2 "national coordination," Venture, September 1960. Kaminsky, interview. 

3 "backbiting," letter to Trager, March n, 1961. Minkoff, letter to Haber, March 28,1961. 

4 "I am president" and "I would be free," letter to Trager, March 11, 1961. William Haber 
letters, March 24,1961, and May 4,1961. 

5 Haber memo, May 9,1961. 



24 



6 Booth comments, interview. Membership figures, internal memo, September 1961, 
Tamiment. 

7 Hayden wrote and SDS mailed four letters from the South, expanded into "Revolution in 
Mississippi," SDS, December 1961, excerpted in Cohen and Hale (1967), pp. 68 ff. "In more 
danger," ibid. Garman, interview. "A Letter to the New (Young) Left," reprinted in Cohen 
and Hale (1967), pp. 2 ff. 

8 "reflection on our total," Hayden letter, mimeograph, December 5,1961. Most of the Ann 
Arbor conference papers were later published as pamphlets by SDS. 

9 Booth, interview. Garman, interview. Hayden, mimeographed letter (Convention 
Document #3), undated (spring 1962). 

Spring 1962 

"Where," Tom Hayden said in a letter to the SDS membership, "does one begin thinking 
about manifestoes?" There was little for the generation of the sixties to turn to for guidance 
in setting out its politics, for the left tradition in this country had been strangulated by the 
forties and fifties and the left tradition in other nations was never applicable. It was faced 
with the enormous task of creating a political philosophy almost in a void. 1 

Hayden plowed into the task undaunted nonetheless and spent most of his energies on it 
throughout the spring. Retired now from the Southern battlefields, he steeped himself in 
political philosophies, reading omnivorously, comparing, sifting, searching, constructing. He 
pored over works by C. Wright Mills, on whom he had written a dissertation in college, and 
by Harold Taylor, whose educational humanism he found congenial. He looked into Camus, 
Michels, Fromm, into David Riesman, Robert Nisbet, Michael Harrington, into Iris Murdoch, 
Sheldon Wolin, Norman O. Brown, William Appleman Williams, into Studies on the Left and 
the British New Left Review. He examined himself, his student generation, the awakening 
activists, the Southern black students with whom he had traveled; he looked at the 
professors he had known, the schools, the classes, the texts, the universities. He began 
putting things on paper: "We are the inheritors and the victims of a barren period in the 
development of human values." ... . "Strangely, we are in the universities but gain little 
enlightenment there— the old promise that knowledge and increased rationality would 
liberate society seems hollow, if not a lie." ... "The liberation of this individual potential is 
the just end of society; the directing of the same potential, through voluntary participation, 
to the benefit of society, is the just end of the individual." ... "The role of the intellectuals 
and of the universities (and therefore, I think, SDS) is to enable people to actively enjoy the 
common life and feel some sense of genuine influence over their personal and collective 
affairs." ... "I am proposing that the world is not too complex, our knowledge not too 
limited, our time not so short, as to prevent the orderly building of a house of theory [the 
phrase is Murdoch's], or at least its foundation, right out in public, in the middle of the 
neighborhood." Slowly a set of ideas, a frail kind of ideology, a house of theory, did begin to 
appear. 

In March, preparing for a speech he was to give at the University of Michigan, Hayden 
sharpened his critique of the American society: 



25 



We must have a try at bringing society under human control. We must wrest 
control somehow from the endless machines that grind up men's jobs, the 
few hundred corporations that exercise greater power over the economy and 
the country than in feudal societies, the vast military profession that came 
into existence with universal military training during our brief lifetime, the 
irresponsible politicians secured by the ideological overlap, the seniority 
system and the gerrymandered base of our political structure, and the 
pervasive bureaucracy that perpetuates and multiplies itself everywhere: 
these are the dominators of human beings, the real, definable phenomena 
that make human beings feel victimized by undefinable "circumstance." 
Sadly, the university in America has become a part of this hierarchy of power, 
rather than an instrument to make men free. 2 

Shortly afterward, in the early months of the spring, he sent out three "convention 
documents" in mimeographed form to the entire SDS mailing list, setting out his tentative 
thoughts about "values"— a concept very much on his mind— about the nature of democracy 
(complete with a bibliography), and about the ways in which students can make their 
politics felt. None of them was particularly inspiring— with the exception of a phrase or two, 
none has the life and clarity that would eventually mark the final manifesto*— nor did they 
elicit the massive membership response that they were designed to. But they were the first 
attempts at putting the vision of student activists into public form, and invaluable for that. 



With the exception of two paragraphs in the first document and some phrases about "participatory democracy" in 
the second, none of the wording in these documents was used in the final statement. 



26 



While all this was going on, Hayden was still traveling, visiting the chapters, absorbing 
thoughts (and sometimes writing them down verbatim) from all manner of people on and 
near the campuses—" ... not much letter-writing," as he put it, "but MANY DISCUSSIONS 
with people all around the country." 3 One of the most formative came, somewhat 
unexpectedly, at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (and friends) at Chapel 
Hill, North Carolina, in May. At that meeting Hayden outlined his thinking to date in some 
detail, and suddenly ran into fire from a New York contingent consisting of Steve Max and 
James Brook, leaders of a struggling New York chapter growing out of a group called the 
FDR-Four Freedoms Club, and Harlon Joye, a New School SDSer and formerly editor of a 
defunct SDS magazine called Venture. Max, a dark, good-looking, serious, and intense 
young man, was a true "red-diaper baby"— his father was a former editor of the Worker— 
and he had been a member of the Communist Labor Youth League until he broke with the 
CP in 1956 while still in his early teens; he had graduated from high school but chose not to 
go on to college, devoting himself chiefly to political work and a few odd jobs. In a curious 
way he represented the Old Left rather than the New, an Old Left that had abandoned (as 
had the Communist Party) the sectarianism of the early thirties for what was in the sixties 
being called "realignment"— a reorganization of the Democratic Party into a party of liberals, 
blacks, poor, and those in the churches, labor unions, media, and universities; an Old Left 
that not only chose to work through conventional machinery (political parties) for immediate 
ends (electoral victories), but did so with a minimum of moralizing (willingness to 
compromise and work with imperfect others), a disdain of Utopian theorizing, and 
(especially characteristic of the young New York City leftists) a knowledge of the theories 
and experiences of the left of the thirties. Max, though young enough to feel the stirrings on 
the campuses and sensible enough to see that SDS might turn them to good advantage, 
was more or less tied to this tradition and he was profoundly disturbed by what he heard 
from Hayden about the manifesto. With a skill developed by years of political infighting on 
New York's sectarian left, he attacked Hayden's ideas for being insufficiently concrete, 
overly Utopian, weak on practical politics, and impossibly full of mysterious talk about 
"relevance" and "values." He urged instead a document with a more political cast, related to 
practical politics, which would "advocate political realignment and orient SDS to bringing 
realignment about"— a document, by coincidence, which his friend Brook just happened to 
be in the process of writing. Hayden, no mean debater himself, argued just as vigorously 
that a "political" analysis would produce too much of a "sectarian political line" for a broad- 
based group to follow, and smack too much of the discredited Old Left; and, he added, SDS 
"should have no single strategy such as realignment," since that would keep it from being 
open-ended and "receptive to new ideas." 

With the support of most of the NEC, Hayden managed to vote down the Max-Brook attack, 
but it was an important indication nonetheless of an incipient split in SDS ranks. It was 
generally conceived as a right-left split as time went on, with the "realignment" people 
regarded as rightists and the "value" people thought to be on the left, but at this point it 
was really more a difference in styles, in strategies, in emphasis, and, though little love was 
lost between the two factions, the difference was livable with. Still, Hayden came out of this 
conference more convinced than before of the need to set out a broad definition of common 
values rather than a lot of narrow statements about this or that political or economic policy, 
which he was now convinced was hopelessly outmoded. Throughout the month of May he 
worked on the manifesto, refined it, and buttressed it, and then on the first of June it was 
mimeographed at the New York headquarters. A week before the convention itself, more 
than a hundred copies of the final draft were sent out across the country. 



27 



Meanwhile, SDS was gathering itself for the convention. It had gotten a little publicity for 
joining an antitesting march of some five thousand people led by the Student Peace Union 
in front of the White House that February— one of the first strong manifestations of the new 
student spirit but which at the time got attention from the press largely because President 
Kennedy chose to send out coffee and cocoa to warm the protesters. It held a conference at 
Oberlin in April, organized by Oberlin student leader Rennie Davis, drawing over 120 people 
to discuss the form and purposes of campus political parties. It was also continuing to get 
attention with its civil-rights activity, chiefly through a conference in Chapel Hill just before 
the NEC meeting which was designed to enlist Southerners into the SNCC voter-registration 
cause. (The Chapel Hill meeting was a superficial failure in that it attracted very few 
Southerners, but it was another of those remarkable meetings where a lot of basically like- 
minded people got together, talked warmly, and felt themselves in union.) 

At this point SDS had about two thousand people on various mailing lists, about eight 
hundred or so who were considered members, of whom more than half had paid their 
dollar-a-year dues: evidence of some growth, though hardly spectacular, during the Haber 
tenure. Chapters of, as Haber put it, "varying degrees of success and constitutionality" were 
functioning at Michigan (a hundred members), Oberlin, Columbia, Swarthmore, Temple, 
Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Vassar, Earlham, and Central State (a small black school in Ohio 
which Don Freeman had enlisted); the New York City "at-large" membership was put at 
198. The National Office now had thirty-odd mimeographed pieces of literature on hand, 
though the speed and reliability with which they were sent out to those who asked for them 
was open to considerable fluctuation. (In fact the condition of the New York office led Haber 
to write at one point that spring, "I've lost all confidence in central office functioning," and 
to add at the bottom of one letter which was mailed two weeks after it was dated, "SDS 
screws up again.") The budget was now up to $10,000 a year, and apparently was being 
met by the LID, which in the preceding months had enjoyed its own good fortune with a 
variety of gifts— $7,500 from the American Federation of Labor, $5,000 from the estate of 
Mrs. Loula Lasker, $4,000 from the ILG— and had experienced its own minor revivification 
as Mike Harrington and trade unionist Emanuel Muravchik were added to the Student 
Activities Committee, Harry Fleischman became Executive Committee Chairman, and Vera 
Rony, who had directed the liberal-labor Workers' Defense League for the last six years, 
became Executive Director. 4 

SDS was, in fact, one of the most promising student groups going— though, given the still- 
modest strength of the student movement, this wasn't saying much. (The Student Peace 
Union probably had 3,000 members at this point. Campus ADA about the same. Turn 
Toward Peace perhaps half that, the Communist Party's Progressive Youth Organizing 
Committee was virtually defunct, YPSL had degenerated into a permanent floating faction 
fight, and there was very little else on the scene.) In fact Norman Thomas, as Michael 
Harrington remembers, was telling young people who asked his advice to go into SDS 
instead of YPSL so that they would avoid sterile faction fights and find something "more 
native, more healthy." 5 

It was somehow typical of SDS that two weeks before its scheduled convention it didn't 
have a place to hold it. The National Office had begun by looking for places in the Midwest, 
since the Michigan chapter was by far the largest in the country, but had scoured 
Pennsylvania and New York as well looking for something remote and cheap, and hadn't 
come up with a thing. Just fifteen days before the convention was to start Robb Burlage, a 
young activist from Texas then doing graduate work at Harvard, wrote to Haber, "I look 
forward to hearing from you further about ... such details as WHERE THE HELL IS IT GOING 
TO BE?" 



28 



Finally settled on, reluctantly and at the last minute, was the $250,000 FDR Camp 
belonging to the United Automobile Workers at Port Huron, Michigan, some forty miles north 
of Detroit at the southern end of Lake Huron; it was, by an unconscious bit of historical 
appropriateness, the same camp where SLID members had gone in the late forties and 
early fifties to be staff members for UAW summer retreats. According to SDS figures, 59 
people attended some or all of the five-day session from June 11 to 15, though only 43 of 
them were full-fledged members with constitutional power to cast votes, and no more than 
35 showed up at most of the working sessions.* The biggest delegations of voting members 
were from New York City (13) and Michigan (5), but there' were also representatives from 
chapters at Oberlin (3), Johns Hopkins (3), Swarthmore (2), and Earlham (1), while the 
Vassar chapter was represented by proxies and the Bowdoin group by an observer; no one 
attended from the chapters at Temple and Central State, and the Syracuse chapter hadn't 
made it through the spring intact. A number of voting members were unaffiliated with 
chapters or came representing other youth groups such as SNCC, Young Democrats, 
Campus ADA, Student Peace Union, NAACP, YPSL, and CORE. Three groups had nonvoting 
observers: the Young Christian Students, the National Student Christian Federation, and the 
Progressive Youth Organizing Committee. From the LID came Harry Fleischman, Michael 
Harrington, now generally regarded as the LID's "link to the youth," and Harold Taylor, 
former president of Sarah Lawrence College and a member of the Executive Committee. 
(There was at least one foreign visitor, Michael Vester, a member of the German SDS— 
Sozialistischer Deutsche Studentenbund, or League of German Socialist Students— who had 
been observing the American SDS for the previous few months.) Gary Weissman, former 
student body president at Wisconsin and a graduate student there, was elected chairman; 
Maria Varela, from Emmanuel College in Boston, was the secretary. 

Some idea of the thoroughly staid and unregenerately middle-class nature of the delegates 
is given by a look at those elected to the National Executive Committee— consisting of the 
President, Vice President, and fifteen members elected at large— at the end of the 
conference. All but five of them had already graduated from college (and of those five all 
but Max were going to school), and all but Robb Burlage (from Texas) had attended colleges 
east of the Mississippi. Four of the NEC officers were from the University of Michigan, two 
from Swarthmore, two from Wisconsin, two from Howard. Seven of them had been in 
elected positions in student government and four had gone on to work for the NSA. + 



Among those present: Paul Booth, Jim Brook, Robb Burlage, Judith Cowan, Richard Flacks, Don Freeman, Al 
Haber, Casey Hayden, Tom Hayden, Peter Henig, Sharon Jeffrey, Tim Jenkins, Tom Kahn, Mike Locker, Steve Max, 
Chuck McDew, Jim Monsonis, Ted Reed, Richard Roman, Bob Ross, Maria Varela, Monroe Wasch, Gary Weissman, 
and Bob Zellner. Among older participants, LIDers, and outside observers present were Harry Fleischman, Roger 
Hagan, Michael Harrington, Jim Hawley, Arnold Kaufman, Herschel Kaminsky, Michael Liebowitz, Don Slaiman, 
Harold Taylor, and Michael Vester. 

+ The NEC members were Tom Hayden, elected President, Paul Booth, Vice President, and Rebecca Adams 
(Swarthmore), Robb Burlage (then at Harvard), Ann Cook (Sarah Lawrence graduate, then at the Fletcher School), 
Judith Cowan (Wisconsin), Richard Flacks (Michigan graduate student), Betty Garman (Skidmore, then at 
Berkeley), Al Haber, Timothy Jenkins (Yale graduate student), Tom Kahn (Howard), Steve Max, Theodore Reed 
(Oberlin), Dick Roman (YPSL), Bob Ross (Michigan), Gary Weissman (Wisconsin), and Bob Zellner (Huntingdon, 
then SNCC). 



29 



The Port Huron meeting was essentially a drafting session, directed primarily to putting 
together a final document on the basis of Hayden's last version of the manifesto. The bulk 
of the work was done in small study groups into which the conference divided, one for the 
"values" section, one for economics, one for domestic politics, one for foreign affairs, and so 
on. These study groups made recommendations which were reported to the convention at 
large, and these were then debated upon according to a formula of bones-widgets-and- 
gizmos," under which bones (essential matters) could be given an hour's debate, gizmos 
(effluvia) only ten minutes, and widgets (of medium importance) something in between. 
Whole sections of the original draft were thrown out, the economics section was rewritten 
entirely, the values section was (in a shrewd stroke) moved up to the front, and many 
modifications suggested from the floor were adopted. The manifesto was such a growing 
document that the delegates couldn't even get through the business of approving it all by 
the last day and gave it over to a special committee headed by Hayden to produce a final 
statement. In fact, they left the manifesto-drafting convention without seeing the manifesto 
itself, which was not produced in full (and final) form until a full month later. 

What emerged from all this was a document not so much written as stitched together, with 
inevitable hallmarks of the committee system. It was heavily derivative of all those authors 
Hayden had been absorbing over the spring, especially C. Wright Mills, and it was heavily 
sprinkled with the rhetoric, often the jargon, of sociology. It was unabashedly middle class, 
concerned with poverty of vision rather than poverty of life, with' apathy rather than 
poverty, with the world of the white student rather than the world of the blacks, the poor, 
or the workers. It was set firmly in mainstream politics, seeking the reform of wayward 
institutions rather than their abolition, and it had no comprehension of the dynamics of 
capitalism, of imperialism, of class conflict, certainly no conception of revolution. But none 
of that mattered. For The Port Huron Statement so thoroughly plumbed and analyzed the 
conditions of mid-century American society, and so successfully captured and shaped the 
spirit of the new student mood, that it became not only a statement of principles for the few 
hundred students around SDS, not only a political expression for the hundreds who were to 
come into the organization in succeeding years, but even more a summary of beliefs for 
much of the student generation as a whole, then and for several years to come. 



30 



Nearly four-fifths of the final document is taken up with a thoroughgoing critique of the 
present American system in all its aspects— political parties, big businesses, labor unions, 
the military-industrial complex, the arms race, nuclear stockpiling, racial discrimination- 
coupled with a series of suggested reforms— party realignment, expanded public spending, 
disarmament, foreign aid, civil-rights programs, and increased welfare. On foreign policy, it 
seeks an end to the Cold War through "universal controlled disarmament" by careful stages, 
the downgrading of NATO, "denuclearization" of the Third World, "national inspection 
systems," and it calls for the acceptance of "neutralism as a tolerable principle" and of 
"authoritarian variants of socialism" in undeveloped countries; in domestic matters, it 
argues for greater democracy through a political realignment producing "two genuine 
parties" (including "the shuttling of Southern Democrats out of the Democratic Party"), the 
establishment of citizens' lobbies, increased "worker participation" in business management, 
an expanded "public sector" within the economy subject to popular control, and it urges a 
vastly expanded welfare state that would undertake a "program against poverty," and 
improve housing, medical care, social security, mental hospitals, prisons, schools, and 
farms. A good deal of this, of course, is fairly familiar reformist politics in the traditional 
mold of enlightened liberalism as represented by, say, the ADA— but what gave it a 
particular strength was its radical sense that all of these problems were interconnected, that 
there was a total system of America within which its multiple parts functioned, and that 
social ills in one area were intimately linked to those in another, so that solutions, too, had 
to be connected. Each part of the document is informed with the same overall vision, a 
vision of how men and communities can and should behave, and each subject that it takes 
up is measured against this vision and criticized accordingly. The initial importance of the 
manifesto, therefore, is that it shapes and gives coherence to the awakening political sense 
of this generation of students. 6 

Even more important, however, is the other one-fifth of the document, for this is the part 
that supplies the analysis from which the critique stems, enunciates the vision against which 
it is measured, and provides, for the new generation, the strategy by which it can be 
altered— in short, nothing less than an ideology, however raw and imperfect and however 
much they would have resisted that word. And it does so, moreover, with a power and 
excitement rare to any document, rarer still to the documents of this time, with a dignity in 
its language, persuasiveness in its arguments, catholicity in its scope, and quiet skill in its 
presentation. 

The analysis of the present system begins with the inescapable facts of militarism and 
racism ("the presence of the Bomb ... the permeating and victimizing fact of human 
degradation"), which it sees as only the two most glaring symbols of an America gone 
wrong: 

America rests in national stalemate, its goals ambiguous and tradition-bound 
instead of informed and clear, its democratic system apathetic and 
manipulated rather than "of, by, and for the people." ... The American 
political system is not the democratic model of which its glorifiers speak. In 
actuality it frustrates democracy by confusing the individual citizen, 
paralyzing policy discussion, and consolidating the irresponsible power of 
military and business interests ... . America is without community, impulse, 
without the inner momentum necessary for an age when societies cannot 
successfully perpetuate themselves by their military weapons, when 
democracy must be viable because of the quality of life, not its quantity of 
rockets. ... Americans are in withdrawal from public life, from any collective 
effort at directing their own affairs. 

The vision of a future system rests on a set of "social goals and values" that are quite 
simple, even classical, in isolation and quite potent in synergy. There is humanism: 



31 



We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities 
for reason, freedom, and love ... . Men have unrealized potential for self- 
cultivation, self-direction, self-understanding, and creativity. 



Individualism: 



The goal of men and society should be human independence ... . The 
individualism we affirm is not egoism [but the] kind that imprints one's 
unique individual qualities in the relation to other men, and to all human 
activity. 

Community: 

Human relationships should involve fraternity and honesty. Human 
interdependence is a contemporary fact; human brotherhood must be willed, 
however, as a condition of future survival and as the most appropriate form 
of social relations. Personal links between man and man are needed. 

And, as the medium for all the rest, participatory democracy: 

We seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation, 
governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social 
decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be 
organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their 
common participation. In a participatory democracy, the political life would be 
based in several root principles: that decision-making of basic social 
consequence be carried on by public groups; that politics be seen positively, 
as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations; 
that politics has the function of bringing people out of isolation and into 
community, thus being a necessary, though not sufficient, means of finding 
meaning in personal life; that the political order should ... provide outlets for 
the expression of personal grievance and aspiration [and] channels should be 
commonly available to relate men to knowledge and to power so that private 
problems— from bad recreation facilities to personal alienation— are 
formulated as general issues. 

And the strategy for getting from the present to the future is rooted in the awareness that 
students, academics, and intellectuals can forge a new left for America, using not the 
legislatures or the factories or the streets but the universities as the "potential base and 
agency in a movement of social change": 

1. Any new left in American must be, in large measure, a left with real 
intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as 
working tools. The university permits the political life to be an adjunct to the 
academic one, and action to be informed by reason. 

2. A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the 
country. The universities are distributed in such a manner. 

3. A new left must consist of younger people who matured in the post-war 
world, and partially be directed to the recruitment of younger people. The 
university is an obvious beginning point. 

4. A new left must include liberals and socialists, the former for their 
relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system. 
The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two 
traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis. 



32 



5. A new left must start controversy across the land, if national policies and 
national apathy are to be reversed. The ideal university is a community of 
controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond. 

6. A new left must transform modem complexity into issues that can be 
understood and felt close-up by every human being. It must give form to the 
feelings of helplessness and indifference, so that people may see the political, 
social and economic sources of their private troubles and organize to change 
society. In a time of supposed prosperity, moral complacency and political 
manipulation, a new left cannot rely on only aching stomachs to be the engine 
force of social reform. The case for change, for alternatives that will involve 
uncomfortable personal efforts must be argued as never before. The 
university is a relevant place for all of these activities. 

And there is the special and inescapable importance of The Port Huron Statement: it gave to 
those dissatisfied with their nation an analysis by which to dissect it, to those pressing 
instinctively for change a vision of what to work for, to those feeling within themselves the 
need to act a strategy by which to become effective. No ideology can do more. 

It was not only in drafting this new statement, however, that the Port Huron convention 
made a break with the past. In other ways as well it undertook a process, in some ways 
unconscious, of umbilicus-cutting, of separating themselves permanently from the politics — 
so starkly represented by the LID— of the postwar years. 

The convention began with a symbol of this break. Jim Hawley, the delegate from the 
Communist Progressive Youth Organizing Committee, had come along to the convention and 
asked to be seated as an observer. The people from YPSL, who had done furious battle with 
the Communists often enough in the past, objected, especially YPSL officers Roman and 
Kahn. But most of the SDSers, not veterans of these particular internecine battles and 
somehow not convinced that one Communist, acting as an observer, was going to push the 
organization into the Soviet camp, took a what-the-hell-let-him-sit attitude. " 'Observer' 
status was mere recognition that the PYOC member was there," the SDS leadership said 
later. "It implied no expression of fraternity or approval or even acceptance of him as a 
member of our 'community.' " Hawley was seated. 7 

As the convention continued, it became even clearer that SDSers were no longer going to 
play the anti-Communism tune that, like a Musak melody, had been so depressingly 
standard in the political offices of the fifties. The statement itself explicitly attacked that 
past: 

An unreasoning anti-communism has become a major social problem for 
those who want to construct a more democratic America. McCarthyism and 
other forms of exaggerated and conservative anti-communism seriously 
weaken democratic institutions and spawn movements contrary to the 
interest of basic freedoms and peace ... . Even many liberals and socialists 
[read: LID members] share static and repetitious participation in the anti- 
communist crusade and often discourage tentative, inquiring discussion about 
"the Russian question" within their ranks. 

It disputed the received Cold War view of the monolithic evil of the Soviet Union— "Our basic 
national policy-making assumption that the Soviet Union is inherently expansionist and 
aggressive ... is certainly open to question and debate"— and specifically blamed the United 
States for continuation of the Cold War: 

Our paranoia about the Soviet Union has made us incapable of achieving 
agreements absolutely necessary for disarmament and the preservation of 
peace ... . 



33 



There is, too, our own reluctance to face the uncertain world beyond the Cold 
War, our own shocking assumption that the risks of the present are fewer 
than the risks of a policy re-orientation to disarmament, our own 
unwillingness to face the implementation of our rhetorical commitments to 
peace and freedom. 

Now none of this of course implied any particular cordiality toward the Soviet Union or 
conviviality toward the doctrines of Communism. On the contrary, disclaimers— sincere 
ones, too, not meant to deceive— abound: "Such a harsh critique of what we are' doing as a 
nation by no means implies that sole blame for the Cold War rests on the United States," 
"There is Russian intransigence and evasiveness," "As democrats we are in basic opposition 
to the communist system," "The communist movement has failed, in every sense, to 
achieve its stated intentions of leading a worldwide movement for human emancipation," 
Russian and Chinese forced economic expansion is "brutal," the Berlin wall represents 
"inhumanity," and so on. But the other sentiments were sure to ruffle some feathers in New 
York. 

And in drafting a new constitution the convention went further in its break with the past, 
making several sweeping changes in the basic document that with only a few alterations 
had been the guiding light of the organization since 1946. It voted to scrap the original 
preamble: 8 

Students for a Democratic Society is a non-partisan educational organization 
which seeks to promote greater action participation on the part of American 
students in the resolution of present-day problems. It is hoped that such 
participation will contribute to their awareness of the need for the 
establishment in the United States of a cooperative commonwealth in which 
the principle regulating production, distribution, and exchange will be the 
supplying of human needs, and under which human rights will be protected 
and extended. 

In its place was put this formulation (which had been devised by Haber several months 
before): 

Students for a Democratic Society is an association of young people on the 
left. It seeks to create a sustained community of educational and political 
concern: one bringing together liberals and radicals, activists and scholars, 
students and faculty. 

It maintains a vision of a democratic society, where at all levels the people 
have control of the decisions which affect them and the resources on which 
they are dependent. It seeks a relevance through the continual focus on 
realities and on the programs necessary to effect change at the most basic 
levels of economic, political and social organization. It feels the urgency to 
put forth a radical, democratic program counterposed to authoritarian 
movements both of communism and the domestic right. 

The earlier version, as Haber told the group, smacked too much of the " 'we have a 
panacea' impression or the impression that the Utopia is defined solely by an economic 
principle," it was too explicitly limited to students rather than the university community at 
large, and it was too vaguely oriented to some kind of bland "participation." The new 
preamble was broader, unafraid of such words as "left" and "radical," and held to that 
humanism-in-sociologese which was characteristic of the manifesto itself. 

The convention also threw out the exclusion clause that had been the special pride of Harry 
Laidler, for most of its existence the guiding hand of the LID: 



34 



Advocates of dictatorship and totalitarianism and of any political system that 
fails to provide for freedom of speech, of press, of religion, of assembly, and 
of political, economic, and cultural organization; or of any system that would 
deny civil rights to any person because of race, color, creed, or national origin 
are not eligible for membership. 

In scrapping this as too negative and too "redbaiting," the delegates voted on a simpler, 
indeed rather a neat, formulation: 

SDS is an organization of democrats. It is civil libertarian in its treatment of 
those with whom it disagrees, but clear in its opposition to any totalitarian 
principle as a basis for government or social organization. Advocates or 
apologists for such a principle are not eligible for membership.* 

The convention also made other modifications in the constitution, which, though having 
nothing to do with anti-Communism, also signaled the new organization's independence. For 
one thing, it put into the charter Haber's conception of loose affiliation with campus groups: 
SDS would recognize not only formal chapters (which now needed only five members rather 
than the ten required heretofore) but also "associated groups" of independent campus clubs 
and "fraternal organizations" such as NSA and Campus ADA; and these chapters would no 
longer be required to adhere to the national organizational line or to report their 
independent stands to the NEC. For another, it established a new body, the National 
Council— composed of the seventeen national officers and delegates from each chapter— 
which was to meet regularly to establish policy on specific issues, freeing the annual 
convention for broad outlines and general orientation, and which was to become a kind of 
periodic town-meeting-of-the-college for quick and accurate readings of the campus pulse. 
Finally, it decided to spell out de jure the independence from the LID which Haber had won 
de facto the year before: "The SDS shall be autonomously constituted though its policy and 
functioning shall be within the broad aims and principles of the LID." 



* In later years even this was seen as too exclusionary, but for Haber, its primary creator, as for many others of 
the early SDS generation, it was a way of asserting a genuine revulsion to authoritarianism and at the same time 
avoiding anti-Communism. As Haber explained in an essay on "exclusionism" three years later, "SDS rejects the 
formulation of anti-communism implicit (and explicit) in the exclusionist position. This rejection should not, 
however, be confused with an acceptance or tolerance of authoritarian or totalitarian values." (SDS paper, 1965, 
excerpted in Massimo Teodori, The New Left: A Documentary History, p. 218.) Ironically, just four years after that, 
"anti-communism" was carefully employed by SDS, though in a completely reversed way: the members of one SDS 
faction expelled the Progressive Labor Party faction because PLP was held to be "anti-communist," while they 
themselves were the "true" communists 



35 



There was no confusion among the Port Huron delegates as to the dimensions of their 
departure from the past, and if there had been it would have been dispelled on the 
convention floor itself, where a number of the older participants made it abundantly clear 
that they thought it an unrelieved tragedy. Chief among them were Michael Harrington, a 
veteran socialist who had done many battles with Communist groups during the days of the 
fifties when the issue of how many Lenins could dance on the head of a pin divided the tiny 
forces of the left into more factions than there were Lenins, and Donald Slaiman, a veteran 
trade unionist who was working as an executive for the unremittingly anti-Communist AFL- 
CIO, and between them they carried on a vigorous floor fight against the new changes. 
Harrington was appalled by much of the manifesto draft— especially the sections which he 
felt were calculated to infuriate liberals, upon whom his realignment politics depended, and 
the parts taking a bland and insufficiently critical attitude toward the Soviet Union and other 
authoritarian regimes— and he didn't hesitate to make this clear to the younger delegates 
with all his considerable powers of argumentation and oratory. But the new generation 
found an unexpected defender of its policies in Roger Hagan, a liberal who had been active 
in the peace-oriented Committee of Correspondence of the period and who shared their 
sense of the futility of earlier Cold War formulations. "Hagan was a very important figure for 
us," Paul Booth recalls; "he was like an elder statesman, and he gave people a lot of 
confidence" 9 in standing up to Harrington. The debates between the two, perhaps the most 
vivid clashes of the convention, ended with the draft formulations more or less intact, and 
the constitutional changes unaltered.* 

The delegates left Port Huron after just five days together with a clear sense that they were 
starting something new, something fresh, something different from all that had gone 
before. Paul Booth says: 

We were exhilarated at the end— it was a tremendous experience. We were 
physically at the end of our rope— the last session went all night— but we 
really thought that we had done a great job. We knew we had a great 
document. 

Max, who remembers this euphoria as "more like grogginess"— "when we saw that sun come 
up on the last day, I think we were all pretty fuzzy-headed"— also remembers the sense that 
for the first time a bunch of like-minded people got together and "really got something 
done," coming away with a sense that, "if there are so many of us who feel the same way, 
we can form a real organization." Perhaps Bob Ross says it best: "It was a little like starting 
a journey." 10 



1 Hayden, ibid. Hayden's initial thoughts are from mimeographed letters (Convention 
Documents #1-3), undated (spring 1962). 

2 "We must have," "Student Social Action," SDS pamphlet, 1962, reprinted (with errors) in 
Cohen and Hale (1967), pp. 272 ff. 

3 "not much letter-writing," anonymous minutes of SDS-LID meeting, July C 1962. For 
Chapel Hill meeting, mimeographed minutes (Burlage's copy), and Harlon Joye, Common 
Sense (published by FDR Four Freedoms Club, New York), spring 1962. 



* Maria Varela recalls her attitude— and possibly that of the majority of the delegates— to that battle: "I couldn't 
figure out why Harrington and his buddy [Slaiman] were so upset at Huron and found out later it was because the 
Statement didn't take an anti-Stalinist stand ... . and even when I found that out it didn't make any sense to me." 
(Letter to author, February 15, 1970.) 



36 



4 Membership figures and "varying degrees," minutes of Chapel Hill meeting. "I've lost all," 
letter to Burlage, April 18,1962. "SDS screws up," letter to Burlage, May 16, 1962. LID 
finances. Harry Laidler papers, Tamiment. 

5 Thomas, quoted by Harrington, interview. Burlage, letter to Haber and Hayden, May 
26,1962. "SDS figures," mimeographed "Appeal Statement" from SDS to LID, July 12,1962. 

6 The Port Huron Statement was first mimeographed and later printed as a pamphlet by 
SDS, available in most major libraries; small portions have been reprinted in Cohen and 
Hale (1967), pp. 292 ff., Jacobs and Landau, pp. 150 ff., and Teodori, pp. 163 ff. 

7 " 'Observer' status," SDS "Appeal Statement," op. cit. 

8 The 1962 constitution is reprinted in the appendix; earlier versions are in the archives. 

9 Harrington, interview. "Hagan was" and "We were," Booth, interview. 

10 Max, interview. Ross, quoted in Newfield, p. 96. 



37 



Summer 1962 

It is not difficult to feel that the Port Huron convention was a pristine example of, in Lewis 
Feuer's phrase, the conflict of generations. 1 The umbilicus-cutting need not have been a 
wholly conscious act on the part of the delegates, but the effect of the convention 
nonetheless was to put the world, and the LID, on notice that something new had been 
born, and with all the talent of the newborn for making noise beyond any calculation of its 
size. 

The LID was bound to react, and, as Mike Harrington among others had told the convention 
time and again, the reaction was predictable: "They'll go through the roof." They did, and 
Harrington was among the first into the shingles. The morning of the next to last day he 
returned to New York and gave the LID a blow by blow report of what the convention had 
wrought. The LID called SDS onto the carpet. 

Of course the LID leaders realized that with the concession made to Haber the year before it 
was inevitable that SDS would continue to assert its independence from the parent 
organization in various ways. Indeed, SDSers all year long had been talking about their 
independent position, and Haber himself had had a long meeting with Student Activities 
Committee Chairman Emanuel Muravchik in the middle of May at which he tried to get the 
SDS position across. But the elders apparently never expected the treachery of Port Huron, 
and it was not long before they began to feel very much like a corporate Dr. Frankenstein. 

On Thursday, June 28, some two weeks after the convention, the LID held the first meeting 
with SDSers. Harry Fleischman and Vera Rony heard firsthand what Port Huron had done, 
and they were horrified. "To our amazement," as Rony put it just afterward, 

... the SDS convention adopted a policy statement which placed the blame 
for the cold war largely upon the U.S ... . The students placed the blame for 
the present impasse on nuclear disarmament largely upon the U.S. and 
bitterly scored our foreign policy as a whole, while making the merest passing 
criticism of Soviet actions in this sphere. In addition, Communist youth 
observers were seated at the convention and given speaking rights ... After 
these events, the LID Executive Committee met to decide the position of the 
adult organization. It was the general view that we could not countenance a 
student body which disagreed with us on basic principles and adopted a 
popular front position. 2 

And so Haber, still the National Secretary, and Hayden, the new President of the 
organization, were summoned to a "hearing" to "discover whether or not the officers of the 
SDS acted and plan to act in accordance with the basic principles of the parent organization. 
Until that time no materials, manifestos, constitutions, or other publications having to do 
with policy in any way, shape or form whatsoever may be mailed or distributed by the 
students under the identification of SDS." SDS, by the tone of the summons, was clearly 
condemned in advance. 

At three o'clock on Friday, July 6, the hearing began. The LID was represented by 
Fleischman, Rony, Harrington, Roman, and Muravchik, the SDS by Haber, Hayden, and 
NECers Tim Jenkins, Robb Burlage, and Betty Garman, with a dozen other SDSers waiting 
nervously in the SDS office downstairs. The LID case, though more often sputtered than 
reasoned, was based largely on the issue of anti-Communism, but the hearing began with 
the argument that the convention was neither valid nor representative. As Harrington put it 
to the students: 



39 



Let's get to the broad problem. There is no SDS as a functioning organization 
with a political life. It does not exist. So how can you get a representative 
convention from a nonorganization? Besides, this document of cosmic scope 
was given to the delegates— that's obviously not representative. It would 
require a year's discussion to get a really representative document. This can't 
even try to express the view of the people who were there— even that's not 
possible in such a short meeting. A founding convention should take ten days 
to two weeks and a year of discussion. 3 

Hayden answered that there was an organization, there was a convention, and "SDS will 
grow as an organization to the extent it has a political position— and for that it must draw 
up a large statement first." As to the statement, it's not meant to be a manifesto— "We 
identify it not as that, but as the beginning of a dialogue, as it says right on the cover." 

Then the attack began in earnest, starting with the seating of the PYOC observer: 

Rony: "Do you think that the LID would allow a communist-front group to be 
seated at a convention? Do you think you're trying to run SDS within LID as 
the elders would?" 

Harrington: "There is a basic clash here between SDS's and Lid's concept of 
how to deal with other groups ... . PYOC is the youth group of the CP! — it's 
not a front group. There's a tradition, and a good one, not to give it a voice or 
vote in the community." 

Harden: "But we just allowed him to be seated, without any declaration 
implying support or condemnation." 

Harrington: "We should have nothing to do with those people." 

Fleishman: "Would you give seats to the Nazis too?" 

Harrington: "United frontism means accepting reds to your meeting ... . You 
knew this would send LID through the roof. This issue was settled on the left 
ten or twenty years ago— and that you could countenance any united frontism 
now is inconceivable. And you voted down the authoritarianism section [of the 
constitution], too." 

Harden: "United frontism is a slanderous charge. We're not supporting these 
groups but merely stating our opinions procedurally." 

And then the statement's alleged "softness on communism": 

Rony: "We too are critical of the U.S., but we believe the U.S.S.R. is clearly morally as 
vulnerable, or more so. This position [in the document] makes it impossible to talk to 
the American people as a whole. There's no mention of Russia breaking the test ban- 
no reference— the American public must notice this." 

Fleishman: "It is the feeling of the Executive Committee that there is a 'single 
standard' lacking— this lambastes the U.S. and taps the Soviets on the wrist."* 

Rony: "Hungary is dismissed. The Berlin Wall. You don't even mention their faults. 
Testing. Hungary ... ." 

Harden: "We are not blind toward the Soviet Union, just read the sections. And just 
read the values section— there absolutely aren't double standards— we use a single 
standard. You have to look at the document." 



The Student Peace Union's constitution embodied the Lid's idea: "Members ... are willing to apply to both East 
and West the same standards of criticism." 



40 



Harrington: "Document shmocuments. Slaiman and I said that this was antithetical to 
the LID and everything it's stood for." 

Harden: "There was no notion at Port Huron that these differences were irreconcilable. 
The document doesn't confuse community and fraternity." 

And so it went, for better than two hours. The LID brought out other arguments, too. They objected to 
the fact that Steve Max had been chosen as a Field Secretary for the fall— his father was a Communist, 
you know, and wasn't he a Communist himself once? They harked back to a demonstration earlier that 
year at which SDS had joined other groups including PYOC in demonstrating against a rally held by 
the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom. They objected to the convention's sending greetings to 
a Japanese "World Conference Against Atom and Hydrogen Bombs and for the Prevention of Nuclear 
War," led by a pro-Soviet group (though in fact the greetings were sent by Haber rather than the 
convention and were by no means uncritical). 

The hearing eventually disintegrated into isolated cocoons of anger. Both sides were so 
deeply involved, in a sense so disappointed in the other, that they could no longer hear. 
Haber ended the meeting by saying that the LID reaction was based on premature evidence 
and that Harrington's and Slaiman's arguments at the convention itself had been "taken to 
heart" in drafting the final version; he suggested the meeting adjourn until the following 
week, when he hoped to have the final statement ready for the LID to read with care. The 
SDSers left. 

It seemed like a temporary truce. It wasn't. An hour later Rony called Haber to say that the 
Executive Board had made several decisions: the elections which took place at the 
convention would be allowed to stand, but the staff members— Haber and Hayden— were off 
salary from that moment; the LID would have to have final approval over all documents for 
the time being; the LID would eventually appoint a secretary for the student division who 
would be responsible not to SDS but to the LID Executive Committee. What she didn't say 
was that the LID had cut off all funds for SDS, was hoping to confiscate the mailing lists so 
that no appeals could be directed over its head, and was in the process of changing the lock 
on the SDS office door. This last act, which SDSers didn't discover until Monday morning, 
was particularly galling to the students— more than anything else during the whole dispute it 
served over the next few years to symbolize what they saw as the petty-mindedness, the 
decadence, even the totalitarianism, of the LID: "Well," they would say more than once, 
"they locked us out of our own office, you know." 

On July 1, 1962, some fifty people meeting at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City 
established a new political organization on the left. Its fourteen-member coordinating 
committee consisted entirely of people who had been members of the Communist Party and 
quit or were purged in late 1961 and early 1962 for being "ultraleftists" and "agents of the 
Albanian party"— i.e., "Maoists." Among them: Milton Rosen, who became chairman of the 
new group; Mortimer Scheer, vice chairman and head of West Coast operations; Fred 
Jerome, the editor of the group's five-month-old magazine; and Bill Epton, a black man. The 
name of the organization: the Progressive Labor Movement. 4 

The enormity of the gulf between the two generations only slowly dawned on the SDSers, 
who had expected at most a little sniping but nothing like this barrage. Except for Haber, 
they didn't know the LID leadership well, and their experience with such LIDers as 
Harrington and Harold Taylor did not prepare them for the assault. Their reaction was 
seething anger. 

Thirteen of the top nineteen officers (President, Vice President, NEC, and staff) came into 
New York, prepared for battle. Bob Ross recalls, with excusable synecdoche, "All of us felt 
our careers were going to be ruined, and America's best liberals were on the lip of red- 
baiting us out of existence. We knew we weren't communists, but the idea that our parent 
organization thought we were, was Kafkaesque." 5 



41 



Steve Max, in whose apartment the SDSers gathered to debate what to do next, remembers 
the fear of a McCarthyite attack: "We knew the LID would spend its energies trying to 
blackball us and make us some Communist organization if we broke with them." Paul Booth 
says, "They were vicious, personally vicious." Hayden took it especially hard. He had been 
fairly close friends with Harrington, who had sent him one of the first copies of The Other 
America, and they had drunk, traveled, and communed together. In fact, he had had a 
vision of a career not unlike that of Harrington's— a Catholic boy from the Midwest coming to 
New York to be a writer, to play a part in the liberal-socialist intellectual community— and he 
assumed that he would be accepted easily there, or, if there were disagreements, that they 
would be debated freely in the left community known for its democratic traditions and civil 
libertarian stands. To find that this community was petty, rigid, and mean was a blow. He 
told Jack Newfield, the Village Voice writer, then also in SDS, "It taught me that social 
democrats aren't radicals and can't be trusted in a radical movement. It taught me what 
social democrats really think about civil liberties and organizational integrity." 6 

The SDS leaders met almost continuously Sunday and Monday in Max's apartment. (On 
Friday they had, with foresight, taken the mailing list from their offices, assuring for 
themselves what is, in the print-oriented world of the left, a most powerful weapon.) Shock 
and hurt eventually gave way to determination, a determination that may in the end have 
been as important as the Port Huron meeting itself in solidifying the fragile young 
organization. 

There was considerable sentiment to split from the LID entirely, but there were several 
practical reasons against it. Primarily, SDS relied heavily on LID income, office space, and 
equipment, which would be enormously difficult to replace at any time, but almost 
impossible if SDS were to be branded as a pro-Soviet, popular-fronting. Communist- 
infiltrated organization. Moreover, some argued, a student organization cut adrift from the 
liberal community would probably have no means of building wide political support and no 
means of enlisting that community on its behalf, things that all SDSers agreed then was 
crucial to any real change in the country. Finally, many of them thought it would be 
possible, if the present trouble could be weathered without any substantial compromise, to 
end-run the LID in the fall and carry on at the colleges as if nothing had happened; the 
LIDers would be too tired and too busy to spend very much time finding out what was going 
on from day to day, anyway. 

The decision of the NEC, therefore— with one negative vote and one abstention, presumably 
the two YPSLites, Roman and Kahn— was to make a vigorous and uncompromising appeal to 
the LID Board. Hayden was set the task of compiling a statement of appeal to be presented 
to an emergency LID Executive Committee meeting called for July 12, and for the next 
three days SDSers worked almost around the clock. On the morning of the twelfth they 
came up with a twenty-seven-page single-spaced document whose completeness, honesty, 
and lack of compromise, if nothing else, must have impressed the LID elders. 



42 



The appeal document began by complaining about how the LID handled the crisis: "We have 
been maligned by deliberate anti-democratic procedure." It assailed the Lid's firings without 
a proper hearing, its use of financial sanctions, and its unilateral interference with SDS 
staff: "Such meddling is at all times alien to the effort to honor and stimulate internal 
democratic mechanisms in a developing organization." It dismissed the charges of popular 
frontism as "a splicing of falsehood, exaggeration and slander," and carefully and 
methodically quoted from The Port Huron Statement to show that, though the analysis was 
hard on America, it was by no means pro-Soviet. And, throughout, it put forth a case for 
SDS's independence from the parent group without censorship or control, and, with more 
ingenuousness than straightforwardness, suggested that any conflicts resulting from this 
would merely "provide the basis for dialogue between well-defined adult traditions and a 
new and inquiring student tradition ... . Friction between the generations represented in the 
LID is both necessary and proper— and a spark of hope for change in our times." 7 

The emergency meeting was inconclusive. The LID had cooled to the point where they were 
looking for ways to save the relationship rather than cut SDS adrift, but they were still 
worried and threatened by the creeping New Leftism, and they wanted to be able to assert 
some control. They gave the office back, agreed to give Hayden and Haber a special hearing 
and consider the question of severance pay for them, and, having taken the time to read it, 
they found that the revised manifesto really wasn't so bad as they had at first supposed and 
agreed to let it be issued.* But they still demanded a "regular review" of the major SDS 
papers and of the groups with which SDS wanted to cooperate, and they still wanted an 
LID-paid Student Secretary to oversee National Office work, in the ancient tradition of the 
forties and fifties. 

The cutting edge for SDS within LID councils was Harold Taylor, and he apparently played a 
crucial role in modifying LID rigidity, helped by young Andrew Norman and old Norman 
Thomas. As he was to say several years later: 

In the debates and difficulties which ensued [from the convention], ... I was 
impressed not only by the intelligence and forcefulness with which these 
young men of twenty-two made arguments which were essentially my own, 
but by the fact that they showed more faith in the power of democracy and in 
what they could do with it in political action than did their elders in the parent 
organization. 8 

In the series of informal meetings between SDS and LID which occupied most of July this 
support for the students proved valuable in forcing the LID Board members to reconsider, 
especially coming from one who not only was a well-known educator but who also had been 
financially generous to the LID in the past. 



Harrington has acknowledged (in an interview with the author) that he made two serious mistakes in reacting to 
the convention: he judged it on a preliminary document, which in its final version was toned down to meet some of 
the objections he had made on the floor, and he let his personal anger at what he felt was a betrayal of true 
radicalism by this new breed of leftists interfere with his basic sense that the students should be educated into the 
realities of politics, not shunted off and excluded from them. Not long thereafter he publicly recanted and 
apologized for the form, if not the substance, of his objections. 



43 



As talks between the two factions continued, tempers faded and both began to see the 
wisdom of compromise. Gradually it became clear to the SDS that the basic work of the 
convention— the manifesto, officers, and constitution— would be allowed to stand, and that 
the LID would settle for the imposition of its own National Secretary and a few meaningless 
bows to "dialogue" and "cooperation"— nothing that couldn't be gotten around. The LID 
elders just didn't have the staying power, or even the same passionate concern, that the 
SDSers did, nor was their own organizational house that much in order. By the end of July it 
was apparent that they were willing to settle the affair with a few face-saves: Haber was to 
leave the New York office, and in his stead Jim Monsonis was to serve as the LID-paid 
National Secretary; the LID would draw up a "statement of principles" for all to see and 
abide by; a "dialogue" was to continue between the students and the Student Activities 
Committee; and that committee would have the nominal right to review SDS documents 
issued in the name of the organization (which were few, since most papers SDS sent out 
were written by and credited to individuals). 

SDS, sadder, wiser, but organizationally pretty much unscathed, agreed. In late July 
Hayden scribbled a note to Burlage: "Things are 'patched.' 9 Monsonis hired; LID without $$, 
still trying to write their 'statement of principles.' " The next month Muravchik, Fleischman, 
Thomas, and Harrington flew out to Columbus to cement things with the SDSers at that 
year's NSA meeting, and their attitude was genuinely conciliatory, expressive of their desire 
to keep the student division. Port Huron stood intact. But the post-Port Huron experience 
was a searing one for the young radicals. The awakening as to how political affairs are 
conducted in the real world, at least by those of the Old Left, was sharp, but all the better 
remembered for its sharpness. Increasingly they came to see the LID as a temporary 
convenience, cynically feeling that they would use it, but no longer trusting it. Increasingly, 
too, they came to feel their own strength, their own unity, their own distance from the past. 
The events of that summer shaped a new kind of organization, gave reality to a new 
movement. 

The impact of The Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society— its 
official name by the time of the final mimeographing in July— was remarkably swift, 
considering the times. It was handed out at the NSA meeting, instantly became the object 
of heated discussions, and right then and there won over a handful of NSA delegates into 
SDS ranks. One NSAer, Vivian Franklin from the University of Texas, was so taken with the 
document that she spent hours discussing it with the SDSers around and, as she wrote to 
Robb Burlage: 

By the time I started home, I felt a very real identity with the group, and 
found myself rather sad to be leaving them ... . Upon arriving here, I went 
over The Port Huron Statement in detail and now find myself enthusiastic 
over the vision put forward therein to the point of effervescing these ideas to 
anyone even faintly inclined to have a comprehending ear. 10 



44 



A month later she was an SDS member, two months later she was asking for more copies of 
The Port Huron Statement to give her friends, and three months later she was the organizer 
of a successful SDS civil-rights conference in Dallas. As soon as school opened in the fall, 
other people had similar reactions. SDS chapters quickly distributed the statement around— 
often the National Office's slowness in reproducing copies meant that one tattered 
document passed through the hands of a dozen students— and found that arguments and 
adherents were produced with surprising regularity. By November the New York office was 
completely out of copies and trying to find time to mimeograph more. In the next two years 
no fewer than twenty thousand mimeographed copies (sixty-six single-spaced pages) were 
sent out from the National Office; in late 1964 another twenty thousand copies were printed 
as a small sixty-four-page booklet, which also was sold out after two years, and in the fall of 
1966 still another twenty thousand copies were printed up: The Port Huron Statement may 
have been the most widely distributed document of the American left in the sixties. 

The Port Huron Statement marks the end of SDS's period of reorganization and the 
beginning of SDS's serious, though as yet limited, impact on the campuses. It sets the tone 
for the years ahead. Its stated appeal to the privileged student— "bred in at least modest 
comfort, housed now in universities"— attracts the brighter, the consciously intellectual, 
youths at the best and most prestigious colleges, those of middle-class background or 
aspiration who were the leaders of the "postscarcity" generation. Its spirit of (in Todd 
Gitlin's phrase) radical disappointment in America and its liberalism strikes a chord among 
those who had come to feel that a nation of lofty ideals had become perverted by 
militarism, racism, apathy, materialism, and cynicism. Its visions of reform energize those 
who have newly awakened to activism and seek to reassert America's values, regenerate its 
institutions, reorganize its priorities. 

The Port Huron Statement, as it stresses in its introduction, is "a beginning": "in our own 
debate and education, in our dialogue with society," in the establishment of a new 
organization, in the creation of a new ideology, in the development of a new student 
movement and a new left. It marked, Harold Taylor was to observe some years later, "a 
turning point in American political history, the point at which a coalition of student 
movements had become possible and a radical student movement had been formed. It also 
marked the coming of age of the new generation." 11 



1 Feuer, The Conflict of Generations, Basic Books, 1969. 

2 Rony, memo to LID Executive Board, July 12,1962. Hearings summons, SDS "Appeal 
Statement," op. cit. 

3 Quotations from extensive handwritten notes taken by one of the SDSers, possibly 
Hayden. 

4 "ultraleftists," etc. quoted in Newfield, p. 114. 

5 Ross, in Newfield, p. 98. Max, interview. Booth, interview. Hayden, in Newfield, p. 108. 

6 apartment meeting, from Max and Booth, interviews. 

7 SDS "Appeal Statement," op. cit. 

8 Taylor, Students Without Teachers, McGraw-Hill, 1969, p. 40. 

9 Hayden, on letter from Haberto Burlage, undated (July 1962). 

10 Franklin, letter to Burlage, August 1962. 



45 



11 Taylor, Students Without Teachers, p. 41. 

Reform 1962-1965 

In the summer of 1963 the SDS National Convention saw America entering a New Era, an 
era marked by insurgency against both the tokenism of the New Frontier and the 
conservatism of the traditional Right, and by a growing demand for a society free from war 
and poverty. 

Since that summer much has happened to justify those who saw this insurgency as only a 
beginning: the development of mass movements based around economic issues in cities like 
Chester, Pennsylvania, a March on Washington linking the demands of full employment and 
civil rights, cooperation of students and workers in demanding jobs and justice for the 
unemployed in cities like Hazard, Kentucky, and the rapid growth of SDS itself. 

But with the new possibilities for a radical movement in America must come new 
questioning— about the sort of society we are trying to create, about the ways to achieve 
that society. 

—In which American institutions are the potentialities for radical action the 
greatest? 

—How must American institutions be reshaped to create a true democracy? 

—Around what issues is a genuine movement of the poor most likely to be 
created? 

—What steps can be taken to move the American middle class in a radical 
direction? 

—What attitude should community organizers take toward electoral action? 

—What useful roles are there for radicals who cannot be full-time activists or 
organizers? 

—What should be the program of SDS in 1964-65? 

—Invitation to the SDS 
National Convention, May 1964 

Fall 1962-Spring 1963 

From October 22 to October 29, 1962, the SDS office at 112 East Nineteenth Street was in 
a turmoil. The phones were occupied at all hours, the ancient typewriters clacked 
incessantly, the new $300 multilith machine, the organization's proudest symbol of 
becomingness, churned out broadsheets and announcements far into the night. Little knots 
of people would gather at any time of day and start talking animatedly about bold action, or 
sudden trips to Canada and Sweden, or at least some kind of protest right here in New York 
City. And in the center of this storm, Jim Monsonis, who had been National Secretary for 
just three months, did his best to cope— he would talk on the phone to distant colleagues, 
take phone calls from SDSers in Michigan and Georgia, hold impromptu meetings— but there 
was little he could do. 

This was not a sudden deluge of memberships, or another lockout by the LID, or an 
unexpected collapse of the leadership. This was the Cuban missile crisis. 1 



46 



It was a searing event in the lives of people everywhere, one of those few what-were-you- 
doing-when moments of history, but the terror of it went especially deep into those under 
twenty, who had grown up never knowing a world without nuclear annihilation: "It's 
remarkable," recalls Steve Max, who was around the SDS office at the time, "how many 
people thought they were going to die in the missile crisis— really remarkable." But for many 
the event held more than terror; it showed that the United States government was, for all 
its talk and all the energies of the peace movement, prepared to use nuclear weapons when 
it chose to, and it showed that the majority of the population, including many of those 
trumpeting themselves as liberals, was quite willing to let it. Those SDSers who still had 
liberal scales on their eyes were prepared to shed them now. 2 

It was clearly a moment for action, but SDS did not know how to act. There was no 
machinery in the organization for swiftly organizing a national protest in the face of an 
unforeseen event; there was not even any provisional mechanism by which SDS could 
officially issue a press release— written by whom? approved by what?— or officially approve 
a joint march or statement. SDSers spontaneously ignited local protests at such places as 
Cornell, Michigan, Texas, and New York, but when they called the National Office to find out 
what the SDS position was or what SDS as an organization was going to do, Monsonis could 
tell them nothing. As he ruefully said later, "That's one of the problems in the way we're 
currently set up." One of the problems that would nag. 3 

Monsonis did at any rate keep his wits. In a letter he sent out during the tense first week 
when Russian ships were steaming to Cuba, he wrote, "We're all ready to head to the 
nearest ILGWU local— if radical change is going to come to our society (e.g., a bomb), the 
ILG will be the last place to change." 

The National Office— the NO, as everyone called it— was obviously incapable of responding 
to crises with anything more than wry humor, but it was nonetheless the core of the SDS 
operation during the 1962-1963 school year. It wasn't much— a few desks, some wooden 
chairs, typewriters that worked fitfully, telephones, piles of paper, and file cabinets in 
uncertain order— but when everyone returned to school that fall and the Port Huron 
euphoria wore off, it was still the only real manifestation of the new organization. 

In a sense— a sense that even SDSers of the time subliminally realized— the NO was a 
contradiction. A student group that wants the growth of decentralized communities where 
participatory democracy can operate has at its center a single, centralized office. People 
who bridle at rigidity, bureaucracy, form filling, and parietal rules establish an office with all 
the inevitable trappings of the system they condemn. Burgeoning anticapitalists express 
themselves through a classic capitalist organization, the Home Office. Utopians cluster 
around a dystopian organizational form. 

And the organizational form is not merely trivial, lightly to be circumvented. Organizations 
are shaped by the societies in which they live, and they shape even those who ostensibly 
control them. Mid-century American organizations partook of their culture as the maggot 
partakes of the corpse. SDS almost without even thinking of it became an organization of 
officers at the top and bureaucratic administrators below, constitutions and bylaws, 
parliamentary meetings and points of order, conventions and committees, mimeograph 
machines and official documents, letters in triplicate and bills paid monthly, lists of 
members and calculations of dues, accounts receivable and payable, mailing lists, files, 
phones, a central office. Plus all the attendant habits and characteristics that this suggests: 
the dominance of males, especially those who can talk and manipulate (sexually or 
politically) best; the emphasis on form, legality, precedent, rules; the unconscious division 
into those who lead and those who follow, those who talk and those who listen, those who 
propose and those who do, those who write the pamphlets and those who mimeograph 
them. 



47 



It was not that the NO didn't try. The three officers— Monsonis, National Secretary, Don 
McKelvey, Assistant National Secretary, Max, Field Secretary— were diligent, active, 
dedicated people. But neither their long hours nor short pay nor selflessness could 
overcome the fact that they were organizationally trapped. 

Monsonis was a serious, hard-working, rather colorless type who had gotten interested in 
SDS through his work with the National Student Christian Federation and SNCC and 
retained an essentially wide-eyed social-worker attitude— it was his apparent moderateness 
that made him so attractive to the LID when they were searching for a "safe" National 
Secretary. He was not without a sense of politics, but he had neither the solidness of a 
Haber nor the bite of a Hayden: he complained at one point, for example, that The Port 
Huron Statement failed to make any mention of class but at the same time he wondered 
why the statement didn't take account of the work of organized religions. He was nothing if 
not earnest: as he put it a couple of months after taking over the job, "I'm gradually getting 
acclimated to a sixteen-hour day, no money, and lots of problems." And for the earthly 
reward of $300 a month ($54 of which went for his Lower East Side apartment), and that 
was paid sporadically. 4 

McKelvey was quite a different type. A 1960 graduate of Haverford, he was somewhat older 
than the others, and, he says today, a Maoist even then (though he managed to disguise it 
neatly enough at the time). A chubby, sloppy, personable fellow, he was always regarded as 
something of an oddball. He undertook the job of being a part-time office worker for SDS in 
the fall of 1962 because he had read and liked The Port Huron Statement and because the 
people he knew in YPSL and the Student Peace Union had told him the SDSers were 
dangerously radical: "My friends all told me you'd better stay away from Hayden and Haber, 
so naturally I went to them first." The part-time job turned out to take upwards often hours 
a day, at $28 a week, and it lasted two years— "a real martyr," someone said of him later, 
"but a real worker." 5 

The third stalwart was Steve Max, whom the LID had reluctantly agreed to let SDS have as 
Field Secretary, though they refused to pay him a salary because they were still suspicious 
of his Communist background; the NEC at its meeting after the NSA convention in Columbus 
decided that individual members would pledge themselves to keep him alive with monthly 
donations out of their own pockets, but inevitably these materialized only occasionally and 
Max was kept alive mostly by guile and petty cash. Max was a tireless traveler, up and 
down the East Coast, though most of his work that fall was concentrated around the 
Boston-area, where he not only had a girl friend but (quite consistent with his realignment 
politics) could also infiltrate the Senatorial campaign of H. Stuart Hughes. 



48 



To a remarkable degree, these three were SDS after things settled down that fall, and 
remained the nucleus throughout the year. Haber had been shunted off to Ann Arbor, where 
he occupied himself in graduate work, "savoring a return to the books," as he put it after 
two years away; and Hayden did a lot of traveling as SDS President— visiting several 
chapters in the fall, speaking to a university-reform conference in December, to the NSA in 
January, to Michigan-area colleges in the spring— but at the same time he was going to 
school at Michigan, was involved with personal problems in part having to do with his wife, 
who went south to join SNCC, and was doing a lot of rethinking about his future in the wake 
of the LID blowup. The burden on the NO was enormous: at one point during the year, in 
what seems a fairly typical letter, McKelvey wrote to Burlage: "Am tired and have feeling of 
doing little except little grubby things like writing letters (which I've been doing all night) 
... . however, will plug along and occasionally, hopefully, will try to get some thinking in 
edgewise." But the organization had set up nothing else to take the place of the NO, or to 
shift or decentralize the burden of work. A proposed scheme for greater regional autonomy 
that was passed by the Columbus NC never came about, despite faint moves toward 
regional organizations in New England, Michigan, and Texas. The NO remained practically 
the only visible manifestation of SDS as a live national organization. 6 

Visible but barely. 

For one thing the LID, which was supposed to pay the salaries of the National Secretary and 
his assistant, as well as the rent, utilities, and phones, was broke. Monsonis told the NEC in 
a confidential memo, "LID has been just about out of money since we returned from 
Columbus, not even paying salaries to their own staff ... . no money has been available for 
executive mailings, shipping of material, etc." The ILGWU, as usual, was hit for "a few 
thousand dollars," but it was only temporary sustenance and a month later Monsonis 
reported, "The LID is totally broke, even has been borrowing to pay my salary and hasn't 
met the payroll upstairs [in the LID offices] for two weeks." The Port Huron Statement, 
which was found to be an essential aid in the formation of new chapters, was sent out only 
sporadically because there wasn't enough money for stamps, and by the middle of 
November, when the NO first ran out, there wasn't even enough cash on hand to get more 
copies mimeographed. SDS went progressively into the red: $173.57 by February, $183.85 
by March, $241.32 by April.* The irregularity of LID paychecks to the office staff produced 
its own complications, which Haber at one point described as "the feeling that you can't go 
to a movie without jeopardizing the next mailing." And as it became clear that SDS would 
never reach the $19,000 budget which it had projected at its Columbus meeting, many of 
the more ambitious plans— a university-reform study center in Berkeley, regional 
conferences in Michigan and New York, a "Center for Research in Southern Politics" 
(CRISP)— had to be scrapped. The heavy cloud of penury hung over the organization for the 
entire first year of its new life. 7 



* The budget for March 23 through April 16 (from the April 16 "worklist" mailing) gives a small sample of the 
difficulties: 

Income Outgo 

Memberships $29.00 Postage $48.05 

Contributions 3.00 Mimeo paper 130.50 

Literature 14.15 Mimeo ink 36.75 

Supplies purchased 10.00 Office supplies 12.40 



49 



It wasn't only the lack of money, though. Communications simply weren't kept up. The 
Columbus NC had mandated the publication of a regular bulletin to keep members informed 
and give them a place for the regular percolation of ideas, but it didn't mandate anyone to 
do it, and mostly it fell to an already overworked McKelvey. So the first SDS Bulletin of eight 
pages didn't get out until December; there were only two more during the entire spring 
(though the March-April one, it should be noted, was no less than seventy-eight 
mimeographed pages long, heralded by SDS as the largest student publication ever 
produced). To supplement this somewhat infrequent journal the NO started to put out less 
formal mailings to a selected eighty or a hundred of the top people, but they were not 
exactly regular: the first of these "Work-list Mailings," which was supposed to be out in 
September, eventually appeared in November; the second appeared in February.* 

The result was that people had to depend upon occasional conferences or visits from 
national officers to find out what their organization and its separate parts were doing. 
Monsonis would travel to as many meetings as his budget would allow— he saw his role as 
one of courting other organizations into the SDS orbit— and Max would go up and down the 
East Coast, concentrating on existing chapters. He describes his effect: 

I went around mostly to campuses where there was already a chapter, trying 
to convince them SDS was a national organization. This was very important 
for all of them— showing them the presence of a national official, bringing 
them documents from the National Office. You've got to remember this was 
before the media picked up on us, and talked about us— when they did that 
you could read in the papers and find out you were a member of a big 
organization, but until then you didn't have any real way of knowing. So 
that's what I did. 8 

But that just wasn't enough, not for an organization with visions of communality and 
collective action. Campuses where there were only one or two people who had joined SDS 
tended to be ignored, and several of the smaller chapters languished; as Barbara Gerson, a 
Vassar SDSer, complained: 

If we go around urging people to set up chapters whose raison d'etre is not 
an ongoing thing but is the program of SDS itself then some constant 
stimulus must be provided for these chapters ... . [But] SDS sends its 
chapters no unifying program suggestions or reports ... . Yes, if we had some 
sense we'd do stuff on our own, besides listen to lectures. But we don't have 
sense; that's why we formed an SDS chapter, if you get what I mean. 



Unaccounted for 11.44 



$6759 $227.70 



* There was even an International Bulletin planned to inform the membership on foreign affairs, but that never 
managed to come out at all. Its chief distinction was that in its prospectus in December 1962 Bob Ross set out 
SDS's position on Vietnam: "As long as we are involved in a commitment to support men like Diem in South Viet 
Nam, we will be forced to face revolution and discontent." 



50 



By January there were only nine chapters— Brandeis, Hunter, Johns Hopkins/Goucher, 
Oberlin, Michigan, New York (the FDR-Four Freedoms Club), North Texas State, 
Swarthmore, Vassar; several places which had had chapters before Port Huron— Central 
State, Earlham, Temple, and Syracuse— were floating adrift, uncontacted, unorganized. 
McKelvey would shoot off late-night letters at the slightest pretext urging distant strangers 
to form SDS chapters at Mount Holyoke, Bowdoin, Wheaton College, Findlay College, even 
(for the first time, presaging a later SDS impulse) Lexington High School; but once the 
gauntlet was thrown nobody stayed around to see if it ever got picked up. Little was done to 
bring in new members in any systematic way or to follow up on the contacts Max and 
Monsonis made on their various trips. There were only 447 paid-up members by January- 
plus another 500 or so who considered themselves members in everything but dues— and it 
was only happenstance that brought in the slim trickle of new official members— 19 in 
February, 35 in March, 36 in April— that swelled the organization to perhaps 1,100 (600 
paid) by the end of the school year. 

Not all the fault was the NO's, of course. Rennie Davis, spending that year at the University 
of Illinois, described bitterly how difficult it was to organize there: 

Our efforts for the most part this first semester have been to move people 
cross-grain against the horrific pressures for anomie and create the basis for 
some sort of intelligent political grouping (community, maybe). We suffer in 
extreme form all the usual political illnesses of American collegiate 
institutions: single issue groups generating their own Madisonian art for check 
and restraint of political-social action by pig-headed faction wars among 
themselves, a student leadership of "nice-guys" but frankly half-men without 
vision, a university administration opposed to academic freedom in principle 
and boasting of a vision of which the hallmark is bureaucracy and good 
business practices, and a terrestrial lay-out that is truly freakish in its 
stultification of the human mind. 9 

Then, too, on several campuses, administrations put barriers in the way of people trying to 
get university recognition for their chapters (which was often necessary to get campus 
rooms, invite speakers, hold rallies). There was trouble at Boston University, at Hunter, at 
North Texas State, and others, but the crowning (though rather charming) example 
occurred at Georgia State College, where Dayton Pruitt, the one-member "chapter," 
reported the attitude of the dean of men: "He is going to 'approve our Constitution,' but 
warns us that Jimmy Hoffa and Communists will not be allowed to speak at our university 
and that— would you believe it?— if we picketed the school in our underwear he would take 
appropriate actions against our club— he was serious, too." 

The tensions that were experienced during a period of near bankruptcy, 
incommunicativeness, and inactivity surfaced at the National Council meeting at Ann Arbor 
over the Christmas vacation. It was, as all NCs were to be, a freewheeling affair, not very 
carefully planned, with some thirty-five of the faithful present to share in a mixture of 
chaotic meetings, friendship renewals, lots of politics and gossip, a few love affairs, and 
beer drinking. This one, however, was unusually acerbic. 



51 



The meeting was dominated by discussion of a letter which Haber and Barbara Jacobs (soon 
to be married to Haber) had sent out to top SDSers on December 15 complaining about 
SDS's failures; specifically it charged that "the basic work isn't getting done" by the NO, 
that there is no "program that is directed to local organization" or even "an operating 
consensus on what it means to have an SDS group somewhere," and that "we are setting 
out on adventures beyond our physical and intellectual capacities." It was a presumptuous 
letter, Haber having generally retired from SDS affairs and therefore remote from the 
ongoing problems, and bore certain marks of one who had retired from office convinced that 
he was irreplaceable. The New York staff workers, certainly, took it that way, and 
throughout the four days of the meeting had their backs up; the camaraderie which had 
characterized so many other meetings just wasn't there. Jacobs, in a letter to Burlage, 
though asserting that it was good to get SDS problems "out on the table, talked about, and 
maybe even thought about," acknowledged that 

... the meeting has left me with a sour taste that is still quite strong. I am 
glad that some of my ideas are getting recognized and used because I think 
they are good. But I feel demoralized by the kinds of interrelations that occur 
when, even in as fine a group as SDS, someone rocks the boat. I am 
discouraged by what I perceive to be a kind of arrogant resistance to the 
"new people," and a sincere belief on the part of some members that they, 
and SDS, have "the Word" and that their ideas can't be improved upon. I am 
not disturbed by this tendency only because I am affected by it, or because of 
some abstract egalitarian notions I have, but also because my experience 
tells me that there is more to be learned— particularly from people whose life 
experience, and particularly educational experience has been different from 
the "important people" in SDS. In short, I think that incest is beginning to 
lead to inbreeding, with all its defects, and that new characters are needed on 
the scene. 10 

What became clear at the meeting was that SDS could not simply rest on Port Huron, no 
matter how diligent and official that was. On the simplest level, what was needed was a lot 
of plain dirty fund raising and a lot of laborious chapter organizing, but on a deeper level 
something more obviously was wanted, though no one could yet put a name to it. Somehow 
the organization had to overcome the limitations imposed on it by— by just being an 
organization; somehow it had to work outside of the institutions formed by the very society 
it criticized so bitterly. The question was— and it was asked by growing numbers that 
spring— how? 

Partly as a result of its organizational malfunctioning, SDS remained relatively quiet during 
this school year. On the peace front, it did succeed in establishing a Peace Research and 
Education Project (PREP), which was to be a kind of leftish clearinghouse for gathering and 
publishing research on peace, disarmament, and foreign policy and was kept going largely 
by Dick Flacks, the balding, bespectacled graduate student who operated chiefly out of the 
basement of Tom Hayden's Ann Arbor house. But PREP confined itself to quiet academic 
research, avoiding action like the radioactive plague, and SDS itself made no effort to draw 
in the considerable numbers of students who might have been attracted to a multi-issue 
organization that fall after the disillusioning experiences of the government's hawkery in the 
missile crisis and by the complete failure of peace candidates at the polls in November. The 
Student Peace Union, for example, which had perhaps four to six thousand members at the 
start of the fall, was on the brink of collapse by December, and its followers might easily 
have been attracted to an organization which gave them some explanation for their failures 
and an ideology by which to revive their energies; but SDS never pressed the point and only 
a few of the better— and most bitter— peaceniks made the switch to SDS then. 



52 



On the civil-rights front, SDS began the year largely by trying to enlist support for the 
Northern Student Movement, itself a support group formed in 1961 to raise money for SNCC 
but which took an initiative this school year in establishing tutorial projects, mostly in 
Northeastern cities, to educate ghetto blacks; SDS joined NSM for an Election Day fund- 
raising appeal at the polls in November, but through halfhearted organization managed to 
collect no more than $3,000. Individual SDSers were intimately involved with SNCC in the 
South— Betty Garman, Casey Hayden, and Bob Zeilner prominent among them— but SDS as 
an organization provided little financial or ideological weaponry, and the Council of 
Federated Organizations established that winter to unite the voter-registration groups in the 
South functioned entirely without SDS assistance. By the spring, however, SDS chapters 
had thrown themselves once again energetically into civil-rights action: Martin Luther King's 
Birmingham march woke up the campuses again (not to mention the white press and the 
Washington establishment) and direct-action confrontations (in Danville, Albany, 
Cambridge, and elsewhere) drew widespread student support, in spite of the more than 
twenty thousand arrests made in the course of the year. SDSers at Swarthmore joined the 
Political Action Club's initial efforts at community organizing blacks in Cambridge and 
Chester; the Baltimore chapter was instrumental in "stand-in" civil-rights demonstrations at 
which several were arrested, VOICE demonstrated and leafleted in downtown Detroit; other 
chapters tried meetings, leaflets, and fund raising. 

Aside from this, most of the life of SDS during these months was around Boston, largely 
thanks to Robb Burlage. Burlage was a bright young man— a professor of his at the 
University of Texas had called him one of the three best students he ever taught— who had 
been the editor of the Daily Texan and, through contact with Haber, became an early recruit 
to SDS ranks around civil-rights issues; he was then a graduate student in economics at 
Harvard (though the tug of his Southern roots was soon to prove too strong, and within a 
year he was to return to the South and get involved in less academic enterprises). 
Personable, charming, energetic, with sparkling eyes and a strong sense of humor, he 
became a natural focus for SDS activities in the Northeast that year. 

In September Burlage began holding meetings with interested students, mostly those 
around the peace-oriented club TOCSIN and the Harvard/Radcliffe Liberal Union, an ADA 
affiliate. During October, when the peace dreams of these groups were shattered by 
Kennedy's missile-rattling, he began (with help from NECer Ann Cook at Tufts, and visits 
from Hayden and Max) to swing them around to SDS's more radical vision. The next month 
he began a series of "discussion groups" whose radicalism was limited to Paul Goodman, C. 
Wright Mills, Herbert Aptheker, Gandhi, the Fabians, and David Riesman, but which 
succeeded in drawing a lot of the bright young troubled people of the area and lasted 
enthusiastically through the spring. Max and others in New York kept pressuring for a full- 
fledged, card-carrying chapter, but Burlage wanted to work slowly, through TOCSIN and the 
Liberal Union, adding individual members but not forcing the creation of an official chapter: 
"Harvard, man, is hard to crash." It was the right way. Before the year was over he had 
enlisted a dozen top-flight people, including three who were to prove important in the 
organization: Todd Gitlin, a Harvard senior and president of TOCSIN, Richard Rothstein, a 
leader of the Liberal Union, and Lee Webb, a peace activist and a senior at Boston 
University. 11 



53 



Burlage also was instrumental in organizing the only two important SDS conferences of the 
year, both around still another issue then faintly beginning to make itself felt on the nation's 
campuses: university reform. The first, on "The Role of the Student in Social Change," was 
held at Harvard at the end of November. There were a number of perceptive speeches- 
Roger Hagan on the need for a "revolutionary consciousness" among students; Noel Day, a 
young black politician in Boston, on racism; and Hayden on the manipulative 
"postideological" society— but the most important was given by Paul Potter, who had just 
gotten through his term as NSA vice president and was getting ever closer to the SDS 
mainstream.* 

Universities, Potter maintained, are inextricably part of the world around them, and always 
have been, their job being to buttress "the vagaries of nationalistic concerns," perform "the 
truncated examination of the methods of manipulating existing institutions," engage in the 
"task of creating the men who will lead the existing system," and so on. Those who can get 
to see this 

... stand in a fundamentally different tradition from the vast majority of 
students and professors in the country; we recognize that we cannot accept 
their terms of analysis, that we demand a more fundamental, systematic and 
humane approach to the problems of mankind. We recognize that the 
Universities are currently concerned with the development of none of these 
approaches and are in fact, because of their historic commitments to the 
nourishment of the existing system, a commitment intensified ultimately by 
the Cold War, in some sense in opposition to their development. And we 
recognize that the only course for us is to stand outside the existing traditions 
and on our own intellectual, economic, political and human resources develop 
alternatives to the system so compelling as to obtain basic concessions from 
it. 

And the alternatives will have to be quite far removed from anything now being suggested. 
They will involve totally new models, totally new behavior: 

We must ... begin to search for a revolutionary model which is dynamic 
enough to extricate us from the continually narrowing concentric circles which 
define the limits of change within the established political power structure ... . 

In order to develop a revolutionary model, concerned faculty and students will 
for the most part have to move outside the University-defined spectrum of 
lectures, seminars and officially sanctioned research. And more importantly 
... they will have to move outside the societally defined spectrum of what is 
relevant since relevance is defined today as that which is directed at adjusting 
the current power structure. 12 



* Monsonis reported shortly afterward that when he sent tapes of the speeches to a friend of his to be transcribed, 
she wrote back "saying that she's listened to them over and over and is now absolutely convinced that she must 
leave school and do something." 



54 



The point is profound: recognize that the universities are as corrupt as their settings— how 
could they be otherwise— and leave them before they corrupt you. What makes this so 
especially important is that it stands in polar opposition to The Port Huron Statement's ideas 
of what universities and students can be and do— and the tension between these two 
impulses will continue throughout the decade to be faced by each wave of activist students: 
Is the university "a potential base and agency in a movement of social change" {The Port 
Huron Statement) or is it "ultimately committed to the nourishment of a national and 
international system in which the Cold War is inextricably rooted" (Potter)? Is the university 
the nest for those who can create real social change, or the hothouse for those who would 
resist it? Are students operating within the university truly agents of social change, or must 
they leave the campuses and operate in the "real" world outside? Are the universities bases 
from which assaults can effectively be made on the social system, or are they bastions of 
that system producing instead its minions? The former impulse leads to the Berkeley Free 
Speech Movement, to student power, to the explosive rebellions of the campuses; the latter 
leads to SDS's ghetto-organizing projects, to the "free universities," to the "dropout" culture 
of the youth ghettos, and more. 

The second conference, at Brandeis in March, was an even more ambitious one on 
"University Reform." Eighty people showed up, and there were speeches by Paul Goodman, 
Herbert Marcuse (then teaching at Brandeis), and Hayden, three pretty incandescent stars 
even then. Goodman attacked the university for its handmaiden role with the Establishment 
and, possessed of a faith in the young that he was to abandon in not too many years, 
argued that it was the students who could turn the university around to "become a new 
center of initiative for our society." The contradiction in this— universities are supposed to be 
isolated from social and governmental influence on the one hand, yet to partake in social 
and political transformation on the other— was underscored by Marcuse, who wanted to 
have it both ways: "In the first place, the university should have nothing to do with the Cold 
War; in the second place, insofar as it does have to do with the Cold War, its purpose ought 
to be to end it." Hayden was perhaps wisest in recognizing that the only way to resolve it all 
was to change the society, for "the university cannot be reformed without a total social 
revolution." 13 

The Brandeis conference was important in raising the university-reform issue almost two 
years before the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley forced it upon the attention of the 
country. But it also raised certain problems, as noted by Shelley Blum, an SDSer at CCNY 
who reported on the conference for CommonSense: 

At several different occasions, effective critiques were made of various 
aspects of the university experience by both students and faculty, but 
responses to the "what can we do?" question left much to be desired ... . 
While personally useful, such discussions did not get even then to the 
question of what it is that we ought to be doing within the university today to 
create the kind of educational experience which is what we are led to expect 
from the liberal rhetoric regarding education ... . It became clearer than at 
most previous discussions that we don't know just what it is that we are 
trying to construct and how we think it can be done. So much more must be 
done on the constructive as well as critical level. 

The 1962-1963 school year was such a difficult one for the fledgling SDS that it might have 
seemed remarkable that SDS continued to exist, to command such fierce loyalties from its 
members, and, slowly, to grow. The thing that kept it alive was the special quality of its 
vision, combined with the special quality of its people. 



55 



SDS was, for many young collegians, the only organization anywhere, young or old, which 
enunciated the things they wanted said. Todd Gitlin, who had gravitated toward SDS at 
Harvard in the spring of 1962, became a confirmed follower around the time of the Cuban 
missile crisis, when the politics he had been following with TOCSIN became "completely 
discredited" and there were only a few people around during those days who "integrated 
their political and personal salvations at once"— and they were SDSers: "The way the SDS 
people operated was commensurate with the enormity of the problems of the society." Once 
he got to know them, he was also struck by "the whole thing about interrelatedness— that 
made a lot of sense to me then." By Christmastime he had resigned the chairmanship of 
TOCSIN and was, without being an official member, philosophically an SDSer. 

This same quality was mentioned by another young student, from Piedmont College, who 
said, "I just decided that these are the best human beings around, and figured it is with 
them I should make the good fight. That way, even if you lose, you gain something very 
valuable." Another SDSer, quoted in Kenneth Keniston's Young Radicals, put it this way: 

Bill Westbury came and sort of complimented me for what he felt was a good 
job that I had played ... . He said, "SDS is holding a series of seminars this 
year, and would you like to get involved?" I said, "I would love to," because I 
really felt the need for intellectual stimulation ... . At the time, I was for 
peace, I was for dissent, I was for civil rights, and then sometimes, if the 
situation presented, I would wind up arguing for socialism. But I would also 
argue for better Medicare, higher minimum wages, or something like that. I 
considered myself a sort of liberal. A very militant political liberal ... . [He 
went to an NC] I heard several people whom I was unimpressed with, but it 
was [Clarkson] who just overwhelmed me with his mind. He didn't turn me on 
and say I should become involved or anything like that. I was just impressed 
with his mind and his grasp of politics. So I decided at that point that I 
wanted to become part of that. That was what I was going to do, to be a part 
of, because I could learn a hell of a lot. And they were nice, they were good 
people. And I had a lot to learn. So what I did for the next year and a half, 
was just to listen ... . I didn't say a word, I never even opened my mouth. I 
took notes, and I'd come back at night and study them and try to remember 
what was said. I read all the literature ... . 14 

The thing that I was thinking about was what was I going to do with my life, 
what kind of job am I going to have? And I wound up feeling that I might 
want to go to graduate school, but I never applied ... . I wanted to learn, I 
wanted to learn how America was organized and I wanted to find out more 
about myself. I figured that these guys and publications and the books that 
they read could help me to do that ... . Another thing I felt was kind of the 
ideology of the alienated: "The old values have been destroyed; the old 
structures and institutions of the past no longer fit our needs; therefore we 
must rebuild." That's how I personally connected into it. 

Still another reaction comes from Jeremy Brecher, who was a freshman at Reed College 
when he first ran into SDS: 



56 



When I went to my first SDS NC meeting it was like, here is exactly what I'd 
been looking for for three years, all the things I believed in. It was unlike 
anything I'd been in before— an enormous sense of dynamism— a feeling of 
expansiveness— "Dynamism" is the only word for it. The other great thing was 
you had a feeling of breaking out, that SDS was becoming a mass movement, 
it was on the verge of relating to much broader groups on campus: the same 
way you can tell between a crowd ready for civil disobedience, ready to fight 
the police, and one that isn't, a whole different stance and attitude. 15 

The feelings of many were perhaps best and most simply put by Douglas Ireland, a high- 
school student in the Boston area, who wrote after a few meetings with Burlage and his 
friends: "I feel at home in SDS." 

It is possible to make some cautious generalizations about these early SDSers which help to 
explain some of their rather extraordinary effect. They were, for a start, often extremely 
bright and, more than that, intellectual, having gotten good grades in high school, moved 
on early to the best universities, proved themselves then among the top ranks 
academically, and many were planning (or engaged in) graduate work and professorial 
careers they were diligent readers, active thinkers and talkers, and, as the later literature 
lists of SDS will show, prodigious writers. They tended to come from middle-class and 
upper-middle-class (often professional) homes— there are no exact figures on this, but it 
was acknowledged often enough (and sometimes worried about) by the members 
themselves— with parents who could give them money, security, often a stable family life, 
and usually the more enduring middle-class values and ethics, often combined with that 
vague liberal perfectionism that is characteristic of the American middle class.* They were 
overwhelmingly from the East and generally from the cities (although there was a sizable 
minority from the Midwest), and many (perhaps a third) were Jewish, all of which went to 
produce a kind of sophistication, a cosmopolitanism, and a grounding in urban traditions. 
And they were often from families whose parents had had some contact with the left, 
usually during the thirties— a couple which was young during the thirties would tend to have 
children by the early forties, and these would be of college age by the early sixties; 
probably only a handful of the early SDSers were true "red-diaper babies"— Flacks, Max, and 
Ross among them— but since more than two million people went through the ranks of the 
Communist Party at one time or another in the thirties, and since there were millions more 
who moved in or near the other eddies of the left, it would not be surprising if a number of 
SDSers had some brush with the ideas and the ideals of the left during their upbringing. 16 



* Not all the early SDSers were prototypically middle class: Hayden's father was an accountant. Potter's a farmer, 
Ross's a garment worker, Webb's a laborer, and Max's an impoverished political functionary. But most did come 
from middle-and upper-middle-class environments— Booth's father was a federal civil servant and then a professor, 
Davis's father a federal economist and adviser to Harry Truman, Rothstein's father was also a federal civil servant, 
Brecher's parents were successful writers, Burlage's and Haber's fathers were university professors, Carman's was 
a corporation executive, Gitlin's a high-school teacher, Jeffrey's mother a political and labor leader— and those who 
did not usually came from "upwardly mobile" homes where they drank deeply of the middle-class ethic and moved 
from the better high schools to the elite universities along a familiar enough middle-class path. 



57 



They were, indeed, a remarkable group of people. They were committed, energetic, 
perceptive, political, and warm; they had a vision and they backed it up with unstinting if 
not always successful work; they were— not unimportant— personable, charismatic, 
articulate, and (many) good-looking; they were serious in a time that called for seriousness, 
yet still deeply and often self-consciously human, friendly, warm, working daily at knocking 
down the egocentric barriers their society had taught them to construct and trying to open 
themselves to others. Jack Newfield, who was of them and among them during all these 
early days, says simply: "The finest political people I have ever seen— and that includes 
those around Bobby Kennedy and anyone else— were those in the early days of SDS." 17 

The school year ended with the annual convention, this time held June 14-17 at Camp 
Gulliver, a summer camp near Pine Hill, New York. It was some measure of the success of 
the organization that more than two hundred people showed up, representing thirty-two 
colleges and universities. The main business of the convention was to draft another general 
statement of principles— in the early years, conventions were supposed to set organizational 
principles and the quarterly National Councils were supposed to set specific programs— and 
for that Dick Flacks had prepared a paper over the spring (with considerable help from the 
theoretical apparatchik: Booth, Haber, Hayden, Ross) called America and the New Era. 
When he presented it to the convention it quickly became known as "Son of Port Huron." 

America and the New Era is less impressive than The Port Huron Statement, in part because 
it comes after, but also because of its narrower focus. The Port Huron Statement is more 
visionary, more philosophical, more theoretical, while this is concerned more with the 
tangible aspects of American policy and immediate ways to change it; The Port Huron 
Statement surveys a wide range of problems, from overpopulation to parietal rules, while 
America and the New Era says almost nothing about foreign policy, is only secondarily 
concerned with the Cold War, and concentrates its attention almost wholly on an analysis of 
broad contemporary economic and political problems of the United States.* 

But there are two central perceptions in America and the New Era, and their enunciation by 
the Pine Hill delegates marks a step forward for SDS and the student movement of which it 
is a part. 18 

The first is that America has reached a point of crisis, that considerable new forces are at 
work within it, that it stands teetering on an unknown brink: in short, "that a new era is 
upon us, and the simple categories and grand designs of the Cold War no longer serve." 
Internationally, the "conception of an American Century" has been shattered; a colonial 
transformation has taken place; the Communist bloc is no longer a monolith; Western 
Europe is challenging American power; the strategy of eyeball-to-eyeball deterrence has 
outlived its usefulness. Domestically, all the attempts "to manage social conflicts" are 
beginning to come unstuck, poverty is a stain that can no longer be ignored, the racial crisis 
is coming to a peak, government complicity with business— what is called here for the first 
time "corporate liberalism"— has resulted in a stalemate for both; and new voices in labor, 
the media, the middle classes, minorities, and even in Congress are beginning to be heard: 



* One of the reasons for the absence of a foreign policy section is that the conventioneers couldn't come to any 
agreement on what stands to take on all the various international problems— they were not yet ready to see them 
collectively in terms of imperialism, as a small minority wished— and so they agreed on a policy of "principled 
agnosticism" to avoid angry divisions. As Todd Gitlin remembers it, "We had a sense, even that early, that these 
issues would only be divisive; that we should agree on what we wanted for the U.S. rather than what we wanted 
elsewhere. Sometimes I think we would have done well— against all odds, especially the heightening of the war— to 
have sustained that attitude." (Letter to author.) 



58 



The structure of quiescence is beginning to break down. The development of 
the civil rights movement and other centers of independent insurgency has 
for the first time since the war created centers of power outside the university 
to which intellectuals could turn for creative as well as political involvement. 
The beginning of a breakdown in the American consensus provides the 
possibility for genuinely critical and independent participation of intellectuals 
and students in national life. The bureaucratic and ideological structures of 
American institutions of liberal education have been penetrated.* 

The second perception, which follows directly from this, is that there is in response to this 
new crisis "a new discontent, a new anger ... groping towards a politics of insurgent protest"— a 
"new insurgency": 

There seems to be emerging a collection of people whose thought and action 
are increasingly being radicalized as they experienced the events of the new 
era. Moreover, the radical consciousness of these individuals is certainly 
representative of wider currents of urgency and dissatisfaction which exist in 
the communities from which they come. The militant resolve of Negroes North 
and South, the urgency and dedication of middle class peace advocates, the 
deepening anxiety of industrial workers, the spreading alienation of college 
students— this kind of motion and discontent in the population has given new 
stimulation to the development of radical thought, and is leading to a search 
for new forms of insurgent politics. 

It is hardly an accident that SDS itself will very shortly come to take on one of these new 
forms, following the almost inevitable consequences of its analysis. 

One immediate response to the sense of a new insurgency was a decision by the convention 
to amend the constitution so as to give more power to individual chapters and local 
members at national meetings; it was decided that chapters should elect delegates to the 
convention on the basis of one for every five of its members, with each delegate having two 
votes, and that chapters with more than twenty-five members might elect two 
representatives to the National Council. Another response was to put new and younger 
people into the leadership of the organization: though Hayden had been a successful 
president and was still perhaps the most powerful single figure in SDS, it was felt that he 
should not continue in office and that a regular rotation of the national officers allowing for 
new blood was necessary to insure true "participatory democracy." It was an 
understandable decision, perhaps inevitable, and one sanctioned by SDS's (and SLID's) 
history of annual turnovers, but it was to have two serious consequences: for one, the 
previous year's officers, despite their considerable organizational skills, were mechanically 
prevented from exercising continued leadership or else had to exert power from behind the 
scenes through informal and hidden personal manipulation; for another, the values of 
continuity, political experience, and cohesive politics were inevitably denied the 
organization, forcing it to reshape its national machinery each year, a process which later on 
would serve to lessen SDS's impact and efficiency and eventually threaten its ability to carry 
out any national programs at all. An SDS in which Hayden, Haber, Booth, Davis, and others 
continued to exercise formal leadership year after year throughout the sixties, instead of 
retiring to the sidelines and then dropping out entirely, would have been a far different, 
perhaps a more powerful and enduring, organization than what actually evolved. 



* Todd Gitlin says that for many people he knew the previous spring marked a significant turning point in their 
personal lives— "everyone broke apart in those last few months"— and this may have added psychological validity to 
the political analysis. (Interview with author.) 



59 



One immediate consequence of this second response was a long scramble to find someone 
to replace Hayden, the difficulty of which might have suggested its artificiality. None of the 
old leadership wanted to go against the insurgent tide and keep the reins in practiced 
hands— Burlage, Davis, and Potter all were nominated for the presidency and all shied 
away— and finally the convention had to settle on Todd Gitlin, able and personable but still 
very new to the national organization. Gitlin recalls how, though trepidations, he came to 
take the job: 

Davis and Potter both wanted me to accept, and the three of us ended up 
walking on the lawn outside. I don't exactly remember what we talked about. 
All of us were going to be in Ann Arbor the next year— I was going because I 
wanted to be around all this commotion— and they all had personal agendas 
that seemed more urgent than mine. What came through my mind was a 
paper, "Five Characters in Search of a Vision," I had written at Harvard just 
before, about what makes a person choose commitment, choose to become a 
radical, and that was it, I said yes. I was so stunned and overwhelmed that 
when I came out to give the acceptance speech I don't know what I said. 19 

For National Secretary the convention chose Lee Webb, fresh out of Boston University and 
equally as inexperienced in the ways of national organizations, and though some continuity 
was kept— Booth was again elected Vice President, Max continued as Field Secretary, and 
McKelvey as Assistant National Secretary— the impulse toward the new insurgency was 
clearly dominant.* 

The Pine Hill convention ended with ritual, begun in nascent form at Port Huron, that would 
continue to mark SDS conventions, and many National Council meetings, for the next 
several years. It was called, usually, the "fund-raising orgy," and it followed something of 
the pattern that Dick Flacks later described: 

The scene might have been written by Genet; it was worthy of filming by 
Fellini. A young man, well clothed and well groomed but with his shirt collar 
open now, and his tie pulled down, shouted to the audience like an old- 
fashioned revivalist. 

"Come up," he cried, "come up and confess. Put some money in the pot and 
be saved!" 

And they came. The first youth, clutching the green pieces of paper in his 
hand, recited for all to hear: "My father is a newspaper editor. I give twenty- 
five dollars." His penitence brought cheers from the assembly. The sin of the 
next young man was a father who was assistant director of a government 
bureau. He gave forty dollars. "My dad is dean of a law school," confessed 
another, as he proffered fifty dollars for indulgence. 20 



The NEC was abolished as a separate body, but fourteen "national officers" were elected to serve as the nucleus 
of each National Council, and these became known as the National Council members. Elected this year were 
Burlage, Davis, Flacks, Garman, Hayden, Jeffrey, Steve Johnson (Harvard), Max, Monsonis, Kimberly Moody (Johns 
Hopkins), Sarah Murphy (University of Chicago), Potter, Varela, Monte Wasch (CCNY). The National Secretary was 
also established as a "national officer" and a member of the National Council. 



60 



Few other SDSers recall these affairs as being as full of peccancy as all that, but there was 
certainly a sense of liberation, of kicking over, about them, as the young delegates emptied 
their pockets and made their pledges, Clark Kissinger, a former Chicago University student, 
recalls the sense of euphoria that clung, to that final day: "The convention closed with a 
tremendous feeling of solidarity and comradeship," not the least of which was that "$1,700 
was donated to SDS by the delegates on the last evening, and notable personalities were 
ceremoniously tossed into the lake." 



1 Missile crisis reaction, from Max, interview; Monson's memo, October 30,1962; and SDS 
Bulletin, No. 2, fall 1962. 

2 Max, interview. 

3 "That's one," letter to Burlage, October 1962. "We're all," memo, October 27,1962. 

4 Monsonis on class, SDS Bulletin, March-April 1963. "I'm gradually," memo to SDS NEC, 
October 30, 1962. 

5 McKelvey, interview. "A real martyr," Booth, interview. Haber, "Dear Friends" letter with 
Barbara Jacobs, December 15,1962. 

6 McKelvey, letter to Burlage, February 7,1963. Monsonis, memo to NEC, October 30, 1962. 
"The LID," memo, October 4, 1962. Financial figures, from worklist mailings, February, 
March, and April 1963. 

7 Haber, Haber-Jacobs letter, op. cit. 

8 Max, interview. Gerson, letter in worklist mailing. May 20,1962. Membership figures, 
worklist mailing, January 17, 1963. 

9 Davis, worklist mailing, March 25, 1963. Pruitt, worklist mailing, February 18, 1963. 

10 Haber-Jacobs letter, op. cit. Jacobs letter, January 7, 1963 (misdated 1962). 

11 Burlage, letter to Max, undated, fall 1962. 

12 Potter, speech reprinted as "The University and the Cold War," SDS, 1963. 

13 For Brandeis conference, Shelley Blum, Common Sense, May 1963; Monsonis, SDS 
Bulletin, March-April 1963; quotations are from Blum. 

14 Gitlin, interview. Piedmont student, quoted in Newfield, p. 87. "Bill Westbury," Keniston, 
p. 109 (ellipses in original); "Clarkson" is presumably Hayden. 

15 Brecher, interview. Ireland, letter to NO, November 1962. 

16 On middle-class origins, see e.g., Hayden, in Irving Howe, editor, The Radical Papers, 
Doubleday, 1966, p. 362. 

17 Newfield, interview. 

18 America and the New Era, mimeographed and later published as a pamphlet by SDS, 
1963; reprinted in NLN. December 9 and 16, 1966; excerpted in Teodori, p. 172. 

19 Gitlin, interview. 

20 Flacks, Psychology Today, October 1967. Kissinger, NLN, June 10, 1968; full article 
reprinted in "Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders," Part 18, pp. 3383 ff. 



61 



ERAP: Fall 1963-Spring 1964 

It was as if the American students of the 1960s had heard the words of one Pavel Axelrod, 
of the University of Kiev, in the 1870s: 

He who wishes to work for the people must abandon the university, forswear 
his privileged condition, his family, and turn his back even upon science and 
art. All connections linking him with the upper classes of society must be 
severed, all of his ships burned behind him; in a word, he must voluntarily cut 
himself off from any possible retreat. [He] must, so to speak, transform his 
whole inner essence, so as to feel one with the lowest strata of the people, 
not only ideologically, but also in everyday manner of life. 1 

For, just as Axelrod and the Russian students had done a century before, a whole body of 
students now left the universities and went to become one with the lowest strata of the 
people. 

It was an incredible movement. Nothing like it had ever been seen before in American life — 
not the Populist movement of the 1890s, not the settlement-house movement at the turn of 
the century, not the Unemployed Councils of the Communists in the thirties. Thousands of 
students turned from theory to action, from classrooms to slums, going south to register 
voters in impoverished black communities, organizing unemployed workers in the decaying 
inner cities, running tutorial projects for black high-school students through the North, even 
joining government-approved VISTA projects, poverty-planning centers and cooperatives, or 
simply dropping out to work and live among the people. It was, as many pointed out at the 
time, very much like the Russian Narodnik movement of the 1860s and 1870s, with much of 
the same mixture of idealism, guilt, asceticism, moralism, selflessness, and hard work, and 
though it seems to have run its course much quicker, seems to have been more swiftly 
changed into other impulses and other drives, it has in a certain way ended with the same 
results: revolt and repression. 

SDS was only a part of the wider neo-Narodnik spirit of the sixties, but it was one of the 
first organizations to awaken to and capitalize on the new spirit, the only one to make a 
direct assault in the ghettos, where the worst of the problems festered, and one of the few 
to sustain its action beyond a summer's spasm, to enshrine its doing with theory and 
ideology, and to enlist a solid band of people who would continue on in political life. That its 
movement ultimately failed in its grand objectives— quite a dismal failure on its own terms— 
or at best counted a few latecoming victories, does not lessen the quite searing mark it put 
on so much of the generation of the time. 



62 



Tom Hayden was among the first to feel the new restlessness. As early as March 1963, 
having been told that the UAW was a likely source of money for student work around 
economic issues, Hayden wrote to Walter Reuther asking in general terms if maybe there 
wasn't something SDS could do that would qualify and hinting at something in the 
neighborhood of $7,500.* No promises were made, but the UAW expressed interest. Hayden 
began thinking. In the "President's Report" in the March-April SDS Bulletin he gave an 
indication of where his mind was turning: "SDS is not growing locally with enough speed to 
be a major social movement in the near future. SDS is not thinking radically, and with 
consciousness of the organization as a weapon, about political objectives." He rejected the 
idea of turning the organization into a "think center" or uniting it with ineffective liberal 
bureaucracies: 

The people working in liberal causes at the grass roots, however, are 
distinguishable from the Establishment— by at least their discontent, albeit 
their political outlook is still maturing. Perhaps these nearly invisible actors, 
existing in every community, are the points of energy to which we should 
look— rather than to Geneva negotiators, or the heads of the labor movement, 
or the other entrenched liberal organizations. 

What we may need is a way to transform these invisible rebellions into a 
politics of responsible insurgence rooted in community after community, 
speaking in comprehensible terms to their felt needs ... . Can the methods of 
SNCC be applied to the North? ... Can we spread our organizational power as 
far as our ideological influence, or are we inevitably assigned to a vague 
educational role in a society that increasingly is built deaf to the sounds of 
protest? 2 

Hayden was not alone in feeling the need for action, the call to some kind of "responsible 
insurgence." Throughout the organization dissatisfaction with the limitations of SDS was 
expressed. SDS had succeeded in establishing for itself a solid reputation as the most 
intellectual student group around, the place where the leaders and ideologues of other 
organizations went from time to time to forge their separate swords in the fires of debate 
and intellectuality; by the end of the 1962-63 school year it had a literature list of nearly 
twenty papers— Hayden on the role of students in universities, Burlage on the South, Haber 
on labor, Booth on electoral politics. The Port Huron Statement— that were popular on 
campuses with the types who read. But it was not known for doing anything on its own, 
either as a national group or (with few exceptions) in its chapters. That, combined with the 
organizational limitations of the National Office, chafed increasingly on a number of the SDS 
in-group, and they began searching for new drives and programs that would energize the 
membership and circumvent the NO. 

America and the New Era encapsulated this growing impulse into the phrase, as much 
prescriptive as descriptive at that point, "the new insurgency": 



No doubts apparently were ever felt at this point about approaching either Reuther or his brother Victor, though 
they were known even then as having been ardent Cold Warriors and were perfect representatives of the liberal 
community SDS was ostensibly rejecting; four years later, at the time of the CIA disclosures, the closeness of the 
Reuthers' link with Cold War subversion became documented. 



63 



The new insurgents are active generators of a wide variety of political 
activities in the neighborhoods and communities where they are located. Local 
insurgent actions include: mass direct action and voter registration campaigns 
among Negroes, political reform movements directed against entrenched 
Democratic machines, political action for peace, tutorial and other community 
based attempts to reach underprivileged youth, discussion groups, periodicals 
and research aimed at analysis and exposure of local political and economic 
conditions. Barely begun are efforts to initiate organized protest in depressed 
areas and urban slums, to organize nonunion workers, to focus reform 
political clubs and candidacies on issues and programs directly relevant to the 
urban poor, and to involve slum-dwellers directly in political efforts. 

The outcome of these efforts at creating insurgent politics could be the 
organization of constituencies expressing, for the first time in this generation, 
the needs of ordinary men for a decent life ... . 

The political insurgency, the rebirth of a populist liberalism, would upset 
existing American priorities and could rewrite the nation's agenda ... . 

A concerted effort to abolish poverty, unemployment, and racial inequality will 
be a prelude to the effort to bring into being a participatory democracy. 3 

The idea of "the new insurgency" combined several strands. First, there was the growing 
dissatisfaction with university life and the growing realization, as Potter had expressed it at 
the Harvard conference, that universities might not be the agencies for change after all. By 
1963 many SDS undergraduates had begun to feel the need to escape a university system 
which they saw ever more clearly as an unyielding and uncaring bureaucracy which turned 
them into holes on the edge of an IBM card, and which they came to realize was an 
intertwined and equally culpable part of the national system. And those in graduate school- 
including such influential members of the SDS in-group as Burlage, Davis, Flacks, Gitlin, 
Hayden, Haber, McEldowney, Potter, Ross, and Rothstein— faced the equally bleak prospect 
of continuing on for degrees they came to regard as pointless union cards or getting 
compromising jobs in a rat race they saw as deadening and meaningless. "The university," 
as Gitlin said, "begins to feel like a cage." 4 

In their search for some way to live which would not violate the way they believed, most of 
the young activists looked to the civil-rights movement. That movement was a group of 
people acting on their principles, not sitting on them, taking part in "the real world" outside 
of the classroom, helping to shake the nation awake. That movement— especially SNCC— 
had shown as nothing had before that the poor and the downtrodden were remarkably 
savvy people withal, generous beyond understanding, shrewd in a most basic sense, 
forgiving, tough, decisive, committed, friendly: all of which ran counter to the myths the 
middle class had absorbed. It had also shown that the way to work with such people was 
not with top-down liberal paternalism but bottom-up identification and the sort of self- 
effacing, nonideological, with-the-people, leaderless, and nonmanipulative organization 
SNCC had developed. The SNCC mystique was powerful: blue work shirts, jeans, and army 
boots come into fashion, and the patterns of speech, the gestures, the argot of the SNCC 
fieldworkers come to be adopted. 



64 



And just at this time there also developed a sweeping economic analysis that gave 
intellectual justification for a concern with the poor and hence found a willing audience 
among the SDSers. It held basically that the nation was headed for an economic recession 
of major proportions and that there would soon be an army of discontented unemployed, as 
automation destroyed jobs, the postwar economy shrank, international economic 
competition grew stronger, and military-defense expenditures decreased. One of the earliest 
formulations of the analysis came at a conference in Nyack, New York, in June 1963, from 
which there grew a National Committee for Full Employment, guided by a brilliant young 
New York radical, Stanley Aronowitz, and designed precisely to meet the coming economic 
collapse. At the conference, attended by many SDSers, the most influential paper was one 
by Ray Brown, then working for the Federal Reserve System— and who should know 
better?— called "Our Crisis Economy: The End of the Boom": 

The labor force will expand by a million and a half each year in the coming 
decade. Add to this demand for jobs the number of jobs destroyed each year 
by automation (estimates range from one to one-and-a-half million), and the 
problem takes on monumental proportions ... . The result is [by 1970] 11 
million unemployed. 5 

And that doesn't even count the part-time and marginally employed nor the millions who 
never make it into official job statistics. What more natural, then, than to make this 
enormous reservoir of human beings into an agency to change the system that has treated 
them so cruelly? It is obvious that the working classes care nothing for serious changes in 
the system that has bought them off with such apparent success, and no one could ever 
count on the middle classes for such a fight; only the poor have the numbers, the 
geographical distribution, the anger, and the will to press, along with the studentry, for 
radical change. As Gitlin was to say a year later, "The poor know they are poor and don't 
like it; hence they can be organized so as to demand an end to poverty and the construction 
of a decent social order."* 6 

The economic analysis is not without support elsewhere. Other reasons for SDS to move 
among the poor seem equally compelling. America was swinging to a rightward racism- 
witness the rise of Goldwater and the John Birch Society— and if this was to be prevented, it 
would only be by awakening poor whites, the common fodder of such a swing, to their own 
subjugated position and their ultimate shared economic identity with the blacks. The "Other 
America," which Harrington had portrayed so movingly and John Kennedy had deigned to 
notice, was becoming less invisible, and the time seemed ripe to uplift the poor, now that 
they had been seen. Then, too, since it was obvious that corporate liberalism had failed, the 
alternative, following on from The Port Huron Statement's call for "truly democratic 
alternatives to the present," was the creation of "counter-communities," anarchistic units 
where participatory democracy could be tried out firsthand. 



* It does not matter, of course, that this analysis of growing unemployment turns out to be all wrong: with the 
system's vast ingenuity a whole new series of economic and military props (Vietnam, the moon) becomes created 
in the second half of the sixties to forestall economic crisis and keep people occupied, and with its vast capacity for 
self-deceit means are developed to ignore those who are not so kept. The analysis was developed by sophisticated 
and capable people of many political views, and held to by such distinguished men as (for example) W. H. Ferry, 
Michael Harrington, Gunnar Myrdal, Robert Theobald, Linus Pauling, Robert Heilbroner, and Ben B. Seligman (all 
signers of a document embodying this analysis called "The Triple Revolution," published the following year in 
Liberation, April 1964). What matters is that it was enormously influential at the time. 



65 



Finally, there are some explanations for the impulse to the new insurgency beyond those 
stated and acknowledged at the time. These things are mixed up in it: a subliminal desire to 
escape from the bureaucratic and programed world into something explicitly "irrational" and 
"inefficient," fundamentally, even disturbingly, antiestablishmentarian (Hayden: "The 
Movement is a community of insurgents aiming at a transformation of society led by the 
most excluded and 'unqualified' people"); a restless need of students to break out of the 
constrictive social mold in which they have dutifully spent their lives and to thumb their 
noses at it (Hayden: "Working in poor communities is a ... . position from which to expose 
the whole structure of pretense, status and glitter that masks the country's real human 
problems"); a drive to do something that gives meaning to a person's life (Hayden: 
"Students and poor people make each other feel real"); an ingrained American belief that 
action, confrontation, and putting bodies on the line is what really matters, where 
intellectuality and passivity and book-larnin' is too sissified (Hayden: "These problems [of 
organizing the poor] will be settled, if at all, more by feel than theory and mostly in 
immediate specific situations"); a very deep-seated wish to be selfless, to do for others 
instead of having everything done for you, to work out in demonstrable ways the moral 
fervor inside (Hayden: "Working in poor communities is a concrete task in which the split 
between job and values can be healed"); and finally a psychic drive to identify with 
someone else who is, as you wish to be, outside of the system, is by circumstance 
nontechnical, nonmoneyed, nonmanipulative, alienated and powerless (Hayden: "Radicals 
then would identify with all the scorned, the illegitimate and the hurt"). SDS's new strategy 
arises, then, because it is a healthy impulse in the most basic sense, for it allows, as 
psychologist Kenneth Keniston says in discussing Movement work in general, "a new 
harmony ... . between will and conscience, between ego and superego, between self and 
principle." 7 

By the summer of 1963, the cause therefore seemed clear: organize the poor and the 
unemployed. The means seemed to have been given: a SNCC-inspired movement. The 
agents were to hand: the dissatisfied students of the university. Even the money was 
available: early in August, the UAW gave SDS $5,000 for "an education and action program 
around economic issues." (Hayden wrote to Gitlin: "It is time to rejoice. We have the 
$5,000— more than that ... Maybe we're beginning to move. Pacem in terris." 8 ) 

All that was needed was a mechanism, and it was to this that the SDSers now bent 
themselves. 

Hayden's first notion was that the best way for SDS to make itself felt was by aligning with 
what was statistically the most deprived and at the same time what seemed the most 
militant and approachable segment of the poor: unemployed black and white youths. After a 
full day and half a night knocking the idea around with Gitlin and Booth (then both in 
Washington, D.C., at a Peace Research Institute) in July and then testing it out with some 
people in New York who had had slum-organizing experience, Hayden was ready to propose 
it formally to the September National Council meeting that was to be held after the NSA 
convention that year in Bloomington, Indiana. But one thing intervened: 



66 



several SNCC workers at that NSA, including one by the name of Stokely Carmichael, were 
beginning to develop the rudiments of a black-power ideology, and were pushing the idea 
that the blacks could do the job in the South and that what young whites ought to be doing 
was organizing whites. SDS's target, obviously, should then be unemployed white youths. 
The NC, pressed by its most articulate leaders— Hayden, Webb, Gitlin, and others- 
welcomed the idea and the money that made it possible, and then and there established a 
program for the fall. A young white University of Michigan sophomore, Joe Chabot, would 
drop out and go organize, somehow, the unemployed white youths of Chicago; at the same 
time, not to get too far away from the intellectual tradition, a central office would be 
established in, say, Ann Arbor, away from the ghettos themselves, and run by some 
scholarly, dedicated soul like, say, Al Haber. And the program would be given a name 
having to do with the economy, to please the UAW, with education, so as to continue the 
SDS tradition, and with organizing, to suggest the new thrust: The Economic Research and 
Action Project, conveniently acronymed to ERAP (Ee-rap). That September ERAP officially 
began. 

But something was wrong. The first three months of ERAP didn't work out at all the way they were 
supposed to. Haber seemed to be spending a lot of money in Ann Arbor, but nothing much 
seemed to be coming out of it other than a fancily printed brochure designed to raise money 
from rich liberals and a few pamphlets on economic matters written by SDS academics. Nor 
was Chabot's work in the real world any more promising. He spent the fall on the near 
northwest side of Chicago, a white working-class area fast decaying into slums, trying to 
talk with the teenagers hanging around the street corners. But it turned out that he had no 
alternatives to offer the street youths, who never could figure out just what he was after, 
and he had no organizational support within the community, not even a storefront to work 
from. Early in November he sent this gloomy report back to the National Office: 

I have had [a] little experience on the streets with the unemployed fellow[s] 
around 19. I tried to enter into associations with these fellows by way of the 
settlements as they were my best source of introduction to the community, 
but I have not been accepted by any group of older teenagers of this 
neighborhood. They don't understand me. They are suspicious of me as well 
as everyone else who tries to have anything to do with them ... . 
Communication is very difficult on every level— almost impossible when I try 
to ask direct questions of how a fellow thinks about anything in particular. 
Just to understand the slang would be a matter of probably six months. If I 
try to be accepted by some gang, it would probably be a process involving at 
least a year, and needless to say I don't have time for any such luxuries ... . 

It is glum if it sounds that way. There is nothing to make them think socially 
at this time and nothing to give them confidence that in action their lives can 
improve. The kids feel totally at sea when an idea of joining together to press 
your demands is raised. They accept their state although dissatisfied and in 
revolt at the moment they have no leaders and no program. And at this point 
it is disenchanting to know that I've not met one fellow in the age group I 
would like to work in who is thinking socially. 9 



67 



By the end of December the ERAP treasury was more than half empty: over $500 had been 
spent in the National Office, almost $1,000 went to keep Chabot functioning in Chicago, and 
more than $1,500 was used up for Haber's operations in Ann Arbor.* And nothing to show 
for it. Steve Max— never much disposed to ERAP anyway— limned the problem: 

The SDS program is considered too vague. We are always complimented on 
having the best critique of the political and economic situation, but when it 
comes to what we want and how we are going to get it, we start losing 
people ... . It is simply not enough to tell our members to go and be locally 
insurgent. Our people already want to be insurgent; that is why they are in 
SDS. What they want to know is how and where. 10 

Ironically, it was not in Chicago or in Ann Arbor that the ERAP idea bore fruit first but, of all 
places, in Chester, Pennsylvania. 11 

Chester in 1963 was an economic and political sinkhole of some 63,000 people, 40 percent 
of them black, controlled by a Republican machine. It was fortunate in one thing: three 
miles away was the campus of Swarthmore College— small, Quaker, and leftish— and there a 
group of some thirty to fifty people in the Swarthmore Political Action Club, SDSers and 
those who had been influenced by SDS, were ready to engage themselves in the problems 
of just such a city. Many of the young SPACers had gotten interested in the integration 
movement in Cambridge, Maryland, in the spring of 1963 and had worked there with SNCC 
and its local affiliate during a formative summer of black organizing, mass marches, redneck 
violence. National Guard tear-gassing, and ultimately a compromise victory wrought by 
Robert Kennedy in Washington. When they returned to school in the fall the SPACers were 
ready for more action, and it wasn't long before they joined up with a black mobilizing 
committee in nearby Chester. From November 4 to 14 nearly 100 Swarthmorians and 
Chester blacks picketed, marched, sat-in, petitioned, and pressured the city hall and the 
local school board on a broad range of demands, and in the course of it some 57 students 
were arrested— the first large-scale violent action by any white campus-based group in the 
North. On the fourteenth the city caved in, all the demands were met and charges against 
all the demonstrators were dropped. And still the movement went on: in the next two 
months three large community groups were organized and a concerted drive for economic 
improvement and political control was launched among the blacks. 

The leader of SPAC was a tall, thin, blond named Carl Wittman, a shrewd young politician 
and SDSer whom Lee Webb called "brilliant, just brilliant" in the Chester actions. The SDS 
National Office worked with him during much of it, and Webb himself, chafing at office 
routine in New York and discovering that he wasn't really cut out to be a National Secretary, 
spent several days a week in Chester through the fall, seeing firsthand what a community- 
organizing project actually might look like and feeding this sense back to others in the 
organization. Meanwhile, rent strikes and similar community actions took place under the 
noses of SDSers in Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, and Chicago that fall, largely led by 
blacks, and this too suggested a new militancy and a new means for operating among the 
urban poor. Finally Wittman and Webb went out to Ann Arbor to talk to Hayden— he was still 
nominally a journalism graduate student— and for the first time since the summer, Webb 
remembers, Hayden "really got interested"; before their weekend was over they had 
hammered out a whole new idea for a revivified ERAP and determined to make the 
upcoming December National Council the battleground for its adoption. 



* Haber's comparative extravagance was not resented by the other SDSers, who figured it was little enough 
considering the starving years he had already put in for SDS and the fact that the LID still owed him a chunk of 
money he was never likely to see. 



68 



The new idea was embodied in a paper called "An Interracial Movement of the Poor?" that 
Hayden and Wittman wrote in the next few months to sell the membership on the new ERAP 
idea. Long, discursive, and well-nigh unreadable, it nonetheless had an impact on many in 
SDS circles. Its main argument, a product of Wittman's Chester experience, was that whites 
could work together with blacks to mobilize a community, and that the job of organizing 
ought to be directed toward all the poor, black and white, young and old, and around any 
issue that moves them, not simply the question of jobs. Organize, the authors say, [around] 

... demands for political and economic changes of substantial benefit to the 
Negro and white poor. Examples of these include improved housing, lower 
rents, better schools, full employment, extension of welfare and Social 
Security assistance. They are not "Negro issues" per se; rather, they are 
precisely those issues which should appeal to lower-class whites as well as to 
Negroes. 12 

And this organizing can't be done either with research centers or street-corner strangers— it 
needs people willing to live among the poor: "We are people and we work with people. Only 
if conscious cooperative practice is our main style will our ideology take on the right details; 
only then will it be tested and retested, changed, and finally shared with others." 

At the December 1963 NC some seventy people— the largest number so far at an NC— met 
in New York with a sense that big things were going to happen. Paul Booth recalls, "By that 
time we were it. We were the wave of the future." 13 Perhaps this feeling was heightened by 
the presence at the NC of two diametrically different people who both touched resonant 
chords among the SDSers: Bob Dylan and Alger Hiss. Dylan, who had just finished "Blowin' 
in the Wind" and was already a celebrity among the college generation, dropped by the hall 
and was persuaded to say a few words, which Jeremy Brecher remembers as being 
something like: "Ah don' know what yew all are talkin' about ... but it sounds like yew want 
somethin' to happen, and if that's what yew want that's what Ah want." Hiss had come by 
to deliver a message to one of the SDSers and as soon as it was known that he was in the 
back of the hall, a number of people insisted that he be introduced; he was, and to cheers: 
it was as much his outcastness, his defiance, as his politics that impressed the delegates, 
and he was for them a symbol of all their closely held anti-anti-Communism. 

Webb, as he now admits, "staged" the meeting so that it would be heavy with those, 
especially from the Swarthmore area, who shared the into-the-ghetto view; he even had 
Jesse Gray, leader of the Harlem rent strike then going on, and Stanley Aronowitz, whose 
National Committee for Full Employment was by then a reality, come down to propagandize. 
Against them were ranged the realignment faction (Max and cohort) and an assortment of 
others, led chiefly by Haber, who thought "ghetto-jumping," as they put it, was remote from 
the needs both of students and of the nation as a whole. The result was the long- 
remembered "Hayden-Haber Debate," at which SDS as an organization took a decisive 
turn. 14 

Haber, quiet, bespectacled, somewhat older, opened by presenting a report on the first 
three months of ERAP under his egis and urging its continuation on the same essentially 
academic lines. ERAP, he held, should be a place for research and writing about the 
problems of the poor, an "independent center of radical thinking," formulating the programs 
around which other people organized for themselves. Students should concern themselves 
as students, avoid the "cult of the ghetto," and use their own problems and talents to 
organize around, on the campus. If SDS spread itself from campus to ghetto, it would be 
spreading itself too thin. 



69 



Hayden, intense, charming, casual, seemed to have been at his most winning. SDS, he said, 
has to be relevant, has to leave all the academic crap behind it, has to break out of 
intellectuality into contact with the grass roots of the nation. ERAP, by getting off the 
campuses and into the ghettos, would get to the grass roots, get to where the people are. 
There we can listen to them, learn from them, organize them to give voice to their 
legitimate complaints, mobilize them to demand from the society the decent life that is 
rightfully theirs. ERAP can be the insurgent action that would truly propel SDS on a 
"revolutionary trajectory" (as America and the New Era had put it). Here at last was 
something/or SDS to do. 

The vote when it came was lopsided: the Hayden position won twenty to six. There were 
still to be campus programs of research and education around poverty and civil rights, there 
was still to be work in peace, disarmament, educational reform, and electoral politics— but 
the main energies of the organization would now go into ERAP. Henceforth, as someone put 
it jocularly that day, SDS would operate on the principle of "Social Emergency: Local 
Insurgency." 

It now remained to put the plan into effect, and for that the NC picked Rennie Davis to 
replace Haber in the ERAP headquarters. Davis, installed somewhat surreptitiously in the 
building of the University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Conflict Resolution, was the 
man most responsible for ERAP's success.* He was a serious, dedicated, indefatigable, 
ingrown person who had been born in Michigan in 1940, grew up in Virginia in a small rural 
town, and had gone on to Oberlin, where he was a political science major and a cofounder 
of the campus political party there; he had just completed, as we have seen, a frustrating 
year trying to organize students at the University of Illinois while he was doing graduate 
work, he had transferred to the University of Michigan for more studies, and he was now 
eager to push into something more tangible and by all odds more exciting. "ERAP under 
Rennie was a swirl of activity," Gitlin remembers 15 , and Webb says he was "a great 
organizer" that spring: "He was able to excite people, get people going, handle 
organizational things— and be confident. He's never received his proper recognition: he was 
one of the very important people in SDS." Webb should know, for he handled the New York 
end while Davis was in Ann Arbor, and the two of them did most of the ERAP planning that 
spring. The phrase they used at the time was "organize with mirrors"— give people the 
illusion that ERAP was a real thing before it was. "The whole thing," Webb recalls, "was to 
translate SDS very very quickly from an intellectual research center to an aggressive 
expanding political organization." They formulated the notion of having projects often to 
twenty students in a dozen cities during the summer vacation which, if successful, might be 
continued in the fall. "I went out to Ann Arbor," Webb says, "and Rennie was there with two 
girls he had recruited. We bought the census tracts, got a book about cities from the library, 
and we sat down and wrote the proposals for all the different cities." They picked Chicago 
because Chabot was already working there, Newark because Aronowitz's Full Employment 
committee was interested in helping. Hazard, Kentucky, because a Committee of Miners was 
already at work there, Cleveland because a friend of Wittman's named Ollie Fein wanted to 
start one there, and so on. Then in a series of preparatory conferences at Hazard, Ann 
Arbor, and Urbana they spread the word, enlisted recruits, talked over the problems, 
hammered out their idea. Organizing with mirrors or not, it worked. Before the spring was 
over they had firm projects set for no fewer than ten cities, and several hundred 
applications in from students all over the country who wanted to be part of ERAP Summer. 



It was, incidentally, his clipped pronunciation of "ghetto" as "get-toe" that other SDSers kiddingly adopted and 
used regularly at ERAP meetings from then on. 



70 



It was not all roses. The remaining money from the original UAW grant went very quickly, 
and by April 1964 ERAP was down to $700. Davis, in his phrase, "blitzed" the East trying to 
get money from unions, the few liberal foundations (such as the Kaplan Fund— later named 
as a CIA conduit— and the Stem Family Fund), and some sympathetic individuals like Harold 
Taylor and Victor Rabinowitz, the New York lawyer; but he warned ERAPers in April that 
each project itself would have to raise $50 per worker. 16 

Then, too, the project farthest along— Chicago— was having serious problems. All had 
seemed promising as the new year began. Following the new strategy, Chabot had given up 
on white youths and turned to the white unemployed in general, and in February opened up 
a storefront office strategically placed just down from the unemployment compensation 
office. The Packinghouse Workers Union was sympathetic to the project (the ILG, 
incidentally, had turned it down), gave some money and help, and set up with SDS an 
organization called JOIN, whose initials stood for the thrust of that particular project. Jobs 
Or Income Now. Davis even recruited more staff— Dan Max, Steve's younger brother, came 
out from New York, and later Lee Webb himself, who had been granted Conscientious 
Objector status by his draft board and joined a religious group in Chicago for his alternate 
service, devoted full time to JOIN. But the project faltered. A few jobless people came in, 
there were meetings sometimes with as many as thirty people, some marginal successes 
were won in fighting the bureaucracy of the local compensation office— but there was no 
solid organization, no sense of community-building, no real getting through to the people, 
and the money ran out so fast that at one point there wasn't even enough to put up a 
bracket so that they could install a sink in the office. By late spring Chabot got discouraged 
and eventually simply left, taking the project's only car and $115 that had accumulated 
besides, arguing that it was little enough considering the hours he had put in; Davis agreed. 
And after the remaining staffers had put all their energies into a symbolic apple-selling 
demonstration in the Loop in late May, enticing only two dozen locals to join them, Davis 
wrote bitterly: "Hell, we've been working at this now since September and finally spring 25 
guys into the streets." 

ERAP was also causing serious tension in the organization. The ERAPers began to feel that 
SDS should give itself over almost entirely to community organizing, that people should 
drop out of school and that it might even be necessary for SDS to become ERAP. As Hayden 
and Wittman had put it in their winter paper, "We must be prepared to radically change, or 
even dissolve, our organization if conditions someday favor a broad new movement." Don 
McKelvey, unsympathetic to ERAP, gloomily discussed this tendency as personified by 
Hayden and Gitlin in a letter to Steve Max that spring: 

Tom, as Todd recounts it, thinks SDS should be community projects in the 
ghetto, that the campus program should be gutted. Todd's analysis is more 
moderate and more dangerous, from our point of view, viz: that social change 
originates with the most dispossessed and that other classes will cluster 
around the dispossessed as they organize, since they are the most dynamic. 
Now, the fault is not with that analysis ... but with the notion that SDS is the 
movement rather than a particular sector of it with a particular thing to do— 
i.e. get middle-class students into politics in a meaningful, long-term way. I'm 
afraid that Todd has a too exploitative attitude toward the campus— and, in 
fact, he said it in one letter— that we mustn't allow the campus program to fail 
because it was necessary to the ghetto program. This is the wrong 
emphasis. 17 

Haber, too, added his fire, in a blistering article in the March-April SDS Bulletin: 



71 



I am highly critical of the substance of such community work because it has 
been without radical direction, clarity of goals, or significant differentiation 
from liberal reform. And I am critical of its organizational role because it 
diverts us from more important things, ignores our role as a student 
organization and has become the base for an unfortunate anti-intellectualism 
in SDS ... . 

The "into the ghetto" enthusiasm has become linked with an anti- 
intellectualism, a disparagement of research and study, an urging of students 
to leave the university, a moral superiority for those who "give their bodies", 
etc. "In the world" has come to mean "in the slum." Beside being slightly sick, 
this suggests a highly perverted analysis of American Society ... . 

The cult of the ghetto has diverted SDS from the primary and most difficult 
task of educating radicals ... . As an organization for students, SDS will have 
failed. It will have people deny what they are, and hence never learn how to 
apply their values in what they do. 

And a lonely warning was added from Jim Williams, a big, soft-spoken Kentuckian who had 
been instrumental in organizing the University of Louisville chapter the fall before. He tried 
to point out in SDS circles that ERAP was not likely to be any more successful than the 
Narodnik movement which it was imitating. "But they just thought that was something old," 
Williams recalls with a smile. "I was known to have old thoughts." 

As Gitlin put it in describing the April 1964 NC meeting to the membership, "Debates of 
major proportion are arising among us concerning organizational direction and emphasis." 
And that was an understatement: for the first time it began to appear that SDS wasn't 
broad enough to encompass all its divergencies. 18 

By the time of the 1964 summer convention, held again at Camp Gulliver in Pine Hill, New 
York, from June 11 to 14, these divergencies had solidified into roughly three factions: the 
realignment group, which concerned itself with electoral action and reform politics, led by 
Steve Max and Jim Williams and made up of a number of New Yorkers connected with Max 
through the reform movement in the city, plus a number of new student members who were 
uncomfortable with the idea of going into the slums; the campus-organizing group, in which 
Dick Flacks and Clark Kissinger (the new National Secretary, who replaced Webb in May) 
were prominent— Haber is by now so disgusted he doesn't even attend the convention, for 
the first time in seven years— and which drew support from the more conventional student 
delegates and those in colleges relatively untouched by the SNCC mystique; and the ERAP 
group, including most of the old-timers and a strong Swarthmore contingent plus a number 
of younger members who were beginning to embody an apolitical protohippie attitude and 
were inclined toward the romance of living among the poor.* Since it was now a hoary 
tradition of fully two years that the job of summer conventions was to turn out 
programmatic papers like The Port Huron Statement and America and the New Era, each of 
these factions had come prepared with a document for the convention to enshrine. + This, it 
was thought, would resolve the factional dispute, for whichever paper was most popular 
with the convention would be the blueprint for the following year. 



* "It is only a coincidence, perhaps, but a similar range of political views appeared among the adult luminaries who 
attended the convention, including Roger Hagan, Simmons College Professor Sumner Rosen, Studies on the Left 
editor James Weinstein, the Reverend Malcolm (Are you Running With Me, Jesus?) Boyd, and a New York City 
lawyer and litterateur by the name of William Kunstler. 

+ There was a fourth, put out by a group called Touch and Sex, a fabrication born probably in the mind of Steve 
Max, which parodied what it called the romantic "feelie" politics of the ERAPers. 



72 



The papers were presented; the convention took just half an afternoon to reject all three. 
The solution was in the best existential tradition of the New Left— no program, no blueprint, 
nobody telling you what you have to do— and it kept the organization intact. The ERAPers 
could go off and do their thing— indeed, many of them were already in the projects— while 
those on the campuses could continue theirs. For form's (and Max's) sake the convention 
mandated the National Council to establish a Political Education Project (PEP) alongside of 
ERAP which would undertake the work of the realignment faction and participate actively in 
the upcoming Presidential-year elections— but even Max knew that it was a decision that did 
not reflect the dominant political mood of the organization as a whole, and certainly not of 
its leadership: "The dominant tone," he remembers, not without distaste, "was this thing 
about privilege, that we were the bourgeoisie and we should go out and work for the 
poor." 19 

The elections on the last day of the convention reflected the divergent politics (given that 
student elections are swung on a lot more things than political positions), though the weight 
of the ERAPers was evident. All four nominated for President were ERAP supporters— Davis 
and Ken McEldowney, who were on the ERAP national staff, and Bob Ross and Paul Potter, 
who were going into ghetto projects, but Potter seems to have been elected because he 
wasn't as closely identified with the ERAP leadership. In a four-man race for Vice President, 
Wittman and Webb, strongly identified with ERAP, were rejected, as was Jeffrey Shero, a 
University of Texas student at his first SDS convention who was being pushed by the 
realignment group; Vernon Grizzard, head of the Chester ERAP but also an undergraduate 
and not quite so identifiably of the in-group, was chosen instead. Elected as National Council 
members were solid ERAPers like Davis, Wittman, Webb, Ross, Egleson, Gitlin, and 
McEldowney, Sarah Murphy, Shero, and Tufts University undergraduate David Smith from 
the campus contingent, and Paul Booth, Jeremy Brecher, and Jim Williams from the 
realignment faction; the last member was Charles Smith, a motorcycle-riding Texan who 
introduced himself to the convention as a "Gandhian-Marxist-pacifist-anarchist," and whom 
no one could classify. Of them all, only six— Brecher, Egleson, Grizzard, Murphy, Shero, and 
David Smith— were still in school, a signal of the continuing division in the organization 
between a postgraduate leadership and an undergraduate following. 

By the time the deliberations were over it was clear that the electoral-politics people were 
not a significant element in SDS, but that the other two factions were strong and that there 
was a real cleavage between them. For the moment the direction of the organization was 
decided in favor of the ERAP faction, because— in addition to the other general explanations 
for the attractions of local insurgency— ERAP was new, it was doing something, and it had 
behind it most of the traditional (and the more charismatic) SDS leadership. But the 
campus-directed element was strong, and growing. And the tension between those who 
wanted to go into the real world and build a Movement and those who wanted to stay and 
organize in the universities would continue to be felt in the organization in the years to 
come. 

So the ERAPers, strengthened by a six-day training institute earlier in June and then by the 
to-each-his-own convention, set out to build an interracial movement of the poor.* As the 
summer began there were ten projects: 



* Some notion of the character of the ERAPers can be gotten from a look at the kinds of colleges they came from. 
Of the 48 ERAPers at the 1964 convention, 14 of them came from Swarthmore and 14 from Michigan— the hotbeds 
of ERAP organizing activity— and one or two each from such prestigious schools as Bard, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, 
Harvard, Haverford, Williams, and others from American University, Boston University, CCNY, Illinois, Johns 
Hopkins, Louisville, MIT, and Wisconsin. 



73 



Baltimore: a project called (like Chicago's) JOIN, working to reorganize the 
unemployed in two communities, one of poor whites, one of poor blacks; 
ERAPers included Peter Davidowicz and former NECer Kimberly Moody; 

Boston: organizing among suburban whites (chiefly in Bedford, 
Massachusetts) whose defense industry jobs would, it was held, soon be 
eliminated as the nation's economy went through a "conversion" from military 
to peace-oriented interests; Chuck Levenstein, a Tufts SDSer, was important 
here; 

Chester: a continuation of the SPAC work in the black community; Grizzard 
was head of the ten-person project; 

Chicago: an extension of the JOIN project which Chabot and Dan Max had 
started, working among the white unemployed; the fourteen-member staff 
included such heavies as Gitlin, Ross, and Webb; 

Cleveland: a multi-issued project in a largely poor white community, planning 
actions around housing, rents, and welfare; ERAPers included Bryn Mawr 
SDSer Katherine Boudin, Ollie Fein and his wife. Charlotte, Michigan students 
Nanci Hollander and Dick Magidoff, Sharon Jeffrey, and Paul Potter; 

Hazard, Kentucky: a joint project with the year-old Committee for Miners and 
Aronowitz's Full Employment Committee, chiefly organizing unemployed 
whites laid off from the mines; Steve Max joined it in the summer; 

Louisville: a somewhat hazy venture instigated by local peace activists, 
designed to work almost exclusively with other local groups, chiefly in civil 
rights; Jim Williams led this project; 

Newark: another multi-issued project, aimed for a racially mixed community 
and working with an existing neighborhood-improvement group; Hayden and 
Wittman were both here, with Swarthmorean Larry Gordon, Barry Kalish, and 
two invaluable Michigan SDSers, Jill Hamberg and Michael Zweig, among 
others; 

Philadelphia: another JOIN project working among the unemployed in a mixed 
black-and-white area; the ten ERAPers were led by Nick Egleson; 

Trenton: a multi-issued project directed toward high-school tutorials, urban 
renewal, and housing, chiefly among blacks; Swarthmorean Walter Popper 
was its director. 

The ERAP leaders, though cold-eyed about the difficulties, were confident. They had raised 
what for SDS was the incredible sum of nearly $20,000, $5,000 of that from the New Land 
Foundation and $5,000 more from Joseph Buttinger, a Dissent editor and patron; they 
figured that it would last them well through the summer. They had enlisted as many 
students as they thought they could take on, starting out the summer with 125 enthusiastic 
people, and there were more behind them who could be used as replacements. They had 
gotten unexpectedly enthusiastic support from the adult community; to take one example, a 
letter signed by W. H. Ferry (of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa 
Barbara), A. J. Muste (the pacifist and leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation), and I. F. 
Stone (the Washington journalist) was sent out in June to a variety of the left publications 
urging "moral, intellectual, and financial support" for ERAP: 



74 



We want to inform your readers about a critical new development in the 
American political scene— the emergence of an organization of students and 
young people who are seriously committed to building a new American left 

The group we are referring to is Students for a Democratic Society, an 
organization which is about to celebrate its second anniversary by 
inaugurating a major new program. Their plan aims at creating interracial 
movements in key Northern and border-state communities around such 
issues as jobs, housing, and schools. Their strategy, like the strategy of the 
Southern civil rights movement, is to have students and young people serve 
as catalysts of protest in these communities ... . 

... SDS has succeeded in attracting some of the best and angriest young 
minds now functioning, and has been able to put these minds to work in 
socially relevant ways. 20 

ERAP seemed on its way to becoming the most important thing SDS had ever done. 

Meanwhile ... 



1 Axelrod, quoted in Samuel H. Baron, Plekhanov, Stanford, 1963, p. 15. 

2 Hayden letter to Reuther, March 29, 1963. Hayden report, SDS Bulletin, March-April, 
1963. 

3 America and the New Era, op. cit. 

4 Gitlin, "New Chances: The Reality and Dynamic of the New Left," mimeographed paper, 
November 1969, author's file. 

5 Ray Brown, "Our Crisis Economy," SDS pamphlet, fall 1963. 

6 Gitlin, in Cohen and Hale (1967), p. 126. 

7 Hayden quotations, in order, from The Radical Papers, op. cit., p. 364; ibid, p. 362; ibid., 
p. 363; Thoughts of Young Radicals, op. cit., p. 41. "a new harmony," Keniston, p. 122. 

8 Hayden, letter to Gitlin, August 2,1963. 

9 Chabot, "interim report" to NO, November 6, 1963. 

10 Max, memo to Gitlin, November 23,1963. 

11 For Chester organizing, Carl Wittman, SDS Bulletin, March 1964; Larry Gordon, SDS 
Bulletin, January 1964; Michael Ferber, Liberation, January 1964. 

12 Webb, interview. "An Interracial Movement of the Poor?" SDS pamphlet, 1963, reprinted 
in Cohen and Hale (1967), pp. 175 ff.; italics in original. 

13 Booth, interview. Brecher, interview. Webb, interview. 

14 Hayden-Haber debate, mimeographed minutes; SDS Bulletin, February and March, 1964; 
SDS Discussion Bulletin, spring 1964; Booth, Brecher, and Webb interviews. 

15 Gitlin, interview. Webb, interview. 

16 "blitzed," letter to NO, May 27,1964. 

17 Davis, ibid. McKelvey, letter, undated (spring 1964). Haber, SDS Bulletin, March 1964. 



75 



18 Williams, interview. Gitlin, SDS Bulletin, May 1964. 

19 Max, interview. 

20 Ferry-Muste-Stone letter, Guardian, June 27, 1964, and elsewhere. 

Fall 1963-Spring 1964 

A photograph of the participants in SDS's National Council meeting in Bloomington, Indiana 
in the fall of 1963 has somehow managed to survive the generally haphazard file keeping 
and antihistorical inclinations of the organization. It shows what appears to be an ordinary 
band of young people gathered in front of one of those characterless modern buildings of 
which Midwestern universities make a specialty, smiling into the sun with a group-picture 
self-consciousness. The style of that time, the picture makes clear, was collegiate casual, 
the sartorial counterculture having not quite yet taken hold: hair is short, there are no 
beards or mustaches or beads or buttons, all the men are wearing ordinary summer shirts, 
and two of them even have on jackets; the women are in simple knee-length dresses or 
jeans. The only unusual thing about them is that all but two of them have their arms raised 
in a clenched-fist salute of the revolutionary left— the two nonconformists are, for their own 
mysterious reasons, Todd Gitlin, then just getting into his reign as SDS President, and 
Vernon Grizzard, the Swarthmorean who was to become Vice President the next year. (Paul 
Booth and Lee Webb, for their mysterious reasons, are the only ones signaling with their left 
arms.) 1 

The photograph serves to put the organization in time, to remind one that SDS at this point, 
three years into the decade, is more potentiality than potency. This is an NC meeting with 
no more than thirty people— in later years several hundred would be common— reflecting an 
organization of less than seven hundred paid-up members with maybe that much again on 
the fringes who are members in spirit if not in card— which even so makes it one of the 
major groups in student politics, though still without a national image or reputation beyond 
the campuses. The style of the group is mainstream middle class— all of those in the picture 
are white, three-quarters of them male— and the very existence of a group picture suggests 
an outlook not so terribly far advanced beyond that of the campus club. Their spirit is more 
Gandhian than Guevaran and they see themselves more as proselytizers and 
propagandizers than organizers and mobilizers; they are, it is true, on the verge of pushing 
toward an action program (ERAP, authorized at this NC) but it is still formless and 
impulsive. SDS, in other words, does not yet have the strength to become the shaper and 
shaker of the student movement. 

And yet those incongruous raised fists. They suggest the growing leftward restlessness of 
SDS, the power-that-might-be, the activism-that-is-to-come. They are, perhaps because of 
their incongruity, haunting. 

While the "new insurgency" forces in SDS were gathering in the fall of 1963 and beginning 
to point in the direction of the ERAP that was to be, the National Office and those within its 
orbit continued to wrestle with the ongoing problems of organizational cohesion. 



76 



As the fall term began, the first and unmistakable crisis was one of leadership. Todd Gitlin, 
who was taking over the sizable presidential shoes of Haber and Hayden, had at that point 
neither the depth nor breadth to fill them. Gitlin, tall, light curly hair, glasses, and an air of 
angst about him, was unquestionably bright and earnest, but he was a bookish sort both by 
background and by training— his parents were New York City schoolteachers and his world 
until then had been essentially confined to the Bronx High School of Science (where he was 
valedictorian) and Harvard University; the challenge of leading an organization that needed 
to stamp itself vigorously on the campus world was somewhat beyond him. He was, 
moreover, registered as a graduate student in political science at the University of Michigan 
(on a scholarship), and though this put him in touch with one of SDS's most active centers 
(including Hayden, Haber, Davis, Potter, and the McEldowneys, plus the VOICE chapter, still 
the largest), it also tended to cut him off from both the National Office in New York and the 
other, less attractive, chapters. Then, too, he was only twenty, had been a member of SDS 
for less than a year, and was without much political experience; as he remembers it, "I was 
out of it for a long time. I had become President under such peculiar auspices, you know. I 
was bewildered. All of my anticipations were right: I wasn't prepared to be President." 2 

Lee Webb, the new National Secretary, who, like Gitlin, had been recruited and pushed for 
national office by Robb Burlage, proved equally uncomfortable in his new job. The son of 
working-class New England parents, he had spent his winters in schools— Andover, then 
Boston University, both on scholarships— and his summers as a laborer, and had never 
worked in an office before in his life: the routine it demanded chafed, and he kept feeling 
that he ought to be out doing something with his life instead. He quickly discovered in the 
summer after his election that he had nothing politically in common with either Steve Max 
or Don McKelvey, with whom he had to work in the NO, and that much of what Burlage had 
told him about the size and activity of the organization was exaggerated: "That fall there 
were three or four SDS chapters, functioning chapters, and maybe five more paper 
chapters— which surprised me, because I'd heard that there were twenty or thirty." He says 
simply, "I was very, very bitter." 3 

So Webb started traveling around the campuses, leaving the office routine behind, and very 
soon found the campaign of the Swarthmore people in the Chester ghettos a convenient 
excuse to stay away from New York. The trouble was that there was no one to take up the 
slack in the NO, and an already rigid office became inefficient as well. Ginger Ryan, who had 
been hired as a part-time assistant to keep some of the NO moving, wrote plaintively in one 
letter that October: "Our checking account gets smaller, smaller; none of the typewriters 
really work; where does money come from?" 

In October the official ranks show 610 members, presumably paid up, in thirty-three states 
from Alaska to Georgia and five foreign countries, and at ninety-nine United States 
institutions, from Harvard to St. Cloud State College in Minnesota. Nineteen of them have 
enough members on paper to qualify as chapters (that is, five or more paid-up members of 
national SDS), but only the largest— Michigan (123), Vassar (26), CCNY (18), Harvard/ 
Radcliffe (17), Swarthmore (17), and Illinois (14)— have anything resembling a continuing 
program. Some other unofficial chapters, which had only a few national members, 
however— Hunter, Johns Hopkins, Oberlin, Rhode Island, Texas, Wayne State— among them 
managed to get a variety of activities started at their campuses without paying much 
attention to who was in SDS and who wasn't. 



77 



The NO did make one attempt that fall to launch a national program. The VOICE chapter 
had proposed in September that SDS use the occasion of a visit to Washington by Mme. 
Ngo Dinh Nhu, sister-in-law of Saigon tyrant Ngo Dinh Diem, for a demonstration against 
American involvement in Vietnam. September 1963. Gitlin heartily approved and invited the 
Student Peace Union, then reeling under factional disputes and the detente of the previous 
August's test-ban treaty but still the likeliest student group to care about the war, to join 
with SDS in staging the demonstration; the SPU, in need of a cause, readily agreed. 
Together they issued a call which was quite surprisingly prescient in its demands for United 
States withdrawal and its attack on the puppet regime, the use of chemical warfare, and the 
waste of American money. 

But SDS couldn't rally its forces. Many of the older members felt that foreign affairs of any 
kind were essentially too remote from the basic interests of students, and this one 
especially so. Students, they argued, really care only about domestic issues, things like 
ghettos, the jobless, and organizing the poor. Gitlin, though helpful in planning a local 
demonstration in Ann Arbor, was unable to put together a national action; Booth, also 
interested, couldn't even get his friends at Swarthmore to go along; Webb had little interest 
'n the subject. Eventually SDS had to give the real work of organizing the main 
demonstration over to the SPU and to concentrate instead on getting out some people for 
local protests. 

The demonstration was held in Washington on October 18 and in the event, SDS did make it 
presence felt. Booth went down from Swarthmore to give a speech at a nighttime rally 
("The Vietnamese have paid heavily for our folly ... . This great nation [must] harness its 
human resources in behalf of causes which are just" 4 ), and two SDSers, Douglas Ireland 
and Ed Knappman, were arrested along with five other demonstrators for picketing in front 
of the Washington Press Club, where Mme. Nhu had been invited to speak. At a few 
campuses around the country joint SDS-SPU demonstrations were held: 400 attended a 
rally at Michigan, 400 more demonstrated at Wisconsin, 170 people at the University of 
Texas signed a petition calling for the end of United States aid to Saigon, 50 students 
picketed in downtown Detroit (one with a sign reading, DOWN WITH THE NHU FRONTIER), 
and 35 picketed a speech by Mme. Nhu at Howard University, This is not insignificant, given 
the date; but most of this was done without any real push from the upper levels of the SDS 
organization, and what might have been a dramatic political event was instead a backpage 
oddity. 

As the ERAP blitz took over more and more of SDS's attention after the December National 
Council meeting and the whole balance of the organization shifted to ERAP headquarters in 
Ann Arbor, the organizational crisis in New York became worse. The December meeting tried 
to stave it off by halting Max's field trips and putting him into the NO full time, but Max 
found the job more and more burdensome as Webb was occupied elsewhere and political 
differences with McKelvey grew daily (McKelvey, after all, was calling himself a Maoist, while 
Max was working with reform Democrats). The December meeting had also decided that the 
NO should move out of the LID building to new quarters a few blocks down the street at 119 
Fifth Avenue, making manifest the growing division between the two organizations which, 
though patched over successfully now for a year and a half, was still very real and still very 
acutely felt by the younger half; this meant lost files, delays, and more chaos than usual. 
Doug Ireland, another of Burlage's proteges, was brought onto the staff in February to 
restore some order, and he even came with enough money for his first three months' 
salary; but, though talented, he was both very young and very sickly, and that didn't help 
much either. The last straw was provided by the Selective Service System, which informed 
Lee Webb in April that he would be granted Conscientious Secretary didn't qualify. (Or 
perhaps that wasn't the last straw. Shortly thereafter it was discovered that there were 
mice in the new office.) 



78 



All of this was of course compounded by the fact that there wasn't any money. By the end 
of 1963 the LID was almost $8000 in debt, $5,000 of which was incurred in the previous 
twelve months, when it had an income of $35,106 and expenditures of $40,477; it was 
meeting its SDS obligations, which it reckoned at about $4,000 a year, only fitfully. SDS 
itself managed to limp along piling up debts slowly enough to forestall utter bankruptcy; 
through the bulk of the school year it was getting in around $600 a month from dues and 
contributions, and spending roughly $100 more— and every so often a generous donation 
would enable it to keep its head above water. Still, by late April, after the Fire Department 
inspectors ordered SDS to buy an extinguisher for the new office, Max confessed, "We can't 
afford it." 5 And everyone in the NO was still living at a subsistence level— McKelvey on $28 a 
week, Max on whatever could be spared or borrowed— a fact which Max made a special 
point of trying to keep the ERAP people from forgetting; as he wrote wryly to Gitlin, "Think 
about dough for the office; as Mao says, 'If ghetto agitation means cadre starvation, in the 
long run the people suffer.' " 

In March 1964 a conference of leading leftist student groups was held at Yale University to 
discuss what action could be taken against the war in Vietnam. A few SDSers participated, 
unofficially. The conference decided to hold a mass antiwar demonstration in May and to 
establish a national executive committee to make the arrangements. The majority of the 
members on the committee were members of the Progressive Labor Movement, a number 
of them unacknowledged. On May 2, 1964, 1000 students in New York City marched to the 
United Nations and heard speeches denouncing United States imperialism and the Saigon 
regime, while other meetings in Boston, San Francisco, and Madison similarly drew students 
into antiwar protests. Under the guidance of Progressive Labor, a student group named 
after those protests and called the May 2nd Movement (M2M) was then formed to focus 
student energy against the Vietnam war in particular and American imperialism in general. 
Its chairman was Haverford student Russell Stetler, who had been a member of SDS 
member who had led a group of students to Cuba the previous summer and was planning a 
second student visit for this summer. 

In a conference from April 15 to 18, 1964, the Progressive Labor Movement officially formed 
itself into the Progressive Labor Party. It claimed a membership of six hundred or so, but 
the number was not important. The open, hard militancy of the group, their free 
acknowledgment that they were communists, their heavy emphasis on organizing "Afro- 
American" workers in the ghettos, their bold student trips to Cuba in defiance of the 
government and their finger-giving attitude to HUAC upon their return, their imaginative 
analysis of the war in Vietnam as consistent with an American "imperialism"— these things 
made it noticed, and attractive, on the college campuses. 

A few months later, at the September National Council meeting, SDSers officially took note 
of the new Progressive Labor Party with some amusement: "a strange and wonderful 
phenomenon," 6 they called it. 



79 



And yet, ultimately neither the weaknesses of the leadership nor the inefficiencies of the 
National Office really seemed to matter that much. For there was now, more than ever 
before, a considerable strength in the chapters themselves. It was a time of heightened 
interest on the campuses, and most SDS people, not the types to sit around waiting for the 
NO to do their organizing for them, went out and did their own recruiting, wrote their own 
pamphlets, sent their own releases to the student paper, planned their own campus 
activities. In fact, chapters seemed to be growing all by themselves: at Reed, at Oklahoma, 
Northeastern, Kansas, Chicago, and even— tough territory for a latecomer to crack— at 
Berkeley. By April Max was saying, with some wonderment, "Chapters are forming so fast 
it's getting hard to keep up with it," and by the end of the 1963-64 school year there were 
twenty-nine honest-to-goodness chapters,* the membership had grown to almost a 
thousand, and the regular mailing list had fifteen hundred names. All proof that forceful 
energies in the organization were flowing from the bottom up. 

What is at work, obviously, is the growing leftward spirit of the studentry, of which SDS, by 
its past as much as its present, is a beneficiary. Not by accident, during this same year 
there are also formed, in addition to the anti-war M2M, the PL-run Student Committee for 
Travel to Cuba, the reformist- and Communist Party-oriented W. E. B. DuBois Clubs, the 
Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, the Southern Student Organizing Committee (which will 
become affiliated with SDS), and the groups involved in Mississippi Summer. Amid all this 
SDS attracts because it is an established organization, it is a white outfit at a time of a 
growing black-power trend in SNCC, and it is (in both style and theory) part of the New Left 
and therefore free of the "ideological hangups" of M2M and the DuBois Clubs. 

It takes no very special perception to discover the reasons for this leftward swing. In 
September 1963 four little black girls were blown to pieces in a dynamite blast of the 
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, signaling the utter unregeneracy 
of the South. In November John Kennedy, in whom many had placed lingering hopes in 
spite of themselves, was assassinated, and his alleged assassin was himself murdered: 
bloody and violent symbols of a bloody and violent country. He was followed into office by 
Lyndon Johnson, acknowledged by even his admirers to be the most glaring example of 
back-scratching, wheeler-dealing, arm-twisting corrupt Senate politics, and a rather boorish 
and ill-spoken Texas to boot. The aftermath of the Kennedy death produced a ream of 
different explanations, none of them terribly flattering to the Establishment and the most 
convincing of which suggested the complicity of the CIA, the Dallas police force, and Lyndon 
Johnson himself. The Vietnam maw had drawn to it enough soldiers— 16,000 by mid-1964— 
to make it a national issue (Goldwater wants to send more, with nuclear warheads, Johnson 
promises that American boys won't fight an Asian war) and a depressing example of 
American adventurism, at the very least. The hopes of Mississippi Summer— and the dreams 
of peaceful change— were riddled in June 1964 by the blatant murders of SNCC workers 
James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner by law officers who clearly would 
never be punished. And then in Atlantic City, where the Democrats met in convention in 
August, the SNCC-inspired Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which expected to replace 
the racist official party delegation, was refused its seats and offered the "compromise" of 
sitting two at-large delegates instead; this compromise was made all the more distasteful 
by the fact that many of the most helpful supporters of the MFDP within the liberal 
community— people like the ADA'S Joseph Rauh, upcoming politico Al Lowenstein, Martin 
Luther King, and LIDers Bayard Rustin and Tom Kahn— all urged its acceptance. 



* Baltimore At-large, Berkeley, Brandeis, Chicago, CCNY, Delta State, Harvard/ Radcliffe, Hunter, Illinois, 
Kalamazoo, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, New School, Northeastern, North Texas State, Oberlin, 
Oklahoma, Reed, Rhode Island, Rutgers, Swarthmore, Texas, Vassar, University of Washington, Wayne State, 
Wilson, Wisconsin. The strongest were said to be those at Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island, Swarthmore, and Texas. 



80 



The wonder, really, is that more students didn't turn leftward sooner. 

Now SDS itself at this point— mid-1964— was in certain ways not terribly far left. It did not 
have the imperialist analysis or the specifically anticapitalist stance of groups like M2M and 
the Young Socialist Alliance (the youth group of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party). It 
was not willing to declare itself socialist, though it had a number of people who thought of 
themselves that way and that was the clear if unstated implication of parts of both The Port 
Huron Statement and America and the New Era. (In May, Jim Williams complained, "In SDS 
... socialism is still 'the forbidden word.' Why is this when most of its leaders are socialists? 
Whom are we trying to fool?" 7 ) It was not even ready yet to give up its basic sense that the 
institutions of the country, though their imperfections were glaring, were capable of reform, 
provided the citizens worked long and hard enough to bring that about. What SDS did have, 
however, was an analysis more in keeping with its time— the sense of making connections, 
of participatory democracy, of new insurgencies, of living one's life so that it did not 
contradict one's beliefs— that spoke to the student activists far better than the apparently 
discredited doctrines of the thirties. It had a sense of moral politics, of direct action, of 
putting bodies on the line, that made it more of an authentically left organization than the 
Communists with their popular-front politics, or the Progressive Laborites with their 
sectarian zeal. 

Moreover, throughout the spring SDS made itself felt on the campuses in concrete ways. Its 
Bulletin, several dozen mimeographed pages giving news of student activities and reports of 
chapter goings-on, was appearing now practically every month and reaching a primary 
audience of more than two thousand. The literature list, probably the biggest of any student 
organization and as sizable as any political group's, had grown to no fewer than ninety-two 
papers and pamphlets (forty-nine by SDSers) on every conceivable social or political issue, 
and the distribution of these writings by SDS chapters, by other political clubs, even by 
teachers who assigned them to their classes, spread the organization's reputation.* Gitlin 
began to grow into his job as the months went on— he was "totally transformed," Flacks 
noted in February— and began traveling, speaking, making contacts, visiting chapters; in 
fact, as one SDSer is supposed to have put it, commenting on Gitlin's renewed activity on 
the campuses and Hayden's in ERAP, "Tom and Todd wait for no man." And a certain aura 
of solidity and fashion accrued to the organization with increased support from respected 
adults, such as the form letter which Harold Taylor and David Riesman sent out to academic 
and liberal circles on May 1 with phrases like "SDS ... . is one of the important and 
productive student groups" and "We respect the seriousness and quality of their political 
analysis." 



SDS becomes known, among other things, as the "writingest" organization around, and the prolificity is, 
considering the obstacles, amazing. Some found the verbiage too academic and too remote— SNCC people, for 
example, complained that nobody could actually read these things and tended to groan at the sight of them— but 
on the campuses, among intellectual youths searching for just this kind of percolated knowledge, the impact was 
considerable. 



81 



And at the campus level, SDS chapters and individuals worked to make themselves felt. 
Often SDSers would join with ongoing single-issue groups in support of particular actions 
relating to race, peace, elections, poverty, unions, indeed almost any cause, liberal or not. 
One especially popular cause of the time was the fight against bans on left-wing speakers 
on college campuses, those relics from McCarthy days still in force at a remarkable number 
of universities, particularly the state-supported ones; by the simple act of inviting a 
Communist to speak, SDS chapters could bring to campus attention a span of important 
issues having to do with free speech, university authoritarianism, the university's relation to 
political forces in the state, anti-Communism and the Cold War, and the nature of the 
American political system. SDSers used all kinds of recruiting and educational tools, one of 
the best proving to be debates with right-wingers, usually members of the Young Americans 
for Freedom who appeared with increasing frequency on the college scene, and who, one 
SDSer reported, "are usually the best recruiters to our cause." 8 Chapters also frequently 
established study groups to do research on local problems like housing, discrimination, and 
poverty, and held meetings and seminars and discussion groups to try to get the growing 
numbers of disaffected students to make connections between national events, to put 
across the SDS vision, and ultimately to radicalize them. 

All this produced a new strength in SDS that, for some, was almost euphoric. Dick Flacks, 
not normally given to elation, wrote that spring: 

We are in a new state ... . It is tremendously exciting— one sign of it is that 
no one person can actually keep up with everything which is going on ... 
another sign is the extent to which people are willing to commit themselves 
and the number and quality of the people who are attracted. 

"The times they are a-changing" and we are a part of it. 9 

SDS's campus resurgence was assisted around the same time by the happy accident of 
selecting, for the first time, a National Secretary of surpassing organizational talents. After 
Webb's departure in March, Steve Max filled in as Acting National Secretary, but, as 
suggested, with something less than total success; the top people began looking 
everywhere for someone to replace him. At the April NC, they found Charles Clark Kissinger. 

Clark Kissinger had been a student at Shimer College, in Illinois, transferred to the 
University of Chicago, where he majored in math and was active in starting the campus 
political party there, and after graduation in 1960 went on to work for an M.A. at Wisconsin, 
where he first joined SDS. When tapped for National Secretary, a job of limitless hours for 
the return of $75 a week, he was twenty-four, married, had a From the sublime to the 
ridiculous. 



82 



Kissinger— high forehead, thin face, short-cropped hair, regular features— looked like a 
smooth and efficient administrator; he was. He kept the National Office intact during its 
most arduous year, and (with the considerable help of a new Assistant National Secretary, 
Helen Garvy) he got the letters out, the literature mailed, the books balanced, the files 
sorted, and the typewriters working, all at the same time. Arriving in New York in June, the 
first thing he did was empty out the office of so much trash that he had to pay $5 to have it 
carted away. He then got in two new file cabinets and had the floor swept; the next month 
he promoted a sickly second-hand air conditioner, some new chairs, and— the 
embourgeoisification is complete— a water fountain. He got new letterheads and 
membership cards printed up, and had a stamp made, the first SDS ever had, reading FILE 
COPY DO NOT REMOVE STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY. He initiated regular 
weekly mailings of two or three single-spaced pages to the hundred or so key people on the 
worklist, wrote them, and saw that they were sent out. He kept the bank account in order to 
the penny, instituted a new system of unified account-keeping for all the parts of the 
organization, and imported the extraordinary concept, heretofore unheard of around SDS, of 
"double-entry bookkeeping." 10 

It is a mark of Kissinger's shrewdness that as one of his initial tasks he took it upon himself 
to try to establish smoother relations with the LID, which despite its own mounting debts 
(more than $10,000 worth by mid-1964), was after all still paying almost $400 a month to 
keep SDS going. He wrote polite self-introductory letters to Board Chairman Nathaniel 
Minkoff and Student Activities Committee head Emanuel Muravchik, both of which promised 
closer cooperation and communication with the LID. In June he told Tom Kahn, the young 
YPSLite who had just become Executive Secretary in place of Vera Rony, that he was 
"definitely interested" in distributing Kahn's new pamphlet, "The Economics of Equality," to 
SDS's full mailing list; in August he formally applied for admission to the LID, enclosing a 
membership check for $5. In drawing up the new SDS letterheads, he made sure that the 
phrase "The Student Department of the League for Industrial Democracy," actually 
appeared— this last had become a sore point with the LID since most of the literature going 
out of the office had somehow, Freudianly, forgotten to mention this relationship. Minkoff 
was snowed: "I should like to see," he tells Kissinger, "more of this spirit of affiliation and 
cooperation show." 

But Kissinger was more than an automaton: he took the job in large part because he felt 
strongly that chapter organizing should be an essential balance in the organization to the 
ERAP emphasis and he saw an efficient NO as being important for this. As he said in his 
report to the membership: 

Perhaps the central preoccupation of the National Staff this summer is with 
preparations for the fall. We are in the process of creating a chapter 
organizing manual and stockpiling literature for distribution to chapters on 
campuses during the first few weeks of the fall semester ... . In general, our 
potential is enormous— we have only to make the effort to carry our analysis 
and program to the American student ... . Our task is now avoiding the 
temptation to "take one generation of campus leadership and ... . run!" We 
must instead look toward building the campus base as the wellspring of our 
student movement. 11 



83 



Here, then, was the other side of the tension in SDS: the strength and movement of the 
chapters. Though there was no question that the dynamic of the year had been ERAP, there 
was activity too within the universities. Sometimes it took the form of university-reform 
projects— one of which, a tentative program called the United States University Reform 
Project (USURP) was in fact mandated by the December 1963 National Council but came to 
naught; and sometimes the form of simple chapter-building, which Max and McKelvey 
especially emphasized and the latter put eloquently in a memo to the membership in 
January: 

We have a special position (which our analysis of society makes even more 
potentially effective) as people who can affect and attract college and 
university (and high school) students with two views in mind: the planting in 
their minds of seeds of doubt and thought which will bear fruit in their 
changing attitudes and actions with respect to social issues; the direction of 
an understandably smaller group of students towards active involvement in 
social change, after they graduate and throughout their lives. The actual work 
for social change [i.e., ERAP] must be subordinate to those two goals. 

This tension will continue to grow— not just for the next few months but for the entire life of 
the organization. The reason is simple. The inescapable problem was that America had no 
left, and for the activist student generation the essential quandary was: Is the job of 
students to build that left, to shuck their student robes and go into the world, building allies 
where they can, taking their message to anyone who will listen before it all collapses; or, is 
it rather to build the student part of this left, assuming that somehow the remainder will get 
built by those elsewhere reacting to their own felt needs, to stay behind the ivy walls to 
coalesce those Who are known instead of presuming to proselytize those who are distant? 
Once aware, as the SDSers were by now, of how immense a task and yet how necessary to 
create that left, how wrenching then must be this question. Many, of whom the ERAPers are 
only part, felt that they must shoulder the whole burden themselves, that nobody gives a 
damn about students anyway— even if all the students were to lay down their books 
tomorrow, no one would notice— that the poor, or the working class, or the blacks (or all 
three) must be drawn in for any left to succeed, and if students don't do it, who will? 
Others, including the growing number of still-collegiate SDSers, answered that students 
(and sympathetic professors) are and can be a new force in society, with their own power to 
effect changes simply by acting on their own needs, that when the time comes for a united 
left in the nation the students had better have gotten their own constituency— say, a 
student union?— together; and that if the left is ever to come it will move— it will explode— 
from the campuses outward. The problem was made only more complicated by the fact of 
student transience, and the organizational transience of a student movement: those who 
have graduated, or dropped out, or forsaken higher education, and those who believed with 
Potter that the universities were handmaidens of the corrupt society, tended to feel that the 
campuses were too limited and that it was the wider left that must be created; those who 
were still in school, or heading there, or working in the academy, and those who believed 
with the Port Huronites that universities were centers for social insurgency, tended to feel 
that the ghettos and the factories were too impenetrable and that it was the student left 
that must be made. 

Consciously or subliminally, it was this quite monumental question that SDSers wrestled 
with; haltingly and yet with youthful recklessness, it was this that SDS as an organization 
tried to answer. 



84 



1 This photograph reprinted in NLN, June 10, 1968. 

2 Gitlin, interview. Webb, interview. Ryan, letter to Gitlin, October 1, 1963. Membership 
figures, worklist mailing, October 23, 1963. 

3 Call for Vietnam demonstration, SDS Bulletin, October 1963, and Max memo, October n, 
1963. 

4 Booth speech and the demonstration, SDS Bulletin, November 1963. 

5 "We can't afford," memo, April 1964; "Think about dough," letter to Gitlin, May 1964. 

6 "a strange," NC minutes. Max, memo, April 1964. 

7 Williams, SDS Bulletin, May 1964. 

8 "are usually," Kissinger, memo, undated (fall 1963). Flacks, letter to NO, op. cit. 

9 Literature list, SDS Bulletin, June 1964. Flacks, letter to NO, February 15, 1964. 
Taylor-Reisman letter, printed, May 1, 1964. 

10 Kissinger, to Kahn, June 30, 1964; to LID, August 14, 1964. 

11 Minkoff, letter to Kissinger, September 3,1964. Kissinger report, SDS Bulletin, July 1964. 
McKelvey, SDS Bulletin, January 1964. 

ERAP: Summer 1964-Summer 1965 

These are the voices of ERAP. 

Up in the morning at 8 o'clock, to the office at 9, try to make a whole bunch 
of calls, go to people's houses, the people who've come into the office, setting 
up meetings for the night— that's the life style, every single day ... . Nobody 
drank, I can't remember one kid having a bottle of beer that whole summer; 
we could have had the money, money wouldn't have been a problem— like, 
there was always enough money for Coke ... . Nobody knew a thing about 
drugs, drugs were for nuts. No liquor, no drugs, no sex, and I think that was 
true like in all the projects. In a sense that summer was like the expression of 
a very significant quality of that generation— almost monk-like, or ascetic, or 
something like that. Because the whole ethic of community organizing was on 
the basis of those kinds of principles, you know: you work. 

That's Lee Webb talking, describing the summer of 1964 with the JOIN project in Chicago. 1 



85 



Come you ladies and you gentlemen and listen to my song; 

Tell it to you right but you may take it wrong; 

I know you're busy, but take a little rest; 

It's all about the organizers, work for SDS; 

It's a hard time in the North, working for the SDS. 

Oh, well, you go to your block and you work all day; 

Til way after dark but you get no pay; 

You talk about the meeting, the people say they know; 

You come to the meeting and three or four show; 

It's a hard time in the North, working for the SDS. 

You go back to the block and you talk some more; 

You're knocking on a door, it's on the second floor; 

Lady says who's there and who you looking for; 

I ain't got time, slip it under the door; 

It's a hard time in the North, working for the SDS. 

That's a song (to the tune of "Penny's Farm") made up at the Newark Community Union 
Project (NCUP, pronounced er?-cup). 2 

I went back to Louisville and struggled along with our ERAP project. We had 
an absolute loon who was running it, and there were a whole lot of people 
wandering around who were rejects from various groups, they were 
constantly shunted about. We limped along, we organized some street gangs, 
some young black guys, but we never did organize the unemployed ... . It 
was peanut-butter and jelly, all those things. There were great competitions 
among ERAP projects to see which project could live cheaper than anyone 
else, and I think one week we won, not 'cause we were trying so hard, just 
'cause there was about thirty dollars that week and that had to feed a dozen 
people or so. 

That's Jim Williams, the University of Louisville SDSer, on the Louisville project. 

A primary difficulty is preventing the agents of the bourgeoisie from turning 
off our gas. 

That's Charlie Smith, writing to the NO from the Baltimore ERAP project. 

The things SDS has done in Newark are valuable for our volunteers to be 
exposed to. We want to take advantage of their experience. 

That's Frank Mankiewicz, then director of the Latin American operation of the Peace Corps, 
talking about NCUP. 

An organizer can spend two or more hours with a single individual. Through 
hundreds of conversations, slowly, clusters of unemployed contacts are made 
and identified on city maps. One person in a large unemployment area is 
approached about having a meeting: he agrees, but hasn't the time to 
contact neighbors. So the JOIN worker calls every nearby unemployed by 
phone or sees them in person. Thirty people are contacted; eight turn out. 
One is a racist, but his arguments get put down by the group. One (maybe) is 
willing to work and has some sense of what needs to be done. The others go 
round and round on their personal troubles. The process is slow. 3 

That's Rennie Davis, reporting on what it was like during the first ERAP summer in the SDS 
Bulletin. 



86 



The organizer spends hours and hours in the community, listening to people, 
drawing out their own ideas, rejecting their tendency to depend on him for 
solutions. Meetings are organized at which people with no "connections" can 
be given a chance to talk and work out problems together— usually for the 
first time. All this means fostering in everyone that sense of decision-making 
power which American society works to destroy. Only in this way can a 
movement be built which the Establishment can neither buy off nor manage, 
a movement too vital ever to become a small clique of spokesmen. 

And that's Tom Hayden, writing in Dissent in 1965 on an old dream, "the interracial 
movement of the poor." 

ERAP was many things. When it began, during the summer of 1964, it was already varied, 
but as it grew it sent out tendrils, gathered new ideas, tried different tactics, and by the 
end, in late 1965, it was absolutely protean. Describing it is difficult. 

The first ten projects managed to last through the first summer, and by then the difficulties 
of community organizing were clear enough. There were the basic human problems that 
arise whenever a dozen or two young people who may not have known each other well try 
to live together, for an extended period, without any money or luxuries to cushion their 
contact, without much in the way of sleep or diversion, driven by a sense of having to 
accomplish something but seeing few victories. There were the errors made through 
ignorance: of the cities they were going into— Hayden and NCUP thought, for example, 
they'd be going to a racially mixed area where the big problem was jobs, and they found 
themselves in a black area where the concern was for better housing; of the people they 
were living among, who were not simply middle-class people with less money but startlingly 
and, sometimes, uncomfortably different; and of the workings of a foreign world of welfare, 
unemployment laws, city-run housing, numbers, street violence, police harassment. There 
were the constant pressures from local establishments— all the projects were redbaited and 
beatnik-baited by city halls and local papers, and in the course of their existence countless 
arrests, raids, harassments, badgerings, and false accusations were made. (Hayden— short, 
dark— was once arrested in Newark on charges so preposterous that the chief witness for 
the prosecution pointed instead to Carl Wittman— tall, blond— as the perpetrator, and in 
Chicago the JOIN staffers were once arrested on the charge of keeping a "disorderly house" 
because men and women lived together there.)* 



* Not only local establishments: in August 1964 Carl Wittman, with some trace of pride, reported a visit to NCUP 
from an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the first known FBI-SDS meeting in what was to be a close 
and steady relationship over the next five years. 



87 



And then, of course, there was the insurmountable problem that the economy wasn't 
collapsing the way SDS had predicted it would; no depression was throwing people out of 
work to join an angry army of the urban unemployed. "Just as we got to Chicago," Lee 
Webb remembers, "lines at the unemployment compensation center started to get 
shorter." 4 An economic boom period was beginning, to be accelerated by Vietnam 
expenditures, and Jobs Or Income Now was just not the issue around which people could be 
organized. All of the unemployment-directed JOIN projects (Chicago, Baltimore, 
Philadelphia) faltered, while the two projects (Newark and Cleveland) that tried to operate 
on any enunciated grievances of the community, from garbage collection to schools (that is, 
the multi-issue approach that Hayden and Wittman had put forth in "An Interracial 
Movement of the Poor?"), fared far better. For a while during the summer a running 
argument went on between the two approaches— Gitlin dubbed it the "GROIN-JOIN" debate, 
Garbage Removal Or Income Now vs. Jobs Or Income Now— but by the fall it was clear that 
JOIN would have to be altered, and all the projects that continued turned to the GROIN 
approach. 

With problems, tensions, frustrations such as these, ERAP had to retrench. By the end of 
the 1964 summer Trenton, Louisville, and Hazard were dropped; Boston was given over to 
PREP; and Philadelphia and Chester were allowed to wither and drift into extinction by 
themselves. Baltimore and Chicago switched their emphasis to GROIN, and with Cleveland 
and Newark became the kernel of the ERAP operation as it headed into the new school year. 

Despite setbacks, the ERAPers felt they had made considerable strides over the summer. 
Much had been learned: how to approach a strange neighborhood, how to live on forty-two 
cents a day, how to run meetings so that ordinary people are not bewildered, how to get 
people in a community to think about the community for a change. Much had been 
accomplished: lines were opened to people in the bureaucracy (unemployment 
compensation offices, welfare bureaus, city housing officials) who had never listened much 
to the poor before, small battles were won against red tape, landlords, police. In Cleveland, 
ERAPers were able to organize a group of poor white women into a Citizens United For 
Adequate Welfare, which in turn got through a free lunch program for poor children in the 
city schools; in Newark, NCUP managed to generate enough pressure to get a play street 
established, improve garbage collection somewhat, and force housing improvements out of 
landlords; in Baltimore, small victories were won against the Department of Public Welfare; 
in Chicago, like victories against the unemployment offices. This was not, of course, what 
ERAP had set out so grandiosely to do, and as Rennie Davis confessed at the end of the 
summer, "No project succeeded in giving life to our slogan, 'an interracial movement of the 
poor,' and certainly none 'organized a community.' " 5 But what had been done was enough 
to convince a handful of people to stay on at each project after the summer and to press on 
during the winter. They had no illusions about the enormity of the job, and they knew they 
couldn't build a movement for social change in a few months. 

In the summer of 1964, the Progressive Labor Party, then with perhaps six hundred 
members, was organizing in the slums of Harlem in New York City. It did not establish a 
permanent project; rather, it drew blacks into Marxist study groups and meetings to air 
their grievances against the city, and it led picket lines against "police brutality" and other 
local issues. 

On July 18, 1964, Harlem blacks began an urban revolt over the fatal shooting of a fifteen- 
year-old black boy by a white policeman, which the PLP newspaper, Challenge, supported 
editorially: "There is no lawful government in this country today. Only a revolution will 
establish one. If that is 'civil rebellion' let us make the most of it." Bill Epton, a PLP 
organizer, and black, is reported to have told a Harlem crowd: "We will not be fully free 
until we smash this state completely ... in that process, we're going to have to kill a lot of 
cops, a lot of these judges, and we'll have to go up against their army." 6 



88 



On August 5, Epton was indicted for "criminal anarchy" and for advocating "the overthrow of 
the government of the state of New York by force and violence." On December 20, 1965, 
after a year of legal maneuverings, Epton was found guilty, largely on the evidence of a 
police informer, of conspiring to overthrow the government and conspiring to riot, and sent 
to jail. Some thirty other members of PLP were subpoenaed by the New York Grand Jury, 
and more than ten of them, including a City College student, were convicted of contempt. 

By the time of the December National Council, the ERAPers knew that things were going 
badly, but also knew that they needed more time and they managed to convince the rest of 
the organization that everything was fine— certain setbacks here and there, but four 
projects at least were going ahead, with maybe fifty full-time people in them, and who knew 
how many more might start before next summer? Max and Williams tried to point out that it 
didn't look as if an awful lot of organizing was going on— not many of the community people 
seemed to be actually involved in the projects, doing the work along with the students— but 
those two had just come from a bad experience with the Political Education Project that fall, 
and no one paid much attention to them. In truth, ERAP had failed noticeably in this 
respect— by its own estimates, no more than thirty indigenous people in Newark had joined 
NCUP and participated regularly in its meetings, and Cleveland had twenty, Chicago maybe 
ten, and Baltimore only five— but the ERAPers tried to make as little of this as possible. 

Still, the ERAPers couldn't fool themselves, and the ERAP meeting early in January 1965 
after the National Council was over was an agonizing period of self-questioning stretched 
over eight days and nights. They all conceded that no interracial movement of the poor was 
going to emerge in any foreseeable future, it proving hard enough to arrange even a 
uniracial Tuesday night meeting, and as for the notion of radicalizing the poor and launching 
them on a "revolutionary trajectory," well, that was hardly spoken of at all. The failure of 
ends caused people to concentrate on the inadequacies of their means, and whole days of 
the ERAP conference were given over to worried questioning. Do we have to have leaders at 
all? Don't leaders, by definition, manipulate, and aren't we fundamentally against 
manipulating? But aren't we all manipulating, just by being in the projects? Suppose you 
convince a man to come to a meeting— isn't that manipulating him? Isn't ghetto organizing 
an expression of snobbery, of paternalism? Would we be in the ghetto at all if we didn't 
think we had some superior wisdom which we needed to give to these people? Isn't that 
simply trying to co-opt these people into our way of doing things, our kind of movement? 

There was no escape from the net of these questions, and the more the ERAPers struggled 
the more they became entangled. The young organizers were trying to find some way to 
build up the movement that would not violate its principles at the same time, but nothing in 
their summer's experience had really proved successful in that. "The whole thing was very 
morose," Paul Booth recalls. 7 Ultimately the organizers came to decide that they should just 
continue doing what they were doing for its own sake, unencumbered by theory or 
explanation or questioning: we can't second-guess the future, let us go on doing what we 
know we should do. This conclusion was, by no coincidence, the same kind of thing the 
SNCC organizers had also decided, and it was pressed upon the meeting by SNCC leader 
Ivanhoe Donaldson and a number of other SNCC people in attendance. One report 
afterward said: 

SNCC organizers were present at the staff meeting and they managed to 
impress ERAP with the image of an organizer who never organized, who by 
his simple presence was the mystical medium for the spontaneous expression 
of the "people." The staff meeting ended in exhaustion, with a faith that the 
spirit would decide, that an invisible hand would enable all to be resolved if 
honesty prevailed. 



89 



Or, as they sang it around SNCC, "Do What the Spirit Say Do"— all very well for the psyche, 
but not much help in organizing. 

ERAP as 1965 began was at a low point. The staff people were now continuing to live in the 
ghetto more because there was no place else in the society to go than because they thought 
they were doing anything significant in the way of changing it. "By the winter of 1965," says 
Richie Rothstein, a central figure in the Chicago project, "if you asked most ERAP organizers 
what they were attempting, they would simply have answered, 'to build a movement.' " 
Nothing more precise. 

The isolation of the projects grew as the ERAPers themselves grew inward. ERAP in fact 
soon came to regard itself as pretty much separate from SDS, the projects feeling their 
primary responsibility not to the campus constituency but to the individual communities. 
This divarication was intensified by the decision of the January ERAP conference to abandon 
the national headquarters and to abolish leaders like Rennie Davis who were regarded as 
superfluous in a movement that sought none at all. Davis made one final trip as national 
director, enticed $5,000 out of the Rabinowitz Foundation in New York to keep the projects 
going through one more summer, and then dismantled the operation in Ann Arbor; he went 
to Chicago to live with the JOIN project, where he would continue to work for the next two 
years. In March ERAP was officially abandoned as a national organization, and henceforth 
individual projects went off without central direction or assistance of any kind: no two ERAP 
organizing staff's even sat down to compare notes from that time on. In theory this seemed 
sensible enough, since no two projects were alike and an isolated headquarters sending out 
newsletters or setting up conferences didn't do much to strengthen them. But later many 
came to feel that the national framework had at least prevented the projects from total 
isolation; as Rothstein put it: 

... in isolation, each project came to develop an exaggerated sense of its own 
importance. Not feeling itself to be part of an experimental tactically 
variegated movement, each project acted as though it bore the burden of 
history on its shoulders alone ... . How could a project experiment with 
factory organizing, or even with leadership training in such a context? ... In 
the absence of a broader structure, with the burden of movement-building 
borne subjectively by each project, experiments could not be risked. 8 

SDS's antiwar march on Washington in the spring of 1965, though it drew its impetus from 
the campus, served to revivify ERAP for the summer. New people heard about the 
organization and wanted to do something with it over the summer; students who felt the 
war was the all-important issue thought that ERAP was a way to get ghetto people marching 
against it; and a number of previously quiescent students, now suddenly angry over 
Vietnam, wanted something to do other than the usual "summer job." New ERAPs were 
started all over: in Hoboken, in New Haven (where SDSer John Froines, later of the Chicago 
Eight, worked), New Brunswick, Oakland, San Francisco, Roxbury, Massachusetts, 
Champaign, Illinois, and even in Cairo, Illinois, a city which the ERAPers had previously 
dismissed. But now there was no central direction— each project was started on local 
impetus, organized where it wanted to, picked up the cause it found best. More existential 
now, in the SDS tradition, the organizers would simply go into a poor area and listen for a 
while, seek out the grievances and try to organize around them: no more prefabricated 
theories, or hunches masquerading as analyses. 



90 



Three times as many people worked in projects this summer as the summer before, more 
than four hundred in all. Their life styles were somewhat different from those of the 
previous summer. Communal living— men and women sharing the same apartment— was 
now accepted (the unusual success of black-white relations among the Cleveland organizers 
was laid specifically to that closeness), not least because it turned out to be cheaper all 
around. Marijuana was beginning to be smoked— still with dire worries about its illegality — 
though nothing stronger was used. Some slackening of the previous summer's monastic 
isolation occurred, with unspoken disapproval from the veterans: 1965 NCUP summer 
people would take off weekends and head for New York, parties, friends, sleep, relaxation, a 
different world, something that had not happened the summer before. But the essential 
asceticism remained the same; Andrew Kopkind, then writing for the New Republic, pictured 
NCUP that summer as "a wrenching experience": 

Hardly anyone on the "outside" can image the completeness of [the students'] 
transformation, or the depth of their commitment. They are not down there 
for a visit in the slums. They are part of the slums, a kind of lay-brotherhood, 
or worker priests, except that they have no dogma to sell. They get no salary; 
they live on a subsistence allowance that the project as a whole uses for rent 
and food. Most of the time they are broke ... . Newark project workers have 
to call "friends in the suburbs" every so often for $5 or $10, so the necessities 
of life can continue ... . They eat a Spartan diet of one-and-a-half meals a 
day, consisting mainly of powdered milk and large quantities of peanut butter 
and jelly, which seems to be the SDS staple. Occasionally they cadge much 
more appetizing (and, presumably, more nourishing) meals from their poor 
local friends.* 

But the 1965 ERAP people found the same problems their predecessors had— the thirteen 
projects at the start of the summer dwindled to nine, then seven, and by the late fall only 
five (Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, Newark, and Oakland) were left. Some of the would-be 
organizers left in frustration, some had turned instead to Vietnam activities, and the 
majority soon decided to return to school: even that seemed better, and less frustrating, 
than trying to organize the ghettos. One project worker recalls: 

The [SDS] kids who worked there ... they didn't get along at all well, and 
there were a lot of feuds. I got the impression that a lot of that was because 
they had been so completely unsuccessful ... . Personal feuds— somebody 
wouldn't wash the dishes. They never washed the dishes. A lot of them lived 
together in one apartment which was a bad deal— much too close, much too 
filthy ... . They had gotten very discouraged and started being hesitant about 
going out and working. They would sleep late hours and waste a lot of time, 
and then they really felt bad because, "What the hell are we doing here?" 9 

The isolated, difficult world of the ERAP projects of this summer— and of later projects that 
would be started from time to time— is suggested by this account of organizing in a little 
Appalachian town in Pennsylvania called Bellefonte, where a group of Penn State SDSers set 
up a project in the summer of 1967: 



* This was one of the earliest articles written about SDS in a national magazine and it certainly helped launch it on 
the public with a favorable image; the NO, not unhappily, referred to it privately as "a snow job." (Kissinger memo, 
July 3, 1965.) 



91 



The organizers were students ... well-versed in theory ... organizing around 
unemployment, welfare and corruption in the borough administration while 
learning how to modify the tactics developed by urban projects to fit the 
needs of semi-rural Appalachia. But though theory prepared them for the real 
problems, nothing in their middle-class lives and training had prepared them 
for the real people. As a result, they were never able to make their actions 
conform to their analysis ... . 10 

The students decided to combine communal living quarters and an office in a 
three-story house. Their decision rested on the assumption that they would 
be working with adults ... . But the first people to be attracted to the house 
were not adults but little kids "who came to be around us as friends in an 
atmosphere that was devoid of authoritarian restrictions." ... The organizers 
thought that the project's "open door policy" would reach out to the parents 
through their kids and establish a good relationship with the adult community. 
Instead, the older brothers and older friends of the original kids started 
coming in through the open door. These older kids were veterans of the 
reformatory ... . 

As the organizers became more interested in these kids, the open door began 
to make trouble. First the neighbors began to talk. They were hostile to the 
house for harboring the town's troublemakers. And they began to gossip 
about the hours that the women associated with the project were keeping at 
the house. The students were shocked to find the low-income people they had 
come to work with identifying so fully with "bourgeois" values. But they 
realized that they had to make a decision: either maintain their original vision 
of organizing adults and abandon the kids who were coming to the house; or 
work with the kids and alienate the welfare recipients. They decided to stick 
with the kids. 

The open door now created a new set of difficulties. The organizers had never 
made their purpose in Bellefonte clear to the kids. As a result, the kids saw 
the house simply as a place that was always available for a party— and they 
parried continually ... . The situation became a nightmarish cycle. The 
organizers would return from the twelve-hour shifts they worked to an 
ongoing beer party. The combination of work and party exhausted them so 
that they couldn't think straight, let alone talk the problem through. And 
silence gave consent to yet another round of parties. Toward the end it was 
impossible even to sleep at night ... . 

To complete the project's rout, personal hang-ups were woven into political 
problems. In common with most new leftists, the organizers were committed 
to developing close personal relationships as a basis for effective work. They 
held frequent "soul sessions," where they talked frankly and personally about 
the problems the project faced. Unfortunately, friction which had existed 
before the students moved to Bellefonte was aggravated by the tension and 
closeness of the project. Because these old quarrels harmed the project the 
group tried to resolve them at their meetings. Instead, the people involved 
began to use the soul sessions as a cover for personal attacks. The bad 
feeling generated would have been enough in itself to cripple the project. 

In August the Bellefonte project disbanded. 



92 



By the end of the summer of 1965, ERAP had proven itself to be a failure. Like the Narodniki 
before them, ERAPers found "the people" harder to organize than they had imagined and, 
like them, they tended to feel that some kind of increased militance and direct confrontation 
would be necessary to effect real change. Of the five projects left at the end of 1965, 
Oakland soon disappeared, and Cleveland and Baltimore quietly withered in the following 
year. Chicago and Newark lasted into 1967, but their permutations took them almost totally 
away from SDS and into the engulfing life of the community, and only a few of the original 
student organizers stuck it out. Hayden, Wittman, Steve Block, and two vital women, 
Corinna Fales and Carol Glassman, held on in Newark; Davis, Rothstein, Gitlin, Mike James, 
Casey Hayden, and one or two others in Chicago. With the exception of a few local attempts 
like a Minneapolis Community Union Project in 1966 and the Bellefonte project in 1967— and 
even these were abandoned after the summer of 1967— ERAP ceased to have any major 
effect on SDS after 1965. 

The reasons for ERAP's failure were roughly three. 

First, ERAP was never able to shake off the middle-class beliefs and expectations it started 
with. The ERAPers' postscarcity consciousness ran smack up against the scarcity reality, and 
the collision was painful. The students expected the poor to be natively intelligent, 
informed, angry at the circumstances of their lives, prepared to unite against a common 
enemy— "they sometimes expect the poor to act out the moral values of the middle-class 
radical who has come to the slum," as Michael Harrington tellingly wrote— and instead they 
found the poor (for reasons not of their own making, of course) ignorant, passive, atomized 
and fragmented, and with a whole set of quite different values. Moreover, the students 
expected the idea of community organizations to be a great deal more powerful and 
attractive than it was; Nick Egleson, working in the Hoboken project in the summer of 
1965,* put it this way: 

We have [gained] a greater respect for people's perception of their own 
surroundings. If they don't think an organization will get them anywhere, it is 
not always because, as we thought in the past, they have no experience with 
community organization, but sometimes it is because they have had just that 
experience and sometimes it is because they perceive the smallness of the 
organization compared to the enormity of the problem much better than we, 
the hopeful organizers, can allow ourselves to do. 11 

Then, too, the organizers brought a good deal of middle-class guilt with them into the 
ghetto, not simply from having privileged positions, or money, or an education, but from 
running away from their own real and palpable grievances, which at this point in time 
seemed illegitimate to acknowledge openly (it would take a few years before students could 
admit that they too felt trod upon by the society, in ways maybe not as obvious but just as 
pervasive as those used on the poor). "ERAP," Todd Gitlin has written, "was built on guilt 
... . Guilt and its counterpart, shame, are healthy and necessary antidotes to privilege, but 
the antidote taken in large doses becomes poisonous." 12 



* This project, with Helen Garvy, Vernon Grizzard, Jill Hamberg, Carl Wittman, and others, was an initial attempt of 
SDSers to work in factory jobs to organize among blue-collar workers; this kind of organizing would later, under PL 
auspices, become a full-scale summer program known as the "work-in." 



93 



Second, ERAP never resolved the contradictions between wanting fundamentally to change 
the nature of the state and building its projects around all the shoddy instruments of that 
state. Whether JOIN or GROIN, the projects sought to improve the governmental services of 
their neighborhoods, break the red tape at the unemployment center, force the traffic 
department to put up a light, see to it that welfare checks arrived when they should— and 
then the organizers would go home at night and talk about "transforming the system," 
"building alternative institutions," and "revolutionary potential." ERAP, for all the talk, did 
not build parallel structures out of its projects, it built parasite structures, which had to live 
off the crumbs of the Establishment and soon determined their failure or success according 
to how many crumbs they got. The projects were caught in the very machinery America and 
the New Era had warned them about: "a politics of adjustment" whose "principle function is 
a mediating, rationalizing and managerial one" so as "to manipulate and control conflict" 
and "prevent popular upsurge." In spite of themselves, ERAPers were manipulated and 
handled by the state they had set out to change. 

Third, ERAP was never able to escape the fact that the poor are not "the agents of change" 
in American society, whether there be massive unemployment or not. The poor, as the 
ERAPers found out to their sorrow, want leaders, they do not want to lead; the poor are 
myth-ridden, enervated, cynical, and historically the least likely to rebel; the poor are 
powerless, without even that small threat of being able to withdraw their bodies that 
workingmen and labor unions have, and at best they can only embarrass or discomfort, not 
threaten, the powers that be. After more than a year in the Newark ghetto Tom Hayden 
came to acknowledge this: 

Poor people know they are victimized from every direction. The facts of life 
always break through to expose the distance between American ideals and 
personal realities. This kind of knowledge, however, is kept undeveloped and 
unused because of another knowledge imposed on the poor, a keen sense of 
dependence on the oppressor. This is the source of that universal fear which 
leads poor people to act and even to think subserviently. Seeing themselves 
to blame for their situation, they rule out the possibility that they might be 
qualified to govern themselves and their own organizations. Besides fear, it is 
their sense of inadequacy and embarrassment which destroys the possibility 
of revolt. 13 

ERAP, then, suffered from the incurable disease of having the wrong kinds of organizers 
with the wrong choice of methods operating in the wrong place at the wrong time. Marya 
Levenson, a Brandeis graduate who joined ERAP in Boston, said it all: "People ask why 
SDS's Economic Research and Action Projects (ERAP) disappeared. It's because we didn't 
know what the hell we were trying to do and that always caught up with us." 14 

But was it only a failure? In one sense, yes: no beginnings were made toward the creation 
of an indigenous left of students and the poor, no army of ghettoites ever rose to challenge 
the state, or align blacks and whites together to demand their rightful share, nor were there 
even potent organizations of the poor pressing reforms upon the cities. But it had its other 
effects. 



94 



Of absolutely prime importance is the effect of the ERAP experience on those youths who 
passed through it. "Radicalization" is an often misused word, but it describes perfectly the 
experience of so many of the ERAP organizers. Testing some of the reformist hypotheses of 
the The Port Huron Statement and America and the New Era in concrete and specific ways, 
they found those assumptions in error; working with the instruments of the state, they 
found those instruments insufficient, or, worse, corrupt and evil; trying in the only way they 
could see to make the American dream a reality for the lowliest citizens, to keep the 
promises about equal opportunity and economic betterment they had heard so often from 
the nation's leaders, they found that goal impossible and the leaders indifferent. They tried 
the system, and found it wanting. Richie Rothstein has said: 

Those of us involved in ERAP ... are now enemies of welfare state capitalism, 
with little faith or desire that the liberal-labor forces within this system be 
strengthened vis-a-vis their corporatist and reactionary allies. We view those 
forces— and the social "reforms" they espouse— as being incompatible with a 
non-interventionist world policy and as no more than a manipulative fraud 
perpetrated upon the dignity and humanity of the American people. 

We owe these conclusions in large measure to four years of ERAP experience. 

Many who went through that experience sought more than community unions next time 
out— they were ready not to challenge the institutions of the system but to resist them. 

There was a positive side to that experience, however, that also rubbed off, and that was 
the chance to try participatory democracy within the project itself. It was imperfect, of 
course— personal antagonisms surfaced, the more articulate dominated, males tended to 
outweigh females— but still the ERAP people did try to run their projects by putting their 
deepest beliefs into practice. Leaders were played down, and found to be often dispensable; 
meetings could be run without Robert's Rules of Order and elaborate procedures, and 
decisions were arrived at, often, through consensus; grand ideologies could be dispensed 
with, without everyone floundering, and daily work proved often enough to be its own 
reason for being. Rothstein again: 

In many cases the students who did short term tours of duty on ERAP staffs 
returned to their campuses to lead university reform and Vietnam protest 
movements. They were, as a result of their contact with ERAP, reinforced in 
their radical impulses. The democratic, "participatory" tone of all ERAP 
projects has, in this respect, contributed to the emergence of a new popular 
movement. 15 

Perhaps no more than a thousand people ever went through this ERAP experience, but a 
great many of them ended up with the conviction first expressed on an NCUP button and 
then adopted as the motto for all of SDS: "Let the People Decide." They saw a little part of 
the future, and it worked— and they did not want to settle for less, in their next meeting, 
their next Movement job, their university, their country. 



95 



ERAP had its effects, too, on the organization whence it sprang. In general they were 
salutary, for during a most critical period before an active student movement was born, it 
gave SDS a sense of purpose and a reputation for doing something other than talking and 
mimeographing. Indeed, many came to see ERAP as the best expression of SDS, an 
example of the seriousness with which the young took their ideas, even as a potential key 
to real social change; Kopkind wrote, "There is no other movement, no other source of 
action in the US that is so doggedly exploring methods of social change, and putting them 
into practice." 16 It is not an accident that Frank Mankiewicz and then Sargent Shriver 
himself, when they were at the Office of Economic Opportunity in charge of the "domestic 
Peace Corps," saw ideas and tactics worthy of emulation in ERAP— Mankiewicz even paid to 
have Hayden visit Washington to explain NCUP to his staff and several ERAPers served as 
well-paid consultants to VISTA in 1966 and 1967— for this was the opinion of many who 
came in contact with the projects. Whether or not this was all exaggerated (as it was), it did 
much to give the organization a sense of legitimization and purpose within, and an image of 
dynamism and seriousness without. 

With the collapse of ERAP, generally acknowledged by the end of 1965, other less happy 
consequences for the organization came to be seen. Some bitter individuals soured by ERAP 
were simply lost to SDS altogether or participated in activities just enough to depress 
everyone within earshot. A number came to feel that it was too early to do anything in this 
society and turned instead to the development of theory, often ending in fetid Marxist bogs 
totally removed from the rest of the organization. More important, the absence of the 
ERAPers from SDS affairs in the period from 1964 to 1965 came to be felt: they were, after 
all, some of the best talents, the brightest minds, the most committed souls in the 
organization, and there they were, off in almost utter isolation, rarely participating in 
ongoing SDS business. As a result, younger people coming into SDS had fewer mentors, 
and with an increasing number of these people in 1965 the whole problem of "internal 
education"— passing on the original radical perceptions of the organization and infusing 
others with its open style and political-personal unity— became acute. From the summer of 
1965 on, these early characteristics of SDS would begin to fade. 

The most difficult effect of ERAP to judge is the one it set out to accomplish: changing the 
lives of people in the cities where it operated. 

The experience of JOIN in Chicago is perhaps most instructive. By the end of the summer of 
1965, when most of the students had returned to school, a half-dozen of the older 
organizers who remained decided, after prodding by the radicals, that greater reliance had 
to be placed on the local people rather than the student influx. An Organizing Committee of 
the staff members and the most active community members of JOIN was established, to 
give the latter a greater voice. Early in 1966 JOIN was formally incorporated, with a Board 
of Directors made up of Harriet Stulman and Richie Rothstein from the staff and Mary 
Hockenberry, John Howard, and Dovie Thurman from the local community: in fact as well as 
in legality, more of the thrust of JOIN now came from the locals. In September, JOIN was 
formally separated from SDS entirely, and in the next year split off into several separate 
groups, all organized by local people, for welfare action, publishing a newspaper, youth 
work, and ultimately organizing in other communities. By the end of 1967 the ERAP 
organizers were more or less pushed out of the project, having succeeded to some extent in 
making themselves superfluous, which after all was the idea from the start: organizing was 
now in the hands of the organized. 17 

The spirit that lay behind this process is reflected in a statement one of the poor white 
community people made to Todd Gitlin and Nanci Hollander (for a time, married to Gitlin), 
whose book, Uptown, describes the people of the project: 



96 



See, like it used to be you'd walk from Clifton to Wilson and somebody said, 
"Oh, there's one a those JOIN Communist people." It's not like that any more. 
People know JOIN'S there. And if they have any problem they try to get in 
touch with JOIN. I'm known as JOIN in the neighborhood. It's nice to walk 
down the street and know that I'm known as JOIN and people are not callin 
you Communist. 

I feel more dedicated than when I started cause things are startin to happen 
and I was partly responsible for buildin' things that happened ... . It all 
causes things to happen, it causes people to get together. People know it's 
urban renewal tearin' down the neighborhood and they know they're gonna 
be kicked out and that's a good feelin' when they start organizin' to do 
somethin about it. You get a great feelin' when you see a group a people 
standin' around demanding stuff that is rightfully theirs. I mean it's theirs and 
they never had it before and they want it now. It makes me feel good that 
after a year and a half the neighborhood has changed like that. And it seems 
to be throbbin' with excitement of people wantin' to do stuff, about the stuff 
we've been talkin about for a year and a half, and the things they've been 
listenin' to and checkin' up on. They wanna do it now, a lotta people around 
there. 

So I can't drop out now, cause for one I don't want to. Things are in such a 
state where you have to fight 'em through and maybe eventually come up 
with an organization of people who control the community. 18 

This is the kind of achievement impossible to measure, but clearly the ERAP experience has 
entered into this man's life, into the lives of others in his neighborhood. Directly traceable to 
this are the development in the sixties of a kind of poor-white "nationalism" in the JOIN 
area that in turn leads to the establishment by young whites of the Young Patriot Party 
(which became part of the "Rainbow Coalition" with the Black Panther Party and the Young 
Lords Organization) and the creation of Rising Up Angry, a group of young whites out of a 
"greaser" background (motorcycles, leather jackets, gangs) who adopted a revolutionary 
ideology I in the late sixties. What the ultimate effect of this "nationalism" ! will be on the 
city's power structure is impossible to say, but it , can't hurt. 

Newark, similarly, touched the future. The project there also : lasted well beyond the formal 
collapse of ERAP and until local people started acting on their own. At the end of the 
summer of : 1965, the project staff dwindled to a half-dozen, still with Hayden ; and 
Wittman as the guiding forces, but it was estimated then that ; as many as 150 local people 
participated in its various programs and meetings. Over the next year, the tools which the 
NCUPers had developed— rent strikes, picketing of slumlords' homes, block meetings- 
began to spread to other parts of the city, not with any extraordinary success, to be sure, 
but perhaps with enough mixture of anticipation and frustration to have ultimately led to the 
anger that exploded in the urban revolt in the summer of 1967. That summer proved to be 
the death of NCUP, for it was the fourth summer of black rebellion and it (along with the 
whole growth of black power) finally convinced the young whites that they were unwanted 
and unneeded in the black ghettos. A few of the white ERAPers stayed on in Newark, 
however, getting jobs in the city and occasionally surfacing to organize, as for example 
during the two-week student strike at the Essex County Community College early in 1970. 
And a number of blacks who had been mobilized and radicalized by NCUP went on to help in 
the mayoralty campaign of Kenneth Gibson, who finally ousted the corrupt white regime in 
the summer of 1970 and became the city's first black mayor. 19 



97 



The effects of ERAP, then, are diffuse, and they lead out in rays almost impossible to track 
down. But for hundreds of heretofore untested young collegians, for hundreds of heretofore 
ignored blacks and white poor, ERAP had a clear impact— caused them, as the Chicago slum 
people put it, to become "turned around." Like malaria, or a war, it was something that no 
one who went through would ever forget. Whether it made anything significantly better, 
whether it seriously improved the lot of any individual, whether things would have been 
different without it, that is impossible to say. At the least, the ERAPers can say, in the words 
of the Bertolt Brecht poem pinned on the wall of the NCUP office: 

In my time streets led to the quicksand. 

Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer. 

There was little I could do. But without me 

The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope. 

So the time passed away 

Which on earth was given me. 

For we knew only too well: 

Even the hatred of squalor 

Makes the brow grow stem. 

Even anger against injustice 

Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we 

Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness 

Could not ourselves be kind. 

But you, when at last it comes to pass 

That man can help his fellow man, 

Do not judge us 

Too harshly. 20 



1 Webb, interview. NCUP song, from ERAP Bulletin, summer 1965. 

2 Williams, interview. Smith, letter to NO, November 1964. Mankiewicz, quoted in ERAP 
Bulletin, 1964. Davis, SDS Bulletin, September 1964. 

3 Hayden, in The Radical Papers, op. cit., p. 361. 

4 Webb, interview. 

5 Davis, SDS Bulletin, op. cit. 

6 "There is no," Challenge, July 1964. Epton, quoted in Newfleld, p. 119. ERAP membership 
estimates, Max-Williams memo, January 6,1965. 

7 Booth, interview. "SNCC organizers," report written for SDS Bulletin, spring 1965, 
unpublished. 

8 Rothstein, "By the winter" and "in isolation," in Long, p. 282, 286. 

9 Kopkind, New Republic, June 19, 1965, reprinted in Thoughts of the Young Radicals, op. 
cit., p. 1. "The [SDS] kids," Lee Webb, interview. 

10 "The organizers," Dave Muhly, "A Failure to Think About," Movement, June 1968. 

11 Harrington, Thoughts of the Young Radicals, op. cit., p. 71. Egleson, ERAP Newsletter, 
July 23,1965. 

12 Gitlin, "New Chances," mimeographed paper, November 1969, author's file. 



98 



13 Hayden, in The Radical Papers, op. cit., p. 360; see also Rolling Stone, op. cit. 

14 Levenson, Paper Tiger (Boston), May 1, 1968. Rothstein, in Long, p. 274. 

15 ibid., p. 278. 

16 Kopkind, Thoughts of Young Radicals, op. cit., p. 10. 

17 For JOIN experience, esp. Gitlin and Hollander, and "In Poverty," Chicago Daily News, July 
3,1965. 

18 "See, like it," Gitlin and Hollander, pp. 424-25. 

19 NCUP estimate, Newfield, Village Voice, op. cit. 

20 Brecht, "To Posterity," Selected Poems, Harcourt Brace, 1947. 

Fall 1964 

Paul Potter, in one of his first President's reports to the membership in the fall of 1964, was 
unknowingly prophetic when he wrote: "The arena in which students today see themselves 
acting has not only expanded, it has qualitatively changed to include a different idea about 
the kind of questioning and action that is appropriate." 1 Little did he know. Before the 
school year was out, students would be thrust on the consciousness of the country as never 
before and the phrase "student rebellion" would be common currency. 

As the school year began SDS was remarkably diverse. It had, by a decision of the fall 
National Council meeting in Philadelphia, a new system of Regional Organizers, some ten 
students and ex-students who operated in different regions of the country, living on a few 
handouts from the National Office and whatever they could cadge from their own sources, 
keeping regional chapters in contact with one another, organizing conferences, traveling to 
new campuses, making the SDS presence felt.* It had a National Office staff of four and in 
Kissinger a director who actually saw to it that the worklist mailings, the bulletins, and the 
literature orders got out with something approaching regularity. And it had not only ERAP 
but two other ongoing projects, a revivified Peace Research and Education Project in Ann 
Arbor and a Political Education Project in New York. For all its still limited resources and its 
comparative smallness, it had a breadth of activity that no group on the left, neither student 
nor adult, could then duplicate. 

The projects which lay at the heart of SDS just then give some indication of its multiplicity. 

ERAP, as we have seen, came through its first summer considerably sobered, but it was still 
intact by the fall of 1964, with a national office in Ann Arbor and perhaps fifty people 
scattered among the six ongoing projects. It was, to be sure, somewhat remote now from 
the campus constituency, despite recurring but chiefly unsuccessful attempts to link 
individual projects with nearby campus chapters and despite a strong effort by Davis to 
have students act as research centers for the projects (demographic studies, combing city 
records for slumlords, and the like). But its very existence gave SDS a stature among a lot 
of students and helped to establish for SDS a reputation as an earthy, gutsy, home-truths 
outfit, a kind of SNCC of the North. 



* Archie Allen operated in the South, in cooperation with SSOC, Jeremy Brecher worked in the Northwest, George 
Brosi in Minnesota-Iowa, Peter Davidowicz in Maryland, Vernon Grizzard in Pennsylvania, Dick Magidoff in Michigan, 
Ken McEldowney in Ohio-Indiana, Jeff Shero in Texas-Oklahoma, David Smith in New England, and Lee Webb (with 
help from Bob Ross) in Illinois-Wisconsin. 



99 



PREP was an entirely different operation, a two-man think-tank and a traveling lecture 
team. Dick Flacks, who had run PREP for the last two years and had managed to get out a 
series of (very serious, very dull) PREP Newsletters on peace and foreign policy issues, had 
gone to Chicago to take up a job as assistant professor of sociology at the University of 
Chicago, and his place was filled by Todd Gitlin and Paul Booth. These two— "the Bobbsey 
twins of peacenikdom," as someone called them— had just ended a summer of doing peace 
research with a Washington foundation and had managed to latch on to a rich Texas liberal 
named Joe Weingarten, who ran a World Institute for World Peace in Houston and who 
agreed to give PREP $7,500 on the understanding that they would promote his institute on 
campuses around the nation. There is no evidence that they ever did any successful 
promotion, but the money served to send the two of them on a variety of campus-speaking 
trips whose main effect was to organize chapters for SDS, and apparently Weingarten was 
none the wiser. 2 

Booth's specialty was what was called "conversion"— the study of how to get the economy 
from warfare. Spending to welfare spending without its collapsing in the process— and that 
fit in nicely with his essentially reformist politics. He pored over economics books, made 
speeches, wrote articles for little peace-oriented publications, and tried to be a one-man 
research department for the Boston ERAP project, which, unlike the others, had been 
involved in actual conversion work around defense industries in the Boston suburbs and had 
therefore been put under PREP direction by the September NC. Gitlin, meanwhile, concerned 
himself with the draft, and put out a long paper on that subject which PREP distributed in 
the fall. His initial visits to campuses in the fall suggested that this could be a major SDS 
weapon— "What grassroots soundings I've been able to make," he wrote in October, "leave 
me convinced that this can be a powerful organizing issue" 3 — but two months later he had 
come to see that "its potential was highly overrated"; Booth, traveling in the East, wrote 
him that there was absolutely no interest in the subject, even at Cornell, which was to be a 
major center of antidraft activity after the escalation of the war. Gitlin concluded that the 
effort was premature: Vietnam was not yet a reality to Americans, and the students were 
snug in their 2-S cocoons. 



100 



In addition to all the academicism, PREP did lay the groundwork for one successful action 
later on in the spring. Someone around Ann Arbor noticed in the paper that certain loans 
which U.S. banks had made to the government of South Africa after the Sharpeville 
massacre in 1960 were about to be renewed. Gitlin got interested. Working inductively from 
the premise that South Africa was bad, he slowly came to see how important were those 
bank loans in bolstering the government, and then to see how important U.S. investments 
were in general in supporting the regime; with Christopher Z. Hobson, a friend from 
Harvard, Gitlin looked into it a little and soon discovered which banks were involved in loans 
to South Africa, which American companies had accounts in those banks, and which 
corporations had additional ties to South Africa: when he laid it all out he found a surprising 
picture of the role of U.S. capitalism in the world. No one had expected this— there were no 
African experts around PREP, no economists, and no one who had had an imperialist 
analysis of American foreign policy. But when the entanglements were laid bare, the 
PREPers felt they had to do something, and something unusual. They decided that on March 
19, two days before the fifth anniversary of Sharpeville, SDS would stage a protest in the 
form of a massive sit-in at the lower-Manhattan offices of the Chase Manhattan Bank, one of 
the prime movers in the loan agreements and a place where South Africa had regularly 
found a multimillion-lion-dollar friend.* The sit-in was to involve civil disobedience and 
arrests were expected; in the words of Mike Davis— the son of a San Diego butcher, who 
later became the chief coordinator of the project— "Housing is being arranged by the New 
York City Police Department." 4 

PEP, the last of SDS's projects that year, was the bone that had been thrown to the Max- 
Williams electoral-politics forces by the Pine Hill convention and reluctantly approved by the 
Philadelphia National Council. This was always a minority adventure within SDS ranks, and 
its famous slogan of "Part of the Way With LBJ," though often taken by outsiders to be a 
basic SDS position, was in fact the expression of a small group on what even then was 
considered the organization's "right wing." 

In fact PEP represents SDS's first serious faction fight. The project was established largely 
because no one felt like denying the electoral-politics faction the right to do their own thing; 
"by that time," recalls Jim Williams, who became the PEP director, "it was clear that we had 
political differences with everybody and we didn't try to minimize that— we just said SDS 
has always been a multi-tendency organization and this is a tendency." But no one felt like 
giving it much of a chance, either. The PEP executive committee established by the National 
Council contained a full quota of those hostile to the whole thing— Garvy, Grizzard, 
Kissinger, Ross— and the project was launched with only $1,000 from SDS, unlike ERAP, 
which took $5,000 before it even got off the ground. 

PEP managed to raise an initial grant of some $1,300 from the Industrial Union Department 
of the AFL-CIO, on the understanding that it would distribute lUD's anti-Goldwater 
literature, which it did— fifty-seven thousand pieces of it, too. It also managed to distribute 
forty-five hundred copies of four election papers of its own, one by LID Executive Secretary 
Tom Kahn, one by Williams, one by Max together with Doug Ireland, and one by Robb 
Burlage. At several of the chapters, especially around New York and Boston and at the big 
Midwestern state universities, there was considerable response, but all action remained on a 
local level and it was up to local chapters to decide whether to pass out these papers, 
campaign against Goldwater, or sit on their hands. 



It was also, the students discovered with a certain cynical satisfaction, the place where the ILGWU, among 
others, kept a major account. 



101 



The PEP position wasn't naive, and was shared by many people in the country if not in the 
organization. The PEPers knew that Johnson was untrustworthy and highhanded, but they 
had three ulterior motives in supporting him: to "fight against Goldwater and the ultra- 
right"; to push Johnson leftward and thus produce a real difference between the two parties, 
raising "the consciousness of the masses to a new level of political awareness"; and to try to 
keep the Democratic Party faithful to its party platform, "superior to any passed by a major 
national party since the first New Deal." "Keeping the limitations of the Johnson program in 
mind," they wrote, 

... we nonetheless realize what a Goldwater victory would mean ... . Not only 
does the Goldwater program run precisely in the opposite direction from one 
which we would like to see pursued, but a Goldwater victory would, in fact, 
drastically alter the nature of political controversy in the country. No longer 
would the problem be one of how to further the detente with the Soviet 
Union, but rather how to achieve total victory over the atheistic-communistic 
menace. No longer would the question of the fight against poverty be open to 
consideration ... rather, the issue would be how to remove slackers from the 
relief rolls. 5 

This was the position known as "Johnson With Eyes Open." 

The opposition to PEP took many forms. An increasing number of people coming into the 
organization greeted it with stony indifference, having outgrown electoral politics along with 
puberty some years before. Many of the old-timers joined in what Lee Webb now calls "an 
irresponsible campaign of political assassination" against PEP: Kissinger, for example, put a 
homemade poster over his desk, in plain view of the PEPers, reading, "Support the War in 
Viet Nam— Register Voters for Johnson"; that fall, for the first time in the history of SDS, he 
put a lock on a correspondence file to keep the letters he was writing about PEP away from 
PEP eyes (to which Max and Williams naturally responded by secretly making a key and 
reading everything he said about them). And then there were a number of other people who 
enunciated a principled political line against PEP. Al and Barbara Haber, for example, argued 
that SDS should actively urge people not to vote: 

To support Johnson is to support [his] move to the right and the de- 
issuization of presidential politics. The larger his victory, the stronger will be 
his mandate to continue leadership of a moderate coalition in which the left 
has no place. The larger his victory, the more resoundingly will the middle 
have defeated the edges— Goldwater's edge and our edge, too. The larger his 
victory, the more resoundingly will our position be defeated: "Extremism in 
pursuit of liberty is no vice, moderation in defense of justice is no virtue." 

It is a measure of the amount of opposition to the PEP politics that dozens of boxes of the 
"Part of the Way With LBJ" buttons, which were regularly pushed on the membership, 
remained unsold after November. 

With the lopsided Johnson victory, PEP was left floundering: not only had its analysis of the 
great Goldwater threat been proven wrong, but it was now stuck with a dislikable man who 
had a mandate to do anything he pleased. Max and Williams tried to argue to the PEP 
executive committee that "the Johnson landslide had produced many new possibilities for 
radical-liberal coalitions and campaigns for new, radical legislation," but as Kissinger 
reported in the minutes of that committee, "the analysis was received by the committee 
without comment." PEP then offered a new program of trying to put student pressure on 
Congress to get it to pass improved welfare legislation, but that too gained nothing more 
than offhanded support. PEP, it seemed, was dead, and it only remained for the December 
National Council meeting in New York to bury it. 



102 



PEP came into the December NC with a two-point proposal, the first to continue research 
into and promotion of progressive legislation to be pushed through Congress, and the 
second to set up a voter-registration program in Cairo, Illinois (community projects then 
being a big thing for SDS). "Max and I," Williams recalls, "went down to a Spanish magic 
shop and bought us some charms and hoped that would see us through." It didn't: the NC 
ignored them. "It was terrible— a bloodletting," Williams says. First the elaborate legislative 
program was turned into a propaganda effort on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom 
Democratic Party to get it seated in Congress in place of the regular Mississippi delegation 
(an idea that had been only a small part of PEP's original package); and then the Cairo 
project was taken away from them and given to ERAP, which two days later decided that it 
should be abandoned altogether. This was, as Paul Booth says, "the prime example of 
sectarianism in SDS. We destroyed them." 6 

Max and Williams knew they were beaten, and they didn't bother to fight. "I just completely 
lost heart," Williams says, sadly. 

It was a great disappointment ... very traumatic for me. For a while after that 
I felt like a Cuban exile sitting at a table drinking coffee and waiting for the 
regime that kicked him out to collapse so that he can go back in; and then at 
one point you realize that it's not going to happen, and then you don't know 
what to do. 

Max is more detached: "We failed to see the youth culture that was coming up then, kids 
who were into drugs and the new culture and who felt they were past electoral politics— we 
were trying to show what was wrong with Congress and they already felt Congress was 
irrelevant to them." Williams looked around for a job, and in February joined the 
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington (where he later started a 
short-lived SDS chapter with SNCCer Phil Hutchings); Max, in an irony so perfect that it is 
no longer ironic, joined the working staff of the LID— by now they finally realized the 
identity of their politics— though he would continue for several years more to be a 
participant in SDS affairs. The February 23, 1965 worklist mailing carried the PEP epitaph, a 
note from Max: 

Regretfully we announce that the Political Education Project is closing 
operations ... . Of course Jim and I feel that an operation like PEP should be a 
major priority in an organization like SDS. Perhaps some of the funds now 
being used to build up large full-time community-work staffs could better be 
employed in research and education on the campus level. Unfortunately the 
organization has set its priorities in another way. 

It would be less than frank not to mention another consideration that was in 
the back of our minds when we decided to close the projects ... . For the 
most part there has been foaming at the mouth and cries of "sell out" 
whenever the words "New Coalition" [i.e., realignment] have been used. As a 
substitute for real debate, notions about plots against the organization and 
plots to organize a faction for the Convention have been circulated. 

Let us hope that now with PEP dissolved and its staff scattered, there will be 
no further excuses for the lack of open and legitimate political differences in 
SDS, and that those who have dealt with the situation as a factional one will 
now be forced to come out and argue a real political position. 

Needless to say, both Jim and I remain committed to SDS ... . We should like 
to thank those friends who have stood by PEP during this fruitful, but often 
trying, experiment in organizational diversity. 7 



103 



This December meeting showed more than dissatisfaction over the Johnson election and 
electoral reformism. Max and Williams were victims of a new strain that was coming into 
SDS, produced by the cross-fertilization of two groups. The first was the older people, such 
as the ERAPers who had discovered a new approach to parliamentary democracy in their 
project meetings, plus a number of white SNCCers distraught by the Atlantic City 
compromise who turned to a superasceticism so apolitical that they were regarded as being 
drugged on a "freedom high"; the second was the younger college and high school people, 
also increasingly apolitical in traditional terms, members of an evermore-alienated 
generation who had made their first appearance at the 1964 convention and who, it turned 
out, were little inclined to step-by-step arguments and structured political debates and were 
much given to such expressions as, "I feel alienated from this meeting." 8 

It was one of Hayden's shrewd and apparently accidental political perceptions that he felt 
the alliance between these two groups, and he used the December meeting to express the 
new ghetto-hardened perceptions of the former while impressing them on the political 
tabula rasa of the latter. He would stand up in the middle of a heated argument, say 
something to the effect of "What if we were to stay here for six years and not come to a 
decision?" and sit down, effectively sending the existential young women from the suburbs 
into a tizzy and drawing agreeing nods from the workshirted young men. '"Suppose 
parliamentary democracy," he would say, "were a contrivance of nineteenth-century 
imperialism and merely a tool of enslavement?" Or, "Suppose we rush through the debate 
and 'decide' to do something by a vote of 36 to 33. Will we really have decided anything?" 

Williams, not unnaturally bitter at this point, remembers this as Hayden's "What-if-I-were- 
a-plum?" phase, and many of the NC delegates regarded this behavior as ill-mannered at 
best and anti-intellectual at worst, and a few passed it off as gut existentialism. But it was 
much more than that: it was the attempt to enunciate a politics on the other side of the 
parliamentary forms handed down from another era, to see if there was a way of carrying 
on the business of society without all the trappings of the society of business. Hayden saw 
that SDS was caught in the bind of trying to create a new world with the tools of the old. 9 

That was what lay behind the debate between Hayden and Ray Brown which was one of the 
high points of the NC. Brown, author of the "crisis economy" paper that had helped push 
SDS into ERAP and projects with the unemployed poor, was there to give another speech on 
the direction of the economy, only this time he urged SDS to get into organizing the 
working poor. It was too much for Hayden. He got up and took Brown to task for his trotting 
out of theories about whom to organize. Look, he said in effect, we took your advice the last 
time and went into the ghettos— your theories turned out to be all wrong but we did it 
anyway and it turned out to be the right thing, an important thing for SDS and for those of 
us in the communities. And look: nobody could have given an analysis to Bob Moses proving 
that he ought to be organizing poor blacks in the most backward parts of Mississippi, but he 
did it anyway and that turned out to be the right thing. Theories don't mean a thing, there 
is no theoretical basis for doing what we're doing, and anyone who tries to tell you that 
there is is full of shit. We're beyond traditional theoretical premises. We're into something 
new. 

It was a profound statement. Hayden was trying to warn SDS that if it was serious about 
changing the system it would have to abandon old theoretical approaches and worn-out 
techniques which that system had created for its own purposes, and try to evolve theories 
and techniques of its own: you don't try to kill a bee by piercing him with your stinger. The 
institutions, organizations, rules, theories and all the other ta ken -for-g ranted paraphernalia 
of twentieth-century America are not immutable and ordained, the inevitable products of 
human nature— they are the result of a particular social and economic system, and they are 
thereby tainted. One cannot use these products without the taint coming off on one's hands. 
There must be other ways to operate. 



104 



But SDS did not respond. Many were angered by the implicit arrogance in Hayden's 
remarks— after all, he didn't have any more answers than anyone else— and few saw the 
implications of what he was getting at; worse, Hayden himself was apparently not yet ready 
to do the hard work of pushing it across to the others. Creating a new organization, a new 
form of organization, in the midst of a society without models for it, without even the habits 
of thinking about it, was more than SDS could manage. Perhaps its ending would have been 
different if it could have. 

The May 2nd Movement on November 7, 1964, renewed its dormant campaign to get male 
college and high-school students to sign a pledge stating that they would not fight in the 
war in Vietnam. Although a majority of the M2M steering committee were members of the 
Progressive Labor Party, which had advanced a clear imperialist explanation for the war, the 
M2M pledge itself did not incorporate such an analysis, and indeed was staunchly patriotic: 

WE THE UNDERSIGNED, 

ARE YOUNG AMERICANS OF DRAFT AGE. We understand our obligations to 
defend our country and to serve in the armed forces but we object to being 
asked to support the war in South Vietnam. Believing that United States 
participation in that war is for the suppression of the Vietnamese struggle for 
national independence, we see no justification for our involvement. We agree 
with Senator Wayne Morse, who said on the floor of the Senate on March 
4,1964, regarding South Vietnam, that "We should never have gone in. We 
should never have stayed in. We should get out." 

BELIEVING THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE ASKED TO FIGHT AGAINST THE 
PEOPLE OF VIETNAM, WE HEREWITH STATE OUR REFUSAL TO DO SO. 10 

Even so, the pledge was regarded by many at the time as too extreme, and M2M, with 
fewer than two hundred members, was still too small to push it successfully at more than a 
few colleges. This was, however, the first of the "We Won't Go" statements and a precursor 
of the draft-refusal movement of later years. 

The existence of the three SDS projects in the fall of 1964, however varied their success, 
was a sign that SDS was searching and experimenting, somehow organizationally aware of 
the flow of a new student mood without being able to find just the right channel for it, 
neither the romantic Narodnikism of ERAP nor the electoral legitimacy of PEP nor the 
analytical adventures of PREP somewhere in between. And because it was groping, it kept 
growing. Membership increased steadily to 1,200 dues-payers by October, and then by 
December to 1,365 people at 41 chapters and 37 states, the District of Columbia, and 
overseas.* Jeremy Brecher, the Regional Organizer for the Northwest, remembers that the 
SDS reputation had penetrated even into smaller colleges in his area: "They'd all heard 
about SDS and they were all really interested— no matter what little they had heard about 
it. SDS was the place to go." 11 



* Kissinger, naturally, kept the tallies, and they can be presumed accurate. The chapters: Bergen County (New 
Jersey) High School, Berkeley, Boston At-large, Boston University, Brown/Pembroke, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Chicago 
At-large, Chicago University, Cornell, Duke, Grinnell, Harpur, Harvard/Radcliffe, Illinois, Johns Hopkins/Goucher, 
Kalamazoo, Louisville, Maryland, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan, New York At-large, New York 
University, Oklahoma, Piedmont (North Carolina), Queens, Reed, Roosevelt, Rutgers, Sarah Lawrence, Simmons, 
Smith, Southern Illinois, Swarthmore, Texas, Tufts, Vassar, University of Washington, Western Kentucky State, 
Williams, and Wisconsin. Six of the chapters are west of the Mississippi, eight below the Mason-Dixon line 
(including Oklahoma and Texas). 



105 



And then, virtually out of the blue, SDS was blessed with its largest donation ever. Gitlin, 
working through Boston area contacts, had managed after several months to talk million- 
heiress Anne Farnsworth into a donation of $25,000 to SDS that October (much of it 
intended for PREP, but in the event used by the organization as a whole, almost $10,000 
going to ERAP). It was such a heady sum it caused the usually stolid Kissinger to draw up 
that November a budget for the next eight months of no less than $66,000, ten times 
anything SDS had ever conceived of spending before. It also caused a few ruffled feathers, 
since it was mostly Kissinger and the in-group who decided how the $25,000 would be 
allocated, much to the displeasure of those who were not included in either the consultation 
or the distribution; and the Boston PREP people, who knew nothing about the money until it 
was in hand, were understandably peeved that their own sources of fund raising had been 
tapped without their knowledge. Still, $25,000 went a long way toward making everyone 
amenable. 12 

Members, money— but the real measure of SDS's success was that it kept alive to its era. 
Because of that, it became the beneficiary of one of the most far-reaching events of this 
decade, the initial battle of the student rebellion. 



106 



The First Battle of Berkeley began on September 14, 1964, with an announcement from the 
administration of the University of California at Berkeley that organizing and soliciting funds 
for off-campus political action would henceforth be banned from the campus at the usual 
areas. It ended— as much as such things ever end— three months and twenty days later on 
January 3,1965, with an announcement from the same administration that organizing and 
soliciting funds for off-campus political action would henceforth be permitted on campus at 
the usual areas. In the interim, students carried confrontation with authority to the point of 
spontaneously surrounding a police car for thirty-two hours to prevent the young man inside 
from being taken to jail;* the sit-in tactic was successfully transferred from Southern 
lunchcounters and Northern businesses to the halls of ivy on three separate occasions, first 
with 200 students, then with 400, and finally with 1,000; the police were called in, for 
perhaps the first time ever at a major university campus, to arrest, with proven brutality, 
814 students who had been engaged in a sit-in; undergraduates, joined by graduate 
students and a portion of the faculty, declared a successful strike of classes that went on for 
five days, the first time that tactic had been used at a single university; the university 
president, Clark Kerr (who had been a member of SLID— SDS's predecessor— in his youth), 
a man nationally famed as the champion of the super-efficient, technologically-perfected 
"multiversity," stumbled along from "non-negotiable demands" (a phrase he seems to have 
been the first to inject at Berkeley, and thus into college life) to redbaiting to amelioration, 
and finally confessed, "We fumbled, we floundered, and the worst thing is I still don't know 
how we should have handled it"; and the chancellor of the university was forced out and a 
new, more lenient man put in his place. Here, ab ovo, were all the elements of student 
protest that were to become familiar at so many campuses in the next six years: the sit-ins, 
strikes, police, nonstudents, arrests, mimeographed resolutions, bullhorns, committees, 
broken friendships, resignations, TV cameras, headlines. Here was the university 
administration which moves from blunder to blunder, with the trustees right behind, all the 
while complaining with bewilderment that communications have broken down and "normal 
channels" have not been followed here was the uncertain and essentially ostrichlike faculty 
which initially acts as if it is discovering the students as people for the first time and then 
reluctantly decides that they have a point and finally sides with them; here was the 
studentry which is mobilized by administration mistakes, is then sustained by a small core 
of energetic, charismatic, disorganized, inefficient, joyful, impassioned, and sometimes 
brilliant leaders, and ultimately becomes politicized in large numbers by watching the 
brutality of the police, the venality of the press, the superficiality of the faculty, and the 
immorality of the administration. 13 

Berkeley had it all. And had it, moreover, in extremes: there, at the central campus of the 
largest and perhaps best university system in the country, was the most direct 
confrontation ever seen in an American educational institution up to that time, with the 
most police, the most arrests, the most students out on strike at a single campus, and the 
most publicity. Sproul Plaza was Fort Sumter, and this was the first shot fired in the war 
between Movement and University. 



The man, it should be noted in passing, was Jack Weinberg, originator of the phrase, "Don't trust anyone over 
thirty," widely publicized by people over thirty in the media. On April 4, 1971, Jack Weinberg became thirty-one. 



107 



But what was it, really, all about? Ostensibly the issue was "free speech" and it was the ad 
hoc Free Speech Movement (FSM) which directed most of the action. But though there were 
unquestionable angers and passions aroused over the administration's limitations on 
political activity on campus, they could not by themselves have produced such a sustained 
confrontation, for the limitations were in fact quite minor, hardly distinguishable from other 
administrative clamps on political activity in the previous five years, easily capable of 
circumvention by those who cared, and an inconvenience to only a tiny percentage of the 
twenty-seven thousand students (and maybe three thousand nonstudents) on the 
campus. 14 

Nor was the issue really the size and impersonality of the multiversity, although that 
explanation was by all odds the most popular, put forth by academic pundits, newspaper 
columnists, students at other universities, and, ultimately, as if to suggest how wrong it 
was, by Ronald Reagan himself* This was the explanation which fit most readily into the 
liberal consciousness of the nation, for it conceded a problem, but a problem small enough 
to be admitted without a dislocation of one's political psyche and for which a variety of 
possible solutions could be imagined without a major reordering of society. And in fact it 
was to academic patching and pasting that many people at universities now turned, in order 
to "avoid a Berkeley" on their campuses. But though the deadening largeness of the major 
universities certainly did nothing to resolve the students' inner turmoil, and often helped to 
keep it alive by providing others among the mass who shared it, it was neither the cause for 
nor the sustenance of the protest. Most students liked the education they were getting 
(after a careful survey that fall, Berkeley sociologist Robert Somers concluded that "our data 
do not suggest that dissatisfaction with the educational process played any role at all"), a 
remarkably high percentage of the active protesters were transfer students who had come 
to Berkeley explicitly seeking this kind of mass education (perhaps as many as 49 percent 
of the FSM people were transfers, according to a study by the Berkeley Center for the Study 
of Higher Education), and demands for curricular change appear with only the slightest 
frequency in FSM statements during this period. 



In a speech before the San Francisco Commonwealth Club in June 1969, Reagan sympathized with students 
"being fed into the knowledge factory with no regard to their individualism, their aspirations or their dreams. Young 
men and women go to college to find themselves as individuals ... . All too often they are herded into gigantic 
classes taught by teaching assistants hardly older than themselves. The feeling comes that they're nameless, 
faceless numbers on an assembly line." (Quoted by A. H. Raskin, The New York Times Magazine, January 11, 
1970.) 



108 



No, the basic source of the Berkeley protest was more involved than the desire for political 
activity or a restructured university, and more difficult to admit and deal with. It was of 
course, as we have seen underlying the whole impetus to student protest, the desire of 
young people to say something, to do something about the American society they lived in, 
the society that made them feel useless, exploited, guilty, patemalized, and consumerized, 
that allowed monstrous ills to be perpetuated. The Berkeley students were aware of the 
connection between their actions and the society at large right from the beginning. Political 
activity there for the last year had centered on civil-rights protests at Bay Area businesses 
(resulting in more than thirteen hundred arrests since November 1963), these protests had 
upset the right-wingers in the California establishment, and it was pressure from these 
right-wingers (chiefly William Knowland and his Oakland Tribune) that had forced the 
administration to clamp down on political activity in the first place. Once the battle had 
begun, the university was seen largely as a substitute for the society in which it functioned, 
and the students demanded of it the same humanity and justice they had demanded of the 
politicians of Mississippi, the bus stations of Alabama, the businessmen of San Francisco- 
only they expected more from the university than they did from most other institutions 
because of its own claims. During the course of the fight it was discovered that the 
university did not live up to its claims, but, more than that, neither did the police, the press, 
and the public, the very personifications of the society: the university proved not to be the 
home of fair and dispassionate reasoning, the regents showed themselves not to be wise 
statesmen above pettiness and vindictiveness, the press turned out not to be an unbiased 
and objective seeker after truth, the police proved not to be efficient agents of justice and 
servants of the people, and the public at large turned out not to be open to reason, to be 
willing to listen to another side of a story, to harbor sympathy. If anything, the society 
seemed to behave with savageness or callousness or duplicity. For the young men and 
women of Berkeley, this was innocence lost: tested, the society flunked. John R. Seeley, a 
sociology professor who was a sympathetic observer of the Berkeley events, captured this 
exactly: 

For what is now struck at is no longer this or that aspect of the University of 
California at Berkeley, or even the whole nine-campus monstrosity called the 
University of California. It is not even any longer the American University, but 
the American way of life. And not at its periphery but at its core. The students 
who wore placards saying "Do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate," or "I am 
not the property of the Regents of the University of California," though they 
then thought themselves fighting a local and institutional battle, set in motion 
a train of thought, feeling, resolution and action that now addresses itself to 
the nation and the nation's basic orientation to itself and the world. The 
managerial society is being asked moral questions, and, failing credible 
answers is beginning to be choked of what is indispensable for its operation: 
the precursor of loyalty, the belief that, in general the society is right, or not 
wrong, or not seriously wrong, or not criminally wrong; and no longer in 
respect to an issue but in its fundamental form and character. 15 



109 



Berkeley 1964 was the first overt expression of this absolutely transcendental issue. And 
this is why there was such a reaction to it, with constant sensationalistic newspaper and 
television coverage, an immediate spate of literally dozens of articles in the periodicals, 
interminable academic studies, surveys, theses, and at least four books. Somewhere in its 
depths, the nation knew that Berkeley was more than an enlarged panty raid, was speaking, 
albeit haltingly, to something profound. The priests of the media ballyhooed Berkeley even 
as they condemned it, because it expressed their own liberal uncertainties about the new 
order which the nation found itself on the brink of, a new order which Clark Kerr himself had 
described as one where "the federal agencies will exercise increasingly specific controls and 
... greater external restraint will be imposed in most situations." The professors promoted 
Berkeley, not solely in the belief that it would promote them, because it was expressing 
truths about the nature of the academy and the kind of worldly thing it had become, which 
they had known for a long time but had not wanted to acknowledge. 

It was not that anything so very wild had gone on (certainly nothing by the standards of a 
few years later): no deaths or major injuries, no bombs or fires, no serious damage to 
property (aside from the police car, which was used as a speaker's platform), no widespread 
violence (except for the police), not even a sustained picket line or strike. It was not even 
that this was the first major political disturbance on a university campus for thirty years, for 
there had been precursors of a smaller order at many universities and several at Berkeley 
itself. This relatively small event was made immense rather because Berkeley had been 
thought to be the triumph of the American dream, a public university acknowledged to be 
perhaps the finest in the country, the perfect post-ideological mixture of government, 
private industry, academia, computers, managerial skills, brains, and money— and the 
whole thing was being called into question. The young, upon whom the future of course 
would depend, were being given the American dream— and they didn't want it. More: they 
attacked it, with an innate challenge that reverberated through the entire society, striking at 
the premises and beliefs upon which it was founded. The Berkeley confrontation was a 
signal that a new generation had been born. America did not like what it had spawned. 

With such an explosive reaction from the country as a whole, universities everywhere could 
not help being affected. Many administrations and faculties moved to redress long-standing 
student grievances and extensive probing and poking went on at most of the better schools, 
breaking open the lid of an academic Pandora's box out of which were to fly an immense 
variety of schemes and committees and curricula over the next few years. Many institutions 
moved to promote more freedom for students in political activity, greater faculty 
involvement in student conduct and academic reform, more flexible machinery in the 
administration to anticipate and handle student complaints, a stronger student voice in 
academic and nonacademic affairs, various schemes to "restructure" the university, more 
power to both students and teachers, and so on. And at many places this first taste of 
power proved exhilarating indeed. 

Even the most moderate of the students sensed that life would be different after Berkeley, 
that they would no longer be regarded as frivolous stadium-fillers and that their lives and 
learning were of some concern to the outside world. The more active students faculty and 
administration for this or that real or pretended cause; they tended to realize, too, that 
people would now pay attention to them as they never had before and hence came to 
regard publicity as an elemental lever in their tactics, using wire-service reporters and 
television cameramen with a self-interest that heretofore had belonged only to politicians 
and entertainers. Finally, the already-committed students, like those in SDS, discovered 
that Berkeley began a period in which whole new possibilities opened up for, in their words, 
the "politicization" and "radicalization" of American students, specifically around their own 
grievances as students at first, but with the possibility now of having them relate those 
grievances to the world beyond and then sharing in the radical vision. 



110 



SDS saw immediately that the Berkeley events would be important, even before the 
immense publicity that was accorded them. In the October Bulletin it ran a front-page 
article— dull to be sure, and totally unhortatory— outlining the events up through the 
abandonment of the police car, and a wire of support was sent to the FSM soon after its 
formation the same month. (Not that SDS had much support to give, except through its 
local Berkeley chapter, and that turned out to be a rather weak and marginal group of 
people whose allegiances were directed elsewhere; still, the chapter was officially 
recognized by the university and it did make its presence known during the troubles by 
running a table to sell buttons with the SDS slogan, "A Free University in a Free Society.") 
Kissinger especially saw the value of Berkeley in directing SDS's attention back to campus 
affairs and away from the provinciality of the projects, and he pushed it hard. He "spent a 
fortune in phone calls to Berkeley," he confessed, then wrote and rushed out a special 
mailing early in the morning of October 3: "So far as I know," he wrote to Potter, "we are 
the only ones to respond at a national level— we really beat everybody on it." He pressed 
Berkeley chapter president Eric Levine to keep sending more information— used for articles 
in the Bulletin through January— and he managed to raid the coffers for money to fly Levine 
and one of FSM's most astute strategists, Steve Weissman, into the December NC meeting 
to tell the story first-hand. (Weissman was sufficiently impressed with the kind of people he 
met there that he agreed after the meeting to become a West Coast organizer for SDS.) 16 

Kissinger was right: Berkeley was important for SDS. On the immediate level, it caused a lot 
of students to start thinking, to become alert to their own lives, own grievances, own 
power, and they often started looking around for an organization like SDS from which to get 
support so that they could express those things. SDS tried to emphasize in its organizing 
that it was like FSM on a national scale— a militant student group enunciating and taking 
action about campus grievances with the university and the world beyond— and tried to 
show how FSMs could grow on almost any campus if students started with an existing 
radical group like SDS. No other group on the student left at this point had anything like the 
geographical stretch of SDS, and no other had a system of Regional Organizers as effective. 
In spite of its comparatively small numbers (around thirteen hundred paid-up members) it 
was likely to have been heard of, likely to be nearby, to, and likely to have made contact 
with, students at any campus that wanted to take action; it was the natural organization to 
look toward. And in the months to come, as the Berkeley battle seeped into the awareness 
of students everywhere, SDS continued to draw the benefit. As Berkeley spurred the 
consciousness of the American student, so it spurred the growth of SDS. 

But not even Berkeley would prove to be as decisive for SDS as the quite remote and then 
still modest war in Vietnam. A measure of the organization's alertness to the temper of its 
time— not to mention a certain simple luckiness— is that it kept alive to that issue, too. 

At the end of 1964, 23,300 young American males were stationed in Vietnam through the 
courtesy of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their numbers were still comparatively small, technically 
they were there just to advise the South Vietnamese army, and they weren't really fighting 
a war since none had been declared— so most people back in their homeland tended to 
forget about them. The average man, the average college student, did not know where 
Vietnam was. 



m 



Actually, as we have seen, some antiwar sentiment began to surface among the student 
generation the previous year and had spread right along with the war: the Mme. Nhu picket 
in December 1963, the April 1964 meeting at Yale which launched the antiwar May 2nd 
Movement, the M2M spring demonstration and continuing marches through the summer, 
and in the fall the M2M "We Won't Go" petition. But even on the left this sentiment was 
never regarded with much importance, and M2M and like organizations remained small. 
SDS itself was always leery of paying too much attention to any single issue, especially one 
in foreign affairs. The farthest the PREP executive committee would go that November was a 
four-pronged program to prepare a "kit of materials" on the "Viet Cong," to determine if 
anyone was interested in some kind of "declaration of conscience" (a la the French 
intellectuals on Algeria in 1958), possibly to organize a "small conference" on Vietnam, and 
to "prepare a contingency plan of action in case of Vietnamese crisis," unlikely as that 
seemed. But they did agree that Gitlin could raise the issue at the December NC to see if 
there was any sentiment elsewhere for further action. 17 

Gitlin and Booth invited journalist I. F. Stone to the December meeting, and on the night of 
the twenty-ninth he presented a lucid history of how America had become involved in 
Southeast Asia and a ringing declaration of why it should get out. For many SDSers, the 
Vietnam issue suddenly acquired a certain stature, and so when Gitlin finally introduced the 
subject during the course of his report on PREP activities, there was a debate beyond 
anything that had been expected. 

It is around five o'clock on the afternoon of December 30, 1964, in a stuffy meeting hall of 
the Cloakmakers' Union in lower Manhattan, that the discussion of Vietnam begins. Gitlin, 
who has just finished outlining the plans for the Chase Manhattan sit-in, now suggests that 
SDS write and circulate to the college campuses a declaration stating, "I will not be drafted 
until the United States gets out of Viet Nam" and then campaign to get students to sign it. 
Jeff Shero, the Texas-area organizer, makes an alternate proposal: SDS should mount a 
campaign to raise medical supplies to send to the Viet Cong through the U.S. mails. Now 
the electoral-politics faction begins to get worried that things are going too far, that SDS 
will end up doing something too wild, too leftist, too pro-Communist. Jim Brook, an early 
SDSer and a friend of Max's from the early days, suggests that everyone stop for a while 
and think things over. The motion fails; the debate rages: Are we pro-Viet Cong, pro-North 
Vietnam? You can't get any antiwar support if you take a pro-Communist line. We must 
educate the campuses to the issues first, before we take any action. Let's give it all back to 
PREP to do. The war is taking lots of money away from poor people, now that's an issue. 
How can we support a corrupt regime?— and on and on. Dinnertime is forgotten; those who 
care about such things duck out for sandwiches. 



112 



Finally, toward ten o'clock. Booth suggests and the meeting approves a two-minute limit on 
speeches for the rest of the evening, which in practice means no one can go on for much 
more than five minutes without a lot of catcalls. Gitlin valiantly tries to get back to his 
original antidraft petition. Brook, desperate now, and seeing that some kind of Vietnam 
action is going to be approved, counterposes the more modest idea of having SDS stage a 
protest march on Washington during the spring vacation (people had been marching on 
Washington for years, after all, and nothing very damaging can happen on a march). The 
idea seems attractive, and a number of people urge that it be done along with the petition. 
A debate rages again. Many ERAPers and the more alienated of the younger members 
oppose a march as too tame; others argue that the whole thing has too much of a single- 
issue focus to it and is not radical enough; while Kissinger and a number of campus- 
oriented people join with the PEP types in support of it because they see it as an effective 
way to organize among students and build up the organization on the campus level. Then, 
during a lull, a number of ERAPers leave the room. Kissinger, in the chair, calls for a vote on 
the march. It passes, with strong support from the chapter delegates, less enthusiasm from 
the NC members. The idea grows. Let's forget about the petition: that passes. Let's have 
the NO start organizing the march: that passes. A City College delegate, with a genius for 
ideological compromise, urges that the appeal be that "SDS advocates that the United 
States get out of Vietnam for the following reasons: a) war hurts the Vietnamese people; b) 
war hurts the American people; c) SDS is concerned about Vietnamese and American 
people": that passes. Steve Weissman, a lonely voice from the West, suggests that you can 
march and have a petition, too: that fails. Finally, at twelve-thirty A.M., David Smith moves 
for adjournment: that passes. 18 

And so SDS found itself in antiwar politics long before there was any widespread interest, 
ahead of its time once again. Not that it anticipated that its march on Washington would be 
an overwhelming event— it would be, rather, one more example of SDS's multifacetedness, 
one more way to try to get its message across to the campuses. Not many could be 
expected to show up— maybe two thousand or so, that would be a good turnout, considering 
what M2M and others had been able to draw for similar events. Then in January, SDS got I. 
F. Stone and Ernest Gruening (who with Wayne Morse was the only Senator at that point 
forthrightly against the war) to agree to address the marchers, and the American Friends 
Service Committee endorsed the march. That was promising enough to cause Paul Booth to 
write: "All expectations are that it will be a big thing." 19 What he meant was that maybe 
three thousand people would show up. 



1 Potter, SDS Bulletin, October 1964. 

2 PREP Newsletters, edited by Flacks, appeared in May 1963, January, April, and May 1964. 
"Bobbsey twins," from Arthur Waskow, interview. 

3 "What grassroots," letter to Kissinger, October 10,1964. "its potential," memo, undated 
(December 1964). South Africa demonstration plans, Gitlin, interview. 

4 Davis, worklist mailing, February 23,1965. Williams, interview. 

5 PEP position, from Max, Williams, and others, "Report of the Committee on the 
Establishment of the Political Education Project," fall 1964; see also 1964 convention 
resolution, SDS Bulletin, July 1964. Webb, interview. 

6 Haber, "Taking Johnson Seriously," written for a planned but never realized SDS 
magazine, New Era, fall 1964, unpublished, "the Johnson landslide" and Kissinger, 
mimeographed minutes of PEP meeting, November 6-7,1964. Williams, interview. 



113 



7 Williams, interview. Booth, interview. Williams, interview. Max, interview. "Regretfully," 
Max, worklist mailing, February 23, 1965. 

8 For December NC, Kissinger, SDS Bulletin, January 1965; elaborate mimeographed 
minutes; Flacks, letter, worklist mailing, January 30, 1965. 

9 Williams, interview. Hayden-Brown debate, minutes, and Booth, interview. 

10 M2M statement, archives, and quoted in Ferber and Lynd, pp. 50-51. 

11 Brecher, interview. 

12 Boston PREP, mimeographed letter, Chuck Levenstein, Pat Hammond, Dave Smith, Jean 
Connack, undated (fall 1964). 

13 Sources for Berkeley: Bettina Aptheker. The Academic Rebellion in the United States, 
Citadel, 1972; Hal Draper, The New Student Revolt, Grove, 1965; Lewis Feuer, The Conflict 
of Generations, Basic Books, 1969, pp. 436 ff.; Max Heirich, The Beginning: Berkeley 1064, 
Columbia, 1970; Jacobs and Landau, pp. 59 ff.; Seymour Martin Lipset and Sheldon S. 
Wolin, editors. The Berkeley Student Revolt, Doubleday Anchor, 1965; Michael V. Miller and 
Susan Gilmore, editors. Revolution at Berkeley, Dell, 1965; Michael Rossman, The Wedding 
Within the War, Doubleday, 1971; Steven Warshaw, The Trouble at Berkeley, Diablo 
(Berkeley), 1965; Sheldon S. Wolin and John H. Schaar, The Berkeley Rebellion and 
Beyond, New York Review/Vintage, 1970, pp. 19 ff.; Paul Booth, "A Strategy for University 
Reform," SDS pamphlet, 1965; A.H. Raskin, N.Y. Times Magazine, January n, 1970; John R. 
Seeley, Our Generation (Montreal), May 1968; and a number of sociological/psychological 
studies, including Jeanne Block, Nonna Haan, and Brewster Smith, in Understanding 
Adolescents, James F. Adams, editor, Allyn and Bacon, 1968; Paul Heist, in Order and 
Freedom on the Campus, O.W. Knorr and W.J. Minter, editors. Western Interstate 
Commission for Higher Education (Boulder); Paul Heist, "The Dynamics of Student 
Discontent and Protest," mimeographed paper, Center for Research and Development in 
Higher Education, Berkeley; Joseph Katz, No Time/or Youth, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco), 
1968; Joseph Katz, in Psychological Development and the Impact of College. Katz and 
associates, editors, Stanford Institute for the Study of Human Problems, 1967; Edward W. 
Sampson, Journal of Social Issues, July 1967; William A. Watts and David Whittaker, 
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 1 (1965) and Vol. 2 (1966), and three studies in 
the Lipset and Wolin book, by Hanah C. Selvin and Warren O. Hagstrom; Glen Lyonns; and 
Robert H. Somers. 

14 Somers survey, in Lipset and Wolin, op. cit., p. 549. Berkeley Center study, by Paul Heist, 
in Order and Freedom on the Campus, op. cit. 

15 Seeley, in Our Generation, op. cit. Kerr, The Uses of the University, Harvard, 1964, and 
Harper Torchbook, 1966, p. 68. 

16 Kissinger, both comments from letter to Potter, October 8, 1964. 

17 PREP on Vietnam, minutes, November 1964. 

18 Vietnam debate reconstructed from careful minutes by Carol Stevens, mimeographed by 
NO, and Booth and Gitlin, interviews. 

19 Booth, letter, January 18, 1965. 



114 



Spring 1965 

And then, escalation. In February the guerrilla fighters of the National Liberation Front of 
South Vietnam staged an attack against an outpost at a town called Plei Ku, and on 
February 7, 1965, Lyndon Johnson gave this as his reason for launching a major military 
response by the United States— for, in fact, an all-out war. He directed that American 
airplanes be sent to drop bombs on the territory of North Vietnam, presumed to be the 
invader of the South, and that the number of soldiers be increased rapidly (by 800 percent 
before the year's end)— from the ranks of the young through enlarged draft calls rather than 
from the rolls of the Reserves and National Guard in the population at large. With this single 
stroke Lyndon Johnson assured himself a prominent place in the history of infamy— and 
became the most successful recruiter SDS was ever to have. 

Overnight the campuses became active. There were demonstrations, albeit confined to the 
hundreds of participants, at practically every major campus, and SDSers were prominent in 
leading actions at Brown/Pembroke, Carleton, Michigan, Minnesota, Rutgers, Baltimore, 
Boston, and New York, and in sponsoring a four-hundred-strong picket of the White House 
on February 20. Naturally the NO was swamped with calls for information and literature on 
Vietnam, and naturally it had nothing to give out other than a hastily drawn-up fact sheet 
and a few copies of a little PREP paper called "Vietnam, Symptom of World Malaise" written 
by David Arnold the previous spring; that "kit of materials" on the "Viet Cong" authorized by 
PREP in November had never quite materialized. All attention turned to the march, now set 
for April 17, which suddenly became the projected outlet for protest not just by the 
outraged students but by many of the older generation as well. 

SDS operated in top gear. It hired more staff, at subsistence rates, until by the end of 
March there were nine full-time people, coordinated by Charles Capper and Martin Roysher, 
who had dropped out of school to handle the panoply of details. The NO installed a phone 
system with five separate lines (a hallmark of bureaucratic success), printed up 150,000 
copies of the official march call, sent out 15,000 buttons advertising the march, and set up 
a separate Washington office with Paul Booth and Phil Hutchings to handle details there. The 
best energies of the organization now surfaced, and people who had been trained in campus 
organizing, those who had gone through the ERAP experience, veterans of the Free Speech 
Movement, all put their talents to work for the march; as Paul Booth puts it, "We just rolled 
over the whole antiwar movement— they had never seen anything like this." 1 

By early April there was no longer any question but that the march would be successful, 
with optimists on the staff predicting ten thousand people. Everybody rallied to the event. 
Endorsements came in from Kay Boyle, James Farmer, Erich Fromm, W. H. Ferry, H. Stuart 
Hughes, Staughton Lynd, A. J. Muste, Mario Savio, Harold Taylor, Howard Zinn. All the 
peace organizations that had been floundering around for the last few years— Committee for 
Nonviolent Action, SANE, Student Peace Union, War Resisters League, Women Strike for 
Peace, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom— suddenly saw the march as 
the most important expression against the war, and started hovering around SDS clamoring 
for joint sponsorship; and all the new youth-centered organizations on the left— the DuBois 
Clubs, M2M, the Young People's Socialist League, and Youth Against War and Fascism (a 
small East Coast group formed in 1962 with ties to the Trotskyist Worker's World Party)— 
suddenly saw it as a springboard from which to launch their own organizational 
perspectives, and they pitched in to organize. Even liberal New York unions, like the Drug 
and Hospital Workers Local 1199 and the Retail Workers Union District 65, and off-center 
political groups like the Bronx Reform Democrats, wanted to join in. 



115 



There was even money. Joan Baez sent in $2,000, Pete Seeger contributed, a newly formed 
faculty group called the Universities Committee to Protest the War in Vietnam chipped in 
$1,400 for a bus from Mississippi. Martin Peretz, a young teacher of political science at 
Harvard (and married to Anne Farnsworth, SDS's greatest benefactor to date), proved 
invaluable both as a donor and a dunner, and he and others in the organization now found 
considerable success fund-raising among polite liberals of wealth. Income in the month of 
March rose to nearly $5,000, and shot up to $12,800 in April, more money in just two 
months than SDS had gotten in two years out of the LID. Of course SDS— nothing if not 
profligate— spent almost everything that came in on staff salaries, transportation, publicity, 
and all the other hidden burdens of political activity in America, and it ended the school year 
with only a few hundred dollars in the bank. Still, the fact that there was money at all was a 
welcome change. 

And out on the campuses, SDS continued to reap the benefits of what Johnson had sowed. 
Students all over were drawn to SDS, and ten new chapters were created (making a total of 
fifty-two by the end of March), including Missouri,* Southern California, Stanford, Virginia, 
and, back after a hiatus, Wayne State. Regional Organizers used the impending march and 
the excitement over Vietnam to spread the SDS message: George Brosi established three 
new chapters in his Minnesota region; Robert Pardun, a Texas student and friend of Shero's 
who became suddenly active, reestablished the North Texas State chapter and laid the plans 
for a special march on the LBJ Ranch to coincide with the Washington march if Johnson tried 
to flee the capital; Lee Webb and Bob Ross, now through with the JOIN project, worked full 
time on campus organizing, eventually lining up enough people for Washington to fill nearly 
a hundred buses; and Steve Weissman, working both on the West Coast and in the South, 
helped in the formation of four new chapters. And even those campuses where single-issue 
attitudes prevailed and there was no interest in formal SDS chapters, they started their own 
March-on-Washington committees to get students mobilized. 2 

Not even The New York Times could fail to sense what was going on. On March 15 it ran its 
first major article on the New Left, an eight-column takeout largely concerned with SDS, 
quoting Tom Hayden, Bob Ross, Richie Rothstein, and Jeff Shero at length. It described the 
movement as "a new, small, loosely bound intelligentsia that calls itself the new student left 
and that wants to cause fundamental changes in society," listed SDS as among the "major 
groups" in this movement, went on to give six paragraphs to the organization's history and 
philosophy. "The New Student Left," ran the banner headline: "Movement Represents 
Serious Activists in Drive for Changes." Even the Establishment was taking note. 3 

The May 2nd Movement also benefited from the new campus anger. Its "We Won't Go" 
petition had more than a thousand signatures by the end of February. Its own ranks 
increased to perhaps eight hundred. And it was encouraged to begin the publication of a 
regular newsletter, called Free Student, on whose editorial board were, among others, Les 
Coleman, a philosophy major at Harvard eventually to move to SDS, Jeff Gordon, a 
Brooklyn College student in PL and later PL's coordinator, Albert Maher, a Harvard graduate 
who was the son of a wealthy Texas businessman, and Richard Rhoads, an M2M organizer 
and PL figure in New York. 



SDSers there, in order to get approval from a cautious and conservative administration, told the dean in charge 
that SDS was, as its name implies, a bit like the Democratic Party. It got approved. 



116 



Meanwhile, SDS was having troubles back at the home front. Relations between the LID and 
SDS were at their lowest point since the Port Huron blowup, and getting worse. LIDers had 
in general looked askance on much of the student department's goings-on in the last two 
years— the moving into the ghettos, for instance, and the continued calls for action and 
demonstrations, not to mention the regular attacks which SDSers made in print and in 
person on the social-democratic tradition. (Why, in The New York Times article one of them, 
a mere twenty-one-year-old, had publicly discarded one of the Lid's fundamental tenets: 
"We reject the idea," Richie Rothstein had said, "that you can bring change through getting 
elected to the legislature, and then handing down change from the top. Somehow, under 
that system, the poor still get treated poorly.") But they had looked especially dimly at the 
tendency of their junior colleagues to ally themselves with organizations of proven 
malefaction: SDS at local levels was known to have regularly cooperated with groups of all 
political stripes, including Communists and Trotskyists where they existed, on specific 
actions and causes; SDSers had joined in the planning of M2M's initial anti-Vietnam 
demonstration in May 1964 and SDS publications had urged membership support for it; and 
SDS had actually issued an invitation to the DuBois Clubs to send observers to its December 
1964 National Council meeting. But all that paled to mere transgression in the light of the 
upcoming march on Washington: not only was it held in opposition to a war of undeniable 
anti-Communist intent, not only was it challenging a basic policy of "Communist 
containment" which the LID regarded as sacrosanct, but it actually invited the participation 
of domestic Communist organizations. The official SDS call said simply, "We urge the 
participation of all those who agree with us that the war in Vietnam injures both Vietnamese 
and Americans and should be stopped." That meant that such groups as the DuBois Clubs, 
M2M, and YAWF, and even the Communist and Progressive Labor parties themselves, might 
participate, and that meant that for the first time in more than fifteen years Communists 
would be marching publicly and equally with people from other parts of the political 
spectrum. The thought sent chills up liberal spines. 

The LID had theoretically adopted a new image in the last year— Michael Harrington, thirty- 
seven, had been installed as Chairman of the Board, Tom Kahn, twenty-six, had become the 
new Executive Secretary, and people like Bayard Rustin, Dissent editor Irving Howe, 
sociologist Herbert Gans, and labor writer Thomas Brooks had been drawn around— but it 
was still dominated primarily by men who, as Harrington points out, were "trade-unionists 
from the New York needle trades who had been through the Communist fight of the 1920s 
when it was fought with guns and clubs, and who do not kid about these things." 4 The 
march call precipitated the Port Huron fight all over again— charges of "united frontism," 
double standards, antiliberalism— but all the more virulent now because SDS was seen as 
becoming a force to reckon with. And when, despite pressure, SDS showed no signs of 
dissociating itself from the other groups or even of paying much attention to the objections 
of its elder colleagues, alarms went out from the LID to the liberal community that 
dangerous work was afoot. Kissinger, who only months before had bragged of having the 
LID "literally eating out of my hand," now felt it chewing more around the neck. Harrington 
himself was more or less out of commission, having been worn out trying to get his social 
democracy across to the New Left that wouldn't listen, but Kahn let it be known that the LID 
was strongly disapproving of SDS, not just for allowing Communists in the march but for 
refusing to repudiate them publicly. And Bayard Rustin even tried to dampen the march by 
keeping liberal friends and moderate civil-rights forces out of it.* 



The LID could not have been too happy, either, about the kinds of sentiments represented by this item in an April 
worklist mailing, a parody of the spiritual "Oh, Freedom" written by Barbara Haber: "No strategic hamlets. /No 
strategic hamlets, /No strategic hamlets around me. /And before I'll be fenced in/I'll vote for Ho Chi Minn/And go 
home to the North and be free." 



117 



It was not only the LID which viewed the "frontism" of SDS with such horror. Many 
traditional liberals and peace groups got chills, too, and when it was rumored around that 
banners actually urging withdrawal from Vietnam were going to be carried and that 
marchers openly urging an NLF victory were going to be allowed in, these people moved to 
act. In Washington, Curtis Gans of the ADA (who had been, briefly, an SDSer in 1961-62) 
started redbaiting the organization among politicians, and eventually enough pressure was 
brought on Senator Gruening that he almost backed out of the ceremonies; only last-minute 
persuasion from Harold Taylor kept him in. (The Campus ADA, incidentally, eventually did 
boycott the march on the grounds that it let Communists in.) In Ann Arbor, the Center for 
the Study of Conflict Resolution, the outfit that had housed PREP since the fall, voted early 
in April to kick it out forthwith, on the extraordinary grounds that it "has developed into a 
research service organization to the action-oriented SDS." And in New York, in a statement 
issued just a few days before the event, a group of prominent liberals including Robert 
Gilmore (a rich Turn Toward Peace leader, an LID board member, and a prime instigator of 
the statement), Stuart Hughes, A. J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, and Norman Thomas warned 
people away from the march because of its Communist taint. They too, they said, were 
worried about Vietnam, but there were limits: "In an effort to register such concern with our 
government and people, we welcome the cooperation of all those groups and individuals 
who, like ourselves, believe in the need for an independent peace movement, not 
committed to any form of totalitarianism or drawing inspiration from the foreign policy of 
any government." It sounded like Harry Laidler at his best. And then this group managed to 
get the New York Post to run a prominent editorial on the very eve of the march featuring 
this statement and going on to issue warnings about "attempts to convert the event into a 
pro-Communist production" and "a frenzied, one-sided anti-American show." By an ironic 
turn of history, the people responsible for this editorial attack on what was to become the 
most important student organization of the sixties were two of the top leaders of what was 
the most important student organization of the thirties: Joseph Lash, assistant editorial 
page editor of the Post and former executive secretary of the American Student Union, and 
James Wechsler, editorial page editor of the Post and former editor of the ASU's Student 
Advocate. 5 



118 



Some members of the liberal community were not so shortsighted. A letter from Phyllis 
("Mrs. Gardner") Cox, and Anne and Martin Peretz, for example— three boosters of, and 
financial contributors to, the organization— took the statement-signers to task for having 
"gratuitously and unjustly evoked associations of the March with Communism" and for 
lending "their prestige to a foolish, divisive and destructive lactic"; subsequently Stuart 
Hughes and Norman Thomas apologized to SDS for having got sucked into it. And most 
traditional peace groups still wanted a hand in the march and kept pressing SDS for joint 
sponsorship so as to print their own stamp on it. This produced another crisis in those busy 
weeks. The peace groups suggested that SDS give over direction of the march to an ad hoc 
committee of leaders from the various peace organizations, that these have a bigger voice 
in selecting speakers, that banners favoring immediate withdrawal be forbidden, and that 
adults as well as students be urged to attend. Kissinger and Booth, doing most of the 
negotiating in New York for SDS, agreed that signs for immediate withdrawal could be 
banned if signs for any particular position would be forbidden as well— this was later 
abandoned in favor of a decision to ban only signs identifying particular groups in the line of 
march— and they agreed that adult groups could issue a second march call directed toward 
adults if they wished. But the issues of joint sponsorship and speaker selection, which hit at 
SDS's central role in the affair, were too important for individuals to decide and, in 
participatory-democratic tradition, had to be voted on by the National Council. On March 13, 
the NO sent out a ballot on whether SDS should go along with the peace groups (a ballot 
which, in classic SDS style, enumerated all the facts and then carried two equally 
impassioned sections, WHY THIS OFFER SHOULD BE ACCEPTED, and WHY THIS OFFER 
SHOULD BE REJECTED), and a week later the results were in: twenty-four for joint 
sponsorship, nineteen against, two abstentions.* SDS's single biggest planned action to date 
was on the verge of being totally transformed, the organization's own central role about to 
be overwhelmed. But— and this is also classic SDS— the majority refused to accept the 
victory. As Kissinger told the worklist, "Since, however, there were violent opinions on both 
sides, a number of votes were conditional, and the margin so close, a number of National 
Officers changed their vote from For to Against to avoid embarking on a radical change in 
plans without a clear organizational consensus." It was in the best democratic traditions of 
the organization— and it proved sound strategy as well. SDS told the peace groups it wanted 
to keep the sponsorship in its own hands but they were welcome to join in the march, and 
the peace groups, sensing by now that there was really no point in staging another and 
competing march, decided to go along anyway and urged everyone to join the SDS march. 
Not all of them were happy about it, + and the two most conservative— SANE and Turn 
Toward Peace— washed their hands of the whole affair, but the eventual cooperation of the 
other peace organizations proved helpful. 6 



* The national officers' vote was: for. Potter, Grizzard, Booth, Brecher, Egleson, Kissinger, McEldowney, Ross, and 
Williams; against, Davis, Gitlin, David Smith, Webb, Wittman; Murphy, Shero, and Charles Smith were not heard 
from. Several chapters also voted, on the basis of one vote per chapter. 

+ For example, David McReynolds, of the War Resisters League, wrote several months later, "All of us were angered 
at finding out that S.D.S., with its 'participatory democracy," had early on decided that we should all participate in 
the March but that S.D.S. would make all the decisions. The adult peace movement was asked to give up its own 
traditional Easter demonstrations in order not to draw away from the Washington project. But, of course, S.D.S. 
would get the full credit for the Washington project. Petty point? Right! The world is often petty. But who proved 
more petty in the long run, the petty adult peace bureaucrats who gave way and helped get thousands of adults 
down to Washington, or S.D.S. which did not give way, and which, in the midst of a grave crisis of foreign policy 
insisted that S.D.S. be in a position to get full credit for the events of April 17th?" {Liberation, August 1965.) 



119 



Through all of this, be it noted, it was almost always SDS's practice (admitting other left 
groups) rather than its policies (as embodied in the call for the march) that upset people. 7 
The policies were mild enough, the call representing more or less the lowest common 
denominator after several weeks of letters, phone calls, and informal discussion. The 
argument was simple: the government of South Vietnam is a dictatorship, so naturally the 
majority of the people refuse to support it and want to overthrow it, and U.S. presence 
there simply impedes (but of course cannot stop) this process, and costs lives and dollars, 
and threatens a wider, nuclear war; besides, the whole thing is immoral, and it kills people. 
There was no mention whatsoever of a solution, neither withdrawal nor negotiation nor 
pulling back to "enclaves," just "end the war." There was no identification with Hanoi or the 
NLF or "Third World" peoples in general, just "the people overwhelmingly want peace, self- 
determination, and the opportunity for development." There was no analysis of American 
foreign policy as imperialist or interventionist, just "America is committing pointless 
murder." There were no attacks on the United States or the Johnson Administration or 
corporate liberalism, just "this is a war never declared by Congress." The call did challenge 
some basic Administration assumptions— such as that the war was led by China and Hanoi, 
that the country was a "domino" in China's expansion game, that the Saigon government 
was legitimate and popular— with a perception that was rare in those days, and it was quite 
outspoken in doing so, as befits a youthful organization. But this was by no means an 
extreme document, even for its times; less advanced, in fact, than most of The Port Huron 
Statement or America and the New Era. 

SDS warmed up for its Washington march with the promised demonstration against the 
Chase Manhattan Bank for its loans to South Africa. 

On Friday afternoon, March 19, 1965, some six hundred demonstrators clogged the streets 
in front of Chase Manhattan's gleaming offices in downtown Manhattan. Bank officials had 
gotten an injunction against an invasion of bank property and then closed down the offices 
to the public, so the demonstrators stood out front, singing freedom songs and holding 
hands with their arms crossed in front of their bodies in the old civil-rights gesture. After an 
hour, several dozen of them (including Potter, Gitlin, Booth, Hobson, and Arthur Waskow of 
the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington) sat down in front of the bank's entrance 
blocking part of the sidewalk, and continued singing. When the police finally ordered them 
on, they refused to move, locked arms, and waited to be arrested; when the police moved 
in, they went limp, and forty-three were thrown into waiting paddy wagons. It was SDS's 
first official act of civil disobedience. 

Press coverage was slight, partly because in those early days SDSers knew so little about 
dealing with the press that they didn't realize Friday demonstrations get scant coverage 
because Saturday's paper is always the smallest. But the Times gave them some mention 
on the financial pages, slender stories moved over both AP and UPI wires, and there was 
some local television coverage. Around New York especially, where it was SDS's first public 
action of consequence, it attracted a good deal of attention in the colleges and enhanced 
the organization's reputation for action. But it remained, withal, a limited action on a moral 
plane. Though Gitlin and Booth, among others, were aware of the fundamentally imperialist 
nature of the bank loans and the U.S. -South African relationship— the PREP executive 
committee in fact had even proposed an expanded "program against American corporations" 
as having "more long-range potential than the crisis response program on Vietnam"— this 
awareness was never shared with the bulk of the demonstrators. The anticapitalist analysis 
and broader political implication that lay behind the bank loans was put abroad by neither 
hand nor mouth, and the sit-in remained essentially an isolated and one-dimensional act of 
outrage, as if Chase Manhattan were a Woolworth's with tellers. 8 



120 



The Chase Manhattan action, incidentally, marked the end of PREP. The South Africa issue 
seemed secondary to most SDSers in the face of Vietnam, and was left to other groups— 
chiefly religious organizations such as the Student Christian Federation and the Union 
Theological Seminary— to carry on while SDS looked elsewhere. The whole notion of "peace 
research," in fact, seemed somewhat ludicrous after the Vietnam escalation, and certainly 
no one was worrying much about how the country was going to manage its conversion to a 
peace economy. Gitlin moved on to the JOIN project in Chicago, Booth went into the 
National Office, and PREP was left to wither away. 

While SDS was preparing for its first major antiwar action, another antiwar phenomenon 
was unfolding which also had a profound effect on the campuses. At the University of 
Michigan in the early morning of March 18, a group of teachers and students (including a 
large number of VOICE members) finally concluded their long night's discussion of how to 
demonstrate their opposition to the escalation of the war; their plan : get a group of experts 
on, and opponents of, the war to informally address and take questions from the university 
community for an entire night. The event would be called, following the rhetorical precedent 
of the civil-rights movement's main tactic, a "teach-in." 9 

The University of Michigan teach-in was held on the night of March 24, 1965, and it was an 
astonishing success. The organizers expected five hundred people; perhaps as many as 
three thousand showed up during the evening. And it wasn't all boring lectures, either: 
there were teachers talking out of their own feelings to a mass of students they now 
regarded as citizens, not bluebooks, and there were folksingers and hecklers and bomb 
scares and coffee breaks and a torchlight parade— and it was all very exciting. "On that 
night," says Marc Pilisuk, one of the primary organizers, "people who really cared talked of 
things that really mattered." Most students found that refreshing. 

Within days the teach-in idea swept the nation, and within the next two months more than 
a hundred colleges and universities participated— not just the expected ones like Wisconsin, 
Berkeley, Chicago, and Columbia, but surprising ones like Arizona, the University of Miami, 
Kent State, and Goucher, and unheard-of ones like Flint Junior College in Michigan, Marist 
College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.* There was even 
a National Teach-in, in Washington, D.C., with professors from all over the country, radio 
hookups to 122 campuses, and full coverage by National Education Television for all twelve 
hours. And at the end of the school year, May 21-22, the largest and most outspoken of all 
the teach-ins was held, at Berkeley, of course, with an estimated thirty-five thousand 
people attending some or all of its thirty-six hours and a list of speakers ranging from 
liberals to representatives of the DuBois Clubs, the Progressive Labor Party, and SDS. + 



Not all colleges were enthusiastic, and not all professors. Among those who started a campaign to denounce the 
teach-ins was Lid's Frank Trager. 

+ But perhaps the most famous teach-in was held at Rutgers, during which that university's Marxist historian 
Eugene Genovese, who was also the faculty adviser of the local SDS chapter, said, among much else, "I do not fear 
or regret the impending Viet Cong victory in Vietnam. I welcome it." This became a cause celebre in that fall's 
gubernatorial race when injected by the Republican candidate to smear the incumbent Democrat; the Republican 
was defended by a long letter of some note in The New York Times claiming that "the victory for the Viet Cong 
which Professor Genovese 'welcomes' would mean, ultimately, the destruction of freedom of speech for all men for 
all time, not only in Asia but in the United States as well ... . Any individual employed by the state should not be 
allowed to use his position for the purpose of giving aid and comfort to enemies of the state." The writer was New 
York lawyer Richard M. Nixon. (See Teach-ins: U.S.A., edited by Louis Menashe and Ronald Radosh, Praeger, 
1967.1 



121 



Although SDSers participated in many teach-ins— a new SDS member at Michigan named 
Carl Oglesby spoke at the very first and SDS President Potter spoke at the largest— SDS as 
an organization never promoted them as a part of its overall strategy. This was not only 
because the teach-ins were in the main faculty-led and faculty-directed, but because 
SDSers felt that these were essentially apolitical exercises whose best effect could be only 
to educate but not to radicalize. The basic assumptions behind the teach-ins— which perhaps 
reflected the somewhat snobbish and politically unsophisticated attitudes one would expect 
to find among physical scientists and psychologists, the dominant faculty groups in the 
movement— were that reason and truth would ultimately prevail in the present American 
society, that intellectuals and professors had special roles as beholders of that reason and 
tellers of that truth, and that the war in Vietnam was an isolated mistake of the American 
system rather than a logical extension of it. Most of those in SDS had by now rejected all 
three assumptions. They felt that the teach-ins would not draw people into a broader 
movement on the left and supply them with a radical politics for other occasions. Without 
ever even enunciating it or having to make an official decision, SDS indicated by its passive 
response that it had gone beyond the moderation of the teach-in phase of antiwar politics. 
It had by now learned bitter lessons about reformism, and it was coming to feel that only 
with the kind of confrontation and militancy a march represented could America be changed. 

April 17 was one of those flawless Washington spring days: a cloudless sky, a gentle 
northeast breeze, temperature in the eighties. By nine o'clock in the morning, several 
thousand people were gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue, ready to head for the White 
House, and thousands more were still coming. Todd Gitlin recalls, 

Originally I was gloomy: I thought it would be good if we could get five 
thousand people. But it was so exciting. I took the bus with the Ann Arbor 
people, and we got out of the bus and there were already thousands of people 
there. It was really so exciting. 10 

Buses began arriving from all parts of the country, as faraway as Mississippi and Maine; a 
thousand people came from Boston, a thousand more from Philadelphia; three trains and 
fifty special buses pulled in from New York. At least fifty colleges and universities— and by 
one estimate more than a hundred— sent contingents from all the usual places (Ivy League 
schools, prestigious East Coast colleges, Midwestern state universities), but also from Tulsa, 
Iowa, North Dakota, Toronto, and British Columbia. 11 By ten o'clock there were maybe eight 
thousand people walking slowly around the White House (Johnson himself was hidden away 
at his ranch in Texas, where four hundred SDS-led students picketed his front gate), 
carrying signs ranging from those which had been approved in advance like END THE WAR 
IN VIETNAM NOW, STOP THE KILLING, and I WON'T FIGHT IN VIETNAM, to homemade 
appeals such as WITHDRAW FROM VIETNAM and DEMOCRACY? THIS WAR IS MAKING THE 
WORLD SAFE FOR HYPOCRISY. And by two o'clock, when the marchers had gathered in the 
outdoor Sylvan Theater behind the Washington Monument, there were perhaps twenty-five 
thousand people.* It was the largest peace march in American history. 12 



The National Guardian and one police spokesman estimated twenty-five thousand, SDS itself afterward spoke of 
twenty to twenty-five thousand, the Washington Star variously reported "up to 20,000" and "16,000," The New 
York Times said "more than 15,000." This begins a long succession of games-playing about crowd figures; police 
and conservative newspapers generally guessing as low as possible, march leaders and liberal newspapers trying to 
err on the upper side, and the truth impossible to discover even by various academics who have purported to 
analyze crowd photographs. Standard procedure on the left has become to take the police estimate and double it. 



122 



Sizable groups of nonstudents, both adults and blacks, were among the marchers, the 
former because of the peace groups, the latter because of SDS's conscious efforts to get a 
black turnout, plus the growing awareness in the black organizations that racism and 
militarism were linked— or, as one sign put it, ONE MAN ONE VOTE— SELMA OR SAIGON. 
Dress was for the most part informal, ties were in a minority, but not by much, and most of 
the women wore skirts; the large preponderance of the youths were cleanshaven and with 
short hair. 

The program was an odd mixture, as befitted the time. There was a contingent of name 
folksingers— Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins— and a trio of SNCC amateurs. There were 
blacks— Bob Parris Moses of SNCC and Mrs. Iva Pearce of the Cleveland ERAP's welfare- 
mothers' organization— drawing the connections between segregation and defoliation and 
pressing home the urgent need for something to be done both in Vietnam and in the 
ghettos. There were the liberals— as I. F. Stone and Senator Gruening both identified 
themselves— who quickly established their distance from the dangerous Communists on the 
march (Stone by attacking the previous "generations of snotty Marxist-Leninists," Gruening 
by attacking China and its "expansionist" policies) and reduced everything to the issue of 
ending the war. 13 And there were the radicals— SDS President Paul Potter and march 
chairman Staughton Lynd, then assistant professor of history at Yale and an editor of 
Liberation— who tried to put the war in a wider context, to make connections. Lynd said: 

We are here to keep the faith with those of all countries and all ages who 
have sought to beat swords into plowshares and to war no more. We are here 
on behalf of millions of men and women throughout the world who are crying 
out, What has happened to the United States? We are here on behalf of Jean- 
Paul Sartre. And we are also here on behalf of those eight thousand miles 
from us for whom the Easter and Passover season brings death, not life. We 
are here on behalf of brave men who have been fighting for their country's 
independence three times as long as we fought for ours, and with much less 
foreign assistance. We are here on behalf of the American soldiers who do not 
understand the reason for the war in which they are dying. 

Above all we are here on behalf of the women and children of that land which 
we have turned into a fiery furnace, whose eyes as they look out at us from 
the pictures and the posters, ask us, Why? 

Potter, who closed the rally, gave a speech even more poignant, more impassioned, more 
radical. Potter, twenty-five, was in his way a personification of SDS: he was bright and 
politically sophisticated, a graduate of Oberlin and a graduate student at Michigan, a former 
national affairs vice president of NSA, a person of ideology; but he was also a boy who had 
grown up on a small farm in Illinois, was a champion chicken-judger at the age of twelve, 
had gravitated to SDS chiefly because of its style and lived now in the ERAP project in 
Cleveland, and, as his earlier university-reform speech showed, possessed an original and 
individualistic mind. ("Pure SDS," Gitlin says of Potter; "he doesn't get it out of books— he 
has a remarkable ability to think for himself and not pay attention to all the rhetorical shit 
whether academic or political.") Potter spoke for SDS, and for much of his generation: 

The incredible war in Vietnam has provided the razor, the terrifying sharp 
cutting edge that has finally severed the last vestige of illusion that morality 
and democracy are the guiding principles of American foreign policy ... . That 
is a terrible and bitter insight for people who grew up as we did— and our 
revulsion at that insight, our refusal to accept it as inevitable or necessary, is 
one of the reasons that so many people have come here today ... . 



123 



But the war goes on; the freedom to conduct that war depends on the 
dehumanization not only of Vietnamese people but of Americans as well; it 
depends on the construction of a system of premises and thinking that 
insulates the President and his advisors thoroughly and completely from the 
human consequences of the decisions they make ... . 

What kind of system is it that allows good men to make those kinds of 
decisions? What kind of system is it that justifies the United States or any 
country seizing the destinies of the Vietnamese people and using them 
callously for its own purpose? What kind of system is it that disenfranchises 
people in the South, leaves millions upon millions of people throughout the 
country impoverished and excluded from the mainstream and promise of 
American society, that creates faceless and terrible bureaucracies and makes 
those the place where people spend their lives and do their work, that 
consistently puts material values before human values— and still persists in 
calling itself free and still persists in finding itself fit to police the world? What 
place is there for ordinary men in that system and how are they to control it, 
make it bend itself to their wills rather than bending them to its? 

We must name that system,* We must name it, describe it, analyze it, 
understand it and change it. For it is only when that system is changed and 
brought under control that there can be any hope for stopping the forces that 
create a war in Vietnam today or a murder in the South tomorrow or all the 
incalculable, innumerable more subtle atrocities that are worked on people all 
over, all the time ... . 

I wonder what it means for each of us to say we want to end the war in 
Vietnam— whether, if we accept the full meaning of that statement and the 
gravity of the situation, we can simply leave the march and go back to the 
routines of a society that acts as if it were not in the midst of a grave crisis 

There is no simple plan, no scheme or gimmick that can be proposed here. 
There is no simple way to attack something that is deeply rooted in the 
society. If the people of this country are to end the war in Vietnam, and to 
change the institutions which create it, then the people of this country must 
create a massive social movement— and if that can be built around the issue 
of Vietnam then that is what we must do ... . 



* This phrase, which later became famous in left circles, was taken by most people to suggest "imperialism" or 
"capitalism," and there were shouts from the crowd telling Potter to say those words. But Potter subsequently 
explained that "I did not fail to call the system capitalism because I was a coward or an opportunist. I refused to 
call it capitalism because capitalism was for me and my generation an inadequate description of the evils of 
America— a hollow, dead word tied to the thirties." (Potter, A Name for Ourselves, Little, Brown, 1971.) 



124 



But that means that we build a movement that works not simply in 
Washington but in communities and with the problems that face people 
throughout the society. That means that we build a movement that 
understands Vietnam in all its horror as but a symptom of a deeper malaise, 
that we build a movement that makes possible the implementation of values 
that would have prevented Vietnam, a movement based on the integrity of 
man and a belief in man's capacity to tolerate all the weird formulations of 
society that men may choose to strive for; a movement that will build on the 
new and creative forms of protest that are beginning to emerge, such as the 
teach-in, and extend their efforts and intensify them; that we will build a 
movement that will find ways to support the increasing numbers of young 
men who are unwilling to and will not fight in Vietnam; a movement that will 
not tolerate the escalation or prolongation of the war but will, if necessary, 
respond to the Administration war effort with massive civil disobedience all 
over the country, that will wrench the country into a confrontation with the 
issues of the war; a movement that must of necessity reach out to all these 
people in Vietnam or elsewhere who are struggling to find decency and 
control for their lives. 14 

The huge crowd sat still for a moment, then rose to its feet with the loudest and most 
sustained applause of the day. 

After this speech, the crowd moved out from behind the Washington Monument and began 
a march down the huge mall toward the Capitol at the other end, there to present an end- 
the-war petition to Congress. The mood was in large part joyous and even exuberant, but 
there was an overtone of something darker. "We Shall Overcome," sung with the huge 
Capitol dome getting larger and the shadows lengthening across the mall, somehow 
sounded more menacing than it ever had before— "Deep in my heart/I do believe:/We shall 
overcome, some day"— and soon shouts of "Get Out, Get Out" and "End the War, End the 
War" drowned out the singing. Jack A. Smith, a National Guardian correspondent, and 
sympathetic, reported that it was "one of the most impressive demonstrations this reporter 
has seen (including the 1963 March on Washington with its quarter-million people). 
Whatever there was of a picnic atmosphere before the walk to Congress totally dissipated, 
replaced by a determination apparent on every face." 15 About 150 yards in front of the 
Capitol steps, the marchers were supposed to stop so that a small contingent could take the 
petition up to someone within the Capitol. But as the front ranks slowed, a growing cry went 
up, "Let's all go, LET'S ALL GO," and began spreading through the crowd. Staughton Lynd 
recalls that moment: 

As the crowd moved down the Mall toward the seat of government, its path 
delimited on each side by rows of chartered buses so that there was nowhere 
to go but forward, toward the waiting policemen, it seemed that the great 
mass of people would simply flow on through and over the marble buildings, 
that our forward movement was irresistibly strong, that even had some been 
shot or arrested nothing could have stopped that crowd from taking 
possession of its government. Perhaps next time we should keep going, 
occupying for a time the rooms from which orders issue and sending to the 
people of Vietnam and the Dominican Republic the profound apologies which 
are due; or quietly waiting on the Capitol steps until those who make policy 
for us, and who like ourselves are trapped by fear and pride, consent to enter 
into a dialogue with us and with mankind. 16 



125 



But 1965 was not yet a time of confrontation, of taking over the buildings, and as the crowd 
approached the police cordon at the Capitol steps the bulk of the crowd slowly halted. A few 
hundred students moved across the cement walk and up the steps, calling for the others to 
follow, but behind them SDS leaders were urging people to stay and when they found they 
were alone, they stopped and sat on the steps. Soon it was announced (incorrectly, as it 
turned out, but effectively) that the petition had been "pasted to the door of Congress" 
(actually it was handed to a Congressional aide inside the Capitol) and the crowd cheered, 
relaxed, began drifting toward the buses, and eventually, around six o'clock, dispersed. 

The response to the Potter speech and the apparent militancy of a good number of the 
petitioners were signals of a growing sentiment toward confrontation— as yet held, however, 
by a minority. William A. Price, another Guardian correspondent, assessed the sentiment as 
being " ... a search for greater unity, more radical forms of protest. Clearly a frustration for 
many was the dispersion of the march at the end of a long day without some form of 
massive civil disobedience, for which many of the participants were ready." 17 A few 
attempts were made to give vent to it: there was a successful seven-man sit-in at the State 
Department; a planned "mass civil-disobedience demonstration" of unspecified nature that 
was even announced twice from the Sylvan Theater stage but never came off because no 
one apparently knew how to organize it and SDS chose not to; and a short-lived attempt at 
the White House by about two dozen students to sit in and maintain a vigil, the militant 
mood of which was expressed by Eric Mann, an ex-CORE hand who was an ERAPer then and 
later became an important activist in the Boston area: "This is not a political demonstration. 
It is a personal witness and confrontation with the power structure. We understand the need 
for a broad-based demonstration, but in order to change a fundamentally rotten system you 
have to take a fundamental decision." But the militance remained muted. For most, this was 
the first open declaration to the government of their opposition to the war, and the belief 
that the government might listen, and respond, had not yet dissipated. 

The effects of the march on SDS were all things it would not have expected three months 
before. For one thing, people noticed it. Television coverage was only spotty (and David 
Brinkley with his usual wry conservatism suggested they were all "loiterers"), but there was 
some, and newspaper coverage was good, if unsympathetic. The New York Times ran the 
story on its front-page, with a picture and a three-column eighteen-point headline, but its 
tone was distant and faintly amused: 

More than 15,000 students and a handful of adults picketed the White House 
in warm sunshine today, calling for an end to the fighting in Vietnam. Walking 
three or four abreast in orderly rows and carrying printed white signs, the 
students clogged the sidewalk. The principal occupant of the White House was 
at his ranch in Texas. 

The Times story, as did all the coverage, emphasized both "beards and blue jeans" and the 
presence of a small band of Nazi and other right-wing counter-pickets, and substantially 
ignored the afternoon speeches and the petition. The Scripps-Howard papers ran an 
editorial calling SDS "highly suspect." And the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune stated 
that this "civil rights rally" was a "three-hour demonstration organized at a cost of 
$100,000"— which happened to be wrong on all three counts: it was an antiwar 
demonstration, lasted closer to eight hours, and cost SDS perhaps $15,000 at most.* 



* April NO expenses were $9,719.32, May's $6,880, largely but not wholly for the march; chapters and individuals, 
of course, had additional expenditures of their own. ("Financial Report" by Clark Kissinger, June 1965, SDS 
archives.! 



126 



Publicity of this kind disturbed a good many liberals, for whom marches and pickets were 
out of place and faintly embarrassing, and a lot of agonizing went on in LID circles. Murray 
Baron, a management relations consultant, for example, resigned from the LID Board of 
Directors the following Tuesday in protest over the "picketing Students for D.S." The 
following week, realizing the size of the gulf between the two generations, the Board itself 
voted to establish "dialogues" between SDS and the Student Affairs Committee (Harrington, 
Kahn, Brooks, Fleischman, and Howe, among others) "to explore, informally and in depth, 
various issues around which differences have arisen." One right-wing publicist, Arthur G. 
McDowell of a Council Against Communist Aggression, circulated a letter, primarily among 
the most conservative LID members, urging them all to resign, and arguing that: 18 

... the Communist apparatus had swung behind your Students for a 
Democratic (sic) Society ... . S.D.S. had been the front for a maximum show 
of strength of a (for this project) united Communist turnout and mechanical 
operation ... . The group you sponsor was the cover for a Communist 
mobilization against the President and Government of the U.S.* 

In point of fact, the FBI itself had counted only seventy Communists during the whole affair. 

It wasn't only the older generation that reacted, however. Through its new publicity SDS 
was looked upon at college campuses now as the leading group, student or adult, in the 
burgeoning antiwar movement, and it was also coming to be seen as a major force in what 
by then had been designated "the New Left" as a whole. In the weeks following the march 
the formal national membership increased by perhaps five hundred, until it was over two 
thousand by the end of the school year. The number of chapters increased to eighty, double 
the figure of the preceding December/ Far more important, however, SDSers felt was the 
"unsigned membership," the people who just began to gravitate toward SDS, attend 
meetings, and join actions, both previously apolitical youths and a number of articulate and 
talented people on the fringes of other organizations who now found a place to become 
involved. SDS was suddenly the place to go. Once there, nobody paid much attention to 
signing them up officially— the usual response even of Regional Organizers, whose job it is 
to increase membership, was to draw up a list of the most active people on any campus and 
regard them as SDS members whether or not they were ever officially registered on 
Kissinger's lists back in New York. As Kissinger put it that spring to one of the many 
reporters then coming around, "We are, de facto, the largest membership organization on 
the left [but] we don't stress signing people up. We are not trying to make our organization 
bigger than any other in the sense of organizational chauvinism [but] in the sense that we 
have a viewpoint we hope many people will accept." 19 Either way, SDS had arrived. 



Harrington, it should be noted, quickly responded to this smear by circulating a three-page letter denouncing "Mr. 
McDowell's McCarthyite methods" and urging "open and friendly relations with SDS." But he was not very pleased 
with SDS, either, as he made clear, and one person in the NO remarked that with Harrington as a defender, "we 
don't need enemies." 

+ Chapters began or were reestablished at Adelphi, Amherst, Antioch, Arizona State, Bard, Brandeis, Brooklyn, 
Buffalo (SUNY), Central Missouri State, CCNY, Columbia, Goddard, Indiana, Kansas, Kenyon, Long Island, Maine, 
Massachusetts, MacMurray, University of Miami, Minnesota, Missouri, New York High School At-large, North 
Carolina, North Texas State, Oberlin, Plattsburg (SUNY), Princeton, Queensboro Community College, San Diego 
State, Southern California, Stanford, Temple, University of the South, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington, D.C. 
At-large, Wayne State, and Western Reserve. 



127 



Another happy effect of the march was a National Council meeting right afterward that 
Kissinger called "one of the most pleasant and productive in recent SDS history." And why 
not? Everyone was flush from the unexpected success of the march and when the one 
hundred delegates got together on Sunday the ideas for what to do next were as plentiful as 
crumbs in an ERAP kitchen. There were several proposals for working on university reform 
and establishing "free universities": suggestions that the organization had better turn to its 
own internal education before it found an unbridgeable chasm between the old guard and 
the new influx; and recommendations that more blacks be systematically brought in to what 
was becoming an almost all-white SDS. But most of the suggestions concerned Vietnam. 
Kissinger proposed a strategy, quickly known as Kissinger's Kamikaze Plan, of sending SDS 
teams to military bases and induction centers to leaflet, picket, and otherwise persuade 
eighteen-year-olds not to register, draftees not to report, and enlisted men not to go on 
serving— all in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act, but which SDS would justify legally on 
the basis of the Nuremberg Doctrine. This was hotly debated but in the end turned out to be 
too strong for most of the campus delegates, and was shunted to a committee with the 
cautious reminder that "before the Kissinger plan can be put into effect the membership 
must be polled," 20 something the organization had never done before. Another proposal— a 
visit to Hanoi by a left-wing American contingent— was also given over to a committee, an 
idea that would be implemented in time but by someone else. Hayden suggested a new 
Continental Congress— carrying the notion of alternate institutions to its logical extreme- 
made up of people who "really" represented America to meet in Washington over the 
summer and establish a new government right in the shadow of the old; that one was too 
bizarre even to go to a committee and was soon dropped, though it continued to lead an 
underground life on the left for the next several years. LID relations were discussed, with 
Kissinger proposing that SDS sever ties immediately and "get the hell out of New York 
City"; the NC only mandated Kissinger to "look into the possibility" of a permanent break 
but it agreed that moving the NO was desirable and authorized a transfer to the more 
central location of Chicago as soon as quarters could be found. Finally, Carl Oglesby 
proposed that a group called RIP (for research, information, and publications) be 
established to fill in the information gaps of the members, especially with regard to 
Vietnam; Oglesby himself was hired to put it into operation. 21 

Carl Oglesby at that point was thirty years old, had a wife and three children, and worked as 
a technical writer for the Bendix Systems Division at $12,000 a year— not what one would 
call the average SDSer. His roots were working class: his father had been born in South 
Carolina and had left a patriarchal and unpleasant family life on a farm there to get rich up 
North, ending up in the rubber mills of Akron, Ohio; there he met Oglesby's mother, up 
from Alabama, whom he married and later divorced. Oglesby went through the Akron public 
school system, winning a national oratory prize in his senior year with a pro-Cold War 
speech, and went on to Kent State University, a place of surpassing dullness in the early 
fifties which after three years he forsook for Greenwich Village and a life as an actor and 
playwright. He lasted a year, returned to Kent State, married, and continued writing: three 
plays, one produced in a small theater in Dallas and the other two later put on at the 
University of Michigan, and an unfinished novel. He worked at odd jobs for a while, then at 
the turn of the decade moved to Ann Arbor to work for Bendix and try to get a degree out of 
the University of Michigan in his spare time. Though Hayden, Haber, and the VOICE chapter 
were then active, Oglesby was far removed from the campus political scene and never came 
in contact with them. Then in the summer of 1964 he happened to read D. F. Fleming's The 
Cold War and Its Origins, a skillful revisionist work showing American blame for postwar 
antagonisms, and the Cold War scales began to fall from his eyes. That fall he wrote an 
article on the errors of America's Far East policy that appeared in a campus magazine, the 
alert antennae of SDS picked it up, and a few SDSers went out to Oglesby's suburban home 
to see if maybe he would become an SDS ally. 



128 



We talked. I got to thinking about things. As a writer, I needed a mode of 
action ... . I couldn't just grumble and go off to the creative spider-hole and 
turn out plays. From what SDS said about the Movement, it sounded like a 
direct way I could deal with things. I had to decide: was I going to be a writer 
just to be a professional writer, or was I going to write in order to make 
change? I saw that people were already moving, so I joined up. 

The first notion that fall was that Oglesby could help establish a "grassroots theater" for 
SDS, and he was at work on that when the bombing moved into North Vietnam. 
Immediately he became active in SDS's Vietnam work, participating in the Michigan teach- 
in, writing (with Gitlin) a press release after President Johnson's Johns Hopkins speech on 
Vietnam that dissected it as designed for "conning Americans," and joining in pre-march 
organizing. But the National Council after the march was his first national SDS meeting, and 
he was impressed: 

A fantastic experience. For three days there was debate on various subjects, 
and I was absolutely convinced by each speaker. One would get up and 
defend a point, and I would be convinced. Then another guy would get up and 
refute the point so well I thought he was right. One after the other they got 
better and smarter. It was the first time I had seen debate when it wasn't an 
ego game. They were really beautiful people. Students! I had no idea until 
then that young people— anyone— could think so well. 

And so Oglesby made the irrevocable decision to join the Movement and become a full-time 
"RIP" worker for SDS. 

On May 8, 1965, the Saturday Evening Post, in a long article on "The Explosive Revival of 
The Far Left," carried a statement from one Phillip Abbott Luce under the headline, WHY I 
QUIT THE EXTREME LEFT. Luce, twenty-eight, had been a member of the Progressive Labor 
Party for more than a year and involved with PL members for more than two. He had gone 
to Cuba under PL auspices in the summer of 1963 and had been a member of the executive 
committee of a PL-led Student Committee for Travel to Cuba, which organized a second trip 
in the summer of 1964. He had been an organizer of a May 2nd Movement antiwar 
demonstration in August 1964 in Times Square during which forty-seven people, many from 
M2M, were arrested. He wrote: 

The more members of the Progressive Labor Movement I met [in 1963], the 
more impressed I became with the group. At first appearance and even later, 
I was attracted by the apparent openness of the movement. Here for the first 
time in my life I met a group of young Americans, many of whom openly 
called themselves Communists and forcefully preached the need for a 
revolution to end the evils in the United States ... . In addition, nearly all of 
the members and leaders that I met were young, vital, dynamic and 
extremely personable. They seemed to have a freshness of approach to 
political problems and a frankness with each other that I had not seen or 
heard of in other far-left parties ... . 

We set up the national executive committee of M-2-M in such a way that 
Progressive Labor controlled it from its inception. At present a majority of the 
national controlling body of 12 are members of P.L. But, as with the Student 
Committee for Travel to Cuba, most of the P.L. members on the national 
governing body of M-2-M are kept "secret" members. 



129 



We decided last January that M-2-M, although set up as a "radical peace 
organization" specifically concerning Vietnam, should also join in other 
campus protests, such as the one that led to the riots at the University of 
California, in Berkeley. Although emphasis is still laid on the need for 
American withdrawal from Vietnam, the organizers for M-2-M are now busily 
trying to stir up student grievances on various campuses including Brooklyn 
College, Adelphi, Harvard, University of Cincinnati and City College of New 
York. The agitators claim that since the college administrations are the logical 
extension of the "power structure" (the Government), every student 
grievance should be the cause for a student demonstration a la Berkeley ... . 

The philosophy behind all of this action among students— and actually P.L.'s 
basic tactic— is to involve students in a direct confrontation with the power 
structure on any and all levels. Progressive Labor contends that any person 
can be made into a revolutionary if he is led into a fracas with some authority 
symbol, especially the police. If he is arrested, or better still, beaten and 
jailed, the chances are then good that he will begin to hate the police and the 
court system ... . 

Luce left PL in February 1965, alarmed, he said, over plans for terrorist activity by PL 
members, and began a career, familiar from the thirties and forties, of warning people 
against the very organization he had belonged to. Later that year he was a cooperative 
witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee, and subsequently wrote a book 
with help from that committee. 

In the weeks after the April march, SDS continued to set itself on an inevitable path away 
from its old roots, its liberal heritage, its period of reformism. Early in May it sponsored a 
meeting at Swarthmore, directed by SDSer Patch Dellinger (son of pacifist David Dellinger), 
which planned Vietnam antiwar committees which were to spend the summer in a variety of 
cities doing a rough mix of PREP propaganda work and ERAP community involvement. On 
May 12 it finally moved out of its New York City office— deliberately symbolic of a departure 
from the past— and set up headquarters at 1103 East Sixty-third Street in Chicago, just 
south of the University of Chicago campus in what SDSers made sure to point out was "the 
Woodlawn ghetto." 22 On May 21a number of Chicago-area SDSers and several of the NO 
participated in an antiwar sit-down in Chicago's Loop, during which forty people were 
arrested, the first time that SDS leadership was involved in massive civil disobedience 
against the war (and only the second time, including the Chase Manhattan sit-in, that it was 
organizationally involved in civil disobedience at all). SDS was even beginning to "name the 
system," albeit with the humor that it reserved for anything smacking of Old Left rhetoric: 
in one worklist mailing it ended a discussion of Vietnam and the Dominican Republic with, 
"Crush imperialism— the life you save may be your own." 



130 



The new spirit in SDS was the genie that April 17 let out of the bottle. It was imperfectly 
formed as yet and it would grow far larger, but it was even then unmistakable. 
Confrontations, such as the Washington march, seemed more desirable than committees; 
action, such as Berkeley represented, seemed more effective than agitation; alienation, 
such as the ERAPers had come to, seemed more inevitable than allegiance. SDS had spent 
five years, three of them with all the energy at its disposal, trying, in the old Quaker phrase, 
to speak truth to power; but power did not listen, power did not change. SDS had tried to 
wrest reforms in civil rights, in university governance, in economic distribution, in the inner 
cities, in the political parties, in the corporate institutions: PREP, ERAP, PEP, the vast 
literature production, the innumerable conferences, the meetings and seminars, the 
elaborate convention documents, the civil-rights protests and the antibomb marches, and 
even the march on the capital, all were infused with the belief that radical education and 
moral actions would change the ways of the system if the system would but heed them. 
Now, after the election failures, the civil-rights tokenism, the realignment collapse, the 
foreign adventurism, and the escalation of the war— among much else— it seemed apparent 
that this just was not enough. Something more was necessary, and the next three years 
would be occupied with working out just what. 

It is no accident that Carl Oglesby came to occupy a prominent place in SDS just as a new 
period in its life began. For although he was older and supremely intellectual, his very 
decision to give up a cushy suburban life for the uncertainties of radicalism portended the 
kind of commitment, the kind of alienation, the kind of uncompromising fixity, that the 
coming period of resistance would display. Oglesby was perfectly a man of resistance. In his 
literary way he expressed his own feeling, and the new spirit of SDS, in a note he wrote to 
Paul Booth that May: 

What gives you hope gives me bitterness— this balmy night, soft spring, 
sweet air. Life looks so little and death looks so big. You don't misunderstand 
me. What's worth working for is simply worth working for— on its own present 
terms, on the face value of what it is. I mean I'm not in the movement like a 
businessman's in business, waiting for the payoff on the investment. The 
value of my commitment is not pending anything, the commitment isn't 
waiting to be ratified by success or refuted by failure. Life is better than 
death, one sides with life always ... . 23 

To the barricades! 



1 Booth, interview. Pre-march preparations, SDS Bulletins and worklist mailings, January, 
February, March, 1965. 

2 



Membership figures, SDS Bulletin, March 1965. 

N.Y. Times article, by Fred Powledge, March 15, 1965. 

Harrington, interview. 



Kissinger, letter to Potter, October 8, 1964. On LID and Rustin, see Dave Dellinger, 
Liberation, May, and Staughton Lynd, Liberation, June-July 1965. "has developed," letter to 
PREP by Robert C. Angell, April 7,1965. Gilmore, et al., and Post editorial, N.Y. Post, April 
17-18,1965. Cox-Peretzes letter, mimeograph, April 27,1965, copy at Institute for Policy 
Studies, Washington, D.C. 

6 SDS vote and Kissinger comment, worklist mailing, March 21,1965. 



131 



7 march call printed by SDS, reprinted in Nation, Guardian, and Studies on the Left. 

8 PREP Executive Committee, worklist mailing, March 10,1965. 

9 For teach-ins, Louis Menashe and Ronald Radosh, Teach-ins: U.S.A., Praeger, 1967. 

10 Gitlin, interview. 

11 estimate of colleges, SDS memo, April 25,1965. 

12 For Washington March, SDS Bulletin, May 1965; Guardian, April 24,1965; Liberation, May 
and June-July, 1965; Studies on the Left, May 1965. 

13 Stone and Greuning, quoted in Liberation, May 1965. 

14 Lynd, quoted in Guardian, op. cit. Gitlin, interview. Potter speech, excerpted in Guardian, 
op. cit., later published in full as an SDS pamphlet. May 1965; excerpts in Teodori, pp. 246 
ff. 

15 Smith, Guardian, op. cit. 

16 Lynd, Liberation, June-July, 1965. 

17 Price, Guardian, op. cit., Mann, quoted, ibid. N.Y. Times, April 18, 1965. 

18 N.Y. Herald Tribune, April 18, 1965. Baron, letter to LID, April 20,1965. LID Board, 
memo, April 30,1965. McDowell, letter enclosed with Harrington reply. May 1965. 

19 "We are, de facto," quoted by Raymond R. Coffey, Chicago Daily News, May 17, 1965. 
Information on the NC, and Kissinger quote, worklist mailing, April 25, 1965. 

20 "before the Kissinger," "Summary of National Council Meeting," mimeographed, undated 
(April 1965). 

21 Oglesby biography, from interview, and Roger Vaughan, Life, October 18, 1968; 
quotations, ibid. 

22 "the Woodlawn ghetto" and "Crush imperialism," worklist mailing. May 1, 1965. 

23 Oglesby, quoted in Booth, "Working Papers," mimeographed, undated (May 1965). 

Resistance 1965-1968 

Much of the anti-war movement, regardless of rhetoric, seems predicated on 
the assumption that existing power is legitimate and that the regular channels 
of political opposition are sufficient to end the war. For that reason it has 
concentrated on proving that there is substantial, growing public sentiment 
against the war (through large demonstrations, petitions, newspaper ads, 
referenda, etc.) and it has done this quite effectively. Its method has 
concentrated on anti-war propaganda and education and symbolic appeals to 
power ... . 



132 



We are convinced that power throughout this society is illegitimate and will 
continue to be basically unresponsive to public opinion and normal political 
pressure. That conviction FORCES us to a conception of resistance— an effort 
to impede and disrupt the functioning of the military political machinery 
wherever it is local and vulnerable. We join a resistance movement out of no 
great optimism about its capacity to end the war; indeed we call this a 
resistance, not a revolution, because entrenched power is too strong to be 
broken. At best a resistance can delay and harass, strengthening the internal 
conflicts that make the war costly, aiding marginally the Vietnamese whose 
prosecution of the war is the most critical determinant of its outcome; at best 
a resistance sets seeds throughout the country of a movement aimed directly 
at imperialism and domestic exploitation. 

—THE MOVEMENT, San Francisco, November 1967 

Summer 1965 

Almost as if it were aware that after the march on Washington it was becoming a new 
organization, SDS chose for its 1965 convention a site some distance from New York State, 
where the last two conventions had been held, and only two hundred miles from Port Huron, 
its geographical fountainhead. At Camp Maplehurst, near the tiny town of Kewadin, in the 
resort area of northern Michigan, some 450 SDSers met from June 9 to 13 in a convention 
that foreshadowed both a new style and a new direction for the organization. 1 

For this convention, as those past, the life style was spare: delegates brought their own 
sleeping bags, often slept under the stars; the food, included in a $20 registration fee, was 
inadequate and unappetizing, and the nearest city of any size eighteen miles away; park 
regulations allowed no one in or out after 11:00 P.M. There were some familiar faces— a 
number of SNCC people showed up, the last convention they were to appear at before black 
power sent them in an irrevocably different direction; and observers came from all the 
groups on the left from the National Student Christian Federation to the Progressive Labor 
Party. Talk, as usual, centered around Movement gossip, Movement plans, and Movement 
rhetoric: "organize," "participate," "alienation," "consciousness," "moral," "relevance," 
"dialogue," "community," "initiative," "involvement."* But it was clear that this convention 
would be like none before. 



* It is revealing that "Movement" by now had become the word the young left in America used to talk about itself, 
for it suggests sweep and action and drive, implies power without demanding precision, and can encompass civil 
rights as well as antiwar activists, small ad hoc demonstrations as well as SDS and SNCC. 



133 



For now SDS was starting to become the home for a new breed of activist, a younger, more 
alienated, more committed student, part of that strain that had been growing in SDS over 
the last year and had increased even further with the escalation in Vietnam and the 
Washington march. They were new to national polities, had never before attended an SDS 
convention, knew the organization essentially as the caller of the April march, but when 
they looked around for a group that seemed to share their concerns, all that was on the 
horizon was SDS, and so they flocked to Kewadin— much to the bewilderment of the older 
SDSers, now irrevocably christened "the old guard." For the first time at a convention most 
of the people were unknown to each other, the proceedings were out of the hands of a 
group of old friends, the Port Huronites no longer dominated. "All sorts of things went on," 
Lee Webb says with some dismay, "all the traditions stopped." "It was an odd convention," 
Paul Booth recalls, "a loony convention: everyone was loony." Looniness is in the eye of the 
beholder, but there is no question that SDS was changing, and Kewadin was a signal of that 
change. The period of resistance was taking shape. 2 

The new breed brought to SDS a new style and a new heritage. For the first time at an SDS 
meeting people smoked marijuana; Pancho Villa mustaches, those droopy Western-movie 
addenda that eventually became a New Left cliche, made their first appearance in quantity; 
blue workshirts, denim jackets, and boots were worn by both men and women. These were 
people generally raised outside of the East, many from the Midwest and Southwest, and 
their ruralistic dress reflected a different tradition, one more aligned to the frontier, more 
violent, more individualistic, more bare-knuckled and callus-handed, than that of the early 
SDSers. They were non-Jewish, nonintellectual, nonurban, from a nonprofessional class, and 
often without any family tradition of political involvement, much less radicalism. They 
tended to be not only ignorant of the history of the left and its current half-life in New York 
City, but downright uninterested: they didn't know Dellinger from Dillinger, Rustin from 
Reston, Trotsky from Chomsky, Liberation from Liberator, the Socialist Workers Party from 
the Socialist Labor Party, and they didn't really care. Jack Newfield, surveying twenty-five of 
this new breed in 1965, found that 3 

... none had ever read Rosa Luxemburg, Max Weber, Eduard Bernstein, John 
Dewey, Peter Kropotkin, or John Stuart Mill. Less than five had actually read 
Lenin or Trotsky, and only a few more had ever read Marx. Almost all of them 
had read C. Wright Mills and Camus, and about half had read [Paul] 
Goodman, Frantz Fanon, and Herbert Marcuse. More had read The Realist 
than had read Mill's "Essay on Liberty," or the "Sermon on the Mount." 

Not that they were all simply "anti-intellectual," the phrase with which many of the old 
guard and more of the Old Left dismissed them; rather, they were generally without 
exposure to this kind of learning, being underclassmen from mediocre colleges or 
conservative state universities; they were nervous and often inarticulate in public debates 
with well-versed old guard radicals; and they emphasized "morals" and "values," action and 
bodies-on-the-line, honesty and courage, not ideology and theory and what they called "Old 
Leftism" and "all that thirties horseshit." Their notions of politics had been formed ab ovo in 
the civil-rights struggle or with the impact of Vietnam escalation, so most of them had yet 
to make radical connections, to develop much beyond a moral view of race and war. Al 
Haber later in the year expressed the old guard's fear of the danger of these "moral 
activists" in SDS: 

The force of their energy and enthusiasm for action [ends up] preempting 
organizational resources and allowing no time for educational work. Why? 
Because self-education is hard; because it is slow; because they are not sure 
and secure in their beliefs; because the urgency of direct moral expression 
outweighs for them all other considerations. 



134 



In this he was prophetic— but he might just as well have tried to warn Detroit against having 
anything to do with the Model T. 

The "energy and enthusiasm for action" which the new breed brought was accompanied by 
a sense of alienation, a bitterness, and a commitment that would help, in the next few 
years, to fuel the fires of resistance within SDS. As people often still in their teens, five, six, 
and seven years younger than the old guard, they had already experienced while still in 
high school the idealism-disillusion-revulsion syndrome that many of the older SDSers had 
gone through, they had lived through Selma, Dallas, Atlantic City, Santo Domingo, and 
Vietnam before they even came to SDS. For them, "We Shall Overcome" had already given 
way to "Blow-in' in the Wind." They were in a sense more thoroughly anti-American than 
the early SDSers had been, quicker even than they to write off labor, liberals, the 
Democratic Party, reforms, and "the system" in general, emotionally inclined to plague 
both— all— houses. And they had made a break from their past more thorough than their 
predecessors; Texan Jeff Shero, spiritually a part of the new breed despite his year's 
experience in SDS, recalls: 

We were by instinct much more radical, much more willing to take risks, in a 
way because to become a part of something like SDS meant a tremendous 
number of breaks. If you were a New York student and became a member of 
SDS, it was essentially joining a political organization, which was a common 
experience. In Texas to join SDS meant breaking with your family, it meant 
being cut off— it was like in early Rome joining a Christian sect— and the break 
was so much more total, getting involved with something like SDS you had to 
be much more highly committed, and you were in a sense freed, 'cause you'd 
get written off. If you were from Texas, in SDS, you were a bad 
motherfucker, you couldn't go home for Christmas. Your mother didn't say, 
"Oh, isn't that nice, you're involved. We supported the republicans in the 
Spanish Civil War, and now you're in SDS and I'm glad to see you're socially 
concerned." In most of those places it meant, "You Goddamn Communist." 
There was absolutely no reinforcing sympathy ... . So we were strong, the 
commitment in those regions was stronger than it was in the East. 4 

Finally, the new breed brought to SDS a kind of centrifugalism: a distrust of centralization, 
of leadership, of "top-down" organizations, and instead, an instinctive, ERAP-like reliance on 
small groups, locally based, operating individually. Most of the newcomers had joined SDS 
chapters on their campuses in the previous six months, largely around antiwar actions, and 
the success these chapters had during this time inclined them to reliance on this kind of 
local organization. Then, too, there was an under-the-surface antipathy to the national 
leadership, based in part on nervousness, awe, and unfamiliarity, in part on the remoteness 
and inaccessibility of the old guard. The newcomers were by heritage more individualistic, 
as well; some said at the time even something of the frontier. 

Though in numbers the new breed was not a majority at the convention— perhaps not more 
than two hundred— its energy was infectious and its style was evident throughout. Steve 
Max, not one to be sympathetic about it all, noted some of the effects: 

The role of chairman vanished; at this year's convention, full plenary sessions 
of 250 people were chaired by members picked at random with no regard to 
ability, while workshops debated having a chairman at all. Convention 
credentials went unchecked, and some key votes went uncounted. What 
constituted two thirds, a majority, or a quorum of the delegates remains a 
mystery to this day. 5 



135 



Beyond that, plenary sessions often deteriorated into mumbles and tangents, with people 
just as likely to be spending time out under the trees as in the smoky rooms. Workshops 
called to confront such issues as "The Political Program and Strategy of the Movement" or 
"Democracy and Organizational Structure" quickly turned into meandering discussions of 
whatever problems anyone wanted to bring up.* The effort to draw up a document 
representing current SDS thinking was denounced as "statementism," and the more than 
twenty lengthy papers that had been submitted to the convention as drafts of the new Port 
Huron Statement were summarily discarded. An attempt to get the convention to agree to 
at least a unified position on foreign policy was similarly frustrated, and the resolution that 
finally passed ended up being a denunciation of foreign-policy resolutions. Efforts to fashion 
SDS into the leading organization against the war were sabotaged by old guarders resisting 
single-issueism and by newcomers resisting "top-down" unanimity. Attempts to centralize 
organizational direction in Chicago or give national officers additional power were similarly 
frustrated, the dominant attitude of the new breed being that the strength of SDS lay in the 
chapters, not in the NO. And when it came time to select national officers the new breed 
really made itself felt. In the first place, they almost managed to do away with national 
officers entirely. The plenary session debated for some time as to whether a truly 
democratic organization should have such a thing as a president, and at one point there was 
general agreement that the positions should be abolished— a move which was halted only by 
a decision to put the issue to the entire membership before taking action. (A membership 
referendum was held in the fall on this point, with Jeff Shero arguing for abolition, Paul 
Booth against, and the abolition move lost by about three to one— though fewer than six 
hundred people bothered to vote— but by then SDSers had had a whole summer to learn 
from.) When it came to the position of National Secretary, however— a position normally 
filled by the National Council people meeting after the convention— the centrifugal spirit was 
victorious, and not only did the delegates fail to find someone to fill Kissinger's shoes but 
they didn't seem to care very much. Max viewed these new-breed effects wryly, concluding, 
"To destroy formal structures in society is unfortunately no small task, but to do so in one's 
own organization is not only possible but easy." 6 And when the delegates finally did agree to 
fill the top two positions, they filled each with a person distinctly homo novo. 



* One of the problems not discussed, according to firsthand accounts, was how to recruit and train young 
Americans for guerrilla warfare and service on the side of the National Liberation Front. This fabrication was put 
forth over the summer by right-wing columnist Fulton Lewis III, who was not there, subsequently repeated and 
embellished by the New York Journal-American, among other papers, and then picked up by Reader's Digest, which 
ran an article suggesting that the Kewadin convention was used for nothing but to entice youthful college students 
into the black-pajama force of the "Viet Cong." The story was widely publicized through a lengthy series in July 
sent out by United Press International, right-wing publications like Human Events and U.S.A., and angry editorials 
in papers like the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. It sparked campaigns by some local rightists and hostile campus 
administrators to move against SDS chapters, but the effort by a group in Indiana to oust SDS from the University 
of Indiana, the best-publicized instance of this round of witch-hunting, was resisted by both students and 
administrators. The origin of all this appears to have been the presence of some young hangers-on— M2M people 
by one version, members of the Spartacist League according to the NO later on— who, as the NO phrased it, "were 
going around selling beer and talking about the 'International Brigade,' " an idea that gained no support there or 
after, and which was apparently treated with scorn by the SDSers. (NAC mailing, January 1966.) SDS at one point 
considered bringing legal action against Reader's Digest and other publications, but reluctantly concluded that 
neither the legal nor the publicity game would be worth the financial candle. 



136 



The presidential race among Larry Gordon, Clark Kissinger, and Dick Magidoff of the old 
guard, and Carl Oglesby and Bob Pardun, more or less representative of the newcomers, 
was won easily by Oglesby. He was a fresh figure, the first President not from the old guard, 
a slightly remote person (by virtue of age and intellect) who could be counted on not to try 
to gather power or to play NO factional politics (about which he was presumed to be 
ignorant anyway, as a member for only half a year). He was also a non-Easterner, a country 
boy up from the mills of Akron, not (yet) versed in the ideologies of the Old Left, and a 
person whose obvious honesty and integrity appealed to the younger members ("Everyone 
felt a kind of intuitive trust in Carl," as one delegate put it). For Vice President, the 
convention chose Jeffrey Shero, a veritable symbol of the new breed.* Short, slim, bearded, 
with steady brown eyes and a gentle Texas drawl, Shero was Western rather than Eastern, 
his politics were instinctive rather than inherited, his style was shy and sensitive rather than 
articulate and probing, his manner was quiet, honest, bluntly— even naively— earnest. He 
grew up with a supportive mother and an unsympathetic stepfather (an Air Force colonel, 
no less), went through high school in Bryan, Texas, and then spent a checkered college 
career in and out of various universities, finding classes increasingly irrelevant in the face of 
the growing civil-rights movement. "I'd be going along," he recalls, "half putting up with it, 
sliding through, and then we'd have a civil-rights thing or a sit-in, which had immediate 
repercussions in human terms, and taking a test on Dickens' Christmas Carol in junior-level 
English literature seemed lucking ridiculous. And you could see on the one hand academic 
irrelevance if you spent the time on a test and on the other the real differences in people's 
lives." Shero was instrumental in making the SDS chapter at the University of Texas into a 
major civil-rights force in 1964 and 1965, leading one fight over the integration of bathroom 
facilities (for which the outstanding slogan was "Let My People Go"), establishing a tutorial 
program for ghetto high-schoolers in Austin, and working in several Southern states as a 
white support group for SNCC. His politics were formed here: 7 

Our sense of direct action and tactical sense came from the civil-rights 
movement. The civil-rights movement lent a whole plethora of tactics of 
direct action, confrontational in nature, which suited the psychology of people 
who had an idealistic sense of the country, its politics, and how institutions 
were supposed to be founded. Rage, and disillusionment, and a moral impulse 
to create something better— that was our background. 

It was the background upon which the resistance movement would be built. + 



* One reason for his selection, as Shero himself recalls it, was that he had actually taken on Tom Hayden in debate. 
"Tom Hayden was the guru of SDS and we were in an Agents of Social Change workshop chaired by Robb Burlage, 
and Tom Hayden was arguing the classical ERAP theory about social change, and I didn't really understand who 
Tom Hayden was and wasn't too impressed by him— I thought he was a smart dude, but I wasn't in awe of him at 
all. So I started saying. Hey, I don't think that's right, I think the middle class is gonna move, et cetera, and I 
made up this big argument in defense of the middle class and students, and so, like, the workshop never came to a 
conclusion. So that night in the general plenary I was supposed to debate Tom Hayden on this, and after the 
workshop people began coming around saying. Well, you're a pretty good guy, Jeff, but you're gonna get chewed 
up tonight, I mean you're debating Tom Hayden, and I got a little scared. At any rate, that night I was supposed to 
speak first, so I talked, and I was waiting— I was kinda resigned, you know, to getting smashed— but then for some 
reason Tom decided not to argue: he got up and gave about a five-minute somewhat Zen speech, and sat down, 
and didn't come head to head against me. I got a certain amount of respect that night for taking him on." 
(Interview with author.) 

+ The other national officers elected to the National Council were a fairly mixed bag, though the absence of ERAP 
types is noticeable. Chosen were Stanley Aronowitz, Paul Booth, Jeremy Brecher, Nick Egleson, Dick Flacks, Helen 
Garvy, Todd Gitlin, Al Haber, Ed Hamlett (a Southern Illinois University dropout, SNCC member, and SSOC 
founder), Clark Kissinger, Dick Magidoff, Carol McEldowney, Robert Pardun, Liora Proctor (who had been doing 
peace work with a Canadian group, the Student Union for Peace Action), and David Smith. 



137 



The convention did agree on one substantive issue, to take the anti-Communist "exclusion 
clauses" out of the constitution. The preamble had said that SDS advocates "a radical, 
democratic program counterposed to authoritarian movements both of Communism and the 
domestic Right"; this was changed to "a radical, democratic program whose methods 
embody the democratic vision." The membership clause, adopted in 1960, had read: 

S.D.S. is an organization of democrats. It is civil libertarian in its treatment of 
those with whom it disagrees, but clear in its opposition to any totalitarian 
principle as a basis for government or social organization. Advocates or 
apologists for such a principle are not eligible for membership. 

The convention voted to change "totalitarian" to "anti-democratic" and "government or 
social" to "governmental, social, or political," and to drop the last sentence entirely. These 
changes, suggested by Kissinger, were opposed by some undergraduates who had 
developed an antipathy to the tactics of the PL and the CP— "If I'd wanted to [work with 
Stalinists] I'd have joined the DuBois Clubs," one wrote, and another said, "I don't agree 
with those people on principle, and I think we ought to say so"— and by some who simply 
felt the need to "proclaim some standards" and "have our politics up front." But they were 
approved by an overwhelming majority of the delegates: the younger members tended to 
feel that the clause was simply irrelevant— "The DAR doesn't say that it excludes 
Communists, so why should we?"— or unnecessarily divisive— "That's more of that old-left 
Red-baiting again, and we should be beyond that"; and the older SDSers tended to view it 
as a way of making a clear break with LID politics and washing away the last stains of Cold 
War exclusionism. 8 

SDS thinking was summarized and defended in a long paper later that year by Al Haber, 
who felt "nonexclusionism" was right both pragmatically and politically. Exclusionism— or 
anti-Communism— had been destructive to the left in general in the past, he argued, it was 
a waste of time and energy among people who had limited resources of both, and it can't 
work in an organization like SDS which has no very severe qualifications for membership in 
the first place and has no clear-cut factions to expel even if it wanted to. In the Movement, 
he said, 

people shall be judged by their behavior. If privately they smoke pot (or 
don't) or belong to YSA or the SP or the CP or DP or YAF or SDS or the 
Chamber of Commerce (or don't), that's their affair— with which others may 
agree or disagree, privately. When their public actions weaken the 
movement, or when they refuse to discuss and argue their beliefs with their 
colleagues, then they lose their right to speak in the Movement or for it. 

That was to prove a somewhat optimistic assessment of the quality of the Movement in the 
years to come, but it seemed logical enough, and morally right, given the kind of 
organization SDS was at the time. 



138 



Obviously the LID observers at Kewadin— shades of Port Huron— were aghast. Tom Kahn 
spoke vigorously against any constitutional change and warned that the LID elders would 
look upon it as a further slap in their faces which, coming on top of the move of the NO out 
of New York, the "pop-front" march on Washington, and the already frigid relations, would 
likely lead to a permanent break between SDS and its parent body. As it turned out, LIDers 
certainly were upset at the news, and many responded like venerable Harry Overstreet, who 
had been in the LID for fifty years and a member of its National Council for most of that 
time: in a series of angry letters he denounced SDS, warned of its becoming part of a 
"foreign-based, worldwide force," and resigned forthwith. The majority in the LID, however, 
was not quite ready to make the break with their younger charges, hoping once again to 
keep them around long enough to realize the error of their ways; to Harry Laidler, "Most of 
the [SDS] members are new and naive. They are teachable." And so at its June meeting the 
Board of Directors adopted, unanimously, a carrot-stick proposal reading: 9 

The League for Industrial Democracy in its long history has stood firmly, as a 
matter of uncompromising principle, against totalitarianism of both the right 
and the left. We are therefore deeply troubled that the 1965 Convention of 
our student department, Students for a Democratic Society, removed from its 
Constitution and membership card the long-standing reference to 
Communism as an authoritarian movement. 

We urge the SDS to carry on in the coming year a thoroughgoing discussion 
of the nature and function of democracy in society. We pledge our support, 
through literature and speakers at the campus level, to aid SDS in these 
discussions. 

Toward this end, the Board seeks to continue and deepen the "dialogues" that 
have been initiated by the Student Activities Committee. We seek a 
reaffirmation of SDS's adherence to the traditional opposition of LID to 
totalitarianism of both the right and the left. 

But things had gone too far for "dialogues," and 1962 was three years ago. So little did SDS 
regard this emergency meeting that not one of the four students who were members of the 
Board bothered to appear. Tom Kahn, at least, was under no illusion as to the SDS mood; in 
an angry letter to the NO in June he wrote: 

I am ... aware that there are those within SDS who have decided a split with 
the LID is inevitable and desirable. They are encouraged by others on the 
periphery of SDS who spend a great deal of energy attacking the LID and 
individual Board members as enemies and sell-outs. [If this continues,] the 
crossfire will intensify and pressures will be generated all along the line. 10 

The effects of the Kewadin spirit upon SDS, however, went far beyond the relations with the 
LID. In two quite crucial ways, in program and in leadership, it sent SDS askew. 



139 



First, the Kewadin spirit meant that the organization would have no effective strategies for 
the coming year, no ongoing projects, no programmatic plans. The whole emphasis was 
upon the individual chapters, which were to be allowed to function as they saw fit, pick 
issues as local conditions demanded, and operate as much as possible without any national 
direction at all. This was, of course, a continuation of the honored SDS tradition of the 
Haberesque perception that SDS should build itself around the strengths of ongoing campus 
groups rather than imposing national strategies, and of the SNCC and ERAP legacies that 
SDS should avoid anything smacking of a powerful centralized organization. But it meant, in 
the short run, that SDS would flounder in a sea of strategies over the next few months, and, 
in the long run, that SDS would miss the opportunity, now at hand in the wake of the April 
march, to point itself in the direction of building a strong national organization, around 
either the war or the universities. 

The decision not to make SDS into the leading organization of an expanded antiwar 
movement, which it could have been, had many causes beyond simply the decentralizing 
attitudes of the new breed and what can only be called the bewilderment of the old guard. 
There was a fear that the war was I too much of a single-issue trap, too likely to make SDS 
into s some kind of peace organization where its tentacled radicalism would shrivel up. 
There was a conviction that nothing could really be done to end the war until there was, in 
the SDS phrase, "a movement to change America" that would eradicate the root causes of 
its war-making: "We must organize," the usual rhetoric went, "not against this war but 
against the fifth and sixth and seventh war from now." There was a traditional antipathy to 
dealing with foreign policy issues at all as somehow remote from the immediate and 
overwhelming evils like poverty and racism. And there was a suspicion that the whole 
antiwar movement was fated to have as short an effective life as the antibomb movements 
earlier— "Where would we be," the question was often asked, "if peace were to break out 
tomorrow?" Todd Gitlin, looking back, blames the old guard: 

Our failure of leadership— which was undeniable— was a reflection of the fact 
that our hearts were not on the campuses ... . We were just plain stupid ... . 
The leadership was already a closed elite, we didn't understand what an 
antiwar movement would be, we didn't have any feel for it. My own feeling 
then was that it was an abstraction ... because that kind of movement is so 
big, because I couldn't see what it would be, day to day. What we 
surrendered then was the chance for an anti-imperialist peace movement. 11 

Or as Steve Weissman was to put it: SDS was guilty of "a consistent underestimation of the 
importance of the Anti-war Movement ... to the creation of a permanent political force in 
America." Here was that chance to build an American left, to go beyond the students into 
the other strata of America, and SDS didn't realize it. 



140 



Likewise SDS didn't see the possibilities of forging a massive campus-based organization, 
something like a national union of radical students, though that too may have been possible 
then. Again, there were many causes. There was the lingering sense that SDS's job should 
still be to build a multilayered left— as Dick Flacks said in a position paper to the convention, 
"I want to see us take seriously the possibility of radical workers, scientists, doctors, city 
planners, economists, sociologists, poets and mothers"— and not to fasten upon students 
alone. There was a perception that, as Potter had noted, universities were so much a part of 
the national sickness that they could not possibly be instruments for national health; this 
blended neatly with the attitude of the new breed that, as Shero had expressed it, the 
needs of the country were so great that it hardly made sense for students to continue 
academic lives (an attitude, incidentally, which animated the dropout phenomenon 
beginning now to lead young people away from the campuses and into the Movement 
offices, the youth ghettos of the cities, and the community projects). And there was a 
weariness among the old guard with the whole idea of student issues and student concerns, 
what Paul Booth called at the time, "a kind of shell-shock," a function "of too many years of 
campus experience, alienation and frustration: one only wants to get out— out of thinking 
about campuses, out of being on them or interested in them." 12 Thus at the moment it 
might have played a cardinal role in fashioning this student generation into an ongoing 
political organization of national consequence, SDS chose not to. 

The Kewadin spirit led SDS away from the assertion of national leadership and into a 
continued reliance upon local initiative. It was, in truth, perhaps the easiest and surest 
direction for the organization, then still young and small, and because of it SDS would be 
able to grow and prosper at the chapter level as no other campus organization had ever 
done. But for this, in the long run, it had to pay a price. 

The second unfortunate effect of Kewadin was to turn the National Office into a shambles 
for the entire summer and to throw upon the organization a problem of leadership that 
would not be settled for more than a year. 

The decision not to set a national strategy, coupled with the downgrading of the NO and the 
belief that SDS could get along without a National Secretary, wrought much trouble in 
Chicago. A cluster of people put in time in the National Office, but most were woefully 
inexperienced. Jeff Segal, an eighteen-year-old who had volunteered to do a little work 
around the place, found himself elected office manager by the rest of the staff (after a 
month he would take on the title of "Acting National Secretary"), but he was little known to 
the rest of the organization and new to the hurly-burly of Movement offices. Nor was there 
anyone around to give him, or anyone else, direction. Immediately after being elected 
Oglesby set off on a long swing through Cambodia, North Vietnam, and Japan to show 
American "solidarity" with foreign antiwar elements and didn't get back until August.* Shero, 
who had agreed to be editor of the Bulletin as well as Vice President, had disappeared 
without a word into the Southwest, thinking that his services wouldn't be required until the 
fall. It was, Paul Booth, believes, a distinct failure of the old guard: 



* Oglesby tells of meeting an airport attendant in Cambodia with whom he struck up a conversation in inept 
French: "Haltingly he asked me if I am an American. Quietly: oui. Then: am I a soldier? A man of the government? 
With what French gestures do I deny these guesses! A student, I say. A radical student. I felt compelled to spill the 
beans about myself. But how do you translate 'teach-in'? So finally I just blurt it out with all the French-sounding 
accent I can muster up: Pas un soldat! Pas un homme du gouvernment! Je suis un representif de la— teach-in! His 
head pops forward. His eyes go like pinwheels. "Teach-in?" he says— like that, as plain as anything. He takes my 
hand and nearly shakes it off. Oui, oui! he says. Teach-in. The marsh in Washington d'avril! The balloon in my 
chest pops. Some Cambodia! Some airport attendant!" {SDS Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 1. Fall 1965.) 



141 



We didn't have enough of our heavies there because most people said, Aw 
fuck it. We didn't fully dominate it and other kinds of people— Segal, Shero, 
and the like— got into the NO and couldn't control it, couldn't do as Clark had 
done, which was to go his own direction and keep on top of things even 
though the heavies were elsewhere. And finally the thing got out of hand. 13 

That's an understatement. With its newfound publicity— since the march a spate of 
newspaper articles and columns on SDS had appeared, and The Nation, the New Republic, 
The Reporter, and U.S. News all ran pieces in the early summer— SDS seemed to have 
attracted the attention of disaffected kids across the land. Letters poured in during the 
summer at a rate at least a hundred times greater than anything the NO had known before: 
"I saw an article on you and I wondered if you'd send me more information" ... "I heard 
from a friend what kind of things you're doing, and I'd like to join" ... "Please send me 
anything you have about the war" ... "I don't make much, but maybe this five dollars can 
help." The office set up regional desks to answer the flood of mail, and most of the staff put 
in ten and twelve and sometimes eighteen hours a day, but even so correspondence fell 
way behind; classically typical of the confusion around the place was one letter sent out in 
August which ended, "Thank you for your inconvenience." Literature orders were also 
cascading in, and they received even less attention than the letters. It seems that the 
staffers, in a move to put into effect the kind of society they were hoping to achieve, had 
decided that there would be no "elitism" around the office and everyone would participate in 
all the chores— "shitwork," as it was called— including mimeographing and mailing the 
literature; to achieve this egalitarianism they instituted a system whereby the person who 
mailed out the last copy of any pamphlet or paper would be the one to mimeograph, collate, 
and staple new stacks of them. What happened in practice was simply that no one sent out 
the last copy of any item requested, and the literature shelves were papered with single 
copies undisturbed for weeks on end. By the end of June almost no literature was going out 
at all, and only a few worklist mailings trickled out from time to time. 14 

And then the old bugaboo, money, reappeared. Kissinger's final financial report for the 
1964-65 fiscal year showed that SDS had taken in the phenomenal sum of $65,147 
($50,000 from contributions) during the previous twelve months, the great bulk of it since 
the April march: that was wealth beyond anything Max and McKelvey could have imagined. 
Yet SDS had found no difficulty in spending even that sum— $45,000 went for NO business, 
and another $20,000 or so went to PREP and ERAP projects. By the end of June SDS was 
broke. In July the phone was disconnected for ten days— an ignominy that had not befallen 
the NO for two years— and to top everything off the New York Consolidated Edison company 
forwarded a bill for gas and electricity for May and June, since no one had told them to 
disconnect the service in the old New York office. Kissinger spent time on fund raising as 
planned, but without much success; at the end of the summer one staffer, wryly referring to 
the standard NO diet, joked, "Clark has found a richy in Chicago who has agreed to provide 
the movement with all the peanut butter it can use one of the biggest peanut butter 
magnates in the country, Clark is now working on jelly." 15 And when, in late July, $10,000 
did come in, an anonymous donation from Anne Peretz, the NO managed to squander that 
with truly remarkable facility. Most of it went into a "photo project," the brainchild of one D. 
Gordon, a friend of Shero's from the University of Mississippi (possibly the only SDSer from 
there) and another representative of the new breed, who argued that nonverbal 
communications were the only effective way to reach the post-Gutenberg crowd on the 
campuses and somehow convinced the rest of SDS to endow him with a darkroom, 
enlarger, cameras, and various other photographic equipment. The paraphernalia, however, 
remained largely unused, the project floundered, and the next time anyone looked the 
money was gone. 



142 



Small wonder that Kissinger, a few months later, would refer to this summer as "the most 
dismal period in SDS history." 16 

In the summer of 1965 the Progressive Labor Party held its first convention. The party had 
grown, by its own estimate to some fourteen hundred members, by other estimates to less 
than a thousand; its leaders judged the time ripe for a sharp new turn in policy and 
practice, which they spelled out for the party faithful during this meeting. Party chairman 
Milton Rosen, reviewing the decisions of that convention, wrote: 17 

The key ideological breakthrough of the convention was posing the question 
of having a serious party, or having more of the same. What differentiated 
the two was whether or not the party was to be a party of the working class, 
or whether it would preserve all the same middle-class aspects of the other 
new formations among Black and white student types. We chose to become a 
party of the working class. For PLP this was a profound decision. Because, to 
accomplish this meant not a partial transformation of the party, and the 
individual member of the party, but a total transformation of both. 

Total transformation indeed: Rosen later admitted that of the two hundred people at that 
convention probably no more than four were workers. The convention also decided to stress 
the war as an organizing tool: 

At our founding convention we made certain political estimates ... . We 
pointed out that the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam was part of a 
worldwide counter-revolutionary strategy of the U.S. We felt that the war was 
against the interests of most Americans and that opposition would surely 
mount as the consequences of the war were felt in the country. 

Finally, PL named what it considered to be the enemy: 

We posed liberalism as the main ideological danger to the developing radical 
movements ... . We estimated that liberalism had received a crushing defeat 
and had lost a good deal of its potency. 

It was with this basic strategy that PL worked for the next three years. 

It is not surprising that after Kewadin SDS was unable to capitalize upon the antiwar spirit- 
it is only surprising that it tried so hard. The mechanism was a project which operated out 
of the National Office— totally without sanction, be it noted, from the Kewadin convention, 
though in line with one of the resolutions passed at the April NC— which tried to establish 
committees in various cities to create and coordinate "grassroots" sentiment against 
Vietnam: "ERAPize the war," as one SDSer put it. Coordinators of the project were Dena 
damage, who had come into the NO in January to help on the April march and wouldn't be 
budged, and Mel McDonald, a graduate student at Texas who dropped out after the bombing 
of North Vietnam, started organizing SDS groups at little Texas colleges, and finally drifted 
up to the NO. Committees to End the War in Vietnam were established over the summer in 
Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, New York, Oakland, and Portland, and 
SDSers began working with the Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee in California, damage and 
McDonald did their best to service and coordinate these groups, chiefly by putting out 
several issues of a mimeographed National Vietnam Newsletter, the political character of 
which is perhaps suggested by an unattributed map of Vietnam 18 printed at the end of the 
third issue, on which the "Enemy-occupied areas" turn out to be places controlled by the 
U.S. and South Vietnamese. 



143 



The coordinators, however, were never able to establish any real national direction for the 
separate committees, largely because SDS had not established any national direction or any 
real notion of what they wanted the committees to do. Their one notable achievement over 
the summer was in enlisting a fairly considerable turnout for an August antiwar march 
around an Assembly of Unrepresented People— and here it was SDS itself that messed 
things up. After the failure of the Kewadin convention to push SDS into becoming the 
coordinating antiwar organization in the Movement, a group of independent antiwar activists 
(among them Staughton Lynd, David Dellinger, Robert Parris Moses, and Stanley Aronowitz) 
got together to establish a National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam— the 
organization that, in many guises over the years, became the coordinator of most of the 
major marches of the decade— and its first action was the August march. Now SDS had 
determined at its June NC that it wanted to get out of the march business and had 
specifically chosen not to endorse the summer's action, all in line with the Kewadin spirit; 
but, not able to leave well enough alone, the NO went on to issue a statement (on what 
authority it is impossible to determine) just a few weeks before the Washington march 
dissociating SDS from it and effectively suggesting that SDSers had better things to do that 
weekend.* The statement came too late to halt the work of the city committees and many 
SDSers simply ignored it, + so there was a respectable enough turnout of five thousand on 
August 9; but the NO's gratuitous attempt to stifle the just-born antiwar movement rankled 
many activists, and feeling ran high against its "irresponsibility" and "divisiveness." Stanley 
Aronowitz, for one, was livid: "He never forgave SDS for that," Paul Booth says. 19 

As it turned out, SDS got most of the blame for the march, anyway— at least in the halls of 
Congress. The Chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Edwin E. Willis of 
Louisiana, first accused SDS of bringing all the rabble to town, and then, inspired by recent 
publicity given to a few war resistors who had burned their draft cards, went on to charge it 
with plotting "a mass burning of draft cards" right there in Washington. Representatives 
Wilbur Mills and Mendel Rivers and Senator Strom Thurmond introduced legislation making 
draft-card burners liable to a fine of $10,000 and five years in jail, which Congress dutifully 
passed on the day after the march and which President Johnson dutifully signed into law on 
August 30. 

By the end of the summer it had become quite clear to the SDS membership that the NO 
was in a shambles. Angry letters poured in complaining of poor (or nonexistent) service, 
"absolutely inexcusable" membership mailings, and the failure to send out the membership 
referendum on whether to have national officers or not; typical was one missive beginning, 
"Dear National Office (if we still have one)." Brecher remembers that the bitter joke going 
around that summer was that the NO was divided into two factions, "those that thought you 
should sleep in heaps and those who thought you should sleep in mounds. That," he says, 
"was the important issue in terms of where they were at." By the end of August, the NO 
itself confessed its failure, the August 28 worklist mailing saying simply, "The National Office 
is in a general state of collapse and failing to perform the most rudimentary functions 
despite the presence of 11 full-time staff members." 20 



* Participation in the symbolic Assembly on the 9th should be seriously questioned because of the likelihood of 
being arrested and facing trial, but more important, because the Assembly will not be real ... . This so-called 
Assembly represents no-one except those participating and this is even in doubt at this point. No elections have 
been held, no plans are on the boards for creating a permanent counter-congress out of this Assembly, and last, 
there is no possibility of those participating achieving their desired goal of entering the House of Representatives 
en masse and declaring peace." (Worklist mailing, July 28, 1965.) 

+ Among the SDSers who had signed the call for the Assembly of Unrepresented People were Carl Oglesby, Dena 
damage and Mel McDonald of the Vietnam Project, Ed Hamlett, Bill Hartzog, Florence Howe, Paul Lauter, Staughton 
Lynd, Barry Weisberg, and Steve Weissman. (See, for example. Liberation, August 1965.) 



144 



And finally the old guard rallied around. Kissinger reluctantly agreed to take charge of 
things until the next National Council could pick a National Secretary, and his first move was 
to get Paul Booth to leave the ERAP project he had been working on in Oakland and come 
back to the NO. "Clark realized that we had made a major blunder," Booth recalls, "in not 
taking charge of the war movement, and he called me back to be National Secretary. But by 
then it was too late, there was now another vehicle, it was too late for us to be the antiwar 
movement, which is what we should have been." Booth nonetheless accepted the invitation, 
and with Kissinger, Gitlin, Rothstein, and a few other SDS veterans began to try to find 
some new direction, to establish some coherence, for the organization. And Al Haber, who 
had been elected to the National Interim Committee in June after two years away from the 
seats of power, played his usual role of angry, insightful, slightly disappointed father figure; 
at the end of the summer he shot off a list of complaints about SDS which seemed to 
embody all the unhappiness that the old guard was feeling: 

SDS cooperates freely, and apparently uncritically, with groups like the May 2 
Movement, the DuBois Clubs and Progressive Labor ... yet there is little 
discussion as to the basis for cooperative action ... . SDS seems to have a 
general hostility to the LID, our "parent" group, and to the intellectuals of the 
"democratic socialist" community ... . Many former SDS supporters have left 
the organization or are deeply alienated from its present activity, 
organizational form and rhetoric ... . Organizational involvement does not 
seem to produce, except for the leadership, a stable attachment to the radical 
community that lasts beyond college ... There is a certain hostility or 
intolerance to people whose vocation is not obviously "radical" and who 
pursue interests apart from the organizing objectives of the "movement." 
There has been a de-emphasis on the national organizational structure and 
leadership. Decisions are evolved rather than made. 21 

Haber may not have been happy with it but SDS, in short, was changing— adjusting, if 
imperfectly, to the new postreform movement it found itself in, groping for new forms, new 
methods, new allies, new theories, new structures, and doing so with a new breed of 
member. The old guard rallied around, but the organization was inexorably changing even 
as it did so. 



1 For the Kewadin convention, Jacobs and Landau, pp. 27 ff., 174 ff.; Guardian, June 26, 
1965; mimeographed "working papers" for the convention; Booth, Brecher, Shero, and 
Webb interviews; Max, Viewpoint (SDS-LID, New York), summer 1965, mimeographed by 
NO, December 1965. 

2 Webb, interview. Booth, interview. 

3 Newfield, p. 87. Haber, "Non-exclusionism," SDS paper, December 1965, excerpted in 
Teodori, p. 218. 

4 Shero, interview. 

5 Max, op. cit. 

6 Max, ibid. 

7 "Everyone felt," Brecher, interview. Shero biography and quote, interview. 

8 "If I'd wanted," Paul Pipkin, convention working paper, June 1965; other quotations, 
letters to NO. Haber, "Non-exclusionism," op. cit. 



145 



9 Overstreet, letters to Harry Laidler, Laidler papers, Tamiment. Laidler, letter to Overstreet, 
July 13, 1965, Tamiment. LID Board of Directors, statement, June 22, 1965. 

10 Kahn, letter to NO, June 29, 1965. 

11 Gitlin, interview. Weissman, NLN, February 4,1966. Flacks, "Some Problems, Issues, 
Proposals," working paper for 1965 convention, excerpted in Jacobs and Landau, pp. 162 IF. 

12 Booth, letter to Brecher, January 18, 1965. 

13 Booth, interview. 

14 SDS articles, in Nation, May 10, New Republic, June 19, Reporter, May 6, U.S. News, May 
10 and 17, all 1965. NO letters, 1965, archives. 

15 "Clark has found," note from Sam Bennett, October 1965. 

16 Kissinger, "There's a Change Gotta Come!" mimeographed paper, December 1965. 

17 Rosen, report to the March 1968 PL convention, reprinted in "Build a Base in the Working 
Class," PL pamphlet, June 1969; see also PL Constitution, Jacobs and Landau, pp. 187 ff. 

18 map, National Vietnam Newsletter, August 26, 1965. 

19 Booth, interview. Willis, quoted by AP, August 5, 1965, reprinted in SDS Bulletin, Vol. 4, 
No. 1, undated (fall 1965); see also Ferber and Lynd, p. 22. 

20 Brecher, interview. Booth, interview. 

21 Haber, letter to NC, September 5, 1965. 

Fall 1965 

Seeing the Chicago headquarters of SDS as the new school year began in the fall of 1965, it 
would be hard to imagine that this could be the center of an organization of national 
attention, much less national import. The office was located on the second floor of a dumpy, 
flaking building at 1103 East Sixty-third Street, a typically dreary byway in the black 
Woodlawn ghetto, huddled together with empty storefronts and beauty parlors and take-out 
joints, all of which would shudder when the elevated train passed by outside on its 
clattering way toward the Loop. Inside, in some ten ill-lit rooms, costing $225 a month, the 
paint peeling off the walls and plaster sifting from the ceiling, were a battery of typewriters, 
a mimeograph machine, some photographic equipment, phones, makeshift desks and 
rickety chairs, stuffed pigeonhole cabinets, and a plumbing system so bad that a sign above 
the sink read "Leaky pipe— do not use." And throughout, the flotsam of the Movement— an 
army cot, candy wrappers, jars of peanut butter, discarded clothes, piles of mimeographed 
papers, unopened mail, paperback books (Paul Goodman, Norman O. Brown, Ken Kesey), 
and on the walls an assortment of posters and messages including a dog-eared drawing of 
Eugene V. Debs, a Ben Shahn print, a poster of a sad-eyed Vietnamese child, a picture of a 
mimeograph machine with a penciled caption, "Our Founder," and two scrawls: "Burn, Baby, 
Burn" and "Make Love, Not War." Nor was the disarray only physical. The summer chaos 
had left its mark: summer workers had gone and new workers lasted only temporarily, 
money had run out, pamphlets were imprinted, literature orders were unfilled (and often as 
not unopened), even requests for membership and information lay unanswered for weeks. 



146 



Yet in the next four months SDS would come to be the object of intense publicity, the target 
of official government investigations, the beneficiary of a membership growth unlike 
anything it had ever seen, and the acknowledged center of the New Left: "the largest, most 
influential, most intellectual and most idealistic of the New Left organizations," in the New 
York Herald Tribune's phrase. 

Paul Booth was installed officially as National Secretary as the fall began, and to guide him 
in the National Office operations a special National Administrative Committee of Chicago- 
area people was established. The Booth regime, which lasted the entire school year, was the 
old guard's last fling. Booth himself proved not to be a popular figure with most of those of 
the new breed. His politics, which had always been in the careful center of SDS, hardly 
made him open or responsive to the new, often bizarre, usually romantic, always militant 
ideas coming up from under. His temperament turned him to the older members, whom he 
found much more congenial, personally and politically, so that when decisions had to be 
made he would more likely be on the phone talking with Webb and Gitlin and Potter than 
consulting the people around him in the office. And his style, with a flint-sharp mind, a 
skillful tongue, and years of infighting experience in political groups, was abrasive to the 
younger and less sophisticated people around the office. Jeff Shero, who finally made it to 
the National Office in the fall, recalls that he was "outclassed badly" by Booth and his 
"Eastern, verbal, intellectual tradition": 1 

I was destroyed by my first six months as SDS Vice President because I had 
come in with a vision and experiences about how people could relate to each 
other, like in the civil-rights movement. I was just kind of chewed up by the 
internal fighting, totally unprepared for that kind of thing, because I thought 
that if you had a disagreement with someone you just sat down and talked it 
out. I wasn't very able to deal with [Booth's] kind of stuff. By the time of the 
winter convention I was a psychological wreck. 2 

But it was not just Booth himself: the whole structure of the National Office worked, as it 
had shown in earlier years, against those with ideas about a new life style. "Participatory 
democracy," wrote one Texas SDSer who had spent some time in the Chicago headquarters, 
"is nonexistent within the national office structure. [Working for SDS] is like getting saved 
by a traveling preacher, who you later find out is a drunkard and beats his wife." 3 From 
within the confines of the NO, what seemed important was not what the members as a 
whole thought or wanted, not what priorities seemed important for the movement, not 
communication of ideas and strategies from one part of the organization to the rest, but 
rather simply what would make the office itself function more smoothly. The result, as 
Kissinger reported to the membership, was that 

... chapters, regional offices, and members find out what the organization is 
doing by reading the newspapers. Important and useful information which the 
NO does get at the national level never makes it down to the local level. The 
membership is poorly serviced and hardly if ever drawn into community- 
much less decision making. And political knowledge is transmitted in SDS like 
folklore. 



147 



Life around the NO was all the more grating that fall because at the same time that it failed 
to satisfy the yearnings for a liberated society it also failed to provide the comforts of a 
bourgeois one. As in the summer, the twelve to fifteen office workers (there was a fairly 
rapid turnover, as "Movement life" took its toll) lived in a single large, and usually ill-kempt, 
$135-a-month apartment (which also served as the hotel for SDSers passing through), so 
that all of the abrasions of the day were carried home to be rubbed again at night. Hours 
were erratic, but long, the concept of "weekend" forgotten; salaries were uniformly $12.50 
a week, just enough to make ascetic living unpleasant and not enough to indulge in movies 
and records without feelings of guilt; responsibilities in the office were confused, with 
priorities established by the crisis of the moment and the arbitrary decisions of the National 
Secretary as to what project was most desperate. Sam Bennett, who lasted just two months 
as office manager, complained that fall: "I was like a twentieth-century Alice: I had to 
shovel shit just as fast as I could only to keep my head above it." 

All of this might have been borne— indeed similar discomforts had been borne in the past 
and were to be in the future— had there been recurring evidence that all the sacrifice and 
effort was having a visible effect either on the gathering forces against the war or on the 
course of the Movement in general and its capacity to change a nation so askew. But the 
evidence was sparse, for as SDS went into the new school year it was as bewildered in 
strategy as it was in organization. 

Clearly the Vietnam war was the dominant issue in America, the dominant issue for the left. 
Just as clearly, SDS still didn't know what to do about it. At the September National Council 
meeting, held at a park in Indiana on the September 7 weekend, an entire cacophony of 
strategies was put forward. Some in the organization urged negotiations, others demanded 
immediate withdrawal, still others wanted an outright NLF victory. Some wanted to 
emphasize the moral horror of the war, others concentrated on its illegality, a number 
argued that it took funds away from domestic needs, and a few even then saw it as an 
example of "American imperialism." Gitlin pressed for dramatic action by students, 
suggesting such things as sending American hostages to North Vietnamese targets so that 
U.S. planes would be afraid to bomb them and enlisting a mission of twenty-five to fifty 
people "to help rebuild a hospital or school destroyed by American bombings." 4 Kissinger 
proposed an "International Student Strike" for later in the fall, during which students would 
boycott classes for a day or a week. Younger SDSers usually favored the idea of more 
marches and demonstrations, resisting the growing attitude that such tactics were fruitless 
and old-hat ("All right, you've been marching on Washington since 1957," one young SDSer 
complained, "but some of us have never even visited it, much less marched there.") And 
still others wanted to escalate into civil disobedience such as stopping troop trains (which 
the Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee was actually to accomplish that October) or 
organizing soldiers to resist or desert (the Kissinger Kamikaze Plan again). Many saw the 
draft as the natural antiwar tool since it struck at the very age group most receptive to 
radicalization, and they urged demonstrations against induction centers, mass registration 
for Conscientious Objector status, and even the establishment of a Movement Church to 
ordain as ministers anyone who wanted to escape the draft that way. There was even a 
sizable minority, including ERAPers and other old guarders, who wanted to play down the 
whole concentration on Vietnam and to have the antiwar movement, as Booth and Lee 
Webb put it in a much-debated paper, "become a movement for domestic social change" by 
developing "independent and mass constituencies for democratic politics" out of "the 
immediate aspirations of the poor, welfare recipients, trade-unionists, students, and 
others." 



148 



All of these proposals were presented, workshops spent hours airing and attacking them, 
long debates raged about them for the entire weekend, tempers grew heated and 
friendships cooled, and at the end of it all SDS came flatly down in mid-air. The Kewadin 
spirit still prevailed. The NC decided that it would give grudging support to a third march on 
Washington, planned by the infant National Coordinating Committee to End the War in 
Vietnam for October 15 and 16, but it also went on record again as opposing mass 
demonstrations: "We are for action that educates," the slogan went, "rather than action that 
demonstrates." It authorized a limited program of building student antiwar sentiment 
through campus education and local protest action: "Deepening the campus constituency 
will be the first priority during the coming months"; it urged local chapters to adopt local 
strategies for action against the draft; and it dumped in the laps of the NO the job of 
preparing some kind of national draft-counseling proposal that would "mobilize opposition to 
the war among draft-age people"— but with the proviso that this would have to be submitted 
in a referendum to the membership for approval before any action was taken. 

As it happened, it was the last of these that was to draw the greatest attention, though no 
one could have possibly foreseen that, given the state of the NO. But by early October the 
NO actually came up with a cautious, legal antidraft program focused on three "visible 
expressions of protest": 5 

1. The act of filing for CO is, in itself, a gesture of personal protest. 

2. On the campus, attempts should be made to stop the school from turning 
over the class-rank information, to get professors to refuse to hand in grades, 
and to organize campus strikes aimed either at classes or exams. When 
recruiters appear on campus, they should be the focus of attention, 
challenged to debate, accused by picket signs of participation in war crimes. 
The same can be done at any time for ROTC officials, especially as part of a 
campaign to oust ROTC from the campus. 

3. Demonstrations can be planned to expose or protest the nature and 
practices of the local draft boards. 

These proposals were accompanied by a series of admonitions that draft organizing be 
continually related to "the broad context of the war in Vietnam" and "the undemocratic 
nature of our society," and by a caution that, though "filing for CO is strictly legal, unlike 
'draft refusal,' " the government might see it as an obstruction of the draft and try to punish 
its instigators with five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The package was just being made 
ready to be sent out to the membership for its vote, when a strange thing happened. SDS 
became a national villain. 

By October, after eight long months, the antiwar movement finally touched a nerve in the 
body of the Establishment. The plans for the October 15-16 demonstrations had received 
considerable publicity in the early fall, the media having now dropped the attitude of 
amused scorn with which they treated the April SDS march and come around to the idea 
that there was a real protest movement afoot, and peopled by more than just a few crazy 
kids. The new movement against the draft, small though it was, became a particular delight 
of the newspapers, and CBS News ran regular reports of antidraft actions on its evening 
news program. In response the Administration and its allies were pressured into belittling 
the protesters and raising questions about their loyalty and patriotism. On October 13, two 
days before the planned demonstrations, Senator Thomas Dodd, an old line anti-Communist 
whose Senate Internal Security Committee had been looking into the antiwar protests, 
released a report asserting: 



149 



The control of the anti-Vietnam movement has clearly passed from the hands 
of the moderate elements, who may have controlled it at one time, into the 
hands of Communists and extremist elements who are openly sympathetic to 
the Viet Cong and openly hostile to the United States ... . This is particularly 
true of the national Vietnam protest movement scheduled for October 15-16. 6 

On the same day elder statesman Dwight Eisenhower let it be known that he was 
"distressed and alarmed" by the antiwar movement and by the evident "moral deterioration" 
of America's youth. 

And, because its reputation as the chief antiwar foe not only preceded but positively outran 
its actual workings, SDS was made into the prime target. On Thursday, October 14, 
Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, the syndicated columnists whose two most important 
outlets then were the Herald Tribune and the Washington Post, accused SDS of nothing less 
than treason. SDS, the columnists reported darkly, was mounting a major campaign to get 
American men to resist and evade the draft— "draft-dodging," they called it— and had even 
drawn up a "master plan" designed to "sabotage the war effort." This campaign, they said, 
"cannot be lightly passed off as an exuberant, youthful exercise of the right to dissent. It is 
a calculated effort to illegally undermine high national policy adopted by President Johnson 
and confirmed by Congress." Mississippi's John Stennis rose in the Senate the next morning 
to add his denunciation of SDS and bare its dangerous plans. "Workshops are being held by 
the Students for a Democratic Society," he said, "to devise ways to disrupt the necessary 
and normal operation of the draft system." Not only that, but they're planning to get people 
to file for CO status. "The purpose of this action is to jam the draft boards and to cause the 
Government to spend thousands of dollars in investigations and paperwork." This 
"deplorable and shameful activity," he went on, his anger mounting, makes it "imperative" 
for the government "to immediately move to jerk this movement up by the roots and grind 
it to bits before it has the opportunity to spread further." 7 

Now the SDSers in Chicago were somewhat perplexed. The "master plan" so sinister to 
Evans and Novak was in fact a melange of proposals taken at random from the August issue 
of SDS's National Vietnam Newsletter— all of which had been specifically rejected by the 
September National Council. As to "workshops," this may have been a reference to one of 
the chaotic meetings at the NC, but the only place SDS was doing anything like that was in 
Los Angeles, where Mike Davis and some other SDSers had participated in weekly meetings 
with fifteen or twenty students who were trying to work out ways to spread draft 
information on local campuses. But in the face of such charges. Booth and the National 
Administrative Committee figured the best thing to do would be to get the real story out, 
and when a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times came around after the Evans-Novak 
column they gave him copies of the actual referendum proposal. Much to their surprise, the 
Sun-Times splashed it across its front-page on Friday, with the headline, "US-Wide Drive to 
Beat Draft Is Organized Here," UPI picked up the story for its wires, and a hungry press 
pounced upon it just as the weekend demonstrations were getting underway. 



150 



And on Saturday Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach got into the act. At a Chicago press 
conference he announced that the government felt that antidraft activity "begins to move in 
the direction of treason" and it was watching the movement with great care: "There are 
some Communists in it and we may have to investigate. We may very well have some 
prosecutions." The Justice Department, he added, "has uncovered some persons working for 
the Students for a Democratic Society" who are possible Communists, and the student 
group was "one of many" organizations under examination. Though it seems that 
Katzenbach himself was trying to be judicious and careful, and never once accused SDS of 
specific wrongdoing, others at the press conference were not so circumspect. One, Northern 
Illinois Attorney General Edward V. Hanrahan, stated flatly that SDS was guilty of 
"treasonous activity" and declared that his staff had already begun a full-scale investigation. 
This was all the press needed: the stories went out with the clear implication that SDS was 
a subversive organization. 

To top it all off, the weekend demonstrations were a surprising success. Upwards of one 
hundred thousand people took part— the National Guardian reported eighty thousand, a 
Playboy article estimated "nearly 100,000"— in more than ninety cities, the largest marches 
being in New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New Haven, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, and 
Los Angeles. At least fifty SDS chapters participated, mobilizing people for the city marches 
and organizing demonstrations on many campuses— including a march on a chemical and 
biological warfare center at Fort Bragg by the University of North Carolina SDS, a death 
march on the state capital by the University of Texas chapter, a teach-in by the fledgling 
Arizona State chapter, an Assembly of Unrepresented People in Toronto by Buffalo SDS, 
and, in the first action of its kind, a sit-in at the Ann Arbor draft board led by the VOICE 
chapter, in which thirty-eight people, including VOICE chairman Eric Chester and a young 
Michigan student named Bill Ayers, were arrested. (This last demonstration got national 
publicity and became a cause celebre over the next few months when the local Michigan 
draft director thought up the idea of punishing the men by reclassifying them from 2-S to 1- 
A, so as to put them, in General Lewis Hershey's words, on "the belt that runs toward the 
induction station.") Also over the weekend, David Miller, a twenty-two-year-old Catholic 
pacifist, became the first person to burn his draft card in defiance of the new federal law. 8 

This was the largest antiwar demonstration to date and a clear signal that the protest 
movement was real, and growing larger daily. That provided little comfort in Washington. 
On Monday the Senate floor was awash with angry patriots; Thomas Kuchel, Mike Mansfield, 
Spessard Holland, Richard Russell, Leverett Saltonstall, William Proxmire, Frank Lausche, 
and Everett Dirksen all rushed to denounce the demonstrators, war protesters, and "draft- 
dodgers" en masse. The New York Times's Washington columnist James Reston allowed as 
how the protesters were damaging the country and "not promoting peace but postponing 
it." And Johnson himself, hinting broadly at "investigations," let it be known that he was 
"worried" that "even well-meaning demonstrators can become the victims of Communist 
aggression." 



151 



In the following week, SDS hardly knew what to make of its new-found fame. On the one 
hand, all the publicity had certainly put the organization on the map, and membership 
soared. A special SDS Bulletin noted: "Our Harvard organizer reports that he walked into 
Harvard Yard with 30 membership cards and had to go back for more 1/2 hour later ... . He 
wasn't lying. We just got 50 new membership cards from him special delivery." Students in 
the Chicago area poured into the NO to sign membership cards, one of them saying, "If you 
are going to be redbaited, I want to be on the list." In all, one thousand new two-dollar 
national memberships were received, pushing the total national membership over four 
thousand; the membership in individual chapters during this same period was thought to 
have doubled— the chapters in general kept only haphazard records of local members and 
the NO none at all, so it is impossible to tell— and SDS spokesmen now claimed a total of 
ten thousand local followers. 9 

On the other hand, SDS was hardly able to capitalize on all the attention. After all, there 
wasn't any draft program, just a proposal that had been sent out to the members only that 
week and whose approval or disapproval would take weeks more to determine; and in any 
case no one in SDS had ever intended draft action to take top priority in the fall program. 
There wasn't even any official SDS position or program on the war itself. Furthermore, 
though being redbaited seemed to attract some college youths to the organization, it clearly 
disturbed and repelled many others— not to mention their parents, college administrators, 
and local patriotic types (in Nashville, for example, anti-SDS pressure grew so strong that 
Tennessee State SDSers had to close up shop), and some of the old guard wanted to 
squelch the "draft-dodging" image for fear that it might smear the whole antiwar effort. The 
NO tried to deal with the scores of press and television people who were traipsing up the 
creaking steps at Sixty-third Street by downplaying the draft and talking as best they could 
on the larger issue of the war, but there wasn't any document or statement or resolution 
they could point to and in the confusion the media continued to concentrate most on the 
draft proposal, generating the general impression that SDS was full of traitors. The 
consensus grew around the office that something had to be done, as Booth said, "to take 
the heat off." 10 

Booth and Oglesby decided that the best thing would be to draw up a statement which 
would make SDS's noble intentions clear once and for all, and drop it in the laps of the 
press. They therefore arranged for a full-scale press conference in the Grand Ballroom of 
the National Press Club in Washington. They flew to the capital on Tuesday, and Booth 
worked arduously all through the night refining the statement, with help from Art Waskow 
and Jeremy Brecher, old-guard SDSers at the Institute for Policy Studies there, and Paul 
Cowan, a Harvard SDSer who happened to be in town; a few other friends of Booth's were 
consulted by telephone, but little was done to sound out anything like an SDS consensus. 
The next morning a bleary-eyed Booth faced a jam-packed press room: 

Students for a Democratic Society wishes to reiterate emphatically its 
intention to pursue its opposition to the war in Vietnam, undeterred by the 
diversionary tactics of the administration. 

We feel that the war is immoral at its root, that it is fought alongside a regime 
with no claim to represent its people, and that it is foreclosing the hope of 
making America a decent and truly democratic society. 

The commitment of SDS, and of the whole generation we represent, is clear: 
we are anxious to build villages; we refuse to burn them. We are anxious to 
help and to change our country; we refuse to destroy someone else's country. 
We are anxious to advance the cause of democracy; we do not believe that 
cause can be advanced by torture and terror. 



152 



We are fully prepared to volunteer for service to our country and to 
democracy. We volunteer to go into Watts to work with the people of Watts to 
rebuild that neighborhood to be the kind of place that the people of Watts 
want it to be— and when we say "rebuild," we mean socially as well as 
physically. We volunteer to help the Peace Corps learn, as we have been 
learning in the slums and in Mississippi, how to energize the hungry and 
desperate and defeated of the world to make the big decisions. We volunteer 
to serve in hospitals and schools in the slums, in the Job Corps and VISTA, in 
the new Teachers Corps— and to do so in such a way as to strengthen 
democracy at its grassroots. And in order to make our volunteering possible, 
we propose to the President that all those Americans who seek so vigorously 
to build instead of burn be given their chance to do so. We propose that he 
test the young people of America: if they had a free choice, would they want 
to burn and torture in Vietnam or to build a democracy at home and 
overseas? There is only one way to make the choice real: let us see what 
happens if service to democracy is made grounds for exemption from the 
military draft. I predict that almost every member of my generation would 
choose to build, not to burn; to teach, not to torture; to help, not to kill. And I 
am sure that the overwhelming majority of our brothers and cousins in the 
army in Vietnam, would make the same choice if they could— to serve and 
build, not kill and destroy ... . 

Until the President agrees to our proposal, we have only one choice: we do in 
conscience object, utterly and wholeheartedly, to this war; and we will 
encourage every member of our generation to object, and to file his objection 
through the Form 150 provided by the law for conscientious objection. 11 

Thus was born what immediately came to be called the "Build, Not Burn" strategy. The wire 
services gave the statement extensive coverage, and most major papers carried stories. 
Though, inevitably, the slants varied— the Chicago Tribune, for example, tagged the story 
"Oglesby Tells Johnson Protesters' Terms"— most reports played up the humanitarian, not to 
say Boy Scout, cast of the statement and its clear alternative-service patriotism, and it 
seemed that in the battle of the headlines, SDS had won: it was off the hook and the critics 
of the antiwar movement were for the moment disarmed. Booth was quick to claim that 
"good effects were reported" on many campuses (at Vassar, he reported, the statement was 
mimeographed and used as an organizing tool), that in Washington "it bolstered our allies 
and compounded the embarrassment of the Katzenbachs," and that it "received an 
extremely favorable audience among church people." 

But in the process Booth, and those around him, had made two serious errors, both of 
which tended to discredit the National Secretary, and by extension the NO, in the eyes of 
many in the organization and on its fringes. 



153 



The first error was political. In its attempt to dissociate SDS from the "draft-dodgers," the 
"Build, Not Burn" statement was actually more moderate than many in SDS would have 
liked. The NO was bombarded: a number of chapters launched formal protests and 
hundreds of individuals wrote in to complain. They argued that the statement did not attack 
the draft itself as an inequitable and undemocratic institution, but simply urged an 
extension of it into other areas; that it did not urge (as some groups in Berkeley and New 
York were already doing) opposition to the draft by any means possible, including outright 
evasion; and that it did not make any of the necessary connections between the draft and 
the war, showing them both as inevitable products of the American military-industrial state. 
The apologetic effect of it, especially, irritated many as being too defensive, too craven: Ken 
McEldowney and fifty others in the San Francisco region sent off a telegram: TONE OF 
STATEMENT DEPLORABLE ... . READS LIKE COPOUTTO KATZENBACH. Elsewhere people 
like Greg Calvert, then at Iowa State but eventually to be Booth's successor, felt the 
statement, as Calvert was to put it, was "the greatest formula ever devised for selling out 
the radical movement and playing into the cooptive hands of the establishment." And the 
May 2nd Movement from its own perspective said scornfully "This proposal creates illusions 
about the US government. It is as if the government has good agencies and bad agencies. 
The fact is that there is no democracy to do alternate service for." Small wonder that many 
SDSers soon started to put forth a counterslogan: "Build Not, Burn!" 12 

The second error was procedural. Booth had, in effect, set SDS officially on a course of 
urging young men to file for Conscientious Objector status as a means of protesting the 
war, without having the slightest organizational support or justification for doing so. The 
National Secretary was not supposed to set policy, least of all on a program that was still 
before the membership and in defiance of the September NC vote giving campus 
educational work priority over any draft scheme. Shero, who all along had been a prime 
advocate of decentralization of SDS and a downgrading of the NO role, was particularly 
incensed, complaining bitterly about Booth's acting "unilaterally" to set policy for the entire 
organization; reporters, he said, should have simply been referred to local chapters which 
would tell them what was going on in any particular area, and the National Secretary could 
have stayed out of it completely. Others who resented reading in the papers about such a 
turnabout in national policy echoed Ken McEldowney's wry comment: "Participatory 
democracy begins at home." 13 

Resentment against Booth for what he said was simply fueled by resentment that he said it 
at all. The disaffection that this produced, not only toward the National Secretary himself 
but toward the basic notion of a political decision-making central officer, would last. 

On October 18 the May 2nd Movement announced its own anti-draft program: 

The opposition to the Vietnam Draft must be organized and political. One way 
is for people opposed to this draft ... to organize themselves into Anti-Draft 
Unions as the vehicle for draft opposition. These unions, as well as other 
groups, can— 

1. Demonstrate at the induction centers ... . 

2. Expose and oppose college administration cooperation with the draft ... . 
No ROTC on campus, No military recruitment on campus, No war research 
projects, can be demands. Organize STRIKES if demands aren't met. 

3. Go to High Schools with leaflets, street meetings, ADU [antidraft union] 
organizing, etc ... . 



154 



Such struggle cannot at this time prevent large numbers of young men from 
being forced into the Army. But it can bring many more people— particularly 
working class people— into the anti-war movement and thereby sharply 
increase the isolation of the government. 14 

This same working-class rationale was reiterated by Jeff Gordon, the M2M leader, in an 
article in the M2M publication. Free Student, on November 27: 

The key necessity for the peace movement is to broaden its base. If students 
remain isolated as the war goes on year after year they will be vulnerable to 
attack and discouragement. The erosion of rights and material conditions that 
the war necessarily entails provides the opportunity to involve other parts of 
the population, particularly workers. Recent strikes by thousands of defense 
workers give the lie to the idea that the war is in their interests ... . We 
should oppose the draft in a way that all can participate. If we follow this up 
by organizationally approaching workers, as well as continuing our work on 
the campuses and in the communities, the movement will grow in size and in 
strength. 15 

The issue of Communists in SDS, which the press and Senators made so much of during 
these October weeks— and which of course would continue to be an issue in the coming 
years— was not one which interested the SDSers themselves very much. It all seemed so 
irrelevant. True, the exclusion clause had been dropped, but that was more because there 
were no hordes of Communists asking to get in than because there were. The Communist 
Party itself was seen as a joke, a tired collection of middle-aged irrelevants who hadn't any 
idea of what the New Left was all about and certainly no means of taking it over. Not that 
SDS was the kind , of organization that could very readily be taken over, even if I anyone 
wanted to: "They can't take us over because they can't find ' us" was the standard joke. As 
to those with pro-Chinese or anti-imperialistic politics— the Progressive Labor and M2M 
people, for example— they were certainly allowed into the ranks but no I one could figure 
out why they'd want to come if they had organizations of their own, and no one regarded 
their rather far-out ideas I as likely to catch on with the bulk of SDSers. Carl Oglesby put ; 
the SDS stance best, in a speech to the National Guardian annual g banquet that fall. 

SDS does not screen, purge, or use loyalty pledges ... . We judge behavior. 
Those whose behavior runs athwart the deep SDS commitment to democracy 
just have no leverage over the democrats of SDS. 

And, in any case, SDS retains no detectives. 

Further, it is hard to see how a group could be "taken over" unless it has 
handles of power that can be seized, some "central apparatus" that can 
enforce orders. SDS has no such apparatus— only a beleaguered hot-spot in 
Chicago— and it is a main hard point with us that it never shall. 16 

Nonetheless, there were many elders, especially liberal elders, who viewed the issue of 
Communist infiltration with utmost seriousness. The New Republic, for example, 
editorialized at the end I of October: 

In our judgment ... the Students for a Democratic Society do themselves and 
their aims a disservice by welcoming Communists in their ranks, and by 
making a virtue out of the indifference to the possibility of Communists 
becoming the dominant voice in their organization ... . The SDS is "anxious to 
advance the cause of democracy." If they mean political democracy as we 
understand it, they will deal more realistically than they have with the fact of 
Communist participation. 



155 



And of course the people who took the whole question most seriously, and had for a year at 
least, were those in the LID. 

Things, as we have seen, had not been going well between the LID and its offspring for 
some time. For a while during 1965 the LID tried to weather the storm, clinging to the idea 
of "dialogues" and hoping to keep the link to SDS both for reasons of principle (to educate 
the younger members away from wrong-minded positions, especially on the issue of 
Communism), and for reasons of pragmatism (to enjoy vicariously the attention and 
success of the student department and to have contacts with the important elements of the 
New Left). But it eventually became clear that the gulf between the two groups was 
unbridgeable; as Mike Harrington recalls it, 

... their whole style was increasingly one of screw-you. Their contempt for us 
was certainly coming through pretty loud and clear ... . They were not simply 
having a more militant tactic on the war, but their attitude toward trade 
unions, toward liberal change, toward change in the Democratic Party— a 
whole spectrum of tactical issues which had once united us— were in the 
process of changing. It was around the war that this whole constellation of 
things came to a head. 17 

Paul Feldman, a member of the LID Board of Directors, undertook to put the case against 
SDS in an LID News Bulletin. The basic trouble, he held, was the "new generation of radical 
youth" and their "ideological confusion, resulting from a visceral reaction to McCarthyism 
and a lack of political education." What had happened to SDS, he argued, was that it had 
fallen into the error of "agnosticism" on the question of Communism and it had failed "to 
judge the Communist side in the war by the same standards applied to the American role. A 
reactive anti-American establishmentarianism had been substituted for an analytical 
approach." That was bad enough, Lord knows, for "it clashed with our fundamental 
principles," but it also was tactically wrong, for it led "toward increasing isolation of the 
students from the very forces that are essential to democratic social progress"— and, 
incidentally, to the continuance of the LID— "the labor, civil rights, and liberal 
organizations." Clearly, Feldman argued, SDS had no rightful place in an organization whose 
"dedication to democracy placed it in principled opposition to Communism and all other 
forms of totalitarianism." 



156 



For most of those in SDS, this kind of argument was simple old-fogeyism. Some in the 
organization, it is true, shared the LID worries— Haber, in particular, argued bitterly that 
SDS was falling into mindless association with "some of the Marxist anti-American, anti- 
capitalist groupings 18 "— and others wanted above all to stay beneath the comforting 
protection of LID's tax-exemption shelter regardless of political differences. But the general 
feeling was that the LID and the whole "democratic socialism" of which it was a part simply 
represented the liberal wing of the Establishment, a wing that had proven itself unworthy in 
every challenge of the sixties, from civil rights to Vietnam.* This, combined with mounting 
anger at attacks on SDS and the New Left from LID associates like Irving Howe and Bayard 
Rustin, and a principled feeling that the two organizations no longer shared the same basic 
philosophies, impelled the break from the student side. Practical matters clinched the 
argument. SDS had discovered that since the April march contributions were coming in at 
such a rate that $3,500 or so tossed its way by the LID was hardly important to a $60,000- 
a-year organization; and the tax-exemption provisions barring political activity increasingly 
grated on the students, who ever since April had wanted to explore new and more militant 
forms of political action which they knew would inevitably call down the wrath of the IRS. 

The tax-exemption issue made a convenient severing device. SDS passed several 
resolutions urging the LID to drop its special tax status, and the LID gave the matter 
cursory debate. But the LID was hardly in a position to give up its educational role and its 
tax windfall— what else, after all, did it have?— and at the end of September it rejected the 
idea entirely. After some fruitless negotiations on the subject, it seemed to all concerned to 
be a convenient and graceful way to concretize the irremediable differences between the 
two organizations, and an "amicable severance" was at last agreed upon. 

On October 4,1965, an association that had lasted in one form or other for more than forty 
years, and with roots going back to the earliest part of the century, was dissolved: 

Acting under the instructions of the appropriate committees of our respective 
organizations, we have come to an understanding that Students for a 
Democratic Society shall cease to be the student department of the League 
for Industrial Democracy ... . The reason for the separation is the desire of 
the SDS to engage in action programs which transcend the limits imposed by 
law on tax-exempt organizations. The League, on the other hand, has decided 
that it wishes to continue functioning as a tax-exempt educational 
organization. 19 

Good form was kept— "The termination of SDS's status as the student department of the 
League ... is not the consequence of political disagreement but an effort to preserve the 
interests and integrity of the two organizations"— but no one was fooled: politics, the basic 
politics of Old Left liberalism and New Left radicalism, was at the very heart of the 
sunderance. SDS now was on its own. 



The ILG, pillar of this wing, had voted at its May convention to endorse Johnson's actions in Vietnam and the 
Dominican Republic in strong terms, a fact which a spring SDS worklist (May 27, 1965) had "noted in disgust." The 
same worklist, be it added, referred to the LID as "our parent organization," apparently on the assumption that 
most SDSers didn't know what it was. 



157 



Having come into the spotlight during the October demonstrations, SDS had no desire to 
move into the wings. Nor could it, really, even if it had wanted to, for it was now seen by 
students as the leading antiwar organization in the land and the only vehicle through which 
their angered sentiments could express themselves. (The NCC, which had actually 
coordinated the demonstrations, was merely an administrative center, not a membership 
organization, as were most of the local ad hoc committees like the Fifth Avenue Peace 
Parade Committee in New York; none of the membership groups like M2M, the DuBois 
Clubs, or the Young Socialist Alliance had the energy, the publicity, the aura, or the stature 
of SDS.) So as attention turned to the next planned demonstration, a march on Washington 
which SANE had called for the Thanksgiving weekend, SDS was inevitably drawn in, despite 
its antipathy to mass marches in general and SANE's liberalism in particular.* 

Campus interest in another demonstration was clearly strong, especially as a means of 
showing immediate defiance of the government's redbaiting attacks and support for "the 
right to dissent"; liberal friends of SDS urged it to join in so that the press and the 
Administration could not argue that the steam had gone out of the antiwar movement. But 
perhaps most persuasive, SOS, it turned out, had no other program of its own to follow. The 
draft proposal over which so much media commotion was made was defeated in the 
referendum, 279 to 243, with 35 abstentions, a vote which the NO regarded as expressing 
the membership's fear of legal repression but the small size of which (one-sixth of the 3,139 
people to whom ballots had been sent) probably indicated rather that most chapters wanted 
to go ahead with their own already functioning local programs— draft counseling in Austin, 
CO leafleting in Ann Arbor, draft-information booths at Los Angeles-area campuses, and so 
on— instead of getting involved in a national effort. 

And so Carl Oglesby— this was again a unilateral decision of the NAC in Chicago, though one 
that seemed to have general support— began negotiating with SANE, and it was eventually 
agreed that in return for its participation SDS could issue its own call and add its own 
spokesman to the official program. The call was drawn up and 100,000 copies printed, 
considerably changing the tone of the demonstration— as well as the position of SDS from 
its April march: 

There must be an immediate cease fire and demobilization in South Vietnam. 
There must be a withdrawal of American troops ... . All agreements must be 
ratified by the partisans of the "other side"— the National Liberation Front and 
North Vietnam. 

We are convinced that the only way to stop this and future wars is to organize 
a domestic social movement which challenges the very legitimacy of our 
foreign policy; this movement must also fight to end racism, to end the 
paternalism of our welfare system, to guarantee decent incomes for all, and 
to supplant the authoritarian control of our universities with a community of 
scholars. 20 

Even more important, Oglesby himself agreed to be the SDS spokesman. Seeing in this 
chance to address a predominantly liberal audience an important opportunity to get across 
SDS politics, he bent himself (with help from Gitlin and Rothstein) to the task of writing a 
speech that would, as the NO people were saying, "tell it like it is." It turned out to be one 
of the most effective speeches any SDSer was to give. 



SANE had, after all, boycotted the April affair; and its Thanksgiving march coordinator, Sanford Gottlieb, had 
declared it as his objective to keep "kooks, communists or draft-dodgers" out of the Washington demonstration. 



158 



November 27 was a raw, chill, overcast day, the kind that makes Washingtonians impatient 
for cherry blossoms, but by the Guardian's estimate some forty thousand people showed up 
in the capital. By a prior agreement reached only after a brouhaha that almost split the 
burgeoning movement before the march even started, SANE agreed to relax its sign 
censorship and permit each group to carry its own signs; around the White House that 
morning, therefore, SANE banners for "Negotiate Now" vied with such slogans as "Bring the 
GIs Home Now" and "Don't Negotiate— Evacuate," plus a large NLF banner that the SANE 
marshals tried to surround with American flags so the TV cameramen wouldn't notice. 
Shortly after noon the crowd was seated around the base of the Washington monument 
prepared for a long afternoon of speakers. Careful to emphasize its "respectable" tone, 
SANE had loaded the program with moderates who, as Oglesby was to say later, were so 
eager "to show their 'responsibleness,' to criticize 'both sides equally,' that some of their 
speeches would hardly have been wrong for a pro-war rally." 21 The hour was growing late 
and nearly a third of the audience had gone to warmer surroundings when Oglesby, shunted 
away at the end of the program, rose to speak. 

The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a 
mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate 
liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. 
Think of the men who now engineer that war— those who study the maps, 
give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy, McNamara, 
Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President himself. 

They are not moral monsters. 

They are all honorable men. 

They are all liberals. 

But so, I'm sure, are many of us who are here today in protest. To 
understand the war, then, it seems necessary to take a closer look at this 
American liberalism. Maybe we are in for some surprises. 22 

And slowly, laying American liberal Cold War errors at his listeners' feet, one by one, he 
provided those surprises. Support for Rhodesia, South Africa, Latin American dictators. The 
American-led overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran to the benefit of Gulf Oil; of Arbenz in 
Guatemala to the profits of United Fruit; of Jagan in Guyana to the satisfaction of the AFL- 
CIO; of Goulart in Brazil to the pleasure of State Department policy makers. The invasion of 
Cuba, of the Dominican Republic, planned and carried out by liberals, for liberals. The secret 
placement of nuclear weapons in West German hands. And Vietnam. 

This country, with its thirty-some years of liberalism, can send 200,000 young 
men to Vietnam to kill and die in the most dubious of wars, but it cannot get 
100 voter registrars to go into Mississippi. 

What do you make of it? 

The financial burden of the war obliges us to cut millions from an already 
pathetic War on Poverty budget. But in almost the same breath, Congress 
appropriates $140 million for the Lockheed and Boeing companies to compete 
with each other on the supersonic transport project— that Disneyland creation 
that will cost us all about $2 billion before it's done. 

What do you make of it? 

Liberalism, of course, had tried to justify all these acts with "the ideology of anti- 
Communism." 



159 



Far from helping Americans deal with ... truth, the anti-Communist ideology 
merely tries to disguise it so that things may stay the way they are. Thus, it 
depicts our presence in other lands not as a coercion, but a protection. It 
allows us even to say that the napalm in Vietnam is only another aspect of 
our humanitarian love— like those exorcisms in the Middle Ages that so often 
killed the patient. So we say to the Vietnamese peasant, the Cuban 
intellectual, the Peruvian worker: "You are better dead than red. If it hurts or 
if you don't understand why— sorry about that." 

This is the action of corporate liberalism. It performs for the corporate state a 
function quite like what the Church once performed for the feudal state. It 
seeks to justify its burdens and protect it from change ... . 

Let me then speak directly to humanist liberals. If my facts are wrong, I will 
soon be corrected. But if they are right, then you may face a crisis of 
conscience. Corporatism or humanism, which? For it has come to that. Will 
you let your dreams be used? Will you be grudging apologists for the 
corporate state? Or will you help try to change it— not in the name of this or 
that blueprint or ism, but in the name of simple human decency and 
democracy and the vision that wise and brave men saw in the time of our 
own Revolution? 

And if your commitment to human value is unconditional, then disabuse 
yourselves of the notion that statements will bring change, if only the right 
statements can be written, or that interviews with the mighty will bring 
change if only the mighty can be , reached, or that marches will bring change 
if only we can make " them massive enough, or that policy proposals will 
bring change if only we can make them responsible enough. 

We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed. It will 
not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it ... . 
All the more reason for building [a] movement with a most relentless 
conviction. 

There are people in this country today who are trying to build that movement, 
who aim at nothing less than a humanist reformation. And the humanist 
liberals must understand that it is this movement with which their own best 
hopes are most in tune. We radicals know the same history that you liberals 
know, and we can understand your occasional cynicism, exasperation, and 
even distrust. But we ask you to put these aside and help us risk a leap. Help 
us find enough time for the enormous work that needs doing here. Help us 
build. Help us shake the future in the name of plain human hope. 

It was a devastating performance: skilled, moderate, learned, and compassionate, but 
uncompromising, angry, radical, and above all persuasive. It drew the only standing ovation 
of the afternoon. As reporter Ward Just was to say in the Washington Post the following 
week: 

The speech was little noticed and all but unreported in the press, but in the 
post mortems following the recent March on Washington to End the War in 
Vietnam it was receiving the most attention of all speeches ... . Leaders of 
the movement described the speech as a declaration of independence from 
the traditional thread of American liberalism on the one hand and a call to 
battle to alter the fundamental social, political and economic structure of the 
country on the other. 23 



160 



Perhaps old hat to the old guard, but to the audience in Washington, to much of the new 
campus generation, to many who were awakened to politics only with Vietnam, this was an 
eye-opener. The demand for reprints surpassed anything that SDS had known within two 
weeks mimeographed copies were being run off in the NO and a Movement printing shop in 
Lawrence, Kansas, was preparing to reprint it by the thousands for SDS to distribute; the 
Monthly Review picked it up for its January 1966 issue; and for years afterward it would 
continue to be one of the most popular items of SDS literature.* 

The Oglesby speech won SDS considerable respect in many quarters and proved to be the 
icing on the quite unexpected cake of success that fall. National media continued to focus on 
the organization: The New York Times Magazine ran a long and friendly piece by LIDer Tom 
Brooks; Newsweek did a special takeout on "The Demonstrators," featuring SDS; the Nation 
had a flattering profile by Jack Newfield; the National Guardian, whose circulation was now 
up to 28,000, gave steady weekly publicity to SDS doings; and SDSers even began to 
appear on occasional national television programs. Letters from students and sympathizers 
were coming in at the rate of more than a thousand a month— answered, of course, 
sporadically if at all— and nearly fifty student and youth organizations from more than 
twenty foreign countries sent official statements of support, newsletters, queries, proposals, 
and greetings. 24 



* It is important to note, however, that the November 27 Oglesby speech, though more dramatic and more stylish, 
does not go beyond the April 17 Potter speech, delivered in the same spot on the same kind of occasion, in 
"naming the system." Both are talking about what will come to be called "imperialism" before another year is out, a 
phrase borrowed for want of a better from the Marxist groups whose influence in SDS, and the movement in 
general, was to grow; as Oglesby said two years later, his was "an attempt to describe imperialism without giving it 
that name, and to attribute imperialist policy to the structure of monopoly capitalism without pronouncing that 
term either ... . Imperialism and monopoly capitalism were conceptions proper and necessary to the thorough 
critique of US policy, but they had been effectively drained of meaning by decades of strong, pervasive and subtle 
Cold War propaganda ... . For most of the growing student movement in those days, these were still out-of-bounds 
terms." (Introduction to "Trapped in a System," Radical Education Project pamphlet, January 1969.) Nonetheless, 
SDS, it is clear, was able to talk about the fundamentals of the American state even when it had not been schooled 
in how to name them. 



161 



By the end of December SDS had grown to an estimated 4,300 paid-up national members, 
at 124 chapters* in thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia (missing only Alabama, 
Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, South 
Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming); no fewer than forty-four of the 
chapters had been started (or reestablished) that fall, some at places quite predictable (Los 
Angeles, Pennsylvania, Yale) and some quite unexpected (Iowa State, New Rochelle, Notre 
Dame— and there was even an attempt made at West Point). New regional organizations 
had been established, more or less spontaneously but growing out of the impetus to 
decentralization that had emerged at the June convention, in Boston, New York, Los 
Angeles, and San Francisco, and each had its own staff to put out its own mimeographed 
newsletters, contact local chapters, and set area strategies and programs quite 
independently of the National Office. Six chapters (Antioch, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, 
Oklahoma, and Reed) were turning out independent newsletters for SDSers and friends in 
their own regions. Campus travelers made regular trips, generating interest at new 
campuses, solidifying it at the old; chief among them were Oglesby and Booth, plus heads 
of the Regional Offices, especially Ken McEldowney in San Francisco, Jane Adams in the 
Midwest, and John Maher (son of a wealthy Houston businessman, John F. Maher, and 
brother of Albert Maher, the M2M leader) in Boston. And to them were added the more 
informal SDS wanderers— people in the old guard whose campus contacts were greatest, 
including some ERAPers beginning to feel that Movemental initiative had swung back to the 
universities. 

Moreover, SDS was enjoying a steady and prosperous income for the first time in its 
history. More than $20,000 came in through contributions over the fall (after the October 
publicity, at the rate of about $250 a day), making up the bulk of the $24,600 total income 
for those four months. Expenditures, as usual, matched the income ($23,800), mostly for 
rent and office expenses. The NO could now project a budget of $75-80,000 a year, a far 
cry, indeed a shriek, from the early days. 

Yet with all this the basic problems that had been wracking SDS since the Kewadin 
convention remained, and even as it rode the crest of its new success SDS turned its 
attention to them. Put schematically, there were four crucial problems: 

Structure. Having no National Secretary had proven to be a disaster, but having one didn't 
seem to make anybody much happier, either in the Chicago office or out on the hustings. 
The NO was still functioning poorly, with rapid turnovers and chaotic operations. 
Participatory democracy was proving harder to implement in the burgeoning organization 
than anyone had imagined— membership referenda were obviously clumsy and ineffective, 
but arbitrary fiats from the National Secretary and NAC were obviously undemocratic. Some 
means had to be found to regulate the decision-making process. 



* New and renewed chapters over the last seven months included Ball State, Bennington, University of California 
(Davis, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Cruz), California State (Hayward, Los Angeles, Sacramento State, San Diego 
State, San Fernando Valley State, San Francisco State, San Jose State, Santa Ana), Chico State, Colorado State, 
Drake, Emmanuel, Florida, Goucher, Houston At-large, Hunter College (Bronx), Illinois (Urbana and Chicago 
Circle), Illinois State, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Kingsborough Community College, Los Angeles At-large, 
Macalester, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan State, Milwaukee At-large, Missouri (at Kansas City), Nebraska, New 
Hampshire, New Mexico, New Rochelle, Newton High School, New York University (Downtown and Uptown), State 
University of New York (Albany, Buffalo, Plattsburg), North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Illinois, Northeastern, 
Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pasadena At-large, Pennsylvania, Piedmont, Pittsburgh At-large, Purdue, 
Rhode Island, Toledo At-large, University of Washington, Washington University, Wesleyan University, West 
Lafayette (Indiana) High School, Western Washington State, Woodrow Wilson High School (D.C.), Yale. 



162 



Policies. As of December, SDS (though the news would have come as a surprise to many) 
had no official stand on Vietnam, on the draft, on university reform, or on domestic 
priorities, and no ready way to arrive at them. What general sense of shared ideology had 
been characteristic of the organization a year ago was no longer true, yet there were few 
papers being researched, speeches made, or letters written— as in the old days— to arrive at 
a new ideology. Known but a few months ago as a center for radical intellectuals, SDS was 
now regarded more as a place for antiwar activists. 

Membership. Hundreds of new people had come into SDS, but they tended to be cut off 
from the old guard and given little direction, or education. There was little internal 
communication to them, other than sporadic worklist mailings concentrating on immediate 
news and crises, and almost no internal education. The older members were now regarded 
as an "elite," still the speech-makers and the decision-makers but often remote from the 
rank and file, with different concerns, different biases; there was much talk among them of 
starting a new organization, a Movement for a Democratic Society, for graduates and 
adults. 

Strategy. SDS was still wrestling with the perennial problem of where to turn now, whether 
to build a larger movement or consolidate what it already had, whether to build alliances 
with the liberals or develop contacts with the Marxist left, whether to concentrate on 
students rather than ghetto dwellers or adult antiwar forces, whether to build solid bases on 
the campuses or try to forge an entirely new American left. 

Now in truth these problems were so complex, tangled, and well-nigh insoluble that they 
would, in one form or another, remain with the organization throughout its existence. But 
there was an assumption, especially among the old guard, that they had to be tackled, and 
immediately, and out of that assumption the idea for a special "rethinking conference" was 
born. What the old guard had in mind— unspoken, perhaps unacknowledged, but evident— 
was the need to recreate Port Huron, to give SDS a second birth. The idea was logical 
enough, and touching: if some greater cohesion could be forged, members educated 
together, basic social theories agreed upon, internal communication opened up, and 
working democracy instituted, SDS could solve its major problems and develop into a 
significant multigenerational, multidisciplined, multi-issued, genuinely radical organization 
on the American left. Indeed, if such an organization could have been created, it might well 
have been able to weather the disappointments and the successes, the factionalism and the 
radicalism of the next few years. But 1966 was not 1962. 



163 



The rethinking conference was duly held at the Illinois University campus in Champaign- 
Urbana over the Christmas vacation. Some 360 people from 66 chapters showed up, 
including a good number of those who had recently joined— among them a young Columbia 
student named John Fuerst and a gangling, mustached youth from the University of 
Nebraska named Carl Davidson, both of whom were to become prominent in the 
organization— but the meeting was dominated by the old guard.* It was, though they could 
not have known it, the last SDS conference they would exert any appreciable influence on. 
For they were moving off in a different direction from the bulk of the membership now, 
concerned essentially with problems of postcollege activism that little interested the new 
breed. And when they failed here to solve the central problems, or to even make much 
sense out of them, when they failed here to make SDS into an organization that would 
express their concerns, they began to drift away and let the younger hands take over. 

For the meeting was a failure. None of the problems was solved. Jonathan Eisen, writing in 
The Activist, called it "a morass, a labyrinth, a marathon of procedural amendments, non 
sequiturs, soul-searching and maneuvering, partying and arguing, plenaries which went 
nowhere, proposals unheeded, undebated; terminology which only the most in of the in- 
group could comprehend, much less care about; and a few who were too far gone to 
participate in anything but getting girls. Pages and pages of proposals, prospectuses, 
amendments, workshop resolutions, recommendations, counter-recommendations, 
hasseling and dancing to the Beatles." Gitlin more soberly confessed, "Almost every person 
I talked to— while the meeting was going on, and afterward— agreed that it was a disaster." 
And in a somber, bitingly honest report to the membership he ticked off the failures, failures 
not just of this meeting but of SDS as a whole: 25 

A dearth of ideological and strategic content to debates, where it would be 
appropriate ... . Slogans and symbols replace analysis and hard thinking ... . 
Elitism is and should be a matter of central concern ... . Speechmaking ... is 
the premium style. If you make a good speech, you're in; otherwise, you're 
out ... . Our egos become tied to our words, our proposals. We would sooner 
make speeches before the whole body than consult privately ... . We would 
sooner split hairs than solve problems ... . Out of exhaustion and/or common 
sense, everyone may agree to cut discussion short and move on to a vote 
[but] as often as not this resolution is purely arbitrary— the debate has 
produced little justification for either choice ... . Aggressive sectionalism and 
snide anti-sectionalism ... "the Texas guys," "those New York coalitionists," 
"the Chicago bunch." 

Outside the plenary sessions, things were no better. A white member of the Texas 
delegation insulted a black at a party one night during the conference, there was a fight, 
and immediately the whole ugly issue of racism stalked the corridors. Black anger seethed, 
and white fear; there were fistfights, knives, threats: the Texas delegation was taken to 
task by angrier-than-thou whites for harboring racists, and it walked out en masse, charging 
reverse discrimination and liberal guilt-politics; black SDSers such as Carolyn Craven 
became convinced that SDS was irrevocably racist. It was a symbol, if symbol were needed, 
of how far SDS had come from those hopeful early days of the civil-rights movement. 



Among those present, trying to recapture Port Huron, were Booth, Brecher, Flacks, Garvy, Gitlin, Haber, 
Kissinger, Max, Carol McEldowney, Rothstein, Ross, Webb, and Wittman. Hayden, with what is perhaps symbolic 
appropriateness, was not there: the Communist Party's Herbert Aptheker had invited him and Staughton Lynd, as 
representatives of the New Left, on a "fact-finding" trip to North Vietnam, the first American delegation to visit 
there. (See Hayden's reports in New Left Notes, January 21, 1966, and the Guardian, January 29 and February 5, 
1966, and The Other Side, with Staughton Lynd; Signet, 1967.) 



164 



Nor was the National Council meeting that followed any more successful. On the main 
political topics, the war and the draft, there was no resolution. A proposal to put SDS on 
record for immediate withdrawal of American troops was defeated, but no counterproposal 
could gain sufficient support either, and in the end the NC simply enshrined its disdain for 
"the Vietnam hangup" as national policy: 

We must be planning years ahead, rather than responding in every crisis. We 
should be prepared to reject activities that mobilize thousands of people but 
do not build constituencies ... . We should be prepared to argue with the 
antiwar movement that the real lever for change in America is a domestic 
social movement. And, that the movement to end the war in Vietnam cannot 
end that war. Finally, we should also say that radicals have more important 
priorities than working simply to end the war. 26 

True, all too true. But this restatement of the Kewadin spirit puzzled many of the newest 
members; as Helen Garvy later said, the younger people "just couldn't understand how SDS 
could vote against such a thing when there was a war going on." 

On the draft, the conference rejected VOICE chairman Eric Chester's proposal for marches 
on army bases and induction centers to hold immediate-withdrawal rallies, and voted down 
several Other proposals for actions against the draft, against university involvement in war 
research, against the 2-S deferment. All were regarded as too militant, unlikely to work on 
the newer and more remote campuses: "We can't even get beyond the teach-in level," one 
Nebraska delegate argued. The NC limited itself to approving the distribution of twenty 
thousand copies of a "Guide to Conscientious Objection," a breezy little pamphlet written 
mostly by Paul Lauter, an older SDSer working for the American Friends Service Committee 
in Chicago, which was not so much about how to be a CO as how to start thinking about 
becoming one; and to the launching of a "freedom draft" campaign, an idea of Jeremy 
Brecher's mixing Booth's "Build, Not Burn" with the M2M and DuBois Clubs' antidraft 
petitions of the year before. Chapters would get people to sign a special draft card ("I want 
to work for democracy. I do not want to fight in Vietnam, because the war is destroying our 
hopes for democracy both there and at home. I want to build, not burn ... . "), one part of 
which would be carried by the signer, another sent to the White House, and the third 
returned to the NO for a grand tally. 27 

As to internal problems, they too were mostly unresolved, but attempts were made to solve 
the most pressing. A Radical Education Project was to be set up in Ann Arbor to prepare and 
turn out analytical papers of the kind that SDS had once been famous for, so that newer 
members could be educated into the ideological sweep that had characterized the 
organization initially; this was the brainchild of Al Haber and bore the unmistakable marks 
of his belief, unchanged over five years, in the power of mimeographed papers to radicalize 
the nation. For internal education and general membership communication, the NC decided 
to give top priority to the establishment of a weekly bulletin or newspaper, another notion 
of Haber's. And, perhaps most significantly, the regional organizations that had grown up on 
their own in the last six months were given a seal of approval and other areas urged to start 
their own, as an attempt to deal with the problems of internal democracy and the NO 
administrative bottleneck. 



165 



Also raised among the internal problems was another issue that was enunciated here for the 
first time in SDS: women's liberation. A workshop on "Women in the Movement" (the first at 
any left meeting in this decade) produced a sharp call from a number of the women 
participants for greater "initiative and participation by women" in SDS and a greater 
understanding of the "woman question" by men in the organization. "Many women feel," the 
statement read, "that the problem of participation by women is a special problem— one that 
reflects not only inadequacies within SDS but one that also reflects greater societal 
problems, namely the problem of the role of women in American society today." 28 

The December meetings were a touching symbol. Called by the old guard to reestablish the 
kind of SDS they had known and loved, it actually served to indicate that, inevitably, the 
organization was headed in new directions, the clock could not be turned back. The SDS 
that was family, that was shared assumptions and shared lives, was fading now, and 
something new and uncertain was growing in its place. 



1 Description of NO from Newfield, p. 85; Thomas Brooks, N.Y. Times Magazine, November 
7, 1965; "Studying a Student," N.Y. Herald Tribune, November 7, 1965; Shero interview. 

2 N.Y. Herald Tribune, op. cit. Shero, interview. 

3 "Participatory democracy," quoted by Pardun (attributed to "ex-staff members here in 
Austin") in "Organizational Democracy," mimeographed paper for "Rethinking Conference," 
December 1965. Kissinger, "There's a Change Gotta Come!" op. cit. Bennett, memo to 
NO/NAC, January 1966. 

4 Gitlin, "Proposal for a Mission to North Vietnam," National Vietnam Newsletter, August 26, 
1965. Kissinger, ibid. "All right," minutes of NC. 

5 Webb and Booth, "The Anti-War Movement: From Protest to Radical Politics," 
mimeographed by SDS, fall 1965, reprinted in Our Generation, May 1966. NC report and 
quotations, worklist mailing, September 15,1965. Antidraft program, worklist mailing, 
October 5, 1965. 

6 Dodd, "The Anti-Vietnam Agitation and the Teach-in Movement," Senate Internal Security 
Committee report, October 13, 1965. 

7 Stennis, Congressional Record, October 15, 1965. 

8 Katzenbach, Guardian, October 23,1965, and SDS Bulletin, October 21,1965. Guardian, 
op. cit. Playboy, Nat Hentoff, March 1966. 

9 Hershey, quoted in New Republic, October 8,1966. Senate reaction, Congressional Record, 
October 18,1965. Reston, N.Y. Times, October 16, 1965. Johnson, statement, October 17, 
and in Guardian, op. cit. SDS Bulletin, October 21,1965. "If you are," "Super Late News," 
ibid. 

10 Booth, worklist mailing, November 2,1965. 

11 "Build, Not Burn," mimeographed and distributed by SDS, reprinted in Liberation, 
December 1965, excerpted in Newfield, p. 107. 

12 Booth, "National Secretary's Report," to December NC, mimeograph, December 10, 1965. 
SDS reaction and McEldowney telegram, NO files. 

13 Calvert, NLN, February 13,1967. M2M, Free Student, November 27, 1965. Shero, minutes 
of "Rethinking Conference," December 1965. McEldowney, telegram, op. cit. 



166 



14 M2M statement. Free Student, op. cit. 

15 Gordon, ibid. 

16 Oglesby, Guardian, November 20, 1965. New Republic, October 30, 1965. 

17 Harrington, interview. Peldman, LID News Bulletin, Fall 1965. 

18 Haber, letter to NO, in worklist mailing, October 12, 1965. 

19 "Acting under the instructions," press release, Tom Kahn and Paul Booth, October 4, 
1965, LID files. 

20 SDS march call, printed by SDS, reprinted in Liberation, December 1965. 

21 Guardian, December 4, 1965. Oglesby, "to show their 'responsibleness,'" introduction to 
"Trapped in a System" (a reprint of the speech), REP pamphlet, January 1969. 

22 Oglesby's speech, SDS pamphlet, 1965; NLN, January 27, 1966; Monthly Review, January 
1966; Teodori, pp. 182 ff. 

23 Just, Washington Post, December 9, 1965. 

24 Thomas Brooks, N.Y. Times Magazine, November 7,1965; Newsweek, November 1, 1965; 
Jack Newfield, Nation, November 8, 1965. Membership and chapter figures, mimeograph, 
distributed at December NC. 

25 Eisen, Activist (Oberlin), March 1966, reprinted in Cohen and Hale, p. 306. Gitlin, NLN, 
February 4 and n, 1966. 

26 "We must be planning," NC statement, NLN, January 21, 1966. 

27 Garvy, letter to NO, c. January 1966. "We can't even," handwritten minutes, NO files. For 
"freedom draft," worklist mailings, November 2 and 17, 1965, NLN, January 21,1966. 

28 women's statement, NLN, January 28, 1966. 



Spring 1966 



Nothing showed the distance between the old guard of SDS and the new breed better than 
their quite disparate responses to the most dramatic development of the spring of 1966: the 
decision of the Johnson Administration to draft students for the war in Vietnam. 



167 



Early in February, General Lewis B. Hershey, the director of the Selective Service System, 
announced that local draft boards would henceforth be free for the first time to induct into 
the armed services college students who were in the lower levels of their respective classes. 
Two methods would be used to determine this standing: university administrations would be 
asked to rank their male students by their past grade performance and give that 
information to the government, and a national draft examination would be given in May to 
all male undergraduates to assess their overall intelligence and achievement. The effect was 
electric. Suddenly on campuses all over the country, the war finally hit home. No longer was 
2-S an inviolable sanctuary. No longer was fighting in Vietnam something that others had to 
do. The shock of what a war means began to sink in. The old guard, clustered essentially 
around the National Office in Chicago and hoping to use the NO as the instrument by which 
to push the membership into some concerted action programs on national issues, wanted to 
take advantage of this shock with an all-out effort, something as grand as the original 
march on Washington. The lack of a draft program (other than the "Freedom Draft Cards," 
which did not prove popular and were never even tabulated) had become an acute 
embarrassment and it was felt that SDS now had to come up with a concrete, dramatic, 
visible protest that would affirm SDS's place as the leading organization against the war. 
The notion finally settled upon, suggested by Lee Webb, was a national counterdraft exam, 
giving SDSian questions and answers on Vietnam and American foreign policy, to be handed 
out by SDSers on the very day that students gathered for the Selective Service exam. The 
April National Council meeting at Antioch, guided by the old guard, approved the plan, 
which seemed to embody all virtues: it was simple, it avoided all questions of illegality, it 
had a built-in audience of students, and its appeal was intellectual rather than 
confrontational. (At the same time the NC refused to go along with a corollary proposal, 
pushed by Booth, that SDSers pledge not to take the draft exam themselves— and therefore 
be liable for induction— as proof of their "seriousness." The chapter people, arguing that this 
would "turn off most students" and put "a barrier between us and the 'crew cuts,' " refused 
to be pushed into something still so controversial; they demanded the issue be put to a mail 
ballot vote of the membership, where the idea was subsequently defeated, though in a vote 
so tiny— 61-21— as to be meaningless.) 1 

The NO moved into high gear. It expanded the Chicago staff from six to eleven, installed a 
special $200-a-month telephone line to coordinate printing and distribution, and farmed out 
contracts across the country for printing more than half a million exams. The exam itself 
was the result of weeks of consultations with Vietnam experts at more than a dozen 
campuses, coordinated by Mike Locker, Todd Gitlin, Staughton Lynd, and Paul Booth for 
SDS, along with several members of the faculty organization that had grown out of the 
teach-in movement, the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy. Its 
purpose, according to the instructions, was 

... to allow you to check your understanding of the war in Vietnam ....We 
believe in the importance in a democracy of putting the facts in the hands of 
every citizen to enable him to participate in decision-making. This is 
particularly true where the question is war and peace, and where the citizens 
are the young men called upon to fight.* 

Finally, on May 14, teams of nearly a thousand SDSers handed out 500,000 copies of the 
four-page printed exam at 850 of the 1,200 SSS examination centers across the country. It 
was an operation, Paul Booth was to boast, "surpassing the April 1965 march." 2 



* Typical of the questions was this none-too-subtle sally: "Which of the following American military heroes has, in 
the past, warned against committing a large number of American troops to a land war on the Asian mainland: (A) 
Gen. Douglas MacArthur (B) Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower (C) Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (D) Gen. Maxwell Taylor (E) 
Gen. James Gavin (F) Gen. Omar Bradley? [Answer:] All have made such warnings." 



168 



It was also pretty much of a failure. True, at several exam centers students were impressed 
enough with the SDS material to get up and walk out entirely, and at campuses where 
Vietnam activity had been muted— especially in the South, where the SDS-affiliated 
Southern Student Organizing Committee gave the primary push — reaction was often 
favorable. But in general students were untouched: they read the SDS exam but they took 
the SSS one. No large protests took place, no hordes of suddenly awakened students 
swarmed to join SDS, no significant groups of people were moved to radicalism. Crowning 
ignominy of all: a press conference called on the steps of the Selective Service building in 
Washington drew just eight reporters, all local, and another press conference in Chicago 
drew none at all. Whatever else the exam was, it wasn't news. 3 

Nor was it especially popular within the wider antiwar movement. Disappointment was 
frequently expressed with SDS for "copping out" on forging a militant program against the 
draft. In April Staughton Lynd voiced the feelings of many: "I am puzzled, too. I don't know 
why SDS decided not to emphasize an antidraft program ... . The most obvious and tragic 
failure of the movement against the war in this last year has been its failure to develop a 
responsible program against the draft." 

The response by the new generation of SDSers to the draft issue was altogether different: 
spontaneous, local, uncoordinated, growing out of the conditions of individual chapters and 
universities— and infinitely more successful. The whole notion that university administrations 
were being used as the handmaidens of the Selective Service through the rank system 
came as a shock at many campuses, and various local movements were begun to keep the 
universities from releasing class ranks. At Harvard in February, at Wisconsin in March, at 
Cornell in April, local committees in which SDSers were prominent sought to block class 
ranking. Finally in May, just a few days before the exams, disruptions broke out 
spontaneously at a dozen different schools from Stanford and San Francisco State in the 
West, through Wayne State and Wisconsin in the Midwest, to City College, Brooklyn, and 
Columbia in the East. Not just disruptions, but for the first time a widespread adoption of 
the sit-in technique. The classic confrontation of this type was at the University of Chicago. 



169 



It was the SDS chapter at Chicago that initiated the antirank struggle there. The chapter 
had been a diligent one for the last year or so, under able leaders like Steve Kindred and 
Brent Kramer, but its membership had increased sharply during the fall of 1965, 
considerably helped by having around it some of the best SDS hands— not just those in the 
NO, located not far from the campus, but also junior faculty like sociologist Dick Flacks and 
historian Jesse Lemisch, and sociology graduate student Bob Ross. It was in early April— two 
months after the Hershey announcement— that SDS finally decided to make an issue over 
the question of class rank and university cooperation with the Selective Service System. The 
issue was a good one, SDSers felt, to awaken and politicize the campus because it could be 
fought at three different levels: as a protest against the war and the draft system that 
sustains it ("We feel that now is the time for a ... courageous opposition to an immoral and 
discriminatory national policy"); as an attack on the university administration for its 
complicity with the government and the war ("the transformation of this University into a 
coding and classifying machine for the Selective Service"); and as a principled stand against 
tainting and distorting the educational process ("To rank is to change a community of 
scholars into a set of madly competing factions"). The combination was devastating, just as 
devastating as a similar combination had been at Berkeley a year-and-a-half before: an 
issue of high moral purpose (civil rights then, the war now), in which the liberal university 
administration took what could be seen as the side of evil (banning civil-rights organizing, 
cooperating with the draft), to the detriment of its own students and their free rights, 
thereby showing up the pernicious character of the university as the servant of a corrupt 
society. This special mixture of a broad national cause and local, felt grievances would 
continue to be the hallmark— usually overlooked— of all major student protest throughout 
the years of the sixties. 4 

The rest of the scenario at Chicago had familiarities, too. Conventional attempts by students 
to get the administration to change its policy were met by the official "it's always been that 
way" and "it's out of our hands"; on April 12, the faculty committee meeting to discuss the 
ranking issue turned away SDSers who asked to address the group with a curt "You're not 
welcome here." 5 A week later SDS decided to start a petition of those who were against 
ranking, soon signing up some 800 students (out of an 8,500-member student body) and 
another 20 faculty members. This also was ignored by the administration, which seemed 
content to play down the whole issue in hopes that its fait would be accompli before too 
many students noticed. So SDS in some desperation decided to form a single-issue ad hoc 
committee, to broaden support. Students Against the Rank (SAR) was born at a long and 
stormy session in front of the administration building on May 4, and at that time the idea of 
a sit-in was first suggested if the administration refused to change its stand. Seven days 
later, after continued university footdragging, the suggestion became a reality. 



170 



About four hundred people gathered in the rain in front of the administration building on the 
afternoon of May n and slowly began moving into the building for shelter; by four-thirty, 
almost quietly and without resistance from administration personnel, the sit-in was 
accomplished, the administration closed its offices and went home, and the four-story 
building was in the hands of the students.* For the next five days there took place what was 
later acknowledged to be a memorable and moving experience. The students quickly 
established their own government, with scrupulous attention to participatory democracy and 
decisions-by-consensus; areas were set aside for eating, sleeping, studying, and talking; 
people walked around with the happy sense that they had just taken part in something 
historic. Paul Booth came over from the National Office to reiterate SDS support, and during 
the evening telegrams of support began arriving from student groups all around the 
country. As a later commentator was to write: 

Despite the fact that the students were taking a considerable personal risk in 
challenging the administration, most found themselves having a great time 
... . It was exciting and fun to get to know each other, to get acquainted and 
feel close in the unity of the moment. The sit-in was a five-day communal act, 
a deeply personal experience for those students involved. 6 

The wire services were quick to send out reports, and coverage from local radio and 
television began that first night. The next day the Chicago papers gave the sit-in 
considerable publicity, with the Chicago Tribune running a long analysis on the front-page 
and, on the editorial page, predictably blaming "a small minority of students, incited by a 
handful of experienced revolutionaries." Within days the national media were treating it as if 
it were another Berkeley. 

It is worth pausing a moment to consider a study made of the Chicago antirank protesters, 
because it is one of the most revealing of such sociological examinations and one of the few 
to concentrate on SDS. It also shows results similar to other surveys of radical students, 
suggesting the general validity of its findings. And the fact that it was conducted by Dick 
Flacks, who could be presumed to have an intimate knowledge of the protesters and a built- 
in "control," makes it even more reliable. 7 



* In his report to the Presidential Violence Commission in 1968, Jerome Skolnik, following a paper by Dick Hacks, 
calls this "the first successful closing of a university administration building"— overlooking the fact that the Free 
Speech Movement sit-in at Berkeley preceded it by seventeen months. (The Politics of Protest; Ballantine, 1969.) 



171 



The Flacks study reported that the grade average of the protesters was B to B-plus, slightly 
higher than a random group of non protesters, and most came from the top levels of their 
high-school classes. This is another confirmation of the point that activists in general did not 
protest their academic environments, in which they were succeeding remarkably well, but 
rather conditions beyond the university in which they felt the university was culpable. The 
protesters' families were likely to have high incomes (over $15,000), their fathers were 
mostly professional men, and their mothers had jobs of their own; individuality within the 
family, therefore, and a generally democratic (or egalitarian) home life were emphasized. 
Their upbringing was, by and large, permissive, and they tended to regard their fathers as 
lenient— 70 percent of the males and 47 percent of the females rated their fathers "lenient" 
or "soft." The great majority of their grandparents were foreign-born and highly educated; a 
quarter of the grandmothers attended college. In general they supported the values of their 
parents— who were further to the left than their adult peers (only 13 percent of the fathers 
were Republican, against 40 percent of a sample of nonprotesters)— but they were likely to 
be politically more radical: 97 percent, for example, approved of civil disobedience, but only 
57 percent of their fathers did, and 62 percent of them wanted the full socialization of 
industry, whereas only 23 percent of their fathers did. Nearly half of the sit-inners were 
Jewish by birth, though most said they themselves had no religion of their own. On a series 
of attitude tests they scored notably high on romanticism, intellectualism, and 
humanitarianism, and low on conventionial moralism (i.e., attitudes toward sex, drugs, and 
the like). 

Campus activists of the SDS stripe, in other words, were likely to be among the brightest, 
most active, most concerned, and well-to-do, the comparative cream of the academic crop. 

The Chicago administration, determined not to create "another Berkeley" by calling in the 
police, decided to just wait it out. It proved to be a shrewd decision, for while it did not 
diminish the import of the sit-in itself, on campus and elsewhere, it did prevent widespread 
disruption and student-wide support for the protesters' cause. Gradually, after days of 
fruitless negotiations with the administration and nights of long participatory-democracy 
meetings, the sit-inners began to tire. Three days after the initial takeover, when there was 
no sign their demands were being met, the group agreed to withdraw the bulk of the 
protesters, as a gesture of its faith in future negotiations, leaving only a token reserve to 
indicate that the demands were not being forgotten. The administration still would not give 
in, but a full faculty meeting was scheduled to meet in special session for the first time in 
the history of the university, and there were signs that a compromise would be reached. On 
May 16 SAR, heartened, voted to end its occupation completely. 

The faculty meeting when it came was, much to SAR's surprise, a total rout for the 
students. By heavy margins the faculty voted to threaten harsh disciplinary action against 
future sit-ins or campus disruptions, and to put itself unshirkingly behind the administration 
policy with regard to ranking. The blow was severe, the students hardly believing that two 
months of work and negotiations and demonstrations and petitions and letters and 
arguments had produced not one single concession. But since the end of the school year 
was at hand, and regroupment was now impossible, there was little recourse. SAR had one 
last meeting, vowed to continue its fight in the fall, and disappeared into the mists of June. 

In the short run, the Chicago sit-in had failed: the administration did not budge from its 
position, and the faculty supported its stand unhesitatingly. But in the long run the event 
was to have important repercussions. 



172 



In Chicago SAR, with more than a thousand members, was established as a political force 
among the students, and SDS shared in its glow; when it reactivated its protest the next 
fall, it was finally successful in getting the university faculty to agree not to give draft 
boards access to rank figures. At a dozen other universities rank protests were begun in the 
wake of the Chicago sit-in, among them: an SDS-led sit-in at Roosevelt University (where it 
was found that one of the trustees was the head of Science Research Associates, the firm 
that had drawn up the offending exams for SSS), a 50-strong sit-in at Cornell, a 7,000- 
student march and subsequent sit-in at the administration building at Wisconsin, a sit-in 
and fast at the New York State University branch in New Paltz, a no-member sit-in at 
Brooklyn College, and a demonstration at CCNY. Protests at San Francisco State led to a 
unanimous faculty vote to abolish ranking and at two other institutions— Wayne State and 
Haverford— led to decisions by the administrations to abandon class ranks that spring. And 
everywhere the issue of the draft became suddenly a legitimate subject of student 
controversy, which once ignited would continue to send off sparks: whereas the draft 
occasioned not a single protest in the 1964-65 academic year, by 1967-68 it triggered 
demonstrations at fully a quarter of American colleges (and nearly half of the large public 
universities). 

More than that. The demonstrations leading on from Chicago put the issue of the draft in 
the forefront of national issues. Two Presidential commissions were soon established, books 
were written, conferences were held, and politicians of all stripes came forward with reform 
proposals. The controversy grew to such proportions that within a year the Selective Service 
System abandoned both its ranking procedures and the examinations and the government 
was openly casting about for alternative systems. Among the public at large the connection 
between the draft and the war, only murkily understood before, was now made clearly, and 
among both radicals and liberals the idea of draft resistance was given a greater legitimacy. 

The two most important consequences, however, the two that were to be integral to the 
new breed now showing itself in SDS, were the concepts of complicity and of resistance. 8 



173 



Complicity. The rank protests were the first to draw widespread campus attention to the link 
between universities and the war machine, and to the social and political function 
universities fulfilled even while styling themselves as ivory towers isolated from political 
concerns.* During this same spring first Viet Report and then Ramparts magazine appeared 
with issues showing how Michigan State University had been a witting partner of the Central 
Intelligence Agency in South Vietnam, carrying on various "counterinsurgency" tasks under 
the guise of impartial academic research; at Ann Arbor at the same time Mike Locker and Jill 
Hamberg did the research that allowed SDS to show up the activities of a member of the 
University's Board of Regents who was using his academic position to amass a private 
fortune; student researchers at a number of colleges began to examine the investment 
portfolios of their universities, only to find that extensive links with, for example, South 
African mining interests and Latin American commodity exploiters were common. Gradually, 
and with some shock, the notion of the independent and beneficent university began to be 
dispelled, and the extent to which the university was a culpable producer of social ills 
became clear: it talked of academic freedom but often punished professorial dissidents and 
stifled any student politics outside of a narrow range; it claimed to foster independent 
scholarship but was intimately tied to the federal government (mostly defense department) 
funding for two-thirds of its research work and to corporate and other governmental gifts 
for most of the remainder; it made much of its role of serving the American people, but 
tended to keep out blacks, poor people, and women from both the student body and the 
faculty, while its board of trustees was almost wholly filled with elderly males from 
mammoth corporations. All this was the beginning of a profound awakening for the New 
Left. 

Resistance. For the first time in its history, SDS, at the University of Chicago, went up 
directly against a university administration in open confrontation, and if it could not really 
declare a victory, it certainly suffered no surrender. SDS had successfully taken over the 
administration building of a major university, it had taken direct action without any 
punishment, and it had publicized its cause beyond anything imaginable by other, less 
dramatic, methods. The lesson would not be lost elsewhere, and the sit-in technique 9 would 
continue to grow in popularity: whereas there was one disruptive sit-in in 1964 (at 
Berkeley), and a half dozen in 1966, by 1967-68 it was the chief tactic in protest actions on 
at least sixty-five campuses, and by then resistance had become commonplace. Nor would 
the understanding of the weakness of the university be lost. Universities were now seen as 
vulnerable to confrontation, uncertain of how to deal with protest and disruption, inefficient 
when they were not simply maladroit, authoritarian when they were not simply ossified. 

The realization of complicity on the part of the university, combined with a realization of 
how readily it could be confronted, was a crucial element in helping to turn attention back to 
the campus during the rest of the year. The awareness may have been only dim, and surely 
unconscious, but it was born now, never to be extinguished: the university could stand as a 
surrogate for the evils in society which it did so much to promote, and a surrogate who 
could be challenged directly and legitimately by those it had invited within its walls. Campus 
protest begins now in earnest. 



* Isolated efforts had been made previously, but none had made this kind of impact. Among them were such SDS 
papers as Potter's "The University and the Cold War" (1964) and Oglesby's 1965 Washington speech; on individual 
campuses, SDSers had begun research on complicity as early as 1963, and Steve Weissman and Eric Levine had 
spent the summer of 1965 exploring the University of California's complicity role. 



174 



In February 1966 the May 2nd Movement voted itself out of existence. The official reason 
was that it had done its job: when it was formed, it stated in its official obituary that May, 
"the existing student organizations represented a variety of unsatisfactory choices for many 
radicals who wished to take an active part in politics." Now, however, "an anti-imperialist 
perspective" had taken root, and "Students for a Democratic Society, the independent 
Committees to End the War in Viet Nam, the Vietnam Day Committees, and other groups 
have overcome some of the weakness imposed by the liberal-conservative leadership of 
past movements." To an extent that was true: SDSers like Oglesby and Gitlin had certainly 
accepted parts of an "imperialist" analysis, at least insofar as it applied to America's 
behavior overseas, and the kind of militancy that had been part of the M2M style was now 
fairly commonplace in SDS chapters. But a more telling explanation was simply that M2M's 
old-style rhetoric, reminiscent of the thirties, had failed to attract many of the new breed; 
membership was down to six hundred at most. Jeff Gordon, M2M's national coordinator, 
explained it to SDSers that M2M 

... had more or less atrophied. It had become a cadre organization and often 
merely recruited the most sophisticated people from the campus and 
separated them from the dynamic movement. They feel that SDS is a growing 
organization reflecting the movement and they want to add a new element to 
the movement by introducing their perspective. 10 

As a consequence, a number of those from M2M immediately joined SDS. Gordon himself 
applied through the New York Regional Office on February 17, 1966; Sarah Murphy 
appended an ominous note to his application before she sent it on to the NO: "Note 
beflowered membership card of one Jeffrey Sheppard Gordon— and think about it." 

A warning well given. For in fact the most fundamental reason for the dissolution of M2M 
was a shift of perspective on the part of the Progressive Labor Party, under whose influence 
it operated to the end. PL had been faced with real difficulties toward the end of 1965, 
partly as a result of the conviction of organizer Bill Epton in December on the charges, 
growing out of that 1964 Harlem uprising, of conspiracy to riot and to overthrow apparently 
decided to assert a new rigidity, tighten its ranks, reestablish what it called "cadre control," 
and guide its members and affiliates with a sterner hand. The New Left style that was 
coming to be associated with the hippies was held to be unpopular with the working masses 
and denounced as "bourgeois"; marijuana smoking and drinking were discouraged, couples 
living together were asked to get married, beards and long hair were frowned upon, casual 
blue-jean attire was renounced. At the same time, the tight rules of the party were 
reasserted: potential PL members had to undergo a three-month trial period, be approved 
first by two-thirds of the membership of their local organizations and then reviewed by the 
national bureaucracy, and agree to forgo membership in "organizations whose policies are 
objectively counter-revolutionary" or "having a discipline outside the party." Internal 
discipline was to be rigid: "No party member may make unconstructive statements publicly 
about the party, gossip about other party members, or disclose confidential information to 
nonparty members." 11 

Under these circumstances it was felt that a loose and undisciplined student movement like 
M2M was more of a liability than an asset, and that PL would do better to recruit members 
from the ranks of such organizations as SDS. Of course few of the new breed emerging on 
the campuses could be counted upon to be attracted to the old-style discipline and working- 
class politics of a group like PL right from the start, but, newly awakened as they were, they 
were certainly likely material for eventual solicitation. And if the PL "perspective," as Gordon 
put it, with all its open avowal of communism and asserted militancy, could be put across, 
PL could draw new adherents gradually and carefully, with far more success than through 
any youth group of its own. Thus began what later SDSers were to call the invasion of the 
body-snatchers. 



175 



SDS viewed it all dispassionately: "A few Progressive Labor young organizers have recently 
sent in SDS membership cards," the membership was told in May, "as a result of PL's 
decision to dissolve the May 2nd Movement and recruit out of SDS (lucky us)." 

Another example of the new-breed spirit, with which SDSers at many campuses were 
involved, was the growing "free university" movement which blossomed in the spring of 
1966. 12 

The roots of the movement go back to the "community of controversy" ideal set out in The 
Port Huron Statement, Paul Potter's inspired "Cold War and the Universities" paper, and the 
university-reform groups and meetings which SDS sponsored in 1962 and 1963. In the 
spring of 1964 a number of Berkeleyites actually began a New School, giving courses in 
"American History and the Growth of Empire," "Dream Politics and the Cold War," and 
"Problems of the City in Contemporary America," but that sputtered to a halt during the 
fall's turmoils. It was not until after the Free Speech Movement's successful sit-in, with their 
spontaneous seminars on everything in sight, and the teach-ins of the following spring that 
the idea of alternative, rather than merely reformed, universities began to be taken 
seriously. SDS organized a Free University Committee, under the direction of Rich Horevitz, 
in the spring of 1965, to push the idea on various campuses, and it was largely through its 
deliberations that the initial philosophy behind the free university movement was developed. 
Then, at the summer convention in Kewadin, several workshops spent long hours wrestling 
with the notion of what a "free educational atmosphere" would entail and setting out the 
basic features— open admission, "relevant" courses, unrestrictive curricula, community 
service, radical development— that future free universities were to adopt. SDS itself chose 
not to make the creation of free universities a national project— a lucky decision given the 
chaos that was to befall the NO in 1965— but it encouraged local chapters to "do their own 
thing" and it endorsed the idea of a "communications net" and campus travelers to maintain 
contact among those free universities that did develop. 

By the fall of 1965, largely under SDS impetus, several free universities were in operation: 
in Berkeley, SDS reopened the New School largely through the efforts of SDSer Carolyn 
Craven, offering "Marx and Freud," "A Radical Approach to Science," "Agencies of Social 
Change and the New Movements"; in Gainesville, a Free University of Florida was 
established, and even incorporated; in New York, a Free University was begun in Greenwich 
Village, offering no fewer than forty-four courses ("Marxist Approaches to the Avant-garde 
Arts," "Ethics and Revolution," "Life in Mainland China Today"); and in Chicago, something 
called simply The School began with ten courses ("Neighborhood Organization and 
Nonviolence," "Purposes of Revolution"). 



176 



By the spring of 1966, the free-university movement was a live force, taking root in perhaps 
ten different cities. Though it took different shape in different places, it had a common 
impulse: to demonstrate in a concrete way what a radical and nonestablishmentarian 
educational experience might be. As a result, there were usually no grades, exams, or other 
forms of competition between students; anyone could attend (most schools asked only 
token fees if any at all) and almost anyone could teach; administration, such as it was, was 
in the hands of the students and the teachers, operating more or less on the theory of 
participatory democracy, with a premium upon flexibility and openness; no restrictions were 
put on subject matter (though at a few places, not by any means the majority, right-wing or 
pro-Establishment courses were discouraged) and the catalogues included numerous 
courses in Marxism and socialism, community organizing and movement building, Vietnam 
and the draft, Chinese politics and Latin American exploitation, film making and "guerrilla 
graphics," contemporary literature and "street poetry," body movement and karate, hippie 
culture and the student revolt, and even (put-ons, but not by much) "Zen Basketball" (at 
the San Francisco State Experimental College) and "Paper Airplanes and People" (at the 
Free University in Seattle). The whole idea, as those who started the Seattle school put it in 
1966, was "to establish protest counter-institutions to the unfree universities." 13 

The appeal of the free universities was dual. To those, both students and teachers, who 
found the normal universities either insufficiently challenging, insufficiently radical, or 
insufficiently broad, these institutions offered a happy alternative, a kind of place where if 
the course they wanted wasn't in the curriculum they could always go and teach it 
themselves; as one of the founders of the San Francisco State Experimental College put it, 

We wanted students to take responsibility for their own education instead of 
having the institution believe it was supposed to meet the needs of students. 
We wanted it set up so students would come to meet their own needs and 
come to learn about their whole being, to learn how to think. 

And to those who were interested in going beyond educational change to the forging of a 
wide left movement in the country, free universities seemed to be the perfect training 
schools; as Carolyn Craven of the San Francisco New School wrote, 

There is a vast amount of energy and talent in the Bay Area, and the rest of 
the country for that matter, among the professionals and intellectuals. There 
is a vast amount of work that needs to be done for the movement which could 
be done by these people operating in their own fields. The movement can also 
give these people the relevance they need in their lives. Hopefully through 
the New School, the courses and seminars, we will be able to involve and 
bring together different people and help them to find alternatives in their lives 
as well as contribute to the movement. 14 

Such was the strength of these appeals that by the end of 1966 perhaps fifteen free 
universities had been established, several hundred more grew up in the following years, and 
by 1970 five hundred were estimated to be functioning. Not all of them were great 
successes— many were short-lived, some fell into the hands of entrepreneurs, others were 
absorbed into the fringes of existing universities, and a few became dominated by one 
special interest group or other; however, most of them began as bold embodiments of the 
idea of resistance to established institutions, and many of them retained that spirit to the 
end. 



177 



One of the most representative of the free universities, which opened with some thirty 
courses on February 1, 1966, was established on a $300 shoestring by SDSers at the 
University of Pennsylvania, using unoccupied university classrooms and reform-minded 
university teachers. Its purpose was to provide courses that were "too contemporary, 
controversial, broad or narrow to be part of the university curriculum," and its initial 
offerings included courses in black power, the New Left, contemporary education, and 
"American Youth in Revolt." Expecting maybe a hundred students to be interested, the 
organizers were astounded when more than six hundred students signed up for the first 
term's classes, and soon, without anybody's knowing quite how, the number of courses 
grew to nearly sixty. By the fall enrollment had jumped to more than a thousand, and both 
students and teachers started to come from off the campus— dropouts, community people, a 
couple of disciples of LSD-prophet Timothy Leary. Under the impetus of the free school, 
students began organizing projects in Philadelphia-area neighborhoods, putting pressure on 
the university itself for educational reform, and, perhaps most significantly, developing the 
facts to expose the university's complicity in the governmental war machine through its 
chemical and biological warfare research center on the campus. 

But the Free University of Pennsylvania was a harbinger of the dangers that other free 
universities were to face. After its first year of operation, a number of the original SDSers 
graduated and increasing influence fell to the university faculty members, never especially 
politically advanced despite their interest in educational experimentation. Convinced by its 
early success that it should expand its operation and curriculum, it decided to cut off its 
connections with SDS and establish a broad-spectrum steering committee with a 
disparateness of political views. Enrollment grew further, and the range of courses 
broadened, but the radical vision and the militant politics which the SDSers had given it 
diminished; while two-thirds of the courses in the fall of 1966 had been political in content, 
only half of them were by the spring of 1967. and a bare fifteen percent by the following 
spring. Finally, the university itself, its eyes finally opened to the obvious appeal and 
success of the free university, decided to establish seminars of its own to be run along 
similar lines, and then, in the spring of 1968. moved to have the student government take 
over the whole operation. By then most of the original organizers, not to mention the 
original purposes, had gone, radical attention had turned back to the university itself, and 
FUP suffered its liberal swallow-up almost without a murmur. 

Similar fates were to be suffered by other free universities. SDS began to sour on the 
ventures in early 1967 because, in Carl Davidson's words, they took many of the best 
people away from the campus, "enabling the existing university to function more smoothly, 
since the 'troublemakers' were gone," and because "they gave liberal administrators the 
rhetoric, the analysis, and sometimes the manpower to co-opt their programs and establish 
elitist forms of 'experimental' colleges inside of, although quarantined from, the existing 
educational system." 15 Liberal student organizations like the NSA came to see that free 
universities were not threatening alternatives to a beleaguered educational system but, 
given different organizers and made less political, could become useful agents of reform 
within it; in the fall of 1968, the NSA was given a Ford Foundation grant of $305,000 to 
accomplish exactly that. 



178 



But the importance of the free-university movement as a vision, especially during its early 
years, cannot be gainsaid. For in its roots, in its original manifestations, in its early 
development, it embodied a new and significant notion for the left. The free universities 
were alternatives to the established order, and opposed to it, independent of (at least some 
of) the pressures of the surrounding society; those who founded them were not interested 
in working through the instruments of the society but apart from them, hoping as far as 
possible to remain untainted by them, trying by forging new shapes to avoid the built-in 
dangers inherent in even the best of the old. The new universities were part of a whole 
growing attitude that begins to be expressed now, the attitude that would shortly lead to 
the establishment of such alternative institutions as the underground papers, Liberation 
News Service, Newsreel, and the Movement Speakers Bureau; of research organizations like 
the African Research Group, North American Congress on Latin America, and the Pacific 
Research Institute; of various theater groups like the Bread and Puppet Theater and the San 
Francisco Mime Troupe; of local community-organizing groups in various cities, on the ERAP 
model; of new political groupings like the National Conference for New Politics, the Peace 
and Freedom Party, and the early Black Panther group in Lowndes County; and such 
professional organizations as the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Healthpax, and the 
New University Conference. These all mark the decline of reformism, and the start of 
revolutionary alternatives. 

The influence of Progressive Labor began to be felt within SDS as early as this spring. 
Letters from PLers began appearing in SDS material ("There is only one anti-imperialist 
movement in the world. It is led by the Chinese Communists," etc. 16 ), and PLers like Jared 
Israel, at Harvard, Jeff Gordon, in New York, and Earl Silbar, at Roosevelt University in 
Chicago, played an increasingly visible part in SDS meetings. At the June NC it was the PL 
position paper on the draft that won the endorsement of the draft workshop. The paper, 
written by Silbar and Israel, took strong positions against class ranking and student 
deferments, for the "unconditional withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Vietnam, and for an end 
to the draft; but its special importance was its advocacy of something that now comes to be 
called "student power":* 

We are trying to build a radical student movement. The program we use must 
be based on the requirements of that general perspective at this time. As we 
see it, the job we've got now is to move the students who are presently 
opposed to the war into activities on the question of the war as concretely 
expressed in the institutions in which they study/live/work. We must develop 
struggles by these students on the campuses against the school 
administrations for student self-determination and against the war. 

This will mean broader base building. That is, we must take the anger that 
students feel against rank, 2S, etc., and turn it into opposition to the 
administration and the war. The war has in fact created the situation in which 
students are mad about rank; the administrations have compounded this 
anger by rendering the students powerless. We must learn how to combine 
these struggles to build a student movement against the war and fighting for 
university control ... . 

We are trying to relate the war and general foreign policy issues which have 
created the present student militancy to the question of student power ... . 
The crucial question here is to build student power against the administration 
on the basis of concrete issues important to our radical program. 17 



This may be the first use of this term, following, of course, the "black power" paradigm laid down by SNCC. 



179 



SDS, however, was not yet ready to go so far. The NC as a whole rejected the workshop 
proposal, avoided the question of student deferments, ignored the whole question of 
student power, and voted down a position for SDS of "No rank, no test, no 2S, no alternate 
service, no draft, no army, no war." Student power, however, was now in the air, and it had 
only to bide its time. 

The independent SDS-led draft and rank protests and the local SDS-influenced free 
universities in the spring of 1966 point to a crucial development in the growth of SDS: as 
the organization gets bigger, its energies are expressed and its political directions are 
determined more by separate campus chapters than by the NO or the national meetings. 

The number of chapters and members continued to grow throughout the spring. By March 
there were 151 chapters, by June (when 7 were dropped for inactivity but 28 new ones 
signed on) there were 172. National membership rose to 5,500, and estimates of chapter 
membership were now being cited as close to 15,000. A survey of the membership— the last 
one to be done in such detail— showed that in March there were chapters in 37 states, plus 
the District of Columbia, and members in all the states except Wyoming. Half the members 
(2,750) were concentrated, as might be expected, in the states with the highest 
population— California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, and 
Texas— and there were fewer than 10 members in 17 states (Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, 
Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North 
Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia). 18 

This same survey also determined, in a random sample of 5 percent of the membership, 
that less than half (40 percent) were registered undergraduates and that they were 
outnumbered by those who were graduate students or nonstudents (25 and 20 percent, 
respectively). At the same time, it was learned that fully 10 percent of the members were 
high-school students. (The status of the remaining 5 percent was unknown.) If the sample 
can be taken as accurate, it suggests several important developments: first, that in the 
organization at this point there was a strong influence of nonundergraduates, accounting in 
part for the lack of interest by SDS in specifically campus problems and in building a student 
left; second, that SDS influence was reaching down well beyond the college level and 
beginning to have an effect on the high schools, which were subsequently to become one of 
the major targets for SDS organizing; and, third, that a sizable group of people who weren't 
students at all— dropouts, hippies, political professionals (e.g., the PLers), community 
people, organizers, professors— had grown within the organization. This last development in 
particular was noted by Paul Booth who, in looking back, believes that the National Council 
meeting that April was the last one run by students for students— "after that, the 
nonstudents took over, the pros and the organizers, and the NCs became fights between 
them." 19 



180 



Too much should not be made of the student-nonstudent dichotomy, for the figures indicate 
that still some 75 percent or so of the membership operated in university settings. But it is 
true that, certainly since the Booth regime, there had been a growing campus-off-campus 
split, with the National Office and national meetings preoccupied with different issues from 
those of the grassroots membership. The rank protests, held without the slightest push from 
the NO, and the free universities, largely chapter-created, were two indications. The 
continued growth of regional organizations, with their own meetings, newsletters, presses, 
and programs, was another; this spring saw the addition of travelers and offices in the 
Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan), the Plain States (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska), the 
Niagara Region (upstate New York), the mid-South (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana), 
and the Northwest (Oregon, Washington). And the distance in life styles was still another, 
though less measurable indication— the new college people were the children of pot, LSD, 
"the Pill," off-campus "marriages," the Beatles, Fanon, Ken Kesey, Godard, long hair and the 
NO stalwarts were not. One interesting example of this distance occurred in January, when 
several SDSers at the University of Oklahoma were arrested for possession of a matchboxful 
of marijuana, and the response of veterans like Steve Max and Clark Kissinger was shock 
and anger. Max, as a member of the National Administrative Committee, demanded an 
immediate investigation and urged SDS to outlaw all drugs; Kissinger, at his snidest, 
rejected the notion that drugs "are a part of the revolution we are fighting for": 

Perhaps. Yet while I personally may believe in sodomy, that doesn't mean 
that I implement the revolution by moving into the staff apartment with my 
sheep. That is, there are certain little pleasures I am willing to forgo until 
more important problems are solved (racism, the war, poverty, ... things like 
that). 

The chief instrument by which the NO tried to maintain contact with the growing number of 
chapters was New Left Notes, a (more or less) weekly newspaper which made its first 
appearance (with a box on the front-page reading, "SURPRISE!") on January 21, 1966. It 
was a flimsy, four-page (later occasionally eight- and twelve-) tabloid, pasted up in the back 
rooms of the NO, never looking the same from one week to another, and regularly in the 
hands of well-meaning but inexperienced editors; but it had a kind of style to it, a 
snappiness, an enthusiasm, that made up for its obvious amateurishness. The front-page 
slogan— as it was to be for the next three years— was the NCUPers "Let the People Decide," 
and in terms of the paper itself that is exactly how it was edited. Almost any scrap of news, 
any letter, any essay or comment that came into the paper found its way into print: Hayden 
on his trip to North Vietnam, Cesar Chavez on the grape strike, Oglesby working out a 
theory of American "imperialism," Flacks worrying about "Whatever Became of the New 
Left?," and a variety of anonymous chapter people sending in reports on their latest actions, 
complaints about how meetings were run, paeans to the eye-opening quality of the New 
Left, and proposals for this or that future action. For SDS, and a movement that had very 
few other means of communication— Liberation magazine, a monthly, the National Guardian, 
a weekly but with other concerns as well, a few newsletters— New Left Notes was, for all its 
formlessness, sort of a weekly SDS convention, an invaluable and unduplicatable forum. 
Aside from those who complained about always getting it three weeks late, the only 
criticism making the rounds in those early days was that the name sounded like another 
rock group. 20 



181 



But a newspaper, however much energy was put into it— and the NO devoted top priority to 
it throughout the spring— could not bridge the gap. The NO, which had thought itself the tip 
of the SDS iceberg, found itself more of a floe instead, drifting off alone on its own currents 
while the main body went elsewhere. Its ballot mailings produced apathetic responses from 
the field, sometimes no more than a tenth of the membership bothering to vote; a 
referendum of the National Council on whether SDS should issue a statement of support for 
the Russian writers Sinyavsky and Daniel jailed by the Soviet government drew only twenty 
responses out of several hundred eligible (the vote was favorable, the statement sent). Its 
programs— such as the idea of a "national town meeting" to discuss Vietnam during the 
summer, passed by the April NC, or actions against South Africa, passed by the June NC— 
languished and eventually withered for a lack of nutrition from the ranks. Its projects, when 
they did emerge, were not sustained— an SDS Labor Newsletter, which the April NC 
authorized in a move to further an alliance of students and the labor movement, was edited 
for one issue by Lee Webb and then put in the hands of an SDS labor-support group in 
Boston, where it promptly died. Its all-out, last-ditch, "emergency fund-raising campaign," 
launched in April with the goal of producing a quick $10,000, produced all of $400 when it 
was abandoned in May: 268 individuals and 16 chapters had responded. 

The financial crunch, in fact, was quite serious. Income, which had started out at around 
$9,000 a month in January, had dropped to under $1,000 by June. The debts mounted: 
SDS was $1,750 in the hole in January, $2,500 by March, $5,000 by June. The April NC 
doubled the national dues to $4 a year. New Left Notes carried repeated warnings ("The 
picture is very bleak," "Things are desperate," "We are broke"), and a series of people from 
Judy Kissinger (Clark's wife) to Paul LeBlanc and Booth himself devoted considerable energy 
to bookkeeping and fund raising, but the slow descent continued. As one economy (not to 
mention sanity) measure, the NO gave up its staff apartment, although it then found it had 
to increase staff salaries to $30 a week so people could rent their own places. As another, 
the NO decided to move downtown, to 1608 West Madison Street on Chicago's crumbling, 
freeway-sliced West Side, where it was given a cheap second-floor office in a downtrodden 
building (over whose front door was chiseled, no one knew why, "Lomax") in a ragtaggle 
ghetto; the landlord was John Rossen, a one-time Communist Party functionary who owned 
a series of movie houses in the Chicago area and who still maintained a lively interest in the 
left. At the end of the school year, SDS had managed another of those penny-for-penny 
budgets,* and the organizational head was only a little above the fiscal waters. 

One of the reasons for the money shortage was, of course, that the LID tax shelter was no 
longer available; contributions dropped sharply after the break (from $7,067 in November 
to $895 in March). But another reason was the reluctance of many big givers to get involved 
with an organization that was now under the watchful eye of the FBI and publicly denounced 
by J. Edgar Hoover himself. In a statement that February, Hoover said: 

One of the most militant organizations now engaged in activities protesting 
U.S. foreign policy is a student youth group called Students for a Democratic 
Society. Communists are actively promoting and participating in the activities 
of this organization, which is self-described as a group of liberals and radicals. 



* Fiscal income from June 1965 to July 1966 was $81,999.59 (major sources: contributions— $48,629, loans— 
$7,126, dues— $6,687, literature— $5,691), expenditures were a close match at $82,697.26 (major allocations: 
utilities— $15,126, printing— $13,788, salaries— $11,992, projects— $7,578, loans— $6,123). {New Left Notes, 
September 23, 1966.) 



182 



Hence, though Katzenbach had said nothing further about Justice Department action against 
SDS, the FBI went right ahead, launching a full-scale investigation. Agents made 
themselves known around the NO— SDS responded by advertising in New Left Notes for 
someone to "debug" the office telephones— and old friends and employers of such SDS 
leaders as Booth and Hayden were visited by agents. Students were secretly solicited to 
work as FBI undercover agents infiltrating SDS chapters, presumably a widespread activity 
but well documented in at least three cases: William Divale has told how he was recruited to 
be an FBI agent at Pasadena City College and was instrumental in forming an unrecognized 
but successful SDS chapter there in the spring of 1966; Gerald Wayne Kirk told the House 
Internal Security Committee in 1969 how he had worked for the FBI within the SDS chapter 
at the University of Chicago from the fall of 1965 on; and Tommy Taft has written how he 
spied on antiwar elements at Duke University for the FBI from the spring of 1965 at least to 
the spring of 1966. Other agents approached college deans for SDS chapter membership 
lists, a practice which was widespread enough to come to the attention of Tom Kahn, who 
reported it to Booth in Chicago. And when the student government at Wesleyan College 
protested these kinds of tactics. Hoover wrote, and made public, an unusual, indignant 
letter of justification: 21 

The Attorney General stated publicly in October, 1965, that he had instructed 
the FBI to determine the extent of Communist infiltration into the Students 
for a Democratic Society, which was establishing chapters throughout the 
United States ... . These objectively, truthfully and impartially to determine 
the facts ... . 

Never was any attempt made to intimidate any student or official of the 
university. To say so is a misrepresentation of the matter. Your statement 
that the "FBI investigation is extremely hostile to the goal of academic 
freedom" is not only utterly false but is also so irresponsible as to cast doubt 
on the quality of academic reasoning or the motivation behind it. 

Nor was the FBI alone. At the same time the U.S. Army's domestic intelligence agency, 
known as Continental United States Intelligence, or Conus Intel, was beginning secretly to 
send its agents to college campuses and collect papers and clippings on student activists. 22 

On top of the financial crisis and the witch-hunting came a psychological blow. It is 
somehow symbolic that it was at this time that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating 
Committee, now with Stokely Carmichael as its spokesman, announced a new policy of 
"black power" that specifically sought to exclude whites from organizing in the black 
communities. It was the official pronouncement of the death of the dream, which of course 
was known to be dying, of multiracial organizing in multiracial communities for multiracial 
justice. And with it the generation of SDS leadership that had grown up inextricably 
entwined with SNCC and the civil-rights movement, the generation that had launched ERAP 
as the dramatic catalyst to an "interracial movement of the poor," the generation that had 
achieved its political consciousness through integration, found its past, like a rug in an old 
vaudeville routine, ripped from under its feet. Not that it came, really, as a surprise— 
Carmichael had been pushing the black-power idea for more than a year, and the ERAP 
experiences pointed in the same direction— but it was still, if only symbolically, a blow. SDS 
of course supported SNCC officially, and at a time when the liberal and media reaction was 
one of shock and outrage; the June NC went on record as feeling 

... a special urgency to restate our support. Let it be clear that we are not 
merely supporting SNCC's right to its views, we are welcoming and supporting 
the thrust of SNCC's program ... . We must not simply tolerate this "black 
consciousness," we should encourage it. 

But few of the old guard had any doubts that they were seeing the end of an era. 



183 



All of this produced what Dick Flacks, in New Left Notes, called "the malaise at the national 
level," and a renewed leadership crisis was inevitable. Booth was a lonely and frustrated 
figure, trying to move an elephantine organization in a direction it did not want to go. He 
did nothing to increase his popularity when he gave an Associated Press reporter (duly 
printed by the AP) the impression that SDS was solidly behind the election-oriented National 
Conference for New Politics and "already at work" for such candidates as Robert Scheer, 
running in the Democratic primary in California.* In point of fact, SDS had never gone on 
record in support of the NCNP and Berkeley SDSers, in general soured on electoral politics 
and specifically down on the Democratic Party, had not lifted a finger for Scheer; Berkeley 
SDSer Buddy Stein was so outraged that in March he called for Booth's resignation: "Your 
continuance in office means that you will preside over the dissolution of democracy in 
Students for a Democratic Society." The battle never came to a head, largely because 
Booth's term was to be up in June, but the NAC, in an unprecedented move, reflected the 
growing disenchantment by directly forbidding Booth to go to the NCNP meeting in May. 
Booth grew weary, then disgusted; the lack of impact of the Vietnam Draft Exam, on which 
he had worked so hard, left him further disheartened. Friends describe him at the end of the 
spring as being "totally burnt out"; to one of them he confessed that he was considering 
psychotherapy. 23 

Finding someone to replace him, however, proved no easy task. Appeals for a successor in 
New Left Notes and in private correspondence produced no takers, and the April NC, 
specifically charged with finding a replacement, spent the whole weekend without turning up 
a single volunteer. Finally, at the June NC, Jane Adams, the Southern Illinois graduate and 
SNCC staffer who had already worked in the National Office and who had spent the last 
term organizing in the Iowa area, agreed to serve as a temporary National Secretary until 
the convention— which was to be held this year, for a change, at the end of the summer 
rather than the beginning. Her selection— the first time a woman occupied a top spot in the 
SDS hierarchy— and a crop of new people she brought in with her provided manifest proof 
that a new generation of leadership was coming to the fore in SDS to represent the new 
breed now dominant. 



1 For April NC, NLN, April 15, 1966, and minutes, NO files. Draft exam, NO files. 

2 Booth, interview. Lynd, Liberation. April 1966. 

3 For Chicago rank crisis, Vern Visick, "A Short History and Analysis: The Rank Protest of 
1966-67," mimeographed paper for Divinity School, University of Chicago, October 25, 
1967; NLN, May 13 and 20,1966. 



* Several SDSers of the old guard had engaged themselves in electoral activity during the spring, the resurgence of 
the old realignment strategy now being labeled "the new politics." The National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) 
had been formed in the last half of 1965, primarily through the instigation of Arthur Waskow but with significant 
support from Paul Booth, Bob Ross, Clark Kissinger, Lee Webb, and even Tom Hayden, plus others of the SDS 
in-group, and as the new year began it started to form local organizations for the 1966 Congressional election. 
Booth and Webb were on the national board of the NCNP; Kissinger was the prime force behind a Committee for 
Independent Political Action (CIPA) in Chicago's 49th Ward; Hayden and others in NCNP worked to elect a local city 
councilman; Dena damage and Frank Joyce of the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam tried to drum up 
support for peace candidates in the fall elections; Stanley Aronowitz and other SDSers in New York attempted to 
run antiwar candidates on the upper West Side; Boston-area SDSers gave support to the campaign of Thomas 
Boyleston Adams, a liberal war-foe running for Senator. But all of this was at a far remove from the interests of the 
bulk of the membership. 



184 



"We feel," "the transformation," and "To rank," from SAR documents, quoted in Visick, op. 
cit. 

5 "You're not," Visick, op. cit. 

6 "Despite," Visick, op. cit. Hacks study. Journal of Social Issues, July 1967; see also C. 
Weissberg, "Students Against the Rank," M. A. thesis, Department of Sociology, University 
of Chicago; Hacks, in Foster and Long, pp. 134 ff. 

7 On rank protests, see May and June issues of NLN; Ferber and Lynd, pp. 38-41; Richard E. 
Peterson, in Foster and Long, pp. 59 ff. 

8 Viet Report, February, March-April, and June-July, 1966. Ramparts, April 1966. 

Sources for University Complicity include Richard J. Barber, The American Corporation, 
Dutton, 1970; Seymour Hersh, Chemical and Biological Warfare, Bobbs-Merrill, 1969; dark 
Kerr, The Uses of the University, Harvard, 1964 and Harper Torchbook, 1966; Michael T. 
Klare, War Without End, Random House, Vintage, 1972, esp. Chs. 3-5; Michael W. Miles, 
The Radical Probe, Atheneum, 1971, esp. Ch. 3; James Ridgeway, The Closed Corporation, 
Random House, 1968; David Horowitz, Ramparts, May 1969; Michael Klare, "The 
University-Military-Police Complex," North American Congress on Latin America, 1970, and 
his periodic column in the Guardian. "The War Game," 1968 and 1969; Alien Krebs, "The 
University," REP pamphlet, 1968; Martin Nicolaus, "The Iceberg Strategy," REP pamphlet, 
November 1967, reprinted in Goodman, p. 325; Viet Report, January 1968; Student 
Mobilizer, April 2,1970; College Press Service, December 1970 (e.g.. Daily Cardinal 
[Wisconsin], December 4-5); and various pamphlets by students at individual major 
universities exposing complicity on that campus. 

9 sit-in use, Peterson, in Foster and Long, pp. 59 ff. 

10 M2M, Free Student, May 1966. Gordon, letter to NO, copied verbatim, NLN, February 
18,1966. Murphy, NO files. 

11 PL rules, see Newfield, p. 110. "A few Progressive Labor," NLN, May 6, 1966. 

12 Sources for Free Universities: chiefly Paul Lauter and Florence Howe, The Conspiracy 
of the Young, World, 1970, and issues of NLN, spring and summer 1966. 

13 "to establish protest," quoted in Lauter and Howe, op. cit., p. 108. "We wanted," quoted 
ibid., p. 92. 

14 Craven, letter in an SDS "Free University" mailing, mimeograph, undated (June 1965). 
Free University of Pennsylvania, Lauter and Howe, op. cit,, pp. 104 ff.; NLN, February 11, 
1966. 

15 Davidson, "The Multiversity: Crucible of the New Working Class," SDS pamphlet, 1967, 
widely reprinted, including Wallerstein and Starr, Vol. II, pp. 108 ff. 

16 "There is only," letter from Paul Burke, NLN, July 15 & 22,1966. 

17 Sitbar and Israel, NLN, June 24,1966. 

18 membership survey, NLN, March 18,1966. 

19 Booth, interview. Kissinger, "NICNAC" mailing, January 1966, mimeograph. 

20 NLNs— Hayden, January 21, Chavez, March 25, Oglesby, April 1 and 8, Flacks, August 12, 
all 1966. Sinyavsky-Daniel statement, NLN, March 11, 1966; vote, March 25. 



185 



21 Hoover, testimony before House Appropriations Subcommittee, February 10, 1966. 
"debug" advertisement, NLN, April 8, 1966. Informers: Divale, I Lived Inside the Campus 
Revolution, Cowles, 1970; Kirk, "Investigation of SDS," Part 5; Taft, New Republic, March 
25,1967. Hoover, "Hoover Defends," N.Y. Times, May 5, 1966; see also Peter Kihss, N.Y. 
Times, April 9,1966. 

22 Conus Intel, see Richard Halloran, N.Y. Times, January 18,1971. June NC, NLN, June 
24,1966. 

23 Flacks, NLN. August 12,1966. Stein, letter to NO, mimeographed, undated. NAC on 
Booth, NLN. May 13, 1966. 

Summer 1966 

It must have been with a sense of some dark humor that the new people in the National 
Office selected as a site for the 1966 annual convention a remote Methodist youth camp on 
the shores of Clear Lake, in north-central Iowa. Of course there were good practical 
reasons— they wanted a spot far from the old guard centers of power, and Chicago 
University SDSer Steve Kindred's father happened to be superintendent of the Methodist 
region where the camp was located— but the choice of Iowa must have seemed to them a 
delectable symbol. 1 

Not that the people of Iowa were overjoyed about it all. As the Council Bluffs Nonpareil 
huffed, "The use of a Methodist church camp as a meeting place for a bunch of Communists, 
and a group of left-wing nuts who can't decide whether to work with the Communists or 
not, ought to be enough to make the Methodist lay people shudder, if not the hierarchy." 2 
And a number of local toughs, taking the cue, even went out to the camp to beat up on the 
Commies, only to find that most of the delegates were easily approachable, ready to talk, 
and glad to have the invaders stay and listen, which many did. 

For the Clear Lake convention— some 350 delegates from 140 chapters meeting from 
August 29 to September 2— was symbolic. It marked the triumph, delayed for a year 
because of the collapse of the NO the summer before and the reassertion of the old guard, 
of the new breed in SDS, only a new breed grown overwhelmingly with a year's addition of 
thousands of new members. Leadership was now transferred from the original members to 
the newer ones, from the Eastern intellectuals to the middle-American activists,, from those 
born in the left-wing traditions of the Coasts to those raised in the individualistic heritage of 
the frontier, from— as the Clear Lake rhetoric had it— the "politicos" to the "anarchists." It 
was the ascendance of what was now known in SDS as "prairie power." 



186 



The prairie-power influence was pervasive. On a blackboard in the main hall someone had 
written "Revolt"; underneath it another had added "The revolt has been scheduled by the 
Steering Committee." 3 Contempt for steering committees, chairmen, parliamentary 
procedure, "structure," "top-down organizing," and any other hint at rigidity was evident 
from the start. So many people walked out of meetings to carry on their debates under the 
trees or on the raft anchored in the lake that new SDSer Mark Kleiman was encouraged to 
issue a call denouncing "parliamentarianism" and asking "people who are interested in 
finding other ways" to contact him at the National Office. (It was an echo of a notable 
incident at the previous National Council meeting when one delegate publicly burned his 
SDS membership card as a protest against the "undemocratic" way the council was being 
run.) All calls for producing "a new Port Huron"— vigorously pushed by such old guarders as 
Clark Kissinger, who argued that SDS had to "lift its de facto ban on the written word"— 
were disregarded. Attempts to give SDS "a new ideology," though they tied up endless 
hours of debate, ended in unresolved tangles. When ERAPer Nick Egleson finally told the 
delegates to stop "overworking ideology" and "overworking on a new theoretical 
document," the applause, New Left Notes reported, "boomed up from the floor." 

Similarly with regard to a specific program for the coming year. Strong efforts were made 
for SDS to embark on a new antidraft program by forming local groups, like the M2M's anti- 
draft unions, which would organize overt resistance to Selective Service, and there was 
enough raw sentiment behind this at one point to pass it with a lopsided 105-15 vote. But 
since it was felt, just as it had been a year previously, that this represented such a sharp 
departure from the past and a possible step into illegality, the delegates finally decided to 
submit it to a full membership referendum before going ahead; on this issue at least, SDS, 
like the Bourbons, learned nothing and forgot nothing. As a substitute measure the 
convention adopted an amorphous scheme, redolent with the very flesh of prairie power, of 
letting each area develop whatever projects it wanted, as long as they would "act on their 
own authority, raise their own funds, send out their own travelers, organize as they see fit, 
and be responsible for their activities without involving those SDS members who do not 
wish to share in their project." At the end of the convention only the blandest resolutions 
passed: support for the "Fort Hood Three" (three enlisted men who that summer had 
refused orders to go to Vietnam), further development of the Radical Education Project for 
internal education, changes in the constitution to remove all references to the LID, and the 
like. 4 

However, prairie power did put its stamp upon the organization in positive, indeed quite 
pervasive, ways. 

For one thing, the clear consensus of the convention was that SDS would develop what was 
called an "organizing thrust" toward the campuses, operating not with a national program 
but by energizing local people in local chapters around local grievances. The National Office 
would give this top priority by forming "an experimental program of full-time organizers 
committed to working on campuses" (in the words of the resolution presented by two 
leading prairie people, Jane Adams and Ohio SDSer Terry Robbins), but the bulk of the work 
would be done by individual SDSers on a chapter level— or, as Carl Oglesby put it, "Every 
member a radical organizer." 



187 



The convention also pushed for decentralization within SDS, downgrading the National 
Office in favor of regional and local organizations. More than simply an expression of the 
impulse anarchism of the prairie-power people, this was seen as an organizational necessity 
if SDS was to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever ideological levels it found at the 
nearly two hundred campuses where it now had chapters; the prairie people knew from 
their own experience that what went over at Michigan, say, would inevitably prove too 
extreme for Arizona State. But beyond that, the Booth operation and the failure of national 
programs in the last year had left a bad taste in the mouths of many SDSers, not only those 
in the prairie-power wing— to the point where at Clear There was a heated debate on this 
issue— there were still enough old guarders around to put up a spirited fight— but the 
majority clearly sided with prairie people like Jeff Shero, who took the National Office 
relentlessly to task: 

We have to create situations on campus or in the communities to reveal to 
people where they really are. Chapters should be strong, and we need 
organizers on the local level, not national visibility, to get over the feeling of 
isolation. Sending out NO literature is too impersonal a way of operating— I 
read New Left Notes on the pot, but I'd get off to talk to an organizer! 5 

In the end, the constitution was changed to provide for regional organizations with their 
own programs and their own operations, and a motion was passed specifically directing the 
NO to give its attention (and money) to campus organizing in the coming year. 

The election of officers sealed the triumph of prairie power. The old guard had been quietly 
sounding out candidates for several months, without success. Steve Weissman, for 
example, who was asked to run for office that year, declined on the grounds that SDS 
officers never had any real power, anyway; and it was only at Clear Lake itself that they 
finally decided to push Lee Webb, who had just finished his alternate service in Chicago and 
was free for the coming year. Running against him for President were Bill Hartzog, an Ohio- 
born college dropout who had been organizing hospital workers in Topeka and who stood as 
the pure personification of prairie power, and Nick Egleson, who had been on the fringes of 
the old guard but was sufficiently distant from them to be regarded as a compromise 
candidate. On the first ballot Hartzog finished a poor third and was dropped,* and on the 
second Egleson came out the clear favorite. ("Frankly," Webb recalls, "I didn't have any 
supporters at the whole convention. There were like maybe two or three people on my side, 
Booth and Ross and a few others, and all these kids were really attacking me.") The other 
elections were foregone: Carl Davidson, largely on the strength of a "student syndicalism" 
paper, was elected Vice President by the convention, and the next day, at the National 
Council, Greg Calvert, similarly identified with prairie power, was named National Secretary. 
The three officers were good representatives of the new SDS style. 



* He thereafter refused induction, stayed around as an SDS antidraft organizer for a while, and then when things 
got hot was one of the first to go underground as a means of avoiding the draft; according to Webb (interview with 
author), "Nobody has ever heard from him since." 



188 



Egleson, twenty-two, fit least into the mold— and would exert the least influence on the 
organization in the coming year— for he was an Easterner, decidedly dudish in appearance 
(thin, long neck, glasses, short and curly hair), a graduate of the select Taft School in 
Connecticut and of Swarthmore College, an ex-nuclear-physics major and a bookish type; 
as he analyzed it some years later, "My parents [were divorced], and their demands on my 
brother and me to share their hatred of each other, clearly drove me to run from all 
emotions. In my endless figuring out of how I should behave may lie some of the roots of 
my intellectualization." Nonetheless, Egleson had an undoubted honesty, and an unabrasive, 
soft-spoken manner. (When he accompanied Dave Dellingerto North Vietnam the following 
May, Dellinger reported that "Nick's natural SDS manner helped to break the ice" when 
talking with American prisoners of war there.) And his ERAP experiences in Philadelphia and 
Hoboken had led him to a kind of root anarchism and a commitment to local organizing not 
so different from that of the prairie people. 

Carl Davidson, twenty-three, looked like prairie power: tall and lanky, slightly stooped in the 
shoulder, with longish brown hair and a Pancho Villa mustache, he gave off something of 
the air of a latter-day Daniel Boone— and he smoked a corncob pipe. He was born in 
Pennsylvania of working-class parents and went, because it was inexpensive, to Penn State, 
where he majored in, of all things, philosophy. ("The problem of calling oneself a socialist," 
he would tell the people at Clear Lake, is that "socialist is what philosophers call 'an 
essentially contested concept'— that is to say, a word which has so many definitions that 
you have to define it before you can begin to use it.") At Penn State in the spring of 1965 
he helped to organize an ad hoc Committee for Student Freedom to fight the in loco 
parentis rules of the administration, giving him his first taste of campus organizing around 
local issues; there, too, he began his exploration of leftism, hung in 1965, he took a job in 
the philosophy department at the University of Nebraska, where he continued to be active in 
student politics, operating as a traveler for SDS in the Plains Region and helping to organize 
a Campus Freedom Democratic Party at Nebraska in the spring of 1966. 6 

Greg Calvert, twenty-eight, was older than many people in SDS, a dramatic kind of person, 
raw-boned, good-looking, self-possessed. Born of working-class parents in Longview, 
Washington, and raised in a middle-America district of Portland, Oregon, Calvert remembers 
"bumming around the Skid Row area" when he was a high schooler in the early fifties, and 
meeting burnt-out old Wobblies: "Some of us in the movement," he said many years later, 
"have wondered whether, after so much hope and so much life, we would end like some of 
those old Wobblies." 7 He majored in history at the University of Oregon, graduated in 1960, 
and went on to Cornell for graduate work in European history in 1960-61, but he did not get 
drawn into the radical politics just then making itself felt. He spent some time at the 
University of Paris (there was even a strong rumor going around SDS circles that he had 
fought with the FLN in Algeria) and returned to teach European history at Iowa State. It was 
at Iowa State, where he had spent two and a half years, that Calvert finally became active 
in campus politics and increasingly involved with SDS. During the summer of 1966 he joined 
the National Office in Chicago, was made Acting Assistant National Secretary under Jane 
Adams in July and became the editor of New Left Notes in August; it was under his egis that 
a special thirty-two-page preconvention issue of New Left Notes was prepared (complete 
with ads from book publishers, left publications, and greetings from such other-generation 
supporters as New York lawyers Leonard Boudin— whose daughter Kathy was then on an 
ERAP project in Cleveland— and Victor Rabinowitz), the largest issue SDS ever produced. 



189 



None of the officers, be it noted, was a student or of student age. The same pattern held 
generally true for the National Council members elected by the convention. Five of the 
fourteen members (Jane Adams, Tom Condit, Mark Kleiman, Bob Speck, and Lee Webb) had 
spent much or all of the last year in the National Office; seven others (Carolyn Craven, Mike 
Davis, Roy Dahlberg, Bill Hartzog, Mike James, Terry Robbins, and Jeff Shero) had been 
working full time as organizers and none was then a student; of the remainder, one was an 
undergraduate (Steve Kindred, a Chicago antirank organizer) and one was a graduate 
student (Nancy Bancroft, finishing up a master's at the Union Theological seminary). They 
were all, except Webb, associated with the prairie-power faction to one degree or another; 
it was a measure of the decline of the old guard that Bob Ross could do no better than tie 
for First Alternate. None was a student leader in the traditional sense, or a campus 
newspaper editor, or a student-council president; none was regarded as primarily an 
intellectual or was headed for an academic career; several had dropped out of college 
entirely before graduating, and none had dabbled in liberal student politics. It was an 
almost complete turnaround from the SDS leaders of, say, 1962. 

Progressive Labor members showed up at the convention, and though, as Shero notes, 
"there weren't enough of them around yet for anyone to develop an anti-PL line," their 
presence was felt. Lee Webb, for one, remembers that they were among those opposing his 
presidency: 

PL were the ones who were really pushing the thing against me the hardest, 
because, I think, in a sense they saw me, or someone like me, as a threat to 
their attempts of really developing influence in SDS ... . I wasn't at all 
sympathetic to them: I wanted to kick them out immediately, because I felt 
that they just weren't going to contribute anything to SDS and were just 
going to decrease the level of debate and discussion. 8 

And John Maher, the Boston SDSer, felt concerned enough to precipitate a long, if 
somewhat disjointed, debate on "Communists in SDS." (His brother, as mentioned, was a PL 
functionary.) In a convention paper he pointed out the nature of "democratic centralism" in 
organizations like PL and the Communist Party: 

Party discipline in the PLP means that a member is obliged to carry out all the 
decisions of the Party, while in the CP a member is not obliged to carry out a 
decision with which he disagrees, though Party discipline will not permit him 
to work against it. Neither organization condones public criticism of the party 
line. 

This practice, he felt, so foreign to the open individualism of the New Left, would cause 
difficulty in SDS ranks because you'd never know if you were debating with (or voting for) a 
person who had an open mind or was simply following some party order. His suggestion was 
that SDS require anyone who was a member of such a disciplined party to declare so before 
working with SDSers or running for office in the organization. But the motion gained little 
headway at Clear Lake: it smacked a little too much of redbaiting (especially coming after a 
summer in which various Congressional committees had run harassing investigations of 
"communist infiltration" of student groups); Communist Party members, of whom there 
were no more than forty or fifty in SDS, were in many cases known to the SDS leaders 
anyway, though they tended to keep their affiliations from the rank and file; and many 
PLers had no hesitancy in making their memberships— and their role as "the only true 
communists"— crystal clear. The National Council dismissed it with a 41-3 vote. 



190 



At this point the idea of a PL takeover or "Communist infiltration" was still regarded largely 
as a joke. The suggestion that Bettina Aptheker, Berkeley activist and CP member, had put 
forth at Clear Lake that the Communist Party was the logical force to lead the New Left was 
dismissed out of hand, Carl Oglesby being only the most eloquent in assigning it to the dust 
bin. The PLers were thought to have some good ideas, but their "Old Lefty 
phrasemongering," as it was called, and their general squareness of dress and attitude 
chilled most of the other SDSers; Mao and his little red book excited only laughter on the 
convention floor. The overwhelming attitude was still that the Old Left was old-fashioned 
and that SDS was too amorphous to get taken over by anything anyway. 

The old guard took its defeat at Clear Lake stoically. Booth fired off one last letter to New 
Left Notes complaining that Clear Lake hadn't really agreed on anything for the coming 
year, and he even proposed one last "national action" of demonstrations against President 
Johnson, but when this was ignored he retired into silence. 9 Webb moved on to Washington, 
where he started a fledgling D.C.-area region and began work for Ramparts magazine 
researching connections between the National Student Association and the CIA. Oglesby 
went back to Ann Arbor— where, incidentally, he was to meet, and influence, Bill Ayers and 
Diana Oughton— to complete work on his examination of U.S. imperialism that appeared the 
following year in a volume called Containment and Change. Max, who had sat as chairman 
during the plenary sessions, wrote a note to Jim Williams moaning that the old guard had 
been vanquished and "there's nothing left of the old people any more— it's just all these 
funny kids," 10 and went back to New York. Others moved off in their separate directions: 
Kissinger tried organizing in the Chicago area,* Gitlin concentrated on writing a book about 
JOIN, Flacks, Lauter, Lemisch, Ross, and others continued their academic careers; and 
though they almost universally continued radical work, they did so now outside of the SDS 
framework. 

An attempt was made at Clear Lake to establish an "adult SDS" for these members who had 
"graduated" from SDS, along with other nonstudent activists springing up among young 
professional workers in the larger cities. This idea of what was generally called a "Movement 
for a Democratic Society," to be either affiliated with or the parent group of SDS, was a 
longstanding one, kicking around SDS circles ever since it had become clear that the LID 
was not the adult group SDSers wanted to graduate into. The 1964 convention mandated 
work on a "young adult New Left" organization by Max, Burlage, and others, and a "Young 
Adult Organizing" committee was actually established as early as the fall of that year, with a 
big push from Hayden and Wittman. But at that point the numbers of radicals were hardly 
sufficient for one organization, much less two, and nothing materialized. The subject was 
brought up whenever movement people got together for the next couple of years (Shero, 
for example, presented a working paper on it to the Kewadin convention in 1965), and 
isolated attempts were made at establishing individual MDS chapters: several staffers at the 
Columbia University School of Social Work actually formed an MDS in the fall of 1965, and 
early in 1966 starts were made in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Gary, Indiana. 
By the time of Clear Lake many older members agreed with University of Pennsylvania 
faculty member (and SDSer) Edward Jahn, who wrote to New Left Notes: 



* Kissinger's efforts to run a radicalizing campaign with his Committee for Independent Political Action in Chicago's 
49th ward that fall were perhaps symbolic of the old guard's success with electoral politics— the two candidates 
CIPA put up were thrown off the ballot by Mayor Daley's Board of Elections and subsequently kept off by Mayor 
Daley's courts. 



191 



Students grow older; they graduate, get jobs, raise families. Many of them 
abandon radical politics as soon as they graduate— these are the Four Year 
Radicals ... . But what about those who are still radicals after their four years 
are over— where can they go: SDS if it does not develop an organizational 
alternative for its older adherents ... will die. The New Left must create an 
adult organization if the New Left is to survive. 11 

But the call went unheeded, and those who did not want to devote themselves to the new 
"organizing thrust" simply went their own ways. 

The Radical Education Project represented the closest thing to a continuing center for the 
old guard after Clear Lake. After sputtering through several false starts in the spring, REP 
finally had begun to take shape over the summer, and in July it was officially incorporated, 
with Haber as its president and Locker its secretary. It had been decided that REP had 
better have an existence formally separate from SDS, both because it could then put itself 
forward as a tax-exempt institution for fund-raising purposes and because it was clear that 
it was not going to get very much help or attention from the new influx of SDSers anyway. 
Doing some neat footwork, REP finally phrased it this way: "The RADICAL EDUCATION 
PROJECT is an independent education, research and publication organization initiated by 
Students for a Democratic Society, dedicated to the cause of democratic radicalism and 
aspiring to the creation of a new left in America." Just what that meant was spelled out in a 
lengthy, detailed, comprehensive prospectus: 

Democratic radicalism is renewing itself around a basically moral proposition: 
that people should have the opportunity to participate in shaping the 
decisions and the conditions of economic, political and cultural existence 
which affect their lives and destinies. 

This theme is not new. Indeed, it is deeply rooted in the traditions of Utopian 
and scientific socialism, popular democracy and humanism. But it has 
acquired a new urgency and concreteness in the radical action movements of 
the last six years. It has become the unifying point of moral reference in the 
opposition to the corporate state, in the anti-war movement, in the critique of 
authoritarianism and paternalism in the university, and in the freedom 
struggles of Negroes in particular and the American underclass in general. 

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it is because this prospectus was no less than the attempted 
rewrite of The Port Huron Statement that so many of the old guard had been demanding, 
with much talk about "radical vision," "values and Utopia," "man is the measure," "human 
potentiality and the good society," "potential agents of change," and so on. But it was a 
serious and ambitious document, it had a certain impact in academic circles, and it attracted 
immediate support from a number of well-known people on the left.* 



* Among the early REP sponsors were Philip Berrigan, Dave Dellinger, Douglas Dowd, Hal Draper, Norm Fruchter, 
Paul Goodman, Gabriel Kolko, Andrew Kopkind, William Kunstler, Paul Lauter, Staughton Lynd, Herbert Marcuse, 
Barrington Moore, Linus Pauling, Victor Rabinowitz, Marc Raskin, Harold Taylor, Arthur Waskow, William Appleman 
Williams, and Howard Zinn. 



192 



REP began functioning, after a fashion, in Ann Arbor in the fall. The full-time staff included 
Jerry Badanes, Barry Bluestone, Mike and Evelyn Goldfield, Peter Henig, Jim Jacobs, and 
Steve Weissman, with help from Haber, Locker, Booth, and Magidoff. Yet by December not 
one piece of its own literature had been produced (other than three bibliographical "study 
guides" for radical seminars) and something like $6,000 had been dribbled away. Attempts 
to reach the projected budget of $85,000 12 by barnstorming rich liberals and philanthropic 
institutions proved mostly futile.* 

The concept of student power was of course inherent in much that had already gone on in 
the 1960s— in the campus civil-rights programs, the university-reform conferences, the 
Berkeley demonstration of 1964, the various campus political parties, the antiwar 
(especially the antirank) agitation, and the free universities. But it did not develop into a 
separate and self-conscious movement, with an enunciated strategy and an organizational 
shape, until the Clear Lake convention. What it eventually became was something more 
than that encompassed by SDS, for it developed into the expression, at disparate campuses 
at different times for diverse reasons, of an entire awakening generation, many of whom 
had no interest in SDS or even in organized radical politics. But it would not have emerged 
when it did, and could not have taken the form that it did, were it not for SDS— and Carl 
Davidson. 

Davidson's A Student Syndicalist Movement: University Reform Revisited, passed out in 
mimeograph form at Clear Lake, made an immediate impact. It was, startlingly, almost 
wholly free of the strangulating social-science rhetoric that made up the yeast of most of 
the early SDS papers; it was easy reading, with careful organization, lots of subheads, and 
concrete examples; and it was about half the length of the usual SDS position paper. But 
most important, of course, it enunciated an idea that many in SDS had begun to sense for 
themselves over the previous year. 

Davidson's paper begins by restating the connections between universities and corporate 
liberalism: 

What we have to see clearly is the relation between the university and 
corporate liberal society at large. Most of us are outraged when our university 
administrators or their "student government" lackeys liken our universities 
and colleges to corporations. We bitterly respond with talk about a 
"community of scholars." However, the fact of the matter is that they are 
correct. Our educational institutions are corporations and knowledge factories. 
What we have failed to see in the past is how absolutely vital these factories 
are to the corporate liberal state. 

What do these factories produce? What are their commodities? The most 
obvious answer is "knowledge." Our factories produce the know-how that 
enables the corporate state to expand, to grow, and to exploit more efficiently 
and extensively both in our own country and in the third world. But 
"knowledge" is perhaps too abstract to be seen as a commodity. Concretely, 
the commodities of our factories are the knowledgeable. AID officials, Peace 
Corpsmen, military officers, CIA officials, segregationist judges, corporation 
lawyers, politicians of all sorts, welfare workers, managers of industry, labor 
bureaucrats (I could go on and on)— where do they come from? They are 
products of the factories we live and work in ... . 



* One SDSer in New Left Notes (December 23, 1966) that fall described a disease endemic in Ann Arbor in which 
the "patient believes that we can get McGeorge Bundy in the movement if we would only write more grant 
proposals for the Ford Foundation." It was called REPatitis 



193 



How did they become what they are? They were shaped and formed on an 
assembly line that starts with children entering junior high school and ends 
with junior bureaucrats in commencement robes. And the rules and 
regulations of in loco parentis are essential tools along that entire assembly 
line. Without them, it would be difficult to produce the kind of men that can 
create, sustain, tolerate, and ignore situations like Watts, Mississippi and 
Vietnam ... . Our universities are already the chief agents for social change in 
the direction of 1984. 

And then Davidson posed the exciting question: "What would happen to a manipulative 
society if its means of creating manipulative people were done away with?" To which he 
answered: "We might then have a fighting chance to change the system!" How? 

Obviously, we need to organize, to build a movement on the campuses with 
the primary purpose of radically transforming the university community. Too 
often we lose sight of this goal. To every program, every action, every 
position, and every demand, we must raise the question: How will this 
radically alter the lives of every student on this campus? With this in mind, I 
offer the following proposal for action. 

That every SDS chapter organize a student syndicalist movement on its 
campus. I use the term "syndicalist" for a crucial reason. In the labor 
struggle, the syndicalist unions worked for industrial democracy and workers' 
control, rather than better wages and working conditions. Likewise, and I 
cannot repeat this often enough, the issue for us is "student control" (along 
with a yet-to-be-liberated faculty in some areas). What we do not want is a 
"company union" student movement that sees itself as a body that, under the 
rubric of "liberalization," helps a paternal administration make better rules for 
us. What we do want is a union of students where the students themselves 
decide what kind of rules they want or don't want. Or whether they need rules 
at all. Only this kind of student organization allows for decentralization, and 
the direct participation of students in all those decisions daily affecting their 
lives. 

... The main purpose ... is to develop a radical consciousness among all the 
students, in the real struggle yet to come against the administration. 13 

And then, the possibility— a dream with a lineage going back to early SDS and the impulses 
of Kissinger and others of campus orientation— "to organize a mass radical base with a 
capacity for prolonged resistance, dedication, and endurance. With this in mind, it is easy to 
see why such a student syndicalist movement must be national (or even international) in its 
scope." 

Davidson's debts are obvious: to the original syndicalists, to the Wobblies, to his own 
experiences at Penn State and Nebraska. But perhaps most profound is his debt to the SDS 
thinkers before him. The desire to work at different levels on different campuses is the same 
concept that animated Al Haber in the first few years of the organization. The recognition of 
connections between the authoritarian rigidity and dehumanization of the university and 
that of the society at large is the same that the whole first generation of SDS had 
enunciated. The connections between the liberal state and the universities are the kind that 
Potter, Hayden, and Oglesby had made. The emphasis on students as the agents of social 
change, the idea of engaging people in "those decisions daily affecting their lives," and the 
importance placed on participatory democracy in a campus context are direct echoes of The 
Port Huron Statement. 



194 



In fact, in some ways A Student Syndicalist Movement is the new breed's own Port Huron 
Statement, a document for a new generation of SDSers who want once again to turn their 
attention to the campuses, once again to show the need for students to control the 
decisions that affect their lives, once again to get students to operate on their immediate 
felt grievances, once again to radicalize them by having them see the connections between 
these grievances and the national malaise. The first generation of SDS had started out by 
seeking its allies on the campus, but after a time turned from there to the ghettos, to the 
poor, to the black, and later still to the war, to the middle class, to the professionals. Now 
the second generation of SDS was bringing the organization back: build the student left 
first. 

There were criticisms of the student-syndicalist approach, and they were voiced often within 
the next few months. The PL people scorned it for its lack of a "class analysis," its failure to 
see the need for students to join with the working class to carry out any revolution. Others 
argued that the idea of students' actually controlling their universities was, even if 
realizable, undesirable, since those universities still had to operate within and depend for 
their existence upon a corrupt system; if students were put in charge of universities, as Earl 
Silbar put it, "we would have to become the pimps of our dream." And many pointed to— as 
it was now regarded— the "danger of reformism" if the university administrations simply 
gave in on the most modest student demands (dorm hours, food prices, curriculum 
changes, and the like) and blunted the movement without altering the basic university 
structure. 14 

But the time for student power was ripe. For one thing, there were now more people in the 
universities than ever before— 6,390,000, up from 3,788,000 in 1960, nearly 40 percent of 
the college-age population— and thus a larger pool from which to draw dissidents, and a 
larger group which could view itself selfconsciously as a class. Not that all of them were 
committed radicals by any means— the best estimates put the activist ranks between 5 and 
15 percent, or roughly 320,000 to 960,000— but many were certainly alienated, as the 
phrase went, disillusioned with much in the world around them, and ready to give vent to 
their anger, for which the university was at least the easiest target. The youth culture, too, 
had by now become firmly rooted, nurtured both by affluence and dissidence, and had 
brought forth its own special fruits in sexual behavior, the growing drug scene, the new 
styles of music, dress, literature, art, food, and philosophy; which in turn helped to sustain 
a now sizable group of people who, though not officially students, occupied the fringes of 
the universities in the burgeoning youth ghettos, more alienated still and far quicker to take 
the risks that direct action might bring. Apathy might still be the norm at many campuses- 
it is, after all, one of the intended products of the university environment— but it was 
nowhere near as pervasive as it had been ten years before, and now had to live side by side 
with the growing political awareness of many young people; students in the fall of 1966, we 
might remember, had already lived through six years of campus activism of one kind or 
another, six years of the war in Vietnam, six years of general political ferment within the 
nation. 

Accompanying the heightened political consciousness was a growing change of attitude 
toward the university itself. The idea of complicity, inaugurated with the rank protests, and 
the impact of resistance, in the form of confrontations with the university power structure, 
were as yet imperfectly realized, but they unquestionably helped students to see campus 
governance in a new light. At the same time the universities came to be seen as important 
sources of power within the society— they were to the technological society what factories 
had been to the mechanical one— and thus potential levers for exerting influence on that 
society; students, especially as their numbers grew, could now think of themselves as a 
power bloc as legitimate as any other. 



195 



The time was ripe for student power within SDS as well. Much of it had to do with the kinds 
of people who now came to prominence in the organization. True, they were not students 
themselves and were in fact several years older than most undergraduates— but they had 
spent their college years as serious radical organizers (something that was not true of most 
in the earlier generation), and the experience, especially in the last year, had left them 
generally united in the idea that any chance for building a movement for change in America 
depended upon organizing and radicalizing the students. Also, many prominent members- 
Davidson, Shero, Adams, Kindred, Egleson, Robbins, Calvert— had been involved more in 
university politics and campus traveling than in such nonuniversity activities as antiwar 
marches, draft resistance, electoral politics, or labor support. They were also, coming from 
the prairie-power heritage, more comfortable with local actions than national programs and 
more concerned to have individual chapters operate on their own grievances than follow 
some national pattern. 

But there is also the decisive fact that SDS saw no other avenues for effective radical 
politics. Vietnam was still thought to be too much of a single-issue protest, one, moreover, 
in which success seemed hopeless: marches, no matter how big or small, militant or docile, 
shaggy or clean-cut, had proved quite incapable of halting the war. Civil-rights work seemed 
hardly possible after SNCC's explicit rejection of white support; ERAP organizing seemed 
equally mistaken, given the now obvious failure of most ERAP projects and the explosive 
anger of the black ghettos that had been expressed in Watts. Draft resistance posed 
apparently insoluble problems of illegality, elitism, membership support. Working with labor 
unions and unorganized workers was thought to be legitimate but basically old hat and 
unmilitant, while working with the middle class and professionals seemed somehow like 
selling out. Campus organizing, in which all of these issues could be raised but none had to 
be exclusively championed, seemed the perfect answer.* 

The choice was almost inevitable, an expression of all that SDS had become. By this point 
SDS had to move on to some form of resistance, both as an expression of the mood of its 
leaders and as a means of creating an identity for itself in the absence of a national 
program or national publicity. It needed to operate in a decentralized and nonbureaucratic 
way, given both the natural distaste for the opposites and its unfortunate experience in 
trying them. It needed to orient itself around students, both because they formed its logical 
and historical constituency and because other constituencies were unavailable or 
unapproachable. And it needed to keep pointing itself to the question of fundamental social 
change rather than absorb itself in single issues and the reformist dangers therein. Hence, 
student power. 



* It should be noted that other organizations moved into the areas where SDS left a vacuum. The Spring (later 
National) Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam was formed that fall to continue antiwar marches. A 
new group called the Resistance, formally inaugurated the next spring, took up draft resistance. The Progressive 
Labor Party and the Communist Party both reaffirmed in the fall their primary strategy of organizing among the 
working class, and the latter specifically eschewed New Left organizing. 



196 



And herein lies the paramount point about SDS and student power. For while SDS now 
wanted to operate at the university level, raising local grievances of individual campuses 
and building its constituency among the students, it did so not to change the educational 
system on the campus, not to achieve academic reforms, not even to get more power in the 
hands of students within the university setting. It did so because it saw among the 
American studentry the possibility of creating a generation of committed radicals, and thus 
to change the entire political and social structure of the country. Student power was merely 
a method, a tool, a prod, a way to awaken students to the realities of the nation by tuning 
them in to the realities of the campus, to make connections between the demands for 
democratic control in the university and the same demands in the body politic. Never lost 
was the cardinal idea that students should be agents for social change: where protest took 
the form of picketing a Marine recruiter, the real target was the war and university 
complicity; where the protest was against dormitory hours, the real target was arbitrary 
authority and the nature of the Establishment's institutions. Student power, in short, was 
not educational but political. 

Much confusion has reigned on this point. The media especially, more out of 
misunderstanding than malice, were unequipped to conceive of the best of the college 
generation as bordering on the verge of revolution and regularly saw protest issues in neat 
little vacuums. University administrators, not unnaturally, chose to regard protest as an 
educational problem, and thought (or hoped) that it could be meliorated by educational 
reforms, many of which, it was agreed, were long overdue.* Even students themselves 
sometimes regarded student power as a way of throwing off an unwanted rule or 
readjusting some glaring error; and on the smaller and more remote campuses where SDS 
chapters operated, students at various points over the next few years came to be attracted 
initially because they thought the organization was working merely for educational reform. 

But of SDS's intention there never was a doubt. Davidson is quite explicit in his paper in 
talking about "sabotage" and "abolition" of universities, and his guiding idea is that, once 
exposed to student syndicalism, students would "never quite be the same, especially after 
they leave the university community." Calvert, in his report in New Left Notes on the Clear 
Lake convention, spelled it out further: 

There emerged a very clear understanding that SDS had repudiated any 
attempt to make itself a new version of older left-wing political parties in the 
United States or in Europe. Politically that meant a refusal to accept social- 
democratic or liberal-labor coalitionist images of our future. It meant that we 
were, as we have often said, dedicated to the building of truly radical 
constituencies in this country. The establishment of a new group of SDS 
organizers was seen as the effective means of carrying that conviction to the 
American campus. 15 

Student power, in other words, was meant to radicalize a generation, not to liberalize their 
education. Or, as Jeff Shero recalls, "We wanted to build an American left, and nothing less 
than that." 16 



* At least seven universities (Berkeley, Brown, Colorado, Cornell, NYU, Oregon, and Wisconsin) established 
committees during the fall of 1966 to examine student conduct and student participation, and before the year was 
out most universities had some general reexamination of university rules, codes, governance, etc. By the end of 
the school year, 30 percent more universities than in 1965 had moved to make students part of various university 
committees. (Foster and Long, Protest!, p. 441.) 



197 



1 For convention, NLN, August 24, September 9 and 23,1966; Guardian, September 
17,1966. 

2 Nonpareil, quoted by P. Boyd Mather, Christian Century, October 12, 1966. 

3 "Revolt," Guardian, op. cit. Kleiman, NLN, November 4,1966. Kissinger, NLN, June 
10,1966. "boomed up" and "Clear Lake," Paul Buhle, NLN, September 23, 1966. 

4 Convention resolutions, NLN, September 23, 1966, and minutes, copy from Lee Webb. 

5 Shero, minutes. Weissman, interview. Webb, interview. 

6 Egleson, Liberation, April 1970. Dellinger, Liberation, May-June 1967. Davidson, quoted by 
Calvert, NLN, September 9, 1966. 

7 Calvert, "bumming" and "some of us," Liberation, May 1969, reprinted in Goodman, pp. 
585 ff. and Wallerstein and Starr, pp. 247 If. 

8 Webb, interview. Maher, NLN, August 24, 1966. 

9 Booth, NLN, October 1 and September 9, 1966. 

10 Max, letter to Williams, September 1966, from Williams. 

11 Jahn, NLN, October 1, 1966. On REP's formation, NLN, March 25, April 15, and May 
13,1966; Teodori, pp. 399 ff. Quotations are from Al Haber, "Radical Education Project," 
NLN, March 25, 1966, a later and longer version of which is in "Riots, Civil and Criminal 
Disorders," Part 18, pp. 3439 ff. 

12 REP finances, NLN, December 23,1966. 

13 Davidson's paper, NLN, September 9, 1966; reprinted by SDS, 1966; reprinted in 
Wallerstein and Starr, Vol. II, p. 98. 

14 Silbar, NLN, October 28,1966. The best source of university population statistics is 
"Projections of Educational Statistics to 1977-78," National Center for Educational Statistics, 
Office of Education, HEW, Washington, D.C., 1968 and regularly revised. Estimates of 
activists, John L. Horn and Paul D. Knott, Science, March 12, 1971; Kenneth Keniston, 
Journal of Social Issues, July 1967; Peterson, in Foster and Long, p. 78. 

15 Calvert, NLN, September 9, 1966. 

16 Shero, interview. 

Fall 1966 

Student power on the campuses: Jeff Shero describes the organizing process. 

When you'd go to organize a campus, you'd first have to find a contact, or 
meet some people, you'd have to have a lot of just discussions to figure out 
where people were at, and at some point you'd leave the group you'd found 
to talk to other kinds of people, to develop a sense of the campus. And you'd 
come back and you'd relate to different issues but put them in a coherent 
way. You'd try by the time you left to have an organizational meeting, try to 
sign people up in SDS, give them pamphlets to read to develop their analysis, 
and find the one issue they could begin to move on. 



198 



Organizers always understood how issues were related, and as soon as they 
got students into motion on one issue, as soon as they came in conflict with 
the authorities in the society, people would begin seeing the relationship to 
other issues, and the organizers could accelerate that process by explaining 
it. But it wasn't crucial which issues you began moving around: it could be 
racism in Florida, it could be the draft in New Mexico, it could be arbitrary 
university rules like smoking on campus in Utah. We had that dialectical sense 
that by getting people in motion and giving them an analytical overview, they 
would in a short period of time make all the connections. 1 

The National Office worked hard to keep the motion going. New Left Notes provided weekly 
coverage of campus actions, cross-fertilizing the chapters with new ideas, issues, tactics. 
Literature production was stepped up with the reprinting of a number of the best-selling 
items, including a "Chapter Organizers Handbook," the Potter and Oglesby Washington 
march speeches, the "Guide to Conscientious Objection," Christopher Hobson's "Vietnam— 
Any Way Out?" and an additional twenty thousand copies of The Port Huron Statement. An 
elaborate survey of chapters was begun in an attempt to get a detailed profile of what the 
campus organizations really looked like and how they could best be served. Egleson, 
Calvert, and Davidson went on regular tours of the campuses, talking to chapter organizers 
and often— for SDS's reputation had now penetrated everywhere— drawing considerable 
crowds to public speeches and debates; Oglesby, too, was much in demand on the campus 
lecture circuit, and in at least one place (Colorado) his mere presence was enough to 
generate an SDS chapter overnight that remained active throughout the year. At the same 
time a half-dozen official campus travelers like Shero were working out of the Regional 
Offices, usually on salaries of no more than $30 a week, armed with piles of literature in the 
back seats of whatever cars they could cadge, servicing the chapters and spreading the SDS 
message to places where it had not yet taken hold; and a dozen unofficial travelers, 
committed SDSers who had dropped out or were giving only halfhearted attention to school- 
work, performed the same function with the same zeal. 

All of this— combined, of course, with the continuing war, the rebellions in the black ghettos, 
the failure of the "war on poverty," the daily duplicity of the Johnson Administration, the 
lack of success of peace and liberal candidates in the Congressional elections, and the 
ongoing plague of American life— had its effect. The fall of 1966 was the beginning of active 
student resistance. 

On many campuses the process began, as Davidson had envisioned, around strictly local 
grievances. At the University of Nebraska, for example, where Davidson's own influence 
lingered, SDS helped to form a left-wing campus party which organized on the issue of a 
student bill of rights and in the student-government elections managed to place three 
SDSers in power. At Penn State, the SDS chapter challenged the administration over its in 
loco parentis role, led a successful boycott of the campus elections, and after lengthy 
negotiations with a vacillating student government exposed its sandbox stature. At San 
Francisco State, students organized a boycott of the university eating facilities, complaining 
of high prices and inferior quality, and then went on to demand student control over the 
corporation that ran the cafeteria and the campus store. At New York University 
(downtown), SDSers organized a thousand-person rally against a proposed tuition increase, 
went on to hold a strike that was said to be 50 to 80 percent effective, and finally 
participated in a four-hundred-strong sit-in at the university's Main Building. 



199 



But by far the greatest number of student protests were directed at noncampus issues, 
usually the war, in which the university was involved; and here the protests were directed in 
classic fashion against the administration for its complicity with outside organizations. On 
many campuses (Antioch, Buffalo, CCNY, Columbia, Cornell, Oberlin, Michigan, and 
Wisconsin among them), SDS renewed its campaign against student ranking and the 
scheduled second round of Selective Service testing, again pointing to the role the 
universities were playing on behalf of the war machine; the Antioch drive was successful in 
getting the college to drop ranking. On several campuses, SDS devoted itself to exposing 
and protesting heretofore hidden university links: at NYU, SDSers wrote and distributed a 
document called "Who Controls the Board of Trustees?" which showed the connections 
between the university and various American corporations involved in overseas exploitation 
or the war in Vietnam, and at Pennsylvania, SDSers got nation-wide publicity for uncovering 
the extensive research in chemical and biological warfare the university was carrying on in 
secret. And at many universities the most significant issue of the fall was the recruiting of 
students on campus by Navy, Marine, CIA, or Dow Chemical Company recruiters— an issue 
particularly successful in galvanizing students because it blended so much: it exposed the 
university's complicity with the war, it showed up the administration's attitude toward free 
speech, and it allowed antiwar expressions in general a visible, tangible, local outlet. SDS 
led at least a half-dozen successful antirecruiting demonstrations that fall (at Brown,* 
Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, and Queens), but none was more striking than the 
one at Berkeley. 2 



The Brown protest, on December 16, was only the second organized demonstration against Dow— the first was 
held in Torrance, California, in July— but the first at a college campus. 



200 



Yes, Berkeley— again. There a team of Navy recruiters put up a table in the student union at 
the end of November, despite a rule that only student organizations could use the hall, and 
the Berkeley SDS chapter seized the opportunity to set up its own table right next to it, 
distributing antiwar literature. Administration officials demanded that the SDS table be 
removed. SDS refused. SDSers and sympathetic students began a sit-in around the Navy 
table to prevent anyone from going near, and the administration called the police. More 
than a hundred local policemen swarmed on the crowd, and when one of the demonstrators 
was attacked by a heckling student, the cops moved in and started making arrests— of the 
demonstrators, not the hecklers. Ten people in all were carried off, including Jerry Rubin 
and Mario Savio, and SDSer Stew Albert. The Berkeley administration was reliving its past: 
by arbitrarily denying students freedom to speak and organize, by showing itself subservient 
to outside (and unpopular) interests, and then by calling in the police to arrest its own 
students, it once again radicalized a large part of the student body. That night a wide 
segment of the campus, including the teaching assistants, the National Student Association 
chapter, and the student government,* supported a call for a student strike. An 
administration spokesman tried to head it off by arguing that the student government had 
specifically recommended that Navy recruiters be allowed on campus; the student- 
government vice president rose and denied it flatly. The strike began the next day, with an 
estimated 75 percent success, and a prostrike rally at noon drew fifteen thousand: again 
the issue of calling the cops on campus proved to have swung general student support 
behind the minority activists. For five days the strike continued, with SDS pushing a wide 
range of demands, until December 6, when the faculty (apparently mindful of criticism of its 
role two years before) voted to support the administration, the administration agreed to 
appoint a high-level student-faculty commission to study governance of the university, and 
student enthusiasm began to wane. Many of the students and most of the rest of the 
university chose to regard the crisis as an educational one; the student-faculty commission 
inevitably treated the issue as one of educational reform and eventually recommended a 
much greater role for students in both the educational and disciplinary machinery of the 
university. But SDS had made its point: the university was cooperating improperly with the 
agencies that were fighting the war, it was incapable of governing its own campus without 
recourse to the police, and it denied its students their proper voice in university affairs. 
From such acorns do radical oaks grow. + 



* Whose president, no leftist, said, "We protest the general state of noncommunity on campus; we protest the 
hostility, distrust, and rampant disrespect which pollutes the university atmosphere; we protest the sickness 
pervading the university." (Bay Guardian, December 20, 1966) 

+ A careful study was made of the students who were active in this Berkeley protest, who were then compared with 
a random group of nonactivist students and with a sample of nonstudents from Berkeley's hippified youth ghetto. 
Compared to the other students, it was found, the activists' "fathers held higher status occupations and both 
parents were more highly educated"; three times as many were Jewish and twice as many (61 percent) professed 
no religious preference; they scored twice as high on a test measuring alienation; almost all expressed interest in 
national politics, compared to little more than a third of the nonactivists; they were more likely to discuss 
"intellectual ideas and politics" with their parents and were more likely to be in agreement with them. The study 
concluded that activists "were raised by highly educated, upper-middle-class parents which suggests a home 
atmosphere characterized by liberality and encouragement of continuing dialogue between parents and children" 
and by "considerable interaction and agreement on basic values." Compared to the dropout students, it was found, 
the activists were similar in many respects— in verbal ability, in non-profession of religion, and in alienation— but 
here again they tended to come from higher-status homes and they were far closer to their parents. The 
nonstudents, the study concluded, were characterized by "family estrangement," were "more likely to feel that 
active confrontation on behalf of social change is futile and withdraw from restrictive, conventional society into a 
disaffiliated subculture," and "have made a more drastic departure from conventional paths to adulthood." (William 
A. Watts, Steve Lynch, and David Whittaker, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1969.) 



201 



Direct protest against the war also became a commonplace on the campuses now. At almost 
every school where there was an active SDS chapter (nearly two hundred), and many where 
there weren't, students organized against Administration policies: at places like Texas 
Western and Arizona State, SDS was generally confined to setting up tables in the student 
centers for the distribution of antiwar literature; at larger schools like Michigan and 
Wisconsin, it could organize the heckling of prowar speeches and disrupt Administration 
spokesmen; at a campus like San Fernando Valley State College, SDS even tried Kissinger's 
Kamikaze Plan, speaking to National Guardsmen at a nearby base about the war, and 
several dozen were arrested.* But the most successful— and most publicized— antiwar 
demonstration of all was at Harvard. 

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was invited by the Harvard administration and its 
John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics to give a lecture on November 7 to a select group of 
fifty students. The Harvard/Radcliffe SDS chapter, demanding that the university live up to 
its claims for free speech, proposed that the Secretary engage in a debate with Ramparts 
editor Robert Scheer, coincidentally there on the same weekend, or at least face a public 
forum of antiwar questioners. Harvard refused. SDS then circulated a petition calling for a 
public debate, which got sixteen hundred signatures within a few days. Harvard refused 
again. SDS vowed confrontation. Let New Left Notes take the story from there: 3 

By 4 P.M., close to a thousand demonstrators (the Crimson said 800) ringed 
Quincy House, covering virtually all the exits. SDS heads ran a James Bond- 
type operation, with walkie-talkie equipped spotters on all sides of the 
building. After several false alarms and one attempted decoy maneuver, 
McNamara emerged in a police car on a narrow back street. While a dozen 
SDSers sat down around the car, others passed the signal over the walkie 
talkies around the block, and the thousand began running towards 
McNamara. Within moments, he was surrounded by what must have looked to 
him like a mob of howling beatniks; they were actually normal Harvard 
people, including faculty like Michael Walzer, delighted to have trapped the 
Secretary. 

McNamara told the crowd: "I spent four of the happiest years on the Berkeley 
campus doing some of the same things you're doing here. But there was one 
important difference: I was both tougher and more courteous." After laughter 
and shouts, he shouted vehemently, "I was tougher then and I'm tougher 
now!" 

The audience loved it. Mac was blowing his cool— unable to handle himself, 
quite possibly scared. The first question was about the origins of the 
Vietnamese war. "It started in '54-'55 when a million North Vietnamese 
flooded into South Vietnam," McNamara said. "Goin' home!" someone 
shouted. Mac countered "Why don't you guys get up here since you seem to 
know all the answers?" The next question asked for the number of civilian 
casualties in the South. "We don't know," Mac said. "Why not? Don't you 
care?" came the shouts. "The number of casualties ... . " Mac began, but was 
drowned out by cries of "Civilian! Civilian! Napalm victims!" A few PL-types in 
front were jumping up and down screaming "Murderer! Fascist!" Mac tried to 
regain his composure ' and said "Look fellas, we had an agreement ... ." A girl 
shrieked "What about your agreement to hold elections in 1956?" 



Michael Klonsky, late-SDS National Secretary, was one of the Valley State SDS leaders. 



202 



Things seemed to be breaking up. The police moved in and whisked 
McNamara into Leverett House; an SDS leader,* fearing violence in the 
streets, took the microphone and ordered all SDS people to clear the area. 
The disciplined shock troops of the revolution turned and dispersed quickly, 
McNamara was hustled out through steam tunnels, and everyone went home 
to watch themselves on TV. 

SDS was in the news again. The New York Times and the Washington Post carried the story 
on their front-pages, as did most major newspapers, and all the network news broadcasts 
featured the event; conspicuously absent was any mention of SDS's prior attempts to 
arrange an organized public debate with the Secretary. The Harvard administration officially 
apologized, as did some twenty-seven hundred students; SDS did not. Three students wrote 
to The New York Times: 

We entered into this demonstration as our only means of expressing our 
repulsion to and disapproval of the war in Vietnam and those who propagate 
it. We consider any attempts to apologize on our behalf to be spurious. We do 
not apologize. 4 

This adamancy, and the unusual means of confrontation, disturbed a number of Harvard 
students, perhaps the majority, but there was no question that SDS, again, had made its 
point: Harvard was shown to be high-handed rather than high-minded, devoted to free 
egress rather than free speech, dependent ultimately on the power of the police rather than 
the power of suasion— and on top of it all apologetic to the chief architect of the Vietnam 
war. 

From Berkeley to Harvard— it was happening all over, and on a scale never seen before in 
the history of American higher education. It is sometimes easy to forget what a remarkable 
development it all was, since within a few years the campus protest tended to seem as 
hallowed a university institution as the library, but in fact up to this point student 
disruptions (with the exception of Berkeley in 1964 and Chicago in the spring of 1966) were 
little noted nor long remembered. We must remember that it is only now that student 
protest becomes a part of American politics/ 

Progressive Labor influence was noticeable throughout the fall. A number of articles in New 
Left Notes put forth PL lines. PLers, along with other varieties of SDSers, were important in 
running a Boston Labor Committee, doing strike-support work and general labor theorizing 
during the fall. PLers were persuasive in putting across their party's strong anti-imperialist 
line in a number of chapters, mostly in New York and Boston: on Vietnam, for example, the 
PL National Committee statement, published in the October-November issue of PL, read: 



* Michael Ansara, who with David Loud was co-chairman of the chapter and was to continue to be active in SDS 
politics. 

+ According to one survey of 78 of the most prominent colleges and universities, there were some 430 protests 
during this academic year, working out to roughly 6 per school. Another survey of 246 institutions of all types 
found that more than 50 of them had demonstrations both against Vietnam and against racial discrimination in 
which more than a quarter of the student body was involved; 90 percent of these universities had protests on 
administrative policies, and these involved over half the student body at more than 100 institutions. And the most 
comprehensive survey, by Richard E. Peterson of the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, found 
that the number of institutions reporting protests rose dramatically from 1964-65 to 1967-68: on the issue of the 
war in Vietnam the number rose from 178 to 327, on student participation in the formulation of university policies 
from 161 to 231, on administration racial discrimination from 42 to 155, on tests and grades from 76 to 107; and 
though no schools reported protests over war-related issues in 1964-65, 215 later cited protests over armed-forces 
recruiting, 213 over the draft, and 174 over Dow and CIA recruiting. In the 1964-65 survey 26 percent of the 
colleges reported the presence of New Left groups on campus, and in most cases the group was SDS. (Foster and 
Long, Protest! pp. 365, 89 ff, 59 ff.) 



203 



To defeat imperialism we need the broadest movement possible around a 
clear anti-imperialist program: the demand for the United States to "get out 
of Vietnam, now." ... This demand will expose the phony slogan of "negotiate 
now," with which the ruling class is trying to control the peace movement and 
turn the mass discontent to their purpose. 5 

By December, Brooklyn SDSer Sue Simensky wrote to Greg Calvert that PLer Jeff Gordon 
"represents the views of most SDSers" at Brooklyn College and that the PL position was 
winning adherents at New York regional meetings; traditional SDSers like Max, Ireland, Bob 
Gottlieb, Sue Eanet, and Sarah Murphy, she said, are loud talkers, but people find them 
"pretty much irrelevant." Calvert responded with what was presumably the National Office 
attitude at the time: Jeff Gordon may be a good guy, 

... but PL politics are not SDS politics and why is it no one can talk from an 
SDS perspective? ... I know that cadre discipline is impressive, but I do not 
think that Maoism is the answer to our problems ... . It just seems to me that 
if PL wants a delegate to the NC then they ought to become a fraternal 
organization of SDS like any other independent group and get their delegate 
openly and forthrightly. 6 

National SDS basked in the light of that fall's student protests. Not that it was getting the 
kind of national publicity that had attracted attention to it before— there was practically no 
attention paid in the national press {Reader's Guide, for example, lists only one entry for the 
whole year) and the National Office went out of its way to avoid the Booth pattern of 
seeking publicity. Rather it was depending now upon interest generated on the campuses, 
where something new, active, visible, and immediate always attracts attention. Chapters 
were rejuvenated at several better-known schools (Amherst, Bard, Colorado State, 
Princeton, New Hampshire, Rochester, and Rutgers), and new chapters were formed during 
the fall at some eighteen other widely diverse places from Boston College to Bowling Green, 
University of the Pacific to St. Olaf. The total number of chapters on paper was now at least 
265, of which the number of solid and active chapters, according to a mid-fall issue of New 
Left Notes, was somewhere around 175.* National membership rose to some 6,000, while 
the total chapter membership was probably around 25, 000 + — though the looseness of what 
this latter category meant is suggested by the provision in the Brandeis chapter's 1966 
constitution that "a person will be considered a member when he has attended two 
membership meetings." 7 



* By the fall of 1966, these chapters had been formed in addition to those active in the fall of 1965: Albion, 
Baltimore At-large, Birmingham (Alabama) At-large, Boston College, Bowling Green, Bucknell, California (Humboldt 
State), Central State, Cincinnati At-large, Clemson, Cleveland ERAP, University of Colorado, C.W. Post, Dalton High 
School (New York), Darrow High School (New York), Delaware, DePauw, DeWitt High School (New York), Drew, 
Fashion Institute of Technology, Finch, Franklin and Marshall, Free School of New York, Hartford, Hawthorne (New 
Jersey) High School, Haverford, Hofstra, Illinois Institute of Technology, Iowa (Charles City) At-large, Kansas City 
At-large, Lake Forest, Lawrence, Lewis and Clark, Lexington (Kentucky) At-large, Manhattanville; Midwood High 
School (New York), Minneapolis ERAP, Moorhead, Mount Holyoke, High School of Music and Art (New York), New 
School (New York), New York (Cortland State and Stony Brook), Oakland University, Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan, 
Oklahoma State, Penn State, Radical Education Project, St. Cloud, St. Olaf, San Francisco Citizens for a Democratic 
Society, Seton Hall, Stevenson High School (New York), Syracuse, Trinity, University of the Pacific, Washington 
State, University of Washington, Weequahic (New Jersey) High School, Wisconsin (La Crosse and Milwaukee), 
Yankton, Yonkers At-large. No cumulative lists of active (or even nominal) chapters were being kept at this point. 

+ Newsweek estimated SDS followers at 15,000, a study by three academics in Protest! (Foster and Long, p. 2 08) 
suggests 20,000 in 1966, and SDS itself in December claimed 25,000. 



204 



Even finances were, after a serious drought, beginning to perk up. The National Office 
began the school year $4,300 in debt, and operations for the five months from August 
turned a neat profit of exactly $57.04 (largely thanks to contributions of more than $9,000 
from SDS "alumni"). But by the end of the year Calvert had launched SDS on an elaborate 
fund-raising drive, with 25,000 printed form letters of appeal ("Let's put our bread where 
our hearts are, brothers!") and of thanks ("Your contribution is another link in building a 
true alternative to helplessness"), aimed to supply an annual budget of $84,000 (or, as he 
figured it, $14 X 6,000 national members). At the same time he made renewed contacts 
with big givers— Anne Farnsworth was top on the list— in the attempt to establish a system 
of small, regular contributions. It is somewhat difficult to tell exactly how effective these 
fiscal operations were, but something must have happened: by the end of the year there 
was $2,000 in the bank. 

Although Nick Egleson was the first SDS President since Haber to live near and work out of 
the NO, he chose to spend the bulk of his time traveling the chapters. The dominant force in 
the office itself was Greg Calvert, who proved to be an able administrator as well as an 
effective campus speaker and a continuing source of organizational energy; he would close 
his letters with the Wobblies' "Don't mourn, organize"— and mean it. With Jane Adams, who 
became Assistant National Secretary, and also Calvert's steady companion, he directed an 
office staff often in an operation not structurally much different from that of Booth's, but 
with a much greater sense of camaraderie and purpose, which the success of their campus 
organizing strategy did nothing to diminish.* 

It soon became clear that the prairie people around the National Office were revising their 
notions of just what should be done at a national level. It didn't take long before Davidson 
was urging SDSers to "work for better communications, internal education, and more 
thoughtful national programs," 8 sounding for all the world like Paul Booth; and Calvert was 
somewhat petulantly berating those who "think that national programs are irrelevant": 
"Maybe we ought to refuse to be a national organization and decide that the only real 
problems are neighborhood problems and that involvement in anything larger is 'unreal' and 
that if we just hold on to each other hard enough in our little corners of this monster called 
America everything will be all right and straight and clean and decent until the bomb 
comes." 

For Calvert especially the idea of an effective national organization was important, because 
he had a strong vision of what was needed now. In an extraordinary National Secretary's 
report in November he set that out— and, incidentally, spoke of SDS as "revolutionary" for 
the very first time. Responding to those who had despaired of SDS, and Movement work in 
general, because it had not lived up to their expectations of instant (or even gradual) bliss, 
Calvert wrote: 



A notion of Calvert's effect upon the office can be seen from a story he has related: "I can remember one of the 
most moving and unsettling events in the nine months I spent as national secretary of SDS. I had been out on the 
road for a couple of weeks, and during that time passed my 30th birthday. When I came back to the office, 
comrades younger than myself needed to assert their youthfulness in the face of my coming middle-age with 
something resembling guerrilla theater. In rummaging through my desk, they discovered an old passport photo of 
me from 1961, when I was leaving to go to Europe. I was dressed in a very straight suit, tie, and very short hair. I 
looked for all the world like what I was at the time, an Ivy League graduate student in history. They put next to it a 
picture from The New York Times of this rather scruffy looking, very tired, but younger-looking person— myself. 
They wrote underneath it. The good guerrilla in our society must know how to change his identity in order to fit all 
new situations.' " (Liberation, May 1969.) 



205 



In the face of frustration and confusion, our task— our revolutionary task— is 
not to purge ourselves of the desires, the vision, and the hope which brought 
us to the revolutionary movement. Our task is to examine ourselves and our 
movement and our work in order to sustain our revolutionary hope— in order 
that, despite the reality of frustration and despair, we might continue the 
building of the movement which we know is right because it corresponds to 
what we want for ourselves and what we understand to be necessary for the 
survival of the race. 

The old guard of SDS, Calvert suggested, had been wrong in thinking that the organization 
could create among its members a truly free community, a "beloved community" as it was 
called, inside the pervasive and corrupting system: 

Let's quit playing games and stop the self-indulgent pretense of confusion ... . 
We tried to get close to each other, we tried to create community in the midst 
of an anticommunitarian world, we tried to find love in the midst of 
lovelessness and it ended up as either a fruitless mutual-titillation society or 
as a disruptive self-destructive chaos. The results were catastrophic: let's face 
up to that. 

What is needed, he argued, was not the abandonment of the ideal of freedom, but a new 
kind of organization to realize the goal: 

I am finally convinced that a truly revolutionary movement must be built out 
of the deepest revolutionary demands and out of the strongest revolutionary 
hopes— the demand for and the hope of freedom. I do not, however, believe 
that such a movement can be the beloved community; it can only be a 
revolutionary community of hope ... . 

We are not the new life of freedom: but that does not mean that we cannot 
be the force which gives it birth ... . Our freedom is not to be free but to be a 
force of freedom. 9 

It was a clear call for a new level of struggle, a new perception of what SDS could do, and 
be. And inherent in it was the notion of revolution— not fully comprehended, perhaps, but 
ardently stated and openly sought, and no more shilly-shallying about it. SDS had the 
potential to be the crucible of revolution, and nothing less than that. 

Nor was Calvert alone in feeling that SDS stood at the threshold of a new level. Davidson, 
too, argued that "the system must be fundamentally changed" and asserted that among the 
choice of weapons, "my own choice is revolution." Talk about the need for an ideology 
became increasingly common, references to Karl Marx were studded without apology 
through various pieces now, and regularly the idea of "socialism"— which no early SDSer 
could have used without embarrassment— was being championed, as in a long article by 
Steve Baum and Bernard Faber: "At this point, we in SDS must begin to write about and 
talk about socialist theory, so that we will be prepared to play a major role in developments, 
creating larger numbers of socialists, and developing socialist consciousness in all 
institutions in which we organize." Naturally, within this atmosphere certain of the Old Left 
ideas which had previously been scorned began to take on a new attractiveness, and both 
the International Socialists (a splinter from the American Socialist Party) and PL were quick 
to come forward with their own version of those ideas. It was too early for any significant 
change in policy by either national SDS or most of the campus chapters, but a new 
acceptance of the idea of revolution is visible now, and growing. 10 



206 



On December 17, 1966, the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party adopted an 
official statement, "Road to Revolution II," the importance of which was meant to be 
suggested by the fact that it was named after the party's first major theoretical statement 
in March 1963. Though the bulk of it was taken up with a long, scornful, and blistering 
criticism of the Soviet Union and the American Communist Party for their "revisionism"— 
revising communism so as to fit in with their "imperialist" practices— the two most important 
elements were an attack on North Vietnam and a warning to PL members of dangers within 
their own ranks. 

Hanoi was taken to task for accepting aid from a revisionist, reactionary power like the 
Soviet Union, since the Russians were really out to crush true revolutionaries: "There is no 
basis for partial and temporary unity with the revisionists. Revolutionaries should not enter 
into Soviet-inspired alliances. They are traps to thwart the revolution." Revisionism, 
however, also exists closer to home, in PL itself: 

It would be most naive of us not to recognize the danger of revisionism in our 
party ... . The main manifestation of revisionism inside our party at the 
present time is the continued isolation of too many members from the 
working people ... . Revisionism is fundamentally the substitution of individual 
bourgeois interests for the interests of the working class, and that is precisely 
what happens when members refuse to join the people. 

Among the "numerous" examples cited are members who don't want or don't try to get 
jobs, who get fired too frequently, or who ignore their fellow workers, and one man who 
refused to go to a party held by a fellow working-class tenant because he wanted to go to a 
party given by some students instead. 

Among student members the idea of a worker-student alliance is advocated 
on paper, but to get some people to actually go out and meet the workers is 
like pulling teeth ... . Essentially what these members— most of whom come 
from middle-class backgrounds— are saying is that working people are a drag. 
You have to spend time with them (because that's the line) but mainly others 
should do it ... . That is revisionism ... . If it is not fiercely opposed and 
overcome by our party, our party will never lead the working class, and no 
matter what these members might secretly wish, socialism cannot be 
achieved without the leadership of the working class. 

The first concrete indication that SDS was heading toward a new organizational level came 
at the Berkeley National Council meeting late in December. And the issue that prompted it 
was, of all things, the draft. 11 

SDS, as we have seen, had been dragging its feet on the draft issue for two years now. Earl 
Silbar, called "our man on the draft" 12 by New Left Notes , had been working out of the 
Chicago office during the fall trying to generate some kind of program, but with little 
success. The local draft unions proposed by Clear Lake had come to nothing, and the 
membership referendum authorized at that convention had produced only a little more than 
a hundred votes by December. SDSers were now agonizing over the issues of whether to 
denounce the 2-S deferment, which would be consistent with an antidraft position but would 
make them liable to induction, or whether to openly refuse induction, which would be more 
honorable than escaping to Canada or going underground but would expose them to 
penalties of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, far harsher than anything they had had to 
face in the civil-rights days. Even many of those willing to take such personal risks— and 
there were a number in SDS— tended to acknowledge that this was more an expression of 
middle-class guilt, or a "politics of masochism," than an effective way to build up a mass 
antidraft organization. 



207 



In the meantime, however, a spontaneous antidraft movement was growing without any 
organizational direction at all, as draft calls now rose to some 40,000 a month. As early as 
July a group of eight young men met in New Haven with Staughton Lynd and signed a "We 
Won't Go" statement pledging to "return our draft cards to our local boards with a notice of 
our refusal to cooperate until American invasions are ended." 13 The following month a larger 
meeting (which Calvert helped to organize) was held in Des Moines at which the idea of a 
mass draft-card burning was first mentioned, but not supported, and afterward a dozen or 
so men began traveling the campuses to get others to sign the pledge. At the same time, 
the case of the Fort Hood Three continued to attract attention and CO counseling by such 
groups as the War Resistors League in New York and the Quakers in Philadelphia continued 
to draw in several hundred men each month. The number of draft resistors indicted by the 
government rose to 680, nearly double the year before. In October SDSer Jeff Segal was 
sentenced to four years in jail for having refused induction in February 1965, the first time a 
major SDS organizer fell under the ax; and in December Peter Irons, a longtime SDSer and 
founder of the New Hampshire chapter, was sentenced to three years in jail for refusing 
military service. At the end of October a group of men around the Committee for Nonviolent 
Action and the Catholic Worker signed a statement refusing to "cooperate in any way with 
the Selective Service System," including registering, carrying a draft card, accepting 
deferment or exemption, or being inducted. In November several young men burned their 
draft cards outside a Boston courtroom where a draft protester was being tried; the next 
month Cornell SDS president Bruce Dancis, whose father had been a CO in World War II, 
became the first SDSer to destroy his draft card publicly, outside a meeting at which the 
Cornell faculty, with all deliberate speed, was discussing university policy toward Selective 
Service. And that same month a hastily organized conference at the University of Chicago 
drew a surprising five hundred people, thirty-two of whom— including SDSers Jeff Segal and 
Paul Booth— signed a "We Won't Go" pledge, the largest organized anti-induction protest to 
date. A week later New Left Notes publicly introduced the idea, in a proposal from 
Dartmouth SDSer John Spritzler, of having a mass draft-card burning by ten thousand 
young men. 14 

The stage was set, therefore, for the Berkeley National Council. It was not only that the 
draft issue was hot— it was also that SDS was coming off a successful fall term of flexing its 
muscles, and feeling the power of confrontational politics on campus, and becoming aware 
of the need for a new organizational stance "beyond the beloved community"— but also, of 
course, the fact that the meeting was being held in Berkeley. For the first time everyone 
wanted to talk about the draft, and for the first time everyone wanted SDS to do something 
about it. 



208 



Not that anyone was sure what. In fact the debate on it, begun at two o'clock on the 
afternoon of December 27, went on for nineteen hours over two days before it was finally 
resolved. It was a debate typically SDSian. The tentacles of Robert's Rules had not been 
thrown off— there were regular votes on amendments to amendments— but at the same 
time no one hesitated to use any occasion to bring up almost any subject for discussion. In 
the middle of it all Carl Davidson announced that he had drawn up a proposal for an SDS 
antidraft program, but he didn't actually want to submit it until the National Council agreed 
that it would go into this area seriously; he was met by the argument that the NC couldn't 
very well go into it without knowing what kind of proposal the Vice President had to make. 
Davidson put it forward, and the fur started to fly. Does the NC have the power to commit 
the organization to draft refusal? Yes, because the membership referendum (which stood at 
104-15 for refusal just then) gave a mandate, even if it represented only 1 percent of the 
membership. Should SDS have a national program at all, after having rejected the idea at 
Clear Lake? Yes, because, as Calvert put it, "a national draft resistance program would 
promote a ... break of consciousness and force a re-examination of the assumptions that 
support the current system." But suppose the individual chapters aren't willing to go along, 
suppose they think that advocating an illegal program will turn away innocent freshmen who 
might be potential recruits? At this point Davidson, troubled now about the implications of a 
national program on an organization committed to decentralization, said he would withdraw 
the whole proposal. The parliamentarian told him that was impossible. Well, then, Davidson 
replied, the idea was really a mistake for SDS, so we should let some separate staff- 
oriented group handle it. Berkeley SDSer Mike Smith said no, SDS ought to make the effort, 
and it had to be an ambitious effort or else there was no point at all. But, the response 
came, the National Office can't handle an ambitious program (a point concurred in by 
several of the NO staff), having its hands full at the moment just getting out the paper and 
answering letters, and all you are proposing here "is a flight into the realm of fantasy," 
more "empty rhetoric" that will come to nothing. Nonsense, the National Office can do the 
job if we make it do the job, and besides we'll simply work twice as hard to see that it does. 
By the end of the first evening, after ten hours of wrangling, with the ranks dwindled and 
the remaining few bleary-eyed, it was decided to go ahead along the general lines of the 
Davidson proposal. Next day seven parts of the proposal, four subsections, and a stream of 
incidentals were voted upon, one by one; the final vote for adoption was lopsided: 53 to 10, 
with three abstentions. SDS was on record with the strongest antidraft program in the land. 

The resolution was full of rhetoric about SDS's opposition to the "immoral, illegal, and 
genocidal war" and to "conscription in any form," with special subsections swiping at 
imperialism (though here called still "the economic system and the foreign policy of the 
United States") and paying homage to nonstudents ("poor, working-class, and middle-class 
communities"). But at its heart were these provisions: 15 

We maintain that all conscription is coercive and anti-democratic, and that it 
is used by the United States Government to oppress people in the United 
States and around the world ... . 

SDS opposes and will organize against any attempt to legitimize the Selective 
Service System by reforms. The proposals for a lottery or for compulsory 
national service would not change the essential purpose of the draft— to 
abduct young men to fight in aggressive wars ... . 

Since individual protest cannot develop the movement needed to end the 
draft and the war, SDS adopts the following program: 



209 



SDS members will organize unions of draft resisters. The members of these 
unions will be united by the common principle that under no circumstances 
will they allow themselves to be drafted. The local unions will reach out to all 
young men of draft age by organizing in the high schools, universities, and 
communities. Courses of action will include (a) direct action during pre- 
induction physicals and at the time of induction, (b) anti-draft and anti-war 
education among potential inductees and their families, (c) demonstrations 
centering on draft boards and recruiting stations, (d) encouraging young men 
already in the military to oppose the war, and (e) circulating petitions stating 
that the signer will refuse to serve in Vietnam or submit to conscription in any 
form. National SDS will coordinate the local unions on a regional and national 
level, providing staff (including travelers), supplies, and financial 

The resolution was important not only in what it said but in the spirit that lay behind it— as 
Calvert put it (in a phrase that was soon to sweep the Movement), SDS had moved "from 
protest to resistance." In a report on the National Council in New Left Notes , Calvert 
indicated why he felt the draft program was so important: 

That program does not talk about politics or the taking of power. It does not 
talk about the new society or the democratization of ' decision-making. It 
talks about "resistance." And, finally, behind its rhetoric and its programmatic 
details, it talks about the only thing that has given life and creativity to "the 
movement." It talks about the kind of struggle which has been most 
meaningful to the new left— the revolutionary struggle which engages and 
claims the lives of those involved despite the seeming impossibility of 
revolutionary social change— the struggle which has the power to transform, 
to revolutionize human lives whether or not it can revolutionize the societal 
conditions of human existence. 

... It offers no clear path to power, no magic formula for success, only 
struggle and a new life. No promise is made, only the hope that struggle and 
confrontation with the existing system of humanity will create freedom in the 
midst of a life-destroying society. 16 

And, with a keen perception, Calvert understood what such a program said about SDS as an 
organization: 

At its present stage of development, SDS cannot be understood in terms of 
traditional political organization. Neither ideological clarity (as political 
analysis) nor organizational stability are fundamentally important to SDSers. 
What counts is that which creates movement. What counts is that SDS be 
where the action is. What counts is that SDS be involved in the creation of a 
cutting-edge in the freedom struggle. 17 

"From protest to resistance"— and so it was. The drive toward resistance that had begun 
with the antiwar marches nearly two years before— bodies in file— and had gone on to the 
confrontation at the universities this year— bodies sitting-in— now found its first overt and 
programmatic form in the refusal to fight the war— bodies on the line. 

It was a step from which there would be no retreat. 



1 Shero, interview. 



210 



2 For Berkeley 1966, NLN, December 12,1966; James Petras, Liberation, February 1967; 
Sheldon S. Wolin and John H. Schaar, New York Review, February 9, 1967, reprinted in 
Wolin and Schaar, The Berkeley Rebellion and Beyond, New York Review/Vintage, 1970. 

3 NLN, December 23,1966; other accounts of the McNamara incident, Eichel et al., pp. 
32-35, and Kelman, pp. 51 ff. 

4 letter to N.Y. Times, November 20, 1966. 

5 PL, October-November, 1966. 

6 Simensky, letter to NO, December 1966. Calvert, letter to Simensky, January 1967. 
Chapter list, NLN, October 28, 1966. 

7 Brandeis constitution, author's file. Form letters, undated (December 1966). 

8 Davidson, NLN, February 3,1967. Calvert, NLN, September 23,1966. 

9 Calvert, November 25,1966, 

10 Davidson, NLN, February 3,1967. Baum and Faber, NLN, September 2, 1966. "Road to 
Revolution II," PL, February-March 1967; reprinted in Revolution Today: U.S.A., Progressive 
Labor Party, 1970. 

11 Sources for Early Draft Work: NLNs, fall 1966 and spring 1967, esp. March 27,1967; 
Ferber and Lynd, Chs. 2-8; Paul Lauter and Florence Howe, The Conspiracy of the Young, 
op. cit., pp. 127 ff.; Alice Lynd, editor. We Won't Go, Beacon paperback, 1968; Norma Sue 
Woodstone, Up Against the War, Tower, 1970; Liberation, May 1969. 

12 "our man," NLN, October 28, 1966. 

13 "return our draft," quoted in Ferber and Lynd, p. 51. "cooperate in any way," ibid., p. 50. 

14 Spritzler, NLN, December 9,1966. Berkeley NC, reported in NLN, January 13,1967, and 
Guardian, January 7,1967. 

15 Calvert, minutes, NLN, January 13,1967. Draft statement, NLN. ibid.; Guardian, January 
7, 1967; Ferber and Lynd, p. 60. 

16 Calvert, NLN, January 13,1967. 

17 Ibid. 

Spring 1967 

On a Saturday afternoon in the middle of February 1967 Greg Calvert addressed some three 
hundred scholars and activists gathered in Princeton University's McCosh Hall for the first 
regional conference of the Radical Education Project. His speech, which had been hammered 
out with a number of the top SDS people over previous weeks and which Calvert had stayed 
up all night to polish, represented the conclusions of the new generation of SDS after six 
months in power. "It is said," Calvert began, 



211 



that when the Guatemalan guerrillas enter a new village, they do not talk 
about the "anti-imperialist struggle" nor do they give lessons on dialectical 
materialism— neither do they distribute copies of the "Communist Manifesto" 
or of Chairman Mao's "On Contradiction." What they do is gather together the 
people of the village in the center of the village and then, one by one, the 
guerrillas rise and talk to the villagers about their own lives: about how they 
see themselves and how they came to be who they are, about their deepest 
longings and the things they've striven for and hoped for, about the way in 
which their deepest longings were frustrated by the society in which they 
lived. 

Then the guerrillas encourage the villagers to talk about their lives. And then 
a marvelous thing begins to happen. People who thought that their deepest 
problems and frustrations were their individual problems discover that their 
problems and longings are all the same— that no one man is any different 
than the others. That, in Sartre's phrase, "In each man there is all of man." 
And, finally, in the struggle to destroy the conditions of their common 
oppression. 

That, it seems to me, is what we are about. 1 

Then, turning to the contemporary American scene, Calvert scornfully dismissed the theory, 
advanced by Old Left journalist Max Gordon the night before, that the desire for material 
goods was the impulse behind revolutionary movements. On the contrary, he said, 

there is only one impulse, one dynamic which can create and sustain an 
authentic revolutionary movement. The revolutionary struggle is always and 
always must be a struggle for freedom. No individual, no group, no class is 
genuinely engaged in a revolutionary movement unless their struggle is a 
struggle for their own liberation. 2 

And then, the crucial distinction: 

The liberal reformist is always engaged in "fighting someone else's battles." 
His struggle is involved in relieving the tension produced by the contradictions 
between his own existence and life-style, his self-image, and the conditions of 
existence and life-style of those who do not share his privileged, unearned 
status ... . 

The liberal does not speak comfortably of "freedom" or "liberation," but rather 
of justice and social amelioration. He does not sense himself to be unfree. He 
does not face the contradictions between his own human potential, his 
humanity, and the oppressive society in which he participates. To deal with 
the reality of his own unfreedom would require a shattering re-evaluation of 
his subjective life-experience. 

Liberal consciousness is conscience translated into action for others ... . 

Radical or revolutionary consciousness ... . is the perception of oneself as 
unfree, as oppressed— and finally it is the discovery of oneself as one of the 
oppressed who must unite to transform the objective conditions of their 
existence in order to resolve the contradiction between potentiality and 
actuality. Revolutionary consciousness leads to the struggle for one's own 
freedom in unity with others who share the burden of oppression ... . Our 
primary task at this stage of development is the encouragement or building of 
revolutionary consciousness, of consciousness of the conditions of 
unfreedom. 3 



212 



It may have seemed a very ordinary perception, this distinction between liberal and radical, 
but it was not. It was a sharp pinpointing of where the Movement, and SDS, had come to— 
"the struggle for one's own freedom"— as a result of having been told by Black Power to 
consider their own problems, having been led by student syndicalism to a concern with the 
student's own power, and having finally seen in draft resistance the potential of young men 
acting out of their own oppression. It was also a profound realization of where the 
Movement and SDS were heading— a "unity with others who share the burden of 
repression"— in the move to create a community of identity beyond selfishness, a sense of 
mutual need, a "revolutionary consciousness." Carl Davidson a year later was to call the 
Calvert speech "a fundamental principal [sic] for the white new left," and he added, "No one 
can understand the new left unless he grasps the dynamic of Calvert's argument." For the 
next year SDS would live out the implications of this new dynamic, as it moved consciously 
now from protest to resistance. 

Draft resistance depended ultimately upon young men making both a personal and a 
political decision of the kind that Calvert described. It meant first a "perception of oneself as 
unfree" and a willingness to act on that perception by declaring public opposition to the 
draft, giving up the 2-S sanctuary, refusing the consequent induction, and then facing the 
real possibility of jail or exile. It then meant forging "a unity with others" by writing, 
speaking, leafleting, organizing. It was, in many ways, the perfect radical process. 

In January New Left Notes published an article that was as instrumental as any other single 
item in promoting this process. Peter Henig, who had been researching the draft for REP in 
Ann Arbor, came across a Selective Service document that told with embarrassing clarity 
just what the purpose of the Selective Service System was: 

Delivery of manpower for induction, the process of providing a few thousand 
men with transportation to a reception center, is not much of an 
administrative or financial challenge. It is in dealing with the other millions of 
registrants that the System is heavily occupied, developing more effective 
human beings in the national interest. 

Chief among them are college students, and the document makes it clear that they are 
allowed to defer military service only as long as they seem likely to prove themselves 
useful— in the national interest, of course, not their own— in some other way. To channel 
them in these useful directions, constant pressure is necessary: 

Throughout his career as a student, the pressure— the threat of loss of 
deferment— continues. It continues with equal intensity after graduation. His 
local board requires periodic reports to find out what he is up to. He is 
impelled to pursue his skill rather than embark upon some less important 
enterprise and is encouraged to apply his skill in an essential activity in the 
national interest. The loss of deferred status is the consequence for the 
individual who acquired the skill and either does not use it or uses it in a non- 
essential activity. 

The psychology of granting wide choice under pressure to take action is the 
American or indirect way of achieving what is done by direction in foreign 
countries where choice is not permitted. 



213 



At last, "the American way" laid bare. It was, as Greg Calvert later noted, "at least in SDS 
the first time anybody had bothered to read the material that came out of the Selective 
Service System," and it was a bombshell on the college campuses. The general response, as 
SDS printed it on a very successful button, was: NOT WITH MY LIFE YOU DONT* 

In the first months of 1967 fledgling draft-resistance groups were started at several 
campuses, most notably at Wisconsin, Berkeley, and Cornell, where the groundwork had 
been laid as early as the previous fall. The existence of the Cornell group was largely due to 
former SDS regional traveler and chapter founder Tom Bell, who had now dropped out of 
school to work full time on draft organizing, and SDSers were prominent elsewhere as well. 
By March, according to Jeff Segal, then out on bail from his draft sentence and acting as 
SDS's national draft coordinator, there were maybe twenty-five groups on college 
campuses. At the same time there had sprung up parallel "We Won't Go" groups of men 
who pledged themselves to refuse service in Vietnam (though not necessarily refusing 
service elsewhere or resisting the draft in toto), and who usually announced themselves in 
bold advertisements in the college papers. As the spring wore on, 350 students in the New 
England area signed such statements, some 300 at Stanford, 391 at Cornell, 150 at 
Wisconsin, 126 in Milwaukee, no in Portland, and 257 at various medical schools, plus 
smaller groups at campuses from Queens to San Francisco State. 4 

The role of SDS in all this was mixed. SDS was not the shaper and shaker of the draft- 
resistance movement as clearly as it had been, for example, of ghetto organizing, the initial 
war protests, or campus protest. Primarily this was because draft-resistance organizing was 
basically so intimate a process, depending upon face-to-face conversations and a sense of 
close-knit community in the face of imminent danger, that no national organization, not 
even one as devoted to decentralization as SDS, could have molded it. But it was also true 
that SDS, coming in late as it did, found that much of the seedwork had been done, so that 
where it was successful this spring was largely in those areas where it ' joined with existing 
groups or previously committed individuals. Moreover, the enthusiasm for draft resistance 
as expressed in Berkeley turned out not to be universally shared among the membership 
and less than half the chapters chose to swing themselves over from student power or 
complicity campaigns to draft work. + And on top of it all, as the National Office underlings 
had predicted in Berkeley, the Chicago office had its hands full already with all the other 
operations of a large and growing organization. 



The line was taken from a Grade-B film running at the time, Not With My Wife You Don't. But what a difference. 

+ A poll reported in The New York Times of January 11 indicated that some 80 percent of college students "prefer to 
retain their student deferments" (though a like number also wanted to see other changes in the draft law). It was 
this self-protectionism more than anything else that stood in the way of an all-out SDS effort. 



214 



But it is safe to say that without the impetus from SDS as a national organization, and 
especially from individual SDSers working on their own with all the skills they had learned 
from other political work, draft resistance would never have reached the proportions that it 
did. After initial uncertainty as to how to follow out the Berkeley resolution, the National 
Office began to devote considerable energy to general support and propaganda for the draft 
movement. Calvert and Davidson both made extensive tours on campuses pushing their 
conviction that the time had come to move from protest to resistance and urging draft 
refusal as one of those ways. Calvert, particularly, who had been in on the earliest days of 
draft refusal and who, despite the safety of his age (then twenty-nine), had returned his 
draft card to his local board with a statement that he wanted to "resign from your system," 5 
was an influential force: he played a pivotal role at a wide-spectrum student conference in 
February that ended up with a group of organizations from the Young Americans for 
Freedom to the DuBois Clubs supporting a surprisingly strong antidraft position, and he 
added his personal testament by joining a group of SDSers at his old Iowa State campus 
who chained the wheels and blocked the path of a bus carrying men for induction. The NO 
put out two buttons with wide popularity on the campuses— NOT WITH MY LIFE YOU DON'T 
and one reading simply RESIST— and cranked up the printing presses to grind out five 
thousand copies of the Berkeley resolution and ten thousand copies of the old "Guide to 
Conscientious Ojection." New Left Notes periodically ran a column of news and suggestions 
called "On the Draft," and on March 27 devoted a special twelve-page issue entirely to draft 
resistance and "We Won't Go" strategies which eventually sold ten thousand copies. In 
addition to Segal, who worked out of the National Office with considerable help from 
Assistant National Secretary Dee Jacobsen, SDS had eight full-time draft organizers: Levi 
Kingston, Doug Norberg, and Mark Kleiman in California, Morty Miller in New England, Bob 
Pardun in Texas-Oklahoma, Mark Harris at Antioch, Tom Bell in Ithaca, and Mendy Samstein 
in New York (though only the first five got NO salaries, of up to $30 a week, and then only 
sporadically). All of this was important in helping to crystallize those organizations which 
had been only tentatively formed before, and in pushing the idea of draft refusal to the 
foreground of student politics, where it was to stand for months as the touchstone of 
radicalism. 

And it was SDSers who were largely responsible for the most propelling antidraft action of 
the spring, the mass draft-card burning in New York City during the April 15 Spring 
Moratorium. This was planned and led by the people around the Cornell draft-resistance 
group, inspired by SDSer Bruce Denis's draft-card destruction in December, who argued 
that "powerful resistance is now demanded: radical, illegal, unpleasant, sustained," and 
issued a call in early March for five hundred people to join them in a mass "burn-in." As 
April 15 approached, however, it seemed that no more than fifty or sixty people could be 
found to declare their commitment: this explicit move from protest to resistance was 
condemned by many "moderate" groups, denounced even by the Spring Mobilization's 
steering committee, and feared by many young men who were otherwise actively against 
the war. The Cornell group, nervous and fearful, but determined now, vowed to go ahead 
anyway. 6 



215 



Just before the mass march was to begin in the late morning of April 15, several hundred 
people crowded onto a large knoll in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. A few people tried to 
speak above the excited hubbub, there was a song or two, and then as the first hesitant 
matches touched the first small cards in the center of the crowd a gasp and then a cheer 
went up, dissolving into a steady chant of "Re-sist, Re-sist, Re-sist." Twenty cards were 
aflame, then fifty, and soon men began pushing in from the fringes holding their cards 
above the waiting matches, cigarette lighters, and a flaming coffee can. Before it was over 
more than a hundred and fifty people— no one knows for sure since no one bothered to keep 
close count and the FBI and New York Red Squad agents made a quick scramble for the 
scraps— had put their lives "on the line" for their politics.* One of them, Martin Jezer, felt, he 
said, that "not to have burned a draft card on April 15 would have been tantamount to living 
in Boston in 1773 and not to have dropped tea in Boston harbor." It was an important 
symbolic moment for the antidraft movement. Combined with the beginnings of the West 
Coast group called Resistance, which was launched this same day with a call for the mass 
turn-in of draft cards in the fall, this was to reverberate throughout ivied halls around the 
country. New York Times columnist Tom Wicker was not alone in calling up visions of what 
the future might hold: 

If the Johnson Administration had to prosecute 100,000 Americans in order to 
maintain its authority, its real power to pursue the Vietnamese war or any 
other policy would be crippled if not destroyed. It would then be faced not 
with dissent, but with civil disobedience on a scale amounting to revolt. 7 

By the beginning of summer, there was no doubt that on the draft front at least, resistance 
had begun. According to Jeff Segal and Martin Jezer, some sixty antidraft unions had been 
established by June and at least two thousand men had signed "We Won't Go" statements/ 
Other national groups— the DuBois Clubs, the Student Mobilization Committee, the Southern 
Students Organizing Committee— adopted draft-resistance programs; and several local 
organizations— the Boston Draft Resistance Group, New England Resist, CADRE (Chicago 
Area Draft Resistance), the Draft Denial in New York City— had sprung up to launch 
successful drives on a regional level. No one knows for sure how many young men were 
affected, but the Justice Department announced that it had just finished prosecuting 1,335 
draft cases in the fiscal year ending July 1, up from 663 in the previous fiscal year, and the 
figure would continue to mount. By now, in Staughton Lynd's words, "draft resistance was a 
cutting edge or growing point for the Movement as a whole." 



Among them: Bell, Dancis (with a new card), the five Cornellians who signed the original call (Jan Flora, Binton 
Ira Weiss, Robert Nelson, Michael Rotkin, and Timothy Larkin), New York pacifist Martin Jezer, Don Baty (whose 
story is told by Anthony Lukas in his Don't Shoot— We Are Your Children!, Random House, 1971), one Green Beret 
(Gary Rader), several veterans, and a number of women who burned cards of absent friends or husbands. 

+ This may be an underestimate. Figures given in New Left Notes during the spring, in the May 27 issue of the New 
Republic, and Ferber and Lynd's The Resistance (1971) indicate that some 2,262 young men signed "We Won't Go" 
statements, not counting those above draft age who pledged support, and this probably does not include signers at 
many small local groups. 



216 



Student protests in the spring of 1967 were another expression of the Calvertian "struggle 
for one's own freedom in unity with others who share the burden of oppression." This was 
not new— it had been embodied in the student power drive for several months now— but the 
feeling that the struggle was moving to a higher stage certainly was. Jack Smith, during a 
long profile of SDS for the Guardian, wrote that "virtually the entire leadership and most 
SDS activists to whom this reporter spoke maintain that ' a broad movement can be 
developed based on a radical rejection of American life and culture and on resistance to the 
demands of society." Calvert and Davidson, who between them visited more than a hundred 
campuses that spring, were heady with the success they found in reaching the students. 
Davidson, describing for Smith the "Guatemala guerrilla" approach he used with students, 
said, "You'd be astonished at the reception this gets, when people realize that they aren't 
alone, that the failures and the problems they ascribed to themselves stem in large part 
from the society in which they live and the images of themselves they accepted from 
society." And Calvert even saw "an indigenous revolt"— though as yet "impotent, 
personalized or evidenced by apathy"— among the young, a great many of whom, he felt, 
were "turned off on America." SDS's job was simply to perfect this process: 8 

For SDS, organizing people, in one sense, is detaching them from the 
American reality. When we break them out of that reality, that America, they 
begin to see their own lives, and America, in a new way ... . The process, 
really, is to allow the real person to confront the real America. 

Increasingly students, like draft resisters, having done with protest and negotiation, were 
"confronting the real America" and putting resistance into practice. By May, in a long front- 
page dispatch on student radicalism. The New York Times could say flatly: "The spirit of 
resistance and direct action constitutes perhaps the major attitude in the New Left today." 9 



217 



Resistance at Cornell (January 20): when the local district attorney tried to confiscate copies 
of the student literary magazine, he was met by an angry crowd of two thousand students 
who sold the magazine in open defiance of his authority; and when five students were 
arrested, they surrounded the police car and forced the DA to give up his prisoners. 
Resistance at Penn State (February 10): thirty-five SDSers began a three-day sit-in at the 
office of the president until he agreed to answer SDS's questions about university policy 
with regard to releasing student organization lists to the House Internal Security 
Committee. Resistance at the University of Wisconsin (February 27): eleven students were 
arrested for disrupting the recruiting efforts of a Dow Chemical Company representative, 
and several hundred others sat in at the administration building until the university 
president agreed to post a $1,200 bond out of his own pocket for the arrested students and 
to call a faculty meeting to reconsider the university's blanket policy of open recruiting. 
Resistance at Columbia (March 13): a student strike was threatened if the administration 
did not abide by a student referendum that had voted 1,333 to 563 against giving class 
ranks to the Selective Service, and, under pressure, the University Council voted two to one 
to go along with the student wishes.* Resistance at the New School for Social Research 
(April 13): an antiwar strike organized by SDS succeeded in keeping some 65 percent of the 
thirteen thousand students from attending classes, and angry students shouted both New 
School President John Everett and Senator Eugene McCarthy off stage that night when the 
two of them tried to circumvent the strike. Resistance at conservative Los Angeles City 
College (May 30): four hundred students defied a college ruling and the threats of 
administrators to hear Carl Davidson and student speakers talk about student power, free 
speech on campus, SDS organizing, and the Vietnam war— and, with unheard-of boldness, 
twenty-five of them afterward marched on to the deans' offices to protest the threats. 
Resistance at the black colleges and universities: at Howard University (March 21), students 
prevented SSS director Lewis Hershey from propagandizing on stage and defied the 
administration when it tried to crack down; at Texas State, Jackson State, and Fisk 
University (May), student protests led to the invasion of local police, attacks by the police 
on the students, and, at Texas State, the killing of one policeman, presumably from a 
ricochet. And resistance even in DeKalb, Illinois (February 17-19), where SDS's Midwestern 
Regional Conference that spring ended with a feeling, according to Bill Murphy of the 
Northeastern Illinois University SDS, 



* The building of resistance to the point where a chapter can threaten a student strike is not a happenstance. The 
Columbia experience suggests exactly what goes into the efforts behind the ultimate headline. SDS had started 
agitating against class rank from the time of the first SSS exam in the spring of 1966, but had not met much 
encouragement. With the escalation of the war and a statement from the Columbia College faculty in January 1967 
urging withholding of rank, the Columbia student government proposed a referendum and SDS seized upon this as 
a convenient educational and tactical weapon. SDS, with something over a hundred members, held daytime rallies, 
passed out leaflets between classes, and sent its minions (including one Mark Rudd) out canvassing every floor in 
every dormitory on campus. After the referendum vote was in, the students showing themselves solidly against 
ranking, and the administration was still mute, SDS started pushing the issue of student power in leaflets and 
rallies and called for a strike if the administration didn't give in. Laboriously then it created links with other campus 
organizations (not all of whom were comfortable bedfellows) until six other groups, mostly nonpolitical, agreed to 
support the demands. Student strike committees were then established in each dormitory, with liaisons (usually 
SDSers) to a campus strike headquarters while SDS continued to grind out leaflets, became instrumental in turning 
out a flimsy newspaper called Strike News, visited sympathetic (or potentially sympathetic) faculty and 
administration members, and participated in endless strategy meetings. With others in the broad-based strike 
committee, SDS then held daily rallies, established phone links with off-campus students, held regular 
dormitory-floor discussion groups, organized an impromptu financial campaign, coordinated distribution and 
publicity, established a pool of voluntary manpower, arranged for tables to be manned regularly throughout the 
campus, planned a Strike Dance to raise money, and, in the midst of it all, set up plans for an alternate school 
(courses on Vietnam, Columbia and the Warfare State, etc.) when the strike came. And all of this, from referendum 
to victory, in less than a month. {New Left Notes, April 24, May 1, June 12, and June 19, 1967.) 



218 



... that we are emerging from a period of disenchantment, of near despair, of 
disorganization, of relative inactivity. We have entered into a new spirit 
centered around the themes that ran thru the conference— namely: that we in 
SDS— involved in the radical movement— are participating in DEAD SERIOUS 
BUSINESS. We must open our eyes to the fact that resistance in one area is 
not enough. Our resistances must be total and absolute. This must lead to a 
revolution unlike any other in history. It cannot be solely political; it must be 
all encompassing— starting from within our own hearts and proceeding 
outward and upward.* 10 

Resistance, clearly, was on the rise. And yet, though the scale of student protests escalated, 
the issues, on balance, remained the same. At many campuses student-power issues 
(parietal rules, curriculum complaints, arbitrary administrative authority) ignited protests; 
SDSers at a number of campuses (notably Cornell, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Princeton, 
Queens, and even Virginia's staid Old Dominion College) turned these into clearly political 
struggles. On a few campuses (Colorado, Iowa State, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, 
Northwestern, Stanford, and Wisconsin), SDSers and other self-named "radical" candidates 
won student government presidencies and used them to raise political demands. The war 
continued to generate some protests as an issue by itself (especially at Columbia, Florida, 
San Fernando Valley State, Stanford, and Texas), usually when a local politico, an 
administration figure, or one of the White House apologists appeared in public to proclaim 
its virtues. 



* Not that resistance looked like a revolution or even a bitter battle at every campus. At Texas it took the form of 
"Gentle Thursday," when people were asked to "be nice and gentle to each other" for one whole day and poets 
were invited to recite, singers to sing, artists to draw, and strangers to embrace. As Bob Pardun, the Texas 
regional traveler, described it in New Left Notes (February 3, 1967), "When Gentle Thursday arrived, we had a 
balloon seller on campus and a large part of the student body sat on the grass. One of my beatnik friends was 
invited out for lunch by two sorority chicks. People talked, flew kites, wrote gentle things on the sidewalks, 
buildings and the ROTC airplane. The general repercussions were very good. We did in fact begin to make inroads 
between us and the rest of the student body." And if the National Office would not have thought of this exactly as 
resistance, the Texas administration did. SDS was called before the Committee on Student Organizations, 
chastised, and disciplined. It was, Pardun said, "an excellent opportunity for us to get our newer members involved 
in confrontation with the administration." And it was soon picked up by other, usually conservative, campuses, 
among them Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Mexico. 



219 



But by far the greatest number of protests continued to center on the issue of complicity. 
There were referenda and demonstrations against the draft and the still persistent practice 
of class ranking (Columbia, Cornell, CUNY, Howard, Iowa State, San Francisco State, 
Stanford); protests against secret military research and big-business interference in 
university affairs (Chicago, Columbia, New York University, Pennsylvania, and Stanford); 
and sit-ins, pickets, and disruptions of recruiters from Dow, the CIA, and the armed forces 
(Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, New Paltz, Northern 
Illinois University, Old Dominion, Pomona, San Francisco State, Toledo, UCLA, and 
Wisconsin). As the role of the universities became clearer with each passing month, the 
extent of their intertwining with the worst of America became similarly clear. And though 
there was little opportunity to protest it, the complicity anger was not diminished with the 
revelations that many college administrators were working on behalf of the FBI to spy on 
and send regular reports about students who were active in political affairs. In Berkeley 
during this spring the admissions officer admitted that in "three or four cases in the last few 
months" student records were given to the FBI; at Brigham Young University the president 
acknowledged that he had recruited students to spy on eight professors whom he regarded 
as too liberal, six of whom were forced to resign; at Duke University the administration 
admitted to compiling dossiers on the political views and social habits of each of its 
students, some of which found their way into FBI hands; at the coolest of all imaginable 
hotbeds. New York State College at Brockport, one administrator affirmed that there were 
no fewer than five people on the campus "in regular contact with the FBI" and said 
"surveillance work is occurring on every campus in the country" 11 ; and documented 
evidence indicated that at least six other universities— Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio State, 
Michigan State, and Texas— collaborated with the FBI. All this, as many students realized, 
could only be the visible tip of the clandestine iceberg.* 12 

The complicity protests were for the most part local responses to national troubles, but 
insofar as they had any coherent national character it was due to SDS. There was almost no 
attention paid by the national media— the best, albeit accidental, source for coordinating 
national actions— and what there was tended to treat all campus disruptions as essentially 
about local educational issues. It was left to New Left Notes , and the regional travelers and 
chapter activists who learned from it, to spread the word. Though the circulation was only a 
little over five thousand at the time, careful work by editor Cathy Wilkerson, a Swarthmore 
SDSer who joined the NO in December, and cooperation from various campus 
correspondents made it into an effective coordinator of the whys and hows of complicity 
protests. During the spring it printed several exposures by diligent campus sleuths of 
ongoing projects where universities were involved with the government: "Project Themis," a 
$20-million program using fifty universities (out of 171 which wanted the job) for research 
relating to overseas "defense missions"; the Institute for Defense Analysis, a Department of 
Defense offspring linking twelve major universities in a $15-million-a-year program of 
classified (predominantly military) research; and a network of thirty-eight universities or 
university-connected institutions working on chemical and biological warfare. In addition, 
the paper gave steady coverage to complicity protests, giving the details of organization 
and follow-through, the assessments of victory, and, perhaps most important, the honest 
confessions of defeat, with the addenda of how to do better next time. 



* Those were not the only signs of repression either, simply the ones where the university was most involved. 
During this year Army Intelligence officers owned up to a year-long investigation of one SDSer in ROTC at 
Washington University, and another SDS member at Iowa was told by an FBI agent that the bureau knows "all 
about the stunts which SDS pulls." {New Left Notes, February 20 and 27, 1967.) 



220 



The unquestionable escalation in campus protests in the early months of 1967 was aided 
considerably by the reports by Harrison Salisbury of massive U.S. bombing of civilian 
targets in North Vietnam and the scalawaggery of the United States Congress in refusing to 
seat the duly-elected Harlem Representative, Adam Clayton Powell. But nothing shook the 
student world so much as the exposure of the National Student Association. On February 
13, in advance of a story it was running on the NSA, Ramparts magazine took a full-page ad 
in several major papers to declare that it had uncovered information that NSA was funded 
by the Central Intelligence Agency. Ever since 1952, it seems— though more probably even 
since NSA's founding in 1948— the CIA had been paying substantial portions of the NSA 
budget, controlling its top positions, influencing its policies, recruiting its members into the 
spy business, and using the organization to promote its Cold War policies both within the 
country and in student affairs abroad. The handsome NSA building in Washington, the 
$500,000-or-so yearly budget, the delegations to this or that youth festival, the annual 
meetings— all had been provided by the CIA, and all with the knowledge and cooperation of 
most of the students who had been top NSA officials. 13 

To most students, the news was a penetrating shock. Those who had dealt with NSA in any 
proximity, of course, had long suspected "funny money" somewhere— Tom Hayden, for 
example, knew that things weren't entirely above board when a lengthy civil-rights 
memorandum which NSA had hired him to write in 1961 somehow just never got printed; 
both Paul Booth and Paul Potter (NSA vice president in 1961-62, but never let in on the big 
secret) felt something was fishy when they were on the target end of mysteriously 
spontaneous redbaiting campaigns by NSA officials; and as SDS began to grow in the mid- 
sixties, a number of people starving their way through the NO had begun to wonder how an 
organization without even a campus constituency (NSA represents official student 
governments, not students) could keep going for so long, so lavishly. But most students had 
accepted the myth that NSA was pure and idealistic and believed that an American 
government would never stoop so low as to manipulate some of its own students to deceive 
the rest, and for them the revelations hit with special force. 14 

SDS chapters were quick to circulate the news and hold meetings on its implications, often 
tying it in with past or impending visits from CIA recruiters. Nick Egleson, in announcing to 
the press SDS's disaffiliation from another CIA student front, the United States Youth 
Council (of which it had been a nominal member but was a year and a half in arrears in its 
dues), attacked CIA activities as "just one facet of a larger problem: the involvement of the 
government and the military in all aspects of American educational life." 

Not only must the CIA be uprooted from student organizations; the time has 
come to separate education from the military, learning from the processes of 
government. Secret military research in our universities not only 
compromises the integrity of our scientists and scholars, but also perverts the 
real education tasks of those institutions. 15 

Ironically, another "moderate" student organization, the Campus Americans for Democratic 
Action, was going through its own troubles just at the same time. CADA, under chairman 
Claudia Dreifus (an SDSer at NYU in the early days), had split from the parent ADA over the 
latter's centrist and stuffy ways, but found itself isolated and crushed in the resulting melee. 
In February it disbanded. More ironically still, CADA and the NSA had been hatching grand 
plans for a "moderate left" national student organization that would rival and, they hoped, 
supplant SDS. With those two organizations in shambles, SDS, scruffy and long-haired 
though it may have been, seemed a white knight by comparison. 



221 



In the spring of 1967 the Progressive Labor Party suffered a serious lesion as a result of a 
dispute over the "Road to Revolution II" statement adopted the preceding fall and published 
in the February-March issue of its magazine, PL. Several PL groups on the West Coast, 
where the party had acquired an early strength among older leftists dissatisfied with the 
Communist Party, objected to both the manner by which it had been adopted and several 
key points it made. The statement, they pointed out, had not been fully debated within the 
party, had been published without the requisite "prior discussion" with local party groups, 
and had been approved by the party's National Committee only after it had appeared; one 
National Committee member who had expressed disapproval had been suspended. More 
serious than that, the statement's attacks on the "revisionist" Vietnamese put the party in 
opposition to one of the most dynamic forces for revolutionary change in the world and in 
isolation from virtually every other Marxist-Leninist party in existence. The Washington 
State PL group independently published newsletters in opposition to the statement, 
whereupon its chairman, Clayton Van Lydegraf, was expelled from the party by the New 
York leaders, and he left, taking several people out with him; the California PL group also 
raised objections, and some fifteen to twenty of its members were subsequently expelled or 
chose to disaffiliate. At the same time a group of PLers in Canada, many in the Vancouver 
area, began complaining about the leadership of Milt Rosen— one of them, Jack Scott, was 
suspicious about his "apparently unlimited source of funds" 16 from Georgia land and Texas 
oil (this last a reference to Albert Maher)— and about what they regarded as the highhanded 
dealings of Phil Taylor, one of Rosen's chief operatives in Canada. 

The result of this was more than just another split in an Old Left already splintered into an 
array of toothpicks. It meant that PL lost much of its heretofore supportive Western base— 
and, with it, many (if not most) of its nonstudent, nonintellectual, working-class and trade- 
union members, the very kinds of people it declared itself to be of and for. Party 
membership was thereby narrowed primarily to the group in and around New York, which 
had always been the intellectual center of the party, and to people who were PLers first and 
workers (because the party told them to get working-class jobs) second. 

This, in turn, meant that PL had to search elsewhere for new support, and it saw in the 
burgeoning and increasingly militant student movement a natural— and for many, both 
cadres and leaders, a congenial— source of recruits. Jeff Gordon, in an article in the 
February-March PL, developed the idea, still new in PL circles, of a worker-student alliance 
as a means of tapping this source. "The student and intellectual movement," he wrote, "is 
simmering" but "activists on campus are turning inward, moving to secondary and often 
esoteric issues or doing nothing at all." The way to enlist students, he argued, was to get 
them to join with the all-powerful working class so that they will feel they have a good 
chance to win at least in the long run." This worker-student alliance, he felt, should engage 
in a variety of actions including support for striking workers, support for the demands of 
campus workers, and involvement of workers in antiwar actions. Thus was born a PL 
strategy, the worker-student alliance, that was to have important ramifications for SDS in 
the coming years. 

Three months later, at the start of the 1967 summer vacations, PL announced another 
program to enlist students: a "Vietnam Work-in." This would be an effort to enroll students 
in summer jobs on assembly lines and in the shops, wherever the true working class might 
be found, and have them talk to their fellow workers about the war. "Thousands of 
students," PL announced somewhat optimistically, would be organized "to bring the ideas, 
the politics and the urgency of the anti-Vietnam war movement, among the workers on 
their jobs." 17 

The most natural source of students for programs such as these, and for eventual 
recruitment into the party, was of course SDS. From this spring on PL redoubled its efforts 
to push its politics in and recruit its membership from the ranks of SDS. 



222 



The idea of a worker-student alliance was first put to the student organization at the April 
National Council meeting in Cambridge, a PL stronghold, but since New Left Notes had not 
found space to print the proposal beforehand and since many SDSers were innately 
suspicious of any new scheme coming from the PLers, no action was taken on it. It was not 
until the May 1 New Left Notes that SDSers at large learned about the idea. Al Greene, an 
SDS member, wrote that "the potential which exists for a radical worker-student alliance is 
very much apparent," and urged the official adoption of a policy by which SDS chapters 
(which he called "locals," adopting PL terminology) would support local strikes, unionize 
unrepresented employees, discuss the war and American politics among workers, and 
"cultivate at least the seeds of a real alliance between working people ... and radical 
students." There was no identification of Greene as a member of PL or any mention of the 
worker-student alliance as a PL strategy. 

The work-in proposal made its appearance four weeks later, in the May 29 New Left Notes. 
A page-one article, sounding for all the world like a Milt Rosen polemic, argued that 

... conscious and directed working-class opposition to the war is the most 
powerful anti-war movement imaginable. To be with, to move and move with 
American workers, we've got to work with them. To bring anti-war, anti- 
racism, and radical ideas to the workers we've got to know what moves them, 
what their attitudes really are; we've got to know where they live. This can 
best be done by sharing their work, their on the job problems. 

It urged every SDSer to "go out and get a job" for the summer, "preferably in large 
industries or places employing many area residents." And it even, for perhaps the first time 
in serious SDS discourse, threw in a (not quite apposite) quotation from Lenin: "There can 
be no revolutionary practice without revolutionary theory." Of the twelve signers, all 
designated as SDSers, only three were listed as being members of PL; none of the ten 
regional work-in coordinators whom SDSers were asked to contact was identified as a party 
member. 

Meanwhile, the general antiwar movement in the land continued to grow. Plans for the 
newest series of marches, on April 15 in New York and San Francisco, were laid by the 
largest popular-front organization to date, the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the 
War in Vietnam, which had grown out of the ashes of the National Coordinating Committee 
in the spring and summer of 1966. SDS, as usual, despite repeated blandishments, officially 
said it would have nothing to do with the organization, treating it with the same 
sympathetic scorn it had shown its predecessor: as ERAPer Mike James told the Mobilization 
high command, SDS policy was "Don't mobilize, organize." But in the early months of 1967, 
as the war in Vietnam escalated, American deaths approached the 9,000 mark, and 
President Johnson seemed hell-bent on the leveling of North Vietnam, sentiment on many 
campuses shifted toward support. Debate rimed the pages of New Left Notes for some 
weeks, the "no-more-parades" people arguing against the "telling-truth-to-power" 
advocates, but slowly it became clear that most of the chapters were caught up in the 
mobilization idea, and the April National Council, meeting just two weeks before the 
marches, finally lent its grudging support. 

On one level, the Mobilization was a singular success. Some 300,000 people gathered in 
New York and San Francisco, Martin Luther King made a dramatic speech appealing to the 
Administration to "save our national honor," and the whole thing, according to the 
organizers, represented "the largest demonstration of any kind ever held in the history of 
the U.S. for any reason." 18 Many of those who marched did so under SDS banners, 
providing the SDS leadership with a bitter sense of its political distance from the chapter 
constituency and reinforcing Calvert's complaint that "in effect we have been used to make 
other people's political points and to help build others' organizations." 



223 



But on another level, the Mobilization marked for many the end of trying to change national 
policies through peaceful protest; and this time it was not only the SDS veterans who spoke 
of the futility of marches, but many of the younger recruits as well. To them it was clear 
that this mobilization, despite its size and now generally favorable press coverage, was as 
fruitless as the previous ones, a conviction which the subsequent increases in American 
troops and draft inductions did nothing to dispel. In the words of Dotson Rader, a Columbia 
SDSer who suffered the additional ignominy of getting his head beaten by New York City 
cops during the Mobilization: 

The meaninglessness of non-violent, "democratic" methods was becoming 
clear to us in the spring of 1967. The Civil Rights Movement was dead. 
Pacifism was dead. Some Leftists— the Trotskyites, Maoists, radical socialists, 
anarchists, some of the radicals in SDS, Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown, Tom 
Hayden— knew it early. But it took the rest of us a while to give up the sweet 
life of the democratic Left for revolt. 

"Revolt"— is that too strong a word? Perhaps, but not by much. For many others wrestled 
that spring with the feeling that there was something more, something stronger, that 
needed to be done, were led to their first real contemplation of what a revolt, a revolution— 
how odd it sounded, how dissynchronous, yet ...—would mean. Now for the first time the 
people around SDS began toying with the idea of revolution. It was not seen in terms of 
students' taking to the hills or (in spite of a growing fad for Che Guevara posters) of armed 
guerrilla warfare; it was something only tentative and experimental, a faint nibble at the 
forbidden fruit; and it was for the most part still meant jocularly, as in such New Left Notes 
lines as "We can't fight the revolution on an empty stomach," or "If you believe in the 
revolution, pay your dues." But it signaled a willingness, on the part of the most active 
SDSers at least, to confront the idea of a sweeping and total change in the institutions of 
America brought about through a conjunction of the forces for resistance and the attitudes 
of the alienated counterculture. This is what Calvert meant when he spoke of building a 
"revolutionary consciousness." 

The problem, as those of the SDS leadership saw it, was how to move more people from 
personal action to political commitment, how to raise the level of those who were so 
obviously potential recruits— the draft resister, the campus demonstrator, the antiwar 
marcher— to that of "revolutionary consciousness." Davidson put it simply: "We need to 
move from protest to resistance; to dig in for the long haul; to become full-time, radical, 
sustained, relevant. In short, we need to make a revolution. But again, how do we go about 
it?" 

SDS came up with two answers that spring. 

The first, the simplest, was as old as Haber's first memo to the LID: internal education. Only 
this time it was to have a new name, not noticeably chosen for its greater felicity: 
"institutes for teacher-organizers." 19 

The idea of the "T-0 institutes," as they became known, was a queer mixture of the familiar 
graduate-school seminar, the ERAP communal-living projects, and the political "cadre 
schools" that Old Left groups like the Communist Party used to run during the summers. 
SDS was to set up three summer-long institutes, in Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles, 
where potential T-Os would live together, take seminars in subjects like political theory, 
community organizing, and Marxian economics, hold regular "round-table" sessions on the 
student movement and the State of American politics, and undertake short-term "field 
projects" with local students in summer jobs or attending school. At the end of the summer, 
it was hoped, there would be at least thirty regional travelers who would be equipped to go 
around to existing chapters to push the political level of SDSers toward a revolutionary 
consciouness. 



224 



The idea was sensible enough, but somehow SDS and internal education never could mix 
well. The National Office started the project on the assumption that it could use the Radical 
Education Project to run its seminars, and came in for a rude shock when REP answered 
that it hadn't been a part of SDS since its independent incorporation a year ago and in any 
case had no intention of giving up its independent research work to become a minor figment 
in an SDS dream. Then the NO tried to raise $20,000 to launch the projects, even putting 
out a small promotional brochure (showing pictures of the current campus travelers and 
lauding them as "the backbone of the student movement"), without getting so much as a 
nibble from the charitable foundations. Ultimately SDS was forced to set up its own 
education project and dip into its own coffers for most of the money. But it went ahead, 
selected the T-0 trainees, enlisted some of its most experienced people as project 
directors,* and on June 16, the T-0 institutes began. 

The second answer that SDS came to was another old one, the "need for an ideology." Now 
in truth SDS had never lacked an ideology, and for most of its early life The Port Huron 
Statement and America and the New Era enunciated it; moreover, each of its previous 
ventures— civil rights, university reform, ERAP, Vietnam protest, the draft, student 
syndicalism— had been accompanied by comprehensive and radical theories, proto- 
ideologies really, no matter what the critics said. But at this stage something different and 
even more comprehensive was wanted, some unified way of talking about the war, the 
military machine, imperialism, complicity, university governance, corporate liberalism, and 
the "postscarcity" economy, all in such a way as to develop that "revolutionary 
consciousness." 20 

There were a number of entries in the ideological lists in the spring of 1967. Carl Oglesby's 
book, Containment and Change 21 (distributed in large numbers by the NO), had just been 
published and circulated widely among SDS's theoretical types; its careful and detailed 
construction of the methods of American imperialism offered the scaffolding of an original 
ideological analysis. A new quarterly. Radical America, was begun by Paul Buhle and other 
SDSers, the only theoretical journal of the American New Left now that Studies on the Left 
had disintegrated. And New Left Notes itself offered a monthly section called "Praxis" to 
present what Cathy Wilkerson called "the large number of longer, more 'theoretical' articles 
which come in" and to satisfy "the wide-felt need for a more current analysis." 



Egleson, Potter, and Hal Benenson in Boston; Pardun, Adams, and Jacobsen in Chicago; Davidson and Norberg in 
Los Angeles. 



225 



But the most successful ideological contestant was a concept called "the new working class," 
which SDS this spring seized upon as the theoretical foundation for its new revolutionary 
ideology. The idea of the new working class was originally presented to SDS by three 
students at the New School for Social Research, Bob Gottlieb, Gerry Tenney, and Dave 
Gilbert, and it formed part of a long paper which they delivered to the Princeton REP 
conference, called, with conscious geographical parody, "The Port Authority Statement."* 
The concept, though presented at times in the most excruciating jargon and accompanied 
by self-conscious charts and tables and footnotes, was essentially simple. The new working 
class, unlike the traditional working class, is made up of those people with "technical, 
clerical, and professional jobs that require educational backgrounds" and of those in the 
schools and universities who provide them with those backgrounds. The new class "lies at 
the very hub of production" and is crucial for the operation of a highly industrialized, 
technocratic, computerized, and sophisticated society. Students, "in that they will by and 
large constitute this new working class, are becoming the most structurally relevant and 
necessary components of the productive processes of modern American capitalism"; they 
are, therefore, increasingly important "for the maintenance and stability of American 
society" and "socially necessary for the functioning of the economic system." If the 
members of the new working class can recognize "their structural, technical role in 
maintaining, developing and rationalizing American capitalism," they will understand "their 
own power as a force for social change"— and in this process students can form the 
vanguard when they "begin to articulate demands of control and participation," first at the 
university and then on the job. This is what makes the whole movement toward student 
protest so important, important beyond the comparatively small numbers involved, for "the 
organizing of students on the campus around the questions of student control, the draft, 
and the universities' servicing of the military can develop a radical consciousness concerning 
the role and nature of their future work positions." 22 

Here, in theoretical form, with the fillip of a class analysis, was an ideological formulation of 
considerable power. It explained why the Selective Service was forcing students into 
nonmilitary jobs valuable for "the national interest," it supported Davidson's idea of student 
power being used to transform the society by transforming the university, and it justified 
Calvert's instinct that students were right in operating out of the desire for their own 
freedom. It accounted for the new militance being shown by teachers, social workers, and 
hospital employees, for the growing support of such adult groups as REP and a Movement 
for a Democratic Society and a new "Radicals in the Professions" organization, and for the 
increasing numbers of people from the so-called middle class now to be found in the antiwar 
marches. Above all, it meshed with the mood of SDS just then, justifying the past and 
programming the future, and it did so in a way that any SDSer on any campus could grasp, 
and be led on to a revolutionary consciousness. It did, in short, everything a good 
ideological concept should do. 

And Greg Calvert knew it instantly. After hearing the paper at the Princeton conference he 
stayed up much of the night to work it into his speech the next day. It was, he said, "a 
powerful tool": 



* To be sure the concept was not original with SDS: it had been expressed in an early form by C. Wright Mills and, 
still more attenuated, by The Port Huron Statement; it had taken another form in Milovan Djilas and, following him, 
David Bazelon; and it found still later forms in such European Marxists as Andre Gorz, Herbert Marcuse, and Serge 
Mallet, the latter two of whom had dissected and debated it in the heavy pages of the International Socialist 
Journal the previous spring and summer. But it was SDS who introduced it to the broad American left. 



226 



It enables us to understand the special role of students in relation to the 
present structure of industrial capitalism. Students are the "trainees" for the 
new working class and the factory-like multiversities are the institutions which 
prepare them for their slots in the organizing students. Students are in fact a 
key group in the creation of the productive forces of this super-technological 
capitalism. We have organized them out of their own alienation from the 
multiversity and have raised the demand for "student control." That is 
important: because that is precisely the demand that the new working class 
must raise when it is functioning as the new working class in the economic 
system. It is that demand which the system cannot fulfill and survive as it is. 
That is why it is potentially a real revolutionary demand in a way that 
demands for higher wages can never be. 

... We can see that it was a mistake to assume that the only radical role 
which students could play would be as organizers of other classes. 23 

Liberals operate out of other people's oppression; the radical operates out of his own. 

During the quite considerable turmoils of this spring, the National Office in Chicago was 
operating with surprising energy and perhaps with more efficiency than it had ever shown 
before. 

The three top national officers were especially diligent in their campus travels, the NO 
estimating at the end of the school year that they had "visited approximately 150 chapters 
and filled almost 200 speaking engagements." 24 A nascent film library had sent out its five 
films for more than a hundred showings, some hundred thousand pamphlets and papers 
were printed and mailed, orders for three thousand bumper stickers, eight thousand 
posters, and ten thousand buttons were filled, and more than six thousand individual letters 
of organizational business were sent out. New Left Notes, after someone in the NO figured 
out the postal regulations, now actually got sent out the same week it was printed, and 
during the spring some 120,000 individual newspapers were addressed and mailed. The 
office itself, expanded now to the third floor of the Rossen building, had achieved a kind of 
efficient chaos; along one wall a five-shelf bookcase was stuffed with pamphlets and printed 
forms, neatly stacked and labeled; a twenty-eight-drawer file cabinet was filled with cards 
attempting to keep memberships and dues payments in reasonable order; the floors were 
swept, occasionally, and the random pop bottles, coffee containers, crumpled papers, and 
old lunch bags were removed with some periodicity. 

Officially, by the end of June, SDS had 6,371 national members, although of that number 
only 875 had paid their second-term dues— "the rest," NO staffer Jim Fite complained, 
"seem to think that the only thing they have to do is pay their dues once and then forget it. 
That is a lot of bullshit." But in addition there were perhaps five times that many people 
who counted themselves members, according to Davidson and Egleson after an extensive 
tour of the campuses. Davidson wrote: 25 

According to our modest, if not conservative, estimates, about 30,000 young 
Americans consider themselves members of SDS chapters. [This] is 
remarkable in two ways. First, we are much larger than we thought we were. 
Second, starting from almost zero, we have achieved that number in 7 years; 
we have grown tenfold in only 2 years. 



227 



The question of the exact number of chapters was somewhat murky, since chapters would 
fold as their activists graduated without letting anyone know, or they would sprout up with 
equal anonymity ("Hardly a week goes by," Davidson reported, "that the National Office 
doesn't discover an active SDS chapter somewhere that no one knew existed").* But after 
careful tabulation in December 1966, the NO figured they had exactly 227 chapters starting 
the new year, down from the figure of 265 it had been using; in the course of the spring 20 
new or revivified chapters joined/ making a total of 247 by the end of the school year. 
Membership was still concentrated in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, 
Illinois, and California. 

The bedrock problem of the NO during the spring was the old one, money. Income (mostly 
contributions) averaged a little over $100 a day at the beginning of the year, and rose 
somewhat during the spring as a result of the general upsurge in political activity and the 
three-part series in the Guardian. But it simply wasn't enough: by April SDS was more than 
$7,000 in debt, with only the dubious consolation that it was now more in debt than the 
entire annual income of the organization had been in the early years. It seemed hardly 
inappropriate for one NAC report to read, "Current Financial Status: The grim financial 
situation was again reviewed; prayers were offered, beads rubbed, and a young white 
mouse (who had fortuitously wandered into the room) was offered as a sacrifice to the Gods 
of the liberal corporate establishment," or for Dee Jacobsen later to report that NO staffers 
sat around trying to figure out how to pilfer the coffers of the Brink's depository in East 
Chicago. 26 

The April National Council meeting decided that the time had come for escalation. It voted 
to raise SDS dues to $5.00 forthwith, to impose an immediate chapter tax of $5.00 a head 
payable by June 1, to ask all SDS members with jobs to contribute 10 percent of their 
incomes over $4,000 to the national coffers, and to go on a "binge" to raise $25,000 by 
September. Now the effect of this was really more ethereal than real— by the beginning of 
May only Columbia, Harvard, and Wisconsin had paid their chapter taxes, and there were no 
signs of any others rushing forward— but it apparently convinced the NO: in May it plunked 
down $2,500 toward a $7,000 justifier machine for printing New Left Notes, bought $4,000 
worth of composition equipment, and added a press, a camera, and a darkroom. As if that 
weren't enough, the NAC then decided to buy a house (apparently from their landlord, John 
Rossen), at the "extremely low" price of $11,500— with visions, in Jacobsen's words, that it 
would "provide enough space for two staff apartments (the rent from which will pay for the 
property in 10 years), an education center with a library and two offices, a conference and 
literature production room, a small apartment for teacher-organizers and visiting chapter 
people, a large storage room, and a cellar for housing a wine press and political prisoners." 
Small wonder, then, that by July SDS was $16,499 in debt. It was injury added to insult 
when one of the NO staffers came down with infectious hepatitis, the entire staff had to be 
given special serum shots, and the Chicago Health Department informed them that they'd 
have to fork out $100 to get treated since most of the serum, normally given free, had been 
sent off to Vietnam. 



* A measure of the problem is suggested by Colorado. According to Tom Cleaver, the unofficial regional traveler 
there, there were five SDS chapters around the state as of February 1967, though only two of them, Colorado 
State University and Colorado University, were recognized by the NO. But the NO lists as of October 1966 show 
only one chapter, at Denver University, and only one chapter was added from the state in the spring, at Colorado 
State College. So, depending on who's reckoning, there were either four full-fledged chapters, none, two, or 
possibly five. 

+ Brooklyn Movement for a Democratic Society, California (Riverside), Colgate, Colorado State College, Columbia 
MDS, University of Denver, Fort Worth At-large, Loyola of Chicago, University of Maine, Mount Prospect College, 
New York (Albany), Orange (California) High School, Rutgers, Shimer College, Skid Row At-large (this was the NO's 
own chapter), Texas Tech, Wagner, Westside Chicago At-large, West Virginia, Wisconsin (Eau Claire). 



228 



But, withal, the stalwarts of SDS did not lose their sense of humor. In April someone came 
across a cartoon showing dozens of little children, happy smiles on their faces, dashing out 
of the gates of a school, while six big angry guards with flailing nets raced after them in 
fruitless pursuit. By instant and common agreement, the cartoon was made part of the 
official letterhead on SDS stationery. 



1 Calvert, "In White America," speech reprinted in Guardian. March 25,1967, REP pamphlet, 
spring 1967, and Teodori, pp. 412 ff. 

2 Davidson, Guardian, March 23, 1968. Henig, NLN, January 20,1967. SSS document of July 
1, 1965, reprinted in Lauter and Howe, op. cit., pp. 184 ff., and Wallerstein and Starr, Vol. 
I, pp. 195 ff. 

3 Calvert, Liberation, May 1969; reprints cited supra. Segal, NLN, March 27, 1967. 

4 Statement signers, NLN, ibid., and Ferber and Lynd, pp. 63 ff. 

5 Calvert to SSS, letter, NLN, February 13, 1967. 

6 For April 15, see Ferber and Lynd, pp. 68 ff; J. Anthony Lukas, Don't Shoot— We Are Your 
Children. Random House, 1971, p. 323; commercial press, "powerful resistance," call, 
Liberation, May 1969, and Ferber and Lynd, p. 72. Jezer, in Alice Lynd, editor, We Won't Go, 
Beacon, 1968, p. 7. 

7 Wicker, N.Y. Times, May 3,1967. Segal-Jezer, Ferber and Lynd, p. 64. Lynd, Liberation, 
May 1969. Smith, Guardian, April 8,15, 22,1967. 

8 Davidson, quoted April 8. Calvert, ibid. N.Y. Times, May 7, 1967. 

9 For spring campus actions, NLN, Guardian, campus and commercial press. 

10 Murphy, NLN, February 27,1967. 

11 "in regular contact," quoted in Donner, op. cit. 

12 for administration spying, Frank Donner, Playboy, March 1968; James Ridgeway, New 
Republic, March 25, 1967; FBI files from Media, Pennsylvania, office, in WIN, March 1972. 

13 for CIA-NSA, see Ramparts, February 1967, and Todd Gitlin and Bob Ross, Village Voice, 
July 6, 1967, reprinted as an SDS pamphlet, August 1967. 

14 Hayden's suspicions, from Garman, interview, and Rolling Stone, October 26, 1972; 
Booth's and Potter's, from Booth, interview. 

15 Egleson, NLN. February 27, 1967. 

16 Scott, letters, compiled by Ayers in 1969, NO files. 

17 "Vietnam Work-In," "Thousands of," PL, July-August 1967. 

18 "the largest demonstration," Guardian, April 22, 1967. Calvert, office memo, undated 
(January, 1967). Rader, Rader, p. 20. 

19 Davidson, NLN, March 27,1967. ForT-Os, see NLNs, April, May, June, 1967. 

20 brochure, undated (c. May 1967), archives and author's file. 

21 Oglesby and Richard Shaull, Containment and Change, two separate essays, the first by 
Oglesby. 



229 



22 "Praxis" sections in NLN, February 13, March 27, April 13, August 7, 1967. Wilkerson, 
NLN, February 13, 1967. Gottlieb-Tenney-Gilbert, NLN, ibid., and May 22,1967. 

23 Calvert, "In White America," op. cit. 

24 NO operation and "visited approximately," NLN, June 26,1967. 

25 Fite, NLN, ibid. Davidson, NLN, February 3, 1967. 

26 "Current Financial," NLN, February 20,1967. Jacobsen, NLN, June 26, 1967. "extremely 
low" and "provide enough," ibid. 

Summer 1967 

The summer of 1967. It was the best of times: "For white radicals it was a time of politics of 
affirmation rather than a politics of guilt" (Staughton Lynd); it was the worst of times: "To 
be white and a radical in America this summer is to see horror and feel impotence" (Andrew 
Kopkind). It was the epoch of belief: "They were ... sustained by the satisfactions they 
derived from their work, from their associations with friends in it, and from the deep, if 
usually unstated, conviction that what they were doing was politically and ethically 
important" (Kenneth Keniston); it was the epoch of incredulity: "It was a tough summer ... . 
We had no idea of what to do with our lives" (Frank Bardacke). It was the summer of hope: 
"The new tone ... is one of victory. A little premature perhaps, but inevitable victory 
nonetheless. And the beauty of it all is that it's happening everywhere" (Larry Freudiger); it 
was the summer of despair: "I am very pessimistic about the prospects of change, even of 
meaningful reforms, in this country ... . I think violence is necessary, and it frightens me" 
(Michael Zweig). 1 

It was not, one should hasten to add, really the beginning of a revolution, or at least not 
perceptibly so, but in many ways it was not so far from it. The American political scene, the 
new world of the youth, was a maelstrom of activity, swirling with the flotsam of every 
conceivable emotion and idea. 

There was the emergence of the hippie movement into a powerful and pullulating force in 
America. The pinnacles were in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and the Village byways in 
New York, but everywhere in between was the evidence of the new culture: bell-bottoms, 
workclothes. Army jackets, flowers, beads; guitars, Theremins, amplifiers, transistors, hi- 
fis, light shows; runaways, dropouts, teeny-boppers, Yippies, Diggers, proves, groupies; 
marijuana, amphetamines, acid, Leary; be-ins, love-ins, camp-outs, orgies, pot parties, 
communes, panhandling; underground papers, records, psychedelic posters, buttons. A 
counterculture had hit America, for the first time in at least forty years, and it was real 
enough for the sociologists to study it, for the media to promulgate it, for the businessmen 
to make money off it, for the youth, a large segment of the youth, to live it. 

There was Vietnam Summer, the left-liberal bell-ringing campaign that sent upwards of 
20,000 people out into the streets to get community people, mostly from the middle class, 
actively behind the antiwar movement. Of liberal origins and of liberal sponsorship— 
primarily the Martin Luther King entourage and Spring Mobilization types (neither of whom 
advocated immediate withdrawal yet), probably with funding from Robert Kennedy— it was 
immediately suspect among most SDSers; Lief Johnson, a New York City SDSer, said it all in 
New Left Notes: 



230 



Vietnam Summer is a liberal protest. It was initiated by top liberals, it acts 
upon liberal assumptions, it proceeds on liberal undemocratic methods of 
organization and leadership. The underlying purpose of this liberal strategy is 
to recapture leadership of the peace and civil rights movement, to blunt the 
awakening of our radical, anti-liberal identity, and finally to lay the 
groundwork for leading us into a coalitionist liberal-progressive third party 
movement. 2 

But it was also broad enough, short enough, and single-issued enough to scoop up a whole 
fishnet of people, and among them were many SDSers: those, like Oglesby and Potter, who 
served on its steering committee; those like Lee Webb, who became its executive director, 
and John Maher and Marilyn Salzman (later married to Lee Webb), who served in its 
national office; and those, like the people in SDS's Niagara region, who became the 
bulwarks of the local operation.* 

There was the revolt of the urban blacks, breaking out most noticeably in Newark and 
Detroit that summer, but with fulgurations in no fewer than fifty-seven other Northern 
ghettos as well. It was on a scale that had not been seen since the Watts rebellion of 1965, 
and the police and National Guard response was on a level that had not been seen 
anywhere in the sixties: at least twenty-four blacks were killed in Newark, forty-three in 
Detroit, and ten more in other scattered cities. One man who closely observed the Newark 
uprising wrote: 

This is not a time for radical illusions about "revolution." ... But the actions of 
white America toward the ghetto are showing black people, especially the 
young, that they must prepare to fight back. The conditions slowly are being 
created for an American form of guerrilla warfare based in the slums. The riot 
represents a signal of this fundamental change. 3 

That was Tom Hayden, who left Newark after that summer and in the face of that change, 
his dream of the interracial movement of the poor, even of a black community union, having 
altered considerably during the three years he worked among the black people of that city. 
But his sense of reality was still intact. 

There was the "T-O" experiment which SDS bravely went ahead with, despite 
impoverishment, and it turned out to be remarkably successful— though for none of the 
expected reasons. The Los Angeles group disintegrated after a few weeks, the Chicago 
people spent more time worrying about harassment from the police than Marxist seminars, 
and the Boston collective went about its organizing work without much concern for the 
grand 



* There would, in fact, have been no Vietnam Summer if there had been no SDS. The entire climate of opinion for 
such an operation was created by SDS's continued opposition to the war; the organizational style was copied from 
SDS (a "National Office," worklists, WATS lines, decentralized coordination); national leaders were drawn mostly 
from the SDS old guard ("I still considered myself SDS," Webb has said in an interview with the author) and local 
leaders from SDS chapters ("I hired a whole lot of SDS people so they could build the regions where they 
worked"), and the very idea itself is directly traceable to Tom Hayden, who had proposed something very much of 
this kind— for the summer of 1965. 



231 



plan of it all. But when it was over, several dozen people had gone through a communal 
experience that left its mark, and somehow their casual work for the Movement in the 
process committed them to the cause. The cadre-building notion suffered from the hippie- 
summer atmosphere— including a new indulgence in drugs, hallucinogenic and otherwise— 
so the seminars were seldom held, the books went unread, and the elaborate training never 
took place. Still, in the words of one California recruit, previously a hippie dropout for whom 
" 'Movement people' were always a bummer," the T-0 experience taught something: "You 
become serious about the Movement if you're serious about your life, and the Movement is 
a healthy meaningful thing." 4 

There was a spasmodic spate of conferences, a succession of week-long answers to where 
the left, or American politics, or Movement veterans, should go next. First there was the 
"Back-to-the-Drawing-Boards" conference organized by SDS old guarders in June, at which 
all attempts to forge a new political force were frustrated by a do-your-own-thing hippiness 
symbolized by the presence there of Abbie Hoffman and the "anarchist" Diggers from New 
York. Then came the Radicals in the Professions Conference, in Ann Arbor in July, drawing 
several hundred Movement alumni who were trying to solve the problem of how to hold 
down a job and be a radical without doing violence to either. Then there was the National 
Student Association meeting at the University of Maryland, where most NSAers went about 
blithely as if the CIA had never existed, and where a counter-conference organized by SDS 
served to challenge but not, as planned, dissolve the NSA forever. Last came the ballyhooed 
convention of the National Conference for New Politics in Chicago, which disintegrated into a 
bitter black-white feud, failed to inspire either side with its idea of middle-class electoral 
action, and soon thereafter brought down the whole NCNP organization around it. 

There was, in the middle of all this, increased surveillance and harassment from the punitive 
branches of government, from the national level to the local, marking the beginning of the 
Establishment's stepped-up campaign of repression. Among the items: on June 20, sixteen 
blacks, said to be members of a Revolutionary Action Movement, were arrested in New York 
with the story that they were planning assassinations; on June 23, Los Angeles police 
violently broke up an antiwar demonstration cosponsored by SDS, arrested fifty-one and 
sent forty to the hospital; on June 26, SNCC chairman H. Rap Brown was arrested for 
incitement to riot; in July, President Johnson told city and state officials confronted with 
violence "not to analyze but end the disorder"; in the same month, on orders from Johnson 
and other high Administration officials, the Army's secret surveillance net, the Continental 
United States Intelligence, stepped up its spying operations on all dissident political groups, 
and made its information known to the FBI and local police and Red Squad officials; 
throughout the summer local police engaged in petty harassment of SDS groups in Norman, 
Oklahoma, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City; and in Chicago the National Office 
suffered open daily surveillance, arbitrary arrests of at least ten NO staffers for simply 
driving to the office (located in a black ghetto area), and the expenditure of more than 
$1,000 for bond posting. Nothing on this scale had been seen since the darkest days of the 
McCarthy era. 5 



232 



And there was draft-resistance organizing, free universities, demonstrations against 
Johnson, working with California farm laborers, work-ins and strike supports, picketing and 
marches and sit-ins. REP and NACLA had summer programs for research on complicity, big 
business, and imperialism. ERAP was in the last summer of ghetto programs in Newark, 
Cleveland, Chicago, and Minneapolis. A "Revolutionary Contingent" was formed in New York 
to enlist young Americans to fight in guerrilla revolutions in Guatemala, Colombia, and 
Venezuela. A Southern Labor Action Movement was formed by SSOC to enlist young 
Southerners to start wildcat strikes and labor radicalizing in the South. Abbie Hoffman and a 
group of proto-Yippies showered dollar bills on the Stock Exchange in New York. Mario Savio 
and other Free Speech Movement activists went with much fanfare into jail in California on 
four-month sentences stemming from the 1964 demonstrations. Liberation News Service 
was established to provide Movement news to underground papers, and an Underground 
Press Service was begun to coordinate the twenty or so existing underground— or, more 
properly, counterculture— newspapers. In Sweden there was a summer-long tribunal, led by 
Bertrand Russell (and including SDS's own Carl Oglesby), to assess U.S. war crimes in 
Vietnam; and in Moscow there was one conference (attended by Jeff Shero) to celebrate the 
fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, while in Havana there was another to plan a 
new one for the Third World. 

That was the maelstrom of the summer of 1967: the explosion of a real American left, of a 
true if youthful counterculture, onto , the American consciousness, unlike anything seen for 
thirty years at least, and more probably for sixty. 

At the core of it all was a new generation of Americans, the youth of the sixties, and with 
the summer came the books, reports, articles, and academic studies to try to explain them 
to a troubled land. 

Time magazine began it all by citing the new generation as its "Man of the Year," 
proclaiming that "this is not just a new generation, but a new kind of generation," and going 
on to determine that "today's youth appears more deeply committed to the fundamental 
Western ethos— decency, tolerance, brotherhood— than almost any generation since the age 
of chivalry." The Nation, with an issue devoted to the class of 1967, took an almost 
antithetical tack, finding the young obsessed with immediate gratification, dominated by 
emotions ("They often seem to throb rather than think": Wallace Stegner) and mired in 
disillusionment ("The belief of the new generation that everything is SHIT": Karl Shapiro). 
Erik Erikson, in that summer's issue of Daedalus, argued that "more than any young 
generation before and with less reliance on a meaningful choice of traditional world images, 
the youth of today is forced to ask what is universally relevant in human life in this 
technological age at this junction of history." Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, in 
Columbia University's Teachers College Record at the same time said that, "looking at 
undergraduate sub-cultures in historical perspective, we are inclined to predict that the 
dissident minority will continue to grow." And to cap it all, Paul Goodman, in Playboy, 
examined the souls of radical students and catalogued 6 

... their solidarity based on community rather than ideology, their style of 
direct and frank confrontation, their democratic inclusiveness and aristocratic 
carelessness of status, caste or getting ahead, their selectivity of the affluent 
standard of living, their effort to be say and their refusal to be processed as 
standard items, their extreme distrust of top-down direction, their disposition 
to anarchist organization and direct action, their disillusion with the system of 
institutions, and their belief that they can carry on major social functions in 
improvised parallel enterprises. 



233 



On a more scholarly level, there also appeared a series of works on student activists. A 
special issue of the Journal of Social Issues appeared in July devoted to "Student Activism 
and the Decade of Protest," the first such academic attention given to the New Left; in 
Boston, Yale psychologist Kenneth Keniston spent the summer interviewing the Vietnam 
Summer office people in depth, for his Young Radicals; and a detailed report on campus 
activism, by Joseph Katz of the Stanford Institute for the Study of Human Problems, was 
published by no less than the U.S. Office of Education. From these and other sources there 
began to emerge a rough picture of the activist of 1967. 

The academic evidence painted a flattering— perhaps overly flattering— picture of the New 
Left. The activists were found to be brighter than average, usually academically superior, 
the best performers in high school, high in verbal (though not in mathematical) skills, and 
normally attracted to the best colleges and universities. They were seen to be 
psychologically "healthy," by whatever laboratory tests used to determine such things: high 
in self-esteem and a sense of autonomy, self-confident and self-expressive, socially mature, 
flexible, tolerant, and far better adjusted than their conservative colleagues or much of the 
nonactivist middle; "activism," reported one psychologist that year, "is, presently, a 
generally healthy aspect of the process of maturation." 7 They were found to be from the 
"better" homes, predominantly from families with above-average income, education, and 
occupational status, where one or both of the parents were in the professions, and where 
parental values, overwhelmingly liberal and permissive, were emulated and extended rather 
than resisted and rejected. (So much for the generation gap.) They were judged decidedly 
moralistic, highly concerned with the right-or-wrong consequences of individual acts (and 
ready to condemn others— presidents and administrators not excepted— for transgressing 
them), though their moral codes were often at odds with those pronounced by society and 
they had very little concern for conventions about sex, drugs, marriage, and the like. And 
they were grouped in large communities where they numbered between 5 and 13 percent of 
the student bodies, thus being able to achieve a certain social cohesion and to exert a clear 
political influence (especially in a country where it is reckoned that no more than I or 2 
percent of the adult population is politically active). 8 

The activists, in short, the young men and women in the ranks of the campus protests, the 
antiwar marches, the draft-card burnings, and the SDS chapters, were found upon 
examination to be of the kind that America usually regards as its best. They were, 
moreover, precisely those that the nation depends upon for the propagation and 
development of its values, its culture, its traditions, its ideas— i.e., the intelligentsia. 
Whatever one might think of them, it seemed clear that they mattered. 

What, then, of SDS in all of this? Where did it stand? What had it become? The summer of 
1967 is a particularly good time to assess the organization, for it stood at one of its clearest 
points: suspended now between reform and revolution, between personal protest and 
political, between action and ideology, between local strength and national promise. And it 
is appropriate to examine a body in suspension. 

The figures are easiest: a national membership of 6,400, a total membership of perhaps 
30,000, an annual budget of at least $87,000 a year, a formal presence on 250 campuses 
(and influence on many more), eight regional travelers, off-campus projects in six major 
cities, and an established national office with a dozen or so full-time workers. 



234 



It was vast, containing multitudes: the old guard, the East Coast intellectuals, the prairie- 
power people, the hordes of the upper Midwest, the small-college and backwater students, 
the West Coast activists, the politicized hippies. The political range extended from naive 
liberals caught up by student power or marching against the war, through connections- 
making radicals without formal ideology, to red-book Maoists of the Progressive Labor 
stripe; as Carl Davidson assessed things in February: "We have within our ranks 
Communists of both varieties, socialists of all sorts, 3 or 4 different kinds of anarchists, 
anarchosyndicalists, syndicalists, social democrats, humanist liberals, a growing number of 
ex-YAF libertarian laissez-faire capitalists, and, of course, the articulate vanguard of the 
psychedelic liberation front." Davidson also gave his view of the various types of SDSers on 
the campus during these days: 

The bulk of the membership, about 85-90%, is made up of what I call the 
"SHOCK TROOPS." They are usually the younger members, freshmen and 
sophomores, rapidly moving into the hippy, Bobby Dylan syndrome. Having 
been completely turned off by the American system of compulsory 
miseducation, they are staunchly anti-intellectual and rarely read anything 
unless it comes from the underground press syndicate ... . They are morally 
outraged about the war, cops, racism, poverty, their parents, the middle 
class, and authority figures in general. They have a sense that all those things 
are connected somehow and that money has something to do with it. They 
long for community and feel their own isolation acutely, which is probably 
why they stick with SDS. 

The second SDS type makes up about 5-10% of the chapter's membership. 
These are the "SUPERINTELLECTUALS." Most are graduate students in the 
Social Sciences or Humanities; a few are married ... . They spell out grand 
strategies for the chapter's activities, but will rarely sit behind the literature 
tables. They talk a lot about power structure research, the need for analysis, 
and are turned on by the REP prospectus. They join most of the 
demonstrations, but rarely help make the picket signs ... . Without a doubt 
some of the most brilliant young people in America today ... . 

The third ideal type within SDS, the final 5%, are what I call the 
"ORGANIZERS." These are the people that keep the chapters going ... . An 
increasing number are dropping out of school, but staying near the University 
community. Many more would probably drop out if it weren't for 2-S and the 
draft. They do the bureaucratic shitwork (reserving rooms, setting up tables, 
ordering literature, etc.) or see that it gets done. They are constantly trying 
to involve new people or reinvolve old people in the chapter's activities ... . 
There is not much political analysis here. Most of the organizer's projects are 
experimental, spur-of-the-moment decisions ... . Their politics tend to be 
erratic, changing whenever they finally get a chance to read a new book ... . 
They are the people who try to attend the regional and national conferences. 9 

Davidson is somewhat sardonic about the way these three types interact: 



235 



The superintellectuals are intensely cynical toward the younger shock troops, 
especially the hippies. In retaliation the younger troops put the 
superintellectuals in the middle class bag along with their parents and the 
Dean of Men ... . For the most part ... our intellectuals view the organizer as a 
sloppy-thinking mystic with no sense of history. In return, the organizer often 
looks at the superintellectual as a new kind of Fabian Society opportunist who 
lacks the guts to break with the middle class ... . The organizer's attitudes 
toward [the "shock troops"] are truly ambivalent, almost schizoid ... likely to 
be the result of the fact that he is not too far removed from that whole scene 
himself. He certainly shares their pain ... . When he is particularly worn out 
and burdened, he measures his exhaustion against their frivolity, feels 
cheated, and reacts with bitter harangues about bourgeois decadence. The 
younger troops' feelings toward the organizer are mixed as well. Sometimes 
there is a great deal of admiration and the resulting shyness, especially if the 
organizer is particularly charismatic. Sometimes, they feel guilty, because of 
their failure to be more involved in the chapter's daily work. But they often 
justify this by attributing a lack of sensitivity to the organizer. 10 

Ml that is unduly grim, no doubt, but it also has the ring of truth " to it. SDS was nothing if 
not diverse. 

But what of its strengths? 

SDS was without question the largest, best-known, and most influential student political 
group in the country, easily more important and dynamic than such preadamites as the 
Young Democrats, Young Republicans, or Young Americans for Freedom. It was now the 
only real student group on the left, M2M and the Student Peace Union having folded and the 
DuBois Clubs breathing their last, and such groups as the Socialist Workers Party's Young 
Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party's Young People's Socialist League, though formally 
extant, being hardly noticeable. Though there were radical groups on various isolated 
campuses, and any number of ad hoc student organizations for single-issue politics, SDS 
was the only organization with a national presence. Its chapters instigated or participated in 
most of the campus protests, its strategies and tactics guided virtually every university 
action in some measure, and its newspaper, travelers, officers, and meetings were the 
source of much of the ferment that politicized campuses, left administrators sleepless, and 
raised the issue of campus governance for the first time in this century. 

But SDS was more than that. It was the leading activist and most fulgent intellectual group 
in the entire left spectrum, old or new. The Old Left parties, though feeding off the 
resurgence of antiestablishmentarian politics, were still quite minuscule, and the ongoing 
pacifist organizations— War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the like— still 
attracted only a dedicated few. The only potential rivals just then were the Spring (soon to 
be National) Mobilization and the draft-resistance movement," and both were essentially ad 
hoc, single-issue, uncohesive, non-membership coalitions, more temporary bases for action 
than permanent organizations. It was SDS, both collegiate and alumni, which was the 
wellspring of many, and transmitter of most, of the ideas that began to create a new 
consciousness among at least a minority of the college generation and the recently 
graduated professionals. It was SDS, though by no means alone, and often standing on the 
shoulders of others, which produced the developing analysis of the war, capitalism, 
imperialism, complicity— and, of course, their connections— that came to be fairly 
commonplace within the political arena in the next few years. It was SDS that people looked 
to for new theories about the agents of change, new literature on the glaring ills of campus 
and nation, new information about Defense Department contracts, Selective Service 
machinations, hidden university research. It was SDS, in short, more than any other single 
group on a national scale, which was pushing people left. 



236 



All that said, SDS was still an organization wracked by problems, pulled in different 
directions, containing the seeds of its own demise. What of its weaknesses? 

The first, inevitable, perhaps unsurmountable, problem was of "distance," and it had many 
components. SDS was a national office that had a turnover of people and ideas at least once 
a year, a welter of varying chapters operating on their own, and very little in between. This 
resulted in a continual separation of the National Office from the interests of the chapters, a 
separation exaggerated during a time like this when the NO activists were trying to develop 
and push a heightened political consciousness on the rest of the organization. So, while 
Calvert and Davidson were worrying about building "revolutionary consciousness," the 
SDSers at Bowling Green were wondering how to answer redbaiting from the conservatives; 
while Davidson was trying to get a team of people to teach radical politics, the chapter at 
Arizona State wondered if it dared set up an SDS literature table in the student commons 
room; while the National Council scorned the idea of mass marches, kids in every SDS 
chapter went out and organized for them. Slowly the NO, and with it the veteran leaders 
and other friends in the inner circles, began to draw away from the constituency at large, 
but now with the growing feeling that it was harder and harder to bridge the gap. 

One possible means across the gap might have been the SDS alumni, but they were 
generally neglected. SDS seemed designedly gerontocidal, changing its basic leadership 
with every convention and sending the older people, often with acutely developed skills and 
irreplaceable experience, out to fend for themselves in other pastures. After all, something 
like thirty-five or forty thousand people had gone through the SDS experience by now, and 
they had to be a resource worth tapping. But no. Though they did radicalizing work of 
inestimable value, they felt cut off from the life lines of an involving, meaningful movement; 
as Barbara and Al Haber expressed it that summer: 

On the one hand, many of us can no longer tolerate psychologically the 
demands of orthodox jobs or the training they require. Radical consciousness 
has produced a painful awareness of the personal emptiness and social evil of 
most traditional career patterns ... . On the other hand ... the alternatives 
which have been created by the movement, and the radical generations 
before us, are too narrow, too limited and too unsuccessful. 11 

All of which tended to create among the alumni a sense of isolation from the new people, 
younger, with a new style, and new strategies, and even new politics. The Habers, again: 
"The most pervasive problem [is] the feeling of isolation from the mainstream of the 
movement. The movement people [are] remote physically and psychologically." So the 
alumni went off elsewhere, to their own concerns— they were not included, they were not 
used. 



237 



The distance problem was compounded by two others, not specific to SDS but found 
throughout the New Left— and of course throughout the entire society from which it 
springs— which now began to be named and confronted: "elitism" and "male chauvinism." 
Elitism is the tendency of a handful of top leaders— the "heavies," they were called, since 
"leaders" was a bad word— to dominate an organization by virtue of their elected positions, 
or manipulative skill, or oral felicity, or administrative brilliance. No matter how much an 
organization like SDS was aware of the problem— and its unwavering antipathy to leaders 
from the very start was evidence of that— it was unable to avoid the trap: good souls 
became active, activists became leaders, leaders became an elite.* Various chapters tried to 
deal with it by various means— rotating chairmen, governance by committees, conscious 
withdrawal of heavies— but the problem of course persisted. And it elided very easily into 
male chauvinism, since the leaders were usually men, or women who identified with and 
modeled themselves after men, and the followers, bearing the flags, at the mimeographs, in 
the beds, were usually women. But where elitism had been seen as a problem all along, it is 
only now, with a growing women's consciousness and self-identification, that male 
chauvinism takes on a special malevolence of its own and that the special quality of sexism 
comes to be recognized— by the women, at any rate, if not yet by the men. 

The earliest impulse to "women's liberation" in SDS was the paper presented at the 
December 1965 "rethinking conference," but in the time since then attention to the issue 
had grown enormously. Movement gatherings began including special workshops dealing 
with women's problems— a special session on the "role of women" had been part of the 
December 1966 draft-resistance conference in Chicago, for example (though, to be sure, 
concerned with their role in support of draft-resisting men)— and at a number of the 
traditionally active campuses women's groups began meeting in tentative examinations of 
sexism in American society. In SDS Jane Adams appeared to carry on the battle almost 
single-handedly. In an article, "On Equality for Women," in a January 1967 New Left Notes , 
for example, she argued that women must begin "demanding equality within the 
organization one is in, refusing to be intimidated by the male chauvinism which does exist, 
even within the movement"; three months later she added: 



Marge Piercy once described the trap: "The typical Movement institution consists of one or more men who act as 
charismatic spokesmen, who speak in the name of the institution, and negotiate and represent that body to other 
bodies in and outside the Movement, and who manipulate the relationships inside to maintain his or their position 
... . Most prestige in the Movement rests not on having done anything in particular, but in having visibly dominated 
some gathering, in manipulating a certain set of rhetorical counters well in public, or in having played some 
theatrical role." ("The Grand Coolie Damn," Sisterhood is Powerful, Random House, 1970.) And Nick Egleson later 
confessed how it worked: "My high school ... was a finishing school for men and it was meant to teach the sons of 
the rich how to rule the empire ... . I ran most of the extra-curricular activities— debating, newspaper, press club, 
drama workshop— and hustled my way out of classes and required athletics. Only later did I see that it was I who 
had been hustled. I learned the hustling game. I am afraid that when my ideas shifted allegiance from nuclear 
physics to the Blacks and the Vietnamese that at first I shifted en masse all my ways of operating. I organized my 
comer of the movement the way I had organized the newspaper: top down, with regard for ideas and product but 
not for emotions of people: with structures that looked democratic but let hustlers with my traits, chiefly other 
men, rise to the top. Damn it all: family, school, and state, and damn the circus too." {Liberation, April 1970.) 



238 



And I don't see how we can build a strong movement for a free, democratic 
society as long as women are treated like "second-class citizens" and retain a 
submissive role ... . As long as almost all the organizers and staff are male,* 
the fears that bind girls in chapters will be perpetuated; the habit of looking 
to men for leadership (by both men and women) will be continued. That has 
to be broken down by women assuming initiative and responsibility. 12 

It is only a symbol, but one that would never have appeared before, that the cover of the 
convention issue of New Left Notes this summer showed a picture of a smiling young blond 
woman with a rifle in her hand, under the caption THE NEW AMERICAN WOMAN. 

Problems and promises, SDS was at this point, whatever else, a force to be reckoned with 
by students in general, by the world of the left, by the universities where it was generally 
housed, by the society at large at which it was aimed. It was— perhaps it is all that need be 
said— the touchstone of American radicalism. 

The mingle-mangle that was SDS in the summer of 1967 can be seen in relief at the SDS 
National Convention, held in Ann Arbor from June 25 to July 2. 

The convention drew between two hundred and fifty and three hundred people, of whom 
maybe two hundred were voting delegates. Their appearance was now firmly hippiesque— 
men in longish hair, often with mustaches and occasionally with beards, and blue workshirts 
and jeans predominating; women tending toward long, straight hair, with eye make-up but 
not lipstick, usually in jeans, occasionally barefoot. Buttons were routinely worn by both: 
"sds," "Make Love Not War," "Resist," "October 16" (the last a reference to the Resistance's 
planned mass draft-card turn-in for the fall). 13 

Though many old familiar faces were present— including both Steve Max and Jim Williams, 
probably the only left-liberals in the place— the majority of delegates were newer, many of 
whom had gotten caught up in the student power sweep of the last year and were attending 
their first convention, and this would prove a source of some tension throughout the week. 
Progressive Labor made a respectable showing— perhaps forty or fifty people— and 
distinguished themselves by shorter hair and a caucus-like discipline/ Also present were a 
number of young Communist Party people, cut loose from the nearly defunct DuBois Clubs 
and trying now to rebuild a base among the students by surreptitiously using SDS. A good 
number of people identified themselves as anarchists, including one group with ties to the 
small IWW office still hanging on in Chicago. 



* At the time, the only women in major organizational roles in SDS were Adams herself, a regional traveler, Sarah 
Murphy, in charge of the New York office, and Cathy Wilkerson, editor of New Left Notes. Women were also 
prominent in ERAP projects (Kathy Boudin, Connie Brown, Carol Glassman, Carol McEldowney, Jean Tepperman, 
and Peggy Terry, to name only a few), and at REP (Alice Fialkin, Evi Goldfield, Barbara Haber, and Kathy McAfee, 
among others). Of the elected members of the National Council, there were only three women out of twenty 
members and alternates (Adams, Nancy Bancroft, Carolyn Craven), and in the NAC, though it fluctuated, there 
were usually no more than two or three. 

+ Don McKelvey, whose politics were not so far from PL's but who was nonetheless quite independent, reported 
after the convention (in a SUPA Bulletin, August 1967): "PL people are quite active in SDS, the only 'ideological 
Left' people who were (or who were evident); they seem to be accepted; they certainly were, in general, at the 
convention ... . I get the sense they were a 'semi-caucus' at the convention, and I expect they certainly made 
disciplined decisions beforehand about what they were going to do. But I got no sense whatever ... that there was 
any attempt to 'take over'— they were simply pushing their politics, which were the only genuinely hard-line politics 
(i.e., definite and clear politics) there." 



239 



SDS conventions were always bizarre affairs, part reunion, part student-government 
meeting, part cruising strip, part smoke-filled room, part serious politics. In one sense, by 
these days conventions never really changed much for the organization, since individual 
chapters went their own ways and determined for themselves what SDS would be during 
the year; this was what was being expressed by Jim O'Brien, a Wisconsin SDSer who went 
on to be one of the most dedicated historians of the Movement, when he reported after this 
meeting: 

If the national SDS convention just held in Ann Arbor showed anything, it was 
that SDS is not a national organization. Sooner or later, every new delegate 
learns this; when he does, he sits back, relaxes, endures the long debates 
and parliamentary hang-ups with a happy passivity. Occasionally he goes out 
for donuts or Blimpy Burgers without wondering too much what will be going 
on in his absence. The convention is a place to meet people and exchange 
experiences, and the formal resolutions are important only as they in some 
way symbolize those people and those experiences. 14 

Not untrue, and fashionably cynical. And yet, in another sense, SDS conventions were 
extremely important: in bringing to the surface the problems and passions of the 
organization, in weighing and calculating the strengths and directions of the factions, in 
electing people who will establish the national presence over the next year, and in charting 
the actual direction and programs for the year ahead— or, equally important, failing to. 

The "distance" problem surfaced at the very first plenary meeting on Tuesday night in the 
form of a separation between the Calvert-Davidson wing and the more moderate chapters. 
Of particular issue was a front-page New York Times article in May which had begun with a 
quotation from Calvert that "We are working to build a guerrilla force in an urban 
environment," and had gone on to warn menacingly that "the threat of violence in his words 
characterizes the current radicalization of the New Left." Now in fact the article was largely 
an unfounded scare story which depended for proof of violence on such things as Che 
posters and draft-card burning, and Calvert had subsequently explained to the membership 
in New Left Notes that he was opposed to violence and had been misquoted: "I felt that 
young Americans who worked for the radical transformation of this society were similar in 
many respects to guerrilla organizers in the Third World." 15 But the quotation, and the wide 
circulation it was given by a press growing discomforted with the increasing tide of 
resistance on the nation's campuses, disturbed many in the campus constituency: not only 
was a national officer presuming to speak politically for the organization as a whole— shades 
of Paul Booth! — but he seemed to be setting policy for SDS on an issue that had never even 
been discussed, much less approved, at a national meeting, and one which alarmed most of 
the constituency, which shied from violence and was by no means ready for guerrilla 
warfare. Calvert did some fast talking that night. He acknowledged that, in the light of how 
exaggerated the whole thing had become, sitting for the interview "was a stupid thing, a 
trap," another example of the way in which the "capitalistic media" distorted events for their 
own ends; but, he argued, the membership had to understand that the national officers 
inevitably functioned in political roles just by virtue of their positions, that nothing in the 
way of real policy had been made at all by the quotation, and anyway this was no excuse to 
try to damage the national leadership. Ultimately he was forced to proclaim that the debate 
was "really a matter of who will control this convention," and upon that appeal the battle 
subsided and Calvert breathed easier. But it was clear to all that the problem of growing 
distance between national leadership and constituency was a real one, and not to be 
disposed of easily. 



240 



A "direction" problem also surfaced, inevitably, and that was less easy to solve. Workshops 
would meet for long hours during the day to hash out proposals to put before the plenary 
sessions at night, but as likely as not the workshop participants couldn't agree on any one 
proposal or else on one with such a low common denominator that it had little effect, and 
the plenaries were only worse. People were arguing lines by this point, not really listening to 
the other sides, trying to win an audience over to the correctness of their point of view, or 
scorning completely ideas that were too "reformist" or "liberal" or "wimpy." This was 
particularly true of the PL people, of course, because they not only had a line but were 
convinced of its holiness, but it also tended to characterize others who had made up their 
minds and the National Office people to some extent. Arthur Waskow believes that this 
convention marked a turning point: 

For the first time in SDS people were extremely hostile to any organizing 
except their own, for the first time they had a sense of real competitiveness 
and restricted options— that is, if people chose X they would not be able to 
choose Y, and if they did they were wrong. I don't remember that kind of 
feeling before that. 16 

What this kind of "correct-line-ism," as it was called, meant for SDS was that it was almost 
impossible for it to agree upon strategies or programs for the coming year (a task which the 
convention had now assumed), and in general only the most uncontroversial proposals 
could be adopted. PL thought that new-working-class organizing was dangerous and 
wrongheaded, most chapter people thought PL's blue-collar interest was doomed to failure, 
chapters who advocated election work and third-party priorities were laughed at by the 
anarchists and the hippieized "cultural" radicals, and these in turn were scorned for their 
frivolity and lack of "politics" by the veterans and other heavies. Divisions were not 
homogenized as they so often were in the earlier years.* 



* An interesting example of the growing tension in SDS took place after adjournment one night. As one 
correspondent wrote in New Left Notes (July 24): "The registration files were missing, and the rumor was that they 
had been sequestered away by a FBI/CIA agent. There was talk about a suspicious convention delegate; he had a 
red beard. After the NC was dismissed that night, the body marched off across the University of Michigan campus 
to confront the suspicious delegate, who had been trailed to his pad by some super-sleuth leftists with latent J. 
Edgar Hoover tendencies. The witch trial lasted but half a minute. Two hard-core Trot friends recognized and 
cleared the accused before the crowd of some self-appointed inquisitors ... . If brother is going to accuse brother, 
then SDS is threatened." 



241 



So when a "relations with other groups" workshop proposed that SDS establish immediate 
fraternal relations with such leftist foreign youth groups as the German SDS and the 
Japanese Zen-gakuren, this was resisted by many, young and old, who thought it pointless 
and didn't know anything about the foreign organizations anyway. Dozens of elaborate 
suggestions were presented as to how SDS might join with and politicize the "cultural 
revolution"— the hippie counterculture— and all were ultimately discarded in favor of a 
simple resolution to join the Underground Press Service and something called the 
Haymarket Riot Fan Club. On the draft, the convention agreed to some very sharp rhetoric 
over the objections of PL, which now wanted to mute the draft issue so as not to frighten 
away sons of the hawkish working class, but it would not settle upon any tactics for the year 
ahead beyond those already approved at Berkeley. And on the item which the NO had 
counted upon to provide the whole thrust of SDS for the year ahead— a mass student strike 
in the spring based on student issues but "united in the common demand for the immediate 
withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam"— there was so much hostility from the chapter 
representatives, skeptical of its chances and fearful of ending up with egg on their faces if it 
failed, that the whole thing was put off to the December National Council with the specific 
proviso that at least ten chapters had to guarantee its chances of success before the NO 
moved. 17 

The convention did find certain things to agree upon. It voted a statement of support for 
SNCC and the Revolutionary Action Movement, vowed to oppose government repression 
against "militant, radical, and revolutionary groups," called upon SDSers to support "ghetto 
rebellions" and "by direct action, including civil disobedience if called for," and authorized 
the Harvard chapter (more than half PL) to go ahead with a Labor Research and Action 
Program in Boston. It approved the establishment of a Radical Education Center, a scheme 
of Davidson's for carrying on internal education through a literature program and regular 
articles in New Left Notes. It also approved, with a few modifications from the floor and a 
great deal of uneasiness from the men, a report from the women's workshop calling upon 
women to assert their independence and men to deal with their "male chauvinism"; it was 
the first time the issue of male chauvinism had been joined in SDS, and the first time a New 
Left organization took a stand on it. Thus, in a significant sense, did the women's liberation 
movement begin.* 

On two other issues the convention passed statements but with so little general agreement 
on their implementation that they remained rhetorical flourishes without the guise of 
program. They are significant, however, in demonstrating the political development of SDS 
by this point, at least the development of the conventiongoing types. The first was the 
Vietnam war, the discussion of which was brought on by the prospect of still another 
Washington march in October, which the convention only grudgingly supported: 



The statement, drafted by Jane Adams, Susan Cloke, Jean Peak, and Elizabeth Sutherland, took a surprisingly 
strong position for its time: "Women, because of their colonial relationship to men, have to fight for their own 
independence. This fight for our own independence will lead to the growth and development of the revolutionary 
movement in this country. Only the independent woman can be truly effective in the larger revolutionary struggle 
... . People who identify with the movement and feel that their own lives are part of the base to bring about radical 
social change must recognize the necessity for the liberation of women. Our brothers must recognize that because 
they were brought up in the United States they cannot be free of the burden of male chauvinism. 
"1. Therefore we demand that our brothers recognize that they must deal with their own problems of male 
chauvinism in their own personal, social, and political relationships. 

"2. It is obvious from this convention that full advantage is not taken of abilities and potential contributions of 
movement women. We call upon women to demand full participation in all aspects of movement work, from licking 
stamps to assuming leadership positions. 

"We recognize the difficulty our brothers will have in dealing with male chauvinism and we will assume our full 
responsibility in helping to resolve the contradiction." (New Left Notes, July 10, 1967.) 



242 



We urge all SDS chapters which do participate in the march to support 
immediate withdrawal. Only such a position is commensurate with our 
recognition of the real role of the U.S. in Vietnam— not a mistake of any 
essentially good government, but the logical result of a government which 
oppresses people in the U.S. and throughout the world. 

That passed almost without a murmur, and as if that weren't enough the convention then 
adopted by an overwhelming voice vote an additional statement put forth by a Rutgers 
PLer, Larry Poleshuck: 

SDS holds that the position of "Stop the Bombing" and "Negotiations Now" 
are not in the best interests of the Vietnamese or the American people. 
Allowing the National Liberation Front token representation in the government 
which has existed because of U.S. military involvement is no just solution to 
the Vietnam War. The U.S. has no right in any way to determine the future of 
the Vietnamese. Therefore we must call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal. 
The growing sentiment among Americans for an end to the war is a threat to 
the small minority who benefit from the domination of Vietnam. Leaders like 
Bobby Kennedy who call for negotiations are trying to channel legitimate 
desires of American people for peace into a solution which is acceptable to the 
basic interests of that minority. The anti-war movement must not 
unintentionally support continued oppression of the Vietnamese. We must 
insist on an immediate withdrawal of the U.S. from Vietnam. 

Here was SDS's first official stand on Vietnam since the "end the war" demand of the 1965 
march and the "immoral, illegal, and genocidal war" position of the 1966 antidraft 
resolution, and it is quite a measure of how the organization, or at least its resolution- 
passing wing, had come in just two years. It easily encompassed the idea of imperialism 
and the link between oppression at home and abroad, and it called for immediate 
withdrawal long before that was a popular idea even on the left. Only a month before, 
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. had told his right-thinking countrymen how scandalous that was— 
"No serious American," he wrote in the Times, "has proposed unilateral withdrawal; and 
this, after all, would be the only action which could hand the game to our enemies"— and 
here were a bunch of America's "Man-of-the-Year" kids proposing exactly that. Yes, and 
they would be joined by a lot of serious Americans, and Arthur Schlesinger too, within the 
next two years. 

The second subject of rhetorical agreement was the draft: 

SDS reaffirms its opposition to conscription in any form. We maintain that all 
conscription is coercive and anti-democratic, and that it is used by the United 
States Government to oppress people in the United States and around the 
world ... . The draft provides a manpower pool for an aggressive and 
imperialistic foreign policy. Americans who cannot freely determine the shape 
of their own lives are in turn forced to suppress those abroad who struggle for 
self-determination ... . A draft-resistance program must move beyond 
individual protest to collective action. SDS reaffirms its call for the formation 
of draft-resistance unions. Tactics such as civil disobedience and disruption of 
the Selective Service System are among those advocated. 18 

Nor was that all— Jeff Shero popped up from the floor proposing an amendment that SDS 
help men already in the service "in opposition and disruption within the armed forces" and 
give "aid to servicemen who wish to terminate their association with the armed forces by 
going underground." By a lopsided vote SDS went on record in favor of desertion from the 
military— and this was an organization which only two years ago couldn't even pass a mild 
resolution against the draft. 



243 



The failure of the 1967 convention to decide upon a course of action for the year ahead was 
serious— it had happened really only once before, in 1965, with unpleasant consequences— 
for it meant that chapters would tend to operate in isolation or take their direction from 
other sources, like the media. As Paul Booth later analyzed it, "Once they stopped passing 
programs and started arguing stupid lines— or however good they were— they lost the ability 
to set any course for the student movement, and then the course was set by The New York 
Times and the TV stations, so that whatever was most dramatic was then emulated, 
whether it was good or not." And when chapters did do imaginative and effective things on 
their own, there was no organizational way to communicate and duplicate them; as Booth 
says, 

During this whole period ... there was a tremendous development of a lot of 
very healthy things— working-class community organizing, campus actions 
around community issues of a planned character— but there was no way to 
find out about them. For example at Cornell, where they fought and won a 
tremendous fight for low-cost public housing in Ithaca, done by SDS, and I 
never found out about it until I ran into a guy from there. There were a lot of 
these things, but New Left Notes became an organ for lines now rather than 
news, so you never knew about them. Independent of whether it was good 
politics or not, it was bad organizationally. 19 



244 



Added to this was a failure to come up with either the plan or the personnel for effective 
leadership. The process was begun when the NO introduced a long-awaited plan for the 
reorganization of national officers and the elimination of the presidency; the proposal was to 
replace them with three equal officers, a National Secretary in charge of the NO and 
responsible for implementing national programs, an Education Secretary for internal 
education and chapter communications, and an Inter-organizational Secretary acting as 
liaison with other political groups. The basic scheme was Calvert's and the basic motives 
were, as near as one can tell, ingenuous: to eliminate a presidency which had become 
largely a figurehead position, to allow the open election of the National Secretary where the 
real power had come to reside anyway, to eliminate a needless and antiegalitarian hierarchy 
within the NO (the kind that had produced frictions in the last several years), and to define 
clearly the specific administrative roles of each top official, which had always been murky in 
the past. The effects of it, however, as time was to show, were to concentrate even more 
power in the hands of the National Secretary, who could now operate almost without 
restrictions (the old National Secretary had been responsible, at least in theory, to both the 
elected national officers and the quarterly National Councils); to make the NO even more of 
a closed-off world, with officers who were virtually forced to move to Chicago and work full 
time in that potentially insulated environment; and, by allowing de jure power to coincide 
with de facto power, to concentrate forces almost beyond reach of any other organizational 
tendency or influence and to permit the leadership to go its own way virtually unchecked 
until the next convention. Apparently these effects, however, were unrealized at the time 
and the general egalitarian caste given to the whole thing seemed convincing enough to the 
delegates present: not one voice was raised in protest about the elimination of the 
presidency, the whole debate took scarcely an hour, and the reorganization was approved 
by even more than the two-thirds vote which the constitution required.* 

. The evening session, devoted to filling these three new posts, completed the leadership 
muddle. For the post of National Secretary there were nominated Jeff Segal, prominent 
because of his draft-resistance organizing during the spring, Eric Chester, the former VOICE 
leader now organizing for SDS in San Francisco, who had been vocal on the floor, and Mike 
Spiegel, prominent for nothing much other than being one of the first two Harvard SDSers 
to grab onto the bumper of McNamara's car during the December 1966 confrontation. 
Spiegel was elected with a clear majority on the first ballot. Spiegel was young (then just 
twenty), a bit over six feet, well-built, good-looking, with impelling dark eyes behind horn- 
rimmed glasses, short though somewhat bushy hair, and an SDSer's full, drooping 
mustache. Born in Portland, Oregon, he had been outstanding in high school, went to 
Harvard in 1964 as a sociology major, became politicized during the summer of 1966 while 
working in a Michigan auto assembly plant, and returned to Harvard to join SDS. He said 
later: 



Little real attention was given throughout SDS's career to the organizational forms through which it expressed 
itself, though from time to time certain individuals conceded the problem to be important. One organizational form 
never considered, oddly enough, even when the question was in the air, was that of matching officers to a wide 
range of specific duties rather than concentrating power in three individuals, no matter what their titles were: a 
membership officer for chapter records, an editorial officer for the newspaper and pamphlets, a press officer for 
contacts with the media, an administrative officer for the office, a political officer for internal education, a personnel 
officer for travelers and regional staffs, an alumni officer for contacts with graduates, a finance officer for fund 
raising, and so on. Another plan apparently never seriously discussed was that of choosing among slates of officers 
according to the political programs they proposed for the coming year (rather than on the basis of personalities), 
with the administrative machinery then being obliged to carry out the membership mandate until the next 
convention. For additional consideration of SDS's organizational problems, see Rich Rothstein, NUC Newsletter, 
April 20, 1971, and Liberation, February 1972, reprinted as an NUC pamphlet, 1972; replies from Mel Rothenberg 
in the June NUC Newsletter and Bob Ross and Howard Ehrlich in the September issue; and Norm Fruchter, 
Liberation, February 1972. 



245 



I think I could have come as close as anyone with a name like Spiegel to 
becoming a member of the ruling class, but I have always had this thing 
about reality. I could never skirt things. I have to meet them head-on. This is 
why I went to SDS. No one else had an explanation for the reality. 20 

The explanation, especially with regard to Vietnam, convinced and radicalized the young 
junior, and he went off to the national convention full of fire. But no one would have 
predicted his election, being so young and so unknown: only Paul Booth and Vernon 
Grizzard, of all the top SDS officers over the years, were undergraduates when elected, and 
only Booth, at nineteen, was younger; and both then had reputations of a sort, and the 
organization was a thirtieth of its present size. Moreover, no one would have predicted that 
the convention, just after having established the office of National Secretary as a politically 
powerful lever, would have put there in the flesh a man whose name was known only to a 
few— the issue of New Left Notes reporting his election called him "Spiegal"— and whose 
politics were known to fewer still. 

This election was followed by one for the Education Secretary, and the muddle was 
compounded. Carl Davidson, who had been so involved with internal education, would have 
been a natural choice, and he was willing to run. But the nominees were Art Rosenblum, 
Texas traveler Bob Pardun, and New York organizer Sue Eanet, and Pardun won easily on 
the first ballot. Pardun, twenty-four, who had been born in Pueblo, Colorado, but migrated 
to Texas, was blond and tall, with a faint Will Rogers look about him, an unruly forelock, and 
a soft Texas drawl. He had already developed a reputation in SDS for his regional work and 
he had a strong Texas chapter behind him, "more close-knit," he says, "than the other 
chapters, we felt more like brothers and sisters." 21 But he was the kind of person, one could 
have predicted, who was better off traveling the Southern plains than stuck behind a 
Chicago desk. 

The last election was for Inter-organizational Secretary. This time Carl Davidson was 
nominated, he ran against VOICE delegate Mark Seher and West Coast organizer Bob 
Speck, and he won handily. It was the first time that a national officer repeated since Paul 
Booth had served two terms as Vice President (in 1962-63 and 1963-64) and one as 
National Secretary (in 1956-66)— but it still made only bizarre sense to put this student- 
syndicalist and chapter-oriented man into a job where he had to be nice to the Young 
Christians and decipher letters from the Zengakuren.* 

And so the convention ended, without a national program, without even local directions, 
without a cohesive team in the National Office, with all its problems intact. Yet nothing could 
hold back SDS now, for it was an organization of resistance in a time of resistance, and 
oddly enough it was about to enjoy one of its most successful years. 



1 Lynd, Liberation, May 1969. Kopkind, New York Review, September 28, 1967. Kenneth 
Keniston, p. 142. Bardacke, Steps, op. cit. Freudiger, NLN, June 26, 1967. Zweig, quoted by 
Paul Hofman, N.Y. Times, May 7,1967. 

2 Johnson, NLN, June 26,1967. 



* The final session of the plenary also elected new members of the National Council, which had been reduced from 
fourteen officers to eight, and was dubbed the National Interim Committee. Originally each was to have been from 
a different region, but the convention didn't accept that and instead selected Sue Eanet, John Fuerst, and Steve 
Halliwell from the New York region, Greg Calvert, Mike James, Jeff Segal, and Cathy Wilkerson from the "Chicago 
crowd," and Jeff Shero. 



246 



3 Hayden, Rebellion in Newark, Vintage, 1967, pp. 68-69. 

4 'Movement people,' " NLN, October 2, 1967. 

5 Conus Intel information, Richard Halloran, N.Y. Times, January 18,1971. 

6 Time, January 6, 1967. Nation, June 19, 1967. Daedalus, Summer 1967. Teachers College 
Record, Columbia University, 1967. Playboy, August 1967. 

7 "activism ... is," R.S. Berns, quoted in Axelrod, et al., op. cit., p. 112. 

8 Journal of Social Issues, July 1967. Katz, The Student Activists, Office of Education, 
Washington, D.C. Academic Studies of Activists: include Philip G. Altbach and Robert 
Lauter, editors, The New Pilgrims, McKay, 1972; Joseph Axelrod et al., Search for 
Relevance. Jossey-Bass (San Francisco), 1969, with a good bibliography; Foster and Long 
(esp. chapters by Alexander Astin, Leonard Baird, Richard Flacks, Foster, and David Westby 
and Richard Braungart); Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture, Doubleday and 
Anchor, 1969; Edward E. Sampson, Harold A. Korn, et al., Student Activism and Protest, 
Jossey-Bass, 1970; Annals of the Academy of Political Science, May 1971; Journal of Social 
Issues, July 1967; Alexander Astin, Guidance, Fall 1968; Richard Flacks, Psychology Today, 
October 1967; Norma Haan, Brewster Smith, and Jeanne Block, Journal of Personal and 
Social Psychology, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1968; Jeffrey K. Hadden, Psychology Today, October 
1969; John L. Horn and Paul D. Knott, Science, March 12,1971; Kenneth Keniston, Change, 
November-December 1969; Larry C. Kerpelman. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 16, 
No. 1, 1969; Seymour Martin Lipset, in Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol, editors, Confrontation, 
Basic Books, 1969; Kathleen Ranlett Mock, "The Potential Activist," mimeograph, from the 
Berkeley Center for Research and Development in Higher Education, 1968; Sophia F. 
McDowell, Gilbert A. Lowe, Jr., and Doris A. Dockett, Public Opinion Quarterly, Fall 1970; 
Stanley J. Morse and Stanton Peele, Journal of Social Issues, No. 4, 1971; William A. Watts 
and David Whittaker, Sociological Education, Vol. 41, 1968; Watts, Steve Lynch, and 
Whittaker, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1969; David Westby and 
Richard Braungart, American Sociological Review, Vol. 31, October 1966; and articles listed 
previously under Berkeley 1964. 

9 Davidson, NLN, February 3, 1967. 

10 Davidson, ibid. 

11 Habers, "Getting by With a Little Help from Our Friends," REP conference July 1967, REP 
pamphlet, 1967; reprinted in Long, pp. 289 ff. 

12 Adams, NLN, January 20 and April 17, 1967. 

13 For the convention, detailed handwritten minutes, NO files; NLN, July 10, 1967; Egleson, 
interview. 

14 O'Brien, NLN, August 15, 1967. Times article. May 7, 1967, op. cit. 

15 Calvert, "I felt," "Was a," NLN, May 22,1967. "really a," minutes. 

16 Waskow, interview. 

17 Resolutions, NLN, July 10, 1967. 

18 Schlesinger, N.Y. Times, May 6, 1967. 

19 Booth, interview. 

20 Spiegel, quoted in Life, October 18, 1968. 



247 



21 Pardun, taped interview with Shero, for author. 

Fall 1967 

On Monday morning, October 16, 1967, the thirty thousand students of the University of 
Wisconsin in Madison were met with a two-page mimeographed handout, without date or 
signature. "From Tuesday to Friday of this week," it began, "Dow Chemical Company will be 
recruiting on this campus. On Tuesday, this fact will be brought to the attention of the 
entire campus. On Wednesday, students will block Dow from recruiting." 1 Just like that. The 
rationale that followed was simple, a straightforward presentation of the radical case: Dow 
was part of the war machine ("The work of the government cannot be separated from the 
daily operations of American corporations or universities. To end the war, it is necessary to 
comprehend its true nature, to understand the extent to which major institutions such as 
this university and Dow Corporation are committed to its continuation"), the war machine 
has not been halted even after two years of opposition ("On this campus, opposition has 
become 'in': Not one faculty member in a hundred will defend the government. But the war 
effort has not even slowed down"), and therefore to stop it something more must be done 
("We must move from protest to resistance. Before, we , talked. Now we must act. We must 
stop what we oppose"). 2 

Wisconsin was a campus with a history of protest— including a sit-in against Selective 
Service ranking in May 1966 and a demonstration against Dow in February 1967— but this 
promised to be on a different scale. On the one side were the students, many of whom had 
already become familiar with the university's complicity in war-making through previous 
SDS exposures* and who were already active in getting recruits for the upcoming march on 
the Pentagon; loosely formed into an Anti-Dow Coordinating Committee, with members of 
SDS and the Committee to End the War in Vietnam prominent among them, they had now 
explicitly warned of open resistance. On the other side was the administration, led by a 
newly appointed chancellor, William Sewell, who had vowed to protect the visit of any 
recruiter from anywhere and had made preparations with campus and local police to provide 
that protection; and behind him stood the company that profited from making jellied death, 
and the whole horror of Vietnam. It was all set for— the word of the day on the campuses- 
confrontation. 

On Tuesday morning, October 17, some two hundred pickets walked back and forth in front 
of the Commerce Building, home of the business faculty and site of the recruitment 
interviews. They carried signs saying HEY, HEY, LBJ, HOW MANY KIDS DID YOU KILL 
TODAY? and HELL NO, WE WON'T GO, which turned out to be an unexpectedly all-purpose 
slogan. Students were allowed to come and go, no attempt at obstruction was made, and 
around noon the picketers dispersed. A lunchtime rally was held on the mall in front of the 
library, but it was sparsely attended. 



* One of which singled out the role of the Army Math Research Center on campus in performing logistical work for 
the Department of Defense; it was this center which, three years later, was bombed, accidentally killing a graduate 
student. 



248 



Wednesday morning began quietly enough, with a regrouping of picketers in front of the 
Commerce Building. But, as promised, this time they moved from protest to resistance. At 
around ten-thirty more than a hundred picketers walked purposefully into the building, sat 
down in front of the office in which the Dow man was meeting with a student, linked arms, 
and notified the anxious officials standing around that there would be no more interviews 
that day. Within an hour the corridor on both sides of the office was blocked from wall to 
wall with milling students, perhaps 350 in all, while outside another 2,000 of the curious 
and/or sympathetic gathered, sensing trouble as sure as any turkey buzzard. Administration 
officials inside pleaded and demanded that the demonstrators leave; no one budged. Police 
from the university's office of "Protection and Security" and twenty more off-duty Madison 
policemen hired for the day took up places menacingly on the fringes; still no one budged. 
Nominally in charge was campus police chief Ralph Hanson, who had expected a docile 
crowd, the civil-disobedient pacifists he was used to, types who would move along when 
threatened or submit meekly to arrest. But this bunch seemed different: they were, Hanson 
reported to his superiors, "hostile." A little after noon, Hanson called the Madison police for 
more reinforcements, and shortly some thirty riot police showed up, ostentatiously donning 
their riot helmets and plastic faceguards, brandishing heavy riot sticks, and forming ranks 
outside the doors of the building. 

Inside, tension and worries mounted. Hanson, seeking some way out, offered a 
compromise: if the students would leave, Dow would leave. The demonstrators quickly 
agreed, and dispatched a delegation to get confirmation of this from Chancellor Sewell. 
Sewell, however, would have none of it. The delegation returned to the ranks and warned 
that violence would be next; those who want to may leave, the rest should remove their 
glasses, take off sharp objects like earrings and buttons, and prepare to pull their coats 
over their heads for protection : "We are serious about this." 

At 1:30 P.M., Hanson, on consultation with administration officials, decided to move in. 
Giving a final warning to the students that they faced arrest, he moved outside, gathered 
around him a force of fifty policemen, and charged the front entrance to the building. 
Suddenly, chaos. Hanson and the first ranks of cops were pushed aside by the students 
inside, but in their wake the Madison riot squad rushed wildly, nailing and pelting, using 
sticks and fists, without supervision— even (as Hanson acknowledged later) without any 
clear instructions about what to do. Students poured out of the building, their heads oozing 
blood, groaning and crying, limping and bruised. A young woman was hurtled out, 
stumbled, and fell unconscious into the arms of two students; a young man blinded by 
blood from his forehead and screaming with rage staggered about. In a matter of twelve 
minutes, by official estimate, the building was cleared. 

Not so the area outside. There the thousands of students gathered were shocked at the 
brutality before them. Some called to stop passing cars to carry away the wounded 
students. Others milled about, pulling demonstrators out of the arms of police and 
sheltering them in the crowd, obstructing arrests, yelling and chanting. At one point when 
six students were hustled into a paddy wagon, the bystanders surrounded the wagon, 
began pounding on it with their fists, let the air out of the tires, and finally lay down in front 
of it; the police, stymied, took the names of their captives and let them free. More shoving, 
hitting, taunting, and then, tear gas— tear gas for the first time on a major college campus. 

There was no sudden pain [one student recalled], no hurt comparable to that 
of being hit or having a toothache or getting burned, nor any of the other 
pains one is used to in normal life. There is simply a sudden total change of 
consciousness ... nothing matters but eyes and nose and throat. Burning, 
tearing, corrosive— all are inadequate words for it; tear gas does not hurt or 
cause pain, but it has an absolutism, an ability to take over one's whole being 
that is shocking at the same time and puzzling afterwards. 3 



249 



Several hundred students received this baptism of tears, gagged, retreated, assembled 
again, angrier now, and moved back toward the lines of police, only to be repulsed by 
another smoky wave of gas. 

It was sometime in mid-afternoon during this tear-gas attack that the student crowd, 
reinforced now by indignant liberal and thrill-seeker alike, turned from defense to offense. It 
began to throw rocks from the campus gardens, bricks, even shoes, anything to try to 
respond to the brutality it had witnessed. Police retaliated with the next "crowd-controller" 
on their list, the nerve gas. Mace; it worked on immediate individuals— one young man 
writhed in agony on the ground for several minutes after being sprayed— but it failed to 
dispel the crowd. One policeman was struck in the face with a brick, and fell unconscious to 
the ground; another was hit in the leg by a rock, collapsed in pain, and was descended upon 
by students beating him with their fists and feet until scattered by a phalanx of cops. Then, 
reinforcements. The county sheriffs office sent in a squad of men with riot equipment and 
police dogs, and the student crowd, grown weary now, unused to its own fury, losing 
adrenalin, sensing a victory, yet wanting to lick wounds, gradually dispersed. By six-thirty 
the last of the crowd had gone and the traces of tear gas were only faint whiffs in the 
nearby trees. Seven policemen were treated in the university hospital, three with broken 
bones; sixty-five students were treated, several with serious injuries, one thought to be 
permanently blinded. 

Within an hour a mass rally was begun on the library mall to fashion a student response to 
the invasion. An estimated five thousand students and perhaps two hundred faculty 
members showed up, and the mood was bitter, angry, militant: overwhelmingly they agreed 
not to attend any classes until recruiters from the Dow Chemical Company were forever 
banned from the university. The student newspaper, the Daily Cardinal, supported the 
strike, then the student government, finally even a right-wing campus party. The student 
front was solid. 

For the next two days the boycott of classes was nearly total, despite outraged cries from 
the state legislators down the street and a strong proadministration stand by the faculty. 
Over the weekend attention was diverted to the Pentagon demonstration, but the strike was 
still strong enough on Monday to prompt the faculty into a second meeting to see if it could 
defuse the crisis. That night it voted to establish a student-faculty committee to look into 
the issues of recruiters on campus, student obstruction, and the use of outside police, and 
that seemed to be enough to satisfy the bulk of the student body, whose anger was now 
spent and whose docility was being reasserted. By Tuesday the strike had fizzled out, 
sixteen students had been suspended, three teaching assistants had been fired from their 
teaching jobs for joining the strike, and Dow recruitment had been temporarily canceled. 
None of the issues— recruitment, protest, police, complicity, or violence— had been settled, 
but the lamina of sweet reasonableness had been successfully applied, and the crisis was 
over. But though the university was intact, it had been severely shaken, and for the rest of 
the year the Dow issue would continue to nettle the campus; ultimately the administration 
decided to readmit the Dow recruiters, though it was forced to do so at a remote point on 
the campus heavily guarded by policemen— and at the end of the year Chancellor Sewell 
resigned. The victory in the move from protest as one wrote: 

A demonstration earns its name when it demonstrates something, preferably 
when it demonstrates something in a context that is not normally seen. In a 
society such as ours, where advertising, education, public relations, group 
dynamics, operations research, systems analysis, and so on and so forth are 
all generally directed toward masking reality, demonstrations of reality are 
one of the most valuable institutions we have. At the University of Wisconsin, 
then, we have just had two of the most educational weeks in the university's 
existence. 4 



250 



Resistance came to American politics that fall with— literally— a vengeance. The process that 
had begun in the spring with the first widespread university confrontations now became 
absolutely polymorphic. 

There was the spread of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense through the ghettos of 
Oakland and the subsequent frame-up of its leader, Huey Newton, in October; the formation 
of the Committee of Returned Volunteers, ex-Peace Corps workers who had seen the fruits 
of imperialism firsthand and came home to do something about them; the establishment of 
the Committee to Aid the National Liberation Front, the first organized expression of the 
growing pro-NLF sympathies of the American left; the publication of a manifesto of open 
defiance to the government, "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," signed by 158 (and 
later 2,000) older supporters of draft resistance; the first use of the epithet "pig" to describe 
authorities, appearing in print in the September 25 New Left Notes; the arrest of a Kansas 
SDS leader, Charles V. Blackmon, on charges that he threatened to kill President Johnson; 
the creation of black student organizations at, among other schools, Cornell, Harvard, 
Howard, and San Francisco State; the wishing-into-being of the Yippies (putatively the 
Youth International Party), joining provo, counterculture, and left politics in one mercurial 
lump; the formation of the Peace and Freedom Party to contest the 1968 elections with a 
left-wing slate, an antiwar platform, and a biracial leadership; the mass draft card turn-ins 
organized by the Resistance, in which more than 2,000 young men publicly dissociated 
themselves from the draft during the fall; the first raid upon a Selective Service office, at 
the Baltimore Customs House, where in October a group including the Reverend Philip 
Berrigan destroyed draft records by pouring blood on them; and above all, the swelling tide 
of confrontation in the streets, on scores of campuses from coast to coast, even in the 
nation's capital. 



251 



In the streets. On Friday morning, October 20, some ten thousand people marched on the 
draft induction center in Oakland, California, prepared to do battle, and to win— and they 
won. They had been organized by a loose and uneasy coalition of Berkeley leftists, of which 
the SDSers represented one militant wing,* around the campaign to make October 16-20 
"Stop the Draft Week." They had just been through most of that week and each tactic out of 
the past that they had tried had proved a failure: civil disobedience and symbolic arrest on 
Monday turned out to be fruitless, frustrating, and self-defeating when the sit-inners got 
swiftly carted off to jail without more than a ripple of disruption; unplanned violent 
confrontation on Tuesday proved suicidal when the vastly more numerous and better 
equipped police force proceeded to flay and arrest the marchers without worry, provocation 
or noticeable signs of mercy, leaving them in a shambles; and peaceful picketing on 
Wednesday was seen by most to be sterile, empty, and ultimately demoralizing when the 
draft inductees got carted off anyway. So now on Friday they were back for more, only this 
time the tactic was new: to be mobile not stationary, to attack, disperse, and regroup, to be 
aggressive but not foolhardy, to come prepared with helmets and shields and signs 
mounted on serviceable plywood poles. Karen Wald, a Berkeley SDSer who had just finished 
a summer as coeditor of New Left Notes, reported back to the paper the feeling of that 
morning: 5 

It was soon evident that there were more of US than THEM, and this 
combined with our mobility enabled groups of demonstrators to carry out 
actions unimpeded by the police. Trash cans and newspaper racks were pulled 
into the streets. Writing appeared on walls, on sidewalks: "Free Oakland," 
"Che Lives," "Resist," "Shut It Down." Soon, unlocked cars were pushed into 
the intersections, along with large potted trees and movable benches. The 
sanctity of private property, which had held white students back from this 
kind of defensive action before, gave way to a new evaluation ... . 

The real change came about when one line of demonstrators, instead of 
simply backing up before a line of police, dispersed to the sidewalks— then 
quickly, instinctively, converged on the streets again behind the line of cops. 
The cops suddenly, uncomfortably, found themselves surrounded ... . 
Nervous and demoralized, the cops stood there, shuffling their feet, looking 
worried and unhappy ... . 

Word spread among the various bands of demonstrators who were now 
beginning to feel and even act somewhat like urban guerrillas ... . For the 
first time demonstrators, unarmed, saw police lines retreat in front of them. It 
was our first taste of real victory ... . 



Stuart McRae, of the Resistance, described the coalition this way; "The argument polarized into a debate between 
the traditional pacifists who envisioned the usual kind of sit-in ... and radicals, mainly SDS people, vicariously 
intoxicated by the summer riots, who spoke at first clearly, but with increasing vagueness of violent confrontation 
with the power structure, i.e. cops." It was here that SDSers, and their comrades, developed perhaps the first 
rationale in the New Left for the use of violence, one that would now be offered right down through the 
Weathermen's "Days of Rage"; as their mimeographed handouts put it, "the gentle, almost timid tone of peace 
demonstrations has left many young people, black and white, feeling they have no place" in the antiwar movement 
and its useless moral witnessing, whereas violence now offered "a way to speak to those young people" and 
possibly "involving young people who are facing conscription: black people, high school students, the unemployed 
and young working people." (by Ferber and Lynd, The Resistance, pp. 141-2.) 



252 



Today we had tasted something different— we had taken and held downtown 
Oakland for the past four hours, we had seen the cops back away from us ... . 
Not only the sanctity of property, and the sanctity (invulnerability) of cops 
had been destroyed that day we had begun to establish new goals, new 
criterion [sic] for success in what were clearly the early battles of a long, long 
war. 

Something indeed was different. Frank Bardacke wrote afterward: 

Stop the Draft Week changed the movement. We did not do anything as 
grand as "move from dissent to resistance," as some leaders claimed. But we 
went through a change— we became a more serious and more radical 
movement ... . We did not loot or shoot. But in our own way we said to 
America that at this moment in history we do not recognize the legitimacy of 
American political authority. Our little anarchist party was meant to convey 
the most political of messages: we consider ourselves political outlaws. The 
American government has the power to force us to submit but we no longer 
believe that it has the authority to compel us to obey.* 6 

One month later, at the opposite end of the country, the Foreign Policy Association held its 
fiftieth anniversary dinner, with Secretary of State Dean Rusk as its featured speaker, at the 
New York Hilton— a combination that was irresistible: the Foreign Policy Association was a 
collection of elderly, rich, powerful, and influential Cold Warriors ("the architects of 
American imperialism," as New York Regional Office leader Steve Halliwell put it in New Left 
Notes), Dean Rusk was the personification of the soft-talking government committing 
genocide in Vietnam, and the New York Hilton was the New York Hilton. A demonstration 
was organized chiefly by the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee, an ally of the National 
Mobilization Committee, but it was clear in advance that many people in New York wanted 
to make it more than a symbolic, peaceful, gentlemanly affair. The SDS Regional Office 
worked to build it into a major confrontation, and local chapters were alerted that plans 
were afoot to storm the police barricades, create general disruption, make the evening 
unpleasant for the dignitaries and, some hoped, stop Rusk from speaking altogether. In the 
afternoon before the event the Columbia chapter of SDS, somewhat guilty about having 
been desultory in organizing previous demonstrations, held a rally on campus where some 
two hundred people were exhorted by chapter leaders Ted Kaptchuk and Ted Gold to take 
the battle into the enemy's home ground and give them a taste of "direct action." As 
Halliwell described the strategy, "The idea behind direct action is disruption; that is to say, 
since picketing has proved completely ineffectual in producing official response and is now 
carefully enough controlled to prevent confrontations with the target group or individual, 
people have begun to find ways to prevent events from occurring or at least make those 
events the scene of enough disquiet to indicate the growing level of dissent to the public." 7 



* Frank Bardacke was among the seven men later indicted for conspiracy as a result of this demonstration; his 
companions in the "Oakland Seven," all people in and around SDS at the time, were Terry Cannon, Reese Eriich, 
Steve Hamilton, Bob Mandel, Mike Smith, and Jeff Segal. 



253 



That night, November 14, a crowd of somewhere between five and ten thousand people— an 
accurate head count was impossible, since the area was crowded and most of the 
demonstrators never stood still for long— greeted Rusk and his fellow diners with banners, 
jeers, and appropriate obscenities as they made their way through the heavy police lines 
into the hotel. Those who tried to crash through the barriers were roughly pushed back, and 
a number were arrested. Then one group— New York police say it was Columbia SDSers— 
started throwing bottles, bags of red paint and cow's blood, and any available trash at the 
police and arriving limousines. Several people thought to be responsible were dragged from 
the crowd by the riot squads, roughed up, and arrested, but others managed to dart away, 
repeat the attack, then fall back again, eluding arrest. Soon knots of protesters were 
gathered at half a dozen intersections, yelling and jeering, overturning trash baskets, 
denting anything that looked vaguely like a posh limousine, pulling fire alarms— and then 
moving on to the sidewalks and down the side streets when police approached, only to 
reappear moments later farther down the avenue. For more than three hours the middle of 
Manhattan was chaos, the police befuddled by these new hit-and-run tactics (and in their 
befuddlement often taking it out brutally on the other demonstrators still massed 
peaceably), the mobile bands of demonstrators growing increasingly elated and increasingly 
uncontrolled, and the throngs of Times Square onlookers puzzled and angered by turns. 
When it was all over, sometime after eleven o'clock, forty-six people had been arrested, at 
least twenty-one demonstrators had been hospitalized, and five policemen had been treated 
for injuries. Despite the failure of the demonstrators to escape arrest entirely, and despite 
the arrest of Ted Gold, Mark Rudd, and Ron Carver of the Columbia chapter on potentially 
serious charges of "incitement to riot," most of the rank-and-file SDSers there were excited 
by the new escalation of tactics. "It was the first time we ever tried to take the offensive," 
one has said, "and, you know, it worked." 8 

The New York Times that week was somewhat less enthused. Assuming its most outraged 
perch, it accused the demonstrators of being "junior-grade stormtroopers," and added: 

The organizers of this sorry spectacle ... apparently did not even attempt to 
discourage the militant minority, notably those led by the Students for a 
Democratic Society, who they surely knew would seek to stir up trouble. The 
leaders of both groups share a heavy responsibility for a disgraceful episode 
that only debases dissent, obstructing development of the national debate on 
Vietnam policy that is so urgently needed. 9 

The Times, alas, understood neither the extent nor the rationale of the opposition to the 
Vietnam war, a poignant measure of the chasm between the Establishment and its children. 
The paper, even in the fall of 1967, had not come out in opposition to the war, still believed 
that there was room for "national debate" on the subject, and still imagined that the forces 
of the left were interested only in inaugurating such a debate. The circles around SDS had 
long discarded "debate," had tired of the peaceful "dissent" which finally had come to seem 
respectable to the Times editorialists, and were now on to something, the politics of 
resistance, that at least could make the policy makers sit up and take notice and maybe 
start to drag the country, kicking and screaming, to a position of honor. 

On the campuses. Resistance was not new here, of course, but its extent, its militance, and 
the response to it were all at unexpected heights. 



254 



Though many of the milder demonstrations still involved demands against university 
administrations over purely student-power issues, those which moved on to resistance were 
in greatest part those relating to complicity. Complicity was understood by more students 
now— even liberals came to see the point— and radical researchers at hundreds of 
campuses, large and small, continued through the fall to produce papers and pamphlets 
exposing in detail the links, sometimes quite nefarious, between campus and government. 
And as these revelations grew, and the nature of the system became clearer, so the 
reaction to it all increased. In the words of Michael Kazin, a leader of the Harvard SDS 
chapter at the time, "The level of tactics has changed because the analysis has changed."* 10 

The means of attacking complicity were, as before, demonstrations against recruiters from 
the military services, the CIA, and war-connected industries such as Dow, plus for the first 
time a significant number of protests over the presence of units of the Reserve Officers 
Training Corps on campus. According to one survey, nearly a quarter of all institutions, and 
more than 60 percent of the large universities, had recruiting protests during the school 
year, and in another survey no fewer than 106 campuses acknowledged recruiter 
demonstrations during the fall months alone. Of the sixty largest and best-publicized 
demonstrations of the fall, forty involved recruiters (twenty of them Dow recruiters), six 
attacked ROTC, and six others were broadly against the war, while only eight attacked 
administrations for various local grievances. But what made this fall different was that 
student tactics now tended to begin with obstructive sit-ins and go on up from there; as 
Carl Davidson, rejoicing on the sidelines, put it: 

No one goes limp anymore, or meekly to jail. Police violence does not go 
unanswered. Sit-ins are no longer symbolic, but strategic: to protect people 
or hold positions, rather than to allow oneself to be passively stepped over or 
carted off ... . While the anti-recruiter sit-ins last Spring were primarily acts 
of moral witness and political protest, an increasing number of the sit-ins this 
Fall displayed the quality of Tactical Political Resistance. Their purpose was 
the disruption and obstruction of certain events and actions BY WHATEVER 
MEANS NECESSARY. 11 



* To cite just a few exposures that fall: Columbia SDSers published proof of a $125,000-a-year contract between 
the CIA and Columbia's School of International Affairs, a link which the school's dean, Andrew Cordier, had 
repeatedly denied all along and was now forced to admit. VOICE exposed "Project Michigan," part of the University 
of Michigan's $21.6 million contract with the Pentagon concerned with developing infrared sensing equipment to be 
used in jungle fighting; VOICE members also forced Lee DuBridge, president of the war-connected California 
Institute of Technology, to defend publicly secret war research on university campuses: "Because," he said, "it is 
valuable." "Valuable for what?" cried one SDSer. "Valuable," he blurted, "for killing people." SDS's Southern 
California Regional Office unveiled the elaborate links between the University of California and various parts of the 
defense industry, and held a "University complicity teach-in" at UCLA in October. Penn State SDSers uncovered 
their university's research contracts with the Department of Defense for running an ordnance laboratory and 
developing the nuclear submarine fleet. MIT SDS put out a detailed twenty-one-page pamphlet showing that the 
university's involvement with defense contracts was so extensive it depended upon the government for 79 percent 
of its annual budget. Harvard SDS publicized the big-business connections of the university's trustees (13 
corporation chairmanships, 8 presidencies, 108 directorships) plus heavy university investments in segregated 
businesses in the South and apartheid supporters like Chase Manhattan. New Left Notes (September 25) listed the 
fifty universities, from Hawaii to New York and Alaska to Florida, taking part in the Pentagon's "Project Themis" and 
publicized exposures in other newspapers showing up university complicity in a $30-million-a-year 
counterinsurgency project and in ongoing research in chemical and biological warfare. NACLA put out pamphlets 
detailing the Cold War roles of the nominally independent Institute for International Education and the prestigious 
Foreign Policy Association. 



255 



Thus at least twenty of the largest demonstrations involved sit-ins designed to imprison 
recruiters or prevent them from operating, and at three campuses the recruiters were 
chased right off the premises; according to a survey at the time no fewer than 45 percent of 
the recruiter actions (i.e., forty-eight of them) involved personal violence of one kind or 
another.* Administration reaction in at least twenty of the demonstrations was to call in the 
police, marking the first time that outside force had ever been used on college campuses on 
such a scale— Berkeley had sent for the cops twice and police had invaded a few black 
colleges in the South, but this was the first widespread use— and the inevitable result was 
simply to escalate the confrontation, create violence, and usually muster broad student 
support; again according to the survey of recruiter demonstrations, the level of the protest 
was expanded in half the cases where police were called in and 73 percent of the cases 
where students were arrested. At a half a dozen campuses (including Brooklyn, Rochester, 
San Francisco State, and Wisconsin) the ultimate weapon of student resistance, the strike, 
was attempted, with varying degrees of success. 

It is of particular notice that resistance should have focused so often just now on Dow, for 
that marks a growing sophistication among many students of the role of corporations in 
propagating the war and is a solid indication that at least a rudimentary understanding of 
imperialism was catching hold. Dow had been making napalm (among other war supplies) 
since 1966, and the evils of napalm in producing violent disfiguration and death among the 
Vietnamese civilian population were well enough known, but before this fall there had been 
only a few scattered attempts to use the presence of Dow's recruiters as occasions for 
protests against the war. During the 1967-68 academic year, according to the Dow people, 
its agents made 339 campus visits and were demonstrated against or prevented from 
recruiting at 113 of them. Connections were very clearly being made; as the Wisconsin 
demonstrators had put it, "We pick this week to demonstrate against Dow, against the 
university as a corporation and against the war because they are all one." 12 



Antirecruiting demonstrations against the CIA took place at Brandeis, Brown, University of Colorado, Kentucky, 
Pennsylvania, and Tulane; against military recruiters at Adelphi, Brooklyn, California (Irvine, Riverside, Santa Cruz, 
and San Jose), Colorado, Harvard, Iowa, Michigan State, Oberlin, and Pratt Institute; against Dow at Boston 
University, Brandeis, California (Berkeley, Los Angeles State, San Jose, San Fernando Valley, and UCLA), Chicago, 
CCNY, Connecticut, Harvard, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, NYU, Pennsylvania, Rochester, Vanderbilt, and 
Wisconsin; and against the International Volunteers Service at Goddard College, Anti-ROTC actions took place at 
Arizona, Brandeis, Howard, Louisiana State (!), Rutgers, and San Francisco State. Antiwar protests occurred at 
Berkeley, Indiana, Princeton, Stony Brook, Washington University, and Yale. Anti-administration demonstrations 
were held at Berkeley, CCNY, Howard, Miles College, Missouri, Rochester, San Francisco State, and the University 
of Washington. 



256 



It is also of notice that the strategy of resistance, though practiced with a flourish at the 
larger state universities and traditionally liberal colleges, extends to quite staid and remote 
campuses where there has been very little protest before. SDS is largely but not wholly 
responsible for this, since its influence and its chapters had reached many of the smaller 
schools by now; not every place that had an SDS group had a confrontation, of course, but 
almost every place that had a confrontation had an active SDS presence. At Indiana, for 
example, in what was that university's first major action, nearly a hundred students 
(including a large number of SDSers) surrounded the office a Dow recruiter was using and 
demanded a debate, only to be rebuffed by the recruiter, harangued by the administration, 
and arrested and beaten by the campus police and Bloomington riot squad, thus 
precipitating what the official faculty report on the incident called "a crisis in the life of the 
university." At Brooklyn College, a place not known for its radicalism, students were so 
shocked by the calling in of police to arrest Jeffrey Gordon and other SDSers for setting up a 
table next to a Navy recruiter's, and were so outraged at the resulting blood and brutality, 
that they closed down the campus for the next five days, until the college gave in to their 
demands that the police would be summoned no more and the military would recruit no 
more. Resistance came, too, to Adelphi, where a Marine recruiter was locked up for four 
hours; to Goddard College, where antirecruiting sit-inners were told by the administration, 
"When you come to college you lose your rights"; to Princeton, where thirty-one people 
were arrested during an IDA sit-in; to Colorado, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Pratt, Kentucky, and 
Stony Brook ... . 

In the capital. At mid-afternoon on October 21 some one hundred thousand Americans- 
students in the main, but older people, dropouts, housewives, others, too— marched 
through long lines of bayonet-ready soldiers and baton-wielding federal marshals toward the 
locus of American power, the Pentagon. They had assembled where told to assemble, 
listened to the droning speeches, sung the desultory antiwar songs, followed the usual 
leaders— but now, it was clear, something new was about to happen. The front ranks ran up 
against a line of soldiers, paused, backed off ... a few moral protesters deliberately crossed 
the lines and were arrested ... leaders of the National Mobilization Committee, which had 
called the march, gave reassuring speeches through their bullhorns ... there was a tense 
pause ... and suddenly a group of young people— an SDS contingent and some New York 
Yippies— made a breakthrough in the line of soldiers, swept over the weather fences, ran 
past more startled troops, and presented themselves directly to the walls of the Pentagon 
itself. Several dozen people made a dash for a side door, assaulting the war machine where 
it was apparently vulnerable, but they were halted at the entrance by a group of young 
paratroopers, beaten with rifle butts, hauled away, and arrested. By then, however, several 
thousand more had come up behind them; troops and marshals flailed desperately at the 
crowd, fired tear gas, used their clubs, but still the demonstrators poured through, until 
finally something between five and ten thousand demonstrators were encamped on the 
Pentagon lawns, facing rows of bayonets and the prospect of violence, but victorious still, 
and exhilarated. 13 



257 



An NLF flag was raised on a liberated Pentagon flagstaff, its gold star winking up at 
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the other military brass observing from the 
windows overhead. A group of inspired hippies— "witches, warlocks, holymen, seers, 
prophets, mystics, saints, sorcerers, shamans, troubadours, minstrels, bards, roadmen, and 
madmen," according to the East Village Other— began their planned exorcism and levitation 
of the massive building with elaborate rituals and calls. One young man helped his woman 
over a barbed wire fence, lay down with her in front of a line of bewildered soldiers, and 
they proceeded, unperturbed and undisturbed, to make love. Another man threw a rock and 
broke a window, the only overt act of violence by the demonstrators during the entire day. 
As evening approached, food appeared from somewhere, people began relieving themselves 
against the walls of the Pentagon, plentiful supplies of marijuana passed through the 
crowds, little knots of people sang, a few political types gave impromptu speeches, and 
then, quite without warning, a draft card was burned, and then another, and another, until 
perhaps a hundred little fires could be seen aloft throughout the crowd. 

As the night wore on, the demonstrators tore up weather fences and movable benches to 
build bonfires against the whipping cold, waiting with some trepidation for the expected 
order at midnight that the rally permit had expired and the crowd was to disperse. SDSers 
were conspicuous among them— the police later claimed that "SDS played a very prominent 
role in prolonging and sustaining the actual siege of the Pentagon itself— and when midnight 
came, the order was given, and the troops slowly moved toward the crowd. It was Greg 
Calvert who had the bullhorn; he spoke of the people who had made the war, the people 
who were now directing these troops against their fellow countrymen, and he told them: 
"The troops you employ belong to us and not to you. They don't belong to the generals. 
They belong to a new hope for America that those generals could never participate in." 14 
Fanciful as it may seem, perhaps someone was listening to that. For after a sweep by one 
line of troops down the right side of the mall, with no visible signs that the demonstrators 
were prepared to budge, the soldiers suddenly stopped, and re-formed their lines: 
apparently the chaos of confrontation, the battle of soldiers against countrymen, was not to 
be. Into the dawn, huddled around dying fires, embracing to keep warm, the demonstrators 
kept their vigil, while just feet away stood the weary soldiers, their lines intact but 
immobile. 

Fully seven hundred people had by now been arrested, at least twice that number had been 
beaten and bloodied, tear gas and truncheons had been used and loaded guns were only 
feet away— and yet the demonstrators would not give an inch. Even when sparks of violence 
ignited during that night, and the threat of a full-scale explosion seemed very real, the 
reaction from the crowd was unflinching: 

An SDS girl from Boston was dozing about 2:30 A.M. in the morning [sic] 
about 15 feet and several rows from me. The guy next to her was grabbed by 
marshals and she awoke startled. In waking she must have brushed against a 
soldier— it isn't quite clear. She was then grabbed by a marshal, dragged 
through the line, whereupon the marshal started clubbing the hell out of her. 

We focused a spotlight and a camera on him. The look on his face could only 
have been that of someone having an orgasm. Pictures were taken. The girl, 
who ended up getting three broken ribs, was carried to a paddy wagon; the 
marshal came up to a line of soldiers, and with a sadistic look on his face, 
ominously held his club high towards the crowd. The crowd near the girl rose 
to its feet, started screaming, and had difficulty restraining itself from a 
suicidal assault into the several rows of readied troops. 15 



258 



Then, toward dawn, most of the demonstrators agreed that their point had been made, their 
attack on the headquarters of the American war machine (which no one would really have 
believed possible a week before) complete. At sunrise, the large bulk of the crowd marched 
down the Pentagon walkways to the parking lots and streets, and home. 

It was, for all concerned, a truly educative experience. The government, on the one hand, 
bewildered and angry in turns, had for the first time used its own troops to threaten its own 
white middle-class children and had seen in this mild, containable form what a true revolt 
might possibly look like; for failing to predict and contain the Pentagon militance, according 
to The New York Times, "senior officers caught what one source described as 'undiluted hell' 
from high political leaders, apparently including President Johnson," 16 and began scurrying 
around inaugurating a whole series of intelligence and security operations designed to 
protect the government from its own citizens. The Movement for its part felt that it had 
moved right up to the brink of insurrection— and though it had shied away unprepared and 
unsure, it was left with the taste of resistance, defiant mass resistance, and it liked the 
taste; REPer Mike Goldfield, writing in New Left Notes, drew these conclusions: 

Symbolically ... the invincibility of the greatest military power in the world 
was attacked. Hawks, and military men especially, have chided weak-minded 
university administrators about their inability to put the clamps down on 
unruly, sissy students. Yet several thousand of us outwitted the Pentagon 
plans for making us look silly, kept McNamara up all night, the government 
confused about what to do, and blatantly broke several laws in plain view of 
all (i.e., draft card burning, pot laws, defacing government property, and the 
obvious one of charging the Pentagon) ... . The move from protest to 
resistance has been made. 

Even the Progressive Labor Party— which, as we shall see, was hardly receptive to the 
resistance strategy— found some of the confrontations that fall exhilarating. Milt Rosen, the 
party's chairman, wrote of the Brooklyn College demonstration: 

Very often a united front on one question can lead to a broader united front 
on other questions. This can lead to involving more people in struggle and 
winning more people to the more fundamental point. The recent Brooklyn 
College experience is very germane. At the school the united front— PL and 
SDS— were acting against some aspect of the war. The school attacked. The 
students defended the right of the united front to carry on its actions without 
harassment. The school called the cops. The focus of the united front shifted 
momentarily away from the war to "cops on campus and student-faculty 
control." ... 

Ten thousand students supported the strike and the anti-war united front. 
Many of these students previously supported the war or were passive. 
Because of this broader involvement some changed their minds and some 
were won over from passiveness to opposition. The SDS grew, we will grow, 
opposition to the war will grow, and opposition to the administration will 
grow. Naturally, there will be attacks and complications. But the action 
proved our basic premise that the majority of students can be won to struggle 
against the system. 



259 



The national leaders of SDS, though they had by no means planned or foreseen this 
explosion of resistance, were quick to pick up on it, promote it, and turn it insofar as they 
could into a kind of national program for the fall.* 

Following the Pentagon, Carl Davidson evolved a new strategy for SDS called "Toward 
Institutional Resistance," which called for students to embark upon "the disruption, 
dislocation and destruction of the military's access to the manpower, intelligence, or 
resources of our universities" so as to produce "two complementary goals: 1) the weakening 
of the resisted dominant institution and 2) developing a consciousness of power among 
those resisting the dominant institution." His article was widely reproduced on the college 
campuses and proved very influential among a number of radical groups. SDS Regional 
Offices, now numbering five (New York City, upstate New York, Southern California, Boston, 
Washington), held regional conferences to find targets and occasions for resistance actions, 
put out newsletters telling what the campus demonstrations were, and sent campus 
travelers around to push the resistance theme. 17 

In neither money nor efficiency was the NO notable. It seemed that no matter how much 
came in by way of contributions the organization always found a way to spend it and be on 
the lookout for more. This fall, for example, Mike Spiegel inveigled a handsome $12,000 gift 
from an anonymous figure— it was, he agreed, "a charitable handout from the middle class 
which likes our libertarian ideas"— but a month later the coffers were virtually empty. 
Throughout these months income averaged around $1,800 a week (mostly from 
contributions and literature orders), and expenditures (chiefly for printing supplies, salaries, 
and overhead of the NO) were about the same/ For the calendar year the NO filed a tax 
report listing a total income for 1967 of $70,698.85 ($33,931.00 from contributions), 
expenses of $68,754.47, and profit of $1,944.38. Office organization was equally 
haphazard. The new three-secretary scheme and the new national officers did not work 
particularly well: Davidson was bored with his role as Inter-organizational Secretary and 
spent most of his time traveling and writing in his role as a semiofficial guru; Pardun, as 
Education Secretary, tried to keep up the elaborate file on chapter activities and contacts 
but felt rather more comfortable on the road; and Spiegel— well, Spiegel found himself a 
little out of his depth as a twenty-year-old National Secretary for an organization of national 
prominence, and his reaction was to spend his time on quotidian minutiae while letting 
others take the spotlight. 18 



INCOME: 



EXPENSES: 



Dues & Subscriptions: $478.00 Petty Cash: 
Literature: 238.00 Travel: 



$5.20 
240.00 



* Carl Davidson even went so far as to claim credit for the whole thing to SDS— "The idea of organizing a national 
movement to expel the military from the campus formally became a major SDS national program at the June, 1967 
National Convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan," he said in New Left Notes (November 13, 1967)— but that simply was 
not true. The convention had rejected all major national programs and its only reference to "the military on 
campus" was a passing aside in the tentative student-strike resolution. More than one observer has accepted the 
Davidson version. Richard Peterson of the Educational Testing Service, for example, later wrote: "Opposition to 
war-effort recruiters took place mainly at the public and independent universities. In large part these 
demonstrations were organized by local chapters of Students for a Democratic Society, in pursuance of a 'direction' 
approved at their national meeting the previous summer, and may be taken as a gauge of SDS's ability to override 
its cherished localism and mount a coordinated 'program' on a national scale." (Foster and Long, Protest! p. 66.) In 
truth, there was no direction, no overriding, and no coordinated program. 

+ A fairly typical entry is this headed "Tale with a Tragic Ending," from the week of November 7 to November 13 
(New Left Notes, November 20): 



260 



Contributions: 


146.50 


Subsistence: 




345.00 


Pledges: 


91.05 


Office & REC supplies: 


73.12 


Sales: 


92.16 


Printing Suppl 


ies: 


432.51 


Miscellaneous: 


85.00 


Exchanges: 




35.00 


Exchanges: 


35.00 


Car Expenses: 




9.00 


NLN Ads: 


00.00 


Typesetting: 




18.32 


Printing: 


324.75 


Postage: 




43.67 


Loans: 


00.00 


Telephone (REC) 


47.66 


Chapter Tax: 


00.00 


Gas & Electric 


(REC) 


34.01 


Journal A: 


-15.00 


Rent (REC) 
Debts: 




125.00 


Total: 


$1,505.46 


50.00 






Miscellaneous: 




-244.87 




Total: 




$1,703.36 



But it hardly seemed to matter. This was another instance of SDS's being there, with good 
politics, experience, charisma, and a dedicated hard core of activists, when the general 
mood of the young, principally the campus young, needed it. And the SDS leadership, 
especially those around the National Office, felt itself in the vortex of a swirling movement 
whose momentum hardly depended upon financial or bureaucratic efficiency. Something 
crucial was happening now: SDS began to feel itself revolutionary. As Greg Calvert 
expressed it some time later, the feeling was that "in the resistance movement there is a 
truly radical and potentially revolutionary movement among whites." In an interview that 
December he said: 

I think that what happened in the last six months happened first in the ghetto 
rebellions and then it happened in a new wave of militancy in the white 
student movement. People began to identify themselves as powerful or as an 
historical force for the first time. Suddenly we were no longer the isolated 
bright-eyed Utopians of America dreaming about a future which we really 
didn't think we could realize ... . I think it's possible to realize a powerful 
organization linked together. It may be the first serious American 
revolutionary organization in 175 years. 19 



261 



This was pretty heady stuff, and its effects on the organization were quickly evident. For 
one thing, the SDS leadership, feeling that perhaps they could now realize that dream of 
forging a broad American left that had haunted SDSers from the beginning, turned swiftly 
away from the students-first idea that had energized the student-power strategy. The 
student movement seemed no longer sufficient: what was wanted was a broad alliance of 
young whites, blacks, the working class, the poor, all those ready for revolution. In a special 
issue of New Left Notes designed for wide campus distribution that September, NO staffer 
John Veneziale argued: 

Students as students, in my opinion, are not necessary for a revolution. The 
only reason even to attempt a campus movement is that students are useful 
and universities have a large concentration of young potential people whose 
middle class and bourgeois values are not irreversibly entrenched; otherwise 
they are not worth the trouble ... . If a person in the U.S. in 1967 considers 
himself or herself a student, he or she negates the meaning of being a 
revolutionary. 

And in a most remarkable turnaround, Carl Davidson said in the same issue: 

What can students do? Organizing struggles over dormitory rules seems 
frivolous when compared to the ghetto rebellions. And white students are no 
longer wanted or necessary in the black movement ... . Draft resistance 
tables in the student union building— the arrogance of it all. We organize 
students against the draft when the Army is made up of young men who are 
poor, black, Spanish-American, hillbillies, or working class. Everyone except 
students. How can we be so stupid when we plan our strategies? 

Students are oppressed. Bullshit. We are being trained to be the oppressors 
and the underlings of oppressors.* 20 

For another thing, as a result, the SDS leadership turned increasingly away from the 
student-oriented new-working-class theories that had surfaced in the spring. Those 
theories, and their defenses, because they had to be created new, seemed too hard to 
formulate and polish in the instant, especially in the face of attacks from people like the PL 
dogmatists and especially at a time when action brought its own rewards and resistance 
seemed enough to create visions of the revolution. SDSers involved in theory tended to give 
up the hard work of fashioning their own, of finding formulations that were new, particular 
to their time and place, valid for a postindustrial system, consistent with the Movement they 
had seen develop, true to their own experience, coherent with their own reality. They 
turned more often instead to something ready-made, something so all-encompassing that 
you needed only to consult its index to find the correct solution for your particular nagging 
problem. The feeling grew that what SDS lacked was a series of engraved ideological tablets 
along its organizational walls and a bearded nineteenth-century portrait over its hearth. And 
the inevitable result was a turn toward the traditional standby, Marxism. 



* New Left Notes kept up the same drumbeat through the fall— see Steve Hamilton, October 2; Mike James, 
October 9; Bob Pardun, November 6; Thad Marty, November 20; Vernon Urban, December 4; and Les Coleman, 
December 11. 



262 



Now it may have been that this was simply the collective perception of an inevitable truth— 
as Che Guevara was fond of noting, "It's not my fault that reality is Marxist"— or it may have 
been a response to the ease and surety with which the new PL people (and behind them the 
Communist Party members) answered all questions by referring to the Marxist standards. 
But the more reasonable explanation was, as Oglesby later said, that when the SDSers 
began to be led by their own logic toward the idea of revolution, they found that "there 
was— and is— no other coherent, integrative, and explicit philosophy of revolution." He 
added: 

I don't think the American Left's first stab at producing for itself a fulfilled 
revolutionary consciousness could have produced anything better, could have 
gone beyond this ancestor-worship politics. It was necessary to discover— or 
maybe the word is confess— that we had ancestors in the first place. 21 

Of course the acceptance of— or at least reading of— those ancestors who had been scorned 
by the New Left for so long came only haltingly and was still in its infancy here; but 
gradually quotations from Marx, then Lenin, and then the modem European Marxists found 
their way into SDS and other Movement literature. Carl Davidson was now talking easily 
about "class analysis" and "imperialism"— "Who among us today," he asked in November, 
"would argue that America is not an imperialist power?"— and when he went on to assert, in 
a discussion of whether Dow recruiters had the civil liberty to operate on campuses, that "to 
respect and operate within the realm of bourgeois civil liberties is to remain enslaved," he 
felt himself comfortably within the Marxist-Leninist tradition— as indeed he was.* These 
same burgeoning perceptions led many in the upper levels of SDS to relish the new contacts 
being made this fall with leftists and revolutionaries from other countries, especially North 
and South Vietnam: Steve Halliwell, for example, reported back to the SDS membership 
after meeting revolutionary Vietnamese in Bratislava that fall: 

For those present, the manner of the people from both North and South who 
presented [their] information is of crucial importance, for their manner is that 
of men and women struggling in a society in revolution ... . It is that total 
endeavor by a society in revolution that came across in the course of our 
conversations. Against a society demanding freedom and independence from 
an imperialist force, there is no weapon save destruction of every individual in 
revolt that will bring about any end other than victory for the liberation 
forces/ 



* But most of his constituency was not. Several people wrote in to New Left Notes to denounce Davidson for this 
opinion, and when he repeated it at a REP conference the same month he was attacked by several people including 
SDSers Eric Chester, Christopher Hobson (Chicago), and Michael Klare (Columbia). Thus grew the rift. 

+ There were other contacts between SDSers and third-world revolutionaries at this time— Carl Oglesby spent part 
of the summer at Bertrand Russell's war crimes tribunal, Cathy Wilkerson and Carol McEldowney spent some time 
with NLF people in Cambodia in November, a meeting of North American and NLF students was held in Montreal, 
and Davidson, Tom Hayden, Todd Gitlin, and others traveled to Cuba at the end of the year. But the Bratislava 
meeting— which attracted such SDSers as Rennie Davis, Thorne Dreyer, Nick Egleson, Dick Flacks, Norm Fruchter, 
Carol Glassman, Hayden, Halliwell, Andy Kopkind, Robert Kramer, Carol McEldowney, Doug Norberg, and 
Wilkerson— was the most formative; Christopher Jencks noted in the New Republic (October 7, 1967) that "the 
most striking fact about the young radicals was the extent to which they identified with the Viet Cong." 



263 



Finally, the SDS leadership began to see itself more and more (in the Marxist phraseology) 
as a "vanguard" in the impending revolution, or at least as the core of that potential 
vanguard. The people around the NO itself became an increasingly close-knit group: a 
number of the staff lived and slept together in nearby apartments in a quasi-communal 
style; they shared drug experiences (marijuana mostly, but also LSD), out of which came, 
initially at least, a sense of closeness and unity; and they developed their political ideas 
together both through informal contacts around the office and in formal meetings which 
they held to "advance their political education," 22 in the words of the National Administrative 
Committee. Davidson and Calvert (who still spent a good deal of his time in Chicago) were 
especially important figures, providing the solidarity of continuity that the NO had lacked 
since Haber's time, and acting as the centripetal force for many of the people around the 
NO who were several years younger. Then, too, there was the feeling of being a bastion 
against the forces of a repressive society, a feeling enhanced by the regular harassment of 
the Chicago police and by one destructive raid made upon the SDS building that fall by 
unknown attackers; in response the NAC voted to put wire mesh on the office windows, to 
admit visitors from the street only by buzzer, and to station one of the staff each night in 
the office as a security guard (though it was decided he would not be armed unless 
someone could "procure some type of tear gas" 23 ). It was left to Greg Calvert to enunciate 
the new level of understanding, and he did so in a remarkable article in New Left Notes in 
December. Starting with the premise that "our organizational structure and style are 
proving inadequate to cope with the strains which the new upsurge of activity and the new 
political seriousness have produced," he proposed to scrap that old idea of participatory 
democracy: "The basic problem with participatory democracy lies not in its analysis or 
vision, but in its basic inadequacy as a style of work for a serious radical organization." 
What SDS needs, he said, is "responsible collective leadership," or a "steering committee ... 
responsible for the development of long-range organizing strategies and programs which 
can be intelligently discussed and criticized by the members." Only with such a collective 
can SDS become a "revolutionary organization" capable of "serious analysis" and enlistment 
of "those elements in the society which can form the base of a mass movement." How far 
had SDS now come. 

Or at least the leadership. For it should not be thought that all of SDS was swept up in the 
same celebration of resistance and anticipation of revolution. Many in the membership, and 
not alone the newest and most innocent members, complained about the new trends and 
the ever-more-obvious "distance" problem. New Left Notes was full of complaints from 
people asking what they were supposed to do on the day after resistance. What happens 
after a confrontation, no matter how successful, when the administration seems 
conciliatory, the faculty votes reforms, and the students end up not having seen the 
bedrock issue of complicity anyway? What happens when, as one Wisconsin SDSer put it, 
"the many liberal students and faculty members who struck against police brutality are still 
not convinced that Dow or the CIA should be thrown off campus. They don't believe the 
university is part of the corporate hierarchy that rules America; they don't even believe that 
a corporate hierarchy DOES rule America"? It is all very well for the NO to see and to relish 
a pattern of nation-wide events which to them forms resistance, but the realities on a single 
campus are different. If Davidson scorns the idea of SDS tables in the student-union 
building, that might make sense from his perspective— but, as one angry SDSer from the 
University of Nebraska told him, "In case you don't know, sitting behind an SDS literature 
table involves taking a very large step, if you happen to be a Nebraskan fresh off the farm 
and don't even know who Marx is." Of the national officers, only Spiegel seemed truly 
worried about the distance problem— "There is the inevitable tendency for the NO to become 
further and further alienated from the membership; it takes on an internal logic of its 
own"— but, he argued, it is up to the chapters to advance more rapidly, not for the NO to 
hold back: 24 



264 



As SDS grows and assumes a more primary political role on the left, its 
internal structure must be examined. We cannot afford to become more 
mature politically while permitting a weak spot in our internal structure to 
continue to hold us back. 

What really lies behind this continuous fissure is the absolutely crucial question of how to 
build a movement for rapid and wholesale change in America: by raising the level of 
confrontation so as to threaten the sources of power, or by educating and organizing to gain 
as wide a following as possible? Are more recruits brought in by militant action and a sense 
that things are happening, the enemy is weakening, the stakes are getting higher, and 
victories are being won? Or does this turn away potential allies, alienate those whose 
consciousness is not yet identical, serve to isolate and splinter the minority, and stiffen the 
backs of those in power? Is the task one of regular, sustained resistance, putting one's body 
on the line, acting out of one's felt anger and need, moving when and where possible with 
whoever is ready, building militance ever higher? Or is it one of long-range base-building, 
appealing to other segments of the population, holding one's own feelings in check so as to 
win new converts, waiting until the time is right, spreading the message ever wider? 

Even in the flush of resistance, this issue began to trouble the organization. The national 
leadership, without a direct and immediate constituency to worry about and with a 
perception of the broad national effects of resistance, tended to favor the resistance 
strategy. Many of the chapters— by no means all but especially those which found their 
lances blunted after actions of resistance or which found themselves coopted and isolated in 
their immediate locales— tended to opt for base-building. In the next year this tension will 
continue to grow, continue to pose the most serious question for the continuance of SDS as 
a national organization. It would have been small comfort for SDSers, even if they had been 
aware of it, to know that this question was one faced, and agonized over, by every 
revolutionary organization in history. 

"We should have moved then." Steve Weissman, then in Ann Arbor working for the Radical 
Education Project, has looked back on these fateful months with the perspective of the old 
guard: 

We should have done more to stop them when they took over in 1967. It was 
clear enough that a new Marxist group was taking over, and a new style, 
without a vote, nothing connected to the chapters, or to the organization as a 
whole. It was just a decision by a few people, the people around the National 
Office. The NO had always been its own separate organization, that's true, but 
it had always thought of itself as just trying to keep things going, nothing like 
this. Now it became a collective unto itself. 25 



265 



But the old guard did not move then. The older members found little welcome, except as 
monuments, among the chapters or in the regional offices, and there was no regularized 
way for national SDS to use their talents; they felt, moreover, little inclination to assert 
themselves in a students' movement, especially at a time when it seemed that the left could 
branch out into other parts of the population. Then, too, there was other work to occupy 
them— although the ERAP projects were all but finished now (except for JOIN, and it had 
almost none of the original people), there was REP, now producing pamphlets by the 
thousands (some sixty different items by the end of the year), organizing conferences 
(notably one on "the university and the military" at Chicago in November), running a 
speakers bureau,* and starting a "Radicals in the Professions" newsletter for communication 
among (mostly academic) Movement alumni; there was NACLA, moving into complicity 
research in a major way; there were left-wing publications like Ramparts, the Movement, 
the Guardian, and Radical America, plus a host of counterculture newspapers and several 
specialized media projects, such as Newsreel, for making and distributing Movement films. 
Haber and Flacks were teaching, Hayden and Davis spent much of their time traveling 
abroad, Oglesby was writing and lecturing, Booth was doing union work, Kissinger was living 
out his dream of an independent political party, Webb was enticed to the Institute for Policy 
Studies, Potter was organizing in the Boston area, Egleson and Grizzard were doing draft 
resistance in Boston— and so it went. The alumni had not left radical politics, but they had 
other tasks, and, thus isolated, with their own preoccupations, they were in no position to 
move anywhere in the new SDS. 

Part of the strategy of the Progressive Labor Party after the defection of much of its West 
Coast membership— in addition to the emphasis on the student movement— had been an 
attempt to rebuild strength among the working class. The party reasserted stern discipline 
over its remaining members and saw to it that they worked in factory jobs and lived in 
working-class communities; party chairman Milt Rosen detailed the directive: "We have to 
have more discipline based on collectivity, based on understanding, people have to become 
more accountable to the party, people have to work, people have to go to school, people 
have to accomplish something in the community." 26 At the same time PL thought to pull in 
its horns, avoid the confrontational tactics it had used before, and present itself to the 
working public as a more moderate political force; Rosen said: 

In the past we put a lot of emphasis on open agitation. Our ability to grow 
from this has been very limited. People in the community are not generally 
ready to organize directly against the war, or under revolutionary banners, 
although huge numbers are opposed to the war, and some forces are deadly 
opposed to the system. Therefore, we must continually probe for the level 
around which people are ready to organize. 27 



* The list of speakers that fall suggests both the central role played by SDSers in radical work at the time and the 
reliance upon old-timers rather than those brought in since student syndicalism. SDSers on the list included Jane 
Adams, Bill Ayers, Nancy Bancroft, Hal Benenson, Heather Tobis Booth, Paul Booth, Robb Burlage, Eric Chester, 
Rennie Davis, Dick Flacks, John Fuerst, Dave Gilbert, Nanci Gitlin, Todd Gitlin, Carol Glassman, Mike Goldfield, Bob 
Gottlieb, Dick Greeman, Barbara Haber, Steve Halliwell, Jilt Hamberg, Tom Hayden, Peter Henig, James Jacobs, 
Mike James, Steve Johnson, Clark Kissinger, Chuck Levenstein, Mike Locker, Kathy McAfee, Carol McEldowney, Dick 
Magidoff, John Maher, Eric Mann, Carl Oglesby, Paul Potter, Bob Ross, Gerry Tenney, Harriet Stulman, Lee Webb, 
Steve Weissman, Jim Williams, Carl Wittman, Martha Zweig, Michael Zweig. 



266 



This process, in PL, became known as "base-building," and it stood in opposition to 
"resistance." "Without real base-building," Rosen told the members, "the party will shrivel 
up and die," and he added, "We reject tactics like 'resistance' because these tactics will not 
only isolate radicals from workers, but from other students and intellectuals that could be 
won." "Base-building" became the central watchword of Progressive Labor throughout 1967 
and 1968, precisely at the time that resistance was at its height; thus neatly did PL assert 
its territoriality in the debate that was just beginning to emerge in SDS. 

On the campus level, the new PL strategy took several forms. PL members argued against 
most confrontations, as at Harvard, on the grounds that they tended to alienate both the 
campus majority and the surrounding working-class community. PL chose tactics, as at 
Brooklyn College, which were calculated to appeal to liberal and moderate elements and 
thus, as Jeffrey Gordon put it, "win over thousands of other students to our position." PL 
avoided student-power issues which might strike the working class as elitist; California PL 
organizer John Levin wrote in the November-December issue of PL: 

Student power ... tends to emphasize the individualistic nature of the student 
movement, that students are somehow a privileged class which is to be 
treated nicely ... . Student power ... tends to isolate I itself and would 
eventually lead us into conflict with the workers of this country. It is most 
important that SDS take the lead in breaking the antiwar movement out of its 
isolation and bringing it into alliance with the working class. 

Above all, PL put the finishing theoretical touches on its "worker-student alliance" strategy 
and prepared to launch it into the student movement with all its skill. 

Though actual party membership seems to have remained well under a thousand this fall, 
the PL approach attracted a number of students into the PL orbit, especially in the 
strongholds of Boston, Chicago, and New York. Those who had early doubts about 
resistance, or who had been burned by unsuccessful confrontations, were sympathetic to 
the base-building idea, though often not to the specific notion of a working-class base. 
Those who had groped their way to radicalism through opposition to the war but had still to 
surround it with any developed analysis found an undeniable appeal in PL's ready-made 
formulas— and this was enhanced by the fact that there was little theoretical opposition, 
either from the old guard, represented by The Port Huron Statement and the REP 
prospectus,* or from the present SDS leadership, represented by a still-unpolished new- 
working-class position that was being totally ignored in the heat of resistance. And those 
who were simply young and easily swayed could be impressed by the PLers' open espousal 
of revolution, thoroughgoing anti-Americanism, unselfish devotion to the workers' cause, 
forthright declarations of communism— and, not least, their readiness to take on the hard 
jobs involved in running a chapter, a devotional task willed upon them by the party and 
applauded by all their fellows. 

The SDS leadership was aware of these attractions, and aware, too, that PL was moving in a 
greater swath through the organizational fields. Jeff Shero recalls the PLers' impact at about 
this time: 



* The old guard," Steve Weissman said several years later, "failed especially in never getting anything down on 
paper setting out what they believed or figuring out how to make the younger people see what they saw. No one 
ever formalized the vision." (Interview with author.) 



267 



They'd raise questions that'd take up everybody's time, their theoretical 
Marxist questions, like every matter you'd debate they'd bring up their 
traditional political view of the working class, and you had to deal with it, and 
it skewered all debate— even if like eighty per cent of the people thought that 
it was nuts. They had an internally disciplined faction that could always keep 
up that pressure ... . 

PL had a comprehensive ideological structure with which they could interpret 
the world, and at any time on any subject they could give a classical Marxist 
analysis of what the problem was and rally their solid support behind that. 
And then you'd have the other people who were trying to debate and discover 
what America was about, the American system and how it worked, but were 
uncertain and needed to talk out things, and had a lot of ambiguity. But there 
was no way to mobilize ambiguity and searching against a classical Marxist 
analysis. They had an ideological tradition— and it was almost impossible to 
solidify a counteranalysis to that. 28 

PL couldn't be outmaneuvered or outdisciplined, and it couldn't even be outthrown, for that 
would fly in the face of SDS's antiexclusionist tradition. It had, therefore, to be borne, with 
the hope that SDS could rely upon the good sense of American college students, the open 
traditions of the past, and the practices that had so far brought such success. 

The December National Council meeting, held in Bloomington, Indiana, over the Christmas 
holidays, was the first chance for SDS to air the tensions that had been swirling around 
since the first major outbreak of resistance on the Wisconsin campus, and no opportunity 
was lost to do just that. There was a Southern caucus, the first organized and sizable 
Southern contingent since the days of SNCC delegations, which presented an endless 
document on Southern history and traditions, condemned "the 'New Militancy' of the past 
six months" in no uncertain terms, and came down on the side of what it called "base- 
broadening." There was a strong gathering of community organizers of the JOIN stripe who 
wanted now to cut all student ties and move alone as a separate organization called the 
National Community Union ("We, as people of the white working class, believe the course 
taken by SDS and the Radical Movement is no longer relevant to what we consider to be our 
role in the movement" 29 ), a step which the NC applauded and endorsed with $1,000 
besides. There was Progressive Labor, advancing its old idea of a summer "work-in" to get 
students into the factories, a notion that received little debate and less interest, but passed 
by a clear majority because no one really cared. And there was, for the first time, a vocal 
high-school contingent which wanted to set about officially organizing the more-militant- 
than-thou high-school set and whose proposals for a team of national organizers and 
national publicity were endorsed almost without a murmur.* 



Bob Pardun, in his ironic way, took a somewhat dim view of all this perturbation. As he told the membership 
before the meeting, "If an anthropologist were to do a functional analysis of a typical SDS-NC he would come up 
with something like this: 'It appears that the primary activity of an NC is debating for long hours over issues of an 
intellectual-political nature. The time spent talking about implementing those decisions is usually very minimal. The 
debates usually go on for hours and their primary function seems to be the lowering of the frustration level of 
those involved so that they can then go home somewhat less tense than before. For those who do not take direct 
part in these discussions, and that is the majority of those attending, the function seems to be to get them into the 
halls or onto the grass where they can discuss their organizing problems, find out what others are doing and try to 
coordinate their activities. A secondary function is to discourage those who are new to the organization from ever 
coming to another NC " (New Left Notes, December 11, 1967.) 



268 



But the basic tension that had to be aired in Bloomington was that between the resistance 
forces on the one hand and a variety of moderating forces (smaller chapters, the Southern 
caucus, PL, and the like) on the other. The lines were drawn over the question of the 
planned student strike for the spring. 

It seemed to the national leadership and many of the large-university delegates that the 
time had come for a massive display of student resistance, a proposal which Carl Davidson 
and Greg Calvert spelled out for the membership in an article called "Ten Days to Shake the 
Empire." The basic premise was that the American empire was weakening: 

The crisis we are confronting is the disruption and dislocation of the political 
economy of imperialism in the face of wars of national liberation, of which 
Vietnam is only one front. The struggles of Third World movements abroad 
and black America at home have marked the beginning of the end of U.S. 
corporate capitalism ... . The conclusion we must draw is that the primary 
task for the radical student movement at this time is to develop a political 
strategy of anti-imperialism. 30 

The expression of this anti-imperialism would come during ten days in April when SDS 
would inaugurate a "program of actions in resistance to the war in Vietnam," selecting "a 
variety of targets for direct action on and off the campus," preferably "financial and 
corporate industrial targets." Nothing more definite than that was enumerated, but it was 
clear that the NO forces had discarded the whole notion of student strikes in favor of a more 
elaborate attack on the corporate structure which they saw underlying the empire. 

The Progressive Labor contingent, which showed up at the NC in numbers surprising to the 
other SDSers (perhaps a quarter of the three-hundred-odd delegates), was naturally 
opposed to any scheme so dependent upon resistance, and one which was likely to involve 
factories and blue-collar workplaces as well: "We are for sharpening the struggle with U.S. 
imperialism," it announced, in a proposal drawn up by John Levin and Earl Silbar, "but only 
on our own grounds— where we come out stronger both ideologically and numerically." PL 
proposed instead a spring program which would stick to the campuses and concentrate on 
the issue of university complicity, possibly including a student strike. 

The informal reception this proposal received as it was handed around before the plenary 
sessions indicated that it spoke more directly to the interests of the chapter delegates, but 
there was still a strong reluctance to follow any scheme laid down by the PL people and so 
three New York SDSers, Naomi Jaffe, Bob Gottlieb, and John Fuerst, hastily drew up a 
compromise scheme that still included ten days of resistance but would allow chapters to 
"develop tactics based on analysis of their own specific situation and in response to their 
own local needs." Anti-imperialism would still be the emphasis: but a kind of base-building 
among other groups would also be essential: 31 

The links we want to build are those which really unite fragmented groups 
because we experience similar problems and similar sources of oppression. 
These links have to be developed organically, not mechanically or on paper or 
in rhetoric about the "working class" but in terms of our politics and chapter 
programs.* 



David Gilbert, aligned with the authors of this proposal, later wrote that this motion "was offered to counter both 
the right opportunism of PLP and the empty (not particularly left) adventurism of the NO: right opportunist in that 
PLP withdrew into 'base-building' without understanding the necessity of linking up different constituencies around 
anti-imperialism ... [and] their only form of constituency links was the mechanical 'worker-student alliance 1 ; 
adventurist, because the NO talked about anti-imperialist politics without any sense of the concrete immediate 
issues that could relate such politics to a base." (Letter to NO, February 25, 1968, archives.) 



269 



When the issue finally came to a head at the last plenary session, it was quickly apparent 
that the Davidson-Calvert scheme was unpopular and that the national leadership had 
become, in the words of John Maher, "too remote from chapter work to know if this 
program or another makes sense for any area, much less for the whole organization." The 
NO people didn't even come forth with much support on its behalf, shrouding themselves in 
a cloak of "nonmanipulation" (Davidson, it should be noted, was absent on a trip to Cuba), 
and the delegates roundly expressed themselves as being against all such grandiose 
national programs and especially those with such overinflated rhetoric as "Ten Days to 
Shake the Empire." When it finally came down to a vote, the NO withdrew its plan in favor 
of the Jaffe-Gottlieb-Fuerst proposal, and that handily outdrew the PL scheme, 40 to 22.* 

It was not so much that the National Council rejected the resistance strategy— resistance 
would continue to characterize the coming spring— as it sought to close the distance gap 
and slow down the movement of the national leadership toward ideas more militant than 
the membership was ready for. Mike Spiegel, in reporting to the membership on the NC, 
somewhat petulantly maintained that the Davidson-Calvert proposal had been rejected 
because "it is comprehensive only to that minority of SDS members who work at the 
national level and are in daily contact with the national demands. Those demands and the 
resultant perspective are alien to the political experience of the majority of members 
working at the chapter level." 32 That is possible; yet, as one woman from San Francisco 
State argued in New Left Notes: 

There is something wrong when the national officers in Chicago, untied to any 
base of their own, see different perspectives and national demands than the 
majority of SDS members. The success or failure of the movement and the 
revolution depends on the chapter people who do the daily organizing and on 
the correctness of their perspectives and analyses. 33 

Note, however, that she, too, with all her emphasis on the chapters, is talking about 
revolution. 



1 "From Tuesday," handout, author's file. 

2 For Wisconsin, NLN, October 23 and November 6, 1967; Durward Long, in Foster and 
Long, pp. 246 ff.; James Ridgeway, New Republic, November 4, 1967; Patrick Quinn, 
interview. 

3 "There was no," NLN, November 6, 1967. 

4 "A demonstration earns," ibid. 

5 For Stop the Draft Week, NLN, November 6; Ferber and Lynd, p. 140 ff.; Goodman, pp. 
476-85; and Movement, November 1967. 



In passing, it should be pointed out that nothing more elaborate was contained in the final resolution than "a 
period of action [which] would extend over a ten-day period in April to allow chapters to carry out a schedule of 
education programs, joint actions and demonstrations aimed at a variety of institutions," and that no one- 
participants of all political stripes agree gave the slightest thought to pinpointing where those actions would be 
concentrated. It was thus sheer nonsense for the Reader's Digest's Eugene H. Methvin to claim, after the Columbia 
blowup in the spring: "Late last year, 300 delegates to the SDS National Council at Bloomington, Ind., decided to 
launch a national campaign they dubbed 'Ten days to shake the empire.' Secret caucuses picked Columbia for a 
'beacon' demonstration whose flare would spark a nationwide conflagration." ("SDS: Engineers of Campus Chaos," 
Reader's Digest, October 1968.) There were no caucuses to pick "beacons," there were of course no "secret" 
caucuses, and if there had been it would be difficult to figure out who would have done any picking at the time. 



270 



6 Wald, NLN, November 6, 1967. Bardacke, in Goodman, p. 478. 

7 Halliwell, NLN, November 27, 1967. 

8 "It was the first," anonymous SDSer, interview, Columbia, November 1967. 

9 N.Y. Times, November 16, 1967. 

10 Kazin, American Scholar, Autumn 1969. Demonstration surveys, in Foster and Long, the 
first by Peterson (pp. 59 ff.), the second by Foster and Long (pp. 81 ff. and pp. 419 ff.). The 
sixty "largest and best-publicized" demonstrations, author's compilation from NLN, 
Guardian, campus and commercial press, and "Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders," Part 18, 
pp. 3671 ff. 

11 Davidson, NLN, November 13, 1967. "Survey," Foster and Long, op. cit. 

12 Dow figures on protests, Newsweek, December 1, 1969. "We pick this week," Wisconsin 
handout, op. cit. Indiana information and quotation, Foster and Long, pp. 306 ff. 

13 Sources for Pentagon: NLN, October 30,1967; Liberation, November 1967; WIN. 
October 30,1967; Ferber and Lynd, pp. 135 ff; Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night, 
NAL, 1967; Rader, pp. 60 ff.; "No Game," Newsreel film, 1968. 

14 East Village Other, November 1, 1967. "SDS played," in "Riots, Civil and Criminal 
Disorders," Part 20, p. 4304. Calvert, quoted in Ferber and Lynd, p. 139. 

15 "An SDS girl," Mike Goldfield, NLN, October 30, 1967. 

16 N.Y. Times, Richard Halloran, January 18, 1971. Goldfield, op. cit. Rosen, report to 1968 
PL convention, "Build a Base in the Working Class," op. cit., p. 25. 

17 Davidson, NLN, November 13,1967, reprinted in Wallerstein and Starr, Vol. II, p. 129. 

18 Spiegel, NLN, December 4,1967. Tax figures, "Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders," Part 
18, p. 3515. 

19 Calvert, "in the resistance," Liberation, May 1969; "I think that," Movement (San 
Francisco), December 1967. Veneziale, NLN, September 25, 1967. 

20 Davidson, ibid. 

21 Oglesby, "Notes on a Decade Ready for the Dustbin," Liberation, August-September 1969, 
italics in original; reprinted in Goodman, p. 737, and William Slate, editor, Power to the 
People, Tower, 1970; excerpted in Wallerstein and Starr, pp. 300 ff. Davidson, NLN, 
November 13,1967. 

22 Halliwell, NLN, October 2, 1967. "advance their," NAC minutes, NLN, September 4, 1967. 

23 "some type of tear," NLN, October 2, 1967. Calvert, NLN, December 18,1967. "the many 
liberal," Mike Meeropol, NLN, December 4, 1967. 

24 "In case you," Al Spangler, NLN, October 16, 1967. Spiegel, NLN, December 4,1967. 

25 Weissman, interview. 

26 Rosen, "We have to have," "Build a Base in the Working Class," op. cit., p. 49. 

27 Rosen, all from ibid.: "In the past," p. 21, "Without real base-building," p. 20, "We 
reject," p. 27. Gordon, NLN, November 13, 1967. Levin, PL, November-December, 1967. 

28 Shero, interview. 



271 



29 Southern caucus, NLN, January 22, 1968. "We, as people," minutes. 

30 Calvert-Davidson, NLN, December 4, 1967. 

31 PL proposal, NLN, February 12, 1968 (ellipsis in original). Jaffe-Gottlieb-Fuerst, original 
copy in author's file; NLN, January 8, 1968. 

32 Spiegel, NLN, ibid. 

33 "There is something," Elaine Plaisance, NLN, January 29, 1968. 



272 



Spring 1968 

"Monday, January 1. Breakfast in bed. Walk—E. Side."* Bernardine Dohrn had a late 
breakfast, spent the afternoon walking through New York's Lower East Side, and then 
returned to her Greenwich Village apartment to prepare for a three-week journey to Great 
Britain. 1 

Bernardine Dohrn, twenty-five, was then assistant executive secretary of the National 
Lawyers Guild, an alliance of left-wing lawyers which for two decades had carried on legal 
defense for a variety of radical organizations, including the Communist Party, and was just 
then enjoying a new life as a center of legal advice and strategy for the New Left. Dohrn 
was herself a recent graduate of the University of Chicago Law School who had chosen not 
to take a bar examination and to concentrate instead on radical work; as she said later, 
plenty of other people could be lawyers but she could serve a better purpose directly 
involved in the Movement. She was a woman of undeniable attractiveness, of medium 
height, with long brown hair, vibrant brown eyes, sharp features, and an air of electric, no- 
nonsense energy about her. She was an activist, but not yet a militant; a radical, but not a 
socialist. In six months' time, after the events of this turbulent spring, she would become a 
major national officer of SDS, a self-described "communist," and the symbol of SDS's final 
turn toward revolution. 

"Tuesday, January 2. London— Air India ... . Monday, January 15 ... . Quentin Hoare, New 
Left Review. LSE lecture. Stop It meeting." It was a pleasure trip, this visit to Britain, but it 
would be the rare American leftist who could go to London and not take pains to meet 
English counterparts. For 1968 was a year of growing international consciousness for the 
American Movement, following on from the tentative contacts of the previous fall. 

While Dohrn was in London, other Movement people were in Cuba, the first of many junkets 
to that island in the next few years. Carl Davidson, Todd Gitlin, Tom Hayden, and Dave 
Dellinger were among the delegates to the International Cultural Congress in January; the 
next month, accepting an invitation from the Cuban Federation of University Students, SDS 
sent twenty more visitors; 1 in March a contingent of thirty-three more SDSers was sent; 
and in the summer several other organized trips were made, one of which Dohrn had 
planned to join. A few SDSers also made journeys to Southeast Asia, including one visit to 
Hanoi on which Vernon Grizzard was among those negotiating for the release of additional 
American prisoners of war. Much was made of these trips, of course, by witch-hunters in the 
media— Drew Pearson, for instance, would claim in June that "after extensive research this 
column is able to report that there is an international student conspiracy" 2 — but at this point 
in fact only the most rudimentary contacts had been made, and most of what the 
international left knew about each other came from the world's press. Reports of the April 
uprising at Columbia University, for example, were greeted by French students with great 
enthusiasm, and accounts of the subsequent revolt by French students against the De 
Gaulle government proved an inspiration on many American campuses in May. Still, there is 
no question that the growing international consciousness of the young American left helped 
to turn it in a deliberately revolutionary direction. 



* In an apartment at 4943 North Winthrop Street, Chicago, investigators of the Illinois Crime Commission early in 
1970 found a quantity of books and papers which had been left behind by the occupants sometime in the fall of 
1969. Among the papers was a small appointment book for the year 1968, in which Bernardine Dohrn kept a 
record of her meetings and appointments and recounted in brief diary-like jottings the memorable parts of her 
days. 

+ Among them, Karen Ashley, Les Coleman, Joe Horton, Ed Jennings, Dick Reavis, Mark Rudd, Paul Shinoff, and 
Jean Weisman. 



273 



"Friday, January 26. Rennie— lawyers meeting." The National Mobilization Committee, 
having at last done with peaceful marches, was planning an all-out demonstration in 
Chicago during the Democratic Party National Convention in August, and it had enticed 
Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden out of their 1967 doldrums to coordinate that effort. As part 
of their preparations they planned a legal defense committee and for this they turned to the 
National Lawyers Guild. Dohrn convened the meeting on the night of January 26, and she 
and NLG executive secretary Kenneth Cloke pledged that night to offer their support and at 
least a month of their time to laying the legal groundwork in Chicago; as it turned out, by 
August Bernardine Dohrn had other things entirely on her mind. 

"Monday, January 29. Spock rally— 8. 14th-8th & 9th Ave." The action of the Federal 
government in indicting five prominent friends of draft resistance— Dr. Benjamin Spock, 
William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Michael Ferber, Mitchell Goodman, and Marcus Raskin— for 
conspiracy in "counseling, aiding, and abetting" young men to avoid and resist the Selective 
Service System was the first unmistakable signal that the left faced a serious threat of 
repression. The National Lawyers Guild was only one of many organizations which geared 
itself for the task of legal defense, and throughout the spring Dohrn would spend 
considerable time helping in the preparation of a variety of courtroom cases. 

The stimulus for the government's campaign was the Pentagon demonstration, an event 
whose scope caught the Administration by surprise despite elaborate plans and extensive 
surveillance. In its wake agencies all over Washington began to move. The White House, 
with Lyndon Johnson making it known that he wanted "all aspects of civil disturbance 
matters" to receive "full attention," established a top-level Presidential team to coordinate 
government operations. The Department of Defense expanded its intelligence network- 
without, incidentally, the knowledge of the Attorney General, Ramsey Clark— until it had 
some one thousand agents filing reports for a massive two-volume compendium that 
recorded (and made available to state and local agencies) the names, pictures, locations, 
and political beliefs of upwards of eighteen thousand citizens; ROTC units were encouraged 
to enlist their student officers in additional surveillance of campus leftists. The Selective 
Service System issued a directive to local draft boards that students involved in draft 
resistance were to be immediately reclassified 1-A and, if possible, packed off to Vietnam.* 
(At the same time grand juries in at least six cities began handing down indictments against 
student draft-card burners and "We Won't Go" signers, and federal agents served 
subpoenas on students at more than two dozen campuses.) The FBI, which already had 
sixty-three hundred agents in the field— not including an unknown, but large, number of 
infiltrators— expanded its surveillance operations, openly visiting students and faculty 
members and successfully enlisting administration officials to spy on and submit reports 
about campus radicals. Both houses of Congress authorized special committee 
investigations of a variety of left organizations, including SDS, and in January President 
Johnson gave new life to the discredited Subversive Activities Control Board, which 
thereupon inaugurated a much-publicized investigation of the DuBois Clubs— a case of the 
blind chasing the halt if there ever was one. 3 



And not just full-fledged resisters; even SDS membership was grounds for reclassification in some cases. John 
Milton Ratlin", an Oklahoma University SDSer, was informed by his local board on November 13— the letter was 
reproduced on the front page of New Left Notes (November 20, 1967)— that "the local board did not feel that your 
activity as a member of SDS is to the best interest of the U.S. Government" and that he was to be inducted 
forthwith. 



274 



Encouraged by such top-level sanction, local agencies— state police, city Red Squads, 
university administrations— joined the game. Oakland officials, with testimony from two 
undercover agents who had joined the Stop the Draft Week campaign, drew up their own 
mini-Spock conspiracy charges against seven Oakland radicals for their part in the October 
demonstrations; even Iowa City got into the act with conspiracy charges against seven 
University of Iowa students (including local SDS activist Bruce Clark) for an anti-Dow 
demonstration in December. Police departments set up surveillance of known SDS centers 
on a number of campuses— usually making little secret of their presence— and encouraged 
right-minded students to report on their fellows; a student government representative at 
Penn State estimated in February that there were no fewer than two hundred student 
informers operating on his campus, some doing their own private wiretapping. Undoubtedly 
the Texas state police were not unique in their operations, only the most embarrassed, 
when it became known that one of their undercover men was elected to the presidency of 
the University of Texas SDS chapter. 4 

The response of the left to this high-level repression was initially disbelief, then uncertainty, 
and finally anger. By the time of the Spock indictments it was prepared for resistance. SDS 
immediately issued a call for demonstrations to be held across the country to show the 
strength of the left "in the face of this repression." John Fuerst, then traveling for SDS in 
Wisconsin, wrote an article for New Left Notes proclaiming proudly that "Dr. Benjamin 
Spock's crime has already been committed by thousands in the antiwar movement" and 
called for immediate defense not only of the five men but also "of the program they 
supported." The Spock rally in New York City was only one of many organized during 
January, and it was accompanied by renewed calls for draft resistance and a petition 
claiming equal guilt with the Spock defendants signed by no fewer than twenty-eight 
thousand individuals. Dozens of chapters organized marches and meetings, and a number, 
such as the New School chapter, immediately set up draft-counseling tables to carry on the 
Spock tradition in open defiance of the Justice Department. 5 

"Wednesday, January 31. 1:00 Rutgers, Students & Draft ... . Brass Rail, Guild dinner." 
And, nine thousand miles away, the National Liberation Front began its Tet offensive, the 
decisive military turning point of the Vietnam war. The general SDS reaction was captured 
rather neatly in New Left Notes five days later by two Associated Press pictures, one 
showing American Marines marching in classic Hollywood style across a bridge into Hue, the 
next showing them moments later running back under NLF fire with shock and terror on 
their faces. It was the NO's only comment on Tet. 

"Saturday, February 10. SDS regional." Bernardine Dohrn slowly grew closer to the SDS 
people in New York during her year at the Lawyers Guild, and by the time of the February 
meeting of the New York region she was accorded a position as a leader, with New York 
SDSers Naomi Jaffe and Sue Shargell, of the workshop on women's liberation. It was a 
conference which, as it turned out, was symptomatic of all that was raging in the national 
organization just then. 



275 



In the first place, as the meeting tried to set plans for the April "Ten Days" action, the 
spectrum of political views that emerged was positively iridescent; SDS had always been 
marked by diversity, but now it looked as if it was actually plagued by it. There were those 
trying to work through third-party politics at the upcoming elections by supporting the 
Peace and Freedom Party, urging spring actions around canvassing and petitions. There 
were those who wanted to take student power to its logical extension by abandoning the 
sham of mere "student participation" and work instead for the outright takeover of 
universities by students. There were the Progressive Labor forces proposing, naturally, a 
worker-student alliance and campus actions built around support for local strikes, agitation 
against a proposed transit-fare increase, and development of a summer work-in program. 
There were the cultural radicals, pushing a "spring offensive" at the Museum of Modern Art 
to reveal "where the museum directors and patrons get their money (Venezuelan oil. South 
African gold)." There were the imaginative street-action people, loosely grouped around a 
new Lower East Side collective called the Up Against the Wall, Motherfuckers,* who were 
organizing a scheme to hold "a procession up 5th Avenue with everyone carrying their own 
garbage" and dumping it on the plaza at Lincoln Center. There were various groups 
emphasizing high-school organizing, draft resistance, women's liberation, alternate media, 
and practically every other cause in the left pantheon of the time. And there were those, 
emergent now in full array after the metamorphosis of the fall, who saw themselves as 
revolutionaries— not bomb planters or barricade fighters, or not yet, but people who had 
come to have a "revolutionary consciousness" and were putting that together with serious 
attempts to think about how to transform American society inside-out. For them the 
practice of resistance led inexorably to the building of a revolution; in the words of the SDS 
regional newsletter. Firebomb: 6 

An organization like ours takes a major step forward when it finally comes to 
understand that it is involved in a struggle against an enemy and takes major 
steps toward confronting that enemy head-on. A serious organization 
consciously seeking to develop a revolutionary practice creates a life-or-death 
dynamic within the society it is trying to destroy and recreate. 



* The name was taken from the usual greeting police used on longhairs and blacks in the inner city when stopping 
them on the street. It was also used by LeRoi Jones (later Imamu Amiri Baraka) in a poem given much circulation 
that spring. 



276 



But in the second place, these budding revolutionaries ran. head-on into another group of 
"revolutionaries," the class warriors from Progressive Labor. The New York regional meeting 
was the occasion for the first open move by the Progressive Labor forces against SDS, and 
it coincided with the first open declaration of war between the PL and the national 
leadership. Progressive Labor, strong in New York, had become increasingly dismayed by 
the trend of the Regional Office toward resistance, and took the occasion of the regional 
meeting to assail it bitterly for such "adventurist" tactics as the Rusk demonstration in 
November and a botched-up march on the Whitehall induction center in December; then, 
tapping the RO at its weakest point and taking advantage of its acknowledged failure in 
recent months to service the surrounding chapters adequately, PL proposed the 
establishment of a "regional NAC," an administrative committee elected from SDSers at 
large to oversee the operations of the New York office. The RO stalwarts— chief among 
whom were Steve Halliwell, David Gilbert, Naomi Jaffe, Jeff Jones, Marge Piercy, and Ted 
Gold— were caught flatfooted; PL, led by Jeff Gordon, Richard Rhoads, and Charlotte and 
Gordon Fischer, and with heavy support from the chapters at Brooklyn College, City College, 
Fordham, and Rutgers, pressed its advantage and was able to push through the 
reorganization scheme before the RO people knew quite what was happening. In the 
subsequent election to the committee, PL lodged four of its members, the RO sat three, and 
the remaining three were people of indeterminate politics who could be counted on to side 
with PL from time to time. It was a clear victory for Progressive Labor and a foretoken of 
troubles to come. 

And the national leadership, just at that moment, was in the middle of a tussle with PL in 
the pages of New Left Notes. On the front-page of the February 12 issue appeared an article 
by three New England SDSers and PL sympathizers (including Alan Spector, who would go 
on to be a PL-SDS leader after the 1969 split) which took the NO to task for everything from 
lying about the results of the December National Council meeting, to supporting window 
breaking in preference to worker-student alliances, to running SDS with a dictatorial "top- 
down" approach. Carl Davidson answered for the NO people with an eight-column blast 
accusing the three of taking stands "uninformed at best, deliberately misleading at worst," 
lifting statements out of context, mounting "unwarranted and misleading" attacks, and 
making distortions so great that they "can only be a deliberate attempt to mislead, or a sign 
of stupidity." This was the first public signal of open warfare between PL and others in SDS, 
and a signal that the spirit of compromise and consensus so common in the early days of 
SDS was finally dead. 

"Monday, February 19. 7:30 Radical law students ... . Wednesday, February 21. Yale Law 
School ... . Friday, March 1. 4:00 Ken— me, NYU Law School ... . Saturday, March 2. 9:30 
Law Student Conf." Part of the work of the Lawyers Guild for the 1967-1968 school year 
was to try to get law-school students to work in draft resistance, both as counselors with 
some legal knowledge and as resisters themselves; the main brunt of the job fell to Dohrn, 
and much of the early spring was spent giving speeches and organizing committees in 
various Eastern law schools. Her impact was immediate. "She was an overwhelming 
personality," says a man who worked with her then: 

First of all there was her sex appeal. She had the most amazing legs— every 
draft resister on the East Coast knew those legs. People would come from 
miles around just to see her. But she was regarded as a good "political 
person" at a time when other women in the movement weren't given any 
responsibility at all. Students really turned on to her. She did a good job. 7 



277 



"Saturday, March 9. Rod. in Prof. Conf., Boston." The Radicals in the Professions Conference 
held in Cambridge that spring was one of several still pursuing the question of what 
Movement "alumni" were to do with their lives. There were moves to establish a local 
Movement for a Democratic Society in New York, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Springfield, 
Massachusetts (Bob Gottlieb and Marge Piercy set forth a lively rationale for the MDS at the 
Cambridge meeting). There was continual pressure for using graduates for community 
organizing among the poor whites— really, a new and more knowledgeable ERAP— following 
the example of the new National Community Union, in Chicago and several independent 
efforts on the West Coast (where Mike Klonsky, Steve Hamilton, and Bob Avakian were 
among those trying this approach). There was an expansion of GI organizing and Movement 
veterans were involved in Resistance Inside the Army (RITA), the "coffee-house movement" 
establishing off-base centers to attract young soldiers, and various propagandizing efforts in 
army-base towns.* There was media action aplenty, the start of dozens of new newspapers, 
the production of the first half-dozen films by the Newsreel people in New York, and even 
the beginnings of a "Radio Free People" to start Movement radio stations and circulate tapes 
relating to radical politics. There was a spurt of interest in street theater, or guerrilla 
theater, with at least three dozen "RATs" (Radical Acting Troupes) springing up across the 
country. 

But the biggest alumni event of the spring was the establishment of the New University 
Conference at a meeting of some 350 academics in Chicago three weeks after the Radicals 
in the Professions conference in Cambridge. The list of sponsors suggests the heavy 
influence of SDS alumni— among them, Heather Tobis Booth, Jeremy Brecher, John 
Ehrenreich, Al Haber, Tom Hayden, Michael Klare, Jesse Lemisch, Kathy McAfee, Don 
McKelvey, Julie Nichamin, Lee Webb, and Michael Zweig— as does the fact that the keynote 
speakers were Dick Flacks and Staughton Lynd. Enthusiasm for a membership organization 
of Movement academics and intellectuals was considerable, and the foundations of it were 
laid that weekend, with Bob Ross selected as national director, Flacks, Mike Goldfield, and 
Dan Friedlander (a red-diaper alumnus of the University of Chicago SDS) elected to the 
steering committee, and offices set up in Chicago. Its program: 

1. Organize local chapters across the nation to help overcome the isolation 
and impotence now afflicting campus-based radicals [and] to: define their 
political roles on and off campus; engage in mutual support and self-criticism 
concerning teaching and intellectual activity; create centers for radical 
initiative on the campus. 

2. Encourage the formation of radical caucuses within professional disciplines 
and associations. 

3. Organize so that we may eventually be prepared to defend campus radicals 
against politically motivated harassment and firings. 

4. Aid in establishing a new magazine of analysis and research for the 
movement. 



* Clark Kissinger was still pushing a somewhat modified version of his old "kamikaze plan" {New Left Notes, March 
11), "a program directed at those thousands of students who will reluctantly and begrudgingly go into the Army" to 
get them to organize "resistance and propaganda" once they get there. To his own draft board, after they sent him 
a notice that he was being reclassified 1-A for his political work, Kissinger offered to be one of the first practitioners 
of the program. "I am currently employed doing full-time anti-war work among civilians," he wrote them. "If it is 
your desire, however, that I be transferred to doing anti-war organizing among the troops, I shall cheerfully report 
for induction." He was not drafted. 



278 



5. Form alliances with student activists seeking to expose and dislocate 
university collaboration in war research and social manipulation, and join with 
black and white radicals who are demanding that the universities become 
responsible to the needs of the black communities which surround them and 
from which they now seek protection, not insight. 

Within months, the NUC would start making itself felt, primarily through various "radical 
caucuses" in the academic associations, and in the coming years it would prove to be a 
strong, if limited, force for the left among university faculties. 89 

"Friday, March 22. 7:45 United. Chicago. SDS draft meeting ... . Sunday, March 24. Mom & 
Dad." Bernardine Dohrn's parents lived in Chicago, where both of them had grown up, and 
whenever she came through town she made a point of seeing them. 10 

Bernardine Dohrn was born in Chicago on January 12, 1942. Her mother, who had been 
working as a secretary, was of Swedish descent; her father, then Bernard Ohrnstein, was a 
Hungarian Jew who later changed the family name to facilitate his career as a credit 
manager, a bit of melting-pot Americana that Bernardine later viewed with considerable 
disgust. When she was eight the family, now including a younger sister, moved to Whitefish 
Bay, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, and there Bernardine spent a quite ordinary career 
in school, getting above-average grades, plowing into dozens of extracurricular activities, 
becoming editor of the high-school paper, joining Future Nurses, and the like. After 
graduating from high school in 1959 she spent two years at Miami University, in Ohio, but 
she developed rheumatic fever and transferred to the University of Chicago to be closer to 
home, her parents having moved back to the city; though eddies of the New Left were 
aswirl at the time, they apparently left her untouched, for there is no record of her as a 
student activist at either university. Dohrn graduated in 1963, a history major, and spent 
the next year getting an MA in history in the Chicago graduate school, but the liberal-arts 
world seemed increasingly remote and in the fall of 1964 she switched to law school, 
planning a career as a liberal do-gooding lawyer. 

For the next few years, while still in law school, her life took on the attributes of many 
liberal activists before her: she worked one summer in an antipoverty program in New York, 
became a volunteer aid in an unsuccessful Congressional campaign, joined Martin Luther 
King's crusade to push integration in the Chicago suburbs, and gave her legal services on 
behalf of rent-strikers in Chicago ghettos. (It was during the latter struggle in 1966-1967 
that she met the young organizers around the JOIN project, making allies and friends that 
would continue with her for the next several years.) The fundamental failures of all these 
high-hope projects must have soured the young law student gradually, for by the time of 
her graduation in June 1967 she had given up the idea of becoming a lawyer and working 
within the courts, and opted instead for a full-time life in the Movement. That fall she joined 
the National Lawyers Guild, at quite some remove from the liberal Democrat, not to mention 
the Future Nurse, she had once been. 

"Monday, March 25. Rennie & Tom." The unexpectedly strong showing by Eugene McCarthy 
in the New Hampshire Presidential primary on March 12— and the subsequent entry of 
Robert Kennedy into the Presidential race— raised a new problem for the Mobilization 
staffers preparing for the Chicago convention. It now seemed likely that a large number of 
liberal youths, supporters of the Democratic challengers, would be coming to Chicago to 
lobby for their candidates, a gesture which might blunt the antielectoral message which the 
Mobilization, and with them the Yippies, were trying to put across. Dohrn had lunch with 
Davis and Hayden while she was in Chicago, discussing this problem and the continuing 
plans for legal work around the demonstrations. 



279 



The Mobilization was not the only one to whom McCarthy and Kennedy presented problems. 
SDS people on the campuses noticed that suddenly there was talk about "one last chance 
for the system" and "a real way to end the war," all of their careful antielectoral radicalism 
seeming to fall on deaf ears. College students of many political descriptions rallied to 
McCarthy's gently fluttering banner, canvassing and campaigning, clamoring to join the 
election staffs, shaving and bathing themselves "Clean for Gene," and some SDSers— the 
younger ones, usually, and more single-issue— were among them. Things got so bad that at 
the April National Council meeting a number of chapter representatives would be talking 
with some anguish about the defections 11 from radical ranks on the campus. The general 
SDS position, of course, was never in doubt, and there was not even the slightest hint of 
"Part of the way with EMcC" (or RFK); as a matter of fact, the SDS line had been expressed 
with some neatness earlier in the year in a fund-raising ad directed at liberals: 

WHY BE A DISSENTING DEMOCRAT? SO WE CAN GO THROUGH IT ALL OVER 
AGAIN WITH BOBBY? SOME FOLKS NEVER LEARN. OTHERS DO-THEY 
BECOME DISGUSTED EX-DEMOCRATS ... . 

You can make a contribution to building a new America (rather than propping 
up the old one) by supporting Students for a Democratic Society. SDS works 
to change the system, not the personalities. 

(The clincher in the ad was, incidentally, a dotted-line box for donations beginning, "I 
noticed your office is in the slums of Chicago, not Beverly Hills. Here is my check.") 

"Tuesday, March 26. Women's grp." Since the first of the year Bernardine Dohrn had been 
meeting with various women in informal sessions, part of a growing movement of small 
women's groups which were getting together now all over the country; the SDS National 
Office estimated that thirty-five such groups had been formed by the end of the spring. She 
also achieved a certain reputation among these groups with the publication of a paper, 
written with Naomi Jaffe, which was one of the earliest attempts to see women's liberation 
in terms of imperialism and exploitation. Reprinted in New Left Notes in March, it was 
Dohrn's introduction to the membership of SDS. 12 



280 



"Thursday, March 28. Drive to Lexington ... . Friday, March 29. NC— Lexington, Ky. " The 
Lexington National Council meeting was the first major SDS gathering that Bernardine 
Dohrn is known to have attended. It was the largest NC to date, a reflection of SDS's 
continued stature, with 102 official delegates and as many as 350 observers. The weekend 
session began with a collection of a meager $200 from the delegates— nothing like the 
orgies of the past— and pledges of additional money from nine chapters, plus promises from 
Carl Davidson to donate a dollar bill on behalf of the National Office staff and from the 
University of Maine chapter to send along a hundred pounds of potatoes to the NO; but, just 
to be sure, the NC added on an additional chapter tax to the unsuccessful one it had 
imposed the year before, a move which was acknowledged to be more in hope than in 
anticipation. Nineteen new chapters were admitted, bringing the number of recognized 
chapters to around 280 (the NO was claiming 300 at the time 13 ).* What was particularly 
striking about the new additions was that so many represented a constituency previously 
untouched— Louisiana State, Danville (Illinois) Junior College— and areas previously 
unpenetrated— Parsons College of Fairfield, Iowa, Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois; and 
while the growth of membership may have been encouraging, the obvious chasm between 
the likely political level of these chapters and that of the national leadership suggested 
trouble unless the most careful steps were taken. It is not likely that those SDS veterans 
developing their "revolutionary consciousness" would have much identification with the 
problems of the Parsons College chapter, or that many delegates from church-run Defiance 
College would have much in common with the heavies from the Motherfucker collective/ 



* There were 247 recognized chapters as of the 1967 convention, and the Bloomington NC had admitted 18— 
Albright College, Alice's Restaurant Marxist-Leninist (in truth the Los Angeles Regional Office), Bowling Green 
State, Chico State, Detroit At-large, Elmhurst College, Franklin and Marshall, Georgetown University, Grinnell 
College, Hank Williams Chapter (a group of Chicago JOIN-ers), New Mexico, Millard Fillmore Memorial Chapter (the 
New York Regional Office), Ripon College, Southern Methodist, Syracuse, Swarthmore, Whitman College, Wichita 
State— and the Lexington NC an additional 18— Aunt Molly Jackson Chapter (Louisville activists), Bradley University, 
California State at Los Angeles, CA W magazine. Colonel Rex Applegate Memorial Kill Or Be Killed Chapter in San 
Francisco (Applegate was the author of Crowd and Riot Control, the standard police manual for subduing 
demonstrators), Danville Junior College, Defiance (Ohio) College, Fordham, Frank Rizzo Memorial Chapter (some 
Philadelphia SDSers commemorating a still-very-much-alive police chief), Haverford/Bryn Mawr, Owosso (Michigan) 
High School, Louisiana State, Parsons College, St. Louis University, Sarah Lawrence, Tulane, University High School 
(Los Angeles), and the Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker group in New York. 

+ Except perhaps in appreciation of the Motherfuckers' antics— such as proposing, and getting passed, an 
amendment to a resolution supporting California grape strikers which suggested "that SDS drink more wine and do 
less talking." 



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It would be logical to think that the Lexington meeting was devoted to putting the finishing 
touches on the "Ten Days" campaign that had so exercised the delegates to the previous NC 
and which had been set as the organization's top priority for the spring. Alas, it is logic that 
reckons without the vagaries of SDS politics. Between the two NCs, much had happened. 
The Student Mobilization Committee— the younger branch of the National Mobilization 
Committee which was pretty well dominated by youthful proto-Trotskyists associated with 
the Socialist Workers Party and other assorted left-liberals— had effectively coopted the 
student strike idea, planning a nation-wide walkout for April 26, while SDS was still trying to 
figure out just what it was going to do during those April days. Then, too, there was a 
certain amount of resentment still smoldering about the way the idea had been thrust on 
the organization by the NO, and Progressive Labor did what it could to fan those embers on 
the chapter level with talk about "top-down organizing," "manipulation," and the like. And 
the NO, waiting for feedback from the chapters and regions so that it would not be accused 
of manipulating the campaign, made little effort to instigate action where none was visible 
and even less effort to coordinate action where it was planned. The result was that by the 
time of the Lexington meeting, SDS was in poor shape to give any direction to the April 
actions, and the delegates realized it. Whatever local demonstrations had been conceived 
were already planned and organized for, and there seemed little point at this juncture to try 
to reestablish any national program; the Ten Days, therefore, was hardly mentioned at all. 

Instead, in line with the leadership's new sense of revolutionary possibilities and its swing 
away from students, the NC involved itself with issues concentrating on other 
constituencies: the poor, the working class, GIs, even high-school students. But above all, 
blacks. 

There were several strains running together to form the new feeling that the cause of black 
America should become a central concern for SDS. Black students, now lured to major white 
universities in increasing numbers and beginning to form themselves into separate black 
student organizations, were thought to be ready to move on the campuses and in need of 
supportive allies. The Kerner Report announced its unequivocal conclusion that "white 
racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in 
our cities since the end of World War II." Repression of black radicals had been stepped up, 
with the multiple arrests of SNCC's H. Rap Brown, the jailing of LeRoi Jones in Newark, the 
railroading of Texas State students on riot charges, and above all the brutal, unprovoked 
murder of three black students at South Carolina State College by South Carolina state 
police just two months before. White radicals came to feel that they might be next on the 
repression lists— as SNCC's James Forman told SDSers, "All the equipment the city police 
forces around this country say they are buying to use against us, the blacks, can and will be 
used against white antiwar demonstrators." There was the inevitable element of guilt— for 
white racism in general, for being white, middle-class, privileged students in particular— 
which had been expressed steadily in issues of New Left Notes condemning "white racism," 
"white supremacy," "white chauvinism inside the Movement," and "white-skin privilege." 
And many SDSers had the sense, after three summers of ghetto rebellion, that black 
Americans were on the brink of a real insurrection, perhaps a revolution, and those who 
were serious about revolution should be standing at their sides. 14 



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The new shift of focus was expressed for the NC in a moving and persuasive speech by Carl 
Oglesby, who told the young delegates that the job of SDS now was to turn from the issue 
of war to that of racism. Radicals have done all they can now toward ending the war, he 
suggested, and adventures like the Chicago convention demonstration or schemes for 
involving working-class communities around the draft were not really going to help much. 
Radicals now should turn to the questions of black liberation and white racism, fighting not 
only for the sake of the oppressed blacks but also because this struck a blow at one of the 
pillars of the system. The ghetto, in short, should replace the campus or the induction 
center or the factory as the locus of SDS's organizing activity. 

The delegates responded. In a proposal adopted almost unanimously, SDS went on record 
as giving top priority to support for "the black struggle for liberation": 

We feel that we have to respond to the black struggle for survival because it 
is a struggle against imperialism and against a racist culture which we also 
are fighting ... . We must give visibility to the black struggle for liberation ... . 
We must make the State pay as high a price as possible for genocide. Part of 
this price is the presence of a white constituency in the coming rebellions ... . 
We must institute programs of internal education on racism, the history of the 
black people in this country, and the history of the black liberation movement 
... . We should give physical and financial aid to those black people now the 
object of State repression. 

And, specifically for expiation: 

We have a special responsibility to fight racism among our own white 
population ... . We recognize that racism insinuates itself into both our 
personal and political attitudes. We are determined to fight it in our personal 
lives as we fight all the aspects of a racist culture that the system attempts to 
inject into us. 

Ultimately, "We must see our job as one of moving the white population into a position of 
rebellion which joins the black struggle for liberation to make the American revolution." 

Thus began a fateful process for SDS. Staughton Lynd saw it a year later as the start of "a 
politics of guilt": "During the last year SDS has been reverting to the very politics of middle- 
class self-flagellation which it charges to the Resistance; that is, that since the spring of 
1968 National Council meeting SDS has asked white people again to play the role of 
auxiliaries to other peoples' radicalism." 15 Similarly Greg Calvert, to whom the reversion to 
"fighting someone else's battles" seemed a serious setback for SDS, responded: 

The reorientation of SDS in that spring of 1968 was to drop the draft 
resistance and resistance themology almost entirely, and to revert to, "We 
got to support the black movement, racism is our issue. Anti-racism is the 
radical position." 

What you do to a white man in today's society when you tell him he's got to 
fight the anti-racism struggle is give him a struggle that doesn't have any 
outside to it. I do not want to deny that racism is a problem, as male 
chauvinism is a problem inside of us. But I wish to insist that the only way we 
can finally fight against racism effectively is to be fighting our battles for our 
own liberation, in alliance with black people fighting their struggle for their 
own liberation. 



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In a sense, this was a "politics of guilt," but it was also more than that, a politics (however 
imperfectly realized or expressed) of revolution. Calvert was right in seeing the decline of 
resistance, for what was coming in its place was a feeling that the battle had to be escalated 
beyond bodies-on-the-line to something more meaningful still, more capable of exerting real 
power upon the land. For this allies seemed to be necessary, and especially black allies, 
those who already seemed to be on the road to revolution. As Carl Davidson was to analyze 
it: 16 

Put simply, SDS saw that the student movement could go in one of two 
directions from "where they are at." They could focus on limited on-campus 
issues "about their lives" and go in the direction of "student power." Or they 
could raise those issues about their lives that led them to form alliances with 
other oppressed constituencies beyond the campus, a direction leading to the 
growth of revolutionary class consciousness ... . Calvert believes that [SDS's] 
approach to the problem of racism is the politics of guilt. Most of SDS believes 
that this is the cutting edge, the dividing line that separates revolutionary 
practice from reformist and reactionary practice in this country. 

It was a turn that displeased a number in SDS. Calvert left the Lexington NC with a sense of 
dismay, and it turned to bitterness in the succeeding weeks as the NO plunged into what 
Calvert saw as an attempt "to grind out an elaborate analysis of racism, couched in the 
most abstruse and dogmatic language so that the line would be right at its national 
convention in June." 17 (He also raised violent objections in the NO to the reprinting of a 
James Forman speech titled "Liberation Will Come From a Black Thing," calling it "wrong" 
and "obscene" for its implied slighting of white resistance.) By the end of the spring Calvert 
had become thoroughly disenchanted with the new politics, gave up on SDS entirely and 
retired to the comparative placidity of Austin, Texas. Behind him he left an organization 
ready for a new thrust. 

The Lexington NC adjourned on Sunday afternoon, March 31, and the delegates returned 
home. That night American politics took a dramatic turn. 

"Sunday, March 31. Pikeville. Flowers— porch ... . Johnson speech." The withdrawal of 
Lyndon Johnson from the Presidential race and the concomitant start of peace negotiations 
with the National Liberation Front was regarded, at least at the instant, as a signal victory 
for the American left and the antiwar forces it had unleashed during the last three years. 
The student left was jubilant, and at many colleges there were victory parties in the 
dormitories, impromptu marches on the campus, celebrations in the halls. "We knew, at 
least our analysis was, that getting rid of Johnson didn't make that much difference," one 
SDSer said later. "But just the thought that we wouldn't have to see that awful face any 
more and hear those continual lies in that syrupy backwoods drawl, and thinking we all had 
something to do with that, well that was enough to give us an incredible high that night. I'll 
never forget it." 

"Wednesday, April 3. Resistance." For much of the spring Bernardine Dohrn had been 
occupied with draft resistance, and like many had looked forward with enthusiasm to the 
April Resistance meeting and the third round of draft-card turn-ins. The Johnson speech 
changed things, very neatly deflating the war as an issue and the draft as an organizing 
tool. As the New York Resistance people analyzed the subsequent events in their own 
obituary a year later, 



284 



Resistance in larger cities began to lose steam. We had been successful in 
helping to move the middle class significantly: McCarthy and Kennedy entered 
the presidential race, the government was pushed into negotiations and 
Johnson was forced to step down. But it was precisely these events which 
pulled the political rug out from under us ... . We had reached the point of 
"diminishing returns"— increasing the number of draft resisters would do little 
or nothing to move people. Also, the "repressive tolerance" of the 
government and the selectivity with which it prosecuted resistors helped 
destroy the psychological momentum of noncooperation. The drama was 
taken out of it, and the media lost interest. While at one time, turning in one's 
draft card was the only example of a politics of risk, in the past year other 
groups have offered tactics that also involved risk— "streetfighting," campus 
confrontation, etc. People no longer felt a need for noncooperation as a 
means of personal radicalization. 18 

Draft resistance, in short, died a single-issue death. Despite the considerable efforts 
throughout 1967 of SDS leaders and others who saw the connections and emphasized the 
politics, it was never to overcome its primary character as a moral instrument of protest to 
the Vietnam war. 

SDS's own draft programs, though kept alive, likewise began to wither at about this time. 
Campus support never materialized after April, especially when it became clear that few 
students were actually being drafted; the Selective Service System after two years had 
finally learned a lesson and was calling up less than 20 percent of the college population 
depending for most of its fodder on strata of the society that were less inclined to make a 
fuss about it. 19 Off-campus draft work ran up against other harsh realities: most high-school 
kids did not regard the draft as a pressing issue in their lives, a sizable minority either had 
no aversion to the draft or actually welcomed it as an escape, draft-card burning and 
resistance in working communities was regarded as faintly cowardly and decidedly 
unpatriotic, and the unfortunately feeble alternatives of jail, underground, or exile stirred 
little enthusiasm among most potential recruits. Gradually the frustrations of un-success 
and the pressures from an unamiable society (jails, police, landlords, parents) left the draft 
resisters beaten and bitter, and most moved on to other tasks— and not a few came to 
decide that what was really necessary in this society was not the abolition of the draft but 
the abolition of the system. 

Yet the Johnson withdrawal was proof at the same time of how much the draft-resistance 
movement and the SDS efforts had accomplished, and its successes should not go 
unrecorded. It is impossible to estimate how many men actually refused induction, burned 
or turned in their draft cards, or refused to register for the draft, but the figure is clearly in 
the tens of thousands, and perhaps as many as a million.* This obviously had an impact on 
the entire student generation, and the liberal community in general, as Walter Lippmann 
wrote (just a week, incidentally, before the President's announcement): 



Michael Ferber and Staughton Lynd have made the closest study of this issue, in their book, The Resistance. Their 
figures are admittedly uncertain, but even if their guesses are not perfect they indicate the scope of resistance: 
some 5,000 men turned in draft cards publicly, "several times" as many probably have done so privately, between 
10,000 and 25,000 draft-delinquent eases were reported to the federal government yearly from 1966 to 1969, 
Department of Justice prosecuted 3,161 people in the high point of resistance between June 1966 and June 1968 
(and would go on to prosecute another 6,000 in the next two years), Canadian exiles number something close to 
15,000, nonregistrants are estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000, COs grew in the two years after the 
Pentagon demonstration from 23,800 to 34,500, delinquencies from 15,600 to 31,900, and alternate service 
increased by 737,000. Resistance in some form, then, may have been practiced by at least a million young men in 
the years after the rise of draft resistance. 



285 



The President is confronted with the resistance, open or passive, of the whole 
military generation, their teachers, their friends, their families. The attempt to 
fight a distant war by conscription is producing a demoralization which 
threatens the very security of the nation. 20 

It also led to a turnabout in public thinking on the draft, so that by the middle of 1968 
pollster Louis Harris figured that 36 percent of the public was against the system, a figure 
that would continue to rise as the war went on; so pervasive did the antidraft attitude 
become that even Richard Nixon announced his support for a draft overhaul, and the 
Congress of the United States showed so little support that it actually refused to renew the 
draft authority for a time in the middle of 1971. Few in Washington now doubt that there 
will be a thorough overhaul, or quite possibly the abolition, of the draft within the next 
decade. 

"Thursday, April 4 ... . Law student meeting. King shot. Times Square." The assassination of 
Martin Luther King at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee, was a propelling moment for radicals 
both black and white: it seemed a signal, as if one were needed, that the old ways were 
finished, that whatever romance lingered from the civil-rights days was dispelled, that the 
time had come for more than nonviolence, more than working with the system, more than 
moral witness. 

The ghettos exploded. As many "civil disorders" took place in the twenty-five days after 
King's death as in all of the previous year, with more arrests and more injuries. "Violence in 
varying degrees, ranging from minor disturbances to major riots, erupted in more than 100 
cities," according to the ever-watchful J. Edgar Hoover. "The April outbreaks and the 
subsequent disorders resulted in more than 60 deaths, injuries to thousands of persons, and 
millions of dollars in property damage." Federal troops were called into Wilmington, 
Delaware, Baltimore, Chicago, and the nation's capital; in this single month more National 
Guardsmen (35,000) and more federal troops (23,700) were called into action than had 
been called in all of 1967, and that had been an eventful year. The usually phlegmatic 
Jerome Skolnik, in his report to the National Violence Commission, determined: "Never 
before in this country has such a massive military response been mounted against racial 
disorder." 

SDS regarded the assassination as simply confirmation of the Lexington message, blatant 
evidence of the need to act against a system bent on genocide, and the NO issued an 
immediate summons for "a strong response from the radical community." It came. Some 
two dozen black colleges and universities and more than a hundred white institutions 
mounted protests led by SDS chapters in many places. SDS mounted or participated in 
demonstrations in several major cities: Rennie Davis, Clark Kissinger, Noel Ignatin, and 
others organized marches in Chicago; SDS chapters and Resistance workers led a massive 
rally in Boston; regional SDS people in Washington, D.C. picketed the White House until 
dispersed by club-wielding police; Detroit radicals, many from Wayne State SDS, held a 
memorial demonstration; and in New York a conglomerate of militants turned up in Times 
Square, treating the city to its first mild display of what was to be called "trashing" (window 
breaking, trash-can spilling, windshield smashing). Bernardine Dohrn was there. A friend 
remembers that night, when she first heard of King's death: 21 



286 



She was really stunned. I must admit that I was fairly jaded by then, and I 
remember saying that with King dead, the Panthers and the other militants 
would have a Clearfield to lead the revolution. But Bernardine was sincerely 
moved, and she began to cry. She cried for a while and she talked about 
Chicago, when she had worked with King. She said she hadn't always agreed 
with him, but she responded to him as a human being. Then she went home 
and changed her clothes. I'll never forget that— she said she was changing 
into her riot clothes: pants. We went up to Times Square, and there was a 
demonstration going on of pissed-off black kids and white radicals. We started 
ripping signs and getting really out of hand and then some kids trashed a 
jewelry store. Bernardine really dug it. She was still crying, but afterward we 
had a long talk about urban guerrilla warfare and what had to be done now— 
by any means necessary. 

By any means necessary. Bernardine Dohrn was not the only person in the spring of 1968 
led to the conclusion, finally, that violent measures would be necessary in the struggle of 
the American left. These months mark the emergence of political violence on a significant 
scale across the country. 

Violence, the social scientists have determined, has been a hallmark of twentieth-century 
America, and it has been a formative preoccupation with those who grew up during the 
period marked by Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Southern terrorism, Vietnam, assassinations, urban 
rebellions, police riots, and governmental repression. Kenneth Keniston found that his 
Vietnam Summer interviewees were immersed in violence from earliest childhood: "In the 
lives of these young radicals, as in much of their generation, the threats of inner and outer 
violence are fused, each exciting the other" to the point where "the issue of violence is to 
this generation what the issue of sex was to the Victorian world"; another survey of SDSers 
in 1966 found a "special way in which they have experienced violence, both directly and 
vicariously" and determined that "this special and intense preoccupation seems to be a 
necessary element in comprehending the predominance of violent dystopian futures 
[projected in essays] among SDS youth." 22 

But originated violence characterized none of the early activists; they were all victims. 
Hayden, Potter, and others beaten in the South, Gitlin, Grizzard, Booth, and countless 
others jailed for civil-rights demonstrations, ERAPers harassed and arrested by local police 
and vigilantes, antiwar marchers beaten and gassed, students at Berkeley, in several black 
schools, and elsewhere clubbed, kicked, shot at, and arrested by police. Even with the rise 
of resistance, in the previous fall offensive violence was characteristic only of the Stop the 
Draft Week and Rusk demonstrations, and then limited to minor property damage and 
bottle throwing; the students at the Pentagon, at Wisconsin, Indiana, Brooklyn, Oberlin, San 
Jose State, and the rest were initially victims of police charges. Mace, and tear gas. 

But resistance taught certain lessons. It showed that police when given the chance know 
little restraint in exercising the brutality of their profession on unarmed and defenseless 
students, that the government would move with all the powers in its arsenal to jail, induct, 
spy upon, harass, and pressure youthful activists, and that even universities were willing to 
resort to force to protect their private property from demonstrators. It showed that the 
forces running the society, the university as much as the government, were powerful, not to 
say ruthless, and that the press and the public in general supported their exercise of both 
power and ruthlessness. In a simple phrase, resistance exposed the nature of, and erased 
the legitimacy from, the major institutions of the society. 



287 



But resistance also showed that at least a minority of the people could be made to act, and 
act vigorously, in pursuit of their goals; that there was energy to be tapped among the 
young and discontented; that people in situations of confrontation will make rapid and 
consequential choices, taking a swift lesson in the making of connections when a police club 
hits them on the head in defense of a Dow recruiter and his university hosts. It showed that 
other people, heretofore quiescent— moderates, liberals, faculty members, families, 
sympathetic members of the public— can be prodded into various forms of action and 
support, forced to draw lines and take sides, and occasionally won over behind some radical 
demands. And it showed that concessions could be wrested from these forces— slowing the 
escalation of the war, holding off on draft calls, reforming campus governance, cutting ties 
to the corporate and military machines— but only when (and by no means always even 
then) they were confronted by large-scale, serious, militant, political disruption. 

Out of resistance, then, there grew an understanding of power, an appreciation of the 
values of confrontation, and thence a willingness to initiate violence. Not violence against 
people, it should be pointed out— it was the police not the demonstrators, the campus 
"jocks" not the radicals, the rednecks not the picketers, who generally started the fights; 
nor was it, in spite of the myopic media, violence on a scale remotely resembling 
"terrorism" or "bomb throwing" or "guerrilla warfare" or "revolution." It was violence against 
property and quite specifically property connected with a hated or complicit institution: 
benches in the Oakland streets, cars at the Hilton dinner, then draft records in Catonsville 
and Boston, finally, and dramatically, buildings on the campuses. 23 

Between January and May of 1968 there were ten reported incidents of the bombing and 
burning of campus buildings related to political issues (half of them, however, directed at 
two buildings, the ROTC building in Stanford and the NROTC building at Berkeley).* It 
marked the first concerted use of such tactics of violence by the student left in this 
generation— indeed, the first use by students in the history of the country/ Compared to the 
violence of the state, this was a mite, compared to the violence of everyday public America, 
a snippet— yet it was a signal that times were changing, and rapidly, too. 



* In January a bomb, proved later a dud, was found in a building at Howard University, and an arsonist caused 
$50,000 worth of damage to a Berkeley administration building; in February the Berkeley NROTC building was 
bombed, the Stanford ROTC building suffered a $35,000 fire, and the Oakland power lines leading to the nefarious 
Lawrence Radiation Laboratory were cut; in March the Stanford building suffered another fire and three weeks later 
the Berkeley building received another minor bombing; in April the ROTC building on the campus of Tennessee 
Agriculture and Industry University was burned to the ground; in May the Stanford ROTC building suffered still 
another fire with an estimated $60,000 damage, bombs caused minor damage at administration buildings on the 
campuses of Southern Illinois University and Wisconsin; and in June another successful attack was made on the 
power lines of the Pacific Power and Light Company in Oakland. 

+ The history of student protest in this country is sketchy, but the most violent previous incidents seem to have 
been things like college outbuildings set on fire and an "infernal machine" exploded in one hall at Harvard in 1814; 
possible firecracker-type bombs in 1823 in the Harvard yard; windows broken in Harvard rooms in 1834, and 
classroom furniture smashed; a fire on the University of Vermont campus green in the 1870s. The period of the 
Intercollegiate Socialist Society's growth after the turn of the century saw almost no student militance of any kind, 
and in the period of the thirties the students confined themselves to verbal threats, a few one-day strikes, and an 
accidental encounter or two with administrative authorities: nothing, so far as is known, in the way of bombing or 
burning. 



288 



SDS by no means embraced the new turn, the general sentiment seeming to be that 
violence was not defensible morally, not persuasive publicly, and not effective tactically. 
Carl Davidson took pains to dissociate the resistance people from " 'the Left adventurers,' 
or, simply, 'the crazies'"; Calvert added that "the New Left has its problems with the Left- 
wing adventurists who think that sabotage and terrorism will bring the socialist revolution 
tomorrow"; and the large bulk of the membership seemed to agree with a New Left Notes 
letter writer who argued simply, "We can't succeed with violence ... . We cannot win an 
armed revolution— never." And yet it fascinated, the idea of violence, and as frustration 
grew, repression grew, the monumentality of the task grew, and its necessity, so did the 
possibilities of violence. 24 

"Sunday, April 21. Days of Resistance." April began the escalation of student resistance that 
would mark this spring as the most explosive period up to that time in the history of 
American universities. 

The Ten Days of Resistance (as it was now called), which had been thought of originally as 
SDS's dramatic escalation of activism, happened ironically without significant participation 
from national SDS. The reasons, as Bob Pardun recalls it, were two. First, 

... there was a lot of hostility to that program, an incredible amount of 
hostility ... . PL had gotten itself strong in a whole lot of chapters, and being 
strong that meant they'd always bring up the whole thing about decentralism 
and NO coordinating from the top down, and all that bullshit. And when you'd 
say, What about your organization and "democratic centralism" and top- 
down, they'd say, PL is something different and as members of PL we have a 
right to organize any way we want, top-down or not, but as members of SDS 
we don't want that organization to be that way, SDS should be something 
else. That was always their excuse for hanging up action: the NO had 
conceived of it and therefore it was top-down and therefore it was bad and 
the local chapters shouldn't do it. 

Second, the NO, smarting under the complaints from a number of chapters about its 
attempts to "go too fast" into resistance, shied away from mounting any kind of aggressive 
campaign and its staffers turned their backs. Pardun recalls: 

There were faults of individuals who were assigned to do certain " things and 
didn't do them. Like the national coordinator [Greg Calvert] didn't do a thing, 
didn't coordinate anything, and as the Ten Days approached we had no idea 
what was to happen anywhere across the country. We knew stuff was 
supposed to happen in Chicago 'cause we lived there, and we heard rumors 
about Wisconsin, and Texas, but as for what was happening anywhere else, 
we just didn't know— because the founder of the plan, and coordinator of the 
plan, had flipped out and left. 



289 



What action there was during those days, therefore, was due to the energies of local SDSers 
who chose not to wait around for national direction and to the careful organizing done by 
the Student Mobilization Committee. At least fifty colleges and universities took part all 
across the country,* with rallies, marches, teach-ins, and sit-ins, climaxing in a one-day 
"student strike" on April 26. It was a demonstration of significant proportions— probably as 
many as a million students stayed away from classes that day as a protest against the war 
and the government propagating it— and yet somehow its impact on the public was slight. 
Most reports at the time tended to focus on Columbia, which was certainly the most 
dramatic event of that week but had nothing whatsoever to do with the nation-wide Ten 
Days actions, and when local protests were covered it was often with the implication that 
they were aping the events in New York. Few media accounts emphasized the simple fact 
that the first mass strike action since the 1930s and the largest student strike in the history 
of the country was taking place/ 

"Thursday, May 2 ... . To NYC. Columbia." The rebellion of Columbia was ten days old by 
the time Bernardine Dohrn arrived from a Lawyers Guild trip through the South: the 
buildings had been occupied, communalized, and then forcibly emptied, the student 
demands had been hoisted, resisted, and then in part acceded to, the administration had 
been cowed, refortified, and then exposed in full complicity, the New York police had been 
called, tested, and found unbelievably brutal, and the whole thing had been broadcast, 
televised, written about, and pontificated at by every medium in every part of the country. 
Dohrn went right to work with other members of the Lawyers Guild to arrange bail and 
prepare cases for many of the 712 people arrested, while on the campus an all-out strike 
had just begun. 25 

The sequence of events that has passed into the history of the sixties simply as "Columbia" 
has been told many ways, but perhaps most pertinent is to examine the central, though not 
necessarily controlling, role played by the SDS chapter. This is all the more pertinent 
because the history of the Columbia chapter is the history of many other SDS chapters of 
the time, writ larger, of course, and more flamboyantly, but in essentials the same. 



* It is probably an underestimate, but it is the best that can be arrived at from a study of Senate documents, 
Student Mobilization Committee reports, and SDS records. Institutions involved were Alabama, Arizona, Berkeley, 
Biltmore, Brown, Bucknell, Chicago, CCNY, Connecticut, Drew, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Memphis 
State, Minnesota, Moravian, North Carolina, Oberlin, Olympic, Patterson State, Penn State, Portland State, Purdue, 
Queens (North Carolina), San Francisco State, San Jose State, Simmons, Southern Illinois, Trinity, Virginia, 
University of Washington, Washington State University, Wayne State, Wellesley, Wilson; there were also city-wide 
marches with uncounted area colleges in Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. 

+ The American Student Union claimed (extravagantly) that five hundred thousand students stayed out during its 
one-day strike in May 1936. There is no way of knowing just how many students struck thirty-two years later, but, 
judging from the size of the places involved (institutions like Arizona, Connecticut, Southern Illinois, San Francisco 
State) and the greater national scope (from Arizona to Maine, Washington to Florida, whereas the earlier strike was 
almost entirely cent